Thursday, December 25, 2014

Connoisseur’s Corner December 2014

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me be part of the Connoisseur’s Corner stable.  For those of you unfamiliar, CC runs every day at 11:58am on WBZ 1030AM or on (where podcasts are also available).  Each stable member has an area of specialty in the food or beverage realm.  Me?  I'm just happy to be able to talk about food and food related issues.  I had some minor technical difficulties with the website, but here's a recap of things we chatted about and are currently running on the air:

1.         There are certain things people do on Christmas and certain food that we all eat.  Certainly, my people, the Jews, love their Chinese food and movies.  To that end, there are a couple of Chinese places that I particularly like:

Sichuan Gourmet, with locations in Framingham, Brookline, Sharon and Billerica.  I like my food spicy and Sichuan Gourmet does not disappoint.  Food is fresh, place is always busy, but it’s my go-to spot for decent Chinese food.

2.         I have recently discovered Chinese Mirch, with two locations:  route 9 in Framingham and Mass Ave. in Boston.  Their’s is a unique spin on Chinese cuisine, merging Indian spices and flavors with the cooking style of Chinese cuisine.  I’ve been there a few times lately, for lunch, and have been really impressed with their delicious food and presentation.  These spots, with their multiple locations, seem like perfect places to grab Chinese on Christmas day.

3.         Similar to Thanksgiving, sometimes you just don’t feel like hosting a huge dinner and having your family come over and trash your house.  So why not eat out on Christmas?  There are many places both in the city and suburbs hosting a Christmas dinner.  Bar Bouloud at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Boylston Street, a highly respected and regarded restaurant with locations also in London and NY is offering a prix fixe meal.  Buca Di Peppo in Shrewsbury, MA is also offering a set menu of Christmas foods.

Most Legal Seafoods are open for Christmas, and I’ve eaten at a Metrowest location  on Christmas day.  Everyone knows Legal, and there’s nothing wrong with a nice seafood dinner on Christmas day.  Just remember to treat your waitstaff right, because they’re working on your holiday.

4.         Tipping on the holidays:

This is a time of year where we really should show our appreciation for our service providers…people that provide us service throughout the year and who really are the unsung heroes of our daily life.  For me, I like to leave something for our postal employee, our UPS of FedEx delivery person at the office, or our Poland Springs delivery guy, my Starbucks barista.  These, among many other people, make my life easier and work hard all year-round.

5.         When customers begin pounding on your front door weekend mornings, begging you to open up, you know that it’s time to offer brunch.  And, with football and hockey seasons in full swing, Menotomy Grill & Tavern has bowed to popular demand and now offers a weekly-changing blackboard menu of brunch items, served every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  Proprietor Billy Lyons has lined up some cool live jazz to complement the Tavern's warm stone fireplace and coppery bar. 

Executive Chef Mark Thomson (formerly of CHEZ HENRI) offers:
 The Monte Cristo: The ultimate hangover reliever. Challah French toast filled with smoked pork shoulder and ham, gruyere, apples and onions – jpeg available
 * Cream Cheese-Stuffed French Toast with Mixed Berry Compote – jpeg available
 * Southern Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuit, Sausage Gravy – jpeg available
 * Seasonally-inspired Omelets and Quiches
 * Classic Eggs Benedict
 * Huevos Rancheros
Menotomy Grill also pours its “secret family recipe” Bloody Mary, along with hefty 20-ounce draught beers from its list of 40 varieties, including Battle Road 1776 Tavern Ale … Slumbrew Attic & Eaves … Wormtown Be Hoppy IPA … and Allagash White.
Menotomy Grill & Tavern
25 Massachusetts Avenue
Arlington, Massachusetts   02472
781-468-1775 /

6. No one complains about getting gourmet food as a gift

Why go nuts shopping for the perfect gift when a call to either of FRUIT CENTER MARKETPLACE’s two South Shore locations can almost instantly result in an impressive and imaginative gift basket, tailor-made to foodies’ interests ?

In addition to its ever-popular deli, fruit  and dessert platters, FRUIT CENTER MARKETPLACE this year offers a wide variety of well-priced, customizable gift baskets. 

See the baskets and platters at

Fruit Center Marketplace
10 Basset Street, Milton and at 79 Water Street, Hingham

7.   For a unique holiday gift for the foodie in the house, how about a cooking class, offered at local restaurants, or cookware stores like Sur La Table, with locations in upscale malls all across Massachusetts.  There are many selections of classes, from knife skills, Italian and Chinese cuisine, to classes on how to use cast iron or La Creuset cookware.  Or How about a food tour of the local area.  Boston Food Tours ( tasting tours of the North End or Chinatown, with stops at shops for instructional shopping and discussions with the shopkeepers.

9.  While people in the United States have their favorite holiday dishes, such as Christmas Ham and figgy pudding or fruitcake, many other countries have their own traditional foods.  Our friends to the north, in Canada, celebrate with a meat pie; in Puerto Rico, roast pork shoulder is the celebratory food, Lebkuchen in Germany are soft, deeply spiced an sweet cookies; Herring and beet salad in Sweden; In Hungary, stuffed cabbage rolls heavily seasoned with paprika, a perfect deep red, for Christmas, is the celebratory food.  Perhaps for the next holiday, the listeners can try to incorporate some holiday dishes from foreign lands and try something new.  For a collection of recipes, check our Saveur Magazine.

10.  Potato latke recipe.

People of our heritage celebrate Hanukah and with that, comes greasy, fried foods to celebrate the miracle of oil lasting 8 days.  Here’s my tried and true recipe.

4 large potatoes
2 medium onions
4 tablespoons of flour
1 vitamin c tablet dissolved
salt and pepper

hand shred the potatoes and onions, and mix all ingredients together (the vitamin c keeps the potatoes from turning brown).  Heat vegetable oil in a pan (for a real traditional method, use olive oil), and drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil, and cook until they look done.  Put on a paper bag to absorb the excess oil and eat.  Or freeze and reheat in a 300 degree oven.

11.       While not necessarily a food event, on December 24, 2014, Sean Altman of Rockapella fame will be performing at Club Passim in Harvard Square at 6:00pm and 8:30pm.  Sean has written and sings several Jewish parody songs, from benign to slightly bawdy.  I will be performing in one song, as I have the past several years.  While the kitchen at Veggie Planet is being renovated, there will be snacks and beverages available.  More information at Club  Check out a previous performance here:  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How do you get there from here?

For years, charter subscribers of this blog have been screaming about the North Shore.  My experience with the North Shore area of Massachusetts is somewhat limited to Rockport, but in recent months, I have ventured to the great North Shore to sample the goods.  Here are some comments…

From where I live…you can’t there from here.  Seriously, could the civil engineers who designed the highway system made it any more inconvenient to get to Marblehead/Swampscott or Salem?  You drive for 45 minutes on the highway, and then another half hour on back roads…rule number one for me:  unless it’s bbq, I don’t like to be inconvenienced for food.

However, having decided to pack a bag and take the long journey north, Mrs. Palate and I discovered a few places up in the north shore area that are worth the trip.

First stop…Marblehead. 

Killer Knish!
Evan’s New York Style Deli-I wrote about Evan’s last springtime, when I ventured up there the first time.  Though I don’t usually travel, and wait, for food, a pastrami knish at Evan’s is worth the drive.  A sublime mix of puff pastry dough and fatty pastrami, no words can do this justice.  Eat one, eat two, but eat this!  Really, this should be on your bucket list.  Of course, but you better hurry home, because your heart might just explode in the car.

Evan’s can be found at 31 Smith St, Marblehead, MA.

Shubie’s is a fantastic gourmet marketplace and liquor store, selling groceries, prepared foods and kitchen gadgets.  I love this place!  I was so taken with it, that I invited the owner on to the radio show back in July.  Doug Shube brought us delicious snacks (the cauliflower was like veggie meth…extremely addicting, but I don’t think it’ll rot my teeth) and discussed what it takes to run a successful business.  This is a family-run market, offering up delicious foods in a great atmosphere.  We need more places like this.

Shubie’s can be found at 16 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead, MA or at

Off to Newburyport

Mrs. Palate and I walked along the water, and after being shut-out of most of the sit-down restaurants, we found the most delightful sandwich shop, the Port City Sandwich Co., winner of the “Best of North Shore” for sandwiches 2 years in a row! 

Tuna melt
I was very impressed.  This is a small, clean, efficient and courteously run shop.  They gentleman taking orders was very accommodating with my wife’s food allergies, and the service down the line was prompt.  We dined al fresco at some picnic tables on the water, watching the ships and kayakers.  With a variety of made to order salads and sandwiches, some gourmet choices like Grilled jerk spiced chicken strips with red peppers, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing; Southwestern Chicken-Grilled Cajun spiced chicken strips with lettuce, tomato and sour cream, and The Mediterranean-Grilled chicken strips, crisp romaine lettuce, feta cheese, black olives, tomatoes and Greek dressing.

I was really pleased to return to dining on well-prepared and deliciously simple, and simply delicious foods. 

You can find Port City at 40R Merrimac Street, Newburyport or at

(This was a partial re-post from August 2014).

Chococoa Bakery, Newburyport

What more needs to be said about Chococoa?  I have been touting them for years.  These are without a doubt, the greatest whoopie pies on the planet. 

I had never actually been to their brick and mortar location, now located in The Tannery in Newburyport (where I expected to see cow hides hanging on the walls).  I love re-purposed mill buildings…tall ceilings, brick walls, wide-beam wood floors, and Chococoa has located in a beautifully repurposed spot.  Finally meeting Julie and Alan, the husband and wife geniuses behind the whoopies was a real pleasure, and these whoopie pies are even better when they are served to you by the hands of the baking masters that created them.  Kosher, and offering several gluten free options, race to your computer and order some of these bite-sized beauties!

Chococoa can be found at 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA or at

Burger and rings at Sylvan Street
We ended our day with a quick, late dinner at the Sylvan Street Grill in Peabody.  This is a large sports bar, and it was a beautiful night, so we ate outside. The outside seating area was built around a pool/fountain, and it was a very pleasant; the menu is typical sports bar food, but it was good enough, and did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Sylvan Street Grille can be found at 12 Sylvan Street Peabody, MA or at

I’m sure we’ll be heading back up north some time soon, and certainly will be encouraged by my north shore peeps.  Until then…order those whoopie pies!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What to watch?

Month ago, I read an article by Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe on his introduction of the Brady Bunch and other classic 60’s sitcoms to his young daughters.  Their impression of sexist dialogue was interesting, and it got me thinking again about the state of today’s sitcoms.

At the risk of offending some readers, with few exceptions, I think today’s sitcoms are crap.  For every great show like “Modern Family”, there’s “Jesse” or “A.N.T. Farm”, and I could name many, many more.  How did we get from “Must See TV” on NBC Thursday nights (Cosby Show [before we learned "The Cos" was a rapist], Night Court, Cheers and Wings, throw in Seinfeld and Frasier for good measure), or a strong CBS Monday night in the early 1990s (Designing Women, Evening Shade, Murphy Brown) to “Must Avoid TV” like “Two Broke Girls” where every joke is about the size of the girls’ equipment, or their bosses’?  Why, why, why the proliferation of such garbage?

500 channels on satellite or cable certainly do not help.  Those stations are on air, paying broadcast and transmission fees, so they have to fill their airwaves with something, so anyone with a half-baked idea for a sitcom can push their ideas to someone.   In the past, with so few channels, the networks and production companies had the luxury of cherry-picking the best of the best.  Now, with so many shows, networks, production companies, etc…any person with a sharp enough pencil can get a show. 

Even the semi-mainstream cable channels like Nickelodeon or Disney put on quite a bit of junk.  Check out the aforementioned “A.N.T. Farm” or “Austin & Ally”, “Jessie” or an oldie but a goodie…”Zoey 101”. 

Many of the most terrible shows feature or star young actors.  In the past, we only had to worry about the kids from the “Brady Bunch” or “Diff'rent Strokes”, now, there are probably hundreds of young actors that may struggle with work in the future, and only a half-step away from turning in to Dana Plato.  Exhibit A-Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger, yet slightly more promiscuous sister (if possible) of Brittany Spears.  Pregnant at 16, it’s too early to tell how she’ll crash and burn, but if her sister is any example, it won’t be long. 


Conversely, outlets like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are creating or carrying shows of such quality, they have been recognized with Emmy nominations.  Where the Fox Network would rather run episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” than Emmy winning “Arrested Development”, Netflix has been happy to fill the gap, run the fourth season of this great show, and be rewarded with an Emmy nomination.  In fact, Netflix, certainly not a traditional network by anyone’s measure, also received nominations for “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey.  It won’t be long before we are all watching Emmy award-winning shows on our cell phones at Starbucks.  As Seinfeld has said about “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (one of my current favorites), he tried to create a show that could be watched on our phones…can’t say I’d really mind…TV and coffee, what could be bad about that?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Connoisseurs’ Corner Broadcast Highlights, September 2014

As promised on the recent Connoisseurs’ Corner broadcast, here are excerpts of the spots...some may be abbreviated versions of the full reviews previously posted, some may be new and fresh.  I am nothing if not fresh!

Chelmsford can add “gourmet destination” to its community resume.

Moonstones has an eclectic menu with appetizers, global tapas (small plates) and regular, full sized entrees.  At our table, we tried a number of things and we started with a few small plate appetizers.  We asked our knowledgeable waiter for some recommendations…how about froze grapes with candied pecans and feta cheese?  How about tuna tataki, served with 3 different sauces on a Himalayan salt plate?  The waiter bragged about the tataki being an award-winning appetizer, and he was not lying.  My mouth gives it an award for convincing me that raw fish can be delish!

We rounded out our meal with a variety of other selections.  I had “Fiery Sweet Korean Wings” and a “Asian BBQ Short Rib” braised with a five-spice rub.  Mrs. Palate had a tofu dish over bok choy, and another of our dining companions, Critical Lynn, had salmon and Critical David had Thai noodles.  Despite our general emphasis on Asian flavors, the menu is broad and varied.  All of us were impressed greatly, and satiated.  By the time we were done, we were already talking about our next time.  Certainly a success, especially in my eyes, where people don’t call me “critical” for nothing.

While I didn’t have dessert at Moonstones, the added benefit of being in Chelmsford is being next door to Westford, home of Kimball Farms ice cream, THE favored ice cream of the Critical Palate, and apparently everyone else on the Route 495 belt, considering the lines at 9:15pm at night.  For your gastronomic pleasure, I post this picture of a small cup of Peanut Butter Cup…literally, the smallest size they have!

A fine meal followed up with fine ice cream…a veritable party in your mouth!

September 20 in Framingham, a celebration of arts, food and culture will take place at Bowditch Field, which will be fed by a food truck festival.

§  We’ve talked before about the food trucks…great options.  Some of the providers will be Bon Me (Vietnamese sandwiches), Captain Marden’s Cod Squad, Cupcake City, Evan’s NY Style Deli, Frozen Hoagies (ice cream and froyo sandwiches), Maine-ly Lobstah, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, The Happy Taco, Whoo(pie) Wagon

For $5.00 admission, you have access to all these food trucks, plus concerts and artisans selling their wares, all in celebration of the MW.  While each truck has their own charge, this is a great opportunity to try a variety of delicious items in one area.

3. Cheese guild:  Press release from the Cheese Guild reads in part as follows:


The Public May Join as “Enthusiast” Members

Meet Cheesemakers from Cape Ann to South Coast and from Worcester to the Berkshires

Last fall, the Massachusetts Cheese Guild officially launched, with membership available in five categories:

*  Artisans: Commercial cheesemakers certifying use of Massachusetts-produced milk.

Enthusiasts: The artisan cheese-loving public can join at the September 18 event, at or online at 

Cheesemakers appearing on September 18:

Appleton Farms                        Ipswich
Berkshire Blue                          Dalton        
Crystal Brook Farm                  Spencer

Foxboro Cheese Company       Foxboro
Great Hill Dairy                         Marion
Mozzarella House                     Peabody

Robinson Farm                         Hardwick
Ruggles Hill Creamery               Hardwick
Shy Brothers Farm                    Westport
Sidehill Farm                            Hawley

Valley View Farm                     Topsfield
Westfield Farm                         Hubbardston
Wolf Meadow Farm                  Amesbury

From the market's website:  The Boston Public Market will be a permanent, year-round, self-sustaining market featuring fresh locally sourced food brought directly to and from the diverse people that make up Massachusetts and New England. At the BPM, local farmers, fishermen, and specialty ­food producers will come together with the residents of Boston and Massachusetts to create a new civic institution, a vibrant marketplace that will let people from all walks of life taste, buy, and understand their food, from how it is made and sourced, to its nutritional value, to its impact on our environment, and of course, how to prepare it to make delicious meals that bring their friends and families together.

Located at the Dewey Square Plaza along the Greenway, across from South Station.  They run twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday) and currently feature different vendors each day.  11:30am-630pm.

Construction will begin on a permanent 28,000 square foot building with 325 parking spaces, at 136 Blackstone Street, at the Haymarket T stop, giving Bostonians a great place for locally sourced fresh fish, meats and produce year-round.  This will be a great addition for foodies in the Boston area.

6.  Pickling:

Its that time of year when many of the backyard gardeners are pulling in the last of their crop, and wondering what do we do with this.  While some hearty New Englanders are in to canning, you can “pickle” the veggies without ever boiling mason jars.

You can quickly turn garden cukes, green beans, cauliflower or any vegetable into a nice pickle in 48 hours.  Here’s a simple recipe, cultivated from several websites:

2 pounds baby cucumbers
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar, if you prefer a bite)
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar/container)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (3/4 teaspoons total)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (1 1/2 teaspoons total)
Wash and slice the cucumbers.
In a large saucepot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.
Arrange jars (or other container with a re-sealable lid) on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You want them packed tight.
Pour the brine into the jar, leaving approximately ½ inch headspace.
Apply lids and let jars cool. When they've returned to room temperature, place jars in refrigerator. Let them sit for at least 48 hours before eating.
7.  No knead bread:
 This is the time of year when we start thinking of cooler temps and a chance to enhance the smell of our homes with the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread.  But who really has the time in our busy lives to mix, knead and beat down?  Jim Lahey from the Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC has come up with a seriously simple recipe, and has become an internet sensation.  Here is the basic method (from the Sullivan Street Bakery website):

3 cups flour
1½ cups water
¼ teaspoon yeast
1¼ teaspoon salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour or cornmeal

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.”
I say, take it out, put on a cooling rack, and enjoy after cooling, if you can wait that long.  Make sure to have some butter handy, because nothing tastes better than a hot piece of bread with melted butter soaked into it

8.  Orchards

Massachusetts is blessed with one of the greatest gifts on earth…apple orchards.  Not only do I have fond memories of apple picking when I was a kid, but we’ve enjoyed family apple picking for many years.  One of my favorite places on earth is Honey Pot Hill in Stow, Massachusetts. 

Honey Pot isn’t just an orchard, it’s New England!  In addition to “pick your own” (and you can check their web site for what is available), they have pigs and goats and bunnies and ducks, a hedge maze, hay rides and a great shop where you can buy pre-picked apples, as well as their other produce, and cider and cider donuts.  With plenty of parking, you can’t get much more New England that a trip to Honey Pot, or any of the other great local orchards here in Massachusetts.

I’ve been spending more time on the North Shore lately, discovering all the delicious offerings I can.  After visiting my friends at Chococoa Bakery in Newburyport a few weeks back, my wife and I walked along the water, and after being shut-out of most of the sit-down restaurants, we found the most delightful sandwich shop, the Port City Sandwich Co., winner of the “Best of North Shore” for sandwiches 2 years in a row! 

I was very impressed.  This is a small, clean, efficient and courteously run shop.  They gentleman taking orders was very accommodating with my wife’s food allergies, and the service down the line was prompt.  We dined al fresco at some picnic tables on the water, watching the ships and kayakers.  With a variety of made to order salads and sandwiches, some gourmet choices like Grilled jerk spiced chicken strips with red peppers, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing;
Southwestern Chicken-Grilled Cajun spiced chicken strips with lettuce, tomato and sour cream
The Mediterranean-Grilled chicken strips, crisp romaine lettuce, feta cheese, black olives, tomatoes and Greek dressing

I was really pleased to return to dining on well-prepared and deliciously simple, and simply delicious foods.

10.  Grilled Cheese

As we’ve spoken about before, the classic comfort food, grilled cheese, is experiencing a renaissance.  With food trucks (Roxy’s) and kiosks (Cheeseboy at South Station and malls), now you can get funked-up grilled cheese in Providence and Kingston, RI, with UMelt.  With these two locations, and the Providence location serving beer and wine, they are serving some very funky, and delicious grilled cheese combinations, like the Vermonster-Cheddar Cheese, Maple Glazed Bacon, Caramelized Onions, on Marble Rye Bread and The Veggie-Havarti Cheese, Hummus, Roasted Peppers, Zucchini, Avocado, on Multi Grain Bread, you get the idea that these are not your mother’s grilled cheese.  As Emmajean Holley of the Brown Daily Herald says, “UMelt might be the greatest thing since sliced bread.”



11. Penny Candy!

Nothing harkens me back to my youth quicker than penny candy.  Unfortuantely, most are not just a penny anymore, but seeing the apothecary jars filled with small, sugary treats takes me right back to the General Store in Centerville, MA, where I spent many a summer day.

So it was with great delight that I found myself at the Wayside General Store in Marlborough, MA (on Route 20, on the Sudbury line). 

Not only do they have a great selection of all the penny candy we remember, but fudge and hand-dipped chocolates, and it also has a great history.  Founded, owned and operated by Henry Ford in 1929.  For great, fresh penny candy, and to step back in time a little, visit the Wayside General Store, and check out their website.