About Traveling Foodie a.k.a DrFoodie

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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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DrFoodie Goes Solo in Tokyo Part One: Ramen Rampage, Umami Madness, Hopping Around to Tokyo's Most Beloved Ramen Ya

Me in front of Fuuji in Shinjuku

While we didn't all speak English, we spoke food and wine and booze and culture and hospitality.
Funny thing is, I've learned that these are universal languages, no matter the country or continent.

These are the languages of passion, of community, of delights and joy.
  The sign behind me in the picture above translates to

"The Lucky Traveler" and I am lucky indeed!

Me sipping on a Yoichi Single Malt Japanese Whisky on the balcony of the condo I rented during my stay in Shibuya

When people ask why I love ramen so much, I typically go into a rambling oration about how diverse and delicious it is and can be.  There are so many styles and types of ramen soups from their aromatic soup bases to the noodle shape and diameter, to the way in which you consume it (e.g. Tsukemen where you dip the noodles into a thick broth).
Ramen is historically Chinese in origin.  Over 100 years ago, post-war Chinese immigrants moved into Japan.  They brought over their, mainly Shoyu-style of ramen.
A bowl of ramen is made up of 4 parts: the broth (a few types discussed below), the Noodle (briefly discussed below), tare, and toppings.

Totto Ramen Boston
In its simplest form, there are four styles of ramen but dozens of regional specialties.
The tare or kaeshi is the flavor bomb placed at the bottom of your bowl who's composition basically determines the style of ramen you are about to enjoy.
1. Shio (Salt-based)
2. Shoyu (Soy sauce-based)
3. Miso (Fermented soy bean based)
4. Tonkotsu (pork bone soup-based)
My primary goal for this trip to Tokyo was to eat all of the notable ramen I possibly could and there are literally thousands of shops in Tokyo alone!
I reached out to Ramen Expert and TV Personality in Tokyo Brian MacDuckston of Ramen Adventures
What makes him an expert you ask? 
He has sampled & reviewed over 2000 bowls around Japan and a few in the U.S, with the vast number in Tokyo of course.

Check out his blog.
It AND his ramen tour is a must when visiting Tokyo! 
He also has a book available on Amazon in both English and Japanese.
Brian is a San Francisco native, an American expat, having lived in Tokyo for 9 years after planning only a one year visit to teach English. 
He speaks fluent Japanese and is celebrated throughout the ramen world in both Tokyo and at Toranoana in Osaka where he teaches an extensive one day ramen course. Students learn to prepare the soup and also hand-make noodles. 
Brian's work and knowledge has been featured on Ramen 道(a weekly TV show on TBS in Japan), News Room Tokyo, Food and Wine (Where to Eat in Tokyo), Newsweek Japan, Travel & LeisureThe New York Times (Frugal Traveler Matt Gross).

I count myself amongst the lucky to 1. Have Brian as my private ramen tour guide in Tokyo and 2. To catch him just before he left town on another ramen adventure...perfect timing!
In Tokyo, the Shoyu ramen tends to include either chicken or pork broth and toppings such as scallions and/or bamboo shoots, roasted pork slices (chashu), nori (a sheet of toasted seaweed) and some form of dried fish (which is abundant in Tokyo ramen)- most notably katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes) or niboshi (dried Japanese sardines which are found in abundance in the Japanese diet). 
The dried fish lends the umami flavor (smoky, fishy, funky), it's powerful and explosive.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Tonkotsu broth is built from boiling pork bones, collagen and fat over high heat for hours. Its consistency is thus, typically, thick with flecks of fat and rich flavors. Some shops will add chicken stock. 

Tsukemen (pronounced skay-men) was a new discovery for me. Plump noodles are served cooked and chilled on a platter next to a bowl of gravy like 'broth'. The noodles are to be dipped into the broth and devoured. Often, the broth is topped with dried fish powder which adds a shock of flavor when mixed in.
The culture in Tokyo ramen shops 
 A Beautiful Ballet
Upon entering any given ramen shop in Tokyo, every head is bowed as if in a place of worship, and though no one is really chatting (in line or sitting besides one another), there's a warmth, a welcoming hold felt. 
Not even the chef says much as he takes your tickets anf dances with his cohorts in the kitchen building beautiful bowls or when he graciously places your personal bowl of heaven in front of you. 
Complete silence, however, is not what you will encounter.  What you will hear is the slurping
It takes awhile for me to place my American "hometraining" down on the ramen bar and engage in this tradition- acceptable loud slurping of your precious noodles coated in steaming, umami-laden soup!
 You immediately feel like you're part of the clan, the cool kids' table.  It's community at its best.
There are however unspoken rules. You are expected to eat ALL of what you've ordered (it is considered bad manners not to do so) and you're expected to do so rapidly and not linger (this is easy to do when you've just waited in the extended line and the next group is lined up beside or behind you). I was told an 8-10 minute run is ideal.

Our first stop 

 Konjiki Hototogisu (金色不如帰)
in Shinjuku

We met at the Hatagaya train station (I ubered because I was running late and realized that this was the 3rd continent on which I've used Uber car service...so I tweeted UberTokyo, of course). 

We walked through Shinjuku down a brightly lit, wide, bricked sidewalk flanked by shops slinging produce, clothing, electronics, and knick-knacks.

Once we turned down a dark alley off of the main market street, my curiosity was immediately piqued.

My luck continued as we arrived just before opening at 6:30 pm.  We were first in line and watched the line grow exponentially as we waited. 
Great ramen shops will always have crazy lines. Some wait hours for a bowl and lines can literally wrap around city corners.

Another lucky thing is that the ramen master and his one "sous" at Hototogisu makes a weekly 'special' ramen on Thursday nights only. 
On this evening, I, along with my guide and gentlemen at the 6 other seats in Hototogisu demolished the niboshi -shoyu ramen special.

Brian ordering our ramen from the typical vending machine you'll find at the entrance...his picture is just above him on the machine
That made me chuckle and realize I was in good hands!

The broth was punchy! The strongest flavors I've ever encountered during my own ramen adventures. 
It was deep, funky, slick, pleasantly bitter, and heavily umami showcasing hefty seafood and brine imparted by the
niboshi (dried sardines).
The noodles were loosely curly and cooked al dente making them chewy and bouncy.
The chashu (roasted pork) was tender and virtually melted in my mouth-  high quality, thick cut, roasted pork.
Our next stop was truly the highlight of my visit!
Fuunji (風雲児) in Shinjuku

 I believed I grinned the entire time we were at Fuunji, from the wait outside to the wait within. However, my heart literally filled with joy and anticipation as we waiting against the side wall behind slurping patrons and overlooking the dance going on between 4 ramen geniuses in the kitchen. 

What a typical night will look like from opening to close at Fuuji. 
The picture above is from the viewpoint of a person who has just advanced from the line outside (which very well may have extended across the street and even into the adjacent public garden).
  The patrons against the wall behind those eating patiently await a seat.

The chef will collect the tickets dispensed after your vending machine order in preparation for your dish.

The  Ramen Master at Fuuji. Photo Credit: Lucky Peach

I tweeted this sentiment at that moment:
"A ramen "Mecca". Feels like hallowed ground watching this gentle machine at work #BowlNumber2"

It may sound quite dramatic, but for me it was a moment of transcendence. I was celebrating my 12th month of ramen obsession on the soil where much of it has been developed over centuries and perfected...Japan!

Fuuji's ramen master is a gentle man. He and his team literally glide around each other, building majestic bowls of the slick, rich broth with dollops of flavor-enhancing marrow, fat and collagen (pulled out of long hours of cooking bones at high heat- I believe Fuuji only uses chicken vs. pork which is rare) topped with nagi (Japanese scallion) and a heaping spoonful of umami-rich dried Japanese fish powder that once mixed into the base is one of the most powerful flavor experiences I've ever had! It was magnificent!

The container on the left is ice water and the one on the right is heated thinner broth.  It is customary to drink the remainder of your broth from the bowl after noodles and toppings are gone, but Tsukemen is so robust and thick, adding hot thinning broth helps with this tradition.

With an egg

Once out on my own the following days, I sampled the following:

Yasube (つけ麺屋 やすべえ)
in Shinjuku

After having birthday drinks with one of the most amazing bartenders I've had the pleasure of meeting (Hiroyasu Kayama at Bar Benfiddich-review to follow), he took hospitality to an entire other galaxy by serving the last group of patrons in the bar (this was after 2 am), removed his white tuxedo jacked and red silk tie, walked us over (about 6-7 blocks) to his favorite Tsukemen ramen shop, purchased my bowl at the vending machine, wished me a happy birthday and went back to work to finish his shift!
What a class act!

Unfortunately, I did not share his love of Yasube's Tsukemen.  I found the people within to be just as cold as the acceptably chewy noodles. I found the broth to be less than my expectations.  It was thin and uninteresting.

I guess after Fuuji and other hotspots for this amazing dish like Tetsu, you'll never be the same. 

Tsukemen at Yasube

 I finished my bowl courteously and called it a night.
Ichiran in Shibuya
(and its other chain locations)

 Ichiran serves classic Tonkotsu ramen.  Their claim to fame is their ORIGINAL Red Sauce, a red pepper based sauce including 30 other spices. 

This shop is different. 
While it is a chain, they serve a damn good ramen and in a fun and unique way. 

So far, I've presented the shops from classic matchbox to classic seating at least (elbow to elbow stools around a central kitchen where you can watch the ramen master and his apprentices at work).

At Ichiran (which remains on the top 10 list for tourists and seems to also be a favorite of many natives), there are individual dining booths.

After buying your meal at the vending machine (as per usual), there is another machine which guides you to open seats.

Vending machine

Open/Occupied Seating Machine

You also get to choose a number of tastes and textures for your bowl!

Careful of the red sauce...it is fiery!  It's also for sale!

The bowl is perfectly rich with awesome fat droplets afloat.  The booths have a window with a bamboo curtain through which your order is delivered by mysterious arms. 

You peel your own egg and they are perfectly runny and the color of a sunset:

Overall, Ichiran serves a lovely, flavorful bowl of Tonkotsu with entertainment to boot.  Somehow, anywhere I travel (abroad or otherwise) I always find a chain restaurant to fall in love with (in Paris it was Higuma Ramen, in Boston and NYC it's Totto Ramen).

Tonkotsu Ramen at Ichiran Shibuya

For dessert, they offer a creamy, refreshing matcha (green tea) tofu custard with a texture similar to flan. 
It's a beautiful dish.

Oh, and did I mention this shop is open 24/7!  An insomniac's dream come true!!! 

My last stop on my solo ramen tour was to 

AFURI (恵比寿) in Ebisu

Recommended by NYC Ramen King, Chef Ivan Orkin in an article on the Lucky Peach website covering the top ramen shops in Tokyo!
This was my first venture into Ebisu. 
Ebisu is a beautiful neighborhood, full of life! There are tons of shops, restaurants, bakeries, bars, etc.

It was an easy neighborhood to navigate after leaving the huge train station and was only one stop away from my home base of Shibuya.

There were swanky shops toting sushi and shochu next to pubs and fast food sushi shops-an all encompassing type of 'hood.
Afuri is a "café-style" shop.  I saw more Americans in this particular shop than I felt I'd encountered at any of the previous shops and even during my few days in Tokyo.
It, however, didn't feel like a tourist trap by any means and they were serving up some righteous bowls!

I ordered their Tsukemen at the vending machine, adding an egg and charshu. This was the first shop in which I also dared order a beer!

What was strikingly different about the Tsukemen at Afuri was that the noodles (buried underneath all of the toppings in the bowl) were warm, along with (obviously) the toppings.

The broth (which was a mindblower) was chilled and aromatic.
The flavors were brilliant and bright, a mildly vinegary sweet and smoky broth with sesame oil and whole, crisp sesame seeds. Bits of grated ginger added a tad bit of spice to the broth and little bursts of spicy surprise once bitten into.
The kakuni (cubes of braised pork) added the perfect level of slick fattiness to the dish and the charshu was mostly delicate with lovely smoky charred bits on the edges.

As I sat there, taking data into all of my senses, I understood why conversation over a miraculous bowl of ramen such as this can be taboo in Japan. 
There's so much more to concentrate on and contemplate about right in front of you, at the end of your chopsticks, on the middle of your palate, entering your nares and tickling your olfactory bulb; resonating in your ears as surrounding patrons slurp their way to nirvana.

I'm already contemplating my next visit to Japan.
There is so much more I want to experience there. 
After all, I only dined at 5 of 1000s of ramen ya.

This is the first installment of a three part series entitles "DrFoodie Goes Solo in Tokyo" covering my last minute, way to short addition to my birthday trip (November 2015). I managed to squeeze in much more than ramen too!
Be on the look out for the next.

Monday, November 23, 2015

2014-2015 Art of the Cocktail Events: An Artsy & Boozy Collaboration between DrFoodie(Myself) & The Boston Center of the Arts (Mills Art Gallery), South End Boston

My dream event has come true over the past year! I've always wanted to host spirit/cocktail tastings featuring local distilleries (whenever possible) with our amazing beloved Boston bartenders and distillers leading the way. 
It finally came to fruition after a conversation over a nightcap (whiskey of course) with Veronique Le Melle, President & CEO of the Boston Center for the Arts, following my first time judging the Movers & Shakers 2014 Cocktail Competition at Cyclorama.

My initial plan, as a big fan of whisk(e)y, was to introduce women, in particular, to spirits thought to be more traditionally masculine...bourbon, scotch, etc. 

Collaborating with the BCA was perfect, as I could bring art and booze together at the same table. I was excited to be able to bring the art of cocktail and spirit creation to the forefront. 

Spirits should be enjoyed as pieces of art.  So much work and passion and thought goes into their crafting.  I've learned so much more about spirits and the #ArtoftheCocktail since beginning to blog more about them and meeting many talented industry people while they were behind the stick, working magic at their stills, and through events I've attended as an Enthusiast Member of the Boston Chapter of USBG (United States Bartenders Guild).

Once I realized that narrowing down the audience may not be the best idea to sustain a growing event, I then wanted to be sure to at least feature some of the inspirational women in the industry who are doing major things here in New England, from positions as Brand Ambassadors, Managers/Owners, Distillers, and leading Bartenders. 

We have so very many to choose from here in Boston and many of them are my personal friends and associates. We, of course, included many of our brilliant gents as well.

I have been lucky enough to form a beautiful collaboration with the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) South End in their Mills Gallery space! 
Attendees can enjoy a private viewing of the current exhibition before and after the presentation of #ArtOfTheCocktail
Cynthia Woo, Associate Director of Engagement at BCA and I work hard to host a new event, on average, every 4-6 weeks.

Over the past year, we have invited and thoroughly enjoyed the following:

October 1, 2014: The Labor of Liquor 
My dear friends, head distiller of Privateer Rum out of Ipswich, MA, Maggie Campbell and beloved bartender (previously of Easter Standard) turned Privateer VP of Sales Kevin Martin taught our guest everything they could ever want to know about rum,  from its origins, to its fascinating history here in New England.

Guests were surrounded by images of labor by experimental filmmakers.
Photo Courtesy of Privateer Rum

Kevin created a punch named "The Equinox" made with 2:1:1 Cinnamon stick infused silver Privateer rum: Pure Maple Syrup: Fresh Lemon Juice and Angostura bitters.

In addition to this mini bacon bourbon cupcake, Sarah Cohan of The Sweetery Boston provided us with other booze-laced confections like ginger rum molasses cookies and a bananas foster cake with rum caramel glaze!

Here's an interview with Maggie Campbell, Head Distiller of Privateer Rum:

How did you get into your field? 
I happened to run across the Oban distillery in Scotland traveling in my college years. After school I became a sommelier and worked closely with fine spirits and different distillers as part of my work.  These two experiences inspired me to take my tasting skills and knowledge and become a distiller myself.
   What is your favorite part of your job?
I get to communicate and celebrate with people through my product. At the end of the day I can see the real physical result of my work and share it with others. I hear about wedding cocktails, drinks over an amazing meal, their neat pour to relax after a long day, or celebrating a holiday with a family toast.  People are usually happy to see me and connect my work to an enjoyable moment. 
   What is your favorite Rum Cocktail?
It depends on the experience. I order fresh lime daiquiris if I'm having a day drink, tiki drinks at sunset, or a rum old fashioned for after dinner.
   Can you give us a sneak peak of what participants will learn on October 1 - a certain specific process?  A certain cocktail?
What is a crafted spirit, and why it matter how it's made.  How to hold your own in the world of booze and how to drink well at home.

Me enjoying a private tasting at the Privateer Distillery in Ipswich, MA

December 15, 2014: A Winter's Toast
The fabulous ladies of Booze Époque (who happen to be two of my most favorite Boston ladies) helped our guests prepare to serve their holiday guests bowls of deliciously boozy punch! 
Meaghan Sinclair and Harmony Dawn are well known in the industry not only for their tremendous talents creating tasty and beautiful craft cocktails, but for their charisma. 

Having started up Booze Époque as the first cocktail catering company in Boston, Meaghan and Harmony bring whimsy to any event they attend or host including private cocktail, holiday, and special events as well as classes.  If you're also a literary buff, you can expect for their tales throughout any session to feature that genre as well.

Meaghan began their presentation reading "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper to get the crowd in the spirit (no pun intended) and honor the upcoming Solstice.

After which she covered the  history of holiday cocktails.  The days were short, dark and hard.  People wanted to relax at the end of the days with a hard, delicious drink. 

The tradition of Wassail (what was left of the apple harvest, covered with ale, put in a ritual bowl of white maple) would be made before gathering your closest friends and family and go caroling in the town.  It was thought to be welcoming the good energy to help the next harvest in England.
Wassail was originally created in the British Isles and is thought to be the first punch that probably every existed by some people. 
Apples that were kept in storage cellars well into December/January after the harvest were baked in ale or wine.  Carolers would go from home to home carrying candles. Each home sharing their bowls' contents with visitors.
They served their recipe the night before at an event.  It was made from apples baked in beer (Nut Brown Ale and Sam Winter Lager) and mixed with port and extra spices- it's like a toddy+mulled wine combo. 
At our December tasting, Grand Ten Distillery out of South Boston provided all of the spirits used in a variety of punch recipes throughout the night including a "not your grandma's" eggnog and "cold" toddies.

The ladies, in keeping with our theme to send guests home with punch recipes they can make for the holidays at home, presented a Cold Comfort Toddy recipe as it can be difficult to serve consistently hot cocktails at your holiday party of say 20 guests.

Not every cocktail lends itself to a be a great punch, so Meaghan and Harmony chose classics that are easily scalable.
Grand Ten Distillery products.
Once you make it yourself, you'll give up on the pre-bottled stuff.
Harmony walks up through the history of eggnog. She reminds us that it hails from her home country of England (British Isles) as far back as 1700s when 'nog' was a term used when referring to a 'strong beer or any brewed product'.
How did it become the rich, creamy cocktail of American history? 

It started with possit a curdled milk and ale or wine punch.  "Recipes for it appear in other 15th-century sources: boil milk, add either wine or ale "and no salt", let it cool, gather the curds and discard the whey, and season with ginger, sugar, and possibly "sweet wine" and candied anise. In 16th-century and later sources, possets are generally made from lemon or other citrus juice, cream and sugar. Eggs are often added."

Used as a cure all with the upper class using ambergris (whale 'excrement' often used in perfume) and sherry.
Bread was often added to thicken its consistency. It was essentially a layered cocktail with the eggnog on the bottom for drinking and a thick layer on top to be eaten with a spoon.

Eggnog in New England was largely made with Medford style rum, a spirit now recreated by Grand Ten Distillery a few years ago in South Boston. I toured their distillery and conducted an interview for my blog while the Medford rum was in the still for the first time. 
You can read about my experience, here.

Guests had a blast making their very own punch!


March 30, 2015: Demystifying Scotch

Other than bourbon and ryes, Scotch has to be one of my favorite spirits.  Its diversity alone is enchanting and keeps things interesting.  Bar Manager and Industry darling Naomi Levy took our guests on a tasting tour of Scotland.
Discussing each of the 5 major regions (Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islay, and Speyside) producing Scotch and discussing their imparting characteristics based on history and location (inland, coastal, etc.).  While some guests left with a better understanding and even new found love for Scotch, others realized (as many novelist do) that it's the peaty ones that have often turned them off, not all Scotch in general.

Take this notation (far right corner) made by one of our guest and personal friend of mine:

"No Thanks"  A not made in reference to the heavy peaty/smoky flavors of the Islay Scotch!
It was an awesome development to witness, and the main reason why I wanted to start hosting these tastings.
We tasted the following:
Chivas 12 yr (a blended Scotch)
Glenmorangie 18 yr (a Highland)
 Laphroaig 10 yr (An Islay)
Glenfiddich 12 yr (a Speyside)
Naomi covered everything from the germination and malting of the barley through distillation of the wort and aging.
I'm a huge fan of learning the legality behind what allows you to call a spirit by its name...
The rules of Scotch:
 Previously Scotch whiskey regulations focused mainly on the production.  As of 2009, the focus has been on defining and regulating production, packaging, advertising, and  labelling of bottles. 
Scotch whisky must be
1. Produced in Scotland using malted barley and water.  Other grain cereals can be added.
2. It must be fermented using yeast only and distilled at an ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of 94.8% (190 pr00f in the US) and bottled at 40% (80 US proof)
Most Scotch is distilled twice to bring up the ABV for the distiller's target
3. Aged in oak barrels in Scotland for at least 3 years (barrels are not to exceed 700 liters)
4. Can contain plain E150A caramel coloring
There are 4 designation of Scotch whisky:
1. Single Malt Scotch Whisky is produced at one distillery and is made from only barley and water. It can be sold at different ages (at least 3 years), aged in different oak barrels, etc. It must be distilled in pot stills.
2. Single grain Scotch Whisky- distilled at a single distillery, can include other whole grains other than malted barley. "Single" refers to the number of distilleries involved in production, not the grain. 
3. Blended Scotch Whisky- a blend of single malts and single grains.  Some blends include 3 whiskeys.  It is a highly skilled endeavor to blend and make them good and keep it consistent over 100s of years.  So never look down on blended Scotch.
Here is a further breakdown of Blended Scotch:
  • Blended malt Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended grain Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended Scotch whisky means a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.
    Our guests learned to sniff for nose notes and prime the mouth prior to tasting for palate notes. 
    We had so much fun shouting out our thoughts (this is the best part f tasting groups for me!)
    Here are few of their notes during discussion:
    Our guests sampled a Chivas Regal 12 yr 
    (a blended Scotch whisky)
    Nose: vanilla, raisin, caramel, banana laffy taffy, grass
    Palate: vanilla again, paper, pear and other orchard fruit *Keep in mind that is can more interesting to expand on the description of, for example "fruity"...is it dried fruit (the older the Scotch , the more dried fruits and woody notes may be picked up), is it orchard fruit or tropical, etc.
    Nose: flowers (common in Speysides), less abrasive, cherries, blackberries, brambleberry, orange peel, baking spices (cinnamon)
    *One should also consider cooking spices while tasting.
    Palate: figs, nutty (walnut, almond), metallic
    The 3rd sample was a Highland
    Nose: Confectionary (candied or bruleed bananas), salt, campfire, fruit: apple, orange marmalade
    Palate: Barley, malty, long finish (gets sweeter over time), dried fruit-apricot
    Our Final tasting was a Islay
     Naomi was sure to cover this glass to ensure that the smoky peaty Scotch didn't overpower the room as the tasting progressed.
    Nose: Once everyone moved past the smoke, people picked up brine (seaweed, and salt), stone fruits (peaches and apricot)
    Palate: burnt paper towels, like chewing on wood, mesquite, fireplace, bacon, meatiness
    *Note: Blue cheese and smoky scotch work well together.. salt and smoky are a match!
    Laphroaig is smoky because they char their wood barrels to the highest char level. They request the highest char level from the cooperage plus they are getting the brine flavor from the sea. It's not just the peated barley. 
    The 5 major regions where Scotch whisky is produced:

    Lowlands: Has the least number of distilleries.  The Scotch produced here is characteristically the softest and lightest, with grassy and dried hay aromas.
    Our guests didn't experience a Scotch from this region.
    Highlands: It is more difficult to generalize a Scotch out of this region because of size.  There's so much variation. It is important to know where the distillery is in the Highlands region because Scotch, as with wines, has terroir which has a huge impact on its taste. . Some people will focus on whether the product comes from a distillery that is inland or coastal. 
    Speyside: Most distilleries here (sub region of highland) produce mellow, sweet, fruity notes. Heather fields grow everywhere here.
    Islay: Most but not all Scotch whisky produced here is big and smoky. Islay is know for producing campfire, peaty Scotches.  An exception is Bruichladdich-a non-peated Scotch
    Campeltown: also has full bodied smoky Scotch, though not as heavily peated as Islays. 
    The Islands are all encompassing.
    Coastal vs. Inland
    Most of the flavor comes from barrel aging (in addition to terroir and grain). Scotch can be aged in used American oak (e.g. bourbon barrels) and now we see used French oak (e.g. Sherry barrels). The two different species of oak tree imparts the flavor, not necessarily the sherry or the bourbon that was there previously. Knowing what type of barrel your Scotch choice was aged in is also important.
    From American oak, you may pick up tropical fruits and even dill.  French oak may impart more vanilla notes.
    The location of where Scotch is aged also has a direct effect on the barrel.
    Barrels are liquid tight, but not air tight therefor some spirit  will be lost to evaporation.  We all know this to be called, The  Angel's share.
    Air can also get into the barrels.  This includes seaside air and heather fields. These impart taste.
    Scotch makers can legally add caramel coloring
    (e.g. Macallan) which ensures consistency.  Environmental temperature ensures how quickly wood imparts color and flavor so this obviously can be different across seasons. This is why some distillers will add coloring, for consistency across bottles.
    Take away this little gem...the year on the bottle (when the distillery was "founded") is the year they got caught!  They've likely been making that whisky for hundreds of years before that!
     The next installment will cover:
    Sherry Tasting with Devon Burroughs of Audubon Boston (May 4, 2015)
    Gin Tasting with Sahil Mehta of Estragon Tapas (August 12, 2015) 
     Mezcal Tasting with Devon Burroughs (October 19th) 
    Coming December 14, 2015, Bourbon Tasting with
    Kevin Morrison of Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks 
    I will also include a few interview question answered by the session leaders.