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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

Mise En Place – Italy 2010

14 Feb

Market in Rome

Fruit in a market in Rome

Prosciutto de Parma hanging in the window in Rome

The large indoor market in Florence

A little over a year go our family spent two weeks in the Tuscan region of Italy.   We visited Rome, Siena and Florence and had an amazing time.  These are a few images from that trip.  Enjoy.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

Outstanding In The Field

11 Feb

Outstanding In The Field

The Farm to Table movement has been afoot for some time now.  One of the early adopters to this movement, and one who has taken it on the road so to speak is “Outstanding in the Field” and its founder Jim Denevan.  The idea that Jim brought about, with the help of  his brother Bill Denevan, a pioneering organic grower in California, was to bring farmers and regular producers out of the field and to Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz, California, where Jim was Chef, and to have them explain the food they raised.   These “farmer dinners” began back in 1998.

In the field at Allandale Farm, Brookline

After a number of seasons of successful farmer dinners, the realization that the experience could be turned around and brought to the farm directly came in 2003 when a red and white bus was purchased and the show was taken on the road.

Jim Denevan, in cowboy hat, and Allandale Farmer John Lee

Outstanding In The Field (OITF) came to Boston in 2008 under dark skies and a storm watch for the region.  The group visited the last farm within the city limits, Allandale Farm in Boston, where Chef and founder Jim Denevan partnered with Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest in Cambridge, and farmer John Lee.  Apparently Chef Dumont worked at Gabriella Cafe with Jim before leaving the front of the house to pursue her passion in the kitchen, and the event was a great success despite the dark skies.

Island Creek Oysters started out the night

The boys from Island Creek Oysters came up from Duxbury and did some shucking, and a tour of the farm was organized.

Touring Allandale Farm

Table seating outside at the farm

Chef Jim and Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest go over the menu

Chef and Founder Jim telling farm stories late into the night

And walking away at the end of the night

Susan and I had a great time, despite the fresh striped bass (Susan isn’t much for fish, though I enjoyed it).  It was a great way to feel connected to the farm community and to meet and speak with locals who share the same love of food and the outdoors as I do.

Tour dates and tickets for Outstanding in the Field 2011 go on sale March 20, 2011, but you can sign up for a newsletter/email blast on their home page, or following them on twitter.   Think about it while you contemplate shoveling snow for another couple of months.  Spring will come.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

Check please …

10 Feb

Less Meatarian

“Check please … ”

We say it all the time.   Often sitting at a diner counter after finishing up a couple of eggs over easy with a side of bacon, or after a nice porterhouse and potato dinner at a local steak house.  And at that point the server, if they have any experience, understands that the “tip-o-meter” starts counting down with each moment that passes.  Tonight at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, well-known New York Times writer, and most recently Opinion columnist, Mark Bittman asked for the check because, according to him “the bill is due.”

In front of a sold out crowd of mostly aging folks, it was the MFA after all, Bittman delivered an address as part of the The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro celebrity series, titled “America’s Home Cook.”   Those familiar with his Minimalist column in The Times, may have expected a dinner recipe or two, but this night Bittman came out from behind the stove, past the sink, and may have even broken through the threshold of the kitchen.

Mark Bittman taking questions from the crowd

“Few of us have ever known a day or even a meal without the availability of an incredible array of unrealistically inexpensive food,” he said, “but the bill has come due.” Bittman informed and amused those gathered with sometimes simple, oft-times insightful visuals during his presentation, all the while walloping away on the dead horse on the floor, pun intended, that the state of our food system, or as he said, “the so-called food system” is simply “profit driven.”

Detailing the perceived cost of what we eat, he said, “We, I’m talking about Americans, spend less of our income on food than anyone else,  7%”  he said with slight indignation.  He continued to explain that  “in much of Europe it ranges from 10% to 15 % but in poorer countries like India and China, Ukraine and yes, Egypt, it’s over 30% and even up to 40%.”

Bittman’s conclusion? “Seven percent is ridiculous!  Food cannot be that cheap, and it isn’t!”  he exclaimed.  “The real costs of food are staggering!” and “The price you pay for a hamburger is the tip of the iceberg.”  None of this is new or surprising, but he proceeded to detail some facts that seem almost nightmarish.  That only one-quarter of Americans eat vegetables three times a day…  That only one in four meals we consume contains an unprocessed vegetable…  That we drink more soda than water…  We’ve heard them all before, even from Bittman himself.

What was interesting about the evening is the sense that Mark Bittman, combined with his recent transition from the Dining section of the Times to the editorial side, has a very clear agenda (he said he wasn’t running for anything) to help re-shape and re-form how we think about food and what it is we eat.

“The so-called food system that we have now” he explained, “which is not a system at all, is profit driven, and here’s where it’s gotten us,” he explained.  “Hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a trillion, have been spent on selling us the wrong choices” he said.  “Another trillion, no exaggeration,” he went on,  “has been spent subsidizing food that is fed to industrial produced animals or turned into junk food” and that is what is killing us, and as he put it, what is unsustainable.

Bittman explained that although we are surrounded by cheap food, and have choices beyond our imagination, the “real costs, like those of all junk food, are subsidized, hidden and forestalled.”  Sort of like what my grandmother used to say, “You buy cheap, you buy twice.”   Because we rely on this cheap, subsidized food that is over processed and not much like real food, we end up paying for it two and three-fold down the road with health and other related problems.

The evening concluded with a few questions and answers, and a push from Mark Bittman.  “Veganism is one end of the spectrum, I see no reason to encourage people to become vegans, but I do see many reasons to try to persuade people to move in that direction.  To eat fewer animal products.”  A sort of “Less Meatarian” movement.  According to him we are going to get there one way or another, and we might as well enjoy the trip and try a little breakfast sushi along the way.

Off to grab a carrot or two.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin

Mise En Place

6 Feb

Brother Arnold weeding the corn field

This weeks Mise En Place is from the opposite end of the culinary spectrum than what I’ve put up recently. When you shop locally for the food you bring to your table, it comes from places where people are dedicated, hard working, and passionate about what they do, small local farms.  If you look closer, and have the chance, you have the opportunity, like I did a number of years ago to see an even tighter food circle … where those that are doing the farming are actually providing for themselves.

The United Society of Believers, commonly called the Shakers, was founded in 1747, in Manchester, England, and later came to America in search of freedom of religion.  The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, in New Gloucester, Maine was founded in 1783, and is the only surviving active Shaker community in the world.   A number of years ago I had the chance to spend a bit of time with the six remaining (at that point) Shakers, and these few photos are from that wonderful experience.  Today Sabbathday Lake is the only active Shaker Community, and they still strive to live a life of work and worship, fulfilling the motto of the Shaker founder, Mother Ann, to “put our hands to work and hearts to God.”

Sister Frances in the community kitchen

Brother Arnold, right, and Brother Wayne moving a ewe from the barn

Sister Francis, in the above photo, passed away a number of years ago at the age of 81, and Brother Wayne, on the left above, has left the Shakers, after 26 years with the society. You can read about that story in the Boston Globe.

Thanks for taking a look.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers,

Justin