Friday, October 30, 2009

Wine ConneXtion, North Andover

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the opening of one of my favorite places- a wine store! Wine ConneXtion at 117 Main Street, North Andover has just recently opened with one hot new concept in wine sales- setting up a tasting area for the consumer, and selling at a discount! Director/Owner Sam Messina has realized that that purchasing good wine shouldn't have to be in place of a mortgage, and so, since he saves by buying in bulk- he thought he'd pass along the savings to his customers. Nice of him huh? Well-he's just a nice guy!
Sam isn't "just" a nice guy though- he's also incredibly knowledgeable. In speaking with him he can share unbelievable amounts of information on regional wines, be it California based, Italian or French. And he is more than willing to share. After speaking with Sam, and enjoying a glass or two of their delicious wines, I set out exploring the store. My favorite things?
  1. The selection was amazing. Row after row after row of wines- all clearly separated either by grape type or region. It was such a great set up and so fun to see all the different types so nicely grouped. Which brings me to the second thing I loved-
  2. Informational signs for every bottle of wine clearly stating its unique characteristics, as well as drinkability and preferred food pairings. All too often you're left standing in a wine store, bottle in hand, wondering if it really will go with that beautiful piece of salmon that you're grilling, or if it will pair with roasted chicken better. And then there are those times that you receive a lovely bottle of wine as a gift, and then you wonder if its a "drink now" or a "wait a few years and it will get even better"- Wine ConneXtion has solved that problem for us.

  3. Finally, my last favorite thing, which by far not least, is their prices. We are talking serious discounts here! One of the fellow bloggers I met there called them "Trader Joe wine prices" and she was so very right! My favorite vineyard, as I've mentioned before, is the Silverado out of California. The only problem with it, is it is just too highly priced to be a practical frequently drunk wine. But at Wine ConneXtion prices-well I just had to scoop up a bottle. Sam was very tempting in his offer to purchase a case of my preferred variety and pass it along to me at the same great discounted rates. I might be in love.
Overall, Wine ConneXtion is one heck of a great place. It is a bit of a drive from Boston, but for prices and selection and some great quality wines, I think its more than worth the trip!

Thanks to everyone at Wine ConneXtion, and Kory and all at Pan Communications for a great evening!

Not only does Wine ConneXtion have a website but they also have a twitter page! Follow them there:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Johnnie's on the Side, Boston

If there is one thing that Boston has- its sports bars. Every corner that you turn down, every street you pass has bars littered with TV's in every available space and Boston fans cheering on their favorite teams. Who can blame them really? Boston rocks. Sure we have our off years (I'm still crying over the Sox loss a few weeks back) but we aren't called the Title Town for nothing. I digress....sports bars- everywhere. The thing about most of them though is that the food isn't all that great. They all seem to serve up the same combinations of the same food- burgers, chicken fingers, fries, some sort of chicken sandwich, some variation of "Irish food" gets a bit boring. With that said- there is a recently re-opened place, that promises a new look at fan cuisine-and seem to very much be on the right track.

Johnnie's on the Side opened in 2008 bordering both the Garden community and the West End of Boston. It is a place that I have eaten at numerous times, have always enjoyed my food, but have always forgotten to write about. This past summer though they were forced to close due to plumbing issues in the neighborhood, and every time I passed Johnnie's I was reminded of what a great place it is, and how sad I was that it wasn't open. Last night we ventured over to the area again, and were thrilled to find it open once again.

While there is no mistaking Johnnie's as a sports bar, the feeling inside is far different from the average. Plush leather couches greet you as you enter, dark wood surrounds the place giving it a more upscale theme, and the walls, well yes- there is a very generous smattering of TVs adorning the walls, but in between those are fantastic old photos of great sportsmen all signed and addressed to the owner. Retired seats from Fenway, Hall of Fame basketballs, gifts from players and teams alike create an amazing array of memorabilia, and all displayed in great array. For a fan- its a fantastic site to see.

But I'm not there to talk about sports stuff am I? I'm there to eat (well and take in a great Celtics season opener game). Not wanting to feel weighed down by individual meals we decided instead to split some appetizers since they all sounded so good. We started with their traditional meatballs, served in marinara sauce with parmesan cheese and a beautifully fried basil leaf. A few slices of fresh bread, and I felt like I was back in my mother's kitchen. A bite into one of the meatballs, and I really was in my mother's kitchen. I was shocked at how similar these were to her recipe. Actually-I think that they stole it. Perfect consistency, great flavors- really delicious. And the bread was nice a crusty- a great compliment to the meatballs!

After revelling in those for a bit, we saw a plate of quesadilla's walk past us- upon menu study we found out that these were known as the Bullfinch Triangles- and were actually made from Duck and Monterey Jack cheese as the main components, and were served with a fun mango salsa and Hoisin sauce on the side. These were also really tasty- duck is one of those poultry items that I just don't have much experience with, but here it was moist and delicious, perfectly paired with the flavors of the cheese and complimented by a nice texture change with still crisp onions. The salsa was good, though Mango and I have never been good friends. The Hoisin sauce was a nice addition- and added a good Asian vibe to the dish. Enjoyable all the way around.

We finally ended the night with their spinach and artichoke dip served with pita chips. Chock full of artichoke pieces and tons of spinach, I could almost convince myself that this was healthy. It wasn't as the other main components are yummy cheese, but it was certainly delicious. Johnnie's serves their spinach and artichoke dip in a little bowl with marinara sauce, which I always think makes it even more delicious. Somehow the acidity of the tomatoes just perks up the rest of the flavors and counters the wonderful decadence of the creamy cheese.

Combined with my past experiences, I have a lot of love for Johnnie's on the Side. Its a place where you run in to old friends, where you may make some new ones, and a place where you don't have to sacrifice good food for watching the game. Johnnie's-welcome back! I am so pleased you have re opened!

Johnnie's on the Side on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Salad, Dijon Rosemary Chicken, Homemade Potato Chips

Roasted vegetables are one of my all time favorite things. I love the different mixes of veggies that can be put together, and are then bonded with one harmonious flavor, but maintain their own distinct qualities. It is also the best way Ive found for me to enjoy the lovely Brussel Sprout without killing its nutritional value with bacon. Last night I was craving a nice big salad so I decided to make a roasted veggie salad as opposed to my norm of fresh veggies.
I decided to combine thinly sliced brussel sprouts, red peppers, zucchini, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and carrots with chopped parsley, garlic and rosemary. I tossed all of this together in a bag with a little salt and pepper and of course olive oil, spread them out on a pan and popped them into the oven at 400 degrees F.
I decided to serve the salad, as it would come together later, with some baked chicken, and (because I wanted to play with my new kitchen toy) some homemade, baked potato chips. I made a quick marinade of rosemary, Dijon mustard, garlic and white wine, and let the chicken rest in that solution for a couple of hours. Browned quickly on each side, I slid the chicken breasts into the oven at the same 400 the veggies were roasting at. Simple dinner so far!
Now, a few weeks ago I picked myself up a long anticipated, much wanted, kitchen tool. One that I imagined making my life 100 times easier, and opening up many doors to many new recipes. Until last night- I had yet to use it. Finally realizing that I had the ability to use it- I pulled my brand new mandolin from its storage space and reveled in its glory. This handy little device promises to slice vegetables paper thin- far thinner than my clumsy hands could to manually- and it promised to do this in uniform slices-even better! Speaking of clumsy- it even came with a little safety guard designed to keep myself from slicing my finger as opposed to my chosen veggie. Wonderful.
I had some leftover potatoes in the fridge from making mashed potatoes for a friend this past weekend, so I decided to make some fun, baked potato chips for a starch accompaniment for dinner. Lo and behold, the mandolin worked like an absolute charm. Slice after slice of thinner than paper thin potato flew from the blade and made a beautiful pile of soon to be chips. Of course though, stubborn as I am, I had originally refused to use the safety guard and gave myself a nice finger slice as well- so now I have learned my lesson and I pass it on to you- use the safety guard!
Anyway- with a couple of potatoes nicely sliced, I quickly boiled them to get some of the starch out so they would crisp better, drained them, and then tossed them with just a little canola oil, and a couple pinches of salt. I spread them out on a cookie sheet (sadly not completely in a single layer) and popped them into the oven at the same good ol' 400. So far-I was loving the ease of this meal.
With everything coming together so easily, I set to work on my salad dressing of choice for the salad. This summer I started making a salad dressing for seafood salads that I really fell in love with, and luckily I decided that it could really tie together the different components of the meal. A quick chop of a clove of garlic, some rosemary, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon, a pinch of salt and enough olive oil to bind it all together got blended. The outcome is this gorgeous blend of flavors- the earthy rosemary, garlic, the tang of the lemon with the slight spice of the mustard and the richness of the olive oil. Its a perfect combination of flavors for me. Once the veggies had cooled I tossed them with a healthy few handfuls of Arugula, some chopped cucumber, a handful of pecans, the dressing, and a bit of Gorgonzola cheese. Salad was complete.
The chicken took about 40 minutes or so in the oven, and then that got taken out as well, left to rest for a bit, and then sliced. Finally, after turning the potatoes a few times, I got a good batch of potato chips-crunchy and delectable.
The completed meal was a great one- all of the flavors were able to play off of each other in a very harmonious fashion and highlight each other along the way. The star of the show was the salad with all of its different textures. The veggies were nicely tender without being over cooked, and had those wonderful flavors of roasting and rosemary, the olives were nice and salty and perfect with the arugula. The cucumbers and the pecans just added a great amount of crunch, and were so nicely off set by the creamy and tangy Gorgonzola. With the light, citrus tasting dressing-it was a perfect combination of flavors.
The chips were good-I felt that I had definitely over cooked some, and under cooked others-but that can all be worked out with playing with the temperatures and timing I'm sure. They tasted fully of potato though- and weren't overladen with oil, salt and grease which is a big plus in my book.
The chicken was also good- great flavor throughout, tender, but a bit dry as I tend to always over cook chicken for safety sake. But it was a wonderful addition to the plate which I felt was a really nice representation of Fall- a combination of summer and winter- meeting in the middle for one delightful meal. I definitely foresee that salad being made many many times in the future....

Autumn Roasted Vegetables

Friday, October 16, 2009

Power Packed Blueberry Smoothie

I have a new crush....I hadn't wanted to talk about it thinking it might have just been a summer fling, but no- those cold autumn days have come and I'm still loving it. I think that now I'm ready to reveal it though...I'm completely in love with my breakfast smoothie.
See-I've never been a breakfast person-always looking for anyway to get out of it. Cereal has never been a good choice for me- those soggy pieces at the end turn me off. Eggs are great- but in a morning when I'm running out the door? I just don't have time. Bagels, while tasty, are such a waste of calories for I needed something that would fill me up, provide some good nutrients and really kick off my morning in the right way. And so was born the Blueberry Smoothie. I got the idea one Sunday morning at the gym as I planned my weekly trip to the grocery store (see how that works? work out then grocery store-I like to think I buy healthier that way). I started thinking about what to bring for breakfast and then I realized that I could cram a ton of good stuff into one, portable drink by blending it all together. Off to the grocery store I went, and then set on home to create my first smoothie.
It was summer, and those wonderful anti-oxidant laden blueberries were in season- I stocked up. Fat free Greek yogurt-full of Protein and Calcium is a key ingredient. A banana got tossed in for all of that great Potassium, and then I started getting a little creative. I remember when I was a kid my mom always had wheat germ around for us to put on yogurt. Turns out- Wheat Germ has all sorts of good nutrients in it-Vitamin E for starters but also zinc- which I always try to stock up on. Then I added in a couple of handfuls of almonds, which have recently been talked about as a "miracle food" helping with digestion and lowering cancer risks. And finally, I boiled a pot of green tea (said to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer), let it cool and added just enough to make the mixture drinkable after blending.
The result? A power packed breakfast for a girl who hates to stop and eat in the morning. Now I'm not a nutritionist by any stretch of the imagination, but drinking this each morning lets me know that at least I'm starting off my day on the right foot, and I feel ready to start the day!
Also- since the summer has ended I've switched to frozen blueberries- cheaper, last longer and every bit as delicious :-).
(If only every day I could drink it out of a pretty crystal champagne flute, but unfortunately a portable plastic bottle has to do most mornings)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pork chops with Pumpkin Cider sauce, and Arugula Gremolata salad makes another appearance

Though I say it about almost every season, I think that Fall really is my favorite. Everything about it just wonderful- orange pumpkins decorating the window boxes and stoops, mums are out, apples everywhere, the kid like charm of running through freshly fallen leaves...its just wonderful. The flavors of this season are some of my very favorites as well (so much so I tend to use them far into winter as well...shhhhh). Last night was one of those beautifully crisp days that lets you know that winter is on its way- and therefore to me- it was a perfect day to make a dinner to celebrate October.
I was in a "foreign" kitchen last night so I neglected to take as many photos as usual- so the final product will have to do :-). I decided to make pork chops, with a sauce for a tribute to the season, and serve with a salad that to me really encompasses the season. The salad that I made is actually one that I've made several times- Arugula with a Gremolata dressing ( -for last night I just omitted the chicken.
Having a tried and true salad in the bag, I got to concentrate heavily on the main course. I had found some really beautiful boneless pork chops in the grocery store, and had picked them up with sage, garlic, and was happy to find a whole shelf full of wonderful canned pumpkin (what pumpkin shortage??). I also made sure I had some of my favorite hard cider on hand-Strongbow.
My first task back in the kitchen was to chop a couple of cloves of garlic, several leaves of sage and mash them together in a bowl with a little kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. I rubbed this mixture onto the pork chops, placed them in a Ziploc bag, and then covered them with about half a can of Strongbow. I removed any air from the bag and then let them marinate in the fridge while I made the salad.
After they had marinated for about 20 minutes or so, I heated a skillet pan on the stove top with just about a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil. I also preheated the oven to 400 degrees. Once the pan was at a hot enough level-I added the pork chops for them to sear. Once both sides had gotten a nice golden brown to them, I transferred the pan to the oven for them to finish cooking. Then I turned my attention to a sauce I wanted to make.
I melted about a teaspoon of butter into a sauce pan, and added two cloves of chopped garlic, several leaves of chopped sage, a pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. After those flavors had nicely melded I added a handful of dried cranberries and at the same time, another half a can or so of Strongbow cider to the pot, and then set it to boil and reduce. Once the cider had reduced significantly, and the flavors were becoming really nice and concentrated, I stirred in about a half a can of pumpkin. This added as a really nice thickener to the sauce, and again boosted that fall flavor thing. It also made a really pretty color. I allowed that to simmer for a few minutes, and then tasted it again- added a bit more chopped sage, and a little less than half a teaspoon of butter to round out the flavors, and the sauce was complete.
The pork chops finished in the oven, and I was able to serve a plate with a generous serving of salad, and a beautiful pork chop covered in Pumpkin Cider sauce. The sauce had some really amazing flavor to it-each element really played well off of each other. The sage had that wonderful earthy flavor to it, pared with the pumpkin that has its own wonderful flavor, and adds a really nice creaminess when used. The cider added the sweet side, and it was really played off well with the tart cranberries. The flavors of that sauce were fantastic- and echoed really nicely with the flavors of the pork chop.
The salad was a good accompaniment in that it added a certain level acidity with the Gremolata dressing that was missing in the main dish, as well as the differing textures.
All together, we agreed, that this was a great fall dish. Each of the different flavors of the season were nicely portrayed in a delicious and easy dish. The part that I really loved about this was that it really wasn't at all time consuming. Each piece of it could be done as another piece was marinating/cooking/melding and it just made for a super simple, filling, and tasty week night meal.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tavern at the End of the World, Charlestown

A few days ago- after running some errands in Somerville, John and I were looking for a good place for lunch and literally stumbled across Tavern at the End of the World on the border of Charlestown. I had heard about this place previously as a good place to watch games with pretty decent food, so I was excited to have basically fallen into it.
The smell of a real "tavern" hit you as you walked inside the place, the all telling scent of yeasty beer. But the ambiance couldn't be further from that dark place that normally accompanies the tavern ideal. Light wood and and a simplistic approach set this place apart, along with their incredibly friendly staff. We chose a couple of beers to drink from their diverse list, and then concentrated on the menu, choosing what would be our noon time meal.
After much hemming and hawing I finally decided on the Grilled Vegetable Pita with hummus and dill yogurt sauce. I was served a beautifully grilled, thick pita filled with all sorts of charred veggies. The sandwich was nicely overflowing with beautifully grilled veggies, prominently peppers and zucchini, complimented with crisp Romain lettuce, and all together with a layer of hummus and a helping of a tangy and herby dill yogurt dressing. I wasn't able to eat the pita as a sandwich, but instead cut into it with my fork and knife. Each bite I had was filled with the wonderful warm doughy pita, a piece of beautifully grilled vegetable where the charred taste was present, but not overpowering, a bit of the cool sauce, and the final backbone of the hummus. It was an incredibly delightful combination of flavors and textures. It was served with an generous helping of french fries that I indulged in a few of. Perfectly salted, meaty fries without being too starchy and with a nice crisp to them. Delicious.
It is truly unfortunate that Tavern at the End of the World isn't closer to me as it would definitely have a frequent spot in our rotation. I can see now why this is a great place to sit back, watch a game, have a brew and enjoy some really solid food.

Tavern at the End of the World on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Smith and Wollensky, Back Bay, Boston

The Back Bay of Boston is home to many things you might expect to find in a city-the public library, numerous hotels and office buildings, dozens of restaurants, exciting shopping possibilities and....a castle? One of the most unique architectural structures is The Castle- built in 1891 and used as the home for the First Corps of Cadets- it stands out among the other buildings as a true gem of the city. Even more interesting is it now holds, among other things, Boston's location for Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse. Continuing our quest to dine at every steakhouse in Boston, John and I headed there last night to try their offering.
The space itself is really beautiful. The main dining room really captures the Medieval feel of the building, decorated with crests, a large beautiful fireplace and gorgeous brown leather. We started at the bar to have a couple of drinks pre dinner (and to get an up close view of the beginning few innings of the Twins/Yanks game). The bartenders were very pleasant and helpful, and when we were ready to be seated for dinner, quickly found us a table where we could continue to monitor the game. So far so good.
Once seated though, we were greeted by our head server. From the start I found him rather brusque, but hoped he'd ease up as the evening progressed. He did not. Though he did tell us how each steak is prepared with great detail, his heart did not seem to be in it at all, and he honestly seemed rather bored by it all. Again-I hoped that he would perk up by the end of the evening.
We chose to start with the Beef Carpaccio, one of my all time favorite dishes. I tend to really enjoy it before a steak dinner as well as the nature of the thinly sliced beef is a perfect palate wetter, and helps build the excitement for the main course. The anticipated dish is normally served as paper thing slices of just seared beef, topped with a mustard dressing, and often some sort of greenery (arugula is what Ive seen the most). Smith and Wollensky's version was quite far from this. The beef it self was far thicker than I had seen before, about a 1/4 inch thick, and had about the same amount deep of a cooked ring. Granted it was very tender and wonderful flavor, but was just too large a portion to be a real Carpaccio. The salad served on top was nice-though very busy-comprised of arugula, frisee, cherry tomatoes, fennel and provolone cheese.
After just the right amount of time to enjoy the appetizer, they cleared the dish and brought our entrees. I have to mention that the lovely lady who served our plates was wonderful- an obvious contrast to our head server. She was friendly and knowledgeable, taking time to ensure that her guests were well cared for and happy with each dish.
John and I had both chosen Filet Mignon for our main courses-but prepared in different ways- John's was their Oscar- a 10 oz Filet topped with crab meat and Bernaise Sauce, with a serving of steamed asparagus, mine was File Au Poivre- a 10 oz Filet crusted with black pepper and served in a red wine sauce. We also selected their seasonal vegetables (snow peas sauteed with red pepper, garlic and leeks) and their truffled mac and cheese for sides.
I started by trying the vegetable dish which had really nice onion-y flavor, but was incredibly greasy, which nullified the idea of attempting to lighten our heavy meal. The mac and cheese on the other hand, now that was fantastic. The perfect amount of cheese and cream sauce with macaroni, and an amazing breadcrumb crust. I also loved that you could actually pick out small pieces of truffle that showed throughout the dish, and definitely added to its decadence. Delicious.
My steak, however, was disappointing. The crust of crushed black pepper was nice and thick and offered some good spice to the meat, but the steak itself was completely undercooked. I am not one to send things back to the kitchen, but I was a bit tempted in this case. However, the meat was flavorful and deliciously tender so I decided to keep it and experience the rareness of the beef. The wine sauce was tasty, though rather salty.
I did steal a few bites of John's entree which was cooked correctly and topped with big pieces of crab. It was really incredibly delicious and he was quite pleased with his choice.
Our head server came back to clear our plates, and did at that time at least crack a smile. We were given dessert menus, and for the first time at a steak house, we did not see anything that sounded really delicious- so we skipped it. Again, our served seemed annoyed by that news.
As a whole, we were not impressed with our experience at Smith and Wollensky. We found many of their practices odd, such as framing the menu in a sturdy wood and glass frame, but giving flimsy paper bill holders at the end. The food, for its price point, was not exceptional, especially given the incorrect temperature of my steak. Finally, our server was not of the temperament that was conducive to an enjoyable evening out.
Smith and Wollensky becomes the first location on our list of steakhouses that enters in as a "will not return".

Smith & Wollensky on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Italian Tacos

Several months ago John and I were walking around the North End looking for an "off the beaten path" restaurant to pop into for dinner. We found a little place, of course the name is 100% escaping me right now, where the owner invited us in, and claimed that if we didn't love our meal he would comp it for us. Well, an invitation like that....we took it. In perusing the menu, we found an appetizer that sounded too good to pass up- Italian Tacos! I love the idea of chefs taking from different influences and creating a fusion dish. The idea of Italian and Mexican together....that just sounded fun. Unfortunately the finished product was pretty meh. Iceberg lettuce, pink tomatoes...the only thing that appeared different about it from a so-so regular taco was that the meat was mashed up meatballs. So the creativity that I was looking for was in just one element. I was pretty disappointed, and so vowed to give it a whirl in my own kitchen, confident that I could do a far better job.

Last night, we decided, was the night to try. I picked up what I needed from the grocery store, and was happy to realize that I had a lot of the staples at home. So my grocery list basically consisted of ground Turkey meat, an orange, arugula, fresh tomatoes, a head of garlic (jeese I whip through that stuff!), Belgian endive, olives, roasted red peppers (too short on time to make my own sadly), taco shells, and a wedge of ricotta salata.

Back at home I started on my task. I decided to make Turkey meatballs to cut down on the fat content that could have come from regular beef meatballs, so I combined the ground turkey meat with chopped red onion, garlic, parsley, basil, a little salt, one medium sized egg and breadcrumbs. I had been reading yesterday about roasting meatballs instead of pan frying them, and again looking to cut the fat in the recipe, I decided to give it a try. I loaded the meatballs up on my baking sheet and placed them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or so-until my meat thermometer said I could take them out basically :-).

Then I set to work on my "Italian Salsa" because what would a taco be without some salsa right? More chopped parsley, basil, garlic and red onion, then added into the mix, chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers, endive, quartered black olives, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. I added just a little bit of the oil that the red peppers were kept in. Then I finished it off with the zest of about half a naval orange. The aroma that came from that little bowl was bright and lovely-full of garlic and parsley and that great citrus scent. I was getting very excited.

Finally the meatballs were done, and I pulled them out of the oven. Then I melted about a teaspoon of butter in a saute pan, added some chopped red onion and salt and let the onions sweat for a moment or two-til they got soft- then I added just about 3/4 of a cup of red wine and let it reduce. I wanted to create that great "wet" texture of taco meat that usually comes from the grease. When it had reduced, I started breaking up the meatballs and adding them to the pan. It didn't get the consistency of regular taco meat-but the liquid did help to break down the meatballs to manageable pieces.

A quick turn of the taco shells in the oven, and it was time to assemble. A layer of arugula in the bottom of the shell, and then a healthy helping of the meat mix. A generous sprinkle of that wonderfully salty ricotta salata, and then a final topping of the "Italian salsa". I have to say-they looked beautiful.

I hate to say it- but those darn tacos were out of this world. The peppery arugula was a perfect carrier for the rest of the ingredients, providing that nice backdrop of spice, and the mellow meatballs just had beautiful consistency and flavor. Moist and full of that great mingling of flavors of the herbs with the garlic and onion, and then that final bath in the wine...delicious. Finally the salsa with the ricotta salata...perfect condiments for it. The salsa was bright from the citrus addition, and had such nice texture variations between the soft tomatoes and peppers, and the endive with the onion. The flavors had that great range from the first bite of savory, to the undertones of sweet from the orange.

We decided, with very little modesty at all, that these were a far superior adaptation of an Italian Taco- and one that should be made very frequently.

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...