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Wine Bar @ Central Bottle

15 Feb

A crew from Island Creek Oysters

Wine, something to snack on and a beautiful space make Thursday “Wine Bar” events at Central Bottle a must on your to do list.   What better way to start off your week end than be stopping by Central Bottle, in Cambridge, just a short walk from the Central Square MBTA stop, and share a glass of wine with a friend or meet some new ones?  Last night, Valentine’s in case you missed it, Central Bottle kicked off the lovers holiday with a special treat of “Buck a Shuck” Oysters from Island Creek, and four different wines.

Six and one equals a bit more than a Hamilton

I tried a glass of the Valentina Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Rosato 2009 and six oysters, straight off the boat, so to speak. The wine was clean and fresh with a bit of flower to it, and it complemented the oysters well.   Six oysters and the glass of wine ran me just a bit over a Hamilton, and when you include the lively atmosphere, it comes out to a very good deal.

Lots of folks starting Valentine's Day at Central Bottle

I’d never been to Central Bottle – it’s been open for a year or so – and it was nice to have a moment to look around.   While I was there I ran into partner Nick, and he showed me around the place despite the crowd of folks hanging out.   Nick explained that in addition to wine they also carried beer as well as provisions for a perfect evening.   The space is well stocked with various wines from around the world, and they are slowly moving more American offerings to the shelves as well.

Close to the door, right were you need them

One of the nice features, if you are looking for a quick bottle that isn’t going to empty your pocket, is that they keep a table close to the door stocked with $ 15 and under bottles, which can be handy for last minute purchase.

For the moment it seems Wine Bar is every Thursday (check their web site for specifics) and I’m going to make sure I get a chance to get down there again soon.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

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Mise En Place

2 Feb

Glasses of wine on display at Menton prior to opening

A Cocktail being poured in Providence, RI at Hemmingways

I missed my Mise En Place on Monday, so here are two photos for your viewing pleasure.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

 

Fly Away with An Aviation Cocktail

27 Jan

The Aviation was first documented in 1916

Working with the Barbara Lynch Gruppo in the past few years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different food items that I never imaged before now. I’ve also had my palate exposed to numerous new drink combinations from none other than John Gertsen, the great bartender  who is the “man behind the woman,” and manager at Drink. One of the creations that I’ve recently become fond of, is the Aviation, a traditional gin cocktail from the early 1900’s.

All the basic ingredients minus one

The original Aviation is attributed to Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick, located  on the South East corner of Broadway and 43rd Street, New York.  The first published recipe appeared in Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks, and called for El Bart gin, lemon juice, maraschino, and crème de violette, a violet liqueur which gives the cocktail a pale sky-blue color.

Créme de Violette

Many places today don’t include the Creme de Violette in the drink, but Adam a bartender at The Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square turned me on to that aspect of the drink, and I think it is a critical part of making a correct Aviation.

Fresh Lemon juice is critical ... stay away from the plastic lemons!

As I’ve said in the past, one of the most important elements in anything you do is to use real ingredients.  You can get lemon juice in a bottle or in a plastic lemon, but take the extra time to simply get the juice from an actual lemon and you’ll be happy you did it.  The last element that puts this drink over the top is the inclusion of Luxardo Maraschino cherries.  These cherries, The Original, are not your regular, neon red ones you get at most bars. I got my jar of them at The Boston Shaker in Somerville, and they are well worth the trip to Davis Square.

Luxardo Cherries from The Boston Shaker

For my Aviation I use 2 oz of Gin, 1/2 oz of lemon juice, 1/2 oz of maraschino and a 1/4  oz of Créme de Violette.   Add the all of the ingredients to a shaker half full with ice, and shake for 30 seconds or so, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Finally add one of the Luxardo Cherries and enjoy!

Bottoms Up

So next time you are out and frequenting some place like Drink, Eastern Standard or The Russell House Tavern, ask for an Aviation and let this classic cocktail take you away.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

Red, White and Boston

6 Jan

A sample of the evenings selection for us to taste

Whew, what a great event!

I will admit here, as I did to anyone who would listen to me tonight, that I am a neofite when it comes to this blogging about food and wine.  That said, if tonight is any kind of an indication of the world I am dipping my toes into, I can tell you now that I am straight up ready to jump in with two feet!

The wine tasting this evening, coordinated by the talented folks at Red White Boston, was held at the Enormous Room in Central Square, Cambridge.  Easy access by the MBTA put me on the door step this cold night way too early for the start of the event, so I slipped down stairs into the Central Kitchen and had a few oysters from Duxbury before making my way up to the event.  I’ve never been to Central Kitchen, but the wine offerings were nice, and the oysters fresh, so I’m sure I’ll be back there soon.

Once upstairs I was greeted, along with various others, by Cathy Huyghe the founder of 365daysofwine.com, and of Red White Boston.  Cathy encouraged us to put our jackets down and move into – yes – THE enormous room, and share some Gloria Ferrer, Blanc de Noirs, NV, which was just being poured.   The exposed brick walls, and dark muted colors of the room were classic, and there was ample seating, with small glass tables for everyone.

Cathy Huyghe, founder of Red White Boston introducing a wine

The Gloria Ferrer has a light pink hue to it, and was refreshingly light, with a fruity citrus taste.  It was a perfect way to start the evening, a kind of aperitif for our adventure.  By the time we reached the third of six or seven wines we were sampling this evening, the crowed had settled out to a comfortable 30 or so people, and there was an amazing energy in the room.  Although this was my first event like this, it was welcoming, informative, friendly and I not only learned quite a bit, but met some amazing people.

Cathy Huyghe, right, texting and tweeting as glasses stand ready to be filled

One of the “off the list” wines we tasted this evening was from a brand new distributer, Panther Distributing, located in Wilbraham, MA.  Daniel, from Panther, was there with a couple of wines out of Australia, and we were able to try among others the K1 Chardonnay.  I’m not a white wine person for the most part, but this Chardonnay was very nice, not too overpowering, and quite refreshing for me, and I enjoyed it very much.

Cathy Huyghe showing off some other wine

 

Chateau Nozieres, Ambroise de l'Her, 2006 (Malbec, Cahors, France)

One of the surprises for me was the Chateau Nozieres, Ambroise de l’Her Malbec from France.  We normally think of Malbec as a from Argentina, but this is a French Malbec, was tasty and with just the right amount of tannins and spicy fruit flavor, for a Hamilton it is a great wine and one I am sure to purchase soon.

We finished up the evening with a number of other wines … a couple of different Syrah from France, as well as another Malbec, but the one we were building up to was a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from Nicolette Christopher in Napa Valley.

Having this wine tonight reminds me of a scene in a movie with Sean Connery, that came out when I was actually living in France.  In The Untouchables, Sean Connery plays an Irish cop in Chicago trying to bring down Al Capone, played by Robert De Niro, and in one scene he is up against one of Capone’s henchmen, and the bad guy turns on Sean Connery with a knife, and Malone, Connery’s character says “Isn’t that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight.”

The Nicolette Christopher Cabernet was .45 tonight in the midst of a pocket knife convention.

Nicolette Christopher is a small wine maker located in the heart of Napa, California.   The name comes from the wine makers themselves, Nicolette and Christopher, and it is clear from the wine that the small scale, personal attention they give to their product is what makes it outstanding.   It was by far the most expensive wine we tasted this evening, at around a Grant, but well worth it in my book.

Nicolette Christopher, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

James McGowan

We also got a chance to hear from a local wine maker, James McGowan, who hails from Ayer, MA, and he explained to us a bit about the wine making process, and how he does it right here in the Bay State, but that my friends will be another post for the future.

Thanks again to everyone involved, and in addition to all this wine tasting and wonderfulness, I was also introduced to a number of wine and food bloggers including Lindsay Morriss and Ali Horeanopoulos, from Second Glass, and I encourage you to check out their blogs and see what they are up to in the near future.  There is a lot of good stuff going on our there!

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

Tea Time

4 Jan

A tea mug I brought back from Sri Lanka in 1981

World wide, tea is consumed more than any other liquid, other than water, and since I was a child I’ve been surrounded by it.  The tangy citrus flavor and warmth it brings are one of the most pleasant parts of my day, and my longest “foodie” memory.    My parents didn’t drink much coffee, but tea, with milk and sugar, was a staple in our home from my earliest days.  Evening tea with my parents, as we sat around watching the boob-tube, and getting ready for bed, was a ritual in our home.   Despite the caffeine, significant in tea, I grew up having a cup of tea while watching the eleven o’clock news in the dark of our paneled “den.”

Our tea of choice at the time was, as you might expect, either Lipton or Salada.   I will admit that I liked Lipton better for the taste, but would always choose Salada if I was shopping because of the “taglines” included with each tea bag.  (Apparently now Salada isn’t even RED any more, but the previous links are to “history” pages on their site.)

During this time our family hosted a number of exchange students through the American Field Service program, and between my sophomore and junior year, the summer of 1981, I was fortunate to spend seven weeks in Sri Lanka.  At age 16 spending seven weeks anywhere other than summer school was a dream come true, but as luck would have it I landed on the south east coast of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, in a small town called Matara. I was placed in a wonderful host family who not only shared my enjoyment and history with tea, like the rest of the beautiful island, but my host Father was a travelling salesmen for a tea company in town.

The Kandamby's of Matara, Sri Lanka

Yeah that is me second from the right ...

In the early 1800’s coffee was introduced to Ceylon, first known for its Cinnamon production, and by 1840 a “coffee rush” had taken place and the island was covered with coffee plantations.    At the same time, 1824 exactly, the first tea plant, from China, was brought to Ceylon but for non-commercial purposes.  By the late 1860, at the same time a coffee blight hit Ceylon, the initial tea plantations had been established and the first shipment of Ceylon Tea arrived in London, England in 1873.

Thomas Lipton, see above, was already a millionaire grocer by the time he looked into tea prospects in Ceylon in 1888, and decided that the best way to make money in the lucrative European tea market was to eliminate the costly middlemen and develop a direct source for tea.  Lipton’s genius was not in the area of growing tea but in the marketing and distribution of the final product, and his tireless capacity to invent and popularize clever slogans and effective advertising campaigns.

Just like in today’s world, a celebrity endorsement by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle promoted Ceylon Tea far and wide, and that combined with the demise of coffee plantations, it propelled Ceylon onto the world scene, and by 1965 it was the worlds leading exporter of tea.

Although it is still very difficult to get a good cup of tea at a diner or in most restaurants these days, thankfully you can still have great tea at home or in the office, and even find it in some select Tea Houses in the area.  Good tea, like much of anything in the food world, is made from good fresh ingredients.

There are a number of online places you can get loose leaf tea if you don’t have local acces, but for me, Upton Tea is by far the best place around.  The best part for folks located around Boston is that Upton is close by, right out the pike in Holliston, MA.   Because of this, if I order tea before 11 am I’m almost guaranteed to get it the next day with no extra shipping costs.  Upton Tea has a huge selection of teas, from black to green to white as well as all the tools you can ever need for tea nirvana.

The other major ingredient in a good cup of tea is simply water, but how that water is prepared makes all the difference in the world.   At home we boil our water in a pot on our gas stove.  It is important to use fresh drawn tap water each time you make tea, because, as I said before, fresh ingredients are what make things stand out.  At work I have an electric kettle made by Russel Hobbs, which I love.

Russell Hobbs Electric Kettle

A rolling boil is what you need when you introduce the water to your tea, and an electric kettle does that quickly and efficiently.   The other thing you really want to understand is that tea needs room to release all of its flavor.  Tea leaves need to breath, and one of the reasons (besides that it is the lowest quality tea available) the typical tea bag you think of does not taste that good is because in the tiny little tea bags there is no room for the water to flow over the leaves.

Loose tea from Upton Tea

Your choices at this point is to either use a tea pot with a strainer built in (my favorite), use a larger more spacious tea bag with your loose tea, (shown below) or use a pot that you then pour the tea thru while you hold a hand strainer over your cup.   I find tea balls or infusers to be difficult to work with and not really a great option.

Loose Tea in a lage tea bag

Once you introduce the water to your tea, it is best to cover the vessel if you can and let the tea steep for 3-5 minutes.  This is where getting a “taste” for your tea, and what you are using comes in handy.  Some tea can easily steep for 5 minutes, and other kinds of tea start to really release too many tannins when held in the water for such a long time.

Thankfully Upton Tea includes on their packaging suggested times for brewing, and as you can see below, it can be dramatically different based on the tea you are using.

8 Minutes suggested brew time!

2-3 Minutes for this blend of black tea

So as you can see, it makes a big difference how long your tea is exposed to the water.  The last thing to consider is what you put into your tea before you enjoy it, and that is something that is of personal taste.  I always took milk/cream and sugar in my tea growing up because that is what my parents did, but when I arrived in Sri Lanka it was solidified as “the way” to take tea.

In Sri Lanka tea was often made in advance and kept in a thermos, and it was sweetened with sugar  and liberal amounts of Nido.  Powdered milk has a special flavor that when added to tea really sweetens it up with altering the flavor you are looking for from the tea itself.   I’ve lived in Europe and Guatemala as well, and Nido is a world wide constant that we over look here in the States.

Finally, with your tea in hand, relax, feel the warmth and enjoy the comfort from it knowing that you are not alone in what you are drinking!

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

One Hundred Things Servers need to do

1 Nov

Great piece in the NYT …. next 50 are coming in a week.

Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building. Veteran waiters, moonlighting actresses, libertarians and baristas will no doubt protest some or most of what follows. They will claim it homogenizes them or stifles their true nature. And yet, if 100 different actors play Hamlet, hitting all the same marks, reciting all the same lines, cannot each one bring something unique to that role?

 

Island Creek and an IPA

8 Sep

This past week end I had to process two weddings, which means going through thousands of photos, picking out the best, color correcting them and then uploading them to the web.  One of the less glam parts of being a photographer, but at least I’m not in a darkroom with chemicals and no ventilation like the “old days.”

To “reward” myself for getting the first wedding done, and to motivate myself during the second one I had next to me some lovely Island Creek Oysters and an IPA from Lagunitas, my new favorite.  Island Creek is located in Duxbury and their oysters can be found on menus such as The French Laundry, Per Se, Le Bernardin, and even in the White House.  I’ve had the good fortune of working with the crew of ICO a number of times, at B&G Oysters in the South End as well as with the folks from Outstanding in the Field.

Island Creek ready to be shucked

Salty Sweetness

Perfect afternoon snack

Needless to say, the weddings were finished, as were the accompaniments.

Check out the links and enjoy some food today!

Cheers,

Justin