Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sips & Nibbles: Thanksgiving Edition

I am offering a special Thanksgiving edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. Today, you'll find some restaurant options for Thanksgiving if you just don't feel like cooking this year.
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1) Capo’s talented culinary team is offering a variety of options to help make this Thanksgiving the best one yet. Leave the baking to the experts and order a special Thanksgiving Pie to Go or join Capo for prix fixe and a la carte Thanksgiving Day dining options.

PIES TO GO
This Thanksgiving Capo is offering made-to-order Specialty Pies by renowned Boston pastry chef Kate Holowchik, the newest addition to the Capo culinary team. Available for pre-order now through Monday, November 20, the beautiful pies are sure to turn heads at the dinner table. Chef Kate’s baking up Thanksgiving favorites including Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie, and decadent French Silk for just $25 each. All three flavors are also available gluten-free, upon request, for $30 each. Visit https://www.caposouthboston.com/store/ to order a pie.
When: Last Day to Order: Monday, November 20; Pick Up: Tuesday, November 21 – Thursday, November 23
Cost: Holiday pies are $25 each (gluten-free also available for $30)

TURKEY GOBBLER TO GO
Enjoy Thanksgiving on the go with a special Turkey Gobbler Sandwich packed with Roasted Turkey, chestnut sausage stuffing, orange cranberry sauce, caramelized onion focaccia, roasted turkey gravy. The Turkey Gobbler Sandwich is the perfect option for Bostonians stuck working on the holiday that are still looking for their Thanksgiving fix, or the unlucky hosts who were left with no leftovers for next-day sandwiches. Swing by Capo on Thanksgiving between 2pm and 10pm to pick up Chef Nick Dixon’s ultimate turkey sandwich for just $12.

THANKSGIVING DINING
The team at Capo welcomes guests to enjoy a hearty Turkey Day meal at Capo, with a variety of options to accommodate families of all sizes. Dishes by Chef Nick Dixon and desserts from pastry chef Kate Holowchik can be enjoyed as a three-course prix fixe menu ($45/adult, $20/children, free for children under 4) or a la carte.

First Course (for prix fixe, choice of)
Lobster Bisque, Cream lobster bisque, crème fraiche, $15
Gnocchi Alforno, Hand-rolled gnocchi, English peas, shaved truffle, $16
Cacio de Pepe, House-made spaghetti, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino Romano, $15
Second Course (for prix fixe, choice of)
Roast Turkey, Chestnut and sausage stuffing, Yukon mashed potatoes, winter vegetables, cornbread soufflé, gravy, cranberry bourbon sauce, $25
Roast Prime Rib, Yukon mashed potatoes, bone marrow popover, au jus, $32
Eggplant Involtini, fresh mozzarella, smoked tomato sauce, torn basil, $18
Third Course (for prix fixe, choice of)
Pumpkin Crostada, $10
Apple Pie Tiramisu, $10
Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, $10
A La Carte Side Dishes
Roasted Winter Squash, delicata squash, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, rosemary, $10
Cornbread Soufflé, $10
Slow Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole, $12

Capo will be open on Thanksgiving for dinner from 2pm – 10pm, with last call at 11:30pm. For Reservations, please call 617-993-8080.

2) The newly opened Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is celebrating their first Thanksgiving in Kendall Square by dishing out Hunanese twists on traditional “Turkey Day” staples and family-style prix fixe menus for four-to-eight guests for two straight days, November 23 & November 24 from 11am-close.

Sumiao’s a la carte specialties include the four-piece Pan-Seared Pumpkin Cake with sweet pumpkin, sticky rice powder, condensed milk and sesame ($12); Mala Turkey with house chili soy sauce, Szechuan peppercorn oil, cilantro and sesame ($14); Crispy Turkey with hoisin-BBQ sauce ($28); and, tempura-style Yolk Breaded Pumpkin with preserved duck yolk and sweet pumpkin ($18).

Whether feasting for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, group dining is made simple with Sumiao’s trio of prix fixe-style menus ($125-$250 per group). Each menu starts with Melted Gold Soup with pumpkin and millet. Moving onto the appetizer course (Sumiao Shang Gan, Scallion Pancake or Spicy Dried Baby Fish), groups of four pick one while groups of six choose two, and eight select three. Each guest then can choose one sharable entrée from a selection of 12 signature vegetable, seafood and meat dishes like the Spicy Cauliflower, Red-Braised Pork Belly or Steamed Duijiao Tilapia. Each group also gets a complimentary order of one of the a la carte specials featured on these two days.

To make Reservations, please call 617-945-0907

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) On Wednesday, November 29, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Celtics star Marcus Smart will be hosting An Evening with Marcus Smart at Towne Stove and Spirits to benefit his YounGameChanger Foundation. Guests will be treated to passed bites; cocktails; silent and live auctions; and meet-and-greet opportunities with some of Boston’s notable athletes and VIPs.

Boston Celtics Guard Marcus Smart established the YounGameChanger Foundation to provide families with seriously and chronically ill children with encouragement and life-changing experiences and to be a voice of motivation, empowerment and encouragement to inner city young athletes to be game changers off the court or field.

Single tickets cost $200 and proceeds will benefit Marcus Smart's YounGameChanger Foundation's mission.

To purchase tickets, please visit https://www.marcussmart.org/event/eveningwithmarcussmart2017

2) November marks Diabetes Awareness Month and Kendall Square’s newly opened Sumiao Hunan Kitchen has teamed up with Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) to help bring attention to the impact of diabetes on millions of Asian Americans. All month, the team at Sumiao will be featuring a special menu with a collection of delicious, diabetes-friendly dishes, hand-selected by one of the nutritionists from Joslin’s AADI.

Standout Hunanese-style selections will include Cinderella with Japanese pumpkin and lily ($12); Kung Pao Shrimp with peanuts, green & red peppers and dried chili pepper ($20); Hunan Steak Tips with white beech mushroom, serrano pepper, black pepper and honey ($28); Lava Fish with swai filet and duo jiao ($24); and, Steamed Butterfly Shrimp with aged orange peel, garlic and peppers ($28). In total, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen will offer more than 20 diabetes-friendly options.

One in two Asian Americans will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes in their lifetime, despite having a lower average body mass index than the overall population of Americans. Originally from Hunan, China, Sumiao Chen has followed the diabetes epidemic closely through her experience as a scientist and former doctor, sparking a passion for raising awareness about the issue and promoting health conscious menu choices at her restaurant.

Joslin makes no guarantee that these items will be available at time of visit. Joslin does not endorse products or services, including those of this restaurant.

3) On Monday, December 4, from 7pm-10pm, Bar Boulud’s resident Sommelier, David Bérubé, invites guests to celebrate the holiday season with a festive five-course Champagne Dinner featuring pours from Champagne Taittinger.

Founded in 1932, Champagne Taittinger is regarded as a regional leader for chardonnay-based champagnes; they are renowned for their exclusive and extremely rare prestige cuvee: Comtes de Champagne. Showcasing a premier selection of vintages including the Comtes de Champagne White 2006, each pairing has been chosen to complement the unique, harvest-inspired dishes created by Chef de Cuisine Michael Denk and Pastry Chef Robert Differ.

Bar Boulud’s Five-Course Champagne Taittinger Dinner will include:
Truffle Arancini
Taittinger, La Francaise, Brut, 3L
Caviar “Sandwich” (Brioche, red onion, crème fraîche, farm egg)
Taittinger, La Francaise, Brut, 3L
Halibut (Hazelnut crust, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, beurre blanc)
Taittinger, Prélude, Grand Crus, Brut
Veal Duo- Roasted tenderloin, veal cheek blanquette (kumquats, black trumpet mushrooms, carrots, parsnips)
Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Brut 2006
Opera Torte Moderne (Almond biscuit, whipped ganache, ivoire chocolate-espresso gelato)
Taittinger, Prestige, Brut Rosé

COST: $175 per person (taxes and gratuity included)
Tickets may be purchased at Eventbrite.com: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taittinger-champagne-dinner-tickets-39525509864

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pabu: Kirin-zan Sake For The Win

The relatively new Pabu, located in the Millennium Tower, is a modern-take on a Japanese izakaya and I was fortunate to dine there recently with a friend of mine from Japan. We opted for the Omakase, nine courses of nigiri and seafood, and it was superb, some of the best sushi I've ever enjoyed. I didn't take photos or notes of the dinner as it was an evening simply to enjoy, to spend time with my friend and his wife. However, I was thoroughly impressed with the food and am eager to return to check out more of their menu.

They also have an extensive beverage program, including Sake, Japanese Whiskey, Shochu, wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, and more. You'll find 8 Sakes by the glass ($12-$24) or carafe ($25-$49), 2 Hot Sakes by the carafe ($25-$30), and over 60 Sakes available by the bottle. It may have the largest Sake selection in the Boston-area. Bottles size ranges from from 300ml to 500ml, from 720ml ($59-$325) to 1.8 liters. The mark-up on Sake bottles seems to be roughly 2-3X retail, dependent on the specific bottle. There is an excellent diversity in the Sake selection, including a number of bottles you don't see at other Boston restaurants.

During our dinner, we ordered two bottles of Sake, both from the same kuraKirinzan Shuzo, and it was a superb decision.

The Kirinzan Shuzo was established in 1843 by Kichizaemon Saito, who was also a seller of charcoal. Initially, he named his brand Fukunoi, a term referring to the blessings of the gods as well as the natural waters of the area. Eventually, Tokuhei Saito, the 4th generation of the family,  chose to abandon the charcoal business and commit fully to Sake production. He also changed the name of the company to Kirinzan, as the brewery was located near Mt. Kirin in the town of Tsugawa in the Niigata Prefecture.

The Kirin is also a mythical creature, in both Chinese and Japanese mythology, and in Japan resembles a dragon crossed with a deer, with a single horn like a unicorn. It is considered a very positive omen, a harbinger of happiness, prosperity and good luck. I'm sure Kirin-zan Sake will bring you much happiness.

The Sake brewery is now located in the town of Aga, as eventually Tsugawa merged with another town and two villages. They rely on local ingredients, from their rice to their water, and their motto is "Brand sake begins with individuals working in harmony."

The Kirin-Zan Junmai Daiginjo ($189/720ml at Pabu & about $80 retail) comes in a cool pentagonal blue bottle. With a Sake Meter Value of +3 and Acidity of 1.3, it is made from Gohyaku-mangoku rice that has been polished down to 45%. This is a superb Sake, elegant and complex, with such an alluring taste. It is clean and bright, with subtle citrus notes, some peach and melon, and a lengthy, pleasing finish. It is said to be "reminiscent of a clean mountain stream," and it possesses such a sense of purity, a Sake that paired perfectly with the nigiri. This is a Sake which impresses and I highly recommend it.

The Kirin-Zan Junmai ($79/720ml at Pabu & about $36 retail) and comes in a more rounded bottle. With a Sake Meter Value of +5 and Acidity of 1.4, it is made from a blend of Gohyaku-mangoku and Yukinosei rice that has been polished down to 60%. That amount of polishing would usually qualify it as a Ginjo but the brewery has not chosen to do label it as such. This Sake is supposed to reflect the typical style of Niigata, which is known as tanrei and typically is said to be crisp and smooth. And it is dry, crisp and smooth, with more richness and acidity than the Daiginjo, and subtle flavors of melon, apple and steamed rice. Its complexity is evident, though not as complex as the Daiginjo, and its richer flavors would pair well with heartier dishes, such as beef and duck. It too comes with my strong recommendation.

Check out Pabu and be sure to drink some Sake!  


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Boulder Canyon: Thanksgiving Kettle Chips

I have to say that I dislike most flavored potato chips. I certainly am intrigued by the potential, like Chicken & Waffles or Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, but they are usually a major disappointment. Not only do they not taste like the stated flavor, but they don't even taste good. So, when I heard about kettle chips with the flavors of Turkey & Gravy and Pumpkin Pie, I was justifiably wary but also curious. I received media samples of these chips and was pleasantly surprised by what I tasted.

Back in 1994, brothers Don and Jay Poole started Boulder Canyon, with the objective of creating the best potato chip. They had previously been involved in engineering and serving manufacturing equipment for the food industry and one of their clients was a potato chip company. The Poole brothers were intrigued and created a better way of making potato chips. Don and Jay started producing kettle chips, using their new small-batch cooking methods, as well as America-grown potatoes and natural ingredients.

Kettle cooked potato chips use thickly sliced premium potatoes that are slow cooked in small kettles using sunflower and/or safflower oil. They have a crunchy texture and locally, you probably have enjoyed Cape Cod Kettle Chips. Boulder Canyon also now produces Frozen Riced Vegetables, Popcorn, and Speciality Chips made from other ingredients besides potatoes. They also make a series of Seasonal items, such as the summer Sweet Corn Chips and Peach Cobbler Chips. And for Thanksgiving, they offer Turkey & Gravy and Pumpkin Pie.

I hadn't previously tasted any of the Boulder Canyon kettle chips so these Thanksgiving flavored chips were my first experience. It won't be my last.

The Turkey & Gravy kettle chips are crunchy, with a slightly thicker chip than you get with the average potato chip. It is a well-made kettle chip and I can easily see how their basic kettle chip would be appealing all on its own. The ingredient label notes the chips contain sea salt, onion powder, molasses and spices and other information seems to indicate those spices might include sage, thyme and rosemary. Frankly, the chips don't taste like turkey or gravy, but they do bring to mind the typical spices found in Thanksgiving dinner, especially those in stuffing. The savory notes are tasty and may not taste like poultry, but the spice combination works well. They certainly would be an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving feast. They are also one of the best flavored chips I've enjoyed in a long time.

The Pumpkin Pie kettle chips are just as crunchy as the Turkey & Gravy ones, solidifying my thought that the basic kettle chips would be thoroughly appealing. The ingredient label for these chips lists pumpkin, molasses, cinnamon, paprika, and spice. And when you open the bag, a prominent aroma of cinnamon with hints of pumpkin wafts through the air. These chips actually resemble the flavor of pumpkin pie, though the pumpkin flavor is more subdued in these chips with the cinnamon being much more dominant. And the flavors once again work well, a pleasing combination of sweet and salty, which are also addictive. I enjoyed these chips far more than I expected.

Boulder Canyon impressed me with these two flavored kettle chips and now I'll be seeking out more of their products. If you want to bring something different to your Thanksgiving feast, why not bring one or both of these flavored chips. It certainly would also make for one of the easiest Thanksgiving dinners, just open a couple bags of the kettle chips.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pantry to Palate: An Acadian Cookbook With Rappie Pie

"The point of writing a cookbook is to get people to cook."
--Simon Thibault

Some cookbooks are simply fun to read while others provide intriguing recipes. They might also teach you about other cultures, broadening your knowledge and experience. In addition, you could appreciate the beauty of the photography, the exquisite and mouthwatering dishes that are visually displayed. And sometimes a cookbook touches you in a deeper way, striking you on an emotional level and creating a connection to your heart and soul. That recently happened to me.

I received a review copy of a new cookbook, which is due out today, called Pantry to Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food by Simon Thibault (Nimbus Publishing, $29.95), a trade paperback of 250 pages. Simon is a Halifax-based journalist and radio producer whose work focuses on food and this is his first book. The cookbook explores Simon's Acadian ancestry, presenting approximately 50 recipes, many derived through his own family.  

In the 17th century, the Acadians were the earliest European settlers of Canada, having come from France, and primarily settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the English expelled most of them in the 18th century, with numerous Acadians relocating to Louisiana. In the forward to this cookbook, Naomi Duguid, a famed food writer and photographer, stated, "In it we learn about the tenacity of Acadian food traditions and the way they have evolved." You may not be familiar with Acadian cuisine and this cookbook would be an excellent introduction.

"It's hard to talk about food and not talk about family."
--Simon Thibault

The majority of the recipes in this book come from Simon's family notebooks, old, hand-written cookbooks. These cookbooks were written by the women in his family so Simon stated that the cookbook is "devoted to the collective and semi-collected works of women who cooked for and amidst generations of Acadians."

The cookbook is broken down into six sections, including:
--Preserves (from Pickled Beets to Mustard Pickles)
--Breads (from Johnny Cakes to Workhouse White Bread)
--Lard (info about lard and directions on rendering lard)
--Tête de Cochon (from Headcheese to Boudin)
--Soups, Sides & Staples (such as Fricot, Meat Pies; Rappie Pie/Rapure, Potato Pancakes, & Seafood Chowder a Mame)
--Desserts (such as Molasses Cake, Seaweed Pie, Baked Apple Pudding, Date Cake & Agnes Doughnuts)

The Desserts section is the largest of the six, followed by Soups, Sides & Staples. All of these sections include plenty of history, background and family information about the recipes, presenting a fascinating story about family, culture and food. The recipes range in complexity from simple to moderate, and nearly all of the ingredients are readily available. Throughout the book, you'll also find plenty of compelling photos, of food and more, by food photographer Noah Fecks. Some of the photos are even of the old notebooks that Simon used as a resource for the recipes.

"The foods brought out during celebrations are often the foods that tell us the most about ourselves, no matter our heritage."
--Simon Thibault

The Soups, Sides & Staples sections begins with an essay, Big Meals, Big Tables, discussing how Simon's family made Rappie Pie. Usually made and served in large pans, it was often for special occasions, especially considering the length of time it took to prepare and cook. It was a joint effort, with both the men and women taking on specific roles, the men engaged in the laborious task of removing the starch from the potatoes while the women were picking the chickens clean of meat. The men and women continued working together on the rest of the tasks, a true family project. And when the Rappie Pie is done, it was served with butter and molasses.

Later in this section, Simon provided some history about Rappie Pie, noting that there were many different ways to make it. In addition, due to the nature of the dish, recipes generally weren't written down, instead they were passed down from person to person, generation to generation. Simon provides one recipe which can serve as a template for your own Rappie Pie creation.

Simon even provides some local spin on Rappie Pie, mentioning Bernadette Lyle, who is from an Acadian village in Nova Scotia and now lives in Wakefield. She started an annual Rappie Pie dinner in Wakefield, which became an extremely popular. Simon also mentions the Facebook group, Rappie Pie Rules!, which posts pictures from many people who make Rappie Pie at home.

It is all of this information on Rappie Pie which especially touched me. My wife and her family are from Nova Scotia and they introduced me to Rappie Pie. In my prior post, Food & Family: In Memory of Frenchie, I wrote about Rappie Pie and my family, and Simon's description of his family making Rappie Pie is similar to the stories I heard about the Babin family. The Babin's didn't write down their Rappie Pie recipe, but passed it down from generation to generation, although now the recipe has been finally written down, to ensure it endures for future generations.

We continue to make Rappie Pie for special occasions, for get-togethers with the extended family, so that the tradition does not end. And sometimes we just make Rappie Pie for dinner, which is much easier and quicker now with the frozen, pre-grated potato blocks. To us, Rappie Pie is more than just food, but it also has a strong connection to our family. And that is why this cookbook resonates so much to me, a shared connection to Simon's experiences.

I give a strong recommendation to Pantry to Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food by Simon Thibault, which tells a great story, relates some delicious recipes, and has great photography. And for my readers, I am also running a giveaway for a FREE copy of this cookbook. All you have to do to enter is to add a comment here on my blog, or comment on my Facebook post about this review. Then, on Wednesday, November 15, at 11pm EST, I will randomly select one of the commenters to win a copy of this book. Good luck!