Deacon Giles Distillery teaser, and a Naumkeag review

If you head over the 75 Canal Street in Salem, Massachusetts, you’ll find a car transmission place and a day care center.  Not very exciting stuff, I’ll admit.  However, if you pop your head around the Gardner Street corner, you’ll find that the building also houses the upcoming Deacon Giles Distillery.

I got the opportunity to check out the distillery as construction is still being finished.  Simply put, I think wonderful things are in store for its future.

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One of the walls of the tasting room features an illustration from The Dream, or, The True History of Deacon Giles’ Distillery and Deacon Jones’ Brewery: Reported for the Benefit of Posterity, which is the inspiration for the distillery name.

And the tasting room is very cozy!  Co-founders Ian and Jesse have worked really hard on it.  It features a lot of gorgeous salvaged wood.

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If you look very hard, you can see that we got to taste samples of the gin which had been made in a small tester batch.  The still hasn’t made its way to Salem yet (but it’s en route!) so mass production is on hold.  I don’t even drink, and I have to say that it was a pretty fantastic gin.  I can also tell you that the other product is rum, and it’ll be made with molasses.  100% molasses.  No cane sugar.

The distillery hopes to open in October, and I hope so too!  Ian and Jesse are a couple of really nice guys with a dream and a whole lot of determination.  I plan to have a follow post when everything is open to the public.

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Boston Public Market

My city finally has a building dedicated to act as an all year farmers’ market.  And yes, I went on opening weekend.

It was busy.  Not everything is open yet.  Some vendors were hidden between other vendor booths (hello Soluna Garden Farm!), but I did my best to explore.  I didn’t buy anything today but I’ll probably come back next week with my sister so I didn’t want to stress over it.  (Plus, there are things in my freezer that I should defrost and cook up before I stock up on some locally raised meats.)

(I miss having a meat farm share.)

Overall reaction, I am very happy to have this building in the general area.  I commute by public transit mostly, and Boston Public Market is right next to Haymarket station.  The Kitchen entrance is closest to the station but I didn’t see any demonstrations going on.  Looking at their calendar, it looks like it’ll be a few more weeks before that space sees any real use.

There’s a wall in the market area called the Cookbook Exchange.  The idea is to take a cookbook/magazine, and leave a cookbook/magazine.  Writing in the books is encouraged!  Then the next borrower will know what people tried out.

Taza chocolate wasn’t open yet and neither was the wine vendor.  But there was a beer section, two meat sellers, cider donuts, Union Square donuts, a honey seller, a seller of bowls and boards from local trees, etc.

Anyway, have a mini-tour:

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https://bostonpublicmarket.org/

https://bostonpublicmarket.org/blog/848/boston-public-market-cookbook-exchange

Alden and Harlow, in pictures

Last week was the first time I dined at Alden and Harlow in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.  In sum, it was amazing.  The only thing not pictured that we ate was a plate of root beer glazed ribs (it was a special).  And it was the only plate that we felt did not live up to the deliciousness of all the other plates.  I’m not saying it was bad.  It just wasn’t stellar.  Everything in the following pictures though?  I WANT TO EAT IT ALL AGAIN AND AGAIN.

Alden & Harlow sign

Alden & Harlow sign

waiting for friends

waiting for friends

The turncoat cocktail and pickled green beans to nosh on

The turncoat cocktail and pickled green beans to nosh on

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Staycation, day 1 (sweetgreen)

Vacation… What a wonderful word!

My sister and I are both taking time off this week.  And we’re both staying put, so we’ve decided to go out into the city everyday for lunch, and enjoy a food-oriented staycation.

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Today, we went to Sweetgreen on Boylston Street.  Even though it was my suggestion, I was very unsure if I was going to like this place.  Sweetgreen, which has other locations in DC, Philadelphia, and NYC, is a salad bar that sources local and organic ingredients.  I love the “local” and “organic” facets, but I freely admit that I’m not a huge salad person.

First impression?  Don’t go between 12p-1p on a work day!  (^_^)

We got there around 12:15p and the line was reaching outside the door.  Luckily, most people were taking their salads back to their offices, and the line moved pretty quickly.  Still, there were probably at least 20 people in front of us.  I went to grab us a table while my sister ordered.  It probably wasn’t a necessary step as even the dine-in customers moved in and out pretty quickly.

Although I don’t have a photo of it, there’s a chalkboard on the far end of the restaurant that lists where some of their items are sourced from.  It’s kind of cool.

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Nourish Your Soul, West Medford, MA

Greater Boston finally has its first pressed juice store!  Or at least I think it’s our first. Boston is notorious for being the last one to jump on a trend, and I couldn’t predict that juicing was going to end up in Medford. I would have guessed Harvard Square in Cambridge or some place similar.

Nourish Your Soul, located on 17 Playstead Road, West Medford, had its grand opening yesterday and I couldn’t resist going. Now, I’m hardly one of those yoga crazed people who are dedicated to doing a cleanse at least once a year and what not (that would be my sister, haha), but I’ve been aware for some time now that there are nutritional gaps in my meals, despite my pretty decent eating habits. Freshly pressed juices and smoothies have perked my interest as a result.  And I admit it – I’m the weirdo who made her best friend take her to Liquiteria and other juice places the last time I was in NYC.

My best friend wasn’t around this time, so I dragged my yoga-loving sister with me for this Saturday afternoon adventure.

First impression? There’s more people there than I expected. lol! It’s a small store front (there’s no place inside set up for sitting), but it was crawling with people young and old who were craving tasting samples.

(You cannot tell from the picture, but there was a full house inside.)

Second impression?  The quality and price is pretty much on par with what I saw in NYC.

More importantly, what did we drink?

1.  ppm:pineapple, pear and mint – pineapple and pear aid digestion and reverse inflammation, while pear packs anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, and Copper along with heart healthy folic acid and niacin ====>  I liked this quite a bit.  The pineapple is the dominant flavor, so pass if you don’t like pineapples.  (Why would anyone dislike pineapples?)

2.  grapefruit green: kale, grapefruit, pear, cucumber, mint and dandelion – anti-oxidant rich greens with grapefruit, an anti-cancer, heart healthy, metabolism-boosting powerhouse ====> see below

3. green juice: kale, romaine, parsley, spinach, cucumber, lemon and apple – detoxing combo rich in anti-oxidants, chlorophyll and powerful vitamins and minerals ====> I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like green juices.  I like green smoothies and I like Trader Joe’s green juice, but overall, it’s not my thing.  The grapefruit green was a little too bitter for me, and the green juice tasted too strong of parsley.  I had the same issues with the green juices I tried in NYC, so it’s no fault of the store.  I’m just not fond of it is all.

4.  beet blend:beets, pear, lemon and cucumber – rich in nitrites, beets increase circulation for improved focus while vitamin rich pear, cleansing lemon, and cooling cucumber add flavor and nutrients ====> All I could taste were the beets.  Don’t drink this if you’re not a beet fan.  Otherwise, it tastes just fine.

5.  almond butter smoothie: filtered water, almonds, dates, sea salt, banana, almond butter, cinnamon and vanilla – a powerhouse smoothie with protein and mineral packed almond butter plus cinnamon, a powerful anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory ====> Very almond buttery!  I really liked this smoothie.  And I imagine that it’s very filling if you drink a full size.

6.  tropical smoothie: pineapple, mango, coconut water, dates, blueberries, chia and vanilla – this smoothie, rich in anti-oxidants, fiber, and essential fatty acids, incorporates coconut water to hydrate and mangos to improve concentration and digestion ====> Another smoothie flavor that I really liked.

7.  blueberry banana smoothie: blueberries, banana, almonds, filtered water, dates and sea salt – memory-boosting blueberries, with protein-loaded almonds, plus fiber-rich bananas and dates ====> Bananas were the dominant flavor for me.  Actually, any smoothie with banana will always be too banana-y in my opinion.  I love bananas, but I feel like it’s impossible for it to take a backseat in any flavor combination.  On the other hand, my sister liked it.

(Note:  not all of the flavors mentioned were available as a sample – my sister and I bought a couple to take home.)

I can see myself going back to buy drinks (especially if there’s more oral surgery in my future – that was not and never will be fun).  I’m glad that the location is on my side of Greater Boston.  It’ll make it easier to go since I don’t have a car.  For anyone taking a bus, I think it was near the 80, the 94, and the 95 routes.

For anyone interested in a cleanse, you can order a 3-day or a 4-day cleanse.  Details are on the site.  I don’t know if I’d ever have the willpower to do a cleanse.  More power to you if you can.

Let me know what you think of the store if you get a chance to visit.

https://nourishyoursoul.com/
17 Playstead Road
West Medford, MA  02155
888‐99‐JUICE
Open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. & Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

restaurant week, Harvest review

Restaurant Week, week no. 2, location – Harvest, Cambridge.

Menu for Week 2** March 21st to March 27th available every evening, including Saturdays Tasting Menu $33.09 / Half Glass Wine Pairing $48.09, Full Glass Pairing $58.09 (No Substitutions)

Appetizers

  • Spring Vidalia Onion Soup Gruyere Croutons & Fines Herbs Angelini, Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy 2008 Market Green
  • Panzannella Bufala Mozzarella, Crispy Artichokes & Parsley Crostini Burgáns, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain 2007

Entrées

  • Seared Atlantic Salmon Pearl Pasta, Cucumber, Lemon Confit, Ginger & Dill Yogurt Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2008
  • Roasted Loin of Pork Braised Chard, Smoked Bacon, Anson Mills Polenta & a Vanilla Gastrique First Drop Wines, The Red One, Shiraz Blend, South Australia 2008
  • Forbidden Black Rice Tart Baby Carrots, Baby Turnips, Bok Choy & Hen of The Woods Mushrooms Hogue Cellars, Genesis, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington 2005

Dessert

  • Chocolate Peanut Crunch Bourbon Cream, Sea salt, Cocoa Nibs Banfi, Rosa Regale, Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy 2007
  • Roasted Apple Pain De Gênes Vanilla Cream, Apple Conserve Markus Molitor, Riesling, Spätlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 2006
  • Raspberry Sorbet Sesame Almond Crisp Michele Chiarlo, Nivole, Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2007

Me? The spring onion soup, the black rice tart, and the roasted apple.

Miss L*? The spring onion soup, the pork, the roasted apple, and the half-glass pairing.

Miss K*? The panzannella, the pork, the chocolate peanut crunch, and the half-glass pairing.

The spring onion soup was nothing like I was expecting. I was still expecting something like onion soup. Instead, I was served a smooth, green soup with a drizzle of oil and a small piece of toasted bread with cheese sitting in the center of my bowl. But wow! It really made you think of spring. It was a delicate flavor, but still really flavorful. I don’t even know what herbs were used (I am a terrible taster, and am terrible at describing tastes). It was a perfect soup for a day like today, which was still quite windy and a bit cold even though we have officially moved out of winter.

[haha! I’ve been watching a Japanese drama recently called “Kami No Shizuku” which revolves around wine tasting, using really superfluous descriptions to describe the taste of a wine… I am so tempted to say something like “this soup transported me to a field of snowdrops on an early spring morning, all covered with dew, but then! the sun bursts through the fog to warm the air and the ground around me. The beautiful fragrance of spring feels my lungs, and a desire to move forward ambitiously surges through me.” *grin*  It’s so silly, and yet I’m still watching this drama.]

I think the theme for our evening out was “surprises.” My black rice tart? Again, it was nothing I was expecting. When I think of rice, I tend to think of Asian starchy and sticky dishes. But my tart wasn’t sticky at all, nor was it much of a tart. The rice had been molded probably with something like a biscuit cutter, and the veggies and mushrooms were mounded on top. The rice was infused with a sort of herb flavor that, again, I couldn’t identify. It was a stronger flavor than the onion soup, but nothing overwhelming.  The minute I put my fork in it, individual pieces of rice began to fall apart easily.  Miss K and Miss L took a bite of my rice tart, and both were also pleasantly surprised.

I did steal a bit of the pork. Wow, the pork tasted like it had been covered in smoky bacon except there were only a few bits of bacon on the plate. Miss K and Miss L raved over the pork plate. They were impressed with the wine pairing too. None of us are wine experts, but the ladies at my table know the good from the bad. And then Miss L admitted that it was the first time that she had ever eaten spinach that still looked like spinach (I hear that she only eats it in Indian cuisine, so probably as saag paneer aka palak paneer, which is also quite yummy).  She liked her spinach for once. Apparently, the highlight of the plate was the vanilla gastrique. I don’t know what gastrique means, but it was apparently the shiny sauce that was drizzled under their food and over their plates. Many “oohs” and “aahs” were had.

Miss K got the better dessert. Miss L and I were imagining something like an apple pie on our plates, but the reality was we got what was essentially an apple muffin served with roasted diced apples and ice cream. Oh, and a very, very thinly sliced piece of dried apple. The dried apple was really good. The rest? Good but nothing to wax frilly descriptions over. Miss K’s dessert looked like a tiramisu, but it was more like a chocolate cookie(?) layer with a chocolate peanut butter mousse layered on top. The peanut flavor was quite subtle and nothing like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Miss K was happy with her dessert selection.

Honestly though, I think Miss K was more enthralled by her dessert wine, the Rosa Regale. It was fizzy and fruity and sweet like a cocktail, but without being a cocktail. She currently plans to hunt down this wine and buy it for her house.

I’m more than tempted to go back to Harvest. Maybe during the summer restaurant week. We were all really full at the end of the night. Luckily, I was not as gut-bustingly full as I had been after eating at Grotto (I did not have to stay up late in hopes of digesting my meal more). Don’t get me wrong though, portions at Harvest will still feed you well enough, even though it might look smaller than what you were expecting. On the other hand, the presentation was very nice – prettier than Grotto easily.  The service at Harvest was good, still not as good as my experience at Sel de la Terre, but still good. The only complaint we had was that the wines were not served when the food came out. They were always a few minutes late. I think we had to wait at least a good five minutes before the dessert wines were dropped off at our table. We tried our best not to dig through our desserts before Miss K and Miss L could have some of it with their wines.

I think Harvest is perfect for special occasions. And it’s a good place to check out if you want to impress your company. I’m very happy that Miss K and Miss L enjoyed it as much as I did. I’m sure we’ll go back in the near future.

~Mikan

** = Yes, Harvest had a different menu for Week 1.

restaurant week, Grotto review

*Primi

Carroza – Pan toasted buffalo mozzarella, Red bell peppers, Baby spinach, Small tomatoes, Black olives, Capers

Insalata – Baby arugula, Poached pears, Parma prosciutto, Reggiano parmesan, Lemon

Zucca –  Sweet potato ravioli, Reggiano parmesan, Brown butter, Sage, Amaretti

Spinaci – Baby spinach, Beets, Walnuts, Goat cheese, Raspberry vinaigrette

Zuppa – Garlic and black truffle soup, Parmesan, Toasted bread crumbs

Fonduta – Fontina cheese fondue, Beef tenderloin, Aged Balsamic, Truffle oil, Portobello mushrooms

Mare – Grilled calamari, White beans, Peppers, Greens, Lemon

Cavatelle –  House prepared ricotta pasta, Sausage, Peas, Mushrooms, Pancetta, Cream

*Secondi

Osso Buco – Slow braised lamb, Stuffed red bell pepper, Braising sauce

Mattone  – Pan roasted all natural chicken, Risotto, Wild Mushrooms, Chicken jus

Carne – Grilled beef tenderloin, Reggiano risotto, Asparagus, Red wine

Zafferano – Crab ravioli, Asparagus, Almonds, Saffron

Pettini – Pan roasted diver scallops “ravioli”, Leeks, Wild mushrooms, Arugula

Spaghetti – Meatballs & Grotto’s insanely fabulous tomato sauce

Gnocchi – Short ribs, Mushrooms, Gorgonzola

Antra – Apple stuffed duck breast, crispy leg, Prosciutto, Dried cherries, Potato gratin, Black truffle, Madeira

*Dolce

Cioccolato – Melting chocolate cake & Vanilla ice cream

Budino – Banana bread pudding, Caramel ice cream, Walnuts Panna Cotta Butterscotch “pudding”, Rum raisins, Soft whipped cream

Tre Ice cream – Vanilla, Chocolate, Caramel

Me: the mozzarella with spinach, the scallops, and the chocolate cake. Stealth Eater: the grilled squid, the chicken, and the chocolate cake. Miss M: the fondue, the duck, and the chocolate cake. Mr. K: the insalata, the duck and the chocolate cake. Miss M took pictures. We were all more than happy and seconds away from food coma by the end of the night.

First impressions? Small and cute. To get there, we walked past Boston Common and turned onto Bowdoin Street. Bowdoin Street is kind of interesting. It’s the Beacon Hill area, but it’s a bit more on the business side of the neighborhood than the residential side. At 7pm on a Monday, it’s a quiet street – you start to wonder if you’re in the right place. Grotto, marked by fairy lights around the entrance, is almost easy to miss with its small stairwell leading to a basement entrance. We walked in, and were all sort of in awe by its size – we thought it’d be a larger restaurant for some reason. Regardless of size, I think we all immediately liked it with its wooden tables, wall to wall red paint, and glowing chandeliers.

Thank goodness for reservations, I highly recommend making some if you want to dine here (it’s that small). We were seated almost immediately, tucked away in a corner, and given our menus (and after our order was taken, we were served with fresh bread and olives in olive oil – the bread reminded me of prezels except softer and spongier).

The restaurant week menu is pretty much Grotto’s normal menu, except with pricing changes, which meant that we had several dishes to pick from (see menu above). Everyone seemed pretty happy with their selections. M loved the fondue and K took a taste. They both thought it was amazing. I took a bite of my sister’s grilled squid – pretty good and much easier to eat than that one time I bought grilled squid at Russo’s (as much as I love Russo’s, that squid made me feel like I was eating some sort of kitchen cleaning solution). I really liked my first course – the mozzarella was sandwiched between something that was either bread or polenta (I couldn’t tell in the dim light and I don’t ever cook polenta). Under my mozzarella sandwich, was baby spinach drizzled with some sort of balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh, it was really delicious. It was special. I did my best to not make a mess, but alas! At least, my table companions aren’t sticklers for etiquette.

The second course? M and K kind of stared at their plates for a bit. M exclaimed “that’s the prosciutto?!”, not because there was anything wrong with it but because they did not skimp on the prosciutto. Not at all.  They were like mini towers of prosciutto.   (Actually, Grotto did not skimp on any of their plates.) Meanwhile, I worked on my dish. The scallops were presented in something vaguely looking like a sandwich (this explains why the word ravioli is in quotes). The top and bottom layer was a large round piece of pasta. In between, the scallops were topped with a lot of arugula, and the sandwich was surrounded by mushrooms (hmm, I couldn’t see or taste the leeks – the mushrooms were dominant). It was really good, but I think I liked my first course better. As I jokingly said to Stealth Eater, the first course put a little twinkle in my eyes. I think I like the chicken presentation best – the chicken sat on top a bed of mushroom risotto, and had a little bouquet of thyme sticking up. Even though it was a lot of food, I think everyone finished their plates.

[edit from Miss M:  “I was too busy eating to mention it, but that thing of prosciutto was actually the duck breast wrapped in prosciutto with apple inside. “]

And of course, we all picked chocolate for dessert. It’s hard to resist and hard to mess up at a fine restaurant. I had to leave my last bite of chocolate on my plate. It’s been two hours since I’ve been home, and I STILL feel like I’m going to explode. I feel a little sorry for that last little bite.

Overall, I’d be happy to recommend Grotto to anyone. Compared to Sel de la Terre (the Awesomesauce of Boston favorite), I guess I’d currently give Sel de la Terre five stars and Grotto four stars. Why? The food is excellent in either location, but the service at Sel de la Terre is very efficient. Your glass of water will never be empty. But if you’re looking for good food in a cozier setting, Grotto is probably the right place. It’s not the end of the world if I need to pour my own water from the large bottle the waitstaff dropped off. I’d love to go again.

Grotto, 37 Bowdoin Street, Boston, 617-227-3434, www.grottorestaurant.com

~ Mikan