Tuesday, July 23, 2024

2023 Parajes del Valle Bobal Ecologia Rosado: A Delicious Spanish Rosé

Parajes del Valle, which was established in 2018, is located in Jumilla, in the southeast region of Spain and occupies about 65 hectares. Monastrell is the most dominant grape in that region. Their wine maker is Maria Jover, who is about 28 years old, and once worked at the famed Vega Sicilia. Her objective is to produce wines with minimal intervention and true to the terroir of the region. 

The winery has also extended its operations into the Manchuela D.O., which is located more in the center of Spain, and bordering Jumilla. The primary grapes in this region include Bobal, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, Macao, and others. Wines from this region are less commonly found in the U.S. despite the quality of their wines. 

The 2023 Parajes del Valle Bobal Ecologia Rosado (about $16-18) is made from 100% Bobal, organically grown, from the Manchuelo DOP. Bobal is indigenous to the region of Utiel-Requena, but it's grown in a few other regions, such as Manchuela, and its history extends back at least to the 15th century. Bobal derives its name from the Latin term "bovale" which refers to the shape of a bull’s head. For this wine, the Bobal grapes are from high-elevation vineyards, which average 45 years old, with solids rich in clay and limestone. 

The Bobal grapes are pressed, without maceration, and fermented with native yeasts in concrete. The wine is then aged in concrete tanks until bottling. With a 12% ABV, the Rosé has a darker pink color with an alluring nose of red fruits with subtle herbal notes. On the palate, it's dry and crisp, with delicious and complex flavors of raspberry, cherry, and strawberries and more subtle citrus and melon flavors. It's also accented with intriguing herbal notes, a touch of minerality, and possesses a lengthy and pleasing finish. An excellent Rosé, it works well on its own during this hot summer weather but also is very food friendly, and does well with seafood. Highly recommended!   

Locally, this wine can be found at Bin Ends.

Monday, July 22, 2024

Rant: The Best Type Of All-You-Can Eat Buffet!

When restaurants began to reopen after the pandemic, many which once offered all-you-can-eat buffets decided not to reopen those buffets. Such buffets were seen as a health hazard, too risky to justify reopening. Some felt that this might have sounded the death knell for buffets but that proved not to be the case. For example, in 2022, buffets were a $5.5 billion industry, up 9% from 2021.

The returning buffets 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 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. This may be partially due to the commonly low prices for these all-you-can-eat spots, especially when inflation is such a major issue currently and restaurant prices have generally risen significantly. 

Not all all-you-can-eat buffets are the same. There is one type which provides plenty of health safety (as much as any restaurant), lots of delicious food, and the hot food is truly hot and not merely luke-warm. Yesterday, I dined, with five friends, at one of those restaurants, and we enjoyed an excellent dining experience. All of us had dined at this restaurant before, and we were all eager to return once again. 

We visited Endless Hibachi & Sushi in Peabody, an all-you-can-eat spot which includes a wide range of Sushi, Japanese Appetizers, and a Hibachi meal. Rather than select options from a large buffet table, you order off a menu! Then, your server will bring you your selected dishes, and the hot dishes are properly hot, rather than luke-warm, which often happens to a pan of food on a traditional buffet. You also get your choices for Hibachi, which is then cooked in front of you. And, you can continue ordering more food off the menu if you so desire. 

The all-you-can-eat lunch, which is available Monday to Friday (11:30am-3pm) only costs $15.95 while the all-you-can-eat dinner is $34.95 (but includes a larger menu of options). This has to be one of the best value options, especially for Lunch, in the area, and it seems crazy you can get so much food for such a low price. Just consider how little Sushi you can purchase for $15.95 at any other Japanese restaurant. At Endless Hibachi, the food is tasty and plentiful, and the tempura is especially delicious. 
Maki Maki, in Woburn, is a similar type of all-you-can-eat buffet but they don't have Hibachi. So, you can order plenty of Sushi and Japanese appetizers from a menu, which then gets delivered to your table. And you can keep ordering off the menu until you are sated. Lunch prices range (dependent on the day) from $21.99-$23.99 and dinner prices range from $33.99-$35.99. 

This type of all-you-can-eat buffet, where the food is cooked to order, avoids the health risks of the normal buffet tables. If you order a hot dish, the food is delivered to you properly hot. On normal buffet tables, the food sits and over time, hot dishes become luke warm or worse. There's plenty of food options available on the menu, catering to many preferences. What's not to like?

Maybe other restaurants, who already have traditional all-you-can-eat buffets, or are considering opening one, might reconsider the matter and opt for one where patrons order off a menu. It avoids many of the problems associated with traditional buffets, and might then garner even more customers. 

Have you dined at endless Hibachi & Sushi, Maki Maki, or a similar restaurant? Your thoughts?

Friday, July 19, 2024

George Clemmons: Hot Dogs & Murder Accusations

During the first few decades of the 20th century, Greek restaurants were commonly known for serving hot dogs. The Charlotte News (NC), March 6, 1913, mentioned that "hot dogs" were one of the "necessaries of a Greek restaurant." If you research the history of hot dogs in any region of the country, you're likely to find Greeks playing a part. I recently related the tale of Hot Dog Joe, a Greek immigrant who became a national celebrity because of his fight against a hot dog prohibition.

Now, I'm going to tell a darker tale, about a violent owner, a Greek immigrant, of a hot dog restaurant in Tennessee. There were accusations of murder, assault, and bootlegging. And in the end, he apparently vanished.

On October 3, 1920, G.H. Kirby, a structural steel worker, stopped at a hot dog restaurant owned by George Clemmons, a Greek immigrant. Clemmons refused to sell Kirby any sandwiches, and by the end of their confrontation, Kirby was shot twice. Kirby eventually succumbed to his injuries and Clemmons was charged with murder.

Before discussing the resolution of the murder charge, let's first go back about 27 years, to the summer of 1893, when Clemmons was much younger and working as a fruit vendor. The first newspaper apparently mentioning Clemmons was the Nashville Banner, July 14, 1893. On the evening of July 11, Nicholas Gamblis (also referred to in other sources as John Gambales), was shot and killed. George Clemmons was arrested and charged with his murder. Gamblis, a Greek immigrant, was also a fruit vendor. 

The Nashville Banner, July 18, 1893, reported that a preliminary trial had been held that morning. A number of witnesses testified for the prosecution, including Officer Terry who observed Clemmons running down the street, carrying a pistol. Clemmons stated to him, "I will kill you" although he was arrested with violence. Joe Andrews, a bar-keeper, stated that Nicholas entered his saloon, seeking a cigar. Clemmons came in shortly thereafter and grabbed Nick. They argued, scuffled and Clemmons shot Nicholas. They apparently both went outside, where Nicholas was shot a second time. The defense didn’t present any witnesses and Clemmons was remanded to jail without bond.

The Tennessean, September 24, 1893, then mentioned that Clemmons had been indicted by the grand jury for the murder of Nick Gemelis. However, the Nashville Banner, November 6, 1893, added that Clemmons had been indicted once again by the grand jury because it was thought that the old indictment might have been defective as name of the victim was wrong. A trial was scheduled for December 10, but would be put off until March 12, 1894.

On the first day of the trial, the Tennessean, March 13, 1894, reported that about an hour before the shooting, Clemmons was in the saloon, drinking and flourishing his pistol, claiming he was going to kill a man who was lying about him. However, Clemmons didn't mention that man's name. The murder weapon was a .45 Colt revolver.  

The Tennessean, March 14, 1894, reported on the second day of the trial, noting that the trial wa nearly over. Clemmons testified in his defense, through an interpreter, as Clemmons only spoke a little English. He stated that he had known Nick for about 4-5 months. It was also noted that Nick weighed about 200 pounds while Clemmons only weighed about 143. Clemmons also stated there were financial troubles between he and Nick’s brother. Nick interfered in this matter and allegedly threatened Clemmons a few previous times. At the saloon,  Nick pulled a knife so Clemmons show him in self defense.  

For the third day of the trial, the Tennessean, March 15, 1894, reported that Clemmons had previously sought peace warrants against Nick as Clemmons feared he might be killed.

The verdict was announced! The Journal & Tribune, March 16, 1894, stated that Clemmons was found guilty of murder in the first degree, the jury having deliberated for only an hour. The article provided more description of the underlying matter. It was claimed that George Vlahake owed Clemmons a small amount of money and Clemmons sued, receiving a judgment. However, Nick was able to stay the execution, which angered Clemmons. Both Clemmons and Nickwere said to be “well-to-do, having accumulated considerable money.” It was also claimed that Clemmons and Nick had quarreled over the location of a fruit stand. Clemmons appealed the conviction.

However, about six months later, the Nashville Banner, September 22, 1894, reported that Clemmons decided to drop his motion for a new trial. He was thus sentenced to 10 years at hard labor.

Clemmons' sentence was cut short and he was released. The Nashville Banner, January 20, 1897, noted that the Governor had pardoned him, partially because Clemmons couldn't speak English well and thus was unable to make a full defense. Plus, the Governor felt this might have actually been a case of self defense. 

His legal issues though didn't end there. The Nashville Banner, September 6, 1898, reported that Clemmons, who was still a Greek fruit dealer, had been charged with carrying and shooting a pistol within city limits. He had gotten drunk, took a horse and buggy for a ride, and fired his pistol several times on route.

A few years then passed without apparent incident, until December 1901. The Tennessean, December 31, 1901, noted that Clemmons, who will still a fruit vendor, had drawn a knife in an altercation with Nick Vradis, another Greek. Clemmons was arrested even though no serious injuries resulted.

The Tennessean, February 15, 1902, reported that Clemmons, who now owned a restaurant, which may have been the first time he started selling hot dogs, had been acquitted on a charge of assaulting W. T. Auten with intent to commit murder. Auten had claimed that Clemmons attacked him with brass knuckles but Clemmons denied using any weapon.  Clemmomns stated that he had just attempted to ejected Auten from his restaurant.

Over two years later, the Commercial Appeal, August 18, 1904, reported on the intense rivalry of two Greek restaurant owners with places almost immediately adjoining each other. Clemmons owned two restaurants on Main Street, and his rival, James Seros, owned a restaurant next to one of Clemmons' spots. Jim Pappas, the head cook at Seros' restaurant, and some of his friends dined at one of the restaurants owned by Clemmons. 

Clemmons though demanded that they leave and Pappas was apparently too slow for Clemmons. He grabbed hold of Pappas who then allegedly stuck him. Clemmons grabbed a knife and slashed Pappas on his side and left hand, but neither of the cuts were serious. Both men were arrested, and Clemmons was charged with “malicious cutting” while Pappas was charged with assault and battery.

The Commercial Appeal, November 11, 1904, then stated, “George Clemmons, a Greek who has figured in several bloody scrapes since his advent into the State, was arrested again yesterday on the charge of assault with a knife.” Clemmons would eventually be found guilty of assault & battery and fined $50, a conviction that was confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Five years later, Clemmons got into legal trouble once again. The Commercial Appeal, October 17, 1909, noted that Clemmons had been charge with drunkenness, carrying concealed weapons and assault & battery. Clemmons and John Theres, both drunk, were arrested and then jailed, While they were in a cell together, Clemmons beat up Theres, and an officer found Theres “lying on the floor in a pool of blood.”

Then, the Commercial Appeal, February 1, 1910, reported that Clemmons had been arrested two days ago on charge of attempting murder, having tried to use a knife on Klaudius Meanos. However, based on other newspaper articles, the name of the victim in this article was likely wrong, or an alias of John Calmatos.

The Nashville Banner, March 2, 1910, mentioned that after Clemmons had been arrested for assaulting John Calmatos, 32 Greeks in the community filed a petition with the court to protect them from attacks by Clemmons. “Clemmons has a notorious reputation for fighting and dozens of his countryment have at various times fallen victims to his ungovernable temper.” However, it doesn't appear that any action was taken by the court on this petition. 

A conviction! The Commercial Appeal, April 30, 1910, reported that Clemmons was convicted in the Calmatos case and sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in the county workhouse. It was claimed that the incident had originated when a black man had allegedly killed a Greek in a local street market. Clemmons then stopped at a Greek restaurant and berated the Greeks there for not seeking revenge. At some point, Clemmons then attacked Calmatos with a knife. It appears Clemmons may have done his time, as he isn't mentioned in the newspapers for almost eight years. 

Of course violence and legal troubles continued to follow Clemmons. The Chattanooga Daily Times, January 3, 1918, reported that Clemmons, a merchant at the lower end of Market Street, had an altercation with William Helmich, age 62, who was also a merchant. Clemmons was drunk and attacked Helmich, who threw him down on the pavement to avoid being shot by one of Clemmons two guns. 


We now return to October 3, 1920 and the killing of G.H. Kirby. 

The Journal & Tribune, October 4, 1920, noted that Clemmons, who owned a chain of small restaurants, had been charged with the murder of G.H. Kirby. Before Kirby died of his gunshot wounds, he told the police that the shooting was due to ill feeling caused by previous trouble with Clemmons, when Kirby had interfered in a free for all fight in one of Clemmons’ restaurants. Later sources would state the killing took place at a ‘hot-dog’ restaurant on lower Market Street which Clemmons owned.

The Chattanooga Daily Times (TN), October 4, 1920, reported additional details. About 3 months ago, Bill Wells and Jim Pace were in a fight with Clemmons in one of his restaurants. Kirby tried to stop the fight, which angered Clemmons. Then, on October 3, Kirby stopped by Clemmon's hot dog restaurant, but they wouldn't sell him anything. At some point, Clemmons then shot Kirby, once in the left lung and once in the stomach. 

Interestingly, when Clemmons had previously been convicted of bootlegging, and went to jail, Kirby had managed his restaurant for him, so they had been friends of a sort at one point. However, Clemmons alleged that while he was in jail, Kirby kept some money that belonged to him, and that angered him.

A whiskey violation! The Chattanooga Daily Times (TN), October 8, 1920, noted that at a preliminary trial yesterday, Clemmons was bound over to criminal court under a $5000 bond. Judge Fleming stated that he believed this was likely a case of voluntary manslaughter. When the police searched his hot dog restaurant, they found whiskey being stored there, and additional charges were then lodged against Clemmons. This would later prove to be an even greater problem than the order charge. 

The trial didn't begin until January 21, 1921. The Chattanooga Daily Times (TN), January 21, 1921, reported that Kirby, a mechanic, had come into the restaurant seeking some sandwiches. “According to Clemmons, Kirby cursed him and threatened to have him put in jail upon his refusal to sell him some sandwiches. Clemmons claims that he ordered Kirby to leave his stand three different times and each time the latter refused to go, insisting that his money was ‘as good as any one’s.’ After the third warning, Kirby, so Clemmons charges, reached for a butcher knife, and as he did so he got his pistol from underneath the counter and shot him twice, he stated, both entering the stomach.” 

George Bogel, a 12 year old boy, was at the “wiener stand” when Kirby came in and testified that Kirby wanted sandwiches but Clemmons refused. He also testified that Kirby said Clemmons would be put in the federal penitentiary if he didn’t sell the sandwiches. George saw Clemmons shoot Kirby but didn't see Kirby reach for a knife. As George was looking through the door, he didn't have a great view. 

And the next day, Clemmons was acquitted of the murder of Kirby!  

However, the Chattanooga Daily Times, January 25, 1921, noted that Clemmons pled guilty to two charges of selling liquor and the judge reserved sentencing. These charges came from the police investigation of his hot dog restaurant after the Kirby killing. 

Then, the Chattanooga Daily Times, July 16, 1921, reported that Clemmons, a Greek “hot dog” vendor, had been involved in a free for all drunken fight last week. It was thought that no charges would result for this incident, but it did resurrect the old case of his illegal sales of whiskey. No sentence had been handed down, provided Clemmons was on good behavior. However, this arrest could be considered a violation so that Clemmons might be then sentenced to a workhouse. Acquitted of a murder charge, he now couldn't defeat the two liquor violations of which he previously pled guilty.

Clemmons must have feared returning to the work house. The Chattanooga Daily Times, August 20, 1921, noted Clemmons “has been for a long time listed as an undesirable citizen by the city police department and the sheriff’s office” Clemmons sold his restaurants and left the city before being sentenced for the liquor violations, and he apparently never returned. It's unknown where he relocated, and the police had no incentive to seek him out. I've been unable to locate any other newspaper references as to his ultimate fate. 

It seems probable that Clemmons continued getting into trouble elsewhere as he had over 25 years of violence and murder accusations. Maybe he changed his name when he moved. He may have also tried to open another hot dog restaurant elsewhere, as he knew that business well. He might have also come to a violent end, if an altercation occurred and he ended up being the one shot. 

George Clemmons should have devoted all his attention to hot dogs rather than constantly getting involved in fights with other people.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

2021 FIOL Prosecco DOC Rosé Extra Dry: Standing Out in a Crowd

Fiol” is a term of endearment for a young man from the 15th century Venetian Republic language. However, in the modern day, the term is more commonly used to denote a natural leader, or a friend who stands out in a crowd. Thus, this new Prosecco is intended to stand out amidst the many other Proseccos in the market. 

I've never been a big fan of Prosecco, as I've found too many to be overly sweet for my palate and too simple in their taste. However, I continue to taste them, seeking the stand outs which I know exist. 

The FIOL (FEE-yol) brand was founded by two childhood friends, Gian Luca Passi and Giovanni Ciani Bassetti, whose families have lived and farmed in Treviso, in the Veneto, for generations. When they were young, both men worked in harvests, drinking watered-down Prosecco at dinner. As adults, there careers took then different places, but they eventually came back together, founding FIOL in 2011. In 2019, they hired renowned enologist Marzio Pol to supervise production. With his connections, FIOL was also able to gain access to some of the best farmers in the region. 

Their objective is to create distinctive Prosecco, in an authentic style, to stand out among the too prevalent Proseccos which are homogeneous in style and taste. This sounded intriguing to me, so I was willing to give it a try and assess it for myself.

I recently received a media sample of the 2021 FIOL Prosecco DOC Rosé Extra Dry ($22), which has just become available in the U.S. A Prosecco DOC Rosé must be a blend of Glera and Pinot Nero (10-15%) and undergo a minimum 60-day secondary fermentation in tank (double the time for a “classic” Prosecco. It must also be vintage-dated. As a big fan of Sparkling Rosé, I was more excited to sample this wine. 

And it ended up being a stand-out to me. This FIOL Prosecco DOC Rosé was a blend of 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Nero, with an alcohol content of 11% and residual sugar of 13 g/L. The Charmat method was used to produce this sparkling wine. The wine possessed a fine pink color and a pleasant aroma of red fruits with citrus notes. On the palate, it was dry and crisp, with plenty of tiny bubbles and prominent flavors of strawberry and raspberry, with more subtle notes of apple, lemon and peach. It also possessed a fairly long, clean and pleasing finish. It was a well balanced and delicious sparkling wine, definitely different from many other Proseccos I've previously tasted. 

I drank the wine with dinner, including tomatoes & burrata, as well as shrimp scampi, and it went very well with it all. I was pleased that this Prosecco was dry and possessed a more complex taste. It would be great on its own, but pairs well with food too. A great choice for people seeking a Prosecco which differs from the rest of the crowd.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Hot Dog Joe: From Simple Hot Dog Vendor to National Celebrity

"Hot Dog Joe." A Greek immigrant, known for his black fedora, who became a hot dog vendor. In 1927, the village of Scarsdale, New York, attempted to prohibit Joe from selling his hot dogs but he fought back, and became a national celebrity, bringing massive publicity to the hot dog. This is the tale of this Hot Dog Champion! 

Hot Dog Joe's birth name was variously described in numerous newspapers. His first name might have been Casta, Castas, or Castis, while his surname was variously noted to be Kitakakides, Hitakakides, Hitalikides, Hitalakides, Hitaliaides, Hetelikedes, and Hetelekis. To add to the confusion, Joe also used the name "Gus George," although mainly when he was arrested by the police.

Around 1920, when he was about 24 years old, Joe began operating a hot dog truck in Scarsdale, in the Westchester County of New York, commonly parking near the high school. About this time, Scarsdale had a population of maybe 5,000, and by 1930, the population would reach close to 10,000. For about seven years, it seems that Joe operated his hot dog truck without any significant incident. If everything had continued in that manner, Joe might have been forgotten, just another nameless hot dog vendor of the period. 

However, in July 1927, everything changed. According to The Buffalo Times, July 13, 1927, “The boys of Scarsdale will bite no more ‘weenies,’ will stuff themselves no longer with peanuts, and never again will top off these in-between meals with cooling drunks of lemon soda. The Village Board passed an ordinance, without a dissenting vote, banning forever from their village hot dog stands, peanut vendors and kindred purveyors of digestive dynamite to the splendid youth of Scarsdale.” Hot Dog Joe was now banned!

The Press and Sun-Bulletin, July 14, 1927, noted that Mrs. Ruth Johnson, the only woman trustee on the Village Board, had spearheaded the ban. Part of the reasoning behind the ban was that hot dogs were considered detrimental to the health of children. Clinton Leonard, the head of the physical training department of the high school, claimed that “the consumption of hot dogs, peanuts and soft drinks as his athletes left the field demoralized his training efforts.” 

Days later, there was already pushback against the prohibition. The Buffalo Courier Express, July 17, 1927, mentioned that “bootleg frankfurters” were already being transported into Scarsdale from White Plains. It didn't appear that mere possession of a hot dog violated the new ordinance. 

This was supported by an article in the Mount Vernon Argus, July 18, 1927. The article noted that the new ordinance might be discriminatory as it didn't include items such as apples, ice cream cones and roast chestnuts. It also mentioned that hot dogs could still be sold at delicatessen shops. Finally, the article stated that hot dog consumption was not a crime, so you could buy hot dogs outside of Scarsdale and consume them within the town.

Hot Dog Joe was also prepared to battle against this new prohibition. The Yonkers Statesman, July 19, 1927, noted that he had retained Attorney Stephen R.J. Roach to seek an injunction against the new ordinance. Joe, a veteran of World War I and who couldn't read or write English, could have easily moved his hot dog truck to other towns, but he chose to stay and fight. For seven years, he had been in Scarsdale, and wasn't going to let himself be pushed out. 

The Herald Statesman, July 20, 1927 (Wednesday), stated that yesterday, Joe had parked his hot dog truck outside the high school once again, defying the police to arrest him. Based on advice from his attorney, they wanted to test the validity of the ordinance by having Joe arrested. However, no arrest came because technically the ordinance needed to be posted for 10 days before it legally came into effect. Thus, nothing could happen until at least Monday, July 25.

Although there had been other hot dog vendors in Scarsdale, Joe was the only one to step forward to fight the ordinance. Surprisingly, Joe quickly received significant support, legally and financially, from Adolf Gobel, Inc. of Brooklyn, which supplied Joe's hot dogs. It's amazing that such a large corporation, which made over $8 Million in sales in 1927, would jump in so quickly to support a small hot dog vendor in a small town. 

Why was this matter so important to Adolf Gobel, Inc.? Were they worried that such prohibitions might spread across New York and wanted to squash it at the start? How did they learn so quickly about this matter, as they seemingly knew about this matter within a week? Did Joe's attorney, Stephen Roach, have a connection to Adolf Gobel, Inc.?   

The Herald Statesman, July 25, 1927, reported that Attorney Roach claimed that Adolf Gobel, Inc. was prepared to hire Clarence Darrow, Samuel Untermyer, or Charles Evans Hughes (all very prominent attorneys at the time), if needed to fight the ordinance. Joe was still selling hot dogs. “His clattering truck with its brazen coat of many colors passed down the tranquil streets of the village, veering toward any groups of adolescents that appeared in his line of vision.” Joe also told the newspaper, “Always my hot dogs they are clean and good. Nobody gets sick from Joe’s good hot dogs. The Health Department gives me a permit to sell my good hot dogs because they are what you call sanitary dogs.” 

It was now noted that the ordinance would go into effect on July 26, but that didn't occur either. The Village Board decided to meet that evening to discuss the matter, and no action would be taken until after that meeting.  

The Herald Statesman, July 26, 1927, noted that many residents of Scarsdale, who had first supported the prohibition, had started to waver, due to all the negative press. One man was quoted, “There’s nothing really vicious about a hot dog. It’s all right for a man, or even a boy, to have a hot dog now and then in the privacy of his home, if he knows when to stop. But the public hot dog stand ought to go.” It was also mentioned that the police hadn't shown any desire to arrest Joe, and might have even eaten his hot dogs before. 

Attorney Roach supported by Morton Lexow, the district attorney of Rockland county and also an attorney for Adolf Gobel, Inc., confronted Mayor Warren Cunningham about the ordinance. The mayor backpedaled, claiming that the nutritive value of hot dogs was not the issue, but that the ordinance was passed as a traffic measure. Joe’s hot dog stand was mounted on an automobile chassis and usually parked in front of the high school.

The Daily News, July 28, 1927, reported that Joe was finally handed a summons by the police at his hot dog truck, and the police were booed by the large crowd around the truck. And the Mount Vernon Argus, July 28, 1927, then reported that, on advice of counsel, Joe failed to appear that morning before Police Justice Charles M. Carter to answer the summons. Subsequently, the judge issued a warrant for Joe’s arrest, to be served that afternoon at 2pm in front of the high school. After his arrest, Joe would have to spend about 3 hours in jail until his arraignment at 5pm. Curiously, more detail was provided on the specifics of the Scarsdale ordinance, which made it illegal for vendors to park within 1000 feet of the high school.

A lengthy article concerning the matter appeared in the Times Union, July 29, 1927. Joe had been arrested yesterday, but was quickly released on a writ of habeas corpus. It was stated that Joe had been selling hot dogs since 1914 in Scarsdale, although a number of other newspapers noted he had only been selling hot dogs for seven years. The 1914 date appears to be an error, as Joe only arrived in the U.S. in 1919. 

Numerous individuals stepped forward, promoting the benefits of the consumption of hot dogs. “The daintily seasoned frankfurter is as harmless as a well cooked lamb chop, declared one doctor.” It continued, “Physicians are almost unanimous in endorsing the meat product and say that properly cooked and properly eaten, it can do no harm to a sophisticated digestive system.” In addition, “In the opinion of these physicians, …the prohibition on his wares and trade is unjustified and was made without first examining the food contents of this popular roadside delicacy.” And, “The frankfurter, if eaten judiciously, would put the doctor out of business,’ one physician, nameless here, declared.” 

The article also quoted a notable doctor, “Dr. C.R. Moulton, director of the Department of Nutrition at the Institute of American Mat Packers, in Chicago, endorses the frankfurter and says that, when made by a reputable from from the best grade, clean, and wholesome meat and pork trimmings, carefully processed and handled, it is excellent food.” He continued, “This kind of ‘hot dog’ does not need to be highly seasoned. It is the seasoning which makes food indigestible.” 

It was also noted that. “Village health officers, who have inspected Joe’s stand, say they found it extremely sanitary.” In addition, “One staunch devotee of the ‘hot dog,’ analyzed the subject carefully. His findings are that it isn’t the ‘dogs’ themselves which are responsible for the decline in favor. It’s the mustard. French mustard is no good with frankfurters, he has discovered. There is something in the inner construction of French mustard which does not combine gracefully with the meat.”; “But German mustard, ah, that’s something else. Germany, the home of the frankfurter, also evolved a mustard which fits the frankfurter like a well-made glove fits the hand. That combination means true delicacy of flavor, true enjoyment, and true nutrition.”

Finally, one more hot dog supporter was mentioned. “Babe Ruth, it is said, is a devotee of the frankfurter.

It's important to mention that in July and August, newspapers all across the country reported on this hot dog battle, including in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont and Washington. D.C.  The Times Union (NY), August 1, 1927, proclaimed that Hot Dog Joe had become famous all across the country. In only about 45 days, Joe had gone from a relative nobody to a national celebrity.

All of these newspaper mentions placed the issue of the health benefits of hot dogs on a national scale, providing much publicity for the hot dog, and helping to spread its popularity. Who would have thought that a small town battle would become such a national spectacle? This matter became "viral" within a few weeks, long before the start of the Internet and social media. 

Joe's case was put over to Monday, August 1, at 8pm. The Daily News, August 2, 1927, reported on the results of the trial the night before, noting it had been well-attended. Unfortunately, Joe was found guilty and assessed a $10 fine, although his attorney stated they would appeal the decision. The Mount Vernon Argus, August 2, 1927, provided some additional details. Joe paid his fine, although the matter could be appealed next Wednesday before County Judge William F. Bleakley. The conviction was based on “using other than a hand drawn vehicle in connection with hawking or peddling.”

The Herald Statesman, August 2, 1927, provided the full details of the ordinance, which stated: "No person, firm or corporation shall use any vehicle except a hand drawn vehicle in connection with hawking or peddling (except with respect to meats, fish, fruits or farm products) in any street, avenue, alley, lane, or park in the Village of Scarsdale; nor stand nor remain in any one place or within 1,000 feet thereof longer than 10 consecutive minutes.”  

Attorney Roach claimed the ordinance, due to the last semicolon, ungrammatical and would actually prevent a person from standing in one place more than 10 minutes. In addition, he claimed that Joe was not a hawker or peddler. Neither defense apparently was sufficient to the judge. In addition, it was mentioned that some of Joe's supporters at the trial included: Frank Fior, president of Adolf Gobel, Inc., Pendleton Dudley, Eastern director of the Institute of American Meat Packers, and Dr. C. Robert Moulton, director of the bureau of nutrition of the institute.

The Daily Item, August 3, 1927, reported on the greater effects of the trial. For example, even though received he a $10 fine, he also received “about $1,000,000 worth of publicity.” Frank M. Fior, President of Adolf Gobel, Inc., noted that Joe’s battle had “promoted hot dog sales throughout the country and was responsible in part for the record sales made by the company in the first six months of the year.” However, there was one negative effect, as the matter had also “virtually wrecked the advertising campaign of the meat packers to substitute the name ‘red hot’ for ‘hot dog.” Maybe without the attention from this trial, "red hots" might have become the most prominent term around the country.

In addition, Mount Vernon Argus, August 5, 1927, spoke with Edward Holden, who claimed to have been Joe's manager for the past five years. He also alleged he had received an offer of a contract for a movie about Joe's struggles. He wouldn't provide any details though of the offer. Interestingly, Holden ran the fountain at the Scarsdale drugstore, and made deliveries. He wasn't a professional agent, and nothing more was ever mentioned about this potential movie.

Hot Dog Joe now had to start selling hot dogs in other communities as he awaited his appeal. The Herald Statesman, August 20, 1927, mentioned that Joe was "permitted to peddle throughout the county because of a special license granted to him as a World War veteran.” Since WWI, the federal government has provided free peddler's license to veterans and such licenses are still granted today. 

The Herald Statesman, August 12, 1927, reported that another hot dog vendor, George Kolpas of Mount Vernon, set up a hot dog stand in Scarsdale near the high school. He was subsequently arrested and fined $10. Scarsdale wasn't going to tolerate any hot dog vendors. 

There was another lengthy article in the Brooklyn Citizen, August 15, 1927, giving much support to Joe. It began, “Editorials are appearing in hundreds of papers throughout the country, nearly all of these writers taking side with Hot Dog Joe, who is variously described as the ‘hot dog king’ or ‘bologna bandit.’ As a result, Scarsdale has become famous over night. It has ridden to fame on a hot dog.” 

There were also mentions of two athletes who were big fans of hot dogs. “The redoubtable Babe Ruth banks heavily on hot dogs to keep his body and soul together after a hard game…More than once he has credited the extra energy necessary to lifting a home run over the fence to the nutritive value of a hot dog.” In addition, “Columbia Lou Gehrig…. is now said to include hot dogs in his athletic diet.” 

More support came from Dr. C. R. Moulton, director of the department of nutrition at the Institute of the American Meat Packers, who stated, ‘The frankfurter is actually one of our finest American viands. A man can’t go wrong eating good frankfurters. Frankfurters are composed of roughly sixty per cent beef and forty per cent pork—that is the usual standard. In addition, there is a small percentage of flavorings and condiments, but in the really good frankfurters—such as those Hot Dog Joe sells—the percentage of spices is very low. A quality frankfurter needs very little seasoning. As food it cannot be excelled.

Joe's appeal was first set for September 21, but it actually didn't occur until November 17, and a decision was due on November 21, although even that was delayed a week or so.

The Daily Times, November 30, 1927, reported that the County Judge had reversed Joe's conviction! The judge ruled that the prior justice had “erred in excluding certain testimony having to do with the unreasonableness of the ordinance under which the arrest was made.” In addition, the charge had been based only on the sale of a single hot dog, when it properly should have included multiple sales. Now, Joe could return to selling hot dogs in Scarsdale. 
The Daily News, December 1, 1927, published the above cartoon after Joe's legal win, and even provided a poem about Hot Dog Joe. : PIC of cartoon of HDJ and judge with song

Then, the Daily Times, December 1, 1927, reported that the authorities in Scarsdale might appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals in Albany, the highest tribunal in the State. Or, they might try to retry Hot Dog Joe. Attorney Roach was already preparing new and additional evidence for another potential trial. Joe was told by his attorney to hold off returning to Scarsdale until a final decision was made.

The Daily Item, December 16, 1927, mentioned that the Village board of Scarsdale had decided not to arrest Joe again, and actually were unsure how they could stop him. Then, the Herald Statesman, January 17, 1928, reported that the Supreme Court Justice William F. Bleakley had ruled that a hot dog is mostly meat, so Joe couldn't be arrested under the Scarsdale ordinance, which makes an exception for the selling of meats. Joe now returned to Scarsdale with his hot dog truck.

Near the end of the year, the Daily Item, November 12, 1928, reported that Hot Dog Joe would soon travel to Europe, researching hot dogs in other countries. His primary objective was to seek a new type of roll for his hot dogs. Before he left for Europe, he sold his hot dog business in Scarsdale to John Handjis, a fellow Greek immigrant and war veteran.

Joe spent about ten months touring Europe and Russia, returning in August 1929. The Mount Vernon Argus (NY), August 30, 1929, stated, “The man who made the lowly ‘dog’ famous from coast to coast two years ago this month, when he fought an edict that attempted to oust him from exclusive Scarsdale, has returned." His objective had been to find “a better means of serving the rolls that encase the luscious morsels in which he used to specialize.” However, he returned with few new ideas and claimed it would take him about 4-6 months to decide his next endeavor.  

However, his next endeavor was similar to his original one, the sale of hot dogs. The Mount Vernon Argus (NY), May 24, 1930, mentioned that Joe now possessed a new hot dog wagon, which had been built to his specifications by a Tarrytown concern. It took five men about one month to construct it. Joe now envisioned owning a fleet of wagons, with “The Famous Hot Dog Joe of Scarsdale” on one side, and “Here Comes Hot Dog Joe” on the other. The plan was to purchase 3-4 wagons and send them through the county during the Summer. In the Winter, he will just operate his personal wagon.

Soon after the return of Hot Dog Joe, he encountered more legal difficulties. The Mount Vernon Argus (NY), May 26, 1930, reported that he had been arrested in New Rochelle for illegally selling hot dogs, and would be represented again by Attorney Stephen R.J. Roach of White Plains. Then, the Mount Vernon Argus (NY), June 6, 1930, followed up, noting that Joe was convicted, fined $10, and an appeal was filed. The judge claimed that Joe needed more than just his veterans peddling license, that he also needed one from the city. 

More legal problems. The Daily Item, June 11, 1930, printed that Joe and John Handjis (who previously bought Joe's Scarsdale business) were arrested for selling hotdogs and soda at the Maple Moor Gulf Club. Joe also had been recently arrested in Bronxsville for a similar offense. At the gold club, its was alleged that Joe had pushed a soda and hot dog through a fence to a golfer. However, as the property line couldn't be established without a surveyor, the judge had to dismiss the charges. Fortunately, the charges in Bronxville Court were also dismissed around June 20.

Another arrest, in the same location. The Daily Item, June 28, 1930, reported that Joe had been arrested once again at the Maple Moor Gulf Club. However, this time, which was probably a set-up, the police possessed blue prints of the property lines and could show Joe had sold the hot dogs on the golf course property. He was fined $25, but that was dropped to $10, and his lawyer stated they would appeal.

Good legal news! The Mount Vernon Argus, October 4, 1930, noted that Joe's conviction in New Rochelle had been ordered stricken from the record as the appeals judge stated that his veteran’s peddler license was sufficient, and there was no need for an additional city license. And on October 8, it was reported that the charges in Bronxville had also been dismissed Joe had a veteran peddler's license.  

However, the good news was countered by more legal woes. The Mount Vernon Argus, October 4, 1930, also reported that John Handjis was seeking a restraining order against Joe. John accused Joe of violating a contract with him, which had been signed on October 22, 1928, when Joe sold his business to John for $900 cash and the assumption of $300 in debt. The contract also barred Joe from engaging in a similar business in the vicinity of White Plains or Scarsdale. John claimed that Joe had committed two violations of the contract, on September 23 and October 1, both when Joe brought his hot dug truck to the Scarsdale High School. Handjis alleged that on those days of violation, his business dropped from $30 a day to only $12.  

Less than three weeks later, the restraining order was granted, and Joe was prohibited from selling hot dogs to school children in White Plains, Hartsdale, and Scarsdale.

A few months later, Joe once again ran into legal trouble. The Daily Times, February 16, 1931, mentioned had Joe had received a summons for trespassing on town property and selling hot dogs without a license. On Valentine's Day, at the Silver Lake Park in East White Plains, there were hundreds of ice skaters so Joe set up his hot dog truck to sell to these skaters.  

The Daily Item, March 28, 1931, reported that the Silver Lake case had been continued once again, but the court determined that no specific complaint had been drawn up. Plus, Joe possessed a veterans peddlers which allowed him to sell his hot dogs. The town counsel then responded that the charge might be obstructing traffic. However, at the start of April, the charge was decided to be violation of Chapter 26 of the town ordinance, charging Joe will selling hot dogs without first obtaining a permit from the authorities. 

However, more changes to the charges came. The Daily Item, April 4, 1931, noted that the new charges would be for “creating a disturbance by disposing of goods, wares, etc, in Silver Lake, being an annoyance and disturbance to the citizens and travelers of the Town of Harrison” and “obstructing and incumbering Silver Lake Park, a public park, by disposing of goods, wares, etc.” However, a week later, the judge dismissed the first charge and reserved his decision on the second one.

It's interesting to see that around September 23, 1931, Joe obtained a peddler’s license for the Village of Scarsdale

The Mount Vernon Argus, July 26, 1932, reported that the County Court had reversed the judgement of the Judge in the Silver Lake case. The $10 fine which Joe had paid to the court was also ordered to be returned.  

More could legal news for Joe. The Mount Vernon Argus, November 10, 1932, stated that John Handjis had discontinued his injunction and damage suit against Joe. For some reason, they had resolved their differences and now Joe could legally sell his hot dogs in Scarsdale. 

And then the arrests continued once again. When would these towns learn better as Joe seemed to be able to defeat every one of those charges. The Mount Vernon Argus, June 21, 1933, reported that Joe had been arrested last week in Bronxville for violating a “new ordinance that prohibits the selling of food from a vehicle within 500 feet of a school.

A photo of Joe's truck, which sold hot dogs as well as ice cream, in the New York Evening Journal, April 4, 1934.

The Mount Vernon Argus, March 3, 1939, stated that Joe had been arrested no fewer than 15 times during the 20 years he’s been selling his hot dogs. In July 1938, in White Plains, he had been arrested for selling ice cream from a vehicle parked within 250 feet of a school. He was fined $50 and the case was appealed. Unfortunately, Joe would lose his appeal, and when the matter was further appealed, he lost once again. 

Newspaper references to Hot Dog Joe began to peter out over the next several years, although Joe encountered a few additional legal problems during the first few years of the 1940s. His next major references wouldn't be until his obituaries in September 1957.

The Reporter Dispatch, September 25, 1957, reported that Costas Hetelekis, also known as Hot Dog Joe and Gus George, died, at age 61, on September 24 in the White Plains Hospital. Joe, a veteran of WWI, came to Westchester County in 1919 and became a U.S. citizen in 1926. He operated a “brown snack wagon with its orange colored roof and gold letters reading ‘Here Comes Hot Dog Joe.” He was survived by his wife, Anna Hetelekis. Although it wasn't mentioned in the obituaries, Costas was also survived by a daughter, Anatacia, who was in high school when he died. 

Hot Dog Joe was a simple hot dog vendor, selling his popular products near a high school in the small town of Scarsdale. When the town tried to ban his hot dog truck, he fought back, and his struggle quickly took center stage across the country. Backed by many supporters, Joe was successful in battling this ban, elevating the status of the hot dog, possibly solidifying its name (rather than "red hots"). This Greek immigrant was a hot dog Champion! He would spend many years fighting for the hot dog, being arrested multiple times for selling his popular product. He never surrendered and the hot dog industry owes him a great debt.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Tranquilo Prosecco: A Still Wine, Not Bubbly

Sparkling Prosecco
is hugely popular, but have you ever tasted a Still Prosecco? Did you even know that Still Prosecco, known as Tranquilo, even existed?

In the U.S., maybe the first imports of Prosecco occurred around 1825. The Evening Post (NY), December 14, 1825, published an ad offering "Italian wines--A few cases of one and two dozen each, of the most esteemed qualities, Rifosio, Piccolit, and Prosecco,..." Unfortunately, the nature of the Prosecco was not provided. Was it still or sparkling? 

Then, there were almost no other mentions of Prosecco in the U.S. until 1934. The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), February 21, 1934, also presented an ad for Italian wines, including "the celebrated Sparkling Prosecco." By this point, the Charmat method was in common use to produce Sparkling Prosecco. However, there wasn't another mention until The Journal News (NY), December 29, 1954, with a liquor store ad noting "Prosecco Carpene", a 26 oz. bottle for $3.49.  

A more descriptive article appeared in the Los Angeles Times (CA), November 20, 1960, in a section on Italian wines. "A 'champagne' town is Conegliano, in Veneto between Venice and the Alps." It continued, "Carpene Malvolti sparkling wines are made in Conegliano." It also stated, "Sparkling wines mature in the bottle rather than in oak casks or glass lined vats. The wine goes through three filtrations before bottling, then is pasteurized for two hours in freezing water; it matures for two years in a room with a temperature of 45 deg. Each bottle is gently revolved once a month." Finally, it was mentioned that, "The Prosecco has a sugar content of 3%, Extra Dry 1%, and Brut two-tenths of 1%." 

Still Prosecco was barely mentioned in U.S. newspapers until around 1984, although it wouldn't be  commonly mentioned until around 2003. 

Today, Sparkling Prosecco is hugely popular in the U.S. In 2022, 134 Million bottles of Prosecco were imported into the U.S., an increase of almost 6% over 2021. In comparison, Italy only consumed 120 Million bottles in 2022. Only about 5% of the total production of Prosecco is Tranquilo, and it's rarely exported. 

I recently received a sample of the VOGA Prosecco DOC Still ($14.99). Giovanni Pecora, the CEO of Enovation Brands, stated, "VOGA Prosecco Still is more than a line extension: rather, we are introducing a wine category that has long been enjoyed in Italy to the US.” They have created a new tagline for this still wine, “You’ve tasted the bubbles, now taste the wine.” 

The VOGA Prosecco DOC Still, with a 10.5% ABV,  is produced from 100% Glera, a grape which used to be called Prosecco until 2009. Glera commonly has high acidity and is known for a taste of white peaches. You've probably only tasted Glera in sparkling wines, and it's very rare to see it in still wines, especially on its own. It possessed a pleasant nose of citrus, especially pear and melon notes. On the palate, it was light, crisp and dry, with tasty flavors of pear, green apple and a touch of floral notes. It was an easy drinking wine, although it wasn't overly simple. A fine summer wine for patio sipping, or to accompany seafood and light chicken dishes. 

I certainly would like to try more Tranquilo Prosecco. 

Monday, July 15, 2024

Birthday Wines: Two Croatian Amber Wines

Over the weekend, as I continued to celebrate my birthday, I opened two special wines, both Croatian Amber wines. In 2022, on my last trip to Croatia, I visited 28 wineries and brought home a number of wines, filling my luggage with as many bottles as I could within the weight limits. I had to carefully choose which wines to choose, which included many of my top favorites. 

While in Croatia, I tasted hundreds of wines and found many fascinating and delicious wines, including Sparkling, White, Rosé, Red, Amber, Dessert and others. Some of those wines are not yet available in the U.S. but the local Croatian Premium Wine Imports has a large portfolio of excellent Croatian wines, and they can ship those wines to most places around the U.S. Croatian wines deserve the attention of all wine lovers.

Saturday night, I decided to open the 2018 Korak Stare Sorte Amber Wine. You can read more about the winery in my article Korak Family Estate: A Return to Plešivica ("Croatia's Champagne"). The winery is also well known for its Sparkling Wines. This wine, inspired by "In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust. The wine was an intriguing field blend of grapes, many old vines, including Šipelj, Belina, Plavac Zuti, Rizvanac, Grasevina, Veltliner, Silvanac, and Traminac. The grapes were macerated for about 60 days, natural yeasts were used, there was no added sulfur, and it was only 12% ABV. Only 500 bottles were produced! 

This was an amazing wine, complex and well balanced, with such a depth of flavor. Tannic, herbal notes, subtle spices, dried fruits, minerality, and much more. Great acidity and a long, lingering finish. Each sip delights the palate, bringing something new with each taste. One of the more unique wines I tasted in Croatia. Highly recommended!

Sunday night, I opted to uncork the 2018 Clai Sv. Jakov Malvazija. You can read more about the winery in my article Clai Winery: Natural Wines in Istria. The Malvazija grapes, which are certified organic, for this wine come from their oldest vineyard, which is about 42 years old. This wine is only bottled in excellent vintages, and the 2016 was the previous vintage bottled before the 2018. The grapes spend two months with skin contact, and later aged for two years in large oak barrels, ending with a 15% ABV. 

It possesses an alluring and complex aroma, and on the palate, the complexity remained, each sip bringing something new and exciting to my palate. Savory, delicious and compelling, a type of wine which is hard to easily describe. Highly recommended!

Concerning Croatian news, I also want to mention that Vinarija Rizman was chosen as the Most Beautiful Vineyard in Europe. I visited the winery in 2019, and I can attest to its picturesqueness. Two other Croatian wineries were also located in the Top Ten, including Kastel Sikuli (at #7) and Vitis Winery (#10). I've also visited the beautiful Kastel Sikuli, but I haven't been to the Vitis Winery. It's fascinating that Croatia has more wineries in this Top Ten than any other country. Italy has two spots on this list, but France, Portugal, Armenia, the UK, Albania, each occupy one spot. 

Monday, July 8, 2024

Non-Rant: Selecting A Special Occasion Restaurant

Which restaurant should you choose for a special occasion? It's a question I've been pondering for the last couple weeks, as I decide which restaurant I'll visit for my own special occasion at the end of this week. 

The answer isn't always easy, and will depend on many different factors, from price to cuisine. It's a question I've often seen asked on numerous forums, and a question I've been asked by many people. I want to offer Ten Restaurant Recommendations, which will fit a variety of needs, places which I find to be consistently good and definitely worthy of your patronage. These are places I especially love, and which I've also recommended to many others. 

I also want to note that my list only includes restaurants located outside of Boston. There are plenty of lists of Boston restaurants, but far fewer for those outside of it. In addition, this list is far from comprehensive, but is more just a small selection of some of my favorites. 

When considering where to celebrate your special occasion, there's a number of questions you should ask yourself, to help narrow down the possibilities. How much do you want to spend? Do you want to splurge, or be more economical in your choice? Will your celebration be for breakfast, lunch or dinner? How many people will be celebrating with you? Is there a specific type of cuisine that you desire? Are you looking for a more intimate venue? Will you be accompanied by children? Does anyone in your group have any dietary restrictions? Do you want an excellent wine list or a large selection of beers on tap? And there's even more questions you can ask as well.

As you consider these questions, and others, here's my top suggestions. And I'll be celebrating later this week at one of these ten restaurants.

Nightshade Noodle Bar (Lynn): For a splurge, Nightshade offers inventive and delicious French/Vietnamese inspired-cuisine, with their own unique spin, in multi-course tasting menus. Its wine and cocktail program is also excellent. It's a more intimate spot and is one of my Top Three Favorite restaurants. I'll be dining there later this month celebrating one of my own special occasions. As it's very popular, try to make reservations as far ahead as possible. 

The Bancroft (Burlington): Also for a splurge, and for either lunch or dinner, the Bancroft is one of my favorite steakhouses. I've dined there most often for lunch for special occasions, and those lunches have always been excellent. Steak may be their speciality but you'll find plenty of other delicious dishes, from Fried Clams to a Duck Confit Sandwich. 

Pellana Prime Steakhouse (Peabody): Pellana is another classic steakhouse, a place to splurge, with an excellent wine list. Sure, you could easily go to one of the chain steakhouses, but these more independent places will surprise you with their quality. 

Ithaki (Peabody): This Greek restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and most everything has a Greek flair. The food is delicious, and portion-size is often ample and reasonably priced. They offer numerous Greek wines on their list, and I recommend you check out those wines instead of the usual suspects from California and France. 

Row 34 (Burlington): For both lunch and dinner, this is a great spot for fresh seafood, from oysters to tuna crudo, from fried clams to lobster rolls. Their lunch menu even has an excellent Tuna Melt! They also have a very good wine list and creative cocktails. I've celebrated here a number of times, for both lunch and dinner.

A Tavola (Winchester): For a more intimate spot for dinner, and which serves excellent Italian cuisine, check out A Tavola. Their home-made pasta is superb, and you can also find some intriguing and delicious specials, from chicken fried quail to duck wings. Their Italian cuisine is as good as anything you'll find in the North End. Their wine list concentrates on Italian wines, and there are many very good choices. Plus, they have recently expanded their size, adding a wine bar and additional seating. 

Il Ponte (Woburn): Another intimate, Italian restaurant, with killer home-made pasta, amazing Neapolitan pizza, and plenty of other delicious dishes. Again, this is a restaurant with Italian cuisine as good as anything you'll find in the North End. It has a primarily Italian wine list, with some high-end wines available by the glass. Excellent hospitality, a charming chef/owner, and everyone I've recommended has been thoroughly impressed by the restaurant. 

Tambo 22 (Chelsea): For a splurge, and a more unique cuisine, check out this Peruvian restaurant. It's also a more intimate spot, and should impress your celebrants. The food is delicious, interesting, and hearty. They also have a full drinks program, including numerous Peruvian spirits and a variety of Pisco Sour cocktails.

Prince Pizzeria (Saugus): This restaurant has existed on Route 1 for 60 years, and is a place I've been going to since I was a child. It's a large, casual spot for pizza and Italian cuisine, and its tasty pizza is basically its own unique and delicious style. You can easily book a large celebratory party, at a reasonable price, here. It's a very family friendly spot, and everyone from children to adults loves pizza so it's a great choice for all. 

Nick & Andy's (Danvers): Sometimes, you want a breakfast celebration, and my top choice for such would be Nick & Andy's. The food is fresh, delicious and there's plenty of variety. Try their fresh-baked muffins or hash browns (which are tougher to find locally). Prices are reasonable and service is very good. 

Friday, July 5, 2024

Greco Opens In Burlington! Enjoy Gyros, Loukoumades & More

"Gyro, pronounced “GAEE-ro” in English and “GHEE-ro” in Greek comes from the Greek word “gheereezo,” which means to turn. As mentioned above, it’s a stacked rotating pile of thinly sliced meat, either lamb, pork, beef, or some combination thereof, with latter-day renditions that include chicken and even fish. As the tightly packed stack roasts upright, the layers meld together and the grill person manning the gyro rotisserie cuts of paper-thin slices, which he or she fixes in a pita wrap with tomatoes, raw red onions, parsley or lettuce, Greek yogurt or tzatziki, and sometimes fried potatoes and a sprinkling of paprika or cayenne pepper."
--Chef Diane Kochilas in History of Gyro, an Ancient Greek Street Food 

Gyros and Loukoumades! I'm excited that Greco truly Greek has opened a new location at the Burlington Mall this week. Greco is a fast casual Greek restaurant, specializing in gyros and loukoumades, and its first location opened in early 2017 on Newbury Street in the Back Bay. I've been an ardent fan of Greco since that time, and additional locations have since opened in Downtown Boston, the Seaport, Hub Hall, and two in Washington, D.C.  

In 2022, Demetri Tsolakis and Stefanos Ougrinis launched Xenia Greek Hospitality, a new restaurant group with Brendan Pelley as their Culinary Director. Under the umbrella of this group are Greco truly Greek. Krasi Meze + Wine, Hecate, and Bar VlahaAs their website states: "At Xenia Greek Hospitality, we are inspired by the ancient Greek concept which is built on guest-friendship. Today, we often forget how important not only the food being served is, but most importantly how it is being served. With a single visit to any of our concepts, you can experience the highest level of hospitality, with care and attention to all our guests, so you feel welcomed in our home." I've found this to be true, that hospitality is essential to their restaurant concepts, from the casual Greco to the more high end Bar Vlaha.   

The new Greco, which opened on Monday, has ample seating inside as well as an outside patio. It's a bright and spacious spot, with a modern feel. You order at the counter and then bring your food, when it's ready, to any table of your choice. On my visit on Wednesday, it was a fine day so there were people eating outside on the patio. 

As for Beverages, there are a number of bottled choices, from water to soda, and most are of Greek origin. For example, the Vikos/Bikos Cola, produced in Greece, is made with "natural mineral water" and sugar (not HFCS). It reminded me a bit of Mexican Cola, with a nice clean taste and doesn't seem as sweet as Coke or Pepsi. Greco also has 3 other beverages, including Frappe (Greek Iced Coffee), homemade Orange Blossom Lemonade and homemade Greek Mountain Iced Tea. The Lemonade is floral, with a light orange flavor enhancing the lemon taste. I very much enjoyed the Iced Tea. Although I generally prefer unsweetened iced tea, the Greek Mountain Iced Tea is sweetened with honey but the sweetness is very subtle and it possesses a delicious taste. I'd definitely order it again on my next visit.
The food menu has three main options: Pita ($12.50), Plate ($15.50), and Salad ($16.00). As everything is made to order, you customize your entree, choosing your own sauce and protein combination. The Plate also comes with one side, onions, tomato and pita bread while the Salad includes your salad choice (Horiatiki, Cretan or Greco Caesar) and is accompanied by pita bread. Sauces include Tzatziki, Spicy Feta, Honey Mustard, Lemon Chive Yogurt, Charred Eggplant, and Garlic Skordalia. My favorite sauce is their Spicy Feta. Proteins includes Pork Gyro, Chicken Gyro, Lamb Gyro, Beef Bifteki, Loukaniko Sausage, Halloumi Cheese, Veggie Fritter and Vegan Meatballs. 

They marinate all of their gyro meats for about 24 hours, using their own house-made marinades. After the meats have been properly marinated, they are then thinly sliced and carefully placed onto the rotisserie. The stacked meats look so enticing in the open kitchen.

I opted for the Lamb Gyro, with Spicy Feta, which is served on a warm pita with tomatoes, onions and fries. The warm pita is thick enough so it doesn't tear apart, but not too thick to be overly chewy. It's a fine vehicle for the tender and flavorful lamb, crisp fries, spicy and creamy feta, and more. The ample-sized Gyro was as delicious as any I've had at the other Greco locations. And it's definitely one of the best Gyros that I've had at any casual Greek restaurant. 

The Menu also offers Souvlaki Skewers ($6.50 each), including marinated and grilled chicken or pork. You can order a skewer on its own, or as part of a Single Skewer ($16.50) or Double Skewer ($20.50) Plate. The Plate comes with horiatiki salad, Greco fries, tzatziki, and pita bread. There's plenty of nice charred meat on each skewer, and the meat is tender and flavorful. The chicken skewer was my personal preference of the two, but the pork was tasty as well. 

There are also three options under Feasts, large platters meant to be shared with family and friends. The Lamb Chops ($24.50) include four lamb chops, horiatiki salad, Greco fries, tzatziki, and pita bread. The Souvlaki Platter ($42) has three chicken and three pork skewers, with horiatiki salad, Greco fries, tzatziki, and pita bread. And the Mixed Grill ($45) has pork and chicken gyro, two lamb chops, bifteki, loukaniko, Greco fries, spicy whipped feta, tzatziki, and pita bread. 

As for Sides, you have eight options, including Greco Fries ($5.50, with feta & oregano), Avgolemono (egg-lemon soup, $4.50), Zucchini Chips ($5.50), Bean Salad ($3.50), Greek Slaw ($3.50), Lemon Rice Pilaf ($4.00), Halloumi ($6.00), and Pita & Dip ($4.50). The Greco Fries are excellent, with nice, crispy fries, enhanced by the creamy and salty feta. Even though I generally am not a fan of zucchini, their Zucchini Chips,  thinly sliced and fried, are excellent.  

The Halloumi cheese, served with a side of hot honey, has been fried, and has a crisp exterior and a firm interior, like the texture of cheese curds. The salty cheese pairs well with the sweetness of the honey, and the slight heat of the honey. I can see how the Halloumi would make a tasty Gyro too.

"The French have their beignets, Americans have doughnuts, but Greeks have loukoumades, round dough fritters drizzled with Greek honey and sprinkled with cinnamon."
--Chef Diane Kochilas

For a sweet treat after lunch or dinner, or whenever you have a craving for dessert, you can order their Loukoumades ($8), basically Greek donut holes. You have three options, including the Classic (Greek honey, walnuts and cinnamon), Yaya’s (hazelnut praline, oreo cookies, powdered sugar), and Tasos (tahini caramel, sea salt, toasted sesame). 

The Classic Loukoumades begin with a light donut hole, with a crisp exterior and a light, fluffy interior, and then are topped with a sweet and compelling mix of Greek honey, walnuts, and cinnamon. It's easy to devour one after another until you find the box is empty. The walnuts add a nice crunch to the donuts and the cinnamon is a nice addition to the sweet honey. 

The Tasos have that same donut hole, crispy outside and light & fluffy inside, with sweetness from the tahini caramel complemented by sea salt. The toasted sesame adds a nuttiness to the taste, as well as some crunchy texture. 

Greco offers reasonably priced, delicious and quality fast-casual food. There are plenty of tasty options for those who enjoy meat, to those who only want something vegetarian. It's a great addition to Burlington. Service was excellent, and even though the restaurant has only been open for a few days, everything seems to be working well. This location is as good as any of their other locations, and I'm so pleased that it's so close to my home. I'm in Burlington on a regular basis, and Greco will become one of my regular lunch spots. I strongly encourage all of my readers to check out the new Greco location. 

Now I can only hope that Xenia Greek Hospitality, in the near future, will open another Greek restaurant in Burlington, something more on the lines of Krasi Meze + Wine or Bar Vlaha.