Thursday, February 29, 2024

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. For this edition, I'll be mentioning some spots for Valentine's Day celebrations. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) XOXO Sushi Bar soon will bring a modern American-Japanese experience to Chestnut Hill. Slated to open March 8, the contemporary restaurant and bar will feature omakase-style presentations, à la carte sushi masterpieces, robatayaki specialties and inventive cocktails in a lively izakaya setting.

Executive chef Kegan Stritchko (Uni, Fat Baby Sushi) brings more than a decade of experience in the fine dining industry from restaurants across the country. At XOXO Sushi Bar, Stritchko has invented a menu that melds unique layers of flavors and texture with aesthetically stunning presentations. Stritchko will dish out handrolls, izakaya-style plates, aphrodisiacs, and composed sashimi creations. 

Highlights from Stritchko’s menu include Ora King salmon sashimi with a Thai herb puree and fermented gooseberry salsa; an indulgent A5 wagyu tartare embellished with caviar, black truffle and black garlic; and a spicy tuna temaki handroll comprised of bluefin tuna, aji amarillo, charred pineapple and jicama. In true omakase (“I leave it up to you”) fashion, Chef Stritchko will offer two “chef’s choice” options with a traditional 16-course omakase experience featuring in-house dry-aged fish and a sashimi moriawase where Stritchko assembles a platter of seasonal sea treasures.

On the liquid side, general manager Ashif Nirola (Douzo) oversees a curated beverage program that mixes classic techniques with whimsical flair. In addition to showcasing an extensive collection of sakes and Japanese whiskies suited for any palette ranging from novices to connoisseurs of rarities, the cocktails are rooted in the classics with reimagined bold takes as seen in the Smoked Honeycomb with Toki whisky, tamarind and honeycomb; the Ginza Spritz with Empress gin, ume plum, yuzu and cava; Matcha Julep with Toki whisky, mint, honey, lavender and matcha; and Hot Date with Alto reposado, Cointreau, dates, habanero, lime and lavender.

XOXO Sushi Bar is located at 1154 Boylston Street in Brookline’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood just a block from The Street at Chestnut Hill. XOXO Sushi Bar will be open for dinner service nightly from 5-10pm with a late-night menu of handrolls and hot bites offered through 11pm Sunday through Tuesday and midnight Wednesday to Saturday.

2) On March 16, from 10am-2pm, the Easter Bunny will host a magical morning at the Coach Grill in Wayland. While kiddies patiently await the arrival of the cuddly rabbit with activities like coloring, a jellybean counting contest and other special treats, settle in for a leisurely brunch with the signature menu enhanced with standout specials like a Maine lobster omelet ($36), Quiche Lorraine ($19) and the Lavender French 75 ($16). For the kids, there’s Easter Bunny mac and cheese ($9) and confetti pancakes ($11). During the little ones’ meet-and-greet with the Bunny, a professional photographer will be on-hand to capture the memorable moment before the mini guests depart with a bunny gift bag. Reservations are recommended via OpenTable

Monday, February 26, 2024

Non-Rant: Embrace The Passion

I've been away for the last several days, indulging one of my passions, and had such a fun time that it's not appropriate to begin this week with a Rant. Instead, let me ask my readers to Embrace Their Passion.

What is passion? The word supposedly derives from an ancient Greek term "paskho" which basically means "to suffer," and some modern dictionaries provide that as an obselete definition. That meaning has changed over time, and now a popular definition is that it is an intense interest in a person, place, object, activity, cause, etc. To me, passion also helps give meaning to life, elevating mere existence to a higher purpose. Without any passion in our lives, we might as well be automatons, simply going through the motions without experiencing positive and fulfilling emotion.

I have a passion for food and drink, and suspect my readers may have a similar passion, or you probably would not be reading me. Continue to embrace those passions, to let food and drink bring joy to your lives. If you possess other passions, as I do, embrace those as well.  It's not important the nature of your passion, as long as you possess a passion for something. Feel free to have multiple passions, as people are certainly capable of possessing more than a single passion. As an example, besides food and drink, I also have a passion for books, being a voracious and eclectic reader.

It's those people who have not embraced their passion though who need to listen the most. They might work too many hours, feeling too exhausted to embrace any passion. But their lives may be monotonous and boring, the same drudgery day in and day out. They exist but they do not really live, not in a fuller sense. They need to find some time for their passion, to bring some light into their dreary existence. You probably know people like that and I encourage you to help them find and embrace their passion.

Embracing your passion can take many forms. You don't have to write about them as I do.  key is simply bringing joy to your life with the object of your passion. That should be easy for anyone to do. Just find what brings you joy and allow it into your life.

Embrace the passion.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

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. For this edition, I'll be mentioning some spots for Valentine's Day celebrations. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) It's Leap Year this year, with 29 days in February. On  February 29, from 2:29pm-5:29pm, Atlantic Fish Co. & Joe’s Waterfront are offering an Oyster Special, 29 oysters for $29, only $1 per oyster. Gather your bivalve buddies and get ready to slurp and sup local East Coast oysters on repeat ‘til there’s nothing left but meatless mollusks and memories. Although one hungry person could consumer all 29 oysters by themself.

2) The Dubliner, an Irish restaurant and pub, is located across the street from Boston City Hall. In the weeks before Saint Patrick’s Day, The Dubliner will host a series of events highlighting the culinary revolution underway in Ireland—along with authentic top Irish bands and comedy.

Chef Aidan Mc Gee, born in County Donegal where his chef father raised hill mountain lamb, remains front and center in that dynamic, new gastronomic movement. Mc Gee worked at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK. When he relocated to Boston in the midst of the pandemic, he vowed to give his adopted city a true taste of the “new” Irish kitchen.

On Friday, March 8, The Dubliner will host a dinner by Jp MacMahon, chef/owner of the acclaimed Aniar restaurant in Galway, Ireland, recipient of one Michelin star for the past ten years. Details of the menu have yet to be finalized; reservations will be available to the public on OpenTable.

In the week leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day, The Dubliner will be featuring live Irish music nightly in the Pub and lounge. On Friday, March 15th, The Dubliner will hold its third annual Irish Networking Breakfast, with curated tastings of authentic Irish ingredients and spirits and a selection of live Irish music and dance. Admission will be by ticket only—bookable on OpenTable.

On Saint Patrick’s Sunday, March 17, The Dubliner will begin the festivities as soon as the doors open. In addition to live music, a special celebratory menu will be served all day.

3) On February 28, at 6:30pm, Abe & Louie’s will welcome Napa Valley vineyard, Stag’s Leap Winery, to the Back Bay for a night of food and pairings. Co-hosted by Head Winemaker, Marcus Notaro, the evening will pair three-plus-courses with standouts from Stag’s Leap. The winery – which earned global recognition when crowned the red wine victor at the famous 1976 “Judgment of Paris” blind-tasting – was established in 1970.

Notaro will team up with Abe & Louie’s executive chef, Mark Mariano, in presenting a curated menu designed for the cuisine and wine to balance. During the reception, the 2022 Aveta sauvignon blanc will be complemented by the chef’s selection of passed hors d'oeuvres. The first course is George’s Bank scallop crudo with Amur Kaluga caviar, toasted pistachio, shaved celery and Meyer lemon paired with a 2022 Karia chardonnay. Moving to the entrée, oenophiles will sip two standouts from the winery – the 2020 Fay and 2022 Artemis cabernet sauvignons – while indulging in a Westholme wagyu Denver steak with Anson Mills crispy polenta and black truffle bordelaise. For dessert, there’s a chocolate cake pot de crème with whipped Chantilly cream served alongside the 2017 Antinori Vin Santo.

COST: $225 per person (does not include tax or gratuity)
RESERVE: Reservations required in advance via Tock. This event is reserved for ages 21+ with proper ID.

Monday, February 19, 2024

For The Upcoming Boston Wine Expo: Tasting Recommendations

The Boston Wine Expo will be here in about two weeks, held once again at the Park Plaza Hotel. The large-scale tasting event will be held on Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3 and Tickets are still available. The 2-day event will feature over 100 participating wineries from all over the U.S. and select international ones as well. 

Last month, I provided Advice on Attending the Expo and now I'm here to provide some Tasting Recommendations, the exhibitors at the Expo where you should stop and sample their wines. At the Grand Tasting, there will be hundreds of wines which you can taste, which is an overwhelming amount of wine. As you can only practically sample a tiny fraction of those wines, which should you choose to taste?

When choosing which winery tables to visit, I recommend that you don't drink wines you already know and like. You can do that anytime and anywhere else. Instead, take this opportunity to expand your palate and try different wines, hoping to find new wines to enjoy. With all the diversity of wines available, it makes little sense to spend your time drinking the same wines you drink at home all the time. Be willing to experiment and taste something different. Make the Expo an opportunity to explore the wide world of wine. 

To assist in your choices, I'm going to provide you with my own recommendations for some wine tables you should check out. This list will include exhibitors which I visited at last year's Expo and thoroughly enjoyed. Others on the list will include wines which I know well and believe worthy of your attention. Of these recommendations, they are also the wine tables which I will be visiting this year, seeing what new wines they are presenting. 

There are obviously other wine tables which may interest you, and which I will check out too. Although the Expo website presents a list of all of the Exhibitors, it doesn't present a list of the wines which each exhibitor will offer at the Expo. So, consider my recommendations an excellent starting point, and after checking out those exhibitors, explore the rest of the Expo.  

Croatian Wines
I love Croatian wines, and have twice visited the country, visiting dozens of wineries and tasting hundreds of wines. Their wines are diverse, delicious and interesting, a significant number using indigenous grapes you won't find elsewhere. Croatian Premium Wines will be at the Expo, showcasing a number of excellent Croatian wines. They are the importer of these wines, and their wines are readily available locally, as well as through online sales. So, if you find Croatian wines you enjoy, you will be able to later purchase them. 

Portuguese Wines
As I've often said, Portugal produces some of the best value wines in the world and if you want inexpensive, but delicious, wines then you need to explore Portugal. Portugal has lots of intriguing, indigenous grapes, making their wines unique in a number of ways. Portugal also makes many fine, higher end wines as well, including delicious Ports. Brands of Portugal will be at the Expo once again, showcasing many intriguing Portuguese wines. Four of their wines I tasted at last year's Expo ended up on my Top Twenty Wines of 2023. I'm sure they will have some new wines this year, some of which could end up on my list of the best wines of 2024. 

Georgian Wines
The country not the state. Once part of the Soviet Union, Georgia might be the historical birthplace of wine production. It now produces some intriguing and delicious wines, including some made in a very traditional manner in qvevri, earthenware vessels. I've enjoyed a number of Georgian wines and continue to seek out new ones too. There will be two Georgian exhibitors this year, including Marnaveli and the Saperavi Brothers.

Italian Wines 
There will be several exhibitors at the Expo offering Italian wines. One of those exhibitors I would highly recommend is Fantasy Fine Wines, which primarily distributes Italian wines, from all across Italy, and their portfolio is diverse and interesting. Two of their wines made my Top Twenty Wines of 2023

Spanish Wines:
The region of Rias Baixas will be showcasing their white wines made from the Albariño grape. I'm a big fan of this grape, and the region produces a fascinating diversity of wines. As their website states, their wines "all share a number of characteristics. Pale golden lemon, they are all crisp, elegant and fresh. These wines are bone-dry and aromatic, packed with flavors of white peach, apricot, melon, pineapple, mango and honeysuckle. They share good natural acidity, have mineral overtones, and are medium bodied with moderate alcohol." You need to check out these delicious white wines. 

I hope you find my recommendations helpful in making your plans for the Boston Wine Expo. Expand your palate and seek out wines new to you!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

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. For this edition, I'll be mentioning some spots for Valentine's Day celebrations. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Committee, a modern Greek ouzeri (tavern) in the Seaport which opened in 2015, announces some major changes. “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” says owner George Aboujaoude, quoting Socrates.  

The return of a prior Chef! Executive Chef Luis Figueroa was a key member of Committee’s first kitchen team. Luis got his start in the local restaurant business in 2007, at the age of 21, washing dishes at Jody Adams’ Blu at Sports Club/LA. From there, Executive Chef Luis climbed up the culinary ladder honing his craft at Boston kitchens like Mistral, and Grill 23 & Bar. For the last few years, Luis has immersed himself in Greek cooking—first at Committee, then Kosmos restaurant in Walpole, and Christopher’s Kitchen & Bar in Woonsocket, RI. When Committee owner George Aboujaoude reached out with a job offer, Luis enthusiastically returned.

Lunch and New Menus! Committee is now open for lunch on weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in addition to their brunch, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m to 3 p.m. All of the menus (lunch, brunch, dinner, and dessert) have been completely revamped by Executive Chef Luis Figueroa. Lunch features delicious new Build Your Own Salads that begin with quinoa, couscous, and Greek slaw that you individualize with Mediterranean dips and proteins like pork or chicken gyro or grilled octopus or shrimp. Brunch now offers specialties like a Greek Croque Madame of a toasted croissant, layered with kasseri cheese bechamel, grilled ham, and a fried sunny-side-up egg. And there are new dinner entrees like Lamb Frites (lamb chops and Greek fries), Whole Grilled Branzino, and ouzo marinated Shrimp Saganaki with tomato, garlic, lemon, and feta cheese.

Desserts now include the cloud-like Galaktoboureko vanilla custard with cinnamon, powdered sugar, and crisp phyllo. And Committee’s cocktail menus have been rejiggered to bring you a larger list of brunch drinks and a more extensive mocktail list of non-alcoholic drinks. 

2) To celebrate Easter Sunday on March 31st, from 11am-3pm, Chef Michael Serpa's South End seafood destination Atlántico will be offering a three-course Easter brunch menu for $65 per guest. As a special Easter treat, kids under 10 will have their choice of one complimentary entree with the purchase of one regular Easter brunch.

In addition to the prix fixe menu options, Atlántico will also offer a la carte beverages and add-ons, including a sparkling cocktail flight, classic brunch cocktails, and raw bar items. Prix fixe menu choices will feature dishes including:
Avocado Toast with toasted Iggy’s bread, crushed avocado, citrus, espelette
Ceviche Mixto with scallop & hake ceviche, melon, cucumber, lime, fresno chili, cilantro
Iggy’s Bagel & Lox with scallion cream cheese, capers, cucumbers, shaved onion, dill, lemon zest
Savenor’s Skirt Steak & Eggs with roasted garlic & rosemary rub, potato hash, fried eggs
Lobster benedict with buttered maine lobster, toasted english muffin, béarnaise

Available complimentary for children under 10 with the purchase of one regular Easter brunch, the kids menu features a choice of one of the following dishes:
Two Eggs Any Style with potato hash, smoked bacon or avocado, pressed toast
Manchego Grilled Cheese with warm roasted tomato soup
Buttermilk Pancakes with pineapple marmalade, whipped cream, cinnamon sugar

For complete details or to make an Easter dining reservation, please visit HERE.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Rant: I Want Iced Tea In The Winter!

"Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths.”
--John Egerton 

According to the Tea Association of the USA, the wholesale annual value of the U.S. tea industry is over $10 Billion and Americans annually consume over 3.6 Billion gallons of tea. Each day, over half the U.S. population drinks tea, though people in the South and Northeast consume the most. What may surprise you is that 85% of the tea consumed in America is iced! That statistic shows the huge popularity of iced tea, but I think numerous restaurants are ignorant of this simple fact.

Iced tea was invented in the U.S., likely sometime during the 1800s in the South. There's a legend that iced tea was created in 1904, during the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, by an Englishman Richard Blechynden. However, there's clear evidence iced tea existed before 1904, so Richard may be considered more the popularizer of iced tea rather than the actual inventor.

Year round, I drink fresh brewed, unsweetened iced tea nearly every day. It's refreshing, thirst-quenching and doesn't have the sugar content of sodas and other such drinks. In addition, it's cheap to make, roughly 3 cents a serving if made at home. I'm obviously far from alone in my love for iced tea so why aren't all restaurants paying attention to this popular beverage? 

My biggest issue is during the winter, when some restaurants stop serving iced tea, claiming it's only a seasonal beverage. That happened to me again over the weekend, and it irritated me. It's such a crock! Those same restaurants still served iced coffee, without claiming it's a seasonal beverage. They serve cold soda too. Some of those places may also serve frappes and other ice cream drinks in the middle of winter. It makes absolutely no sense that they also won't serve iced tea.  

Iced tea should be a year-round beverage, and with the vast amount of people who enjoy it, restaurants need to pay attention and keep it on their menus all the time.  Iced tea is cheap and easy to make so they have no excuse. Don't discriminate against iced tea when you clearly offer plenty of other cold beverages during the winter.

Who else enjoys iced tea during the winter? 

Friday, February 9, 2024

The Origins of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

What is the "proper" way to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara? Should you use cream or not? Must you use guanciale, or can you instead use pancetta, bacon or ham? What cheese should you use, Pecorino or Parmesan? Do you use whole eggs or just the yolks? Can you add onions or garlic? This is a controversial issue, with purists claiming that it can only be produced in a certain way with certain ingredients. 

However, this controversy is more of a modern issue, as there certainly wasn't a consensus during the early years of this dish. Much more flexibility and variation was permitted in this dish, and it wasn't until some later date that some purists united to try to limit this dish to a specific method and ingredients.  

Let's explore the early origins of Spaghetti alla Carbonara, to gain insight intro its history and the first recipes for this delicious dish. Frankly, no one can prove its actual origins, although there are plenty of theories. The first documented reference of Spaghetti alla Carbonara is from 1950, although the dish appears to have existed prior to this time, and probably was invented sometime during the 1940s. 

I'll mention some of the more popular origin theories, and then I'll check out its earliest documented references, through the 1950s, to see if they provide any insight into its origins. 

First theory: It could be linked to the Carbonari, a secret society that was established in the early 19th century to oppose Napoleonic rule in Italy. However, the group ended its activities in the mid-19th century, long before the potential invention of Carbonara. In addition, none of the Italian cookbooks of the 19th century used the term "alla carbonara," so this origin seems unlikely, despite the similarity of the name.  

Second theory: It might be linked to the carbonai, the Italian "charcoal burners," who gathered wood and transformed it into charcoal. They were poor people, and the occupation began to die off in the 20th century. It's unlikely that pasta was a common food with the carbonai, so they probably didn't create the "alla carbonara" recipe either. However, the similarity of their name to "carbonara" could imply some type of link, especially considering some of the later references that I'll mention.  

There's a related theory that spaghetti alla carbonara was invented by La Carbonara restaurant. This place was opened in 1912 by a family of carbonai. It's alleged that Federico Salomone was a charcoal burner and this wide, Domenica, cooked food for the other charcoal burners in the area. The family eventually chose to open a restaurant, getting out of the charcoal burner business. However, it doesn't appear that the restaurant ever claimed to have invented the dish. 

Third theory: Maybe the most popular theory is that some believe that the dish originated after World War II, when American soldiers had remained behind to help Italians rebuild after the devastation of war. With rationing going on in Italy, some ingredients were difficult to obtain. Allegedly, an Italian chef, cooking for the Americans, decided to use certain ingredients from U.S. Army rations in a new pasta dish, which became spaghetti alla carbonara. 

Some support for this theory came in 1991, when a Bolognese cook, Renato Gualandi, published a book, Erbissima, which claimed that he was one of the inventors of Carbonara in 1944. He alleged that he and other Italian cooks, while in the Italian city of Riccione, prepared a celebratory meal for British and American soldiers. Riccione was liberated by the Allies on September 20, 1944, so this celebration had to have been held shortly thereafter. 

Renato, who was born in 1921, would have been 23 years old at the time of this celebration, and worked with other, unnamed Italian cooks. Renato claimed he wanted to invent a dish that combined Italian, Anglo-Saxon and Slovenian traditions, but was very limited in available ingredients. So, he ended up using items from army rations, including powdered milk, freeze-dried eggs, processed cheese, bacon and black pepper, atop spaghetti. One source also claimed that Renato called the dish "carbonara" because the black pepper atop the dish resembled charcoal, carbone in Italian. 

One of Renato's closest associates, Silverio, later claimed, sometime after 1991, that Renato told him about the creation of this dish, although Renato told him it was invented in Rome. After Riccione, it is said that Renato traveled to Rome, which is about 200 miles south of Riccione, and became a cook for the Allied troops there for about seven months. 

Even though this theory is appealing to many people, there doesn't appear to be any documentary evidence prior to 1991 to verify its veracity. None of the earliest documented references to this dish refer to Renato, or its alleged invention in Riccione. Renato apparently didn't promote himself as its inventor until 1991, almost 50 years after its alleged invention, which makes his claims suspect. In addition, he was a Bolognese chef, but the dish has long been considered a Roman dish.  

Fourth theory: There's also a claim that Carbonara was first served in Rome, around 1944, in a trattoria on Vicolo della Scrofa (the alley of Scrofa). American servicemen in Italy allegedly stopped here and loved the dish. Again, there's no real evidence to support this theory. There are plenty of other theories, but none possess sufficient supporting evidence or documentation. 

Now, let's address the earliest documented references to Spaghetti alla Carbonara, especially during the 1950s. Can any of these references provide insight into the dish's origins?

The first documented reference to Spaghetti Alla Carbonara was from July 26, 1950, in the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa. In an article titled "Il Papa ha “passato ponte'" ("The Pope makes a visit across the bridge".) The article describes the Trastevere district of Rome and mentioned the owner of a restaurant, Da Cesaretto alla Cisterna, which served carbonara. The article noted, “Fu questo oste ad accogliere per primo gli ufficiali americani giunti in Trastevere parecchi anni or sono in cerca di spaghetti alla carbonara.” 

This basically translates, as "It was this innkeeper who first welcomed American officers who came to Trastevere several years ago in search of spaghetti carbonara.” So, it appears that spaghetti carbonara extended back at least to the 1940s, and that U.S. soldiers enjoyed the dish. This reference is often used as some support for Renato's claim. However, the reference simply indicates U.S. soldiers enjoyed the dish, It doesn't say anything about why they enjoyed the dish or where they first encountered it. It could just as well be used to support the Fourth theory. 

Also in 1950, there was a reference to "spaghetti alla carbonara" in Lunga vita di Trilussa, a biography written by Mario dell'Arco. Trilussa was the pseudonym of Carlo Alberto Camillo Mariano Salustri, a famous Roman poet (1871-1950). The biography noted, "Our hero almost never attacked a dish of spaghetti 'alla carbonara' or 'alla carrettiera' without the aid of two or three equally gluttonous friends." So, again, there's evidence of carbonara prior to 1950, although we're unsure of the time frame of this reference. And the reference provides no clues as to the dish's origins. 

In 1951, an Italian film, Cameriera bella presenza offresi ("Housemaid"), included a brief reference to Spaghetti alla Carbonara. The movie was about a maid, named Maria, who worked for various employers. One of the would-be employers asked her if she could prepare Spaghetti alla Carbonara, but she replied in the negative. 

Curiously, the first known recipe for Pasta Carbonara appeared in the U.S., in Chicago in 1952! In Vittles and Vice: An Extraordinary Guide to What's Cooking on Chicago's Near North Side by Patricia Bronté (January 1952), the book described numerous Chicago restaurants, including Armando's. This restaurant served "Pasta Carbonara" and the book provided a recipe.

The recipe stated, “Boil 1 ½ pounds of Tagliarini (thin wide noodles) according to the directions on the package. Meanwhile, chop and fry ½ pound of Mezzina (Italian bacon). Drain the noodles and the bacon. Take 4 eggs and ½ pound of grated Parmesan cheese and lightly whip together. Mix everything together and toss over a flame. Serves four.” I'll note that importantly this recipe did not call for black pepper, a significant omission.  

The two chefs at Armando's included Armando Lorenzini and Pietro Lencioni. Armando was born in the U.S. to Italian parents while Pietro grew up in Tuscany, but moved to the U.S. before he was 18 years old. Their Carbonara recipe used some more typical Tuscan, rather than Roman ingredients, including the Tagliarini and Messina, evidence of Pietro's background. 

An Italian newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, May 4, 1952, printed a short story, Il Pensatore, by Alberto Moravia, and it included a brief reference to eating spaghetti carbonara at a trattoria. Moravia wrote numerous short stories, generally all set in Rome after World War 2. These stories would be eventually collected, in 1954, in a book titled Racconti Romani ('Roman Tales"). 
Then in 1954, there was another Carbonara recipe in a British cookbook, Italian Food by Elizabeth David (Britain 1954, U.S. 1958). The recipe for “Maccheroni Alla Carbonara” (Macaroni with Ham and Eggs) is shown above. The recipe states it's a Roman dish. It calls for ham or coppa, Parmesan cheese, but again, no black pepper was included in the ingredients. 

The first Italian recipe for Carbonara didn't show up until August 1954, in La Cucina Italiana magazine. The ingredients included 1 lb. spaghetti, 6 oz. pancetta, 4 oz. gruyere cheese, 2 eggs, 1 clove of garlic, salt, and pepper. As we see, pancetta, rather than guanciale was used, and Gruyere cheese, rather than Pecorino or Paremesan, was used. Plus, garlic was included, which is not part of the "proper" version promoted by purists. At least black pepper made its appearance in the recipe. 

The method for the 1954 recipe state: "Heat plenty of salted water to cook the pasta. Chop the pancetta and cut the gruyère cheese into small cubes. Once the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and stir. Let cook for about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the spaghetti, and drain well: remember that spaghetti is better when served al dente. Pour the eggs into a bowl, and whisk them with a fork as if you were preparing an omelet. Put the bacon and crushed garlic (which will then be removed) in a large pan to fry. Add the spaghetti, eggs, gruyere, and plenty of pepper. Stir well, continuing to do so until the egg mixture starts to thicken. Then pour the spaghetti onto the serving plate and serve immediately."

The Daily News (NY), May 15, 1955, printed a short article on Maria Lusia Taglienti, an expert on Italian food, who had collected hundreds of recipes since her childhood in Italy. Two of her favorites dishes were Spaghetti Carbonara and Pollo Alla Diesola

The next month, the Clarion-Ledger (MS), June 26, 1955, provided a review of her new cookbook, The Italian Cookbook by Maria Lusia Taglienti, noting she came to the U.S. in 1948. Her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara was given (pictured above), and it included dry white wine, as well as Parmesan and Romano cheeses. It also included the use of black pepper.

In The Italian Cookbook by Maria Lusia Taglienti (NY, 1955), there's some background on her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. She wrote, “Here is a recipe from one of the most famous restaurants in Naples, Grande Ristorante Transatlantico in Borgo Marinaro a Santa Lucia. The restaurant is owned by Comm. Luigi Marinella & Sons and it is known not only for its cuisine, but also for its well-stocked cellar and for its large veranda on the sea, where one can enjoy the breath-taking view of the Gulf of Naples while eating.” So, even though most consider it a Roman dish, Maria got her recipe from a restaurant in Naples.

The origin of Carbonara? Maybe the earliest documented reference that sought to explain the origin of this dish was in the Indianapolis News (IN), November 15, 1955. The writer visited Rome and dined at the Garibaldina restaurant, which was located near the Roman gate. The owner told the writer about "spaghetti a la carbonara" and claimed "It is the way the carbonari make it. The charcoal burners.” He continued, “The carbonari are as old as Rome. They are itinerant workers, moving from place to place buying wood rights to lands.” 

So, this origin theory extends back at least to 1955, provided by the owner of a restaurant in Rome, but how much credence should we give it? Had this dish already become, in maybe ten or so years, fodder for myths and legends? There was no reference to Renato, or that it was first served to Allied servicemen. In all my research on the origins of carbonara, I also haven't seen anyone else mentioning this newspaper reference. 

The owner then provided the recipe for the dish. “The spaghetti is put in boiling water with a little salt. This is important. If you put it in before the water boils, it cooks to mush. You boil it about 10 minutes but it depends on the quality of the spaghetti.” He then continued, “While the spaghetti is cooking, you fry little pieces of bacon. You put this in a deep dish and beat up one egg for each person. Put the bacon with a little grease, a little oil, pepper and parmesan cheese with the eggs.” Then he stated, “Now lift out the spaghetti with two forks so that it drains lightly but doesn’t stick together. Put the spaghetti in hot and stir it around. The spaghetti cooks the eggs as it is coated. Then serve it quickly.” 

This article was printed in multiple other newspapers around the country, including Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Nevada. Many Americans were thus exposed to the concept of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, and had a recipe they could use to prepare this dish at home. 

A travel guide, Eating in Italy; A Pocket Guide to Italian Food and Restaurants, by Richard Hammond & George Martin (NY, 1957), made reference to Carbonara, and mentioned a couple restaurants which served it. The book stated that spaghetti was served in various ways, including, “alla Carbonara—in a sauce made with egg, cheese and bacon, or prosciutto (ham).” The two restaurants it mentioned, located in Rome, included Il Giardino d’Inverno (“Spaghetti alla Carbonara (cooked with eggs, cheese and crisp bacon") and Trattoria Alfredo (“Spaghetti alla Carbonara, cooked with butter, cheese, bacon and pig’s cheek.”) It's interesting to see that one description includes eggs but the other doesn't, as well as one uses prosciutto while the other uses "pig's cheek," aka guanciale. 

Carbonara in England! The Observer (London, England), March 3, 1957, published an article titled,  Spaghetti for Lent, and it mentioned, A Carbonara Sauce. Add a good teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper to ¼ lb. butter cooked till brown, throw in 4 oz. finely chopped bacon and fry till crisp. Pour over the cooked spaghetti in a pan on a low flame and then gently stir in three beaten eggs serving just before they begin to scramble and harden.”

There was a brief mention in the Times Herald (MI) March 31, 1957, noting, “Rome is noted for its spaghetti alla carbonara with a sauce of bacon, eggs and pepper.”

The Independent Star-News (CA), August 18, 1957, provided a recipe for Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, pictured above. It called for ham, olive oil, and grated Parmesan.  

The Walsall Observer (Walsall, England), August 30, 1957, also offered a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara, claiming it was a “popular dish from Sicily.” This varies greatly from all the prior articles claiming it was a dish from Rome. This recipe calls for only egg yolks, different from most prior recipes, but it also calls for ham and noted that Parmesan was the preferable cheese. 

The National Post (Toronto, Canada), November 23, 1957, had a brief mention of Spaghetti all Carbonara, made with egg, bacon and Pecorino. This might be the first mention of Pecorino in these early references. 

Back to England. The Daily Telegraph (London, England), March 1, 1958, printed an article about the restaurants and food in Rome. It stated, “No one should leave Rome without visiting one of the four Alfredo’s, each of which claims to serve the best pasta in the world. Why not try to cook your spaghetti alla carrettiera, that is with a sauce flavored with tunny and anchovy, or even alla carbonara—eggs beaten up with cheese and pepper.”

Another name? The Staten Island Advance (NY), April 10, 1958, provided a recipe for “Spaghetti alla Moro (or Carbonara)”, with "Moro" also being spelled "Morro" in the same article. The ingredients included spaghetti, bacon, olive oil, salt, black pepper, 1 egg yolk, and Parmesan cheese. However, later references note that Spaghetti alla Morro is actually a Carbonara variation which commonly adds chili flakes or hot pepper to the dish. 

There was a brief mention in The Akron Beacon Journal (OH), July 10, 1958, which noted, “One of the favorites was spaghetti alla Carbonara, a specialty at Alfredo in Trastevere where we ate outdoors under awnings.”

In the San Angelo Evening Standard, October 6, 1958, there was an article about various famous musicians and the foods they enjoyed. Giorgio Tozzi, an opera star, enjoyed “spaghetti ala Carbonara.”

The Ogden Standard-Examiner (UT), March 10, 1959, mentioned that in Rome, “And the rich smell of spaghetti alla carbonari drifts up the street from Nino’s. (Take it from the boiling water and dip it briefly but immediately in egg beaten to a froth. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bacon crumbs.)

More support for a specific origin theory. The Chicago Tribune (IL), April 10, 1959, printed an article on Dale Robertson, an actor in western TV shows. Dale used to work on a ranch and owned a horse breeding farm. He mentioned that, “I learned to make the spaghetti, called ‘a la carbonara’ [named after the coal miners in Italy who love it] when I was in location in Europe, Dale said. ‘Immediately after the spaghetti is drained, you mix a couple of well beaten eggs, some chopped, fried bacon and drippings into the hot spaghetti. The heat of the spaghetti ‘sets’ the eggs and the bacon gives it a real flavor.’ Dale meant the carbonari, the "charcoal burners," and not "coal miners." It's interesting that this origin theory seemed to be the only such theory spread during the 1950s, the closest time frame to its likely invention in the 1940s. 

Finally, in the book, A Long Way From Missouri by Mary Margaret McBride (NY, 1959), there was a brief mention, about her travels to Rome, stating, “We went to trattorias—country inns, each of which served a distinctive pasta: cannelloni, fettucine, ravioli, lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti alla carbonara.”

It seems likely that spaghetti alla carbonara was invented during the 1940s, in Rome, although the first documented reference was from 1950. Its actual origins are unknown, although there are plenty of theories. However, the earliest documented theory, mentioned during the 1950s, connects it to the carbonari, the charcoal burners. The earliest recipes for this dish are different from what purists now consider the "proper" recipe for it. 

What are your favorite local restaurants for spaghetti all carbonara?

Thursday, February 8, 2024

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. For this edition, I'll be mentioning some spots for Valentine's Day celebrations. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Kane's Donuts introduces their February flavors, to make your celebrations even sweeter. These flavors are available at all of their locations throughout the month of February. The special flavors include:
  • The Gluten-Free Strawberry Delight: A cake style donut bursting with real strawberry fruit! Then drenched in a glaze made from our Signature Honey Glaze and Strawberry Fruit. 
  • The Open-Faced Cherry-Filled Donut: A light and fluffy yeast donut filled with a generous dollop of rich Cherry Pie filling and iced with vanilla bean icing. 
  • The Chocolate Fudge Red Velvet: A deep, rich red velvet cake-style donut frosted with chocolate fudge frosting topped with festive sprinkles. 
  • The Cherry Glazed: An old-fashioned cake-style donut with real cherry fruit lovingly folded in the dough, then drenched in Kane’s Signature Honey Glaze. 
  • The Vegan Coconut Cream Donut: A cake-style donut with a light fluffy frosting topped with shredded sweet coconut.
  • The Valentine's Day Donut: A light and fluffy yeast donut decorated for Valentine's Day!
2) Executive Chef Daniel Kenney and the CLINK. team invite guests to "travel to Ireland" at upcoming St. Patrick's Day dinner. On Thursday, March 14th, starting at 6:30pm, CLINK. you can celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a four-course meal prepared by Executive Chef Daniel Kenney paired with Irish beers and spirits. 

Welcome Reception:
Ginger Seared Yellow Fin Tuna on Potato Toast
Paired with Jameson and Ginger
First Course:
"Potato Skins" American caviar, Maine lobster, guanciale, and crème fraiche
Paired with Irish mule
Second Course:
12-Hour Stout Braised Short Rib of Beef “Irish Stew” with local root vegetables and roquefort pudding
Paired with a pint of Guinness
Third Course:
Caramel and Irish Cream Pastry with whiskey-soaked golden raisins and peat-smoked ice cream
Paired with Baileys Irish Coffee

Tickets are $89 per person and can be purchased HERE.

Following dinner, guests are welcomed to join Liberty in its lobby rotunda for its weekly "Fashionably LATE" fashion show at 10 p.m., featuring incredible looks by REVIVALS.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Il Ponte: Compelling Italian Cuisine in Woburn

Chef Beni Kurti of Il Ponte has brought his deep passion, lengthy culinary experience, and charm to Woburn. I highly recommend that all of my readers check out his excellent Italian cuisine, from home-made pasta to Neapolitan pizza. 

Back in December 2023, I wrote an article with my First Impressions of Il Ponte. I've now dined there three times, plus got take-out once, so it's time for a more in-depth review. As I wrote before, I've known Chef Beni Kurti for several years, as he's a regular customer at the wine shop where I work, and he often spoke of his desire to open his own restaurant. Last fall, his dream came true when he opened Il Ponte in Woburn. I wasn't aware of his new restaurant until recently but once I learned of it, I've been there several times. 

Beni, a native of the Umbria region of Italy, has lived in the U.S. for about ten years or so and has about 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry. His wife, Hortenca Sheshori, who is also a native of Italy, also has numerous years of restaurant experience, and she works at Il Ponte as well. Even Beni's son works there, a true family affair. 

The homey restaurant, with a casual elegance, seats about 50 people, and has a small bar with about seven seats. The restaurant is often busy, so I'd suggest making reservations, especially if you want to dine there on the weekend. The bar seats seem to fill up fairly quickly as well, although sometimes those guests are only there for a cocktail or glass of wine, so their seats free up after a relatively short time. The full food menu is available at the bar, and I sat there on one of my visits.  

They have a full bar, with a number of Signature Cocktails (most about $14), from the classic Aperol Spritz to Beni's Limoncello Martini. The Aperol Spritz was a hefty-sized cocktail with a pleasant and well-balanced taste. The bourbon selections include choices such as Blanton's and Pappy Van Winkle. They also carry four beers, from Moretti to Heineken

The Wine list has recently been revised and expanded, and now they about 40 choices, mostly Italian, although with 9 choices from France, California, and Argentina. There are 14 choices available by the glass, mostly costing $12-$13, with one at $14 and one at $21. Most of the bottle prices range from $42-$99, with about 25% being more splurge choices, costing $110-$590. There are Italian whites, made from grapes such as Grechetto and Falanghina, and Italian reds, including Barbera, Barolo, Amarone, and more. When ordering wine here, I'd recommend you choose an Italian option. 

From the list, I've enjoyed two of their wines, including the 2015 Carus Gaudio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($59) and the Gianni Gagliardo Barbera d'Alba ($54). Both were delicious, interesting and went well with the various dishes. There are plenty of other wines on the list I want to explore in future visits.   

Each table receives a complimentary basket of fresh, warm and tasty bread and foccaia, with a small tub of olive oil and garlic cloves. What an excellent way to begin your dinner! I love warm bread, and each time I've dined here, I've smeared garlic and olive oil on my slices. 

The Food Menu has plenty of tasty and interesting options and there's usually a couple of Specials each night, such as an Appetizer and an Entree. You can begin with their Antipasti, which offers 10 choices  ($14-$32), such as a brick-oven Octopus, Beef Carpaccio or Prosciutto & Burrata Umbrian Style. The Insalate offers 4 choices ($13-$14), including Caesar Salad, Braised Beets Salad, Arugula Salad and a Soup of the Day

The Le Nostre Paste, their Pasta dishes, are all made in-house. You have 10 choices ($21-$26), including Spicy Rigatoni, Squid Ink Pasta with Polipo, and Gnocchi all Sorrentina. Their Pizza Napoletana is wood fired at 900 degrees, and there are 8 choices available, including 4 Red and 4 White Pizzas ($18-$24). Finally, their Secondi, main entrees, has 8 choices ($28-$47), such as Honey Lavender Duck, Tonno al Pepe Verde, and Pork Tovarisch. Based on the high quality and quantity of each dish, the prices are reasonable. 

As for Antipasti, the Crispy Shrimp ($18) is a new addition to their menu. The spicy shrimp are in fagioli all' uccelletto, a Tuscan dish of cannellini beans in a tomato sauce with fried sage and garlic. The plump and tender shrimp had a light and crispy batter, allowing the shrimp to shine and not be overwhelmed by the batter. The beans, sage and garlic were a nice addition, everything cooked perfectly. 

This dish seems to be a variation of their Prosciutto and Burrata Umbrian Style ($20), which has two pieces of puffy fried dough (without any sugar or cinnamon), topped by prosciutto and mortadella, with creamy burrata and a balsamic reduction. A delightful combination of textures and fresh flavors, and the fried dough was an intriguing variation. 

The Asparagus alla Bismark ($18) comprised an asparagus gratin, sunny side egg, toasted hazelnuts, and truffle in a cacio e Pepe sauce. This dish was a big hit at my table, with tender, thin asparagus, the crunch of the hazelnuts, and the subtle truffle and sauce. It was said to be one of their favorite asparagus dishes in a long time.  

An Antipasti Special one evening was a Raviolo al' Uovo, a huge ravioli, stuffed with ricotta and a runny egg yolk, in a brown butter sauce. The video above shows the ravioli being cut into, and the egg yolk seeping out. This was another delicious and well-balanced dish, with perfectly cooked pasta, lots of creamy ricotta, the rich taste of egg yolk and a delightful sauce. Highly recommended.

This is their wood-fired Pizza Oven, which fires at 900 degrees, and it's visible from certain vantages in the dining room. Such a compelling view!

I previously wrote about the Quatro Formagi Pizza, and now I'll discuss two more of their scrumptious pizzas. I'll note that in all of these pizzas, the crust is perfect: light, airy and crisp, with some slight charring. And they look beautiful too. Above is their Pepperoni Pizza ($20), with tomato, mozzarella, cacio, and olio santo. A tasty sauce, plenty of meaty and slightly spicy pepperoni, lots of cheese and that perfect crust. 

The Fico va a Parma Pizza ($24) is comprised of fig, mozzarella, walnuts, goat cheese, cacio, prosciutto, and arugula. In the first picture above, you can see the pizza before the prosciutto and arugula were added, showcasing the ingredients which are later covered up. The bottom picture shows the completed pizza, the prosciutto and arugula concealing the bottom toppings. Another absolutely delicious pizza, with sweet, salty, and slightly bitter flavors, enhanced by creamy, crunchy, and crisp textures,

This is one of the best places in the Woburn area for Neapolitan pizza, and it's well worth getting it even just for takeout. 

As for Pasta dishes, I previously wrote about the fantastic Tortellini all Norcina. Another recent addition to their menu is La Gricia ($24), made in a traditional Roman style, with house-made rigatoni, cacio e pepe, and guanciale. A relatively simple dish, but expertly created. The rigatoni were nicely al dente, and the guanciale was excellent, crispy, meaty and salty. There was a richness to the dish with the cheese and the fat of the guanciale. 

As for Secondi dishes, I previously wrote about the amazing Veal alla Petroniana. One of the Secondi Specials one evening was Swordfish ($46), parmesan crusted with a puttanesca sauce and accompanied by a chive risotto. The top photo is how the dish arrived at the table, and the bottom photo shows the swordfish with the removal of the greens, so you can see the puttanesca sauce. This was one of the juiciest swordfish dishes I've enjoyed in quite some time, enhanced by that beautiful and crispy crust and the tasty puttanesca. It was also quite a substantial piece of swordfish too. The creamy risotto was a fine accompaniment as well. Highly recommended.

The Pollo ai Funghi ($32) is essentially a variation of Chicken Marsala, with two good-sized and tender chicken escalopes, smothered in mushrooms, in a light Marsala sauce and accompanied by pasta. The Marsala sauce was mildly sweet and rich in flavor, and it gently coated everything, rather than  forming a pool beneath the chicken and pasta. Delicious, cooked perfectly, and a fine entree.   

The Dessert menu has 6 choices ($9-$13), from Tiramisu to Cannoli, and the desserts are generally made from scratch. Above, the photo shows two desserts, the Bombolone (warm donuts with chocolate chip gelato, served with English cream and chocolate sauce) and the Semifreddo (pistacchio and honey mousse, with mixed berry gelato, English cream, and brutti ma buoni biscotti). Both were quite tasty, especially the gelatos, and each dish was a pleasant mix of flavors and textures. The mousse was quite intriguing and delicious. 

This was a Special one evening, with a molten Chocolate cake (made from scratch), a mixed berry gelato, English cream, and more. I didn't get the exact name of this dish, but its taste is quite memorable. The cake was rich, creamy and chocolately, with bright red fruits in the gelato. A heavenly dessert. 

Service was excellent on all of my visits, the servers being genuinely personable and attentive, without being obtrusive. Although you have one primary server, the servers work as a well-oiled team. Chef Kurti, during the course of the evening while he's working in the kitchen or at the pizza oven, makes time to stop by numerous tables to check how the customers are enjoying their dinner. He's such a charming man, with a deep passion for Italian cuisine, and a great culinary talent. 

On each visit, I enjoyed an excellent, delicious and consistent dining experience. I'm so impressed with Il Ponte and it earns my highest recommendation. I'll be returning there again soon, and hope all my readers visit this restaurant as well. You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Rant: Respect The Single Country Wine List

Consider this situation: You dine at a new Italian restaurant and while you peruse its wine list, you see that they only carry Italian wines. There is no California Chardonnay or Australian Shiraz, no New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentina Malbec. Instead, you see listings for Chianti and Prosecco, Franciacorta and Barolo, as well as wines with grapes unfamiliar to you, like Grillo, Frappato and Arneis

Does this situation bother you because you can't find the wines you usually enjoy? Does this situation bother you because you don't know much about many of those Italian wines? Or are you pleased with the wine menu, relishing the adventure of exploring the list, and potentially finding new favorite wines? I hope you answered positively to the third question. 

There are restaurants which choose to limit their wine list to a single country, to fit their cuisine, though locally, they are in the minority. A couple of my favorite restaurants which do this include Krasi (all Greek wine list) and A Tavola (all Italian wine list). However, many restaurants create wine lists which try to cater to diverse preferences, not willing to take the risk of a single country list. They fear offending some of their customers by not having certain types of wines. Their wine list might be predominately from one country, but there will be a percentage from at least several other countries. 

Is that really necessary?

I respect a restaurant willing to create a single country wine list, and I know I'm sure to find plenty of wines that will enjoy. I also savor the adventure of exploring such a list, trying wines that are new to me. Sure, wines from all over the world can pair well with Italian cuisine, but if an Italian restaurant only wants to offer Italian wines to pair with their cuisine, I am fully supportive of their desire. It's a way to expose more consumers to the diversity and wonders of Italian wine, to helping to broaden their palates. 

You wouldn't go to an Italian restaurant and expect to find Australian meat pies or Southern-style fried chicken, so why expect to find wines from places other than Italy? You are going for the experience of Italian cuisine, and wine is actually food. Thus, it makes sense that Italian wine is served as part of the Italian cuisine. This applies to any ethnic restaurant which chooses to limit its wine list to the country of its cuisine. 

For many restaurants though, it's a matter of money. There are some picky and demanding consumers who would object to such a singular wine list. They are too set in their ways, unwilling to be open to new wines, and only want to be able to get their California Chardonnay, or other vinous preference, no matter what restaurant where they dine. If a restaurant has a single country wine list, they won't attract these type of customers, and that could have negative economic consequences for the restaurant. 

It's also this type of picky consumer who demands that every Italian restaurant must serve Chicken Parmigiana, even if that Italian restaurant desires to only serve a specific regional cuisine which wouldn't serve such a dish, or simply doesn't want to serve that dish. Those picky consumers won't patronize an Italian restaurant which doesn't serve their favorite dish. 

We need to give our support to those restaurant brave enough to have a single country wine list, to dine at such restaurants and enjoy their wine choices. Consumers need to be more open to wines that are outside their usual preference. They shouldn't demand that every restaurant conform to their own wine preferences. Be open to the joys of other wines. The sommelier, wine director, or servers at these restaurants can help you select wines that are similar to your preferences, and will appeal to you.  

What are your thoughts on restaurants with single country wine lists? Do you have any favorite restaurants with such a list?

Thursday, February 1, 2024

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. For this edition, I'll be mentioning some spots for Valentine's Day celebrations. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Chef Kevin HanQing alongside The Red 8 and Encore Boston Harbor teams invite guests to join them for a special Lunar New Year feast on Saturday, February 10th. Encore Boston Harbor’s signature, authentic Chinese restaurant Red 8, will be offering a prix fixe, Lunar New Year feast from Saturday, February 10th through Saturday, February 24th. 

Available in addition to Red 8’s regular menu, Chef Yuan's multi-course Lunar New Year menu will be available for $148 per person and feature dishes including: 
Roasted duck & pork rib
Seaweed salad
Fish maw & seafood soup
Half garlic steamed lobster
Yi mein noodles with mushroom
Pan-fried sweet nian gao

For more information, or to make a reservation, please visit HERE.

2) On Sunday, February 18th, from Noon to 5pm, Rochambeau presents Brunch, Burlesque, and Beats.  The French fête will treat guest to a brunch spread alongside a live DJ spinning fun beats and captivating burlesque performances by talented burlesque artist, Mistress Manifest. Brunch tickets cost $40 and can be purchased HERE.

3) South Street Diner, one of Boston’s longest running late-night restaurants is hosting an all-day Mardi Gras celebration in honor of “Fat Tuesday” – the last day of the Carnival season. Owner Sol Sidell is recreating that authentic New Orleans feel inside the walls of the late-night restaurant on Tuesday, February 13th from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Come on down and enjoy an all-you-can-eat jambalaya feast for $9.95 along with other Louisiana-style Mardi Gras items including signature Beads & Beignets. You can wash down the southern cuisine with the late-night restaurant’s very own Voodoo Punch for $9 per glass.

The atmosphere will make you feel like you’re right on Bourbon Street. The staff will be handing out Mardi Gras beads and dressed head to toe in traditional Mardi Gras garb. Come join South Street Diner and groove into the night with the New Orleans Zydeco music bumping from the jukebox.

4) Crane River's Cheese Club is ‘Game Day’ ready with their newest prepared food options for your Super Bowl celebrations.  Created by Chef Poe and Chef Guzman, the following signature dishes are packaged for customers’ football delight. 
  • Poe Pizza, a 10-inch cheese pizza featuring a tantalizing blend of extra sauce and extra cheese.
  • Korean Chicken Wings:  Each wing is a harmony of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors, with chile, citrus, sesame & tamari marinated gochujang type oil, and spicy ranch dipping sauce. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. 
  • Wild Boar Meatballs: These meatballs are a twist on a classic favorite with spicy ginger and a cilantro broth. 
  • Crane Rivers Pork Dumplings: with ginger, garlic & cabbage, and house-made sriracha & soy broth. 
5) Join Forcella for a Campania Wine Dinner on Thursday, February 22nd at either 5:00 p.m. or 7:15 p.m. Indulge in a five-course meal with wine pairing to experience a Taste of Italy. The variety of dinner dishes include seafood, steak and pasta all paired with Italian wines to compliment the flavors. 

Polpetti Affogate
(Tomato Braised Baby Octopus, Garlic, Chili, Warm bread)
2021 Fiano Beneventano
Beef Carpaccio (Tenderloin, Roasted Garlic Aioli, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Toasted Hazelnuts)
2020 Cabernet Sauvignon “Rython”
Mushroom Risotto (Roasted Mushrooms, Black Winter Truffle, Grana)
2019 Aglianico del Taburno Riserva “Iovi Tonant”
Pan Roasted Swordfish (Carrot Puree, Black Lentils, Pickled Beet Sauce, Toasted Pistachios)
Sparkling Aglianico “Prestige Rose”
Short Rib (Creamy Potatoes, Broccoli Rabe, Montepulciano Demi)
2019 Aglianico Appasito “Kapnios”

Cost: The Campania Wine Dinner costs $125 per adult. Guests must be at least 21 years old with a proper ID to attend. Reservations must be made online in advance as there is limited seating available.