Monday, August 21, 2017

Rant: After Labor Day, Expand Your Palate

Two weeks from today will be Labor Day, which many see as the end of summer although autumn won't officially arrive for a few weeks more.

Besides the change in the seasons, Labor Day is also the unofficial start of wine tasting season. From September to December, most wine stores will hold large-scale wine events, some where you can taste more than fifty wines. Even better is that most of those events will be free, or they will charge only a nominal fee. This is your opportunity to taste many dozens of wines, and you should seize the chance to do so. As I've mentioned many times before, the best way to learn about wine is to taste it, and taste even more.

The best way to learn through tasting is to expand your palate, to taste plenty of unfamiliar wines, to experience different grapes and to sample wines from new regions. You could easily attend these events and drink only wines you know but why do that? It won't teach you anything. It won't provide you a new experience. You learn something from what is new. And what you learn might also bring you much joy.

Sure, you probably won't like everything new you taste but that shouldn't be an issue. You are only sampling the wines, taking a sip or two, and it is probably for free. If you dislike a wine, if might help you understand what wines you will enjoy. And amidst all that tasting, you'll probably find a number of other wines that you do like, and may even find a new favorite. Take the risk, expand your palate and taste as many different wines as you can.  

And a little more advice. When you attend these tastings, take some notes so you remember which wines you liked. Don't rely on your memory alone because after tasting a couple dizen wines, you probably won't remember your favorite wine the day after. At the very least, use your smart phone to take a photo of the label. That is the easiest way to remember the wines that impressed you.

You'll thank me later for helping you expand your palate.

Thursday, August 17, 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) Viale, Cambridge’s modern-Italian restaurant, is introducing a signature hand-made pasta Brunch Menu, elevating the typical avocado toast with innovative pasta options. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Greg Reeves is looking to give his guests an authentic Italian feel while enjoying the popular weekend meal, using fresh, house-made pasta options and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.

People have a stigma that pasta has to be filling or too heavy for certain meals, and when I was creating the menu for our brunch options, my main goal was to prove that wrong. You most certainly can incorporate a fresh, hand-made pasta option into a classic brunch dish, and I think guests will try these dishes and stop carb-shaming,” said Chef Reeves.

Viale’s Pasta Brunch Menu includes:
Chocolate Fettucini (peanut butter, coconut, and brown butter puffed rice) $12
Duck Egg Carbonara (bucatini, pancetta, and a poached duck egg) $17
Ricotta Cavatelli (chanterelles, Georgia peas, and basil pesto) $16
Potato Gnocchi (wild boar bolognese, grana, rosemary) $17

Still seeking adventure without the pasta? Enjoy unique twists on brunch staples such as Eggs Benedict with North Country bacon, egg, ricotta, and grana ($13), Crispy Duck & Buckwheat Crespelle with fried eggs, and roasted corn ($14), and the Brunch Burger with North Country bacon, fried egg, provolone, Russian dressing, and French fries.

Let the pasta balance out one of Viale’s hand-crafted cocktails like Prosecco Correcto with grappa di moscato, muscat grape shrub, grapefruit, prosecco, lavender ($12), School’s Out with earl grey montenegro, gin, orchard apricot, peach puree, lemon, becherovka ($12), and Victim of Venus with blueberry infused cocchi rosa, vodka, amaretto, lemon, creme de violette ($12).

To make a reservation, please call (617) 576-1900.

2) Puritan & Co. Chef/Owner Will Gilson and fellow chef friends will be joining forces to pay homage to one of Cambridge’s culinary legends, Julia Child. On Thursday, August 24th, at 6:30 p.m., Puritan & Co.’s Will Gilson alongside other local chefs will celebrate the life and culinary adventures of one of the culinary world’s greatest heroes, Julia Child, with a family-style menu inspired by her classic recipes.

Each chef will prepare one course inspired by his or her favorite Julia Child recipe- offering guests a unique, collaborative dining experience. Contributing to the evening’s meal will be Leo Asaro of Tico, Dave Bazirgan of Bambara, Kevin O'Donnell of SRV, Shaun Velez of Deuxave, and Ellie Wallock, Puritan & Co.

This dinner will be seated in a communal style at larger tables with each dish served individually. Carafes of wine on each table will be kept full for all to share with Puritan and Co.’s full wine and cocktail list available for purchase.

Tickets cost $95 and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/julia-child-dinner-tickets-36412206891?aff=es2

3) On Sunday, August 20th, Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca will transport guests to their Nonna’s kitchen for a classic Italian Sunday Supper. The multi-course meal will cost $40 per person with an additional wine pairing available for $20. A 5 and 7 p.m. seating are available and walk-ins/reservations will be accepted.

The menu will include:
1st course:
Tomato Bruschetta (Mozzarella di Bufala with Prosciutto di Parma)
2nd course:
Zucchini alla Parmigiana (Escarole and Beans)
3rd course:
Crema al Mascarpone with Frutta di Bosco

To make reservations, please contact (617) 421-4466

4) Chef/Owner Michael Schlow and the Tico Boston team invite guests to a unique experience with a choice between two featured Casamigos cocktails paired with light bites and mingling. On Tuesday, September 12th, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Tico will be hosting a unique experience featuring Casamigos Tequila cocktails, light bites, and sit-down, family-style dinner.

The evening will include a welcome reception featuring passed appetizers and a Casamigos cocktail; followed by an educational component; and will finish with a delicious family-style dinner. The Casamigos brand ambassador will share the history of tequila. 1oz pours of Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo will be sampled and sipped.

After the educational component a family style dinner will be served highlighting guests favorite menu items of the moment. The event is limited to 25 guests to keep everyone involved and attended to during the educational aspect.

Tickets to the 21+ event cost $55 (this does not include taxes, gratuity, or additional beverages) and can be purchased via the Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/casamigos-night-tickets-36965307229

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rant: Food/Drink Writers of Color

"So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned - my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life's too short to be pissed off all the time. It's just not worth it. Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you'd like. 'We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
--American History X

With the tragic events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia, the hate that is spewing from ignorant racists, the violence that has led to death and numerous injuries, we need to stand united against the forces that seek to divide our country. We need to embrace diversity, opening our minds to new ideas, and to eliminate our biases and prejudices. Embracing diversity will only make us better human beings. And don't we all want to be better people?

As a tiny contribution to this issue, I want to once again showcase local people of color who blog/write about food & drink. I previously highlighted women who blog about wine, and it has been an extremely popular post. It helped to bring to the forefront all the valuable contributions and unique voices of these bloggers. Now, I want to expand the scope and highlight the unique viewpoints from people of color as well. I have done this before but I think on light of recent events, it would benefit us all to post about it again.

I've been blogging about food and drink in the Boston area for almost twelve years, and the vast majority of bloggers I've seen at local events have been white. I've spoken about this before, stating we need to find ways to attract more people of color to these events. An initial step would be to identify those people of color who blog, to showcase their talents. This could be a motivation for other people of color to get involved and start blogging too. It will also present blogs with different voices, a way for all of us to expand our own experience and knowledge.

The following is an initial list of people of color, living in Massachusetts, who blog/write about food and/or drink. This is by no means a comprehensive list but provides a starting foundation. Check out these food & drink blogs and I am sure you will like what you find. If you are or know of any other local people of color with food & drink blogs that are not on this list, please have them send me their info, including their name, URL and a brief description of their blog, and I will add them to the list.

Embrace diversity!

Bianca of Confessions Of A Chocoholic

Chanie of Life By Zen: Chanie shares her adventures and experience with delicious foods, drinks especially great wines, and life in Boston. She cooks and is always testing new recipes or looking for fun foods but prefer to talk about her food adventures and dining experiences.

D. of A Little Bit About A Lot Of Things: This is a food and lifestyle blog. D has been been writing since 2010 and her photos have appeared in Boston Magazine, Boston Common, Thrillist, BostInno and others.

Fiona of Gourmet Pigs; Gourmet Pigs was started in Los Angeles in 2007 and Fiona moved to Boston in 2014. The blog reviews restaurants, bars, and events in the two cities and wherever she travels to around the globe.

Georgina of Notes On Lifestyle By Georgina

Jacqueline of Culinary Consulting

Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen

Korsha of Korsha Wilson

Kristina of Appetite For Instruction

Lisa of Anali's Next Amendment: Lisa writes about life, food and current events. She’s been blogging since 2006 and is a freelance writer and attorney. She regularly writes for LegalZoom and manages Free Yoga Boston. She’s also an organizer and contributing editor at Kwanzaa Culinarians, where recipes and food stories from the African Diaspora are shared.

Markeya of Traveling Foodie In 4" Stiletttos

Tiffany of The Fab Empire.com: Tiffany is the Boston Editor of The Fab Empire, a lifestyle blog that caters to up and coming urban professional featuring notable people, events, eateries, nightlife and entertainment throughout the country.

Vanessa of Without A Measuring Cup

Yaimani & Yadira of The Two Riveras; We write with simple honesty on food, travel, sisterhood, current obsessions and the simple joys of life. Follow us as we share photos, stories and pieces of our adventures from Boston and beyond.

Thursday, August 10, 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) A Jack's Abby Beer Social will be held on Tuesday, August 15, from 7pm-9pm, at Tavolo Ristorante. They will be showcasing five beers from Jack's Abby. Tickets get you a Jack's Abby beer glass and small pours of each beer, each served with a tasty pairing from the Tavolo kitchen. At the end they'll give you a full pint of whichever beer was your favorite. The event starts at 7 pm but please arrive a few minutes early to check in and get comfortable.

Limited space available so sign up soon!

Tickets are $40 and available through Eventbrite

2) Today is National S'Mores Day so let me provide you a couple ways to celebrate. First, you can get your fix at TAMO Bistro + Bar at the Seaport Hotel. They are offering S’mores in a Crock ($9), a "warm, indulgent deconstructed s’mores bowl topped with vanilla ice cream." It is made with Graham crackers, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and vanilla ice cream. Enjoy it in front of one of the fireplaces at TAMO or outside on TAMO Terrace.

3) Another option to celebrate National S'Mores Day is at ArtBar Cambridge. They have a special Fire Pit Menu served all summer by the beautiful fire pits overlooking the Charles River. They offer creative spins on campfire favorites, served in cast iron skillets, and are meant for sharing. For dessert, they offer their S’mores Skillet ($15) with home-made marshmallow, chocolate ganache and salted bourbon caramel drizzle. I've had this before and it is a decadent and delectable dish. Highly recommended!

The rest of the Fire Pit Menu:
3 Meat Chili Nachos ($13)-pickled jalapeno, shredded cheese
Crab Rangoon Dip ($15)-fried wontons
Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($13)-pita chips
Polenta Fries ($15)-chipotle aioli

Fire Pit reservations are recommended, so please call 617-806-4200

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cinnamon Rolls & A Mother's Love

Do you have a favorite recipe that your mother makes, something you've enjoyed your entire life and which still brings a smile to your face and gives you a happy belly?

Yesterday, my Monday morning was brightened by my mother (pictured above) baking one of my favorite foods, Cinnamon Rolls. I went over to her house and watched her whip up a few batches of cinnamon rolls, and I was able to savor them still hot out of the oven. Sheer bliss!

When my mother was 14 years old, and in the Girl Scouts, she learned a recipe for cinnamon rolls and she has been making them throughout her life. The recipe hasn't changed except sometimes she also makes an icing for them. As a child, I loved these cinnamon rolls and my love for them hasn't diminished one iota. They still make me so very happy. Besides being delicious (who doesn't love cinnamon?), they also are a sign of my mother's love. Plus, there is a bit of nostalgia there, a hearkening back to my childhood. They are a perfect comfort food, which I would eat year round. A simple item but with so much complexity attached to them.

Do you have a similar food or dish in your life, something your mother created, and still does, something indicative of her love?

These are the cinnamon rolls, ready to be placed into the oven.

And these are the cinnamon rolls, ready to eat. It takes much discipline not to devour the entire plate.

Let me share my mother's recipe for Cinnamon Rolls, so you can feed your belly and heart.

Ingredients:
2 1/3 cup of Bisquick
2/3 cup of water
Stick of butter
Cinnamon
Sugar

Mix together the Bisquick and water with a fork until it forms a dough. Then spread a flat surface with some Bisquick as you might with flour. Roll out the dough into a large square.

Spread a thin coat of melted butter over the spread-out dough. Then mix cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle it over the dough. Roll the dough like a jelly roll and then slice the roll into pieces about three to four inches wide.

Place the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minuutes, until brown. Enjoy them while they are still hot.