Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Coming Home...to Terroir

As the temperatures grow colder around these parts and we start to look towards the holidays, many of us find our thoughts headed towards home.  That place where it's always warm and cozy and things are just as you like them- maybe its loud and crazy, or quiet and peaceful.  

Over the last couple of months I've had the opportunity to peek into the culture of Israel and the piece that as struck me is how much "home" is apart of their way of life.  Unsurprisingly, my view into the country came through its wines.  As you may know, Israeli wines haven't had the best reputation over the past few decades, often being very sweet.  Today, however, they're working to bring the focus back on terroir.  The wines are becoming a wonderful representative of the beauty and culture of the land, like a greeting card from home.  

I had the opportunity to taste several different offerings from the country and was astounded by their variety and depth of flavor.  The Golan Heights Winery- Yarden Blanc de Blanc vintage 2011 is incredibly refined- utilizing the same practices as the vintners of Champagne the wine has a deep yeast driven nose with flavors of grapefruit and green apple on the palette.  The mousse is extremely fine and the bubbles are as well.  I would be proud to serve this at any celebration.  

The wine that impressed me the most though, out of the dozen or so sampled, was the Kishore Winery Viognier vintage 2016.  While we all know and love the Viognier as it hails from France, Israel put its own spin on it with naturally more body, but flavors ranging from minerals to lemon, lime and green apple.  This was what I loved the most about Israeli wines- many varietals are familiar but the terroir of the country screams through and it's so very clear that these well loved grapes will soon be enjoyed in an entirely new way.  

To me, this is the greatest appreciation of home.  Allowing the terroir of the country be obvious- not cajoling the wine into being something its not, not mimicking the influence of a different country or area, but creating something beautiful from what you are given.  It's similar to bringing home your new partner for the first time and giving your family a list of instructions on how to behave, or allowing them to be their own zany selves.  Wine has to be able to be itself, stand on its own, and tell you its story- it has to be authentic.

So kudos to the winemakers of Israel, and to those of us heading home soon- are we brave enough to do the same?  After all, the authenticity of your home is what makes you love it, crave it, miss it and eventually drive you crazy- isn't that the basis of love?

No matter what "home" means to you, I hope you enjoy its warmth in the upcoming weeks!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

To Renovate or Not To Renovate- That Is The Question

Whether you're actively house shopping or not- touring homes can be an incredibly fun activity.  Comparing designs and finishes, weighing the pros and cons of location, envisioning what life would be like if you lived there- it's an incredible opportunity to redesign your day to day.  As you get more serious about the possibility of a new home one of the biggest questions that faces buyers today is do we want a "new home" - one that's either new construction or has had a major renovation already done- or do we want a home we can fix up and customize?  

After a few years now of the market being on an upward swing, we're seeing a lot of options facing our buyers today from homes that have been "lovingly cared for", to moderate renovations, to "down to the studs" renovations, to entirely new buildings.  So the piece that buyers really need to consider is do they want to leave their mark on the property or are they excited to move in and just live?  

You guys may know that my fiancĂ© and I have gotten into doing major renovations on homes and reselling them.  We love being able to redesign a house from scratch, re imagining the space to today's standards where we crave open rooms and clear lines of sight through the house rather than separate rooms and a more closed off feel.  We can (and do) spend hours in tile stores finding complimentary shades and taking risks on new styles or colors.  We spend weeks debating kitchen appliance placement and what pieces of the original home should remain intact (I love me some fancywork).  Selling these homes is my greatest joy- watching the potential new buyers walk through, hearing their excitement (or dismay) in our choices, and observing them decide that this should be their home.  

When I'm working with new buyer clients its one of the first questions I ask them- what are you looking for?  Do you want a project or two or are you looking for "turn key"? Knowing this up front helps me to be a better resource in the search.  Renovated properties often come at a premium for the convenience so we may be looking for something with a little less square footage, or in a more up and coming neighborhood.  On the other hand, if you're looking for something you can put some work into, we can often use your budget to get something a bit larger, or closer to the action that has to be "discounted" in its price tag due to the work that needs to be done.  

Either option is solid and really depends on the preference of you, the buyer-and that is the best part.  Home buying should be all about choices and finding what is best for you and for your family- whether that choice is ALL of the decisions, or if its just a matter of neighborhood.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Fenway Farms

Fenway Park.  If you've spent any time in Boston...really any at all... you're very well aware of Fenway.  The country's oldest ball park, we, as residents, cherish
our summer nights there, and lord knows we parade every guest we've ever had through there as the trophy of our city.  There's a badge of honor that goes along with how many games you've been to each season, and another for how many different areas of the park you've sat in.  Knowing where the right sausage guy stand is and who to ask for "dust and dirt" has it's own medal.  Of course there's also one for knowing how to juggle two beers, a pretzel and a hot dog back to your seat without spilling on the row in front of you.  If you're in the know- you are in the know for Fenway and its a point of pride.

However- there is still one surprise hiding in Fenway that I would bet you a carton of Popcorn that even the die hards don't know about (obviously I'm not much of a gambler).  Fenway Farms.  Heard of it?  And no I'm not talking about the gardens in the Fens.  Just above Jersey Street, on the third base line, outside the EMC and State Street Pavilion levels, there sits, on a former "dead space" sits a fully functioning garden.  

Begun in 2015, this piece of roof has been transformed to house a 5,000 square
foot garden.  Now this isn't your fire escape "garden" comprised of a couple of basil plants and maybe one sad tomato plant (face it- that thing isn't going to make tomato sauce), this garden is producing 6,000 pounds of vegetables annually.  Six Thousand Pounds of an incredible variety of vegetables - we're talking carrots, peppers, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, kale, collard greens, every herb you can think of, tomatoes (of course) and so much more.   

So where does this harvest end up?  Two spots really- a large chunk is served right in Fenway Park.  The chefs there have the incredible good fortune to design their menus (mainly in the EMC Level dining) around what the garden is growing.  Talk about fresh and local.  Now most of us aren't attending many games in those lux seats but that doesn't mean we
can't indulge in these veggies- there is a salad bar in the ground level concessions that offers these sweet picks!  It doesn't end in Fenway though.  There is a whole area of the farm known as the Vineyard Vine's Deck where private events can be held and ALL of the produce grown there is donated to my very favorite organization- Lovin' Spoonfuls.  If you are a long time reader of ABFD- you love them as much as I do.  We go way back.

So how does all of this work?  Green City Growers set up the garden using- wait for it- milk crates.  Yup- milk crates, landscaping cloth, dirt and a minimal use irrigation system keeps this garden growing all season long. 

Fenway Park has always been one of my favorite places in the summer.  It's the place of great team work, of heartbreaking suspense and incredible joy.  It may well be one of the romantic places in Boston where loyalty is tested and belief perseveres- and now it's a place of growth, a return to our roots, and a place to nourish body and soul.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

How Would You Redesign Boston Common?

I'm honestly not sure if there is anything as quintessential to Boston as Boston Common.  It's like apple pie and America.  The oldest city park in the US, it dates back to 1634 when it was used for cows to graze until it became a bit too popular for that use.  Later it provided a restful location for the military to set up camp during the American Revolution, and its green calming space was where many soldiers departed from to march to Lexington and Concord.  Though it was also used for darker events as it became the place for hangings, and for a while a dumping ground which caused the citizens to stay away.  However since the advent of the 1900's we've seen the space used for concerts and speeches, rallies and marches.  It is truly the common space for the city, open to all.  

Respecting the nature of that common space, the city is now appealing to its residents for help with the common.  Boston Common has just received $28 million to be used for its revitalization.  The powers that be have a whole host of people studying the common- structural engineers, environmental experts, storm water experts...all sorts of people to make real improvements to the space. However- they want to know what we as the residents, the people who frequent the common every day, weekly, monthly or even just occasionally want to see.  They have opened up a survey  and urging all to respond and give ideas. 

So what do you want to see?  Boston is, already, the best city.  We are constantly striving to achieve greatness in all aspects and often lead the way for the rest of the country.  We contribute in sciences and finance, politically and healthcare, sports and the arts.  Let's use those amazing brains and talent to come to get to design our common to be the best it can be.   One quick favor though- please don't bring back the cows- my dog would NOT appreciate their presence ;-)

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...