Friday, September 28, 2012

Brunch at The Painted Burro

        I’ve been hearing tons of great things about the Painted Burro in Somerville lately, so I jumped at the chance to try their brunch with the Boston Brunchers last weekend. Dining with food bloggers = trying even more dishes, but I’m not sure I was prepared for just how much we were going to try!


          We started with several apps, and the group favorite by far was the fundido with house made chorizo. This was a skillet filled with melted Oaxaca, Chihuahua and Manchego cheeses, topped with spicy ground chorizo, and served with a side of warm tortillas. These went so quickly we ordered four (yes, four) for our group of nine to share!


          We also enjoyed the goat empanadas with spicy tomato salsa and pork belly guacamole (because isn’t everything better with pork belly??)



         I was so full after the appetizers; I wasn’t sure how I’d eat any of the four entrees I’d ordered to split with my fellow brunchers. I planned to at least taste everything, but it was all so good I ate almost my full share of each.

        We tried both the chicken and vegetable chilaquiles, which were similar but definitely had their own unique flavor. They both came with crispy tortilla strips and were topped with fried eggs, meat or veggies, and salsa. The chicken came with red salsa and was slightly spicy, while the vegetarian version came with green salsa and was the milder of the two. Both were delicious, but I preferred the chicken.



         Taking the advice of our server, we also tried the el montanero, a crunchy tortilla piled high with eggs, chorizo, fried plantains, rice, beans, and chicharron. I really enjoyed everything, but was glad we shared this because it was huge!


          The sunshine burrito with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, corn, and sweet peppers was slightly less adventurous than our other choices, but equally good. Often the basics are what demonstrate talent, and the Painted Burro’s burrito really drove this point home.


          For dessert we tried the scoops of the chocolate chipotle and coconut avocado ice cream, and corn popsicles. The chocolate definitely had a kick, and everything was so fresh you could actually taste pieces of coconut and corn.


          At the end of the meal our server brought over comment cards, and I honestly couldn’t think of anything constructive to offer. Everything I tried was delicious, the service outstanding, and I wouldn’t change anything! Thanks to The Painted Burro and Boston Brunchers for hosting such a great event!

*Although brunch was provided free of charge the opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Product Review: Willow Tree Chicken Pie

          Originally a poultry farm in North Attleboro MA, Willow Tree now specializes in comfort food at its best: chicken and turkey pies. I sampled the all-white meat pie earlier this week, and it was the perfect dinner on a cool fall evening. The all-white meat variety is just basics, chicken and gravy, which I prefer but there are varieties with red bliss potatoes and vegetables available.


 Photo courtesy of Willow Tree

           The pie was easy to prepare, I followed the instructions on the package and baked it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. I ignored the optional step of brushing milk over the crust to brown it more, and it came out perfectly crisp and flaky. The gravy was rich, and there was a generous amount of chicken which tasted very fresh (although the pie was frozen). The 8 ounce size was perfect for me, and at just 290 calories and zero grams of Trans fat, I felt like I was eating reasonably healthily.



Photo courtesy of Willow Tree

          Upon visiting Willow Tree’s website, I was impressed to learn about their commitment to quality and sustainability. All of their meats are sourced from farms that follow humane and sustainable practices, and Willow Tree inspects these farms periodically to be sure they are up to their high standards. In addition to being an easy, tasty meal after work, I’m also glad to know that by choosing Willow Tree chicken pies I’ll be supporting local, sustainable, farms – cause that is important to me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Preview of the 2013 Boston Wine Expo

           With fall approaching quickly, it’s hard to believe the 2013 Boston Wine Expo is right around the corner! The upcoming event will take place February 16 – 17 at the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel. I’m extremely excited to attend the expo this year, and even more excited to announce that between now and February I’ll be giving away tickets to the wine expo on my blog as well as offering discount codes for my readers. Subscribe, or follow me on twitter or facebook to make sure you don’t miss out!

          As a blogger for the expo, I recently attended a preview event where I was able to sample some of the wines being featured this year. As hard as I tried, I wasn't able to sample every wine or even chat with every wine maker. However, the ones I did visit did I spoke with at length and tried to learn as much as possible about the wines. Here are recaps of those tastings and conversations.

Joseph Mellot Winery – Loire Valley, France

I tasted an amazing Malbec and Cab Franc, and learned that Malbec actually originated in France!


Alexander Valley Vineyards – Sonoma County, CA

They featured three kinds of red Zinfandel called Temptation, Sin, and Redemption. All three were very different; I’d tried the Sin before and after comparing it with the others its subtle flavors of cherry and spice made it my favorite of the three.

Trinchero Family Estates – Napa Valley, California

I sampled a Grenache and Grenache blend, although this was not my first experience with their wines. I had the pleasure of tasting the cabernet while dining at Mustard’s Grill, a restaurant right next to the Napa vineyard. It was a perfect pairing with my lamb, and I remembered it quite well several years later.


Bressan Mastri Vinai – Friuli, Italy

I sampled both a red (Schipettino IGT) and a white (Verduzzo IGT), which are extremely limited production and unlike any wines I’d ever had. They were both delicious, but I most impressed by the white. With the skins on for two years and served at room temperature, it had an unusual rich flavor and full body, and drank much more like a red.


Happy Bitch Wines:

The fun name was perfect for this sparkling rose, which was light and refreshing!


Rutherford Wine Company – Napa Valley, CA

I loved the Predator Old Vine Zinfandel, which was smokey and peppery with hints of berries, oak, and vanilla.


Hope Family Wines – Paso Robles, CA

The Trouble Maker red blend (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah) was one of my favorite reds that I tried. It had flavors of bright red fruit with just a hint of spiciness

          In addition to all of the great wines, we were also able to try food from some of the vendors participating in the expo. Dishes included several seafood offerings from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, fresh bread and dips from Chabaso Bakery, and a steak with chimichurri sauce prepared by the Seaport Hotel’s Executive Chef Richard Rayment.




          Like previous years, the festival will include the Grand Cru Wine Lounge to showcase higher end wines, a mobile app to keep track of and rate wines, celebrity chef demonstrations, nightly winemaker dinners, and local restaurants sampling their signature dishes, and of course the main exhibit hall with tons of fabulous wines!

          New features for 2013 include a social media lounge with a screens displaying popular wines from the mobile app and a live twitter feed, a private buyer’s tasting room, upgraded VIP tickets, and wine available for sale on site (for wines distributed in MA).

          Each year proceeds from the Wine Expo are donated to charitable organizations. This year’s beneficiary is Tufts Medical Center’s Floating Hospital for Children and their summer camp scholarship program. Guests attending the Wine Expo not only get to taste and learn about some fabulous wines, but will also be supporting a great cause! Check back for regular updates, visit the Wine Expo website, or follow @BostonWineExpo on twitter.

WGBH Artisan Tasting Part 2: The Food and Wine

         I recently attended the WGBH Food and Wine Festival. Although it was their first time putting on the event, it seemed only natural considering WGBH was the original food network (Julia Child’s show The French Chef was the first in its genre).

       The festival took place over three days, with an opening gala and reception the first night (Thursday), a wine auction Friday night, a farmers market all day Saturday, and two artisan tasting sessions Saturday afternoon and evening. Although local sustainable food was not a requirement to participate, the theme was definitely present throughout the festival.

        I had the opportunity to attend the Saturday evening Artisan Tasting, which included demonstrations by celebrity chefs (read my full review) and an exhibit hall filled with local restaurants, wine makers, food producers and purveyors, and more.


         I sampled so much great food and wine I couldn’t possibly list all of it, but here are some of the highlights.

          Wines from Diageo Estates: The Rose N Blum pink moscato and Creme de Lys Chardonnay were two of my favorites. 


          Braised meats from Savenor's Market included confit turkey leg cured in duck fat and BBQ beef brisket.




         Apple Eiswine - I had tried this wine before and loved it, but I was excited to learn that they also make a sparkling apple wine.


 Fresh made guacamole from Rosa Mexicano



Taza chocolate, I'd also tried this, but it's another local favorite.


          Another favorite was the roasted red pepper soup with caramelized onions from Upstairs on the Square. It was so good, I practically inhaled it, forgetting to snap a pic!

         I had a great time at the WGBH Food and Fest, and was impressed not only by the delicious food and wine, but also with both the organization and value compared to other festivals I've attended. I hope to attend again next time, and check out even more of the events!

Monday, September 17, 2012

WGBH Artisan Tasting Part 1: Chef Demos

           I recently attended the WGBH food and wine festival, which included booths for many different wineries and restaurants as well as cooking demonstrations by local celebrity chefs. I had an amazing time, sampling a ton of great food and wine and watching demonstrations by local celebrity chefs. Since there was so much going on, I’ve decided to cover the event in two parts starting with the cooking demonstrations. I attended the second session of the day from 5-8pm.

          The first demo of the evening was by Chef Rich Garcia of 606 Congress, who prepared a trash fish minestrone. Prior to this demo, I'd never heard of trash fish, but I learned that the term is used to describe species of fish not traditionally used or caught commercially. The types of fish vary by region, and when restaurants include them on their menu, it helps sustainability, supports local fisherman, and gives their guests a chance to try something new.


          Although I hadn't heard the term trash fish before, I do prefer restaurants that use local seasonal ingredients and support local fisherman and farmers. I was surprised to find that several of the types of trash fish Chef Garcia provided as examples were fish I eat regularly and consider common such as striped bass, blue fish, red fish, mackerel and jonah crab.

          Chef Garcia used a couple of types of fish in his Minestrone including Maine Pollock and red fish. He also added pancetta and several types of vegetables (including tomatoes, kale, and squash) to the base of lobster stock, and finished the dish with Parmesan foam. The result was a delicious soup, which went quickly although I was lucky enough to grab a sample! For the complete recipe, visit WGBH.


          The second demonstration was by Andy Husbands, Chef / Owner of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel. Chef Husbands is also a member of the award winning BBQ team IqueBBQ, and just published his second cookbook Wicked Good BBQ.


          Chef Husband’s demo naturally featured BBQ, and I learned that a really good sauce can be as simple as ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, with a few ingredients like brown sugar, hot sauce, or apple cider vinegar to dress it up. The cooking demonstration was for ribs, but due to time constraints we sampled BBQ chicken he’d prepared in advance, it was slightly spicy and incredibly tender and flavorful.



       The third and final demonstration of the evening was Chef Brooke Vosika of the Bristol Lounge. He prepared a crab bisque, which was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The base of the soup was a mix of light and heavy cream, and he added in gin which gave it a juniper flavor and paired perfectly with the seafood. Chef Vosika explained that the same basic recipe can be adapted by changing the stock to match the key component (chicken, mushroom, corn vegetable, etc) and prepared gluten free by omitting flour.



         All of the demos were both informative and entertaining. I learned some interesting facts about cooking and sustainable food, added three new restaurants to my list to try, and got to sample some delicious dishes! I definitely hope to attend next time, and look forward to finding out who next year's featured chefs will be!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coppa

          Coppa has been on my list to try for ages, but it moved up on the list lately since I’ve been hearing tons of good things. Naturally, I was psyched when the other night while deciding where to go with a couple of foodie friends, Chef / Owner Jamie Bissonnette invited us in via twitter. He sold us by tweeting a picture of the special for the evening, a bone in pork loin with sesame and pickled raspberry which looked amazing.

          Once we arrived, I saw two dishes on the menu I absolutely had to try I had didn’t end up getting the special. Although my friend did, and said it tasted just as good as it looked!

          I started with the tuna crudo, slices of raw tuna with Sicilian olives, shishito peppers, and olive brine dashi. The tuna was incredibly fresh, and I loved the combination of the olives and hot peppers. It was the perfect balance of salty and spicy, and went very well with the fish.


          Next was the linguine nero; house made pasta infused with squid ink and topped with tons of fresh lobster meat, olives, and tomato sauce. This was delicious, and I ordered the half portion, which was the perfect size after the tuna.


          Full but not quite ready to leave and wanting to try more dishes, we decided to share the mixed olives. It’s hard to make olives stand out, but Coppa managed nicely by topping them with high quality olive oil and just a hint of fennel and roasted garlic.


          Overall we had an excellent experience; the food was just as great as I’d heard and the service was equally so. Chef Bissonnette even came over a couple of times to welcome us and make sure everything was going well. I’m looking forward to going back and trying even more of the menu!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The WGBH Artisan Food and Wine Festival

          This weekend September 13 - 15, WGBH is hosting a three-day food and wine festival at One Guest Street in Brighton. The festival will include celebrity chef demos, a wine auction, educational seminars, an outdoor farmers market and The Artisan Taste, a forum for tasting food and wines, and watching some of New England's top Chef's in action on the celebritiy cooking stage!

         The festival will feature more than 100 wineries, local chefs such as Mig Tsai and Barbara Lynch, restaurants such as L'Espalier, Rialto, and Scampo, and local artisanal foods, produce, and purveyors.

        I'm especially excited to attend the Saturday evening Artisan Taste. I'm looking forward to sampling some delicious food and wine, which of course will be featured and reviewed here!

For tickets, visit WGBH's site.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wine Review: Alpha Estates 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

          It’s been a while since I’ve done a wine review, but I this bottle was so unique I had to write about it! I was out to dinner with some other bloggers at Island Creek Oyster and we decided to share a bottle of wine. We all liked Sauvignon Blanc and picked this bottle based on price (in the $40 range) thinking we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting. Wrong! This was unlike any Sauvignon Blanc any of us had ever tried.


       Sauvignon Blanc tends to be citrusy, and sometimes you can get a hint of grapefruit. This wine actually tasted like grapefruit, and the flavor was so pronounced I changed my order to go with the wine. I had been originally planning on my favorite the lobster roe noodles, but instead went with the smoked trout with walnut pesto, rye crisps, and naval orange which was a perfect pairing.

         We all thought this wine was interesting and unusual and were glad we tried it, but weren’t sure if we would order it again. It’s a perfect pairing with certain foods like the smoked trout, or I could see it with a ceviche with lots of citrus. However, it’s not the type of wine you’d order with dinner for a group hoping it will go with everything.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mistral

         I’ve been to Mistral several times for lunch and dinner, and always enjoyed the food. The cuisine is upscale French, and the portions are huge! I tried them recently for restaurant week, when my friends and I managed to score a same day reservation for a table in the lounge. Although there was a limited al carte menu available, all of us opted for the special three course restaurant week menu.

          I started with the beef carpaccio. This was a thin sliced raw beef with a lemon garlic aioli, shaved pecorino, arugula, and bits of ciobatta toast. I’ve only recently started eating carpaccio; for a long time I couldn’t get past the idea of raw beef. Since I tried it I’ve been on a kick lately ordering wherever I see it, and this was one of the better preparations.


          My entrĂ©e was the pork chop with sweet corn and peach panzanella, and aged sherry vinaigrette. The pork was cooked a perfect medium, still very juicy inside. I loved the combination of the peaches, and the onions and bread in the panzanella.


          I also tasted the sirloin steak, which came with lyonnaise potatoes, English stilton, and port wine sauce. The steak was incredibly tender and flavorful, and though I always enjoy the combination of steak and blue cheese, the addition of the port wine made it even better.


          I was tempted by the chocolate for dessert but decided to try something different, and ordered the almond nectarine tart. This was a pastry shell filled with warm nectarines, and topped with vanilla ice cream and ginger syrup. I really liked the idea of nectarines in a fruit tart as opposed to apple which I’ve seen quite a bit lately. The nectarines were light, sweet, and refreshing.


          We all enjoyed everything we tried, and agreed it was definitely one of the better options in town for restaurant week. Mistral is definitely a great place for value, since the regular prices are much higher and they don’t seem to adjust the portions at all. I didn’t find the food or service to be lacking at all (which I’ve occasionally encountered during restaurant week).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Champagne Brunch at the Taj

          Since Aujourdhui’s closing several years ago, I had yet to find a place I loved as much until I tried the champagne brunch on the rooftop of the Taj! The rooftop brunch is actually indoors, but there are plenty of windows with an amazing view of the city. The best seats are the ones farthest from the food; they look right out onto the Boston Common. The brunch includes Champagne, I was impressed that they served Louis Roderer, and even though only one glass was included they refilled mine at no extra charge.


          The brunch is a buffet including sushi, oysters, crab claws, build your own omelet, made to order Belgian waffles, and several Indian selections in addition to typical brunch fare (bacon, eggs, sausage, etc.). There were also many, many desserts.




          On my first trip to the buffet, I loaded my plate with seafood and dishes from the raw bar. Everything was delicious, but some of my favorites were the seared scallop, tuna tartare, oysters, crab claws, and sushi.


 


          My second trip, I tried some of the hot food. I was already getting full, so took only a few bites of each. The Indian prawns, bacon, and sausage were all good, but my favorite was the chicken with fois bread pudding.


          I was completely stuffed after my second plate, but made sure I tried the dessert. I tasted bites of a couple miniature deserts including a chocolate caramel tart. My favorite was the made to order Belgian waffle, which I loaded with fresh strawberries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream.




          Overall this was a great experience, and I enjoyed everything I tried. I'm excited to have found a new high end brunch spot for special occasions!