Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mia Wines: Lunch With Gloria Collell

Spanish winemaker Gloria Collell was in town recently and invited us to lunch at Tapeo to introduce us to her new line of wines called Mia produced in conjunction with Freixenet.  And what a glorious lunch it was.  We laughed a lot, sipped her wines, talked wine and international foods and I enjoyed an afternoon in the company of accomplished women and wine-lovers.

Paella was on the menu, in addition to a slew of tapas at the popular Newbury Street spot with an authentic Spanish feel.

We sipped the Mia White, Red and Rosé, along with her Moscato and Pink Moscato.  The wines are light, refreshing and less dry, aimed at a female market and absolutely sure to be a hit, fruity and unpretentious.  I especially liked the white.  The Moscato was also excellent.  Moscato has been a hot wine over the past few years but some find most labels to be exceedingly, almost soda pop sweet.  Not here.  It's a far less sweet Moscato and a Gold Medal winner of the Berliner Wein Trophy 2014.

All of the Mia wines will be on the market here soon and we are sure you will not be disappointed in any of them, especially when sharing something new with friends from a lady who is a passionate wine maker and enthusiast.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Earl's Kitchen Coming To Assembly Row

Earl's Kitchen And Bar is coming to Assembly Row in Somerville in September and Mixologist Cameron Bogue will be helming the drinks program.  We had the chance to meet him and sample some of his most interesting drinks recently and we were, of course, not disappointed.

We met up with Jenny Johnson, co-host of NESN's Dining Playbook and enjoyed a cocktail called "Bee's Knees".

The crafty concoction is served in these cute, little honey jars.  The ingredients?  Simple:

 A citrusy gin drink sweetened with honey

GLASSWARE: Honey Bear Jar
GARNISH: Lemon Zest, Wooden Honey Dipper

0.75 fl oz                                                              House Made Honey Syrup
1 fl oz                                                                   Fresh Lemon Juice
0.75 fl oz                                                              Aviation Gin
0.75 fl oz                                                              Cointreau
3 dashes                                                              Angostura Bitters

1. In a Mixing glass; measure 0.75 fl oz Honey Syrup, 1 fl oz Fresh Lemon Juice, 0.75 fl Aviation Gin, 0.75 Cointreau and 3 dashes Angostura Bitters.
2. Pack Mixing glass full of ice. Top with a stainless steel shaking tin.
3. Shake vigorously 12 times to mix ingredients.
4. Strain over fresh ice into a Honey Bear Jar.
5. Garnish with a Lemon Zest and a Wooden Honey Dipper.

Eric Twardzik, Boston Editor of UrbanDaddy was there.  They are always on the forefront of new openings and happenings.

The place will be a casual upscale design and focus on contemporary American comfort food.  This is Earl's, which operates 65 locations throughout the USA and Canada will make it's first entry into the area at Assembly Row, which is shaping up quite nicely as the area's newest shopping, dining and entertainment destination.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Triple Treat

Who doesn't like a good burger in the summer?  Well, we stopped by the new Del Frisco's Grille in Burlington on a recent night to try out their Triple Treat.  A double burger with cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and sloppy sauce on a toasted bun, it's about as good as a burger gets.  If you've ever tried to imagine, as I have, what a gourmet version of a Big Mac would be like well wonder no more.  In fact, it it also goes by the name of the Adult Happy Meal.  The "adult" part is a creamy yet not-too-thick shake made with vanilla ice cream, Nocello Walnut Liqueur and Creme de Cacao Chocolate Liqueur.  Delicious, sweet and not overly alcoholic.

We chose the Sea Salt And Parmesan Frites.  You can also get these plain or opt for a Sweet Potato version.  I recommend the Parmesan.

The place was pretty packed.  The space is industrial modern in design.  The service employs the team concept and it seems like there was a new person at our table every other minute checking on things so it's impossible that a diner could want for anything.  This was really a great, quick casual meal and an excellent burger in a nice setting worthy of trying.

Del Frisco's Grille
92 Middlesex Turnpike
Burlington, MA  01803
Telephone:  781.365.2005

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Patio Dining At The Sinclair

It's summer.  Finally.  That means it's time for alfresco dining all over the City and we recently visited the kitchen at The Sinclair to sit on the patio atop Harvard Square and sample their very newest menu items and cocktails. We began with The Skylark:  Damrak Gin, Agave Nectar, Becherovka, Dimmi and Lemon, our favorite sip, refreshing and riding the wave of the gin/agave popularity.

We sampled several snacks including Pickled Pepperoni, outstanding Chicken Wings and this Half Cooked Egg With One Year Vinegar And Toasted Oats.  The egg was perfectly runny with a really nice crunch to the toasted oats.  Very nice.

Charred Romaine With Pickled Grapes, Toasted Hazelnut Milk And Radish.  Simple and elegant, the delicious details in the pickled grapes and sauce are the creative choices of Chef Matt Cunningham whose ingredient combinations are both new and lovingly prepared.

Head-On-Shrimp With Salted Egg Yolk, Bottarga And Thai Basil.  The flavors were rich, especially that salted egg yolk, and the balance of the Thai basil and shrimp was something I'd never experienced before.  Excellent in every way.

Next up (not pictured) was Sirloin With Aged Corn Relish, Charred Kombu Butter and Greens. Salting, pickling, aging and other long-process preparations seem to be a hallmark of Chef Cunningham and the results are worthy of the extra effort.

Dessert was this stunning Buttermilk Pudding With Dried Strawberry, Smoked Honey And Pretzel. I've never had anything quite like this and could have easily enjoyed another.  The creaminess along with the crunch and the subtle, smoky flavors was an exceptional treat.  While this has not yet been added to the menu it is worthy of a visit just for this dish alone.  I promise.

The breezy, casual ambiance of the patio was filled with a younger crowd ranging from grad students to artsy intellectuals and designer-clad club kids who looked like fashion models.  The service was excellent.  Take a break on one of these cooler early Summer nights and do stop by. It's almost certain that you'll discover something new.

The Sinclair
52 Church Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.547.5200

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Mooring In Newport

At some point this summer you'll probably be heading out of town for a relaxing getaway at the shore.  We recently spent a few days in gorgeous Newport, Rhode Island, enjoying strolls along the water and on the Cliff Walk, viewing the incomprehensibly luxurious mansions and, of course, dining out.  We stopped for lunch one day at The Mooring, a casually elegant spot with a very nautical motif offering seafood dishes and views of Narragansett Bay from virtually every seat in the house, especially on the mahogany deck.  Both the menu and the space capture the quintessential New England seaside dining experience and a visual sweep of the room revealed an eclectic mix ranging from bluebood locals in preppy attire to international visitors of all ages.

We sipped on Windward Weiss, made by Coastal Extreme Brewing and named after Castle Hill, just a short distance away and a place we visited in colder weather last year.

The Bag Of Doughnuts jumped off the menu.  Who could not like Lobster, Crab and Shrimp Fritters served with a Chipotle-Maple Aioli?  Fried to a golden crisp with a flavorful filling these were like having a satisfying seafood beignet.

We paired this with the Beet Salad for a nice lunch on the water.  Roasted Red And Golden Beets With Citrus, Goat Cheese And Shallot Vinaigrette, a very nice, fresh beet salad to offset the heavier fare.

We also sampled the Surf And Turf Sliders:  Shaved Sirloin, Lobster, Cheddar-Ale Sauce, Arugula, and Crispy Sweet Potatoes.  While it's unusual to mix the meat and seafood together we actually liked this combo.

The dining choices in Newport can seem overwhelming for the occasional visitor.  Our advice is always when in doubt go where the locals do.  I'm certain one would not be disappointed with lunch at The Mooring.

The Mooring
1 Sayers Wharf
Newport, RI  02840
Telephone:  401.846.2260

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chefs In Shorts 2014

The Chefs and Future Chefs of Boston at the Seaport Hotel to celebrate Chefs In Shorts 2014.

Every time that I attend an event involving Future Chefs I think about the advice that I could best give to young people and, indeed, to my younger self if I had the mystical power to go back in time.  I would tell them to always be aware that life and the way that you are perceived by all and everything around you is constantly hanging in the balance, like the scales on a butcher block table used to measure ingredients precisely.  Every time that you disrespect someone or something the scales tip against you, even if just a little bit.  When you make a cruel joke about someone or something that, sure, people may laugh at temporarily, you may hurt feelings that will never heal and cause the perception of what you are, the values you hold, to be forever damaged.  Likewise, when you show up for work on time, you tip the scales a little bit in your favor.  When you put your work that's easy for you aside to help someone else who is struggling that may just be a moment that they will never forget and always grateful for. For you and your spirit and generosity. When you apologize for something you did you tip the scales back in your favor.

Every time that you prepare food well you are creating joy for someone.  Celebrate the fact that you have been handed this power.  Last night at Chefs In Shorts 2014, the largest number of Boston Chefs ever assembled for this event came together.  I think they do it, like me, because it is an affirming experience to share with young people the things that we, perhaps, wish we had been shared with us at their age.  Understanding.  Learning. Setting an example.  Teaching someone something new that will help them steer through the turbulent course of life.  And let's not forget that it's also just plain fun.  For many it's a night when they can turn from the sometimes many disappointments in life and truly shine.   

Life is an emotional bank account.  You can choose to make deposits or withdrawals, the only two transactions. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning until that time when you fall back into your quiet slumber you are tipping the scales, positive or negative.  When you reach the tipping point with another then you have made a true friend, complete with all of the admiration and respect due you.  Or, you have ruined what might have been one.  Every action has an often unseen or unknown consequence but it always takes place.

I ran into Tom from @Bostontweets (and dozens of other friends and food-lovers) who said to me: This is my favorite event of the year. Always." I couldn't agree more.  Mother Nature smiled upon us with a night of glorious, cool, sunny weather, great food and an atmosphere of giving.  Great night everyone!

Above:  Chef Matt Cunningham of The Sinclair was tipping the scales with his creative cuisine, no matter how hard the work or how long it takes.  He has some of the most inventive dishes we have recently had the pleasure to sample.

One of the best ways to tip the scales is to simply be a good role model and lead by example both in and out of the kitchen.

M + C Spiedo was tipping the scales with great sourcing on their plate with the help of Future Chefs.

Future Chefs Staff is ALWAYS tipping the scales for all of the young people with an interest in food and the culinary arts.

Suzi Maitland of Trina's Starlite Lounge was tipping the scales with love for good, old-fashioned food and the young people it can inspire.

I've been called a "social media influencer."  What this event always demonstrates for me, beyond just the great food on a plate, is that we all have influence.  How we choose to use it every day is the challenge.  Never stop looking for the opportunity to inspire someone.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Besito Mexican Preview

Location.  Location.  Location.  It's a mantra in the restaurant business but as avid food-lovers know sometimes the most extraordinary food can be found in the most unexpected places, like Burlington Mall. This week we had a sneak preview of Besito Mexican and, believe us, the food is spot on, maybe the best Mexican we've had since we were in, well, Mexico.  We started off the night with the Sangria de Besito, a blend of white wine, Cointreau, peach liquor, fresh fruit and juices.  Fruity, cold and refreshing without being overly sweet, it was the best light Sangria we've ever had.

It wasn't long before a basket of chips arrived (still warm) with the house salsa, again a nice traditional blend and very much just like all the corn chips and salsas we tasted south of the border.

The Guacamole en Molcajete is made in fresh batches tableside and not to be missed.  Not a pureed, old green mess as some places serve.  This was as fresh as possible, chunky and flavorful with the tomato chunks included and a brilliant green guacamole.  Just the Sangria and this could be a light meal alone and totally satisfying.

Tosquitos de Camarones:  Crispy chrimp, shredded organic romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, chipotle cream salsa, cilantro and queso fresco.  The crunchy shrimp with the fresh greens and creamy sauce were enough to get our gastric juices flowing.

Ceviche del Dia:  Fresh ceviche with plantains.  Beautiful to look at and flavorful.

Sopa de  Tortilla:  Tortilla soup, avocado, pulled chicken, chopped cilantro, toasted pastilla chile, crema and onion.  I was so anxious for this that I forgot to snap a pic until I was half way through. A thick, rich flavorful broth, meaty chicken bites and the unmistakable lace of cilantro.  Absolutely delicious, one of the highlights of our dinner.

Ensalada de Salmon:  Pistachio crusted pan seared fillet of salmon, organic mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, avocado, queso fresco and chipotle cream dressing.  I love my salmon served over a bed of healthy greens and this did not disappoint in any way.

Costillas de Piquin:  Boneless beef short ribs, rajas, crema and tomatillo-chile piquin salsa.  As dark and rich as it looks, truly melting in the mouth into a buttery, rich meat flavor.

Owner John Tunney stopped by our table and insisted we try the Tamale de Elote, a fresh corn tamale with chipotle chile cream, onion, cilantro and queso fresco.  A big hit!  The little ring of onion sitting like a halo atop this plate was fitting.  The dense stuffing of sweet, creamy corn, sauce, spices, everything just perfect.

As stuffed as we were we could not resist a taste of the Devil's Food Cake dessert served with a fresh whipped cream filling and cream sauce with raspberries.  Exceptionally light yet as flavorful as any chocolate cake can be.

The restaurant opens to the public on June 17th and if you like well-made, traditional Mexican cuisine you will not be disappointed.  It is the fourth restaurant in a small chain but the decor and ambiance does not betray the very authentic experience.  Congratulations!  This was one of the finest restaurant openings we've been a part of in a long time.

Besito Mexican  (A Small Kiss of Mexico)
75 Middlesex Turnpike
Burlington, MA 01803

Thursday, June 5, 2014

River Stones Tavern, Quechee VT

We recently traveled north, up to the beautiful state of Vermont, for a quiet dinner at River Stones in Quechee. It amazes me that, after traveling all over the world, how often I don't get out more often to enjoy the wonders of New England.  Stepping into the ornate, oversized doors made us feel as though we were entering a real tavern from a bygone era, far from the noise and rush of the city we are so used to.  The tavern is comfortably rustic and filled with locals enjoying dinner, conversation and, as the night progressed, live music, a great spot to kick back and experience a meal on a weekend getaway.

We began with the White Sangria, a cold, fruity drink that quenched the thirst after the ride from Boston.  It's about two hours but the scenery makes the time rush by, filled with green vistas and blue skies.

We began nibbling on the Charcuterie Platter.  Onion Jam, fresh Vermont Cheeses and Paté accompanied warm, crispy slices of bread.

I went with the Slow Braised New England Beef With Garlic Mash and Horseradish Cream.  It's so difficult to photograph the shiny surface that this picture does no justice to the tender, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. Hearty and satisfying, it was excellent comfort food.

Dean went with the Grilled Hanger Steak With Crispy Potatoes, Maple-Glazed (of course) Carrots and Spinach. Again, exactly the kind thing one would expect on a plate of good country food.

We could not pass up the chance to sample the Baked Mac and Cheese With Four Cheeses (Mozzarella, Provolone, Cheddar and Parmesan).  It was creamy and the pasta was well-done but we'd suggest more cheese flavor for a truly outstanding dish.  Perhaps a sharper cheddar or an asiago.

This Rhubarb Crumble was spot-on, however.  Flavorful, sweet, crispy and topped with a nice scoop of buttery vanilla ice cream, one of our favorite dishes.

The Parsnip Cake was a surprisingly excellent take on the more typical carrot cake, which I find can be mealy or overly chewy.  Not this.  I'd never had it before but became an instant fan, well-worthy of a stop just for this and a cup of coffee.

The deep pizza oven and it's fiery flames called to us.  Although we did not have the chance to experience the pizza, we did see quite a few locals stopping in for take-out to start off their weekend.

I've described the place to friends as rustic-comfy with good, hearty modern American fare using fresh, local sources.  Do stop in if you're in the area.

And if you have not been in the area then this scene should make you want to go soon.  It's so quiet and peaceful, such a great antidote for the stress and strife, the traffic and tribulations of city life, which we love, of course, but do welcome an occasional break from.  Wander into the General Store in Barnard for a great breakfast at the lunch counter, walk through the main street in Woodstock, amble under a covered bridge and enjoy the fact that you are in a place where people actually smile at you and say hello.

River Stones Tavern
6391 Woodstock Road
Quechee, VT  05059
Telephone:  802.295.1600