Sunday, August 23, 2015

White Horse Tavern, Newport RI

You'd be dining with Chef Rich Silvia in THE most historic food setting in the United States, the very essence of 17th Century American architecture and the oldest restaurant in the country, one of the top eight oldest in the world.  Lots of well-known people have dined here, from historical figures to movie stars.  It is White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, established in 1673 and still operating in the very same location.

Just to know you are dining at an epicenter of colonial life in New England is fascinating but the food is also excellent.  We began our recent meal, guests of the restaurant, with the Strawberry Gazpacho, cooling and sweetish and a great start we highly recommend.

The Tuna Tartare was above and beyond the others we tried in Newport on our recent dining tour of this famed city, a fresh, tasty plate.

Excellent, as well, was the Beet Salad, a different presentation of the classic salad dish and bursting with layers of fresh flavor.

Greg opted for the Beef Wellington, the, again, classic dish with a thin layer of foie gras paté and wrapped in a perfect puff pastry, the beef tender and satisfying.  Many times the portion of this dish is daunting but this one was just right.

My Lobster Risotto was also exemplary.  Nice chunks of fresh lobster in a buttery-rich, creamy bed of arborio rice.

Dean's Ribeye was slathered in a delicious herb sauce, medium rare melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

And then there was dessert.  The Chocolate Indulgence is a mix of white and dark chocolate, dense and flavorful, not overly heavy and just beautiful on the plate.

The stunner, however, was the not-to-be-missed Root Beer Float made with currently highly popular Not Your Father's Root Beer and finished with a hefty slab of bacon.  We had planned to make our own root beer floats using this product but I guess Chef Silvia beat us to the idea!  Needless to say it's a fantastic confection to end your feast.

Although the structure is old the menu is clearly farm-to-table, upscale American fare with some elegant twists. The myriad of excellent local ingredients and sources is listed on the menu.  The wine list is impressive and the space has none of the kitschy, touristy feel one might expect.  Service was totally professional, informative and fun.  It's simply legendary dining suited perfectly to a special occasion, a real stunning example of dining in Newport. We give this a big thumbs up and strongly suggest making reservations in advance.

The White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough Street
Newport, RI  02840
Telephone:  401.849.3600

Here's a great, brand new video capturing the experience you will have at the Tavern and featuring some of the very dishes we enjoyed:  White Horse Tavern.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Splurge: Newport Wine and Food Festival 2015

You have about a month to get ready and you know you deserve a splurge to usher in the cool Fall weather.  The beach chairs and blankets will probably be packed away, the wardrobes changed out, a new social season beginning and the cool, sunny, refreshing evenings welcome.  Besides, it's an experience that you will never forget.  We're talking about the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival 2015, taking place this year on the weekend of September 25-27.  And this being the tenth anniversary of the event, it promises to be better than ever.

This is probably our favorite food and wine celebration of the year and part of the fun will be the impressive backdrops, the characters, the fashions and formality, the conversation and all of that stunning architecture by the sea.  Our itinerary starts out on Friday at Wine and Rosecliff.  Amidst the glowing gilded rooms of the mansion we'll sample exclusive wines not available at the Grand Tasting. Rosecliff has been featured in a number of films, including The Great Gatsby, True Lies and Amistad so we'll also be walking in the history of film and the Gilded Age.

On Saturday, the red carpet will be rolled out to welcome guests to Marble House for the first full day of the Grand Tasting.  Again, there will be lots of wines for sampling as well as food and lifestyle products.  Last year we made tons of new food and wine enthusiast friends, including TV Chef Sara Moulton.

Photo ops, great food and wines, a peek inside opulence, relaxing on the lawn overlooking the Cliff Walk, just imagining life in a bygone era where it was all about elegant social interaction ... exactly the kind of thing our readers love.  If that's not enough, Martha Stewart and Jacques Pepin together will join the crowd for a once-in-a-lifetime presentation.

The entire event usually sells out.  So, don't miss it.  Many people would give anything just to tour one of these incredible residences.  You should join us for a party in one.  We'd love to see you there. Tickets and information can be found here.

Newport, here we come, again.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

On Food Bloggers

I've been blogging for over eight years now and during that time the blog landscape has changed considerably. When I began there were maybe six or so food bloggers.  We were all known to Chefs and restaurants and, I am told, were often the topic of conversation when Chefs gathered for a drink after the restaurants had all closed. Today there are hundreds of bloggers writing about all kinds of topics.  Many have carved out a specialized niche where they write about, say, only cupcakes or hamburgers.  

I have never considered myself to be a restaurant critic.  I will visit a restaurant and write about my impressions and tell the food stories behind some of the players.  Everyone seems to have a friend who dines out often, is eager to try new places, cooks at home and enjoys lively discussions about food.  I am that person.  What I write is pretty much the way I would describe a restaurant to a friend who asked about it.  To that I try to add as many pictures as possible - of the plates, the atmosphere and the people who both work there and visit.

As a former magazine columnist who still is lucky enough to be offered freelance assignments, the blog was a way for me to keep my journalistic muscles in shape.  Many bloggers and food writers have no background in writing.  I think of it as being the publisher and reporter of my own, little publication.  I get to call the editorial shots which, is often the best part, seeking out stories and deciding for myself just what I'll cover.  Food is an endlessly interesting subject.

I also have a lot of fun writing the blog, as you can imagine.  I enjoy the social aspect of "social media" and most often the fun of it all is getting together with other writers and bloggers at food events and restaurants.  I often will self-parody myself and make fun of the so-called "celebrity" status of being a well-known blogger.  We do get invited to some extraordinary and elegant events that people who are strictly restaurant critics do not.  On the other hand, without a staff of proofreaders and assistants, we all make mistakes.

I try to use that status to give back.  I have helped promote many charitable causes (I have a flawless record of helping to sell out all of the events that I promote and attend) and most readers know of my volunteer work with the very worthy organization Future Chefs both as an advisor and mentor.  This has been the most rewarding part of it all and I wish more food bloggers would adopt an important non profit to support and align with. Seeing a few of our alumni go on to become the next generation of top tier Chefs in Boston has been worth more than any payment for freelance gigs or photos in society columns.  

I have been invited to sit on panel discussions for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and Publicity Club Of Boston to share my insight on what bloggers like to write about.  Chefs have given me exclusive stories that have gone viral and the broadcast media has cooperated with hundreds of thousands of page views.  I do radio shows.  ABC TV has called me for media comments.

I receive email from people all over the world who are coming to Boston and want to know where to eat.  I've endured criticism for being a "foodie" but feel quite confident that most people are okay with that label.  In fact, when someone in London googles "Boston foodie" this blog has been the number one return for many years now.  A good forty percent of my audience is international.  I've been sent hundreds of gadgets and food samples to try. Frankly, most of them are not worth writing about so I don't.  I've been invited to audition for several reality TV shows but I'm not much one for manufactured drama, no matter how many hits it will get me. And when people take cheap shots at me I still, sometimes, feels compelled to point out that no one is forcing them to read.

The food blog community in Boston is a friendly place.  Many newer bloggers attack it competitively at first, dollar signs in their eyes as the next famous food critic.  Every photo is watermarked.  They run home after an event and stay up all night so that they can be the first to post.  I used to, too.  After a while, however, you realize that there is room for everyone at the table.  Your voice will find an audience if you are good at it.  And, quite often, your post will drive traffic into the restaurant.  

I'm not an investigate reporter.  I don't need scoops.  I am enough of a writer to find an angle that nobody else has thought of.  I am not threatened by the fact that there are now hundreds of food bloggers and probably will be for a long time.  

With all of that in mind, I recently reached out to Chefs and restaurant owners to share their thoughts on the current state of food blogging in Boston.  I had a great response with some real insight and a range of opinions. Here it is.  

“I think food bloggers are still an absolute and important part of the local food community. To me, they can carry more weight, information and sincerity than horrific “user” sights like Yelp!.  Bloggers can be a trusted source for the online community of people interested in learning about food and restaurants.  

I do believe newer bloggers could benefit from the more seasoned athletes (guys like Marc Hurwitz, Patrick McGuire, William McAdoo, Rachel Cossar  and others) on respecting the "pen is mightier than the sword" philosophy.

For the most part, these guys stay clear of undeserved business bashing and understand that restaurants can and will have an off night and they always respect the hospitality workers including the servers, hosts, cooks, dishwashers and everyone in between.  

Newer bloggers should remember that there’s only a few professional critics left in the city and they should blog with information and facts; random bloggers that come in and demand free food and after the third Grey Goose martini start bragging that their wife always thought they should be a food critic or (gasp) restaurant owner… These are the bloggers to be wary of. There's only one Boston Globe and Devra First so new bloggers should stick to blogging, not criticism. 

Bloggers that express a deep love and understanding of food, beverage and vibe are the ones I love to cook for (and forgive my previous rant as 99% of the bloggers I've met in this city are people I love to read and follow). Bloggers have been a tremendous part of the Boston restaurant fellowship and growth and I am genuinely happy to see them when they dine with me at the restaurants."

Brian Poe, Chef & Owner of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, The Tip Tap Room, Bukowski Tavern – Cambridge and CLUCKIT!

I agree with Chef Poe on Devra First.  I have long said that she is the best restaurant critic in print although I do not always agree with her.  She seems to have unlocked the key to it:  that food is an emotional experience, not just a list of ingredients and the names of mixologists.   The classic form of print restaurant critic is already outmoded.  People don't want 10,000 words and one or two photos. She seems to keep it fresh.

"In today's world of social media where everyone has the opportunity to become a critic, food bloggers are the new opinion leaders and trend setters. They are often more influential than the mainstream press because of the instant access to their content." 

Chef Jacky Robert of Ma Maison

Even in print I have noticed that publications will not wait months to visit a new restaurant.  They now are quick to offer a preview or first peek inside.  Conversely, given the economic realities, new restaurants are set to be on top of their game from opening night.  Far more time is spent on training and they would rather delay an opening than not be ready for critics from day one.

“It seems to me that everyone is a food critic these days with all of the social media sites and review opportunities. I know when I am researching where to eat in a new area, I love to go online to see what others think of a potential restaurant. When I stumble upon a blogger though, I tend to regard their input higher than the reviewers on Yelp or Trip Advisor. Typically they have a wider experience and also have a food or restaurant background. They seem to see the big picture and really try to interpret what the chef or restaurant is trying to accomplish, rather than what they wish they were trying to portray. I also love when they include photos of what they are enjoying.” 

Jennifer Ziskin, Co-Owner of Heritage of Sherborn and La Morra

“Food Bloggers are very important to the local food/restaurant community. With so many choices in your local community and with consumers realizing that many paid sites are biased, guests are looking for a trusted expert in the food industry for suggestions on their next culinary experience.” 

Peter Ackerman,  Senior Vice President Salvatore’s Restaurants

“Bloggers have always been a big part of our success. I want people to come in, evaluate and if they like what we’re doing become passionate ambassadors of our restaurants.” 

Paul Turano Chef/Owner Cook in Newton, MA | Tryst in Arlington, MA

“Bloggers are extremely important to the food community. We’ve always found them to be supportive of the restaurant and by them communicating via their blogs more and more people have become aware of our location." 

Salvatore Boscarino, Co-Owner Pier 6

“Food Bloggers are an incredible resource for local restaurant communities today - they are an amazing form of marketing that stretches beyond an establishment’s everyday reach. Food bloggers are modern day journalists - they breathe life and individualism into the media landscape."

Brooke Barsanti, Food & Wine Programmer, Boston Center for Adult Education

“It is becoming increasingly more important for us as restaurateurs to have media exposure online. The rich SEO content that bloggers provide carries a lot of weight and when done responsibly we always welcome it.” 

Jack Bardy, Co-Owner, The Beehive/Beat Brasserie

"There are so many great chefs and wonderful new restaurants in the greater Boston area, it can be hard to keep track of what’s new as a hospitality professional, let alone a consumer. I think the food blogger community plays a crucial role in providing timely and relevant information to the public, as well as informing us on what’s new, different, and interesting in the ever-changing restaurant world."

Corey Barriera, Regional Director of Operations at Papa Razzi

“Food bloggers are very important to the restaurant community. These days there are so many vehicles to get insight on a restaurant and whether you should dine there or not. We all have fallen into the routine of the quick google search before dining; good, bad, or indifferent it’s what we do. Having people who write about you that people trust and follow can help get a true and honest perspective on what your venue is. There are so many choices for diners today, which is a great thing so a positive review from a blogger that people trust can really go a long way to help your establishment go to the top of the list. BLOG away, hopefully it’s all good!”

Davide Crusoe, General Manager of Chopps American Bar and Grill 

“At The Palm Boston, we value the feedback of the blogging community tremendously. Diners look to bloggers as experts and as a trusted source with knowledgeable and independent thoughts and opinions on their personal dining experiences. These opinions carry more weight than public review sites and definitely impact the consumers’ everyday dining decisions.”

Brian Brosnihan, General Manager of The Palm Boston

"Food bloggers play an integral role in the restaurant industry across the globe, especially here in the Boston area. We’ve found that the Boston blogging community shows an extraordinary interest in the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into our work on a daily basis.  Boston blogs tend to dig a little deeper into the creativity of the hospitality industry to give readers insight into what we have going on beyond the menu.”

Israel Medina, Executive Chef of BOKX 109 in Newton

“Food blogs have become much more prominent in the Boston restaurant community over the past decade and readers truly value the opinions of a knowledgeable blogger. The blogging community really sets the stage for prospective customers, providing them with valuable insight and a firsthand perspective into the restaurant’s culture, offerings, and experience before they even walk through the door.”
Bill Brodsky, Chief Culinary Officer, Boston Nightlife Ventures

I also heard from some Chefs and restaurant owners who wished to remain off the record. A few said that they no longer pay attention to food bloggers preferring, instead, to solely focus on serving the best food and giving the finest service that a restaurant is capable of.   Bravo! NOT a bad set of priorities.  You can have all the food bloggers in the world at your restaurant.  Without impressive food and service it won't help at all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Barking Crab Newport

Our trip to Newport, Rhode Island could not have been more fun.  We hit town just before the tourist season rush, comfortably ensconced in our elegant but not overly ostentatious digs, the seasonal home of a great TBF friend, with stunning ocean cliff views and acres of wide open, lush green land.

Naturally, we engaged everyone we met with a discussion of the local food scene.  We had invites galore to dine here and there, meet people for drinks and explore new business ventures with young entrepreneurs.  We randomly picked because even a week was not enough to do and see all that wanted to.

On our first evening we ended up at The Barking Crab.  Sometimes a restaurant that is located in a place where the population swells in the summer as people flock to the oceanside can be spotty.  The number of patrons that visit can be overwhelming.  There's always that one place where the drinks and the fun crowd make food take a back seat.  So, if I were to describe this place to a friend I would say that it is one of those places.  Most of the locals we spoke to concurred.  The food is okay but not a standout.  I also have to say that I have found the Boston location to do much better on the food while still being a fun place to visit and enjoy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail.

The dip served with our locally crafted beers, Wachusett Blueberry, was not a bad start.  It was early and admittedly less crowded in the pre-July 4 season.  And we were guests of the restaurant.

The appetizer plate of Hummus, Tuna and Chips with Cucumber Caviar was okay, too.  The little jewels of caviar were probably the best part and playful but not exactly a new idea.

My main course was the Grilled Salmon and Citrus With Beets.  Again, a great idea yet executed in an average way with a super thin, slightly dry flank that lacked the rich flavor of a good salmon.

The Lobster Roll and Sweet Fries looked good but, again, not stellar.  Flaky meat was more prevalent than rich chunks.  And the bits of green onion might have been more fun on the fries as a new twist.

The slice of Key Lime Pie, however, was clearly fresh and made on the premises.  It was creamy and rich and beautiful and, really, one of the best we've had.  This was a clear hit and the highlight of our dinner.

The locals we surveyed all gave us the same report:  popular with tourists looking for a drinking crowd.  Although we never made it back after dark we're pretty sure it's not a top dining hot spot.  It does, however, seem like a conveniently located venue for sips and flirts.  And if you can fit in a slice of that pie, you'll enjoy it.

The Barking Crab Newport
Brick Marketplace
Newport, RI  02840
Telephone:  401.846.2722

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bob's Clam Hut, Kittery

Martha Stewart has dined here.  And just about everyone else who loves fresh seafood and happens to find themselves on the southern Maine coast.  It's a perennial favorite of locals and summer visitors and residents.  It may not be fancy but it, without a doubt, boasts the quintessential Maine clam hut experience.  Yes, we're talking about Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine.

We're one of the few food blogs who was allowed behind the scenes during the busy lunchtime rush on a perfectly sunny but cool day recently.  Other than the great food our biggest takeaway was the sense of family and fun that everyone seems to be having.

We helped Max Berman work the front window order line.  Well, we didn't really help but we were there.  On a good day he'll serve up hundreds of pounds of lobster in lobster rolls to people from literally all over the world.

Pat Licardo took our order.  She's been doing this for over fifteen years, always happy to suggest menu items to first-time visitors.

We started off with a taste of the Lobster Stew.  Delicious chunks of Maine lobster and potato in a rich, buttery but not overly thick broth.

And what could be better than a lobster roll?  An absolute classic, light on the mayo and heavy on the lobster.

Fried seafood selections are also excellent.  Bob's uses local scallops.  We had dined the very night before on fried scallops and these were, hands down, superior.  As were the fried clams.  I'm sure it has to do with their fastidious attention to clean oil used for all the deep frying.

There are lots of clam shacks that dot the roads in Downeast Maine but Bob's has been in operation since 1956 and the lines of hungry patrons every day attest to the fact that they are still number one. Year after year they receive awards and accolades from major media outposts from Forbes to the Food Network.   You absolutely cannot beat the experience.  So, when you go be sure to say hello to Pat or Max for us until we're back again.

Bob's Clam Hut
315 U. S. Route One
Kittery, ME  03904
Telephone:  207.439.4233

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summery Peach Salad

Get ready to discover your new favorite Summer Salad!  Whenever I need to bring something to a barbecue, cookout or just a light dinner party during these dog days of July and August this salad is always the hit of the night.  It's light and refreshing yet packed with sweet and savory flavor profiles: Summery Peach Salad.  It's also very easy to make.

Simply chop up some greens, I use romaine and frisee as they seem to hold up better in the heat and not wilt too fast.  Then simply cut up some fresh peaches into nice chunks or slices, whichever you prefer.  The only other ingredient is shaved pecorino romano cheese.  Use the very best quality that you can afford.

I dress this with a simple vinaigrette.  One part champagne vinegar to three parts good quality extra virgin olive oil.  For the real zing dice up a small shallot and add that to the vinaigrette to your liking. I go really heavy but you may want a lighter version.  The shallot has a mild onion flavor.  Salt and pepper to taste and dress the salad with the vinaigrette before arranging the shaved pecorino on top.  I guarantee that this will be a welcome alternative to the standard macaroni or potato salad that everyone else brings.  After trying this salad once I am sure that you'll be making it over and over again.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Touring Newport, RI

Let's begin our Summer Of Fun Touring New England with a stroll through gorgeous Newport, Rhode Island, summer home to all of those turn of the century industrialist millionaires and their incredible mansions.

The first stop is one that's newer on the landscape, the Audrain Auto Museum.  On your visit it will feature about twenty or so classic vehicles housed in the restored,  historic Bellevue Avenue Audrain building.  This 1927 Mercedes-Benz 630K Drophead Coupe Sport Touring model is exactly the type of luxuriously detailed vehicle we'd order up for our ultimate tailgate fantasy picnic.  Champagne and caviar, anyone?  The cars are switched out every season so that you can return to see newer models.

Just a few steps away is the International Tennis Hall Of Fame.  They still play on the grass courts here and you can stroll in at no charge and sit under the classic gamble roofs and observe the follows. We sat in the boxes so valuable that the families who own them actually will them down to future generations as part of their estates. It's a great spot to sit and relax, enjoying a beverage after walking along our next spot.

The Cliff Walk not only hugs the ocean but also steers one along a procession of glorious mansions both new and old.  It's all stunning homes on one side and breathtaking ocean views on the other.

Along the route you'll probably get some great nature shots so don't forget to bring the camera.

The Cliff Walk has been closed for repairs for the past few years but is now fully open.  Enjoy the views of the Tea House Pagoda on the grounds of the impressive Marble House mansion.  (You may remember we visited here last Fall for the Newport Mansions Food and Wine Festival).

Once the Cliff Walk is complete you can stroll back to town along Bellevue Avenue and enjoy the front views of all of those incredible mansions literally built for ostentatious summer socializing and entertaining.  The Gatsby-like parties were legendary and the wealth was meant to be displayed.  It's the closest thing we have in America to castles built for lavish feasting and dancing in huge ballrooms on spacious grounds.

After a day of walking you'll, of course, be hungry.  In our next few posts we'll check out some dining options in Newport.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer In New England

We've spent the past few months traveling New England and it's made us realize that once the warm weather hits there really is no place like home.  We've also discovered that visitors from all over the country and the world are quite amazed at all of the free cultural and outdoor events offered in Boston and beyond.  From concerts and Shakespeare plays, public art exhibits, food and wine tastings, outdoor activities and just the natural beauty to be discovered there are really multiple options every day and night for every person.

We've traveled the quiet back roads of Vermont to visit an historic Inn and craft food makers and then we dined in New Hampshire.

We were inside Lamborghinis and mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, where we continued to enjoy feasts in uniquely historical and stunning settings while staying atop the cliffs overlooking Narragansett Bay.  There is nothing like waking up to a sunny, breathtaking view.

We've seen New England from the vantage point few get:  floating one thousand feet above the earth at slow velocity in retro-plush comfort.  YES, we are unusualists, adventurers and seekers of the peculiar!

We've had breakfast, lunch, dinners and late night cocktails made from ingredients sourced from the very best that local food and drink has to offer.  From fine dining to casual spots, hits and misses, we've been there.  And although we shun the "best of" lists and compilations that some publications feel compelled to offer we really do feel we have uncovered some true gems.  It's not all high brow and fancy (although who does NOT like luxury?)

And then there's Boston.  We've actually been impressed (and rather surprised) by the huge number of international visitors who take advantage of the summer months to visit our city.  Virtually everywhere we've been we've met people from France, Germany, Luxembourg, Australia, Japan, Britain, Ireland and Canada.  We are truly a world class city that millions of people each year are eager to visit and discover.

Of course, many of these people don't stray too far from the major tourist attractions as part of group tours, etc.  A great part of our readership has always had a wide international reach.  About eighty per cent of the email we get is from people on their way here who have googled the term "Boston Foodie".  Of course, they arrive on the very blog that you are reading now as the first return.  We try to steer them to the lesser-known spots and local events in  neighborhoods coming up over the next few weeks.

Younger visitors are social media savvy and use their phones and tablets to seek out the fun on Twitter and Instagram, where we try to post our weekend picks every Friday.  Most of them are free. All of these are ways to have an enjoyable day or night and meet new, local friends who can take them to even more unknown but interesting spots.  You don't see the tour bus parked at The Lawn On D.  Or when a new tall ship arrives.  Or when people dance the salsa on the banks of the Charles River.  And we are convinced that you, too, should join the experience.

Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing posts about our New England travel and dining adventures. You can follow the hijinx on @theBostonFoodie and the yet more sarcastic @TheBoysOfTBF on Twitter.  On Instagram look for @TBFWilliam and @deano_iam.  Yes, there will be food pics and people pics but never words or names scratched in the sand on the beach.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bienvenue L'Hermione!

French Citizens on holiday visiting Boston, French-Americans who emigrated and a horde of Francophiles and tourists all gathered at Rowe's Wharf this morning after a short parade from Faneuil Hall to formally welcome The Hermione to our city.  A replica of the 18th century ship that carried the Marquis de Lafayette from France with the secret message that France would support an American Revolution will be here all weekend and is open to the public.

Historians agree that without the aid of the French  and the particular fervor of Lafayette we probably would have not won that war.  So, it was a great day to join the French Consulate, Mayor Marty Walsh, United States Navy forces and a cast of hundreds participating in the ceremony in full costume saluting and celebrating the historic alliance.  And the ship is an absolute French beauty!

The Hermione will be open on Sunday, July 12 from 9:00 a. m. to 4:00 p. m. for public viewing but we suggest you get there early.  The lines today were winding for blocks around the Seaport area. There are also a several tents on the Greenway with information and historical exhibits.  And LOTS of cool French tourists to meet!

Friday, July 10, 2015


With many close Greek friends growing up and now Greek members of the family, I look forward to celebrating the cuisine of Greece and the Mediterranean whenever possible.  So, when Demetri Tsolakis of Committee, the hot new restaurant to hit the Seaport - and the new place to be, invited us over for dinner it was only a question of when.  In fact, we left the beaches of Maine and cut short our holiday just to make dinner reservations there. And we do suggest making a reservation.  It's that popular.

Greek culture offers a unique dining experience, other than the fact that it is not unusual for dinner to commence at 10:00 p. m. and last for many hours.  It is a very social, drawn out affair with lots of small plates and much wine and/or cocktails consumed.  It is not short on bold flavors.  The atmosphere is one of celebration where the interaction with others is central.  Dining is an important, serious celebration of life.  And you can feel that whole concept the minute you walk into the airy, modern industrial designed restaurant.  There are many tables filled with groups of friends or associates, six to ten people all sharing plates, laughing, talking, sipping drinks and in absolutely no rush to leave.  Dining here is not a stop before going to an event.  It is THE event.

We began with drinks.  This is the Smoke Show: Strawberry Infused Mayalen Mezcal, Aperol, Amaro #4 and Sweet Vermouth with a Candied Bacon Strip.  Yes, it's boozy but not overpowering, meant to be sipped slowly, savoring each drop of it's smoky goodness.  And that little red clothespin holding the bacon on was a whimsical touch that signaled this was meant to be a fun night out.

Grape Leaf Dolmades with  Rice, Sumac and Pine Nut.  Friends who have prepared these for me at their homes will often add a healthy dose of mint, something I am not exactly a fan of.  Sans the mint, I loved these.  It was also a great way to start.  So much of traditional Greek cuisine is simple and straightforward, not prettied up or lavishly dressed like, perhaps, French haute cuisine.  The moment you sit down a basket of warm pita bread slices and a frothy feta and red pepper sauce is brought to you. Not the most photogenic of plates yet instantly welcoming and satisfying.  We followed this with Baba Ganoush:  Charred Eggplant and Whipped Tahini (not pictured).  Again, a traditional food and about as good as it gets.

As mentioned, everything is small plates called meze, served cold and hot.  Most diners will begin with the cold, then warm, grazing, tasting and sipping as the night moves on.

Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers with Spiced Honey Sauce.  Often, skewered strips of chicken are a combination of burnt and raw.  These were perfect.  The meat was white but not overly firm, and it was succulent.  The plate is served with only two skewers which was somewhat of a tease as they were so good.  Then again, there was yet much more to taste.

Eggplant:  Braised Chickpea and Eggplant, Clay-Baked with Sweet Sauce.  Again, not the most beautiful thing you'll see and not fancied up with Versace plates or other unnecessary gimmicks but it hits all the right flavor notes.

Grilled Haloumi:  Cypriot Cheese with Blistered Grapes and Ouzo.  This was my favorite.  The cheese has a very salty bite.  The texture is firm but chewy, like a thick caramel.  The delicate sweetness of the heated grapes cuts through the salt just beautifully.  And then the drizzle of Ouzo. Simple yet layered with so many tastes and sensations.

The crowd was growing.  We were now fully relaxed and everyone around us seemed to have lost the sense of rush that invades our days.  It was time for another cocktail.  Mandarine Sour:  Mandarine Napoleon, Cognac, Dry Curacao, Vanilla Syrup, Fresh Lemon Juice, Egg White, Aromatic and Orange Bitters.  Best taken in small sips but very refreshing.

Keftedakia:  Greek-style Meatballs with Oregano and Tzatziki.  Again, simplicity.  Greek meatballs may seem drier than the Italian-style, steeped in a simmering vat of sauce for hours, that most are used to.  I like them dry. The cooling Tzatziki is the perfect accompaniment.

Lahmajun:  Ground Spiced Lamb, Charred Tomato and Nigella, served on a pita crust.  As many readers know I am a huge fan of the Lahmajun pie and often stock up in the middle eastern food shops in Watertown.  So, needless to say, this was a huge favorite, a very special treat and a hit of the night.  It's so much more than just a Mediterranean version of pizza.  The delicate flavor of lamb is a top flavor profile in my medley.  When you visit, this is not to be missed.

We sampled the Rice Pudding for dessert (not pictured).  Some diners may find it bland but the creamy texture and subtle taste is meant to quiet the palate after a night of spicy plates.  Americans enjoy huge desserts with tons of sugar and bold, zingy flavors.  The Rice Pudding is clearly more subdued and served in a portion for one - not three to five.

Galaktobourekakia: (pictured above) Custard, Phyllo, Honey and Fruit.  Half the fun of this dessert is learning how to pronounce it.  We'll save the fun for you to enjoy with your server, who just may actually be from Greece, but if you want to seem cultured the last "kia" is silent.  However you pronounce it, it's delicious.  Layers of textures and flavors.

Needless to say, we would highly recommend a visit.  Even if you sit alone with a glass of wine and just have the Lahmajun or Grilled Haloumi, you're bound to feel at home and among new friends.  I can absolutely see this as a regular stop whenever we're in the Seaport area.

50 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA  02210
Telephone:  617.737.5051