About Traveling Foodie

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I am a clinical veterinarian in New England.  I absolutely love to travel and experience new cultures, mainly through cuisine. My reviews cover a multitude of different food & cocktail related events from food trucks to philanthropic food-related events and festivals. I like to think of myself as: Veterinarian by day Foodie by night! This blog was launched October 2011. I'm a huge advocate of the nose-to-tail movement and an avid enthusiast of prohibition era and craft cocktails! Sit back and enjoy...I hope this blog encourages you to try something new like book a ticket, pack a bag, and eat to your heart's desire in a new place! How I'd describe myself in a few words/phrases: Food+Travel Blogger, Freelance Food Writer (Past regular contributor on The Bay State Banner newspaper's blog Turn It Up Boston dot com), Jersey Girl (born and raised), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc Woman, Veterinarian, Surgery Lover,Travel Addict, Devoted Gourmand, Proud 2 time Tuskegee University Graduate, Social Butterfly, Girly Dress Hoarder, Stiletto Addict, Classic Cocktail Enthusiast "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO ― Bill McKenna

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Once Upon A Lovely Brunch at Cinquecento, 500 Harrison Avenue, South End, Boston, MA

 "Once Upon a..." is a new series created to feature my forgotten meal shares.  I will write about meals that I have neglected to blog about whether good, bad, or indifferent.  Hope you enjoy some of my long lost culinary memories, whether I did or not!

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This was my second brunch at Cinquecento and I am again surprised at how calm an open space can be in the midst of a busy brunch.  
I recommend requesting the tables near the windows at the end of the bar versus the main dining area for a bit more privacy and a great view for people watching.

Me and Keyse Angelo, Jewelry Designer/Owner at www.crocodiletears.info














  














My friend Keyse of Crocodile Tears Blog and I decided upon brunch at Cinquecento prior to a day of shopping at the Vintage Market at SoWa!
A couple of my finds included a vintage umbrella, the beautiful vintage hand fans sold to me by Alvin, and gold rose earrings!






The staff at Cinquecento, from hosts to servers are always hospitable and helpful and I believe this is why the space doesn't feel chaotic, though it is full of brunchers.

I had to order a dish I've had before-
The Fried egg, Funghi, and Salsa Verde dish highlighted brilliantly by a variety of roasted mushrooms, salted by bits of pancetta, topped with moderate slivers of ricotta salata an dollops of textured, herbaceous salsa verde.
Break the yolk of the egg and enjoy a colorful and mildly, yet interestingly flavored dish.


Fried Eggs, Funghi & Salsa Verde

Fried Eggs with Roasted Mushrooms, Pancetta & Ricotta Salata

 Another interesting egg dish was the Sausage & Eggs al Forno made with baked eggs spicy sausage sugo, peperonata (a stew of onion, peppers, and tomato) and wedged potatoes.  I loved finding the yolks of the baked eggs in the center of the dish, like an Italian Easter egg hunt, the discovery was somehow intriguing, though I found the dish overall to be messy and the wedged potatoes could have come in different form (hashed, cubed, etc) as to provide a smaller surface area to allow soaking up of the loose peperonata sauce/stew rather than simply become bathed in it.
Great flavors noted in this dish with only execution recommendations for improvement.


Keyse ordered a beautiful, bright lemon ricotta and French toast dish with a lemony syrup and perfect strips of bacon.


Lemon & Ricotta French Toast- Italian Egg Bread with Warm Ricotta , Lemon Syrup & Bacon
I decided that a salad and pasta dish were in order for a well-rounded review and since I love both kale and Bolognese, I decided to order dishes which satisfy these loves.
Both were great decisions.


Tuscan Kale, Whole Grain Toasted Farro and Sharp Pecorino Romano
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
What's your favorite dish at Cinquecento
Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thirst Boston 2013: Japanese Whisky Seminar with Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale, Nick Korn, and Gregory Fitch



Check out Thirst Boston 2014 events, here. Hope to see ya there!


2013
Japanese Whisky Seminar:


Our gracious hosts and lecturers were Nick Korn (Whisky Enthusiast, Founding Member of Boston Bartender Collaborative and bartender at Drink, Silvertone Bar & Grill  and many others), Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale (Advanced Sake Professional & Manager of O Ya Boston) and Gregory Fitch of Anchor Distilling.

We tasted 4 different expressions of 12 year Single Malts.  Three by Nikka and Glenlivet
to compare the Speyside scotch.


We began with a cocktail made with 12 year Taketsuru with Punte mes (an Italian vermouth which I admire for its cherry fore and mid-palate notes and bitter finish), a reduction of cherry wine created by Nick Korn, Luxardo Maraschino (a cordial made from the pit of a cherry), and a salted cherry blossom for garnish.

The room suddenly became more interesting.  We opened up as much as our palates were peaked.
Taketsuru is a formidable cocktail Japanese whisky for its price point.  It’s a pure malt by Nikka
Japanese whiskys are blended.

Alyssa points out that we must give a nod to the Japanese drinks culture.  For instance, sake is mentioned in early Japanese history as early as 712 AD.  The Northern most island of Japan is important when talking Japanese whisky.

In the 9th century, tea made its first appearance in Japan.  In the 16th century, the first teahouse in Osaka was established.  By happenstance, Osaka became home of Yamazaki Distillery.  Whisky appeared during trade negotiations with France, England and Scotland.  After the turn of the century, Japan would try to emulate whisky and gin by adding chemicals and different additives to Sake (Japanese fermented rice beverage) and Soju (South Korean distilled beverage made from rice, wheat, or barley) to mimic the flavor profile of Scotch.

The process by which the Japanese chemists went about mimicking the taste of Scotch is not much unlike today's few awfully flavored vodkas which use chemical additives to simulate 'natural flavors'.  The Japanese used chemicals added to distilled products native to the region.  Interestingly enough, Nick mentioned that it was reminiscent of a book by Darcy S. O’Neil called "Fix the Pumps" which delves into the history  of the soda fountain in America.  The soda fountains in America were originally found in pharmacies and the flavors added where part of the chemical menagerie of compounds found in American pharmacies.  If this book were available via my iPad's Kindle app, I'm sure I'd be finished reading it by now, however, I have hesitated purchasing the paperback...yes, the lasted generations have rubbed off on me as I sit here with way too many paperbacks currently in storage.

Anyway, the methods used to produce artificially flavored sodas are similar to early processes that the Japanese used when attempting to develop whisky.

Alyssa dove a bit more into the history of the Japanese whisky companies.  One Japanese company, interested in developing whisky, sent one person to Scotland to study at University of Glasgow.  This chemist was Masataka Taketsuru.  Taketsuru is the founder of the Japanese whisky industry.  He travelled from distillery to distillery to find out which one he wanted to work with weeding them out through a series of questions.  When he decided upon Hazelburn, where he interned, his decision was based on the fact that they had a laboratory.  Others were working on tradition and intuition.  He stayed in Scotland for two years and in addition to falling in love with Scotch, he fell for a Scottish woman who soon became his wife.
Our First taste of the evening was a Glenlivet 12 year, not a foreign Scotch for many of us in attendance. Glenlivet is a single malt from Speyside northeast Scotland. It boasts caramel notes, but I also found it smoky, nice peat mid palate and fruity on nose (orchard fruits like pear and peach).  A pretty classic Speyside.
One of my favorite topics of conversation with novice whisk(e)y imbibers is 1.The difference between whiskey and whisky.  A neat trick to remember which spelling is correct: If the country of origin does not have an 'e' in its spelling, they produce whisky NOT whiskey.  Think about it... Canadian Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, American Whiskey, etc.  
Other fun facts about whisk(e)y, the most commonly used grains to produce it, whether it's bourbon whiskey, scotch whiskey, rye whisky, etc. are barley (Single malts like Laphroig and Balvenie), Corn (Bourbon like Bulleit (KY) or George Dickel (TN)), Rye (Rye whiskey). and wheat ("Wheated" bourbons like Maker's Mark or Pappy van Winkle)

What are the requirements for a Tennessee Whiskey vs. a Kentucky Bourbon?

Unlike popular belief, Bourbon can be called 'bourbon' if it is produced outside of Kentucky.  

Per Unites States regulations, overseen/enforced by The Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, Bourbon (which can actually be labeled an American Single Malt, but never an American "Scotch"- because Scotch must be produced in Scotland) must meet the following minimum requirements:

1. Bourbon must be produced in the United States

2. The spirit must be produced from distillation not to exceed 160 Proof (80% ABV- alcohol by volume)

3. Bourbon must be distilled from a fermented mash of not less than 51% corn

4. It must be stored at no more than 125 Proof (62.5% ABV) in charred NEW American oak containers

Generally, there's no limit on how long it remains barreled, but Straight Bourbon Whiskey must be stored for at least 2 years.

Tennessee Whiskey

Meets the standards of bourbon listed above, but is traditionally filtered through maple charcoal before going into barrels.  

The process is known at the Lincoln County Process.

  This is the process used by popular Tennessee whiskeys Jack Daniels and George Dickel.

Tennessee whiskey, unlike Bourbon, does have a geographic requirement in that it must be produced in Tennessee, hence, you can produce a Bourbon in TN, but cannot produce a TN whiskey in KY or any other location.

The Lincoln County Process is officially recognized by the federal government. 

  However, The Lincoln County Process is not required to label a whiskey at "Tennessee Whiskey".  A prime example of this is Prichard's Tennessee whiskey which does not use the charcoal filter.  They are exempt, though they are located in Lincoln County.

Confused yet?  

Trust me, this is great party conversation!

 Let's quickly review Categories of Scotch Whisky
Single malt: A scotch produced from one particular batch from one particular distillery, from one place. One single grain-barley malted
Blended Scotch: can come from a variety of locations and even distilleries.  Other grain whisky can be used as well such as bourbon or a grain neutral spirit .
Aging: A bottle will list the youngest scotch in the product.  It is rare to find a single barrel whisky like you might a bourbon.
Batted malt, now called blended malt, has been called a pure malt as well…everything in the product is a single malt with no other grain whisky, but they are all from a different place. 

  Not one product in the blend is anything but a malt whisky. 

  This can lead to Scotches with very interesting flavor profiles. 


The distillation process, as with any spirit, can involve two very different styles:
1.  Copper pot still
2.   Column still
The way that distillation works: 

Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, so if you take a pot with the mixture, the first vapor to come off is alcohol, which you capture and separate.  That’s distilling.

Copper pots are super inefficient because you have to use higher heat and distill multiple times to rid of impurities, unlike a column that distills multiple times per session with less heat. It’s thought to be more artisanal which is why the Scottish love this process.

Photo Credit Column Still on left, Pot Still on Right/In Middle
 
A purer product is produced with a column because it gets rid of most of the impurities. 

Back to Japan...
Nikka has two different locations, the first
Taketsuru left Kotobukiya where he established the whisky distillery to make whisky near and dear to his heart.
He moved to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō, where he found the best location as far as temperature and it being near the sea which was close to mimicking Hazelburn in Scotland as much as possible.   

Years later, he opened up his second location in Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Northern Honshū  (main island in Japan).
He wanted to have two separate products flavor wise.
90 % of the process is similar to Scotch with one key difference being how the wort (fermented grain, basically beer until it is distilled into Scotch or Whisky) 
There are 3 different styles of wort, though in Scotland they will tell you it’s only 2.

  1. Cloudy wort - grain cooking in water which is then  distilled.
2. Clear wort - particulate matter is strained leaving only the liquid component.
3. Crystal wort - in Japan, they filter the clear wort again. It’s transparent and this is what goes into the still.  It imparts no more grain flavor once in the still.  The flavor is from the filtered wort, not the distillation.
So when tasting Japanese whisky, you will not note heavy grainy flavors, but more floral on top, no grainy middle and barrel bottom.
This is how all Japanese whisky is made. 
Distillation is important, but so is blending.  
Nothing is from a single batch or year, but it is from one single place. 
The head distiller has hundreds of barrels to choose from at any given time and they are meticulously cataloged and tasted constantly.   

They use a different heat source than the peat that is used in Scotland.
 
Even styles of warehouses have an impression on flavor.  

 Barrels, of course affect flavors, for example, used bourbon barrel, sherry barrel, rejuvenated, re-toasted, or even Mizunara (Japanese oak) wine barrels, which is a different species of oak that is hard to work with, expensive,and imparts almost no flavor impart new characteristics to whiskys.  

The Mizunara barrels force a 40-50 year aging time for Japanese whisky to consider its contents aged and drinkable.  Nikka has these because they have been distilling for 80 years.
Both of the distilleries have their own cooperages on site.

I was introduced to Japanese Whisky by a colleague at Harvard Medical School a few years ago, but maybe only tried it again once or twice since that moment.  
Overall, I find Japanese whisky, and especially their history as fascinating as I found Indian whiskey one Spring afternoon in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Anything that takes you outside of your comfort zone is a plus for me.

Have you tried Japanese Whisky?  What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cocktail Series: Art of the Cocktail - The Labor of Liquor. A DrFoodie and Boston Center for the Arts Collaboration during 2014 ArtWeek Boston

My vision finally came together after a summer of planning with the fabulous folks at Boston Center for the Arts!  The first installation of our Cocktail Series on October 1st was a great success and I cannot wait to do it again!


 Cocktails and visual arts came together in an illuminating tasting amidst the Boston Center for the Arts’ exhibition “Labor in a Single Shot.” 
Teaming up with myself, Head Distiller, Maggie Campbell and Vice President of Sales, Kevin Martin of Privateer Rum (Ipswich, MA), and the Boston Center for the Arts Team co-hosted an intimate conversation about rum.  
 We were honored to be a part of ArtWeek Boston 2014.

You can read Maggie and my interview with Cynthia Woo of BCA, here.


Attendees learned about the history of rum locally and internationally and even the processing of sugar for its production.  

Massachusetts has a deeply embedded history of rum and I for one can listen to my friend Maggie speaking on the topic at any given moment. 

 Attendees were fascinated by the information, the tasting of the pure hand crafted product and two beautifully crafted cocktails created by Kevin, past bar manager at Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks in Kenmore Square.   

Maggie Campbell, Head Distiller at Privateer Rum, Ipswich, Massachusetts


 Inspired by the themes of labor in the Mills Gallery exhibition, the evening highlighted the process and work behind creating liquor and cocktails. 

We explored the creative and artistic process of distillation, the aging-process, rum’s distinct flavor profile and its use to craft the perfect cocktail while guests enjoyed a private viewing of the Mills Gallery exhibition!
 
Kevin taught guests how to make his latest Fall cocktail creations:


"Use real lemons ONLY!" -Kevin Martin

Ghoulish Punch
 Privateer Silver Rum
Apple Cider
 Maple Syrup
Cynar



The Equinox
Cinnamon infused Privateer Silver Rum
Fresh lemon juice
Bitters
Maple syrup

 
Sweets designed by Sarah Cohan at The Sweetery Boston were spectacular and also received rave reviews.

Ginger Molasses Rum cookies, Bacon and Bourbon Minicupcakes, Bananas Foster Pound cake with Rum Caramel glaze by Sweetery Boston
Me, Maggie Campbell, Jax Sinclair, Erika Harper, Summer Williams, and Michelle Caldeira
 
Ghoulish Punch and Bourbon and Bacon mini cupcake.

The next seminar in the series will be taught by Meaghan Sinclair and Harmony Dawn of Booze Époque, a craft cocktail catering company (the first in Boston). 
These ladies will amaze you with their holiday punch creations!  

Come out and learn how you can wow your family and friends this Holiday Season on December 15, 2014 at Mills Gallery in the South End (BCA campus).  
Ticket sale links will be posted at a later date.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Special Editon of Succulent Sundays (Autumn Dishes): A Weekly Celebration of My Favorite Personal Food Photography

Here are some of my favorite Autumn food dishes over the years.

Salmon filet over Tuscan kale with Sparrow Arc Farm (a 40-acre family farm in Maine) heirloom turnips, seckel pears, lady apple, and mostarda at Steel & Rye, Milton. My full review can be read, here.
Seared scallops over a bed of tender butternut squash and sauteed spinach at Piattini, Newbury Street, Back Bay Boston.  My full review can be read, here.
 
Pan-seared salmon over sweet corn, blistered shishito pepper, lemon aioli at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Spiced Cinnamon Mascarpone and pickled whole cranberry at ArtBar, Sonesta Hotel, Cambridge.  My full review can be read, here.




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pre-Grand Opening Dinner at Tuscan Kitchen, Burlington, MA

It was an honor to be invited to a private grand tasting dinner one week prior to the opening of Tuscan Kitchen's new location in Burlington, MA.  Over the past couple of years, the location in Salem, New Hampshire has more than thrived!  The Burlington location opened at 24 New England Executive Park on October 29th.

Owner and Chief Food Taster Joe Faro is not only an extraordinary businessman and dedicated artisan Italian foods enthusiast, he is truly a great human being.  After the amazing dinner was over, I had the pleasure of chatting with one of Joe's employees, a young server who not only has learned how to make bread, gelato, and pasta by hand, but lit up with excitement when discussing the philanthropic nature of his boss.  He spoke of how they are both from Lawrence, attended the same private school (years apart) and that Joe now sponsors the tuition of two children attending his alma mater as long as they keep a "B" average. He also takes the students to lunch every month without fail. Faro shows the same commitment to his team.

You are truly in for quite the experience when visiting Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Market in Burlington.  Service was impeccable.  The space, which seats over 530 inside and over 100 outside, was gorgeous with dark wood and dim lighting in the dining areas, an open kitchen where you can watch the magic behind handmade pasta, breads, Italian cheeses and pastries.  The cafe/market area in the front of the restaurant boasts many artisan products including whole dried herbs, balsamic vinegars, olive oils, cured meats, cheeses, and so much more from regions like Tuscany, Bologna, and Napoli.


 

On this particular evening, my pro camera was actually dead so for pics of the antipasti, primi, and secondi, freelance journalist and our table guest, Rachel Lebeaux (@RachJournalist), a freelance writer/contributor for Boston Globe, Serious Eats, and TableCritic and an all around fun gal, gave me permission to use her photos.  All other pics are my own.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a glass of prosecco and delicious hors d'oeuvres.

Serving Parmigiano Reggiano with balsamic vinegar
Octopus crostini

Butternut squash, Parmesan, and Balsamic vinegar drizzled crostini


Before entering the formal dining room.  We were seated in the bar area where we enjoyed affettati misti while admiring the grand wine cellar behind glass and the nitrogen wine preservation system allowing Tuscan Kitchen to serve high end wine by the glass.


Wine cellar (above) and nitrogen wine preservation system (below)
Affettati Misti

Housemade porchetta, Fig jam, 24 month Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, local truffle honey, Housemade burrata, and Artisan stone hearth breads.



Antipasti

Crostini di Granchio
Wild caught Jonah crab, Grilled ciabatta, Semi roasted tomatoes, Pickled mustard seed

Tonno Crudo
Navel orange, Calabrese peppers, Crispy prosciutto, Extra virgin drizzle

Photo Credit: Rachel Lebeaux
I have become a fan of Jonah crab over the last few years and see it on menus around New England regularly.  The Jonah crab (native to the Atlantic waters off of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine) delivers a sweet, delicate, almost flaky claw meat that plays well with many ingredients. I really enjoyed TK's preparation with the mustard seed adding a brilliant acidity.

Primi

Canneloni di Vitello
Thin sheets of Rosemary pasta stuffed with slow braised veal breast, Wilted spinach, and Tuscan bean mista

Truffled Mascarpone Gnocchi
Wood roasted mushroom, Fava beans, Shaved Pecorino tartufo

Photo Credit: Rachel Lebeaux


It's always a pleasure when gnocchi is made lightly, does not stick to your hard palate or in your molars.  TK serves a slight gnocchi that does not loose the heartiness you expect from the potato pasta, but also does not leave you too full and keeling over.  The rosemary canneloni was also light and filled with shreds of juicy veal.

Secondi

Pan roasted cod steak
Rock shrimp, Sweet pea saffron risotto, Herb leek butter crust

Photo Credit: Rachel Lebeaux

I must say that cod is one of my least favorite fish. It is difficult to avoid living here in New England, but Tuscan Kitchen serves a great cod dish elevated by herbs and wonderful flavors.

Filetto di Manzo
10 ounce wood grilled filet, Caramelized garlic "Riduzione", Truffled Parmigiano fingerlings, Brussel Sprout & Pancetta slaw


Dolci
An assortment of luscious Italian pastries and house made gelato ended the night on a perfect note.  
The gelato alone was impressive with each flavor creatively decorated!



Head over to Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Market Burlington for a slice of Italy and perfect hospitality!