Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hotel Viking Wine Series

Each winter we attend more than one wine festival event and while lucky enough to get in before they open to the public it still at some point becomes like the running of the bulls.  Once those doors swing open it just gets too crowded to spend any quality time with the people from the actual wineries.  This year we are scrapping those plans for something much more elegant and quiet.

The moment we walked through the doors at Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island last fall we instantly felt at ease.  Originally built in 1926 so that travelers visiting Newport for society events would have a place to stay that reminded them of the gilded age homes of their own, the structure was erected at One Bellevue Avenue so as to be close to the mansions where they would attend the most glittering parties of the season.  Since then the hotel has undergone many multimillion dollar renovations and additions and has long been considered the grand dame of Newport lodgings.

This is the second year that they will be offering a series of more intimate wine dinners which will last through March.  We will be attending the February 18th dinner with Christophe Hedges of the Hedges Family Estate in Red Mountain, Washington.  At what promises to be a much more relaxing, luxurious pace we'll discover everything there is to know about the wines while enjoying what I am sure will be a sumptuous feast with elegant company.  It promises to be, at the very least, a great weekend getaway.

We hope that you'll look over the dates and reward yourself with one of the dinners.  If you decide on the 18th then we will certainly see you there enjoying the food and wine in beautiful (even in the off season) Newport.  There will be lots of new friends to meet and photos to take!  You will certainly not be disappointed with Hotel Viking.  See you there.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Foodie Reads

It's winter, cold and snowy, and who on these nights doesn't like to curl up with a good book and a blanket or fireplace?  It's the New England thing to do.

Of course, we love to read stories about food.  In this case it's about the American dream of opening a restaurant of one's very own.  The twist here, however, is that the restaurant is to be located in ... Paris! 

I really enjoyed this memoir of Craig Carlson and all the foibles and challenges involved with the opening of one's first eatery.  Where to find a location?  Staff?  Customers?  Would a classic American style diner even be welcome in what many consider to be the gastronomic capital of the world?  Well, we won't ruin it for you but it goes without saying that it was an interesting ride filled with all sorts of memorable personalities. 

If you are looking for something to read and have ever worked in the food industry or thought about what it's like opening a restaurant, you'll enjoy PANCAKES IN PARIS.  Happy reading!!

Our copy of this book was provided by the publisher without remuneration or any consideration for editorial coverage.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holidays With Magnum Moo

At first we thought that maybe a Milkman (from the 1950s) had made a delivery to our front door.  Then we realized that although the steel canister had a beautiful retro design it was, indeed, something far more special than just milk.

It was, in fact, cream sourced from Holsteins in Holland, where the cows roam free.  Oh, and then Scotch malt whiskey was added along with some chocolate, caramel and toffee flavorings to produce a delightful product we thoroughly enjoyed sipping over the holidays.  This would also not be a bad way to start off those adult milkshakes!

Happy Holidays, all.  Here's hoping that 2017 will be a year filled with happiness, laughter and success.

Product provided by Magnum Cream with no remuneration or editorial consideration promised.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Phillips Candy House

This is an apple.  It is an apple that has been smothered in caramel.  And then, dunked in a vat of milk chocolate.  All by hand.  The two coatings seal the apple so that it remains fresh until the shell is broken.  The result is dripping with flavor.

I made these for gifts one year (a HUGE hit) and I will just say that it seems simple but is rather time-consuming.  Plus, hot caramel is basically molten lava and burns one badly.

This one is from Phillips Candy House and it is every good as my homemade version because it basically is homemade.  So, this year that's my option!

This sample was provided without remuneration or any editorial consideration.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Brunch At Joe's Newbury Street

It's the holidays.  More than likely you'll be having at least one brunch out with friends or family.  We always get asked for good brunch locations so when Joe's on Newbury Street invited us to a recent get-together we couldn't say no.

First, the place is on Boston's most fashionable street, Newbury Street, and second, it's a stone's throw from Copley and Prudential Center, the two others. 

It's a nice crowd that runs the gamut from frat boys to families with plenty of room for everyone.

We began with Bellinis and appetizers like the Pork Sliders, Tuna Tartare and Deviled Eggs, which were a surprising hit.  It always amazes me how this retro plate is popular with everyone no matter where one goes.

My main was the Lobster Fritatta which was very good and the perfect texture.

Also good was the Eggs Benedict with potatoes that were excellent. 

Although I did not sample the Bagels And Lox myself, the salmon looked very good and I liked the way you are left to construct the plate your own way. 

And, of course, this being a blogger event there were tons of pictures to be had. 


And then more pictures, always the food writer's dilemma:  do you make every photo the best it can be or jump into the food before it starts to get cold?

The other thing I like about Joe's on Newbury is that it literally never closes.  They are open 365 days a year including holidays.  They are also now open for breakfast.  In fact, we were told by the Chef that most of the staff lives nearby so that even in snowstorms and blizzards you can be pretty certain they will be open when no one else is.  So don't be snowed in and stir crazy.  That's often one of the best times to go!

Joe's American Grill
181 Newbury Street
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.536.4200


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Holiday Bacon!

No, it's not a misspelling of "Holiday Baking" made by an intern.  What you're actually looking at is bacon.  Since big breakfasts are often part of the sojourn of our holiday season we thought we'd share a post on cooking bacon.

Increasingly, our knowledge of cooking here at TBF is leaning more and more toward science as the basis for ease of preparation and increase in flavor in cooking.  This doesn't mean that we are throwing out Grandma's traditional recipes which often hit the perfect mark, sometimes, we're convinced, the result of scientific luck or many generations of trial and error. 

When most friends hear of our experiments and exploits they often laugh them off.  Like when we advised them to add water to scrambled eggs for a lighter, fluffier, even brighter colored final result.  We swear.  Try it.  About one half teaspoon per egg.  Without getting overly technical that milk (or, even worse, cream) you add is adding more protein which, when heated, becomes tougher.  Water does not contain protein.  Think of how a raw piece of beef (high protein) becomes tougher when introduced to heat.  The more heat, the more tough, until it's overcooked and tragically, permanently ruined. 

Neither do many believe that when poaching a marinated salmon fillet in the microwave (a GREAT technique for salmon-lovers like myself) it actually cooks from the outside in.  Try that, too.  We're not even sure how that works although it seems that there is more oil in the outer part of the fillet and oils heat up more quickly when you nuke them than the flesh of the meat.

So, we've adopted the technique of cooking our bacon in water.  Yes, I know, sounds ridiculous  -  until you try it.  Place the bacon in the pan.  Cover with water.  Cook on high to a full boil then reduce to medium and let the water cook off.  Reduce heat to low until done. 

Beautiful, crispy, succulent bacon every time with no splattering.  We promise.  These are the things that Grandma never taught you unless, maybe, she went to Harvard in the past five years or so.  Happy Holidays and happy cooking.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Eataly Boston Opens November 29

With our friend Mary Ann Esposito, host of Ciao Italia, America's longest running TV cooking show.

The Prosecco was flowing at a recent preview party at Eataly Boston which we were lucky enough to attend, a celebration and sneak peek all to benefit the Friends Of The Italian Cultural Center Of Boston.  The goal of the organization, as we learned, is to bring together the myriad of other organizations in the Greater Boston area which celebrate the language and culture of Italy.  And what a beautiful culture it is.

This huge emporium of all things Italian covers it the full range, spread out over three floors in a sparkling new space in the Prudential Center.

Words alone cannot describe the breadth of the food, giftware, grocery items and even music and books that are on offer but, hopefully, some of these pictures will give you an idea.

Delicious Italian fare is everywhere, from the freshly prepared flatbreads and pizza pies to gorgeous pastries and sweets, wines, dinners, pastas, espresso and cappuccino, gelato and everything in between.  

As an example, some of the imported cheeses we saw are rarely available in Boston.

It's the same with the cured meats and other products, as well, heaven for those who long for authentic Italian goods.

Strolling through the grocery area we saw products that we have not seen since, well, we were actually in Italy!  Half the fun is walking slowly through the place and just perusing everything.  

We stopped to speak with a grocery manager and asked:  where are you storing all of this stuff?  Is there a warehouse nearby?  The immensity of it all is almost bewildering. Apparently, there is a mega warehouse in New Jersey were cargo ships are unloaded daily and the products trucked in at least three days a week.

Another big question our inquisitive mind's had was just how they managed to hire up a staff of 600 people when it is well-known that Boston faces a serious labor shortage for restaurant and hospitality employees?  What we discovered is that many of the people we spoke with actually did not come from the food service industry with many of them having a background more in customer service coupled with a personal yet never-fulfilled passion for food. Interesting.

We advise readers who plan to stop by to allow plenty of time when going for a visit.  An hour or two will not do it justice.  One could easily spend three hours just walking around looking at everything before deciding what to actually try or buy.  And it's a learning experience, too, not just an immense food court with multiple cafes and spots for enjoying a meal or snack. Think of it more as a cultural excursion and take the time to chat with the very knowledgeable staff.  They are eager and happy to talk about the products and history.

So, take a look at everything, including the gleaming, jewel-like wrapped candies before loading up your shopping bag.  There is a new delight around every corner.  All in all, you will not be disappointed.  Enjoy.  Ciao!

Eataly Boston
Prudential Center
800 Boylston Street
Boston, MA  02199
Telephone:  617.236.3100

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Holiday Wine Selections

The holidays are upon us.  Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  As we go through the next few months there will be social engagements and celebrations galore and one will certainly want to have some wine on hand to share with friends visiting or those that you visit. 

We like to keep our focus on two types of wines during the festivities:  the elegant and the fun.  We don't want to turn holidays into a wine tasting class or an in-depth lecture about wine.  We just want to relax, enjoy and share a few laughs with the people we like.

One of the selections we always try to have on hand is the Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace.  This is a sparkling wine made in the Alsace region of France.  Many would say that it is the closest thing one can get to champagne which, as most know, must actually be from the Champagne region in order to be called that. 

We are particularly fond of the Brut Rosé but both are good.  We'll save you the lecture but if you would like more information you can click here for the full story and tasting notes.  This is always an elegant choice and a nice gift for friends when visiting.

The fun wine on our list this year is the Plymouth Bay Colonial Red.  A sweeter wine and one that some pretentious wine snobs may scoff at, the wine is made locally and offers the unmistakable notes of the distinctive concord grape native to New England.  Friends you share this one with will find it fun and younger people, maybe new to wine, will love it. 

As we head closer to Christmas and New Year's we'll be sharing additional wines that may help you celebrate the season even more.  Enjoy!!

Some samples provided by Pasternak Wine Imports with no remuneration or editorial consideration provided. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Flour Harvard Square Is Open

The new Flour bakery in Harvard Square is now open and it is beautiful.  All of the famously delicious creations of Joanne Chang are featured at the bright and shiny Mt. Auburn Street outpost.

Although we had just eaten lunch before stopping in to check it out we just had to order something so we tried the pizza of the day which on that day featured chorizo and broccoli.  Delicious.  And quite a substantial slice.  We brought the rest home and warmed it up, cut it into bite-size pieces and served it over chopped romaine for a nice salad.  Still good the next day.

The crowd, one may ask?  Exactly what you'd expect - the usual cast of trustifarians, bohemian intellectuals, the ladies of Brattle Street and students.  Lots of students.  Any of the Flour Bakeries are always worth a visit if you're in the area and now you won't have to go to Central Square.

Flour Bakery
114 Mount Auburn Street 
Cambridge, MA  02138

Telephone:  617.714.3205

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Uniqlo Newbury Street Opening

Anthony Mastracci of The Next Gentleman and Elissa Garza of Style Wire

It's been a whirlwind week but we did make it to the Grand Opening of Uniqlo on Newbury Street last Thursday night where the fashion bloggers turned out in force to help celebrate.

Other than the cocktails, treats and well-dressed crowd the highlight of the event was a traditional Japanese ceremony called Kagami Biraki.  A barrel of freshly-brewed sake is cracked open with wooden mallets by the store management to bring happiness and prosperity for each new store opened.  Needless to say, the sake was shared with everyone.

Then there was the team from Fomu serving up their delectable ice cream.

Of course we were enamored with the colorful green tea ice cream being served and, as usual, had to have several samples.

And then there was a fully-stocked store that we had the very first chance to shop at.  I think I was the only one buying.  I do love the design and fit of Uniqlo styles and I am not easy to fit.  Somehow, everything they carry seems to be tailor-made for me.

Congratulations Uniqlo for the fun event and we join the team in wishing you success!

341 Newbury Street
Boston, MA  02115
Telephone:  877.486.4756

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Meet Me At Eataly

One of the most anticipated events in Boston this Fall season is the opening of Eataly at the Prudential Center and you can get an exclusive preview this weekend courtesy of Friends Of The Italian Cultural Center Of Boston. 

The all-things-Italian food emporium, a joint venture of Mario Batali and Lydia Bastianich is quite large and guaranteed to offer all of the highest quality Italian fare as well as imported ingredients one can purchase to use at home.  And you can be among the first to sample it all.

Tickets for the fundraiser event may be purchased here, while they last.  We'll be looking forward to seeing you on Saturday night!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Wine Of The Week: Los Vascos Grande Reserve

As the holidays draw near we'll be featuring wines more prominently.  Wines for food, for fun, for celebrating with family and friends are always a great and welcome gift.  And it makes shopping easier, too.  When we provide a gift of wine we always attach a hand-written card explaining just a little bit about the vintage in words the recipient can use to describe the wine when sharing it with others at a later date and time. 

If one is providing a dinner party host or hostess with a bottle of wine one should follow proper etiquette and make it clear that this is a gift for him or her and not expected to be served with the dinner.  Chances are that the evening's wine will have been already selected.

So, what might that note say on the Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013?  Well, maybe it would say BIG!  A Chilean wine, it begins with herbal notes but certainly has a big, black cherry, oaky flavor profile with a finish that almost mimics the finish of an actual black cherry - near bitter.  It's definitely a full bodied wine. 

Such a bold wine will stand up well to pairing with all kinds of meaty dishes from braised shortrib to duck.  Enjoy!

Wine provided by Pasternak Wines without remuneration or editorial consideration.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Plymouth Bay Winery

We spent part of a recent weekend stopping by Plymouth Bay Winery for a visit with the owners, Michael and Pam Carr, and a wine tasting.  This is a fun place to visit and ideal for those who may be new to enjoying wine or looking for a fun group activity with friends or family.

All of the wines here are made with locally-grown grapes and berries in a family operation set pretty much right on Plymouth Bay just a stone's throw from Plymouth Rock.  It is anything but a snobby or pretentious affair and, yes, some may sneer at the collection of sweeter wines but everyone there during our tasting seemed to love the wines, including us.

You'll taste about seven wines and then some of the jellies and sauces made with the wines which might be the most fun of all. The clever names are often takes on New England slang, such as the Wicked Pissah, which was actually our favorite.  We purchased several jars for holiday gifts as well as many bottles of wine.  They offer a discount for purchases made at your tasting.

Our tasting was conducted by Pam Carr.  You are given a card with the listing of wines and some tasting notes.  One of our favorites was the Colonial Red, made with concord grapes, the unmistakable, unique flavor of the grape coming through.  

Another was the Drydock White made with 100% diamond grapes resulting in soft, citrusy notes with a distinct yet subtle musky taste. The Cranberry Bay would be ideal for a dried cranberry reduction sauce for duck or other meats.  These are wines that you could really have some fun with in the kitchen.

The jellies are all made with the wines as an ingredient.  Some are sweet and some are savory.  In fact, one of our top picks here was the Drydock Scampi, a savory taste.  Half the fun of the tasting is trying to imagine what foods you would pair these distinct flavor profiles with for both the wines and jellies.  The sweeter varieties would be ideal to serve with cheese and crackers.  My mouth was watering just thinking of slathering that Drydock Scampi on a thick roast beef sandwich with mayo on warm, fresh bread.  There are all kinds of holiday dishes just screaming for these products.

If you haven't been to Plymouth in a while it's a perfect Saturday trip with lots of little shops and restaurants, plenty of history to explore, of course, and definitely book ahead for a stop in and tasting at Plymouth Bay Winery.  We loved it.

Plymouth Bay Winery
114 Water Street
Plymouth, MA  02362
Telephone:  508.746.2100


Saturday, October 29, 2016

An American In Paris

Photo courtesy of An American In Paris

We know.  On a rainy, cold night it's so easy to just head home and curl up by the fire with a good book or a few hours of TV.  Who wants to dress up, fight the traffic, wind your way through a parking garage and head to the theater?  But after you do you are so glad that you did.  There is really nothing quite like a live stage performance and everyone should go more often.

So, we did.  We attended the press/media night performance at An American In Paris this week at the Wang/Citicenter (soon to be the Boch Center) and loved it.  

It was packed.  We didn't see an empty seat and were impressed with the diversity of the crowd.  The set design is stunning.  The choreography is flawless.  And, sure, it's a predictable 1940's romance book but the experience is worth every minute.  I sat through the entire show thinking about how I can't wait to introduce my little nieces and nephews to their first live theater production.  

Most of the email and messages that I get on this blog all ask: where should we go to eat and what should we do when visiting Boston?  This one is an easy top recommendation and it's only here for a short while (through November 6).  Whether you're here on holiday for a week or a lifelong resident, don't miss it.  Who knows how much longer live theater with full orchestra productions such as this will last?  Just go.

An American In Paris
Wang Center
270 Tremont Street
Boston, MA  02116
Box Office Telephone:  617.482.9393

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Staying At Mirbeau Inn And Spa

We were recently invited to Mirbeau Inn And Spa At Pine Hills in Plymouth for a relaxing weekend getaway.  The Inn is designed to evoke the setting of a French Chateau with surrounding gardens and paths completing the feeling of a faraway country retreat.

Strolling the grounds it's actually quite easy to believe one is in the French countryside.  We arrived on a Saturday morning and after a brief walk about headed straight for the Spa to enjoy the Signature Massage.

The facilities are, of course, top notch with sparkling clean locker rooms. 

There are more amenities than one would likely ever use in the grooming area of the men's locker room.  There are also classes in Pilates and Yoga which are open to all guests of the Inn and a full gym with additional instruction.

After that we took advantage of the Eucalyptus Steam Room to relax and sweat out all those toxins.  Between this and the hour long massage it really did make for some much-needed rest.  All of the treatment rooms at Mirbeau have a small fireplace which is the first time I've even seen this.  Additionally, there is a large relaxation room with softly padded loungers, a warm water foot bath, fireplace and meditative music.  It would, in fact, be quite easy to fall asleep here.

After our Spa visit we were off to tour a winery (more on that later) then returned and officially checked in.  The rooms are quite comfy and spacious indeed.  Our room had a balcony which overlooked the adjacent golf course and Jacuzzi area.

I was naturally drawn to the writing desk, as always, good for writing those three morning pages that I complete every day.

All of the rooms at Mirbeau (there are fifty in all) also have a cozy sitting area with a fireplace.  It really could not have been more inviting.

The bathrooms are large, as well, with a pedestal soaking tub in every room, another reminder of French luxury, as well as a walk-in shower with a huge rainforest showerhead that you will never want to leave. 

Shortly after check-in we freshened up and headed out to our Dinner In A Bog, also arranged by Mirbeau, as covered in the previous post.  By the time we arrived back there was a full moon filling the night sky.

The night had grown cold so we relaxed a bit in front of the roaring fire in the lobby.  The onsite Bistro And Wine Bar was filled with locals and visitors enjoying an elegant meal.  The atmosphere is not overly formal here but we did notice many of the people leaving the bistro were beautifully dressed adding to the French mystique and culture.

After this we headed off to the room, exhausted after a long day of touring, yet relaxed, calling it an early night with a full eight hours of sleep, a luxury we had not seen in many weeks.

The next morning there was a nice stroll around the property and through the Monet Garden as the sun rose.  It was so quiet and peaceful.

After a sumptuous breakfast at the bistro featuring delicious croissants made in the kitchen and certainly on par with any we've had in France and a delicious quiche along with endless cups of coffee we called it a wrap and, as much as we wanted to stay for another day of complete rest, headed back home. 

The property is clearly beautiful and in a quiet, wooded area off the beaten patch.  Both the service and facilities were superb in every way.  Early risers like myself can fix a fresh morning coffee at the breakfast station on the first floor.  There is no need to call room service for it unless, of course, one wants to.  You are also free to grab a morning newspaper.  On this day it was a full Sunday paper, yet another reason to relax with your feet up.

All of the little details are attended to which really makes the difference between a good hotel stay and an excellent one.  We also loved the fact that the property really does have a French countryside feel to it, not the Disneyesque euro-faux one  might experience at other properties.  Just beautiful and certainly one we would recommend for a weekend splurge to just get away from it all.

Mirbeau Inn And Spa At Pine Hills
35 Landmark Drive
Plymouth, MA  02360
Telephone:  508.209.2626

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