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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) For Valentine's Day, consider Tavolo where Chef Nuno Alveswill be have a special ala carte Valentine's Day menu from Thursday, February 14 through Sunday, February 17. .

In addition, they are offering a Couples Cooking Class on Saturday, February 16 at 12pm. Come to Tavolo, strap on an apron, and learn together how to make beet (think pink) raviolis, roast rack of lamb, and seasonal sides. All this togetherness, plus a post-class luncheon with wine, is $120 per couple. Call to reserve your space at 617-822-1918.

Also on Saturday, February 16, at 6pm, there will be Live Acoustic Guitar from their own Ryan Beke. Ryan is a local musician who attended Berklee, teaches several instruments to kids, records, and brings a funky energy. Beke has become a regular at the infamous Wally's in Boston, but you can skip the crowds and see him here, and you never know who he'll bring along to jam with.

2)For Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14, the four restaurants of the Grafton Group, including PARK, Russell House Tavern, Temple Bar and Grafton Street, will have special menus.

Valentine’s Day Dining à la Carte

First Course
Chilled Crab & Melon Salad (Avocado, Roasted Lime Vinaigrette)
French Onion Soup (Bone Marrow Toast) Seared Foie Gras (Armagnac-Soaked Prunes, Brioche)
Seared Scallops (Truffled Cauliflower Purée, Crispy Kale)
Grilled 12-oz. Ribeye (Potato Gratin, Roasted Asparagus, Red Wine Sauce)
Red Velvet Cupcake (Mascarpone Frosting)

Russell House Tavern
Three-Course Prix Fixe
$59 per person ($10 discount for reservations before 6:30 PM)
$18 per person optional beer or wine pairing

First Course
Potato & Pernod Soup (Smoked Moosabec Mussels, Watercress)
Parsley & Ricotta Cavatelli (Braised Goat, Raisins, Pine Nuts, Mint)
60-Degree Egg (Parsnip Honey, House-Smoked & Cured Speck, Arugula)
Smoked Duck Rillettes (Fernet, Cherries, Toast)
Roasted Half-Pheasant (Toasted Sunflower Butter, Wild Mushroom Pancake, Pea Greens)
Salt Cod & Roasted Tomato Stew (Crispy Oysters, Sea Urchin Rouille)
Moscato & Fennel-Braised Veal Shank (Anson Mills Polenta, Black Fig Gravy)
Crispy Cider-Glazed Heritage Pork Belly (Apple, Celery Root & Guanciale Hash, Soft-Poached Egg, Vinegar Greens)
Chocolate Strawberry “Snowball” (Chocolate Truffle Cake, Strawberry Mousse, Coconut, Marshmallow)
Olive Oil Cake (Lemon Gelato, Pine Nut Cookie, Mint Simple Syrup)
The New England Cheese Board (Three Local Cheeses, Traditional Accompaniments (add $9)

Temple Bar
Three-Course Prix Fixe
$49 per person ($10 discount for reservations before 6:30 PM)
$18 per person optional beer or wine pairing

First Course
Thai Coconut-Lemongrass Soup (Poached Shrimp, Thai Basil, Frizzled Leeks)
Panko-Crusted Scallop Cakes (Beluga Lentils, Candied Bacon Jam, Crispy Beet Root)
Foie Gras Terrine (Kumquat Marmalade, Fennel Pollen, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Brioche)
Teriyaki-Braised Short Rib (Green Tea Rice, Pickled Veggies)
Warm Eggplant Casserole (Fennel-Parmesan Gratin, Wild Mushroom “Meatballs,” Cured Black Olives, Capers, Grilled Baguette)
Rosemary Honey-Glazed Rohan Duck Breast (Sweet Potato Pavé, Broccoli Rabe, Black Mission Fig Jus)
Pan-Seared Mahi-Mahi (Israeli Couscous, Sliced Almonds, Grapes, Cilantro, Pineapple Curry Sauce, Crispy Plantains)
Grilled Ribeye Steak (Creamed Spinach, Truffled Duchess Potato, Gorgonzola Butter, Bordelaise)
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mousse Cake (Dark Chocolate Ganache, Caramelized Banana)
Passion Fruit & Strawberry Napoleon (Filo Dough, Coconut Mochi, Ginger Caramel)

Grafton Street
Valentine’s Day Dining à la Carte. Suggested wine pairings available

First Course
Chestnut Rangoon (Oxtail Marmalade, Young Celery Leaves, Pine Nuts, Truffle Oil)
Parmigiano Reggiano Tartlet (Tuscan Kale Salad, Toasted Almonds, Plump Golden Raisins)
Pan-Seared Atlantic Halibut (Red Curry Sweet Potato Purée, Radish, Edamame, Tarragon, Green Apple)
Grilled Brandt Farms Ribeye (Aligot Potatoes, Rapini, Smoked Bone Marrow Butter, Bordelaise)
Dark Chocolate Decadence Cake (Brandied Amarena Cherries, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream)

3) Lucia Ristorante & Bar has teamed up with United Liquors, a Massachusetts-based distributor focusing on wine and spirits, to present a four course wine dinner. Guest speakers from the beverage industry will kick off the evening, introducing each course which will be paired with Italian wines from Zyme, a wine company founded by Celestino Gasperi, son-in-law of Giuseppe Quinterelli, one of Valpolicella’s most legendary winemakers.

The four course menu with wine pairings is as follows:

Antipasto / Salmon Carpaccio
2011 Zyme “il Bianco from black to white
Parpardelle with Wild Mushrooms, black truffles
2008 Valpolicella Classico Superiore
Braised Leg of Lamb
2007 Zyme 60/20/20 grape varietal Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabfranc
Parmesan Reggiano
2004 Zyme Amarone

When: Monday, January 28, 6 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $50 per person.
For reservations and more information, please call 617-367-2353.

4)Chef Paul Turano, chef/owner of Tryst restaurant in Arlington, has taken it upon himself to bring authenticity to his special prix fixe Mardi Gras dinner being held on Tuesday, February 12, from 5pm-10pm. Served in addition to Tryst’s regular menu, Mardi Gras diners can look forward to experiencing a three-course prix fixe menu available for $38 per person (tax and gratuity not included).

The menu will feature items such as oysters with chorizo mignonette, crawfish and chicken etouffee and Southern comfort bread pudding with pecans, apples & vanilla bean ice cream. Guests will also be able to enjoy authentic cocktails and Hurricanes galore.

Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 781-641-2227.

5) On Saturday, February 9, from 12pm-5pm, check out the Wine ConneXtion’s fourth annual “Battle of the Big Cabs,” a complimentary in-store wine tasting featuring high-end, luxury wines that are rarely uncorked. The Wine ConneXtion, located in North Andover, will be bringing out the big guns and opening some of the world's most distinct and exclusive Cabernets names such as Silver Oaks and Faust. Guests will have the opportunity to sip and swirl the featured wines before voting on their favorite Cab while munching on complimentary cuisine from Sultan Mediterranean Cafe located in North Andover.

Regardless of the winner, all of the featured wines will be available to purchase for a special price throughout the day. Walk-ins welcome all day. Free to the public. *Please note: Must be 21 or older.

6)Laissez les bons temps rouler!" is a Cajun expression meaning "Let the good times roll!" and it strongly conveys the joie de vivre ("joy of living") attitude of The Beehive’s 6th Annual Mardi Gras celebration on Tuesday, February 12. The South End hot spot has spared no expense in making this year’s festivities as authentic as possible. Diners and party goers alike can look forward to the traditional jazz style of BT New Orleans 2nd Line Brass Band which will keep the crowd singing and swinging all night long.

Further indulge with Chef Rebecca Newell's Cajun inspired à la carte specials featuring authentic NOLA-style dishes. Finish off your meal with a big old Hurricane, put on your complimentary Mardi Gras beads, and you’ll be ready to hit the dance floor.

Come for dinner, come for the music and cocktails…come to see what “New Orleans Style” is all about. There is no cover charge for this event. Regular menu served in addition to all special items. Reservations recommended so please call 617-423-0069.

7) Special for Mardi Gras, Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen will be welcoming New Orleans’ own jazz musician, Henri Smith, this Fat Tuesday. Henri Smith made his mark on the music industry in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, where he polished his talent for many years. As a radio personality for New Orleans’ premier jazz station for 14 years, Smith was a household name even before he began thrilling audiences with his jazz, blues, creole, and Cajun flavored music. Finding himself in Boston after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, Smith has established his groove in New England. Engaging audiences all over the area, he has become the go-to for traditional jazz entertainment.

Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen's menu for Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras will transport guests straight to Canal Street. Full of authentic New Orleans cuisine, dinner choices include: gumbo with okra; fried catfish strips; Jambalaya with shrimp, sausage, chicken, mussels, and rice; and more.

The special New Orleans themed cocktails are the other piece of the equation, equaling a “big fat” time. Specials include: DCBK Hurricane – Darryl’s take on the New Orleans original, built with dark rum, light rum, amaretto, fresh orange and pineapple juice, grapefruit bitters, and topped with grenadine; The Sazerac – Named after the coffeehouse where it appeared for the first time in 1859, this New Orleans signature cocktail features rye whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, and homemade simple syrup, served to preference, chilled neat or on the rocks; Dirty Cajun Martini – Southern style dirty martini served shaken and up with premium vodka and hot sauce; Dirty Oyster Martini- Literally, a dirty martini with a fresh oyster in lieu of an olive.

DCBK is encouraging guests to wear masks, collect beads, and march into Boston’s best corner bar dressed for the celebration, as the “best dressed” will win the choice of a DCBK $100 gift card or a Sunday Jazz Buffet Brunch for four. There is a $5 cover charge for live entertainment. For more information and reservations, please call 617-536-1100.

8) This Valentine’s Day wine, dine and seduce your significant other at Tryst, located in Arlington. Guests enjoy a special 3-course prix fixe menu created by Executive Chef Paul Turano. This exclusive menu features specials such as Tagliatelle Bolognese, Berkshire Pork Porterhouse Chop, Grilled Flat Iron Steak and Miso Glazed Sea Scallops. After dinner, guests can relax, reminisce and indulge in Tryst’s house-made Valentine’s Day desserts such as Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and Flourless Chocolate Torte, while sipping on after dinner cocktails with a twist.

Tryst’s Valentine’s Day dinner menu is $45 per person (tax, gratuity and beverages not included), and will be offered exclusively on Thursday, February 14 from 5pm-10pm. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 781-641-2227.

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Niigata, Obata Shuzo & Sake

Date: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 Wine Tasting

The Niigata Prefecture of Japan is well known for producing excellent Sake, with its climate, rice, water, and people all contributing to the quality of their brew. The prefecture has many sunny, warm days in the summer, conducive to rice growing, and many snowy days in the winter, conducive to brewing. The brewers usually use rice that was grown in Niigata and have also invested much in developing new and better varieties. The water in Niigata is usually soft, excellent for brewing.

The Echigo Toji, or Guild of Niigata Master Sake Brewers, are very talented and knowledgeable, renowned throughout Japan. If you see the term Echigo on a Sake label, it usually is an indicator that the Sake is from Niigata. The prefecture has around 96 breweries, the second most of any prefecture, and their annual production places them in third place. However, they excel in making premium Sake and about 62% of their production is premium, compared to thenational average of 26%. In addition, their per-capita Sake consumption is 18 liters, higher than the national average of 7 liters and the highest in Japan.

A significant portion of the Sake made in Niigata is produced in the traditional Niigata style, described as tanrei. This term loosely translates as "clean, smooth, and gentle" and refers to a smooth, easy drinking Sake which is sure to please those new to Sake as well as long time Sake lovers. It is a style I very much enjoy.

Obata Shuzois a Sake brewery, founded in 1892 by Yososaku Obata, and located on Sado Island in the Niigata Prefecture. The island, because of its remoteness, was once a destination for political exiles. Exile was a severe punishment, second only to execution, and once you ended up on the island, you were likely there for the rest of your life. In modern times, Sado Island has been in the forefront of wildlife and nature conservation. For example, they have devoted much effort to protect and conserve the Toki, the Japanese Crested Ibis, which is extinct in the wild but was successfully bred on the island. There are about six Sake breweries situated on Sado Island.

The Obatakura, sake brewery, is still owned by the Obata family and their family crest is Four Diamonds, each which represents an element crucial to Sake brewing. These elements include rice, water, humans, and climate/nature. Their motto is "to brew sake where the four treasures may work harmoniously." Their goal is to make well balanced Sake and they produce only about 120,000 bottles annually.

At a local wine shop, I bought two Sakes from Obata Shuzo as I had never tasted any of their brews before and I was pleased that I had done so as both were pleasing and tasty.

The Obata Manotsuru "Crane" Junmai (about $15/300ml), which is pictured at the top of the post, has an origami red crane, which is a symbol of good luck. It is made with Koshiibuki rice, which was milled down to 65%, and has a Sake Meter Value of +6 to +8,meaning it is more on the dry side. This was a crisp, smooth and clean Sake with flavors of melon and peach. It had a rich mouth feel and the finish was long and satisfying. A pleasant, easy drinking Sake which would pair well with a variety of foods. It would be an excellent introductory Sake. This is the type of Sake you could easily drink all night.

The ObataManotsuru "Bulzai" Ginjo (about $15/300ml) was more intriguing. It is made withGohyakumangokurice, which was milled down to 55%, and has a Sake Meter Value of +6 to+8,meaning it is more on the dry side. It is also a namachozoSake, which means it is pasteurized only once, during the bottling stage. It is lighter than the Crane and has more of a liveliness in the taste, which possesses more tropical fruit flavors with mineral notes. There is plenty of complexity in the taste and a lengthy, pleasing finish. With more character to it, I preferred this to the Crane, though I still enjoyed the Crane very much. This Sake would still appeal to newcomers but Sake lovers will especially appreciate it.

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Rant: Cheap Chinatown Cakes

Date: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 Wine Tasting

At your favorite bakeries, how much does it cost to buy a slice of cake? When a simple cupcake may cost you $3 or more, then a slice of cake can easily run you $4 or $5. Their other desserts are usually similarly priced and purchasing a dozen treats can be rather expensive. You could easily spend $30-$50 for a dozen sweets and that can be tough for many of us to do during these tough economic times.

How many bakeries do you know where a slice of cake, or other desserts, cost only $1? Probably few, if any. They do exist though and you can find several of them within a short distance of each other, if you know where to look.

Last week, I ate in Chinatown twice and during those visits I stopped at a few bakeries to purchase several treats to take home with me. One of my stops was at Eldo Cake House, a favorite spot, especially as I love their coconut cake slices. It is almostunbelievablethat they charge less than $1 for that slice of coconut cake! In fact, they sell a number of cake slices and various other baked goods for under $1. The other Chinatown bakeries I visited have similar pricing and you can find so many different items for under $1.

Cheap, cheap, cheap!

Though these prices are cheap, what about the taste of these desserts? I have enjoyed nearly everything I have eaten at these Chinatown bakeries and believe they offer an excellent quality for the value. You can find plenty of diversity, something to appeal to all tastes and preferences, and you won't break the bank. I don't think the Chinatown bakeries receive enough credit for what they have to offer. They might not be as flashy as some of the more lauded bakeries, but their more subtle or plainer treats can well satisfy your sweet cravings.

Don't elevate style over substance, especially when that style comes with a much greater cost. What truly is important to you in a dessert? Price? Taste? The next time you want to visit a bakery, why not consider a trip to Chinatown.

What s your favorite Chinatown bakery?

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Tuscan Market: A Worthy Italian Destination

Date: Fri, Jan 18, 2013 Wine Tasting

There is a new Italian market located in Salem, New Hampshire but is it worthy of your patronage? Is it too expensive as some consumers have alleged? Does it live up to its potential?

Last September, I attended a preview event for Tuscan Market, a new Italian food market that eventually opened in November. You should read my prior reviewfor background on this new endeavor. As I said then, "I think the concept behind the Tuscan Market is excellent, a one stop destination for great, fresh Italian food and wine." I was impressed with what I saw and tasted, and believed that Tuscan Market had great potential. Obviously, I wanted to follow up, to determine if it lived up to that potential once it opened to the public.

Recently, I visited the Tuscan Market for the first time since it officially opened in November, having given it a couple months to work out any initial kinks. In short, Tuscan Market has lived up to its potential and is worthy of my highest recommendation.It is a one-stop shopping destination for a diverse variety of Italian foods, wines, ingredients, equipment and much more. Some of the foods are prepared on premises, such as bread and pasta, while others are imported from Italy. There is also a small café where you can grab a bite to eat, such as pizzas and paninos. Having all of these delicious items available in a single location is convenient.

As you enter your store, to your left are the cashiers and just past them is a section of kitchen supplies, from coffee makers to pizza stones and cookware. You can find wine glasses, cork screws and other wine-relatedparaphernalia. In a different area of the store, there is also a table ofItalian cookbooks and magazines. So it is not all just food and wine.

Past the kitchen supplies it the wine room and their selection currently includes about 220 wines, with more coming. Most of the wines are displayed on the above shelves but there is also a small cooler holding white and sparkling wines. Most of the wines are Italian though you will find others from all over the world, from California to France, and the choices range from big producers to small, more artisan ones. Wine tastings are held on Saturdays, from 11:30am-3pm. Prices are reasonable and some even seem low compared to other wine stores.

These shelves held a variety of packaged foods, many imported from Italy, including dry pasta to tea, tuna fish to sauces. Once again, the prices are reasonable, and some products are even lower than what you will find at large supermarkets. At this point, I am starting to realize that those people who have claimed the market is too expensive might not have been correct.

There are refrigerated coolers holding homemade frozen pastas and other items. Prices also seem very reasonable and you can get 8 big ravioli, such as cheese or mushrooms, for only $5-$6, while lobster raviolis cost $14.39.

Want a homemade sauce? Check out their 16 ounce packages, including such varieties as San Marzano Tomato sauce $5, Bolognese $7, and Wild Boar Ragu $7. If you don't have enough time to make your own sauce, but don't want to use a jar sauced, then these fresh made sauce are an excellent option. And then are less expensive than some jar sauces too.

Ah, the breads! You can watch them baking fresh bread in their ovens and the smell is intoxicating. They had seven types of bread available, includingCiabatta, Focaccia, Roasted Garlic, Rustic Olive, Seven Grain, Cranberry Walnut, and Pane Pugliese, allreasonably priced from $3.99-$5.99. Their Roasted Garlic is amazing, with large garlic cloves inside the bread. I bought a loaf on my visit and it had just come out of the oven. It was even too hot for them to slice. Beware, you might need to buy two loaves as one might not survive your drive, as you decided to tear off a piece and devour it while it is warm.

They have a good selection of cheeses, though not as extensive as you will find in some other larger markets and shops. However, there are plenty of excellent options and prices are comparable to other cheese vendors.

There is also a good selection of cured meats, sausages, hams and such. Prices are also competitive, such as the Prosciutto di Parma at $16.99/pound. Get some wine, bread, cheese and cured meats and you have the makings for a great meal.

Several varieties of fresh pasta were available, including: pappardelle $5.99/lb, orecchiette $5.99/lb, tagliatelle $5.99/lb, and capellini $5.99/lb. I have tried a couple of the pastas, and they both tasted great, with a nice texture. For two people, a pound of pasta may be sufficient for two meals, making the pasta a great value.

Their fresh filled pastas include items like Short Rib Tortelli $8.99/lb, Mushroom Ravioli $7.99/lb, Butternut Squash Cappellacci $6.99/lb, Quattro Formaggi Ravioli $6.99/lb and Maine Lobster Ravioli $19.99/lb. I tried the Short Rib Tortelli and they were delicious, with plenty of moist, tender meat inside a compelling pasta triangle. They did not skimp on the fillings. Again, you get plenty of pasta in a pound, and the prices are very reasonable.

There is a small, but good, selection of meats. You can find a greater selection at a butcher shop but there are plenty of fine options here. You will find beef options such as Filet $22.99/lb and Aged Ribeye $12.99/lb, and prices are comparable to numerous other markets.

There were three different Sausages available, priced $5.99-$6.99/lb, and once again a reasonable price. You will also find another case with packages ofmarinated meats, from chicken to lamb. Overall, you have plenty of meat choices.

The Market sells a variety of freshly prepared items such as lasagna, arancini, eggplant parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, meatballs and more. The food looks enticing and comes in good-sized portions.

There was not much produce available but that is likely a seasonal issue.

Presently, they sell very little seafood, except for shrimp, but they are working on changing that. Sometime in the near future, they will likely have a much better selection of seafood available.

At their cafe, you have several options and nearly everything is $10 or less. Above, you can see their Panino sandwiches ($8.99), which are pressed to order and are good-sized, and freshly made that day. They were making sandwiches and putting them in the case while I was there. They also have Soup and Salads available, most salads costing $6 except for the Antipasto at $9.

You can also order Pizza, which I tasted and very much enjoyed during the preview event, or a pasta dish with your choice of pasta, sauce, and finish. Prices are reasonable, making lunch very affordable.

There are plenty of dessert options, from Cupcakes ($2.50) to Tiramisu ($2.99), from Cakes to Cookies. You can buy entire cakes or just slices. They even sellgluten free baked goods, though those are not made on premises as they lack a gluten free kitchen.

Or you can try some of the delectable Gelato, coming in a wide range of flavors, priced from Small ($2.69) to Large ($4.69). The gelato is made on the premises and comes in many compelling flavors.

Service was great, the employees all being very pleasant, courteous and helpful. Free food samples are available, enticing you to buy more. Overall, I found the prices here to be very reasonable, and even lower than other food markets. One must also remember that fresh, artisan food products may sometimes cost more than cheap, mass-produced, prepackaged items. However, they are usually worth the higher price. I love the diversity of food and wine available here, especially as all of it can be found under one roof. The Tuscan Market receives my highest recommendation and you should make the easy drive up Rt.93 to Salem to shop here. I will certainly return soon and hope to see you there.

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House will celebrate Cupid’s Day, onThursday, February 14 and Friday, February 15,with a special “Live Large, Love Big” Valentine’s Day menu that includes an eight-ounce filet and an eight-ounce lobster tail for $79.

Featured additions available:
- Steak toppings: Oscar Style $15, Port-Foie Gras Butter $6
- Optional lobster accompaniment: Champagne Beurre Blanc $6
- Dessert: Godiva Chocolate Mousse Cake $12

2)The newly reopened Prezza is about to be struck by Cupid’s arrow with the arrival of San Valentino in the North End. On Valentine’s Day,Thursday, February 14 from 5:30pm–10pm,Executive Chef & Owner Anthony Caturano will dish out five exclusive specials available for one night only.

To start, there are Razor Clams (fregola, garlic, olive oil - $16). For a handmade pasta course, Prezza will serve up Ricotta Gnocchi (artichokes, chanterelles - $18). For entrees, there is Red Snapper (Milanese style - $28) and Grilled Bone-In Ribeye Steak (grilled red onions, lobster mashed potatoes - $46). For the finale, indulge in traditional Zeppolis (honey, hazelnut - $10).

3) Celebrate Monday nights with Chef Evan Deluty as he welcomes friends for Stella's 4th annual "Guest Chef Mondays".This annual event has grown and recommendations are highly suggested bycalling Stella at 617-247-7747.Each visiting chef will create a special appetizer, entree and dessert, and Stella's regular dinner menu will also be available. The "Guest Chef Mondays" menu will be available starting at 5:30pm for $40 per guest.

The "Guest Chef Monday's" lineup runs through March 31:
--Dante deMagistris, Dante, Il Castel January 21
--Robin King, from Oro Restaurant January 28
--Will Gilson, Puritan & Co February 4
--Rodney Murillo – Davio’s and Avila February 11
--Marc Orfaly - Pigalle February 18
--Jay Silva – Bambara Restaurant March 4
--Colin Lynch – Menton March 11
--Doug Rodriguez – Clio March 18
--Louis Dibiccari – Tavern Road March 25

4) Post 390’s Chef Eric Brennan shares his latest menu in his “Farm to Post” dinner series, showcasing raw cow’s milk cheese from 5 Spoke Creamery, Goshen, NY. The dairy farm and creamery is located north of NYC, bringing together the dedication of a dairy farm with the artisanal hand of the cheesemaker. Post 390 showcases a farm every month as part of its “Farm to Post” dinner series, creating new weekly menus featuring the particular farm.

5 Spoke Creamery is both a dairy farm and a cheese-maker, as its motto is ‘great cheese starts with great milk.’ Their Holstein cows are grass-fed, roaming free on the farm, choosing from a variety of grasses, herbs, flowers and weeds. 5 Spoke Creamery believes the raw milk of grass-fed cows has a depth of flavor which cannot be duplicated. The cheeses are all handmade in the farmstead tradition, made with milk from their grass-fed Holstein cows. 5 Spoke Creamery milks the cows at 4am and makes the cheese at 9am. It doesn’t get fresher than that.

This Menu begins January 17 and will change each week through mid-February
--Cauliflower and 5 Spoke Heritage Cheese Soup, Brambly Farm Pork and Apple Croquette
--Lobster, White Corn Tortilla and Welsh Cheddar Charlotte, Lobster-Roasted Pepper Salsa
--Grilled Maple Sugar and Spice Rubbed Duck Breast, Bacon-Redman Cheddar Waffle, Apple-Pear Butter, Brussel Sprouts with Peppered Duck Confit
--Herb Roasted Veal Rib Eye, Orecchiette with Broccoli and Crawford Cloth Bound Cheddar Cheese
--Welsh Cheddar Bavarian with Honey Apricots and Cinnamon Phyllo Crunch

5) 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar, located just north of Boston on the Salem waterfront, is celebrating its five year anniversary. Executive Chef Antonio Bettencourt has planned to host a series of three dinners to commemorate three major turning points at the restaurant. Each dinner will feature a five-course, prix fixe menu for $62 (plus tax and gratuity). The three dinners, titled Inspiration, The Opening and Fan Favorites, tell the story of how a dream to open one’s own restaurant becomes a reality. Chef Bettencourt has much to be thankful for, and he wishes to share this five year milestone with all who have taken part in his journey.

The first dinner, Inspiration, will be on Wednesday, January 23, at 6:30pm, and will feature dishes that have inspired Chef Bettencourt throughout the years. He will be recreating some of his most memorable dishes that have shaped his style as a chef, such as Tagliatelle ai Funghi, Porchetta and Agnolotti di Patate.

The second dinner, The Opening, will be on Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30pm, and will feature dishes from 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar’s very first menu. The dinner will include signature dishes that have gone on to become classics and others that are not listed on the current menu but are often requested by customers.

The series will conclude with a grand finale featuring Fan Favorites on Wednesday, March 20, at 6:30pm. The dinner menu will be comprised of the restaurant’s most popular items. Diners have been asked to vote for their favorite dish from the past five years via Facebookand the winning dishes will appear on that evening’s menu.

Every customer who attends a celebratory dinner will automatically be entered for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the restaurant. Reservations are required for the tasting menu series and can be made by calling 978-744-0062.

6) Taberna de Haro has some interesting Wine Seminars upcoming, concentrating on individual wineries. Each tasting, which starts at 7pm, is open to 20 people and Chef/Owner Deborah Hansen will be joined by someone from the winery.

January 23: The Wines of Abadal
Owner Valentin Roqueta will be at Taberna de Haro to tell us about his modern winery with a 900 year viticultural tradition, in Pla de Bagés, Catalunya. Two unique reds, two exotic whites, plenty of Catalán tapas and spirited discussion.

February 20: The Wines of Val de Sil
Three expressive whites, made from the godello grape, laden with minerals and mystery; and one beautiful red, a mencia with both earth and grace. Generous Galician tapas and a splash of history about the Valdeorras zone.

February 27:Raventós i Blanc Cava
Pepe Raventós, a man of his land possessed of tremendous humor and formidable knowledge, will be in attendance at Taberna de Haro to lead a tasting on his cavas, arguably some of the very best in Spain. Tradition and grace are the underpinnings of these gorgeous sparkling wines. Lots of Catalán tapas and Pepe's unique personality will make this tasting wonderful.

Cost is $40 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservation and pre-payment required. Call 617-277-8272 for reservations.

7) Valentine’s Day will soon arrive at Towne Stove and Spirits and Culinary Director Lydia Shire and Executive Chef Mario Capone are whipping up some exclusive specials that will be available for four nights so lovers can celebrate all weekend long. To start off your romantic night on the Towne, the culinary duo will be serving Bluefin Tuna Carpaccio (with pickled ginger, white soy, crisped sweet potato - $21). For the main course, there is Potato Wrapped Cod (with cockles, saffron aioli, baby fennel - $35). To end the evening on a sweet note, indulge in a shared dessert for two: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (with chocolate & champagne strawberries - $16). These items are available fromThursday, February 14 to Sunday, February 17, from 5:30pm – 11:00pm.

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Rant: A Conveyor Belt Of No Respect

Date: Wed, Jan 16, 2013 Wine Tasting

Ten million men and I share the same genetic abnormality yet it is a problem that few talk about, and even fewer do anything to help. It is an issue that gets no respect yet as it affects 7% of the male population it is something that needs to be brought forth, considered and addressed. Last night, this issue arose for me again when I dined at a new sushi joint.

What is my problem? I am color blind and more specifically, I possess a red-green color blindness. I can see colors, including red and green. However, I can't differentiate between as many shades of red and green as other people. An average person might be able to see ten different shades of red though I might only see five shades. I can determine the correct colors of traffic lights but matching the colors of my clothes is occasionally a challenge.

Color blindness is caused by the lack of certain pigments in nerve cells of the eyes, and red-green color blindness is the most common form. There is also a blue-yellow form though it is much less common. It is a condition mostly prevalent in men and only about 0.4% of women are color blind. Despite its prevalence in men, when is the last time you saw a business worrying about anyone being color blind?

Last night, I stopped at Enso Sushi, a newkaiten-zushi restaurant where sushi glides through the dining room on a conveyor belt. When a dish that appeals to you passes by, you take it off the belt. Each plate is color coded to a specific price so that when your meal is over, the server can easily determine your bill through counting the colored plates in front of you. You receive a color coded menu so you can determine the cost of each item. Most prices range from $2-$5 per plate, with a few specials above that cost.

My problem was that two of the colors looked essentially the same to me, and the difference in their price was about $2. If I just took a plate off the belt, I might have chosen a dish that costs $2 more than I thought it did because I got the color wrong. That could be a significant issue. With some time and effort in analyzing the menu, I was largely able to differentiate which dish cost which amount, but it was a bit of a hassle and should not have been necessary.

The restaurant had other identification options available beside using color coding. For example, they could have assigned each plate a certain letter or number and thus avoided causing any issue with the color blind. I think it is safe to assume that they never considered the issue of the color blind when choosing their color coded system.

I have encountered this issue before in other color coding situations, such as guide books and maps. For instance, I own a sustainable sushi guide that used a color coded system to indicate which seafood was a Good Choice and which was Avoid. The problem was that the colors used for those two designations looked basically the same to me. That was a significant problem and I am not alone in my difficulties. There are ten million other color blind men.

Color coding may seem to make it easy for many people yet it also makes it much more difficult for others. Restaurants, writers, publishers, and businesses or all types should consider the fact that there is a significant amount of men who are color blind. We deserve respect too.

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Rant: The Colonists, Football & Pretentious Wine

Date: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

Wine is pretentious and elitist, best suited to the upper classes while beer is more the drink of the common man. Or at least that is how many Americans seem to view the two beverages. While many Europeans may view wine as an ordinary drink, a commonaccompanimentto their meals, far less Americans view it through that prism. And it has been that way since the founding of our nation.

The original Jamestown and Plymouth settlers brought beer and malt with them and it was their favored alcoholic drink. "The colonists’ interest in beer was understandable: it was the most important beverage in England, so much so that English families expended an estimated one-third of their budgets on malt for brewing." Besides continuing to import beer, the colonists also brewed their own beer, creating a wide range of different flavored beers.

The "...colonists tried virtually anything to brew and flavor their beer, including wheat, cornstalks, maple sap, elderberries, gooseberries, nuts, bark, various roots, pine chips, hemlock, and assorted leaves." The most commonly brewed beers included those made from molasses and those from the berries of persimmons. George Washington was a big fan of molasses beer.

Wine was imported too "...butmany colonists eschewed it, considering it pretentious. For the most part, wines were favored by the upper class."As today, price was an important factor in which wines were the most popular. "Wines imported from Europe were taxed, whereas wines imported from European possessions were not. As a result, wines from the Portuguese Azores or Spanish Canary Islands were less expensive than those from Continental Europe, and these wines became popular in colonial America." As we can see, wine attained a reputation from the start as being seen as pretentious and that image remains with us even today, though there are cracks in that facade.

How do we shatter the perception of wine being pretentious and elitist? Currently, the U.S. market is divided into approximately 52% beer, 32% spirits and only 15% wine. Since 1995, shares of spirits and wine have increased while shares of beer have actually decreased, by nearly 9%. Despite the increase in wine consumption, there is still a long road ahead before it becomes more widely consumed. For four hundred years, wine has been seen as pretentious so that is a significant obstacle to overcome and it won't occur overnight.

Over the last few years, there has been much talk of the “democratization” of wine, efforts to make it more accessible to the common person. Such efforts have been made by producers, marketers, retailers, writers, and more. For example, the rise of wine blogs is one such effort, the ability of any person, of any knowledge level, to write about wine, to share their thoughts and experiences. There are some wine blogs which perpetuate the aura of pretension, but the vast majority work at making wine more accessible. As another example, there are more wine stores now that aim at lowering pretension, trying to make the purchasing decision much easier for their customers.

Most of their efforts are still in their relative infancy and efforts need to be continued and expanded. Yesterday, I worked at the wine store and football was on the mind of many, important playoff games to decide who would battle in the conference championships next week. The drink of choice of the majority of customers was beer, not wine. Consider also how many beer commercials you see during football games. Who tailgates with wine? Will we one day see wine become as common a choice for sport events as beer? If that day happens, maybe we can truly say that wine has become democratized.

Do you contribute to the stereotype of wine being pretentious or do you help defeat it? If so, what do you do to help fight the perception? What do you drink for sporting events? And why? We all need to contribute to enhancing the perception of wine.

All of the above quotes are from Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American BeveragesbyAndrew F. Smith (Columbia University Press, November 2012)

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Friday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a special Friday edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently. In this edition, I am also highlighting several Valentine's Day options.
1) On February 6, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will prepare to embrace the annual day of love early with their first Legal Holiday of 2013: Valentine’s Day. At this book signing and tasting, those who love food will especially enjoy the special guest for the evening, Scott Haas, a food writer and clinical psychologist who captures all the heat and hunger of a great restaurant kitchen in his new book, Back of the House. The book reveals the inner-life of a chef, what it takes to make food people crave and how to achieve greatness in a world that demands more than passion and a sharp set of knives. Haas will read excerpts and personalize copies of his book which each guest will receive a complimentary coopy.

Three-course pairing menu:

Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche (blood orange & aji amarillo; jicama sticks and yuca chips)
Manawa Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Mesquite Grilled Tuna Steak (chanterelles & ancho farro salad, balsamic & tamarind glaze)
Tarima Mourvedre, Alicante, Spain
Strawberries "Tuxedo" Parfait (dark and white chocolate, Marcona almond brittle)
Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui, Piedmont, Italy

Cost: $49 per person (includes book, tax and gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

2) Legal Harborside will host a Valentine’s Day celebration on February 14 by exclusively featuring a customizable three-course menu specially designed for the occasion by executive chefs Richard Vellante and Robert Fathman. Guests will indulge in this chef’s tasting menu on the second floor of Legal Sea Foods’ flagship location while overlooking the picturesque Boston Harbor:

-choice of-
Fire Licked Geoduck Clam (Juicy Melons, Yuzu, Poppy & Chorizo Dust)
Hearts of Palm (Beets, Cherries, Chevre, Candied Pistachio)
Foie Gras (Ménage a Trois, Seared, Torchon & Soup)
French Kiss Oysters (Crème Fraiche, Paddlefish Caviar)
Lobster Soup (Puff Pastry & Sherry)
Cape Scallop Ceviche (Lime, Thai Basil, Lemongrass, Pink Peppercorn)
-choice of-
Slow Roasted Halibut (Toasted Wheat Berry Salad, Dried Cranberries, Rose Water & Clementine Vinaigrette)
Roasted Rack of Lamb (Black Kale, Fingerling Potatoes, Amarone Cherry Gastrique)
Chateaubriand (For Two) (Cream Spinach, Truffled French Fries, Béarnaise & Mustard Sauce)
Lobster Thermador (Roasted New Potatoes & Root Vegetables, Tarragon Butter)
Sautéed Dover Sole (Yukon Gold Potatoes, Capers, Lemon & Garlic)
-choice of-
Chocolate Soufflé For Two (Baked to Order)
Raspberry Crème Brûlée
Port Poached Pear (Chinese 5 Spice Mousse)
Chocolate Peanut Caramel Torte (Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream)

COST: $75 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
To make reservations, please call: 617-477-2900

3) Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar will celebrate the romance of Valentine’s Day with four evenings of decadent specials and a unique Valentine gift for couples dining on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, February 14-17. To enrich the occasion, Executive Chef Russell Skall has created two enticing entrees, perfect for Valentine’s dinner that will be available in addition to Fleming’s popular a la carte menu.

Valentine’s Day is always such a special celebration for our guests,” remarked Chef Skall. “We created a unique menu to make the evening a truly memorable one. There is nothing more romantic then savoring the pleasures of a delicious dinner and wine with someone you love.”

Wine Director Maeve Pesquera has crafted two seductive cocktails for the holiday: the Venetian Valentine is a romantic sparkler with Quady Elysium, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Mionetto Prosecco for $10.95; and the Mint To Be is prepared with Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, POM Wonderful® juice with fresh mint garnish, served on the rocks for $11.95.

To give guests another reason to celebrate, Fleming’s is offering each couple dining February 14th through February 17th a complimentary $25 Fleming’s Dining Card* to use toward a future rendezvous with their sweetheart. Reservations are recommended and may be made by visiting www.FlemingsSteakhouse.com.

The Valentine’s Celebration Menu offers:
Heirloom Tomato & Housemade Burrata (Baby red and golden beets, arugula, lemon-pistachio vinaigrette)
Citrus Marinated Salmon Tartare (Capers, parsley, Meyer lemon oil, with pickled cucumber, smoked jalapeño aioli, served with herbed crostini)
Choice of Entrée:
Roasted Lobster Tail ($69.95) (Split in the shell, vanilla lemon butter, mac and cheese with crispy pancetta)
Chateaubriand with Crab Glaçage ($69.95)(Center cut tenderloin, creamy jumbo lump crab, madeira sauce, asparagus spears)
Chocolate Budino ($9.95)(Rich chocolate tartlet, salted mascarpone whipped cream, olive oil drizzle and cocoa nibs)

*$25 Valentine’s Card offer is for visits occurring on 2/14/13, 2/15/13, 2/16/13 and 2/17/13 only. Limit one Valentine’s Card per couple. Valentine’s Card will be delivered at the end of the dinner and will be valid through March 30, 2013.

4)Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistrois celebratingValentine's Day on February 14, from 5:30pm-11pm,with a prix fixe dinner presented at the award-winning Bistro for $68 per person (optional wine pairing for an additional $32).Please call 617-723-7575 for reservations.

Woodbury’s Wellfleet Oyster with Paddlefish and Fennel Caviar.
Wild Mushroom Velouté with Madeira and Taleggio
Butter Lettuce Salad with Hearts of Palm, Grapefruit, Black Truffle and Banyuls Vinaigrette
Oxtail Ravioli with Pea Tendrils, Black Pepper Ricotta, Brown Butter and Sage
Rohan Duck Terrine with Violet Mustard, Baguette and House Pickles
Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche with Persimmon, Radish and Meyer Lemon
Maryland Striped Bass with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Mille-feuille and Beurre Rouge
Faroe Island Salmon with Orange Scented Beets, Fennel and Quinoa
Rohan Duck Breast with Heirloom Beans and Braised Winter Greens
Grass Fed Sirloin with Fingerling and Short Rib Ragout, Caramelized Carrots and Red Wine Jus
Carnaroli Risotto with Brussels Sprouts, Black Truffle and Parmesan Tuile
Chocolate Pot De Crème with Apricot, Brioche and Fleur De Sel
Lemon Chiffon Cake with Frozen Lemon Curd
Vanilla Crème Brulée
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with chocolate covered strawberries and Mint Ice Cream

5) The fourth season of the Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market has begun. The Market runs weekly on Saturdays from 10am-2pm through March 9 at Russell's Garden Center, 397 Boston Post Road (Route 20), Wayland. Over 40 food vendors attend weekly, bringing fresh vegetables, cheese, meat, maple products, honey, eggs, fish, jam, pickles, pasta and other specialty foods. Come enjoy truly gourmet breakfast and lunch, while sitting in a lush, warm greenhouse.

On Saturday January 26, they will have their 3rd Annual Massachusetts Farm Wineries Day. Legislation passed in August 2010 allows both tasting and sales (by the bottle) of wine produced from farm wineries within our state at farmers' markets and other agricultural events. There will be nine Massachusetts farm wineries participating in this event: Alfalfa Farm Winery (Topsfield), Coastal Vineyards (S.Dartmouth), Green River Ambrosia Meadery (Greenfield), Mill River Winery (Rowley), Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery (Charlton), Running Brook Vineyards & Winery (N.Dartmouth), Still River Winery (Harvard), Turtle Creek Winery (Lincoln), and Westport Rivers Winery (Westport).

6) This February, The Blue Room crew cures the Monday night blues with a badass blend of Fratelli Branca Italian bitters, Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey and Spaghetti Western flicks. The weekly events mimic Spaghetti Western film’s blend of all things Italian and American with a liquid mix of Italian amari and whiskey from the US of A.

The Blue Room Chef Robert Grant continues the tribute with signature noshes (inspired by this Italian-American marriage), while guest bartenders from across the hub craft dueling specialty cocktails during weekly screenings of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy.

Films and guest mixologists are as follows:
February 4: A Fistful of Dollars with bartenders John Henderson (Scholars) and Tyler Wang (No.9 Park)
February 11: For a Few Dollars More with bartenders Katie Emmerson (The Hawthorne) and Fred Yarm (Cocktail Virgin Slut)
February 18: The Good the Bad and the Ugly with bartenders Noon Inthasuwan (Moksa) and Sam Treadway (Backbar)
February 25: Once Upon a Time in the West with bartenders Evan Harrison (Brick & Mortar) and Ted Kilpatrick (No. 9 Park)

COST: Cocktails and bar bites served à la carte for $9-$13
WHEN: Every Monday night in February from 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Great news!After suffering a kitchen fire on July 15, Chef & Owner Anthony Caturano is ready to reopen the doors to his North End staple, Prezza. Opening today, the refreshed Prezza will once again dazzle diners with its Old World-style Italian cuisine and a wine list boasting over 800 labels.

Says Caturano, “We are really excited to kick off 2013 on a fresh note. On behalf of the Prezza team, I want to sincerely thank the Boston Fire Department, the City of Boston and our amazing neighbors, friends and patrons for the overwhelming support we’ve received in wake of the kitchen fire. We are forever grateful and look forward to reuniting with everyone soon.”

Prezza will make its encore performance by debuting a new menu that captures the tastes of the seasons through twists on classic Italian preparations. Newcomers to the appetizer portion of the menu include: Lambrusco Braised Chicken Thighs (with prosciutto, crispy potatoes - $16); Eggplant Stuffed with Fresh Anchovies (scamorza, roasted tomato - $16); Sunny Egg (wild mushrooms, grilled bread - $16); Baccala (tomato, fresh chili pepper, chick peas - $16); and, Chestnut Soup (croutons, duck confit, white beans, mushrooms - $15). For new handmade pastas ($15 – appetizer; $30 – entrée), Chef Caturano will now serve: Ricotta Stuffed Pansotti (butter, sage, Aceto Balsamico); Chestnut Ravioli (pulled duck, butter, parmigiano cheese); and, Pumpkin Ravioli (brown butter, sage, mascarpone, lobster meat).

From the oven, Prezza will now dish out: Roasted Halibut (squid ink gnocchi, lobster, cherry tomatoes, basil lobster broth - $34); Roasted Bronzino (Brussels sprouts, black olives, roast potatoes - $28); Veal Porterhouse (saffron lobster risotto, broccoli rabe, red wine sauce - $46); and, Venison Loin (grilled cabbage, amarone risotto - $38). Prezza will also continue serving up throwback favorites such as: Seared Scallops (pumpkin, sage, mascarpone, spiced hazelnuts - $16); Grilled Clams (sausage, tomato, lemon zest, oregano - $16); Crispy Shrimp (Italian slaw, cherry pepper aioli - $16); and, Wood Grilled Squid & Octopus (braised white beans, toasted parsley - $16); Ravioli di Ouvo (ravioli stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk, tossed with butter and sage - $12); Potato Gnocchi a la Bolognese (rustic meat ragout, tomato, porcini cream, pecorino cheese - $15 – appetizer; $30 – entrée); Fish Stew (lobster, swordfish, shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, lobster broth, toasted bread, saffron aioli - $38); Crispy Pork Chop (vinegar peppers, potatoes, roasted red onions - $28); and, Swordfish (tomato braised octopus, chili flake, chickpeas - $30).

Prezza is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:30pm-10 and Friday and Saturday from 5:00pm-10:30pm. The bar opens daily at 4:30pm.

2) Turner Fisheries is unveiling an Ocean to Table Tuesday night dinner series this month, which will offer guests the option of ordering seasonally inspired, three-course prix fixe menus featuring a different theme per month. This series launches on January 8, every Tuesday from 5pm-10pm. Chef de Cuisine Armand Toutaint has chosen a theme of root vegetables for the month of January, and will be preparing dishes featuring pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnip, and beets, paired with sustainable seafood. Guests can expect to dine on broiled rainbow trout with honey glazed beets and skin-on haddock with sweet potato hash.

The Ocean to Table dinner costs $45 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Wine pairings are additional, and will vary by menu.

3)Owner & Chef Brian Poe has decided that his New Year’s resolution is to launch a brunch at the Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill. Poe now offers the Tipsy Brunch on Sundays from 10:30am-3pm. The brunch will include some classics with modern twists including: Muffins & Stuff (Chef Poe’s blend of fresh breads with breakfast caramel butters --$6); Baked Berry Irish Cut Oatmeal (topped with mint, white chocolate mousse, cinnamon sugared pecans - $6); Breakfast Salad (frisée with champagne and brown sugar vinaigrette topped with grilled doughnut croutons on a frittata - $9); Belgian Beer Waffles (Belgian Wit maple syrup, beer butter $10); Two Eggs (scrambled, fried or poached on toast with potatoes $8.50); Tip Top Benedict (butter fried smashed potato cake dusted with English muffin crumbs, cured ham, poached eggs, beer cheese hollandaise $12.50); The Signature Omelet (basil, Brie cheese, mushrooms, truffle shavings, asparagus $11.95); BLT Burger & Egg (housemade Beacon Hill bacon, lettuce, tomato, egg, cheddar on brioche, served with French fries $8.95); Cranberry French Toast (topped with maple pecans and whipped cream $12); Jalapeño Corned Beef Hash (topped with a poached egg $11); Croque Madame (griddled ham with Gruyere cheese, Dijon mustard, fried egg $12); and, Steak & Egg (5oz peppercorn-parsley rubbed filet, fried egg, whiskey sauce on French toast $21.95). For sides, there is Bacon ($3), Toast ($2) and Sausage ($3). To pair with the homestyle goodness, the Tip Tap Room will also serve up their 36 seasonal beers on tap as well as brunch-esque specialty brews.

4) In an episode dubbed the “Italian Empire,” by the Food Network, the Tuscan Brands family which includes the Tuscan Kitchen restaurant and the newly opened Tuscan Market in Salem, NH, both focusing on authentic artisanal food and preparation, will be the focus of an upcoming episode of “Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell.

In the episode which is scheduled to air on Thursday, January 31 at 10pm, Tuscan Brands is looking for an executive chef who can handle the heavy volume while maintaining a dedication to scratch cooking. Chef Anne Burrell brings in four candidates, who are tested on their Italian cuisine skills and knowledge. The final two chefs are each handed the keys to the restaurant for a dinner service: One chef must dig their way out of a bad start, while the other struggles with consistency.

It was a great experience working with Anne who shared our passion and commitment to authentic artisan Italian cuisine,” said Joe Faro, Chief Food Taster and Founder of Tuscan Brands.

A viewing party is in the works for the evening of the show at Tuscan Kitchen and more details will be released as they become available.

5)On January 31, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will team up with Château Fuissé winemaker, Antoine Vincent, to host a wine dinner at Legal Harborside. This four-plus-course culinary adventure will highlight the best tastes from sea and vine.

The menu is as follows:

Gougère with camembert mousse
Freshly shucked oysters,* citrus mignonette
Alaskan crab cannelloni, Thai basil and chili
J.J. Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne, NV
Braised Lobster (quince and ham salad, lettuce-ginger emulsion)
J.J. Vincent Pouilly-Fuissé “Marie Antoinette,” 2010
Fresh Chestnut Soup (squab-stuffed cabbage, hazelnut oil and pain d’épices)
Château Fuissé Juliénas “Domaine de la Conseillère,” Cru Beaujolais, 2009
Château Fuissé Morgon “Charmes,” Cru Beaujolais, 2009
Baked Halibut (fricassée of snails, sweetbreads and lardons, roasted shallot and Meyer lemon)
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Brulés,” 2009
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Brulés,” 2008
Selection of Burgundian cheese
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Le Clos,” 2010
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Le Clos,” 2008

COST: $95 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservations can be made by contacting 617-530-9470

6) Owner & Chef Brian Poe is launching a new lunch menu at the Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill. Chef Poe’s new offerings include a series of savory appetizers and soups, lunch salads, sandwiches and burgers and, of course, its namesake’s tips and taps.

For starters, the Tip Tap Room will dish out the following items: Wild Mushrooms (sautéed with soy & chive vinaigrette, charred tomatoes - $9.75); Boar Meatballs (spicy ginger cilantro garlic broth - $13.95); Baked St. André Brie (coriander citrus roasted beets, warm mushroom vinaigrette - $9.95); Mashed Sampler (shareable tasting of horseradish, goat cheese, creamed corn & olive tapenade mashed potatoes - $5); French Onion Soup (Gruyère cheese, toast point - $5/cup; $9/bowl); and, Acorn Squash Soup (cinnamon spiked cranberry salsa, goat cheese - $5/cup; $9/bowl).

New lunch salads include the following highlights, all available with an optional tip selection (additional $6.50; swordfish - $7.50; wild game - $10): The Tip Tap (maple roasted pecans, roasted pumpkin, blue cheese crumbles, cranberry-sage vinaigrette - $9.95); Fried Goat Cheese (grilled asparagus, watercress, crispy prosciutto, carrot-ginger vinaigrette - $10.95); and, Grilled Baby Bok Choy (sauté of snap peas, Thai chilies, caramelized shiitakes, grilled tofu, sesame-soy vinaigrette - $10.95).

There are ten sandwich and burger options like: Mediterranean Tuna Melt (tuna salad, melted American cheese, Bibb lettuce, tomato, sourdough bread - $10.95); Grilled Sausage Sub (beer boiled, bell pepper & onion slaw, French baguette - $9.95); B.L.T. (seven-bacon tips, lettuce, tomato, Tabasco mayonnaise, sourdough bread - $8.95); Turkey Burger (lettuce, tomato, cranberry-fennel slaw - $10.95); and, Steak Burger (lettuce, tomato, veal demi, A1 aioli, Tip Tap dressing - $10.95).

7) On Sunday, February 10, China Blossom Restaurant and Lounge, located in North Andover, and the Andover Chinese Cultural Exchange (ACCE) will celebrate the Chinese New Year with a festival sponsored by Yang’s Martial Arts. The Chinese New Year celebration is centuries old and the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. More than anything, the Chinese New Year is a time to bring family together for feasting and celebration, and China Blossom will highlight this with authentic cuisine as well as various Asian traditions. Due to the tremendous success of last year’s event, a second seating has been added this year, and guests will have the choice of attending a 4pm or 6pm performance, with each show followed by dinner.

Guests will enjoy butt-kicking gong fu (kung fu) and lion dance demonstrations, as well as traditional Chinese dances from the Newton Chinese Dance Team and live cultural music. World-renowned player Zhan-tao Lin will wow the crowd with the Er-hu, which is similar to a violin with an exception of two strings. Lin is a professional musician from China who has won many competitions and performs in the New England area, including at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In addition, celebrated musician Shin-Yi Yang is sure to please with the Gu-zheng, an ancient Chinese instrument that has strings that are plucked like a guitar’s. Yang is the founder of the Boston Guzheng Ensemble and the two-time winner of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship given by the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Folk Arts and Heritage Program. Guests will also have the chance to increase their luck and ward off evil spirits in the New Year with the Hong Bao (Red Envelope) ceremony. During this traditional ceremony, red envelopes containing “lucky money” are typically given by the married to the unmarried, usually children.

After guests have taken in all of the festivities, guests will be invited to indulge in a dim sum buffet featuring China Blossom favorites as well as traditional Chinese New Year offerings. Tickets are $30 per person (Senior and children pricing is available: Seniors, $25, Under 11, $20), and can be purchased online here or by calling China Blossom at (978) 682-2242. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Proceeds will benefit the ACCE, a non-profit community group dedicated to introducing Chinese culture. ACCE provides educational opportunities and support for charitable causes in the Merrimack Valley.

Ongoing Events & Live Performances:
Er Hu (Chinese Violin) performance
Gu Zheng (Zither) performance
Newton Chinese Dance Team
Lion Dance by Yang's Martial Arts
Martial Arts Demonstration by Yang's Martial Arts
ACCE Singing Chorus
Hong Bao (Red Envelope) ceremony
Buffet dinner featuring traditional dim sum

COST: Tickets are $30 per person (Senior and children pricing is available: Seniors, $25, Under 11, $20).
RSVP: Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling China Blossom at (978) 682-2242.

8) For the first time in CityFeast’s 8 year history, the Seaport District and the South End will join the North End in dining out to conquer Diabetes! The 8th Annual CityFeast, held on Sunday, January 27, at 6pm, is fun-filled evening hosted by twelve of the most exclusive restaurants in Boston: Antico Forno, Aura, The Gallows, Lucca, Lucia, Pulcinella Mozzarella Bar, Taranta, Temazcal, Terramia Ristorante, Tremont 647, Tresca and Strega Waterfront.

Tickets include a five-course dinner with wine pairings (or tequila pairings at Temazcal) at the choice participating restaurant, and proceeds will benefit Joslin’s High Hopes Fund, which provides support for research, clinical care and education for diabetics and their families.

The North End’s own Carla Gomes began this event to show her dedication and appreciation to Joslin after her son David was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on his first birthday. David has received care at Joslin for over 18 years.

Tickets are priced at $150 each; of which $100 is tax deductible. Due to high demand, reservations are limited, and will be distributed on a first come first serve basis. For more information on CityFeast or to purchase tickets visit: Http://­www.­joslin.­org/­cityfeast

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Poker & an Asian Beauty

Date: Tue, Jan 8, 2013 Wine Tasting

If you play poker, what is your drink of choice while playing?

If I visit a casino, playing more serious poker, I generally won't drink any alcohol. However, when I play a casual game with friends, then wine and Sake are my usual drinks of choice. Every few weeks, I gather together with 8-11 friends to play poker in a casual game. Games are usually played on Friday evenings, typically lasting at least 7 hours. A fun night ofcamaraderie, cards and cups.

The majority of my friends drink beer and it seems as if each one drinks a different brew. A couple will partake of spirits, such as tequila or whiskey, and I will do so as well every once in awhile. My friend Adam, of Wine Zag, sometimes plays poker and he also drinks wine and Sake with me. The type of wine varies widely, reds, whites and roses, and could be from any wine region around the world. It can be a chance to explore new wines or share our favorites.

At our last game, I brought an "Asian Beauty" with me, theToyo Bijin Junmai Ginjo Okarakuchi Sake($35). Interestingly, though it appears most seem to interpret the phrase "Toyo Bijin" as "Asian Beauty," the word "Toyo" generally means "abundant" or "plentiful." A better translation for this Sake then might be "Abundant Beauty."

This Sake is brewed by theSumikawa Shuzo, which was established in 1921 and is located in the Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is made with Yamada Nishiki rice, the "king" of Sake rice, which has been polished down to 55%, allowing it to qualify as a Ginjo. This is a karakuchi style, meaning it is a dry Sake, and that is reflected in its high Sake Meter Value which is+15. It also has a higher than average acidity, 1.5, which contributes to its perceived dryness.

I greatly enjoyed this Sake, finding it to be crisp, clean and smooth, with pleasant flavors of melon and Asian pear. A well balanced Sake, it is easy drinking, and would appeal to both Sake lovers and newcomers to this wondrous beverage. This would be an excellent Sake with food too, especially as it possesses a higher acidity. By the end of the evening, the bottle was empty, and I had won money, so maybe it brought me a bit of luck as well. The Toyo Bijin gets my highest recommendation.

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Rant: A Wake Up Call To The Food Obsessed

Date: Mon, Jan 7, 2013 Wine Tasting

It seems like a staggering statistic based on the amount of restaurants that exist in the U.S. and considering all of the supermarkets and specialty food shops that are around. There are so many thousands of food writers in the U.S. as well as entire magazines and television networks devoted to food. Food seems like an obsession in the U.S. However, if so, then why does the U.S. actually spend so little on food?

In Urner Barry's Reporter (Winter 2013), it is reported that, on average, the U.S. spends 6.7% of its income on food, which happens to be the lowest percentage of the developed and developing world. There is a list of more than 60 countries which spend a higher percentage on food than the U.S. The median income in the U.S. is approximately $50,000 so about $3350 of that is spent on food, roughly $64 a week. That is less than $10 per day!

During the last one hundred years, Americans have been spending less and less of their income on food. In the 1930s, Americans were spending about 21% of their income on food, which declined to 17% by the 1950s. That percentage has now dropped down to less than 7%, a huge change over all that time. The Urner Barry article does not provide any possible explanation for this low figure so we can only speculate, though various other sources seem to put much of the blame over all the cheap food available.

Chain restaurants like McDonald's and an abundance of cheap, prepackaged foods make it easy and inexpensive to eat. Many people can't be bothered to spend an hour or more cooking at home. They just want the ability to quickly purchase some fast food or pop a premade dish in the oven. The problem, ignored by many of these people, is that those cheap prices can come with a heavy cost, ill health and obesity.

It would be best if many of those people who regularly patronized such chains and bought all those prepackaged foods would cook more at home, from basic ingredients. That can be done inexpensively though even if it might be a bit more expensive up front, in the end it would be less costly as their health would benefit. Convincing those people to change though is an arduous task. Looking at thebottom lineis much easier for people than looking forward to the future.

Though all of that may explain why many people spend so little on food, it doesn't explain our cultural obsession with food. The reason may be is that there is a food elite, a percentage of our population which spends a far greater percentage of their income on food. They also tend to be the individuals who cook more at home, while also patronizing higher end restaurants. They also tend to be concerned more with issues such as sustainability. They are the ones who read all about food, who watch television shows about food, who write about food. I would fall into this category, as I certainly spend a higher percentage more than 7% of my income on food.

Such individuals need to properly understand the privilege they possess, the ability to be able to spend a higher percentage on food. Economically, I am strongly within the middle class and have struggled over the last few years to make ends meet. I don't consider myself wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. Of my friends who are similarly food obsessed, none of them are wealthy either. Many of them have struggled during these years of economic turmoil. We are not the 1% yet we have more disposable income than some others.

Our economic woes are nothing compared to so many others in this country. There is a wide economic gap even between the middle class and the poor. The latest figures show that 14.5% of U.S. households are food insecure, the highest total ever. In a country with so much food available, it is a travesty that so many still go hungry. It is a greater travesty that the number of hungry people continues to grow to record levels. We desperately need to help fight this massive problem.

I thus implore the food obsessed, the watchers of food shows, the readers of food blogs, those able to spend so much more money on food than many others:

Get Off Your Ass And Help The Less Fortunate!

A new year has begun so let it begin on a positive note. Make a resolution to help the less fortunate, to feed the hungry. Skip your $5 coffee, cancel your $25 lunch, forget your $100 dinner. Do something, anything, which will make our country a better and more food secure place. Lend your support to organizations dedicated to alleviating hunger. Individually, we might only be able to make small contributions, but when added together, the impact can be great.

So what are you waiting for? Stop reading my blog and go help the food insecure!

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Turner Fisheries: Gluten Free Dinner

Date: Fri, Jan 4, 2013 Wine Tasting

Due to a surge in food allergies, responsible restaurants are working to ensure their patrons can safely dine, no matter what allergies they might possess. For example, celiac disease is an autoimmunue disorder, essentially an allergy to gluten though there are others, without celiac, who are also allergic to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and other grains though it can also be found sometimes as a food additive. It seems to be a significant issue and dining out for such individuals can be a problem.

Fortunately, a number of local restaurants now offer gluten-free menus and a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association named Gluten Free Cuisine as one of the top ten trends for 2013. I recently dined at Turner Fisheries (as a media guest) to assess their gluten-free menu. I don't have a gluten allergy but was curious as to whether the various dishes would still possess compelling flavors, or if their gluten-free nature would diminish the taste. What would be the effect of the substituted ingredients? Someone with a gluten allergy might not be able to enjoy battered fish and chips but that doesn't mean they don't have other delicious options.

What are the differences between the Turner's regular menu and gluten-free menu? In fact, many of the dishes are similar with minor adjustments for gluten free. First, the two Soups are similar. Second, there are two less Starters, the Crispy Calamari and Jonah Crab Cake. Third, the three Salads are similar. Fourth, there is one less Starter, the Taylor Bay Scallop Meuniere. Fifth, there is one less Turner's Classics, the Baked Long-Line Scrod. Sixth, all of the Sides are similar. Seventh, only three of the six Dessert options are available gluten free, including Mocha Creme Brulee, Hot Chocolate Peppermint Semifreddo Float and Sorbet/Gelato.

As can be seen, there is little on the menu which cannot be prepared gluten-free except for the Dessert category. That might be an area where other restaurants also see a challenge and if so, it is an area where they need to create more tantalizing options. I have eaten gluten free cookies, brownies and other similar treats and if done well, they can be quite tasty and you would not even know they were gluten free.

Chef Armand Toutaint prepared a variety of seafood preparations for our dinner, showcasing just some of the possibilities of a gluten-free menu. He also came to our table to discuss the menu and answer our questions. Based on some prior research I did, there appears to be a potential issue of farmed fish being given feed that contains gluten. Some claim that such seafood can be tainted and cause problems to those with gluten allergies while others allege it is not the case. Chef Toutaint didn't know much about the issue and it might be an area that needs more study. If anyone knows more about this matter, I would like to hear about it.

The dinner began with a couple heaping platters of cracked/shucked shell fish, including Little Neck Clams, Rope-Grown Mussels, East Coast Oysters, Maine Lobster, Jonah Crab Claws, Gulf Shrimp, and Taylor Bay Scallops. A smorgasbord of simply prepared food sure to satisfy any shellfish lover, with or without gluten allergies.

Next up was a sampler of menu choices, including a Grilled Wellfleet Oyster(with a maitake mushroom riesling cream), Beet Carpaccio (with rainbow swiss chard, cider glaze, pistachio dust), Seared Diver Scallop (with a brandy black mission fig reduction & plantain chip), and a bowl of Clam Chowder. The chowder, thickened with rice flour, is absolutely delicious, creamy with a pleasant clam taste. It is neither too thick nor too thin, and doesn't suffer in the least for not possessing gluten. In fact, this is a clam chowder that stands as one of the best in the city.

As for the other dishes, the Scallop was perfectly seared with a tasty and lightly sweet reduction, as well as a crisp plantain chip. It was my second favorite of the four. The briny oyster was covered by a flavorful cream with hints of umami from the mushrooms. As I am not a fan of beets, I didn't eat the Beet Carpaccio but those who like beets seemed to greatly enjoy that preparation.

We next received a sampling of entrees including Rockport Merluza Filet ($28), Lobster Thermidor (Market Price) and Grilled Salmon ($29).

The Lobster Thermidor is prepared with a cured tomato hollandaise and gruyere cheese, quite a rich and decadent preparation. A good-sized piece of sweet lobster tail meat with nutty elements from the cheese and umami elements from the tomato. You are not missing any flavor in this gluten free dish and it would appeal to everyone who loves lobster.

The Rockport Merluza Filet (merluza is also known as hake) is made with Pernod, crispy bacon, and creamed brussel sprouts. A slightly sweet white fish, with a firmer (yet still flaky) texture, and a salty element from the bacon. A nice substitute for cod or haddock. Another delicious choice.

The Grilled Loch Duart Salmon is prepared with roasted garlic, baby potatoes, and wild mushrooms. Salmon is a delicious fish, with its firm, meaty texture and the sauce enhanced its rich taste. The mushrooms also added an umami element and the crisp potatoes were a nice addition.

For dessert, we had Mocha Creme Brulee ($8), which is similar to the usual brulees you can have at most restaurants. It is good but nothing really exciting. The dessert options are the weakest part of the gluten free menu.

Overall, Turner Fisheries has crafted an impressive gluten free menu and the savory items should satisfy most any craving. The dishes do not lack in taste in any way and are as creative as anything on the regular menu. I would like to see more unique gluten free dessert options but with all of the savory options, you might not have room for dessert anyways.

Turner Fisheries on Urbanspoon

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Alsatian Wines & Pheasant at Craigie On Main

Date: Wed, Jan 2, 2013 Wine Tasting

Due to a late change of plans, I was able to attend aWines of Alsacedinner, showcasing fall and winter whites, at the consistently superbCraigie on Main. There were a number of familiar faces there, including Jason of Ancient Fire Beverage and Jackie of Leather District Gourmet. Overall, it was a fun evening, with plenty of delicious food and wine as well as lots of interesting conversation. It was a perfect example of the joyous combination of friends, food and wine. Each of those three components is enhanced when combined together. That is something to keep in mind as the new year begins.

Alsace is a French region that borders Germany and Switzerland, and throughout history, control of the Alsace has often switched back and forth between France and Germany. That has led to an interesting fusion of the two cultures. The Alsace has a lengthy history of wine production, currently making over 150 million bottles annually of which they export about 36 million bottles. There are threeAppellations d’Origine Contrôlées (AOC) including AOC Alsace, AOC Alsace Grand Cru, and AOC Cremant d' Alsace.

Approximately 92% of Alsatian wines are whites and the primary grapes includeGewurtztraminer, Muscat,Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sylvaner.Unlike most of the rest of France, the Alsace identifies their wine by the grape rather than the region. One quirk though has to do with wines labeled Pinot Blanc. Such wines can also include the grape Pinot Auxerrois, though it might not be listed on the label. In fact, a 100% Pinot Auxerrois wine can be labeled as Pinot Blanc. Just one of those wine oddities.

Unfortunately, Alsatian wines aren't on the radar of the average consumer. At the wine store where I work, I have almost never had a customer ask specifically for an Alsatian wine. At least they don't have a negative image of those wines. Dependent on the type of wine a customer desires, I have had success in recommending Alsatian wines, from dry Riesling to spicy Gewurtztraminer. It is more of a handsell though, and Alsatian wines need greater publicity to let the average consumer know of their quality and taste. My dinner at Craigie certainly showed some compelling Alsatian wines, as well as how well they pair with a variety of dishes. These are wines that would satisfy consumers.

Chef Tony Maws created quite a varied menu, including seafood, poultry, pasta, pork, Asian accents, and more. All of the dishes were delicious, as expected, though the pheasant was my clear favorite and I'll talk more about it later in this post. My dining companions all seem similarly impressed with the cuisine. I should note that many of my photos of the various dishes definitely do not do justice to their taste and quality.

We began our multi-course meal withThree Amuse Bouche Preparations, includingNantucket Bay Scallops (with crystalized ginger vinaigrette),Smoked Sablefish Rillettes andSquid Noodles (with nuoc cham). All three were flavorful bites and I enjoyed the smokiness of the rillettes though my favorite was the noodles, with such an umami rich taste. They whetted my appetite, making me eager for the rest of the meal.

Paired with the amuse bouche was the NVSchoenheitzCremant d' Alsace($14), ablend of 90% Pinot Auxerrois and 10% Pinot Blanc that was aged on the lees for 24 months. It also has an alcohol content of only 12% and was made with a low dosage. This is an excellent value wine; crisp, clean and elegant with pleasant apple and pear flavors as well as a streak of minerality. Very easy drinking and refreshing, it would be a fine apertif as well as a good pairing with food. You won't find many other sparkling wines that taste this good as this price point.

Our first course was more seafood, Kona Kampachi Sashimi, with thins slices of Asian pear, pinenut-miso puree and pickled mustard seeds. Silky smooth and firm kampachi with a slight sweetness from the miso and the pear. A nice combination of textures as well. The wine pairing was the2006 Trimbach Cuvee Frederich Emile Riesling($50),poured from a magnum. With an alcohol content of 12.75%, this wine is not produced each year, dependent on the quality of the available Riesling grapes. A stunning Riesling, with only a hint of sweetness, and plenty of acidity and minerality. A perfect wine with seafood.

More seafood arrived next, a Slow-Cooked Tasmanian Sea Trout Mi-Cuit with chorizo, scallion, and a boudin noir-housin sauce. A meaty and flavorful fish, the chorizo adding a salty edge though the savory sauce really elevated this dish. An excellent preparation. We had two Rieslings with this dish, one which was not my style though I know plenty of others who would have loved it. The2009 Josemeyer Hengst Grand Cru Riesling($66) is biodynamic and had a strong petrol smell, an aroma that I do not enjoy. It came out on the palate too so I wasn't a fan of this wine. However, the2005 Schleret Herrenweg Riesling($25) was more my style, dry with floral aromas, crisp acidity and some subtle lemon notes. Plenty of complexity, a satisfying finish and it worked well with the trout.

With a change-up, the next course was House-made Whole Wheat Fettucini with a foie gras-Jerusalem artichoke cream, Brussel sprout leaves, and house-cured lomo. Nice al dente pasta with a creamy, rich sauce enhanced by the salty lomo. This course also brought my favorite wine of the evening, the2007 Marcel Deiss Engelgarten($40). "Engelgarten" means "Angel's Garden" and it is a field blend ofMuscat, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. It is also biodynamic and has an alcohol content of 12%. This was a stunning and complex wine, with great tropical fruit flavors, crisp acidity, a strong minerality backbone and hints of spice. A wine to savor either with or without food. Well worth the price and highly recommended. The2004 Rolly Gassman Pinot Gris ($45), also biodynamic, was delicious too with a compelling nose of Muscat and spice. I think it might have been overshadowed a bit being paired with the amazing Engelgarten.

As I mentioned earlier, my favorite dish of the dinner was the Slow-Roasted Pheasant Breast & Confit Leg with quince, chestnuts, and matsutake mushrooms. This possessed everything you desire from a perfect poultry dish, that addictive crispy skin and tender, moist and flavorful meat. I don't recall ever having a better pheasant dish. Chef Maws may be best known for his pork dishes, but his culinary talents are far broader.

Two Gewurtztraminers were paired with the pheasant, including the certified organic2001 Becker Gewurtztraminer ($25), which has the usual Gewurtz flavor profile and was light and tasty. The2010 Zind-Humbrecht Hengst Grand Cru Gewurtztraminer($65) is Biodynamic and was darker in color than the Becker, as well as possessing a stronger Muscat aroma. It had more complexity and intensity of flavor than the Becker, a fine example of the potential of Gewurtz.

Finally, dessert arrived, Whole Wheat Crepeswith Macoun apples, pepitas, and butternut ice cream. A nice treat to end the meal, with two Vendages Tardives, late harvest wines. The2001 Charles Koehly Alternburg Grand Cru Pinot Gris ($55) was thick, rich and complex, with a mild sweetness well balanced by acidity. Delicious flavors of apricot, honey and dried fruits. It was my favorite of the two. The2008 Valentin-Zusslin Bollenberg GewurtztraminerVendages Tardives($50) was not as rich or sweet, having more acidity, though pleasant tropical fruit flavors.

Help spread the word about Alsatian wines so that they become something well known even to the average consumer. For a couple other recommendations of Crémant d'Alsace, check one of my recent posts.

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Happy New Year

Date: Tue, Jan 1, 2013 Wine Tasting

Happy New Year to one and all!

As 2013 begins, I wish only the best for my family, friends, readers and everyone else. It is my sincere desire that the world will find this new year to be better, in all ways, than the previous one.

The last several years have been challenging for most of us, especially economically. For example, the economy figured significantly in the presidential election and over the last month, we have all been concerned about the potential consequences of the "fiscal cliff." It is my fervent hope that 2013 bring a much better economic outlook for all of us. No matter what happens though, we shall find a way to make 2013 a great year. Try to maintain a positive attitude, no matter what happens, and you can get through anything. Savor everything you possess rather than bemoan what you lack.

For The Passionate Foodie, I have plenty of ideas and plans for this new year: places to visit, issues to examine, wines to drink, food to eat, books to read, and much, much more. For example, I will be speaking at the Design Bloggers Conference in March in Los Angeles about Sake & specialized blogging. I hope to attend TasteCamp, which will be held in Quebec in 2013. I look forward to the next Boston Cocktail Summit this year, expecting that it will be even bigger and better than last year. I want to dine at restaurants I have not yet visited, such as Journeyman, Tres Gatos and Belly Wine Bar. I look forward to trying the new roasted suckling pig dinners at Taberna de Haro. There is plenty other things I hope to experience.

I also have plans for The Tipsy Sensei, my new series of stories about a Boston Sake expert who learns that the supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore are real. Next up, I will publish a paperback collection of short stories, which will include the first three Tipsy Sensei short stories as well as a new historical story featuring Hato from Demons, Gods & Sake. I am also hoping to finish and publish Tipsy Sensei #5, a new novel, which istentativelytitled Hand Fed Tigers.

This is only a small portion of what I have planned for the coming year. If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments or email me. I am always looking for new and interesting food, wine, sake, and spirits places to check out.

Thanks so much to all of my readers during the past year and best wishes to you for the coming year. I hope you will continue to read my blog in 2013, and please send me your feedback and criticism so I can make The Passionate Foodie even better.

Dine and drink with passion all year round!

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