Monday, August 31, 2015

Babbo Pizzeria

This past April, Boston warmly welcomed high-profile chef Mario Batalli to the Seaport District's Fan Pier with the opening of Babbo Pizzeria at 11 Fan Pier Boulevard. (The original Babbo resides in Manhattan with a Michelin Star.) Each time I venture across the Fort Point Channel I am wide-eyed in amazement at the changes taking place; shiny new buildings and restaurants are continuing to forever transform the city's waterfront. On a recent Tuesday, The Envoy Hotel's chic roofdeck overlooking the not-forgotten Barking Crab looks like the place to be. Across from a massive construction site, venturing towards what was once the lone Fan Pier Restaurant, Sam's, I locate Babbo. Inside the wide open, bright space, I spot my girlfriends gathered around one of the Carrara marble counter-tops sipping aperitivi from the likes of a classic Aperol Spritz (Flor processo, Aperol, orange), to a Peach Shrub (Zucca Amaro, house made peach shrub, vinegar) and a Summer in the City (Strawberry Rye, Cocchi Rossa, Peychauds). The Peach Shrub is unique and invigorating; I order one for myself. 
Once seated at a round table for six, we start with Verdure (vegetables) Cauliflower alla Sciciliana ($5) and Peas, Mint & Prosciutto ($5) offer delicate little cauldrons with fresh, flavorful components. Joining the mix is everything on the Pesce section ($7 each / $21 all): Tuna Sottolio - sungolds, calabrian chilis, panzanella / Sardines Marinato - Portuguese sardines, cucumber, cherry tomato / Calamari Siciliana - fregola, caperberries, cherry tomatoes / Grappa Cured Salmon - arugula, primo olioIf you have a large group that enjoys seafood, ALL four for $21 is the way to go!
Babbo's pizza is divine. The dough is made daily and pies are wood fired in a 1000 degree brick oven. The result is a Neapolitan style pie where an airy crispness is met with a wonderfully chewy texture. Just the right amount of toppings come together in the Squash & Stracciatella ($14) with thinly sliced summer squash and zucchini, wild boar salami, and chili adding a welcome spicy kick. The thin crust gets slightly overwhelmed by the Guacinale ($14), even so, I still welcome the delicately cured pork, perfectly soft boiled egg, and scallion on my pizza. The Bagna Cauda ($13) ends up being our only red sauce based pie, with escarole, parmigiano and sausage. 

As if three Pizza's weren't enough, we shared from the Fritti Section: Fiore Di Zucca ($16) - local squash blossoms with conch farm goat cheese and lemon aioli and Eggplant Milanese ($14) with stracciatella and tomato jam. And for Pastas: Egg Yolk Ravioli ($15) - brown butter, sage, hazelnut, guanciale and a simple Gnocchi Pomodoro ($15) - cherry tomatoes, basil, mozzarella di bufala. 
Overall - the pizzas were a home run, outshining the pastas but complimenting nicely the rest of the menu. I loved all the verdue, pesce and fritti that we tried. 

Finally, you'll want to go big with the dolci. Megan had been here before and steered us right the entire evening - ending with the decision to order ALL the Coppettas. A group favorite was the Olive Oil Coppetta ($10) with olive oil gelato, lime curd, strawberries, passionfruit granita and basil syrup.  
The S'More Coppetta ($10) featuring graham cracker gelato, dark chocolate gelato, chocolate crumbs and toasted marshmallow was a very close runner up for me. That gooey torched marshmallow sauce was unreal!

In a hilarious moment, the towering Sweet Corn Coppetta ($10) with blackberries, polenta cake, zabalgione and caramel corn toppled over, jenga style! The waitstaff were quick to clean up the mess and to assure us they would bring another right out. You don't have to think twice about service here, it is flawless.
P.S. A fun article in the Globe: Batali Bursts into Town with Babbo

11 Fan Pier Boulevard
Boston, MA 02210
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Tempo | Waltham

It was such a pleasant surprise dining at Tempo on a casual Tuesday night; I had never heard of this restaurant and they were absolutely terrific. Located on Moody Street - the always popular and bustling section of Waltham, Tempo offers new American fare in a revamped (after 10 years!) space featuring a gorgeous elongated bar, new acoustics, swanky decor points and comfortable seating. The restaurant is enveloped in warm chocolate brown tones with pops of color from the beautiful under the sea themed artwork.

The menu items we were treated to this evening thanks to owner Erin Barnacle and chef/owner Nathan Sigel were in collaboration with DRINKmaple - water made from the raw maple sap tapped from trees in Vermont. Chef Sigel commented that it was challenging to incorporate what is typically a fall ingredient with the summer season produce, however, he managed to flawlessly integrate DRINKmaple into these dishes and more! 
We started the feast with a cup of Watermelon Gazpacho ($7). This chilled, velvety soup was a lovely prelude of sweet summer fruits, Amaretto and DRINKmaple foam. Beholding a tower of fresh greens, shaved red and yellow beets, radishes, waffle carrots, and whisps of manchego cheese over a swipe of roasted beet puree with a DRINKmaple dressing - the Local Farm Salad was a work of art, and one of the most beautiful summer salads I've had this season. The dressing was light and allowed the natural flavors of the vegetables to shine. Following the soup and salad we were presented with Grilled Shrimp and Corn Bruschetta over ricotta cheese. The toasts were easy to bite into with just a hint of crisp, and the ripe summer tomatoes and corn were bursting with freshness. 

A very special signature cocktail Tap the Maple ($10) was inspired by the owner Erin's love of Blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. Made with bourbon, muddled blueberries, lemon, DRINKmaple infused simple syrup, a dash of blueberry bitters and DRINKmaple ice cubes - this was, believe it or not, a very balanced and refreshing warm weather beverage. They also concocted a Summer Sap ($10) which combines the DRINKmaple with tequila, pomegranate juice, fresh lemon and lime. 
Tempo offers an excellent wine program as well. Worth noting: You won't find any overpriced bottles of wine here! All of their wine pricing represents just ten dollars over normal retail (that said, some prices mixed in are even below the standard liquor store price.) What you will find is an enomatic wine dispenser - which allows guests a chance to taste some of their finer wines at a perfect temperature and reasonable price. Intrigued, we each chose a glass from the dispenser. The Wild Horse 'Cheval Sauvage' Pinot Noir (half $11 / full $20) 2008 vintage was just the right amount of chilled. You can read some spot on tasting notes here.
I always have to sample a restaurants Fried Brussels Sprouts ($10) and with smoked bacon, lemon vinaigrette and bleu cheese crumbles, Tempo's rendition is an A+. A delicate cube of Tuna Tartare ($12) with avocado, sesame sriracha, a sweet soy drizzle, and potato crisps was another excellent starter course.

At this point we were stuffed, so we took most of the Grilled Hanger Steak ($27) and Grilled Salmon ($26) home with us. Both were a welcome leftovers dinner the next evening! The steak is all natural angus beef in a coffee and mesquite dry rub with au gratin potatoes, asparagus and a bourbon DRINKmaple cream.
The Wester Ross Organic Salmon was brined in DRINKmaple, served over a ricotta-walnut agnolotti with a smoked corn and maple cream.
But what we were not too stuffed for was dessert! Erin assured us they were small - which they indeed were. Not too small, but not overwhelming either. 

After our DRINKmaple inspired feast the Passion Fruit Rice Pudding and the Nutella S'mores

I was so impressed with everything Tempo brought to the table. The seasonal menu plus the chefs DRINKmaple dishes were creative and inspired. With a lively, welcoming atmosphere, Tempo proves itself to be a Waltham neighborhood gem!

474 Moody St
Waltham, MA 02453
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 *this meal was complimentary, all opinions are my own*

Monday, August 3, 2015

Ribera Y Rueda | Sí What's Next

I love Spanish wine. So when the crew behind the #SíWhatsNext campaign promoting the wines of Ribera del Duero and Rueda regions of Spain reached out to partner together, I happily agreed. Sí What’s Next asks people to say “yes!” or “sí!” to new experiences, new adventures, and of course, new wines. I will always say yes to all of the above!
I was first introduced to their wines at this years annual Taste of Cambridge Event. The Ribera Y Rueda Truck was pouring six locally available and affordable ($8-$16 a bottle) wines. 

With hot days and cool nights, Rueda's climate is ideal for the Verdejo grapes to flourish. The Rueda Verdejos are bright, crisp and creative. Ribera's hot summers and rocky, rigid terrain make it a paradise for the Tempranillo grapes. The Ribera del Duero Tempranillos are bold, rugged and ripe.
The second tasting occurred on the comfort of my back porch. I was sent four bottles of wine - two Ruedas and two Riberas along with an Amex gift card to purchase foods for pairing. We invited friends over and threw a little wine tasting and tapas party. Let's dive right into the wines tasting notes, shall we?!

Valdecuevas, DiWine Frizzante Verdejo 2011 (Rueda) - pale yellow color. slightly sparkling with smooth and intense floral notes and sweet tropical background flavors.
Shaya, Arindo Verdejo 2011 (Rueda) - juicy and ripe with flavors of citrus, yellow apple, pineapple and pear.
Raiz De Guzman, Roble Tempranillo 2013 (Ribera) - intense cherry color. clean and balanced. aromas of raspberry balsamic. great minerality with a hint of smoke.
Lopez Cristobal, Bagus Tempranillo 2011 (Ribera) - complex, full bodied and powerful. Aromas of ripe red and black fruits. Flavors of cherry, blackberry, spice and chocolate.

Inspired by the cheese pairing notes from their Master Sommelier Alex LePratt, and my trip to Spain in 2011 (specifically San Sebastian) I created a spread to include:
A board featuring taleggio and manchego cheeses, jamon and chorizo.

Anchovy wrapped olives and goat cheese stuffed peppadews.

A Pintxos plate - baguette slices layered with jamon, pimento pepper, hard boiled egg and anchovy. 

A Summer Corn and Cotija Cheese Dip served in a cast iron skillet with tortilla chips. This dip is made by sauteing olive oil, shallots and garlic with fresh corn and combining it with a mixture of cotija cheese, cream cheese and sour cream. Despite its unphotogenic qualities, it was terrific and got a lot of compliments! 

For the main course we feasted on smokey, spicy, sriracha grilled ribs with an avocado, tomato and black bean salad (Provided by our guests - my sister, Leah and her boyfriend, Alex) and grilled garlic shrimp over zesty Spanish rice.
 Favorite pairings

The Roble Tempranillo with Taleggio cheese Taleggio is an aged cows milk cheese from Lombardy, Italy. The cheese is rich, soft, buttery and a little funky. It works well spread over a fresh baguette and sipped alongside the lush Roble Tempranillo with complementing flavors of dill, vanilla, smoke and dark fruits. The Roble's lively mouthfeel washes down the aged cheese while cleansing your palette for the next bite. 

The Arindo Verjedo with Cotija  Cheese
Cotija is a young cows milk cheese from Mexico which is mild, salty and crumbly. As it ages it acquires a nutty, tangier flavor and a drier, coarser texture - making it ideal for topping salads, tacos and corn. It is also delightful when paired with the refreshing Arindo Verjedo - this wines contrasting lemony-citrus flavors with a hint of salinity and a crisp texture lends itself nicely to this rich, creamy, ultra cheesy dip!

The DiWine Frizzante Verdejo with the Pintxos. 
Pinxtos and sparkling wine (although typically Txtakoli wine as both originate in Basque Country, Spain) go together like bread and butter. Something about the petite, eye catching bite with a mash up of tasty components washed down by a crisp, frizzante wine is so simple and perfect.

The Bagus Tempranillo with barbeque ribs. 
This was one of those wines that had everyone doing a double take (double sip?) and exclaiming "wow, that is different!!" Same went for those ribs that had a spicier than expected, but really awesome heat from the sriracha marinade. The Bagus Tempranillo with its bold, powerful flavors, balanced minerality and a touch of smoke can really stand up to that spicy, smokey barbecue. They make a fantastic pair. 

   Special shout-out to the Arindo for best label. :)

It is pretty obvious if you know me or read this blog regularly, it has been the spring and summer of Rosé. I was drinking Rosé nearly every day - happy hour after work paired with oysters, sunset on the beach, my girls trip.... So, It was really exciting to gain exposure to something NEW! And to share it with friends in two equally fun atmospheres. Ribera and Rueda regions and their gorgeous grapes produce vibrant, unique and creative wines. Sí-ing What's Next is what it's all about! 

*The VIP Tickets to Taste of Cambridge, the bottles of wine which retail between $9-$30 each and a $200 Amex gift card were provided to me by the Si What's next Campaign. All opinions are my own!*