Friday, August 26, 2016

Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival 2016

It's really not that far away and I guarantee you that it will sell out.  What am I talking about?  The Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival 2016, of course.  This is the most refined and polished wine event of all held in the Northeast.  With the opulent elegance of the mansions as your backdrop on one side and the breathtaking views of the water on the other, you'll enjoy hours of great wine and food with lots of fun people.

We'll begin on Friday night with the Wine And Rosecliff event, a stellar evening soiree on the grounds of the mansion where The Great Gatsby was filmed.  Many wine vendors will be available to talk about their wines on a more intimate level.  Dozens of great chefs (many from Boston) will be serving up innovative fare to pair with your wine.  And, again, the crowd at this event has more fun than any other.  Last year we were even asked to photograph a wedding proposal at the fountain gracing the rolling lawn!  There will be music and dancing, as well.

The following day, Saturday, we'll be off to Marble House for the day.  Again, there will be loads impressive architecture, interesting wines, delicious food samples and lots of other food vendors.  The one and only Jacques Pépin will be providing all with an afternoon cooking demonstration.  You'll meet people from literally all over the world.  Last year we sat down and had a café au lait with a gentleman who flew his Cessna in from Canada for the event! 

Don't miss it.  Yes, it's a bit of a splurge but you deserve it.  And I guarantee that you will never, ever regret coming to this event.  My advice is also to book your hotel room as soon as possible if you plan to stay overnight as everything will be totally booked within the next week or so. 

Hope to see you there in your Gatsby best!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wine Of The Week

In 1497 two noble Venetian families joined in marriage and began producing wine.  The family tradition continues today with this Barone Fini Valdadige Pino Grigio.  Delicate lemon and fuller fruit flavors are noted - melon, apple.  A bright acidity creates a lingering, crisp finish making it the perfect summer wine.  

As the season wanes and we enjoy those last few dinners, or just appetizers before heading out to dinner, with friends on the patio we've been enjoying this wine and it's been very popular so we thought we'd share it with you.  It's great with pasta, seafood and chicken but really it pairs well with everything including dishes with bolder flavors.  We also brought a bottle to a recent Buon Ferragosto dinner.  A hit!  Maybe because it's Italian.

Sip slowly and enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

TBF At Red Bull Flugtag Boston 2016

It was a stunning day In Boston today for the Red Bull Flugtag competition, the very first time it was held in our city.  It was also incredibly popular with crowd estimates close to 30,000.  We thought it might be well-attended so we arrived quite early to find lines snaking down Storrow Drive past Mass. General Hospital.

We had enough time to hang out and chat with some of the participants who were cleary embracing their roles as each of the 30 teams competing had a strong theme.  "Flugtag" is a German word, we learned, that translates to "Flight Day" and this is a serious competitive sport all over the world. 

As luck would have it we were able to tuck ourselves in right beside the Judges Tent, probably the best view at the event.

The pier right in front of us was filled with media including underwater and swimming cameramen meaning that whenever the judges held up their cards the cameras swept over us, too.

Of course, we would have loved being high atop the ramp with our cameras for a while.  Then again, it wouldn't have been the best view when all those contraptions headed directly into the drink.

The opening began with Rene Rancourt (who else?) singing the National Anthem as a hush fell over the crowd.

Then, out of the sky, two Red Bull parachutists spiraled over the Charles River, falling at the rate of 60 mph at one point, as we've seen them do at other Red Bull events we've attended. They are military-trained ex-servicemen, the first making a stunning landing right onto the ramp hitting his target perfectly.  

Most participants were pushed off the ramp only to see their flying machines completely fall apart or freefall right into the water.

This Swanboat team received what was probably the loudest applause as their design swan-dived into the cold water.  The visual, however, was beautiful!

Each team selected three members who had to jump off the ramp into the water to assist the boat teams who swooped in to pick up the pieces.  In some cases there were a LOT of pieces.

We had high hopes for the Flying Bananas, the team of M. I. T. nerds who spent two months working out the physics and engineering of their design.

Yeah, the genius team proved their reputation.  The crowd roared as their design broke in half in one half of one second after leaving the ramp.  (Do the math: If Johnny is traveling at ... okay forget it).

And, YES, some of them actually flew!  It was a great day, great weather and great fun ranking right up there with our airship flight over Boston last summer.  Who needs Indy cars and Olympics, anyway?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Eat Drink Lucky

Eat Drink Lucky reached out to us at TBF a few weeks back because, well, we seemed to have similar values:  Food, drink and fun.  All in an easy format.

What they do is send you a trim (not a lot of words) email each morning with three ideas for fun things to or places to eat or drink. It's the exact opposite of those endless columns from people who seem like they attended the Frasier Crane school of restaurant criticism.  

We're featured today on their site.  Hope you sign up like we did and enjoy!


Monday, August 15, 2016

San Francisco Salt Co.

Salt is just salt, right?  To some home cooks it is but there are many types of salt.  Perhaps best known is Maldon salt, the flaky, stronger salt used by many Chefs for the extra zing of flavor and crispy texture.  As my palate has become more educated over the years I've used a variety of salts.  From Himalaya to Hawaii, there are pink salts, gray salts and even black salts.  

I was recently sent this sample of Whiskey Smoked Irish Sea Salt from the San Francisco Salt Co.  I like it.  It has a very fine texture and a slight smokiness to it that's different. Neither I nor any of the TBF friends I had sample it could detect any whiskey flavor which is fine by me but we all agreed we liked it.  I like it so much, in fact, that I will probably check out some of the other flavors on their website.  Sometimes the smallest things will make a big difference in the flavor of your dishes.  We suggest you try it and we'd love to hear from you if you do.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dinner At Top Catch

It was a beautiful summer night in Boston when I made my way from the Navy Yard to the North End waterfront for a bloggers only dinner at Top Catch, a new restaurant room atop Joe's American Bar & Grill on the fringe of Christopher Columbus Park.  

The story was interesting.  Joe's had a top floor function room with a spectacular view that was being underutilized.  So, they changed it into a new brand, a separate restaurant with a focus on fresh seafood.

And the view is, without a doubt, great, especially as the sun sets over the city.  

We began with this basket of Cheddar Biscuits with Tangerine Butter, which they hope will become a signature starter and constantly baked up fresh.  Very nice and I predict that they will, indeed, be a hit with the public.

My White Sangria seemed the perfect choice for a bright and airy evening.  Of course they also have Red and Rosé.  I loved the Rosé, too, and highly recommend you try one.

The Mussels are from Maine.  In fact a special note was made that they do not use P. E. I. mussels, a favorite with many local Chefs. Although I have always liked P. E. I. mussels, I found these to be as good as any I have had.

The Tuna Tartare, served with crispy crackers was also very good.

I asked to sample the Lobster Bisque and found it be much lighter than others I have tried with loads of lobster meat in a brothier base.  Sometimes a Bisque can be too heavy on the cream and butter.  I liked this version.

My main course was the Grilled Scallops With Pea Sauce.  This was excellent, light but with the unmistakable taste of the sea and the delicate sweetness of the fresh peas.  Nice job.

Although I didn't sample it on this visit the Lobster Roll looked very good with loads of meat, obviously a mayonnaise version.  I'll try that next time.

And, of course, what would a blogger dinner be without photos?  I was glad to be the only male blogger at the event.  The conversation was lively and interesting.

Then there was Chocolate Cake.  This is a phenomenal dessert and not to be missed.  I was most taken with the texture, perfectly cakey but also as if there was a ribbon of pudding mixed in without being overly dense.  Remarkable.

For great views, good seafood and professional service we'd definitely visit again.  The crowd was very diverse, all ages, and seemed a 50/50 mix of locals and travelers visiting Boston in this somewhat touristy area of the city, a stone's throw from Faneuil Hall.  It did make me wonder why I don't get to this beautiful part of the city more often.  A great spot for everyone, dates, friends and family.

Top Catch
100 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA  02110
Telephone:  617.367.8700


So here we go, again, with the disclosure that this was a media dinner and not for the public. As such, as most people will understand, there was no cost to the food writers and/or reporters, kinda like all those TV segments you see only the F. T. C. doesn't seem to mind that they don't disclose that.  Our views are in no way influenced by that, however.  We call 'em as we see 'em, folks.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

World Of Beer

It was my birthday so how could I resist an invitation from World Of Beer, the new spot at Cambridgeside Galleria, that features over 560 beers!  I had never heard of this chain but when I mentioned online that I was going I heard from my cousin in Florida who said he just returned from WOB and loved it.  It's in the space where the old California Pizza was which I have to say had grown tired.  This place is much more fun and the time to go was definitely Friday night.  There were tables full of people who were clearly friends or coworkers celebrating the start of the weekend by exploring beer!

All of the choices make for difficult decisions. We wanted to try everything!  And the very best way to do that is with a flight of beers.  I went with seasonal while my dining and drinking companion went with local brews.  Sam Adam's Summer was a taste I was familiar with.  I especially liked the Narragansett Del's Shandy and Harpoon's Camp Wannamango. We sipped right along with the lively group.

Servers here are especially knowledgeable. They must have to pass a course or something. They also provide you with a tablet that can help guide you through the choices based on your preferences.  You can select such options as color, imports and alcohol content.  Of course, we had already done this online beforehand to get an idea of the array.

Local brews included Wachusett Blueberry and Harpoon White IPO.  The Jack's Abby Smoke And Dagger was a fave here.  The signature appetizer is the giant pretzel served with a great beer cheese.  Carb overload, yes, but, hey, I was celebrating.  Plus, you are close enough to the Charles River for a summer evening stroll afterwards to help work off the calories.

Not one to drink on a totally empty stomach, we ordered an entree each but the real fun, let's face it, was the beer.  Is it fine dining? No but it's certainly as good as it is at any other beer hall or beer garden type situation.

I went with the salmon (no surprise there) which was actually quite good.  In fact, I brought what I couldn't finish home with me.  The best part was that I told our server that she could choose the beer to pair with my meal.  I was very impressed that she chose the Erdinger Hefeweizen, a brew I noted on my "must try" list when looking at the website earlier.  Great choice!

The best fun was when they actually let me take control of the board and rearrange a few beers to my own liking.  Great fun!  I will certainly be back and likely with an even larger group of beer-loving friends.  WOB is open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.

World Of Beer
Cambridgeside Galleria
100 Cambridgeside Place
Cambridge, MA  02141
Telephone:  617.945.5107


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Foodery

There a lot of meal prep services out there now designed, of course, for busy people like us who don't always have time for grocery shopping (a major excursion here), food preparation and then cooking, especially on weeknights.  Some of them will deliver the full ingredients with a recipe and you do the cooking.  We've tried them and liked them.

The Foodery delivers the meals fully prepared, however.  All you really have to do is heat them up.  What's great is that it's all made from scratch, sourced with fresh, local produce with no GMOs, hormones or antibiotics.  That, we love.  They recently asked us to try the service and give them our thoughts.  So, here goes.

We sampled two dishes.  The first as Grass-fed Beef Cottage Pie With Potato/Cauliflower Mash.  It was certainly easy to heat this in the oven, as directed, and the flavors where actually quite good, especially the sharp white cheddar with it's perfectly chewy texture.

Now, we love a homemade Cottage or Shepherd's Pie (as many know it).  When making it we use the same top quality ingredients and we just think there is nothing quite like our own.  It does take a while to make it they way we like it, though.  This could not have possibly been any easier.  We also quite liked the cauliflower addition and may just well make this a new ingredient for our own recipe.  Still, it was good.

The second dish we sampled was Agave Sweet And Sour Chicken. This meal was actually microwaveable so we did that.  Again, it could not have been any easier and this one was great.  In fact, it was really as if we had made the meal from scratch ourselves. Loved it.

Both dishes held up well for reheating the next day.  So, the verdict: two thumbs up!  The menus are constantly changing based upon what is fresh at local markets and we like that, too.  Gone, though, are the hours we can spend in the produce aisle picking everything over until we find the best quality.  Easy.  Easy.  Easy.

And who doesn't like easy options for healthy meals these days? We'll be checking the menus online (there's something for everyone) and look forward to taking a few nights off kitchen duty and becoming a full-fledged customer.

The Foodery


Update:  The Foodery has agreed to offer our TBF friends and readers an exclusive 20% discount on your first order.  Just use coupon code BostonFoodieEatWell2016 on your order! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Oath Craft Pizza

We here at TBF tend to be pizza pie purists so when Oath Craft Pizza, a new spot in Davis Square, invited us over to check out their pizza with a new style of crust we were a bit skeptical.

First off,  upon arriving the line of people went outside the door, so we immediately figured they might be onto something.

The pizzas are prepared with a thin crust.  Nothing unusual there. They did have some topping combinations that seemed intriguing.  

The difference is that the dough is drenched in oil then run through a very hot convection oven for exactly ninety seconds.  The result is a very crispy crust that's basically flash-fried. I'd describe the texture as a cross between a fried wonton and fried dough.  I know, sounds strange, right?

So, even we were surprised when we discovered that we liked it! Actually, we loved it.  It certainly is unconventional, different and there is nothing wrong with that at all.

There is a variety of flavors you can check out on the website but our favorite was clearly the Dougie:  Mozzarella, Roasted Potato, Smoked Bacon, Ranch Drizzle and Scallion.  Top taste of the visit.

They also have dessert pizzas which also worked well, making the pies a fine pastry.

We did take a few slices home to test just how the flavors and textures hold up when reheated.  They even give you a small card with specific reheating instructions.  We followed this and, yes, the slices came out perfectly fine, as if freshly-made even.

It's also a fun place with an upscale decor for a pizza spot.  The crowd ran the gamut from hipsters (it is Somerville) to families. So, if you are looking for something new and unusual to try, we'd suggest you visit.  We will defintely be back!

Davis Square
280 Elm Street
Somerville, MA  02144
Telephone:  617.996.6395


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cuisine and Confessions: Food As Theater

(L-R) Pablo Pamparo (cast member), William, Nella Niva (cast member) and Dean Igoe.
Photo by cast member Melvin Diggs.

It was Press Night last night at the Cutler Majestic for the new show CUISINE AND CONFESSIONS, which opened Tuesday evening.  We had not been inside the Majestic in years and had forgotten just how aptly named it is, so rich and elegant, comfortable but with that traditional air of formality.

There is nothing quite like live theater, especially in a world of Netflix and online gaming (no names mentioned) and we embraced all of the old world charms with open arms.  And there is nothing traditional about this show that defies description but is a delightful night of entertainment and laughter.  Part circus, part drama, breathtaking acrobatics, beautiful choreography, a diverse, international cast and all, believe it or not, with a full working kitchen (sink and stove included) where they actually produce food that will be served to the audience at the end of the performance.  We know this because we helped grate the cheese.  Fantastic!

That's right, they not only juggle the oversize whisks, pots and pans but they also use them to mix the ingredients.  And it's fun, too.  The characters draw you in with the stories of food that define their lives be it a joyous, content or sad tale.  The audience is even encouraged to participate by using their mobile devices (in a theater, no less) to help build to the climax.  I won't give away how.  The performance is eighty-five minutes, not a single one of them dull.

All in all, it's a lively night that's perfect for families or couples or a major coup as a surprise event for a second date.  Win.  Win.  Win.  Just go see it before this colorful troupe leaves town on August 8th.  Until then, we'll be looking forward to dining with the cast at restaurants all over town.

Cuisine And Confessions
Presented by The 7 Fingers Circus
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater
219 Tremont Street
Boston, MA  02116
Now through August 7


Disclosure:  Although we find it extremely difficult to believe that a single one of our readers does not understand what "Press Night" means, here goes:  It's the night when the Press and Media are invited to attend. For free.  Without paying.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Brunch At Strip By Strega

The sleek design is there.  The undulating leather banquettes with fresh cala lillies that match the color.  The curved ceiling.  The shiny bar.

Strip By Strega feels different during the day, though.  The glittering night scene with drinks freely flowing, the occasional pro sports star spotted in the crowd of beautiful people, a DJ and music that pumps loud separate it into a different affair on a quiet Sunday.  It's still signature Nick Varano:  great service, the old-school glamor feel of the place, great design elements, a staff that instantly makes one feel like an old friend and the food.  Yes, the food.

Yet, it still has that private club feel and as the minutes tick by a crowd trickles in for the Sunday brunch.  We are among them, at the invite of the restaurant.  We start with, of course, Mimosas.  Here, there is not just a Bloody Mary bar where one can mix but also a Mimosa bar. 

It's no surprise that I order the Smoked Salmon Benedict With Asparagus, Hollandaise, Lemon Zest and Dill.  The sauce is lemony rich, the eggs perfectly turned out in bright yellow, runny drips.

My dining companion goes for the Bacon and Cheese Omelette with Spinach, Feta and Caramelized Onions.  It arrives looking like a comfy pillow.

It is fluffy and light on the tongue and the inside packed with flavor, with juices just waiting to be sopped up by the whole grain slice of toast served with it.

The Truffle Frites are about as good as it gets, crispy with a good potato taste and hint of truffle.

We had to, of course, try at least one dessert so we went with the White Chocolate Cake With Raspberry Jelly and Raspberry Sorbetto.  Served on a slate tray, it is a beautiful combination and even better with the frothy cup of cappuccino ordered with it.
The brunch service here is fairly new but they are clearly at the top of their game on the food.  That's always the case at any Nick Varano spot we have visited.  The only thing missing was the full cast of colorful characters that also accompany any time spent here.  Not to worry.  It's only a matter of time.
This would be a great spot for a nicer, even dressier brunch with a quality of food that is pretty much guaranteed in a sea of places where it's just average.
64 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116
Telephone:  617.456.5300