Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Previewing the Nantucket Wine Festival

It's almost time for the ultimate New England island-style food and wine celebration. It's almost time for Nantucket Wine Festival. I recently got to preview some of the food and wines that will be at the 5-day celebration up at State Room, with a view of the Boston Harbor (you'll be getting a different harbor view on Nantucket!)

Nantucket Wine Fest Preview
The Nantucket Wine Festival will take place on May 18-22, 2016 and will feature over 50 events including various tasting seminars, breakfast on the harbor, and grand tastings in which over 600 wines will be poured.
Nantucket Wine Fest Preview

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Modern Mexican Finally Hits Long Beach with Playa Amor

The newest hot spot for Mexican food in the LA area is in Long Beach, but Playa Amor doesn't just serve great, traditional Mexican dishes. What sets it apart for me is Chef Thomas Ortega's own modern take on it, like what you will find with his Mole tot poutine (tater tots, mole negro, queso, cress, cilantro, onion, $8.50)

Playa Amor
I've actually had a slightly different version of this a couple of years ago at Thomas Ortega's other restaurant, Amor Y Tacos in Cerritos. I feel that he's improved the dish even more since I like it even better now.

You may find the ubiquitous Charred brussel sprouts with a touch of Mexican flair with some cotija, lime juice, red wine vinegar, smoked jalapeno remoulade ($8.75)
Playa Amor

On the other hand, you'll also fine very well executed versions of more typical dishes like the Shrimp ceviche (Mexican shrimp, pico de gallo, citrus juice, jalapeno, garlic aioli, cabbage, cotija, corn tostada, $12).
Playa Amor

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Marrying Elegance and First Nations Culture at Wendake and Restaurant La Traite (Quebec, Canada)

Wendake in Quebec is a special place. Wendake is the reservation of the Hurons-Wendat people, who have built a hotel, museum, and restaurant of the First Nations people (Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations). While the Native Americans in the USA tend to have casinos as their means of income, Wendake is very different. It's an elegant hotel that I feel really embodies the values and traditions of the first nations people, while incorporating modern comforts and amenities.

The primary draw for me, of course, is the restaurant La Traite, which serves a modern take on first nations cuisine. We first made our way to the lounge for a tasting of their signature cocktails, which are named after the biggest clans of the Huron-Wendat. Some of these contain traditional ingredients like wild blueberries or labrador tea, and one is made with Ungava gin, a Canadian gin made with many unusual, traditional herbs!
La Traite
Since it's too difficult the type out the names with the proper accents, here's a photo of the cocktail menu:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The First Pig Roast at The Gallows (South End, Boston, MA)

The popular South End spot, The Gallows, recently held their first family-style Pig Roast on April 4. The event was successful so hopefully we will see more of it!
This was actually my first time at The Gallows, and I like the themed decorations like the ouija board on the wall.

The Gallows
The Pig Roast was $30 per person for a lot of great food, as you will see shortly!

When we got seated, we were served popcorn. First I thought it was bacon caramel popcorn, but even better - it was popcorn with cracklings! I kind of just went for the cracklings.

The Gallows

Everyone also gets sweet cornbread and sweet tea.
The Gallows

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Romantic Cavatina Heats Up The Sunset Marquis

A romantic, quiet outdoor dining just off of the Sunset Strip, Cavatina is currently flying under the radar. It's surprising that not more people know about this restaurant, which offers a solid menu of both food and wine.

Not a lot of people know about this restaurant that is hidden inside the Sunset Marquis hotel, but it offers a gorgeous outdoor dining experience. Get a table on the outside that overlooks the man-made waterfall for a more romantic setting.
Cavatina's cuisine is originally headed by James Beard winning Chef and Restaurateur Michael Schlow who has a restaurant empire on the East Coast. I've previously had a great lunch experience at Cavatina, but now I returned to try the dinner menu. The evening provided a very different ambiance as well!

Lamb meatballs, tomato, cumin, pine nuts ($12)
It's nice that the tomato sauce here doesn't overpower the flavors of the meatballs themselves.

Homemade potato chips ($7) with green chile onion dip - this one's a mainstay on the menu that I've had during lunch before.

Yellowtail, cucumber agua chile, pickled persimmon, masago ($19), a light and refreshing dish that highlights the texture of the yellowtail.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Authentic Izakaya Experience at Izakaya Ittoku (Boston, MA)

If you've met me in real life, you may have heard me complain about the lack of good ethnic food in Boston (with the exception of Brazilian and Jamaican food). Well, that's not quite true, because at least there is one authentic izakaya. Izayaka Ittoku in Allston offers what is probably the only authentic izakaya experience in Boston, with a large menu, great food, and cheap beer pitchers!

On top of the already large menu, they sometimes have special dishes, like this stir fried squid with green onions. So good we ordered another helping.

Izakaya Ittoku
Agedashi tofu ($5.75) - a classic, of course.
Izakaya Ittoku
Cucumber sunomono, another great dish to share and a great palate cleanser in between other plates.
Izakaya Ittoku

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Literary-Themed Spring Cocktails at Kings Row Gastropub (Pasadena, CA)

I have to admit, I hadn't really bothered looking at the cocktail menu at Kings Row Gastropub in Old Town Pasadena before, after all, it's a beer bar, right? Well, I was wrong. Kings Row Gastropub actually has a solid cocktail menu - one of the best in Pasadena - thanks to bartender Zulma Cobain.

Kings Row Gastropub
Just like previous menus, her new spring cocktail menu is literary-themed. See how many titles/references you can pick out!

The menu starts out from the lighter ones:
Infinite Jest (Pisco Capurro, sugar, Pimm's No 1, lemon juice, raspberries, bitters)
Kings Row Gastropub
A very appropriate thirst quencher to start a spring tasting, and great for all Pimm's fans.
(The name is a title of David Foster Wallace's book).

Spring & All (Old Forrester, Averna, passionfruit, lemon)
Kings Row Gastropub
Spring is a time for fruits and flowers, after all, and the passionfruit goes perfectly with bourbon. Zulma's cocktails are not overly sweet and were all well balanced. 
(Spring and All is a poetry book by William Carlos Williams)

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