Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) Eastie’s latest newcomer, Cunard Tavern, is now be open for weekend brunch. Available every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Cunard will offer brunch-goers an eclectic menu full of brunch classics and re-imagined, new interpretations of old favorites.

Ranging in price from $10 to $22, Chef Anthony Pino’s brunch menu will feature approachable, fun entrées including:
Elvis Sandwich (peanut butter, banana, and bacon in egg-dipped brioche and grilled)
Bacon and Egg Burger (Swiss, applewood-smoked bacon, over easy egg, fresh tomato, shredded lettuce, slice onion and chipotle hollandaise)
#BasicBreakfast (two eggs, cheesy hash browns, crispy applewood-smoked bacon, and toast)
Baked French Toast Casserole (baked brioche with seasonal fruit toppings and homemade whipped cream).
Lobster & Corn Salad roll (maine lobster and local corn in a buttered hotdog roll)

To complement its food menu, Cunard will offer guests a variety of handcrafted “adult beverages” including a Chili Verde Bloody, Mimosas, and an assortment of Bellinis made with various fresh purees.

2) On Tuesday, July 25, join Chris Schlesinger on The Automatic’s porch as he makes his famous Paella! Spanish style appetizers, seafood and pork paella and a whole lot of hospitality are going to be served homestyle out on the porch by Chris Schlesinger and The Automatic team.

Chris, a James Beard award-winning chef, founder of East Coast Grill and author of several books, opened The Automatic with his friend, legendary bartender Dave Cagle. “This is our first summer season out on the patio, so we figure we have to christen it with paella and rosé” says Chris.

It all started with a friendly paella competition over the charcoals at his summer home in Westport. Then Chris’ paella recipe was featured in The New York Times and it has become a summertime staple. Come with friends to cheer on “Old Man Schlesinger” as he cooks up his sacred summer dish. Toast the cook with The Automatic’s large format rosé! Make your reservations now, this will sell out.

Price: $35 per person, fixed price
Please call 617-714-5226 to make a Reservation

3) Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca Chef Mario LaPosta and his team invite guests to join them on Thursday, July 27 to explore the flavors of Puglia. Babbo Pizzeria will host an Italian wine dinner to explore the flavors of Puglia. Starting at 6 p.m., the evening will include a tasting of four different courses, along with wine pairings from the region.

The menu is as follows:
Antipasti 
--Bruschetta with Burrata di Andria
--Cozze Gratinate
--Peperoncini Ripieni with Tuna
--Zensa Salento Fiano 2014
Orrecchiette, Pomodorini Secchi, Salsiccia, Broccoli Rabe
Li Veli 'Primerose' Negroamaro Rosato 2016
Parmigiana di Melanzane
Pietregiovani Primitivo 2013
Goat's Milk Ricotta Panna Cotta, Vincotto Biscuit, Fresh Figs
Babbo Limoncello

Tickets are $95 and can be purchased by logging onto https://pugliawinedinner.splashthat.com/

4) Tapestry in Fenway is hosting an Aloha Party featuring Hawaiian cuisine such as Hawaiian Pizza along with Spam and pineapple dishes, tiki drinks and live Island music performed by Big Party Orchestra.

The event is open to the public and will take place on Sunday, August 20th from 2pm until 8pm. There is a $5 cover charge at the door and there will be a cash bar.

5) The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce Cambridge’s newest Summer food festival, The Char & Bar Wars – a head-to-head battle between 30 of the hottest local restaurants and bars benefitting the Rindge School of Technical Arts Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program.

On Wednesday, August 2, from 5pm-8pm, food lovers will take the judge’s seat as they taste slider size burgers and sample cocktails prepared by popular local restaurants, battling to win the title of Best Classic Burger, Best Signature Burger, and Best Summer Cocktail. The event will take place at 50 Landsdowne Street, Cambridge.

Restaurants that will be throwing their hats in the ring include: Glass House, AC Bar and Lounge, Harvard Square Shake Shack, ArtBar Cambridge, Craigie on Main, The Automatic, Café Luna and more,

Tickets are available via Eventbrite for $45 and include unlimited sampling of food and drinks – a valid 21+ ID is required to receive the Bar War bracelet.

To purchase tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-char-bar-wars-tickets-34656023098#tickets.

6) On Monday, July 31, celebrated Chef Paul O’Connell from the legendary Chez Henri shares the secrets of his famous Cuban sandwich with The Automatic. The Automatic’s Dave Cagle and his team are honored to launch The Automatic’s new signature Cuban Sandwich – with the blessing of Chef Paul O’Connell.

We are thrilled that Chef Paul O’Connell is bringing back his famous Pork Butt!” says Dave Cagle. “We say it’s time to Stop The Madness!! He’s sharing his recipe, teaching us his tricks, and we will begin serving the classic Cuban Sandwich starting at 5pm on July 31. And then every night after that.” It will be The Automatic’s new signature sandwich.

To make reservations, please call The Automatic at 617-714-5226

7) Chef/Owner Lydia Shire – alongside executive chef Simon Restrepo and executive sous chef Alex Pineda – is debuting 25 new creations at Scampo that encapsulate the boldest and brightest flavors of summertime.

To whet your appetite, there are a series of new starter courses. In the “Handmade Breads” category, there is Crisped Lebanese Pita Bread with whipped white bean and anchovy, sumac and pistachio oil finished with grated, cured egg yolk ($15) and on the pizza side, there is a new Tiny Meatballs Pizza with jowl bacon, candele sauce and gremolata ($20) as well as a White Pizza with truffle cheese, sherried chanterelle and fig preserve ($25).

Other new starters include the summery Avocado Soup with a salt-baked prawn a la plancha and charred scallion crème fraiche ($17); Peekytoe Crab Salad on a lemony artichoke heart with red sorrel, lemon aioli and apple jelly cubes ($25); Maple Torched Foie Gras with sous-vide coffee butter and yellow raisin brioche ($26); the sharable Char-Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops with whipped French feta mash (two for $22; three for $32); Tandoori Fired Large Sea Scallops on whipped white eggplant ($24); Spain’s Ibérico Ham with warm Portuguese custard tarts and shaved persimmon ($39); and, Heirloom Tomatoes with horseradish panna cotta, melon and pine nut puree ($16).

From the signature mozzarella bar, there is a trio of newcomers: Mozzarella with Prosciutto on grilled watermelon steak ($29); Mozzarella with Beef Sirloin Carpaccio with peppery red watercress and petit cracked black pepper arancini ($22); and, Burrata on olive oil-fried chestnut polenta with broiled Frog Hollow Farm’s organic peaches ($22).

New “Handmade Pasta e Risotti” offerings include the Delicate Three-Cheese Lasagna, a deconstructed creation filled with robiola cheese and topped with zucchini blossoms and truffle honey ($21); Sweet Potato Agnolotti with crisped pork belly and caramel ‘pulled’ roasted hazelnuts ($19/29); Beet Pappardelle with blue poppy seeds, white baby beets and black summer truffles ($18/28); and, Butter ‘Toasted’ Acquerello Risotto, from Piedmont, with summer’s soft shell lobster and ‘silver queen’ corn ($28).

The entrée-sized “Plates” also have undergone a full seasonal revamping, with Rare Tuna served with frites, crisped ‘black and white’ squid and curly parsley bagna cauda ($36); Roast Day Boat Nova Scotia Halibut with cockles and rouille of rolled gratin with the thinnest zucchini and summer squash ($38); Crisped Salmon with spiced laksa butter and micro citrus greens on steamed coconut milk jasmine rice ($34); Classic Brick Chicken with red chard gnocchi, Alabama white BBQ sauce and a fried pickle ($30); Heritage Red Wattle Pork Chop with an intense rum-raisin butter and French fried parsnips ($36); Scampo Duck with celery leaf and almond milk risotto finished with Sangue Morlacco dark cherry liquor gastrique ($35); Seared Darling Downs Wagyu Skirt Steak with ripe tomato and peach with a pistachio pesto ($38); Scaloppini of Tender Veal with king oyster mushrooms and young taleggio with farro grains and marsala wine ($36); and, Fish & Chips with apple cider-battered hake and lobster served with root chips and Tokyo tartar ($44).

For sides, diners now can round out their experience with new accompaniments like Grilled Corn & Corn Sformato with chipotle and chili-lime salt ($10) and Simon’s Incredible Dauphine Potatoes & Tempura Onion Rings ($10).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

TasteCamp Maryland: Tenth Ward Distilling Company

"There was one mistake Baltimore never made. Baltimore, and the state of Maryland, never endorsed Prohibition. We were known as the wettest state, where beer and liquor was freely available before and after the Volstead Act's repeal in 1933."
--The Baltimore Sun, April 30, 2010

As I recently wrote, I attended TasteCamp 2017 in Maryland and during our weekend visit we sampled a number of local spirits. During our visit to McClintock Distilling Company, we also had the opportunity to taste some spirits from the Tenth Ward Distilling Company, and I found three of their products to be interesting, innovative and delicious.

The Tenth Ward Distilling Company, which opened in July 2016, is located at 508 East Church Street in Frederick, in a part of the city which was once known as the Tenth Ward. The distillery is owned by Monica Pearce and Kyle Pfalzer. Monica and Kyle are committed to environmental sustainability and also try to be as local as possible. For example, all of the grain they use is sourced relatively local, about 33 miles away, from the Ripon Lodge Farm in Rippon, West Virginia. In addition to providing the grains, the farm also malts their barley and rye, as well as smokes their corn.

The distillery's slogan is “Ward off ordinary,” which is a partial play off their name and also indicative of their objective to "push the limits with unconventional distilling and aging techniques while at the same time bringing back some historical and local aspects to our process." And based on the spirits I tasted, I see some of that unconventionality as well as homage to local history. They currently produce three spirits year-round, and a few others seasonally or as limited releases.

The Claude Countee Corn Whiskey ($28), produced year-round, is named after a famous Prohibition-era bootlegger from Frederick. The whiskey is made from a mashbill of 80% corn and 20% malted barley, and comes in at 95 proof. Though their website states this whiskey drinks similar to a peated Scotch or Mezcal, I feel that it is more like a smoky bourbon. You have the sweetness from the corn, enhanced by a prominent, but not overwhelming, smoky aspect. Sweet and smoky, it was quite tasty and smooth, despite the high alcohol content. This could be enjoyed on its own, though it would make for an excellent ingredient in a cocktail, maybe a smoky Manhattan.

The Lindsay Stunkle Rye Whiskey ($36), produced year-round, is also named after a famous Prohibition-era bootlegger from Frederick. This limited-release whiskey is made from a mashbill of 80% malted rye and 20% malted barley, and comes in at a whopping 120 proof. It is released twice a year, in June and November, and is intended for home aging. It is spicy and potent, enhanced by the addition of a little water, and will definitely appeal to rye lovers. There is complexity to its taste and a lengthy finish, and I would love to see this aged in the barrel for a number of years.

The most unique of their spirits was the White Caraway Rye ($36) which is made from a mashbill of 80% malted rye and 20% malted barley, and comes in at 95 proof. The spirit is mashed with caraway seed so it is intended to taste more like rye bread, though it may also remind you of Scandinavian Akvavit. I was captivated by the intriguing flavors of this spirit, as it certainly reminded me of spicy rye bread, with a hint of mint. Though you could drink this on its own, I think it would be best used in creating some fascinating cocktails.

Tenth Ward Distilling is producing some impressive and innovative spirits and there is much potential for the future. If you ever get to Maryland, seek out their spirits.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Rant: Stop Hoarding Your Wine

Four years ago, I visited southern Oregon and stopped at Abacela Winery for a tour, tasting and lunch. The winery has a strong affinity for Spanish grapes and in 1995, they planted the first Tempranillo in the Pacific Northwest. Over  a delightful lunch with Paella, the star wine was the 2005 Abacela Paramour ($90), made from Tempranillo and created in a Gran Reserva style. At that time, it was an impressive wine, though the winery suggested it should be cellared for several more years. I purchased a bottle to take home and placed it into my wine cellar, where it sat for four years.

Last week, for my birthday celebration, I finally opened that bottle, sharing it with family and friends. It was an amazing wine, loved by everyone who tasted it, and I certainly wish I had purchased more when I visited the winery. For my birthday, I wanted to open a special bottle and price wasn't an object. I realized that I might never enjoy this wine again, and that the price for the 2005 vintage had probably risen. I might have been able to sell it for a profit. However, I don't have a single regret that I opened the bottle.

In the end, it was just a wine, something to drink and share. I didn't view it as an investment vehicle, something to save until its value increased and then sold it off at a profit. I don't have a single bottle in my wine cellar that wouldn't open for some occasion. And I also don't let my special bottles sit in my cellar, waiting for the perfect occasion which never seems to arrive. Every bottle in my cellar is meant to be drank.

Too many people let their special wines sit in their cellars and never open them. They say that they are saving them for a special occasion, maybe a holiday, birthday, anniversary or other celebration, but they never actually get to opening them. Wines don't age forever. At some point, a wine will peak and then it will begin to decline. Do you want to drink your wines when they are on the decline? Will you wait until the wine is actually over the hill, if not dead?

You need to stop hoarding those wines and drink them. Commit to opening a special wine on your next celebration, even if you are only celebrating that it is Friday night. Sure, you could try to save those special wines, hoping they gain in value so that could you sell them some day. However, what do you really gain? And what will you do with the money you might earn from selling the wine?

Life is about experiences not objects. And the experience of sharing an expensive bottle of wine with good friends and family is priceless. I have good friends who understand that sentiment, and freely share their own special bottles on various occasions. They are all about the experience, worrying not about the price of the wine.

Stop hoarding your wines! Share them with family and friends and savor the experience. You won't regret it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) The Painted Burro, the festive, upscale Mexican kitchen and tequila bar in the heart of Somerville’s Davis Square, is adding fajitas to their flavorful menu as part of Tex-Mex Mondays.

Fajitas that are in rotation include Carne Asada with Guajillo BBQ, Ranchero Chicken, Blackened Salmon, and Achiote Pork Loin and all come in a sizzling skillet with onions, peppers, grilled banana pepper, with a side of house made flour tortillas, chimichurri, lettuce, tres quesos, and pico de gallo.

Accompanying the rotating selection of tasty fajitas are fun featured drinks and $5 coronas, tecates, pacifico, modelo, and more.

To enjoy the Burro’s special fajita offerings, simply dine-in on any Monday and enjoy the two featured tacos in rotation that week.

2) TAMO Bistro + Bar at the Seaport Hotel is celebrating our favorite summer crustacean during the month of July by offering three lobster specials that will satisfy your cravings in the best possible way:

Lobster salad with corn, sea beans, and yellow pole beans ($19)
Lobster mac and cheese ($20)
Lobster “bake in a bag” with lobster, corn, mussels, and new potatoes ($30)

These specials will be offering in addition to the regular menu every day from 11:30am – midnight through the end of July.

3) Chef/Owner Christopher Coombs, Executive Chef Adrienne Mosier, Pastry Chef Shaun Velez, GM/Sommelier Jason Irving, and the rest of the Deuxave team invite guests to join them for a special mid-summer wine dinner.

On Tuesday, July 25th at 6:30 p.m., Deuxave will be hosting a four-course wine dinner featuring the wines of Central France’s Loire Valley alongside thoughtfully paired dishes.

The evening’s menu will include:
To begin:
Striped Bass Crudo with Shiro plums and sorrel paired with Marc Bredif, Vouvray, Loire, FR, 2015
Second course:
Local burrata with heirloom tomatoes, and summer herbs paired with Domaine Riffault, les Desmalets, Sancerre, Loire, FR, 2015
Third course:
Confit suckling pig with apricots, mustard greens, and garden flowers paired with Domaine du Clos de l’Elu, Magellan, Anjou, Loire, FR, 2013
Dessert:
Pineapple tatin with lychee mint salad and Coteaux de Layon ice cream paired with Clos de l’Elu, 1er Cru “Chaume”, Coteaux du Layon, Loire, FR, 2014

Cost: Tickets are $149 plus tax and gratuity
For reservations, please call (617) 517-5915.

4) On Tuesday, July 25th, at 6:30pm, Abe & Louie's, the Back Bay steakhouse, will host a decadent and delicious wine dinner featuring distinct vintages from Jordan Vineyards paired with a four course dinner by Chef Tindaro LoSurdo. Attendees will be joined by a very special guest that evening - legendary winemaker Rob Davis, who has been creating the Jordan vintages for over 40 years.

The Menu includes:
--Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble paired with East vs. West Coast oysters served with cucumber and wasabi mignonett
--2014 Jordan Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay paired with sweet corn and duck confit spring rolls with pickled mango salsa
--1999, 2005 and 2013 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon paired with grilled prime ribeye served with salt roasted marble potatoes and honey roasted purple carrots
--Dessert wine paired with a sea salt and callebaut chocolate brownie sundae with luxardo cherry sauce

Cost: $165 per person, not including tax or gratuity.
Interested guests can make reservations by calling the restaurant at (617) 536-6300.

5) Debuting on Sunday, July 23rd, Chef Jason Santos’ Buttermilk & Bourbon will soon offer brunch service, with a taste of the Bayou, every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Buttermilk & Bourbon, located at 160 Commonwealth Ave., will offer brunch-goers a taste of the Bayou in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay.

In addition to Buttermilk & Bourbon staples like its freshly fried beignets with vanilla bean mascarpone, warm honey-glazed biscuits, and deviled egg toast, the brunch menu will feature a variety of new, signature items. Menu highlights will include buttermilk biscuit and gravy with house-made sausage, smoked fontina, and chives; Anson Mills cream cheese grits with a slow-cooked egg, holy trinity, and scallions; peach-pecan perdu with vanilla bean mascarpone and Louisiana cane syrup; bananas foster pancakes with sweet walnuts and buttermilk whipped cream; and fresh crab benedict with hot Nashville hollandaise, Benton’s ham, and Stone & Skillet English muffin. Brunch dishes range in price from $7 to $22 and are accompanied by an assortment of a la carte sides ranging in price from $2.50 to $5.

To complement its food menu, Buttermilk & Bourbon's beverage menu will offer guests a variety of handcrafted signature cocktails; red and white wines; bubbles; and beers. Exclusively available for brunch, new, signature drinks will include a soft serve mimosa made with watermelon sorbet and champagne split; and a pitcher of hurricane made with Cruzan rum, passion fruit, pineapple, orange, lime, house simple, and grenadine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TasteCamp Maryland: McClintock Distilling Co.


Craft distilling is booming all across the country, and a significant number of these new, small producers are creating some delicious and interesting spirits, from whiskey to rum, gin to brandy. TasteCamp originated as a weekend-long immersion into lesser known wine regions, having visited areas including Long Island, the Finger Lakes, Quebec, Virginia, Niagara and Vermont. Over time, the concept of TasteCamp has evolved, so that not only do we explore wine, but we now also explore local beer, ciders, spirits, and food.

About 30 or so writers and wine industry people recently attended TasteCamp 2017, which was held in Maryland. Once again, we visited wineries, breweries and distilleries, sampling much of what Maryland has to offer, and I found much to enjoy. In downtown Frederick, one of our visits was to the McClintock Distilling Company, which only opened in December 2016. Despite its youth, I was impressed with their concept, objectives, and existing products. This is certainly a distillery with a bright future ahead of it.

In December 2014, the city of Frederick amended their city code and permitted small, craft distilleries to operate in the downtown area. Only a few distilleries have so far opened in Frederick but you'll likely see more in the near future. Tyler Hegamyer and Braeden Bumpers, who both graduated from Elon University, had an interest in producing spirits, and received some education and training in distillation at Cornell University and the American Distilling Institute.

On the site of an old mechanic's garage, they chose to open McClintock Distilling Company, which includes a distillery and tasting room. The distillery was named after McClintock Young, a famous inventor in the 19th century, who had over 100 patented inventions. With a passion for innovation, he also owned one of the first foundries in Frederick. And it is that passion for innovation which has inspired Tyler and Braeden.

The distillery uses only 100% certified organic ingredients and hopes to soon become a certified organic distillery. They currently use about 120 tons of grain annually, acquiring whole kernel grains from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Ontario. Though they would like to use local grains, those grains still need to be organic and Perdue farms purchases most of the grain in Maryland. Their long term goal is to purchase as much local, organic grain as possible.

I was fascinated to learn that McClintock grinds all of their own grains, using a stone burr mill which once was used by an old bakery. They might be one of only two distilleries in the U.S. to use a stone burr mill. Also known as grist mills, they are able to grind grains into a fine flour which doesn't cause the grains to heat up, and also helps the flour maintain the flavor. This makes their distillery more unique, and could lead to a more flavorful end product. It also helps them keep quality control of every aspect of the process.

The milled grains pass directly into the mash tanks, which prevents oxidation. They have three fermenters, and the usual, full fermentation takes two days, using a proprietary distillers yeast. As they are very concerned with sustainability, and wish to be waste neutral, they use a closed loop cooling system, which reuses the water that chills the mash tanks. In addition, after fermentation, the spent grains are sent to local farms as pig food. I'm sure those are very happy pigs.

McClintock's stills, including a pot and column still, were created by Kothe Distilling, a renowned German company, and were made with lots of copper, which benefits distillation. On the left side, you can see their 1000 liter pot-column still.

Their column still has an attached Vapor Basket that allows them to better produce their gin, as they place all of the botanicals in the basket. This helps to better extract the flavors in those botanicals.

They currently have three products for sale, a Vodka, Gin and White Whiskey, and have been aging some of their spirits in 30 gallon barrels. They believe they will age their spirits for about 1-1.5 years before they are released for sale. For example, they have some used Hennessy Cognac barrels in which they are aging some of their gin. I had the chance to taste two barrel-samples, and they definitely show potential. I am very intrigued to see how they taste once the aging is complete.

The Epiphany Vodka ($28) is made from Northern Italian organic white wheat, and was double distilled and triple filtered. It has a relatively smooth and clean taste, with a hint of earthiness. Though you could probably drink this chilled, on its own, it probably would be best in a cocktail.  It was my least favorite of their three products, but it is still a good vodka.

The Forager Gin ($36) is a vapor infused New-World style gin using botanicals inspired by native herbs found in the Appalachian wilderness.

Here is the list of botanicals used to produce this gin. Quite an interesting combination. On the nose, there is a strong juniper aroma with subtle hints of other botanicals in the background. On the palate, the botanical mix is more balanced, and the complex melange of flavors delights the mouth. There are elements of fruit, mainly citrus, and floral flavors, with a sprinkle of spice elements. The gin should be served chilled, and would be delicious on its own, or used in cocktails. I'm not a huge fan of gin, as I find too many overdo it with the juniper flavors, but I really enjoyed the more balanced botanicals in this Forager Gin. Highly recommended.

The Maryland Heritage White Whiskey ($34) is made from a blend of about 80% Rye, with the rest being wheat and corn. It has a high rye content, intended to reflect the historic ryes from pre-prohibition Western Maryland distilleries. In addition, the whiskey was aged for about 24 hours in an oak barrel and is 84 proof. As a big Rye fan, this whiskey appealed to be, presenting with plenty of tasty, spicy notes, with a hint of sweetness from the corn. In general, it was smooth and easy-drinking, with only a touch of heat from the alcohol. This would be a nice choice in a Manhattan of other whiskey-based cocktail. Also highly recommended.

McClintock Distilling is on the right path, with passionate owners, who are trying to be sustainable, organic and produce quality spirits. Their initial products were impressive and I see great potential here, including with their aged spirits. I also feel they would be an excellent model for other craft distillers. If you ever get to Maryland, seek out their spirits. And if you have an interest in craft spirits, you should pay attention to what McClintock Distilling is doing.