Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More Connoisseurs’ corner! Because there's alway room for...

Continuing my posts from Connoisseurs’ corner...here are some topics...discuss!


I always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Lately, I’ve seen an upswing in the breakfast restaurants.  From the Route 9 Diner in Hadley, the Rox Diner in West Roxbury and Newtonville to the Deluxe Depot Diner in Framingham (and other locations in Watertown and Newton) and Stephen Anthony’s in Marlboro…breakfast is back.

I grew up working with my dad in his diner, so we have affection for a big breakfast.  To me, nothing beats two eggs any style, corned beef hash, home fries (extra crispy), buttered wheat toast and hot, strong coffee.

Places like the Route 9, Rox and Deluxe Depot execute homemade corned beef hash, while Stephen Anthony’s in Marlboro goes for the hot coffee carafe on the table for constant self-refilling.  Service at all of these places is just what you need first thing in the morning-professional, personable and prompt.  I walked away from all these places satiated, and ready to start my day, with a full stomach and juiced on diner coffee.


Who among us doesn’t like a hot cup of coffee in the morning to start our day?  I enjoy a cup, or two, each day, and even though my mother has been chastising me about my coffee intake, I am happy to report that there may be some benefits from drinking coffee. 

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report) to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February 2015. The purpose of the Advisory Report is to inform the Federal government of current scientific evidence on topics related to diet, nutrition, and health.  This helps determine the USDA’s new food guidelines for Americans. 

As the Washington Post reported here, not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking more.  The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day is tied to several health benefits (!!!), including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.  BENEFITS!!!!
So, for you three and five cup a day coffee drinkers, don’t worry about caffeine so much.  Now if only they could come out with a study that says burgers and onion rings are good for you…

Coffee brewing methods
I know it’s not exactly a food topic, but my day wouldn’t start off right if I didn’t have a hot cup of coffee.  While America may run on Dunkin’, I prefer a different brew.
As I have written and spoke about in the past, I prefer a strong brew, and my preferred purveyor is Starbucks.  Starbucks surely offers a respite from the hustle and bustle, but for me, it’s still about the coffee.  Lately, I’ve been paying attention to my coffee a little more, especially over the weekends, at least as it comes to brewing.
Allegedly, K-cup pod brewing has overtaken the current home-brewing market.  With convenience and variety, from cup to cup, who wouldn’t enjoy that?  But, for a quality, personalized brewing experience, nothing beats a French press or a vacuum syphon brew of your favorite beans.

Both French press and syphon brewing methods are what are referred to as “full immersion”; in each case, the coffee grounds are steeped in water for period of time, as opposed to having the water pass through grounds quickly.  With each method, you retain some of the coffee’s unctuousness; the oily sweetness and mouth feel, letting you savor some of the more complex flavors of the coffee.  Sure they are more labor intensive, but the results are worth it.
Most people are familiar with French Press style brewing, but vacuum syphon brewing is somewhat unknown.  For more information, and a lesson on how to syphon coffee, click here.
Take that Juan Valdez!
For a little coffee talk, click here.

Now, go home and start brewing.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Connoisseurs’ Corner, even more cheesy

I love a good cheese…the cheesier the better.

As we’ve discussed, we’re lucky to have great cheese availability.  Not only can you get decent cheese at Whole Foods and even Trader Joe’s, there’s a terrific cheese monger in Concord, aptly named “THE CHEESE SHOP OF CONCORD”.  With its selection of hundreds of domestic and imported cheeses, you’ll never fall into a cheese rut. In fact, its cheese-mongers have compiled a handy guide to sampling new versions of some of your favorite cheeses during 2015:

If you like Gorgonzola:
Try locally-made West West Blue. Veteran cheese-maker Peter Dixon makes this two-curd, gorgonzola-style raw cow's milk cheese at Parish Hill Creamery in Westminster West, VT. Firm and crumbly in texture, with a rich full flavor and a spicy, tangy finish.

If you like Gruyère:
Try Switzerland’s exclusive Gruyère Alpage. Produced according to a tradition dating back to the year 1115, this raw cow's milk cheese is cooked over an open fire at a minimum altitude of 2,900 feet, from the summertime milk of a single herd.  A true example of artisan cheese making and ancient tradition, where nature and humans are a team. 

If you like Cheddar:
Try the Cheese Shop Glory Cheddar, a raw cow's milk cheese made by Cabot and aged at the Jasper Hill Cellars in Vermont especially for The Cheese Shop of Concord. Distinctive for its rich, milky flavor and smooth, creamy texture, this medium-bodied cheddar is a crowd-pleaser.
The Cheese Shop of Concord
29 Walden Street
Concord, Massachusetts
(978) 369-5778 / www.concordcheeseshop.com

Goat cheese…

Because February and March are when female goats give birth, and because goats produce far more milk than their offspring require, the excess milk is turned into cheese. Most experts and enthusiasts agree that fresh goat cheese (chevre) tastes markedly better in the spring than at others times of the year.

Be on the lookout for fresh goat cheese produced by Massachusetts Cheese Guild’s members. Here are some examples, sold in better specialty shops and grocers, at farmers markets, and at the farms’ own stands. Locations can be found on the Massachusetts Cheese Guild website at www.macheeseguild.com.

Chevre from Crystal Brook Farms, Sterling
Less than 3 days elapse between milking the goat and the finished cheese.  Talk about fresh!

Chevre from Valley View Farm, Topsfield
Also fresh artisanal goat feta, a camembert style, and goat Tomme. Sold primarily on the North Shore, but who wouldn’t want to seek out cheese made from the milk of does named Maple, Caramel Truffle and Milkshake? 

Capri brand chevre from Westfield Farms, Westfield
Available everywhere in 10 flavors including plain, Hickory Smoked, Wasabi and Chocolate

Thanks to Chris Lyons for this great information.

Hold on to your hats...even more on their way.

Connoisseurs Corner, continued


Because you’re clamoring for more, Connoisseurs’ Corner features began running again on March 18, 2015.  I have been launching little pieces of what we recorded and what will broadcast.  Without further ado, here are the next few spots…they may be a little familiar.

Chinese Mirch:

Chinese Mirch, with two locations:  Route 9 in Framingham and Mass Ave. in Boston.  They have 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.

For an appetizer, try the Salt and Pepper Gobi, which is cauliflower florets tossed with ginger, garlic and onion.  These were some serious flavor bombs.  IMHO, cauliflower on its own doesn’t really have any flavor, but fry them up with ginger, garlic and onion, and it’s delicious surprise.

For main courses, if you like spicy, try Mirch 65, which is chicken spiked with curry leaves and red hot chiles and Chicken Hot Garlic, which is diced chicken in a crushed garlic and chili sauce.  With a lot of exotic names, and meats, the menu is varied, with a number of Chinese based specialties and an overlay of Indian cuisine, all looking, smelling and tasting delicious.  I strongly recommend Chinese Mirch, just make sure you bring your own fire extinguisher…for your mouth!

In an effort to establish a renaissance of Downtown Framingham, “Pho Dakao” of Worcester opened their second location.  I had heard good things about Pho Dakao…but I had to try it for myself…winter time is a great time for Pho (pronounced “fah” for the uninitiated, like me).

Pho is noodle soup, for the uninitiated, like me.  I got a large Pho Ga (chicken).  The pho is Vietnamese beef broth soup, served with scallions, onions and cilantro. Accompanied with a plate of bean sprouts, fresh basil, sliced lime and chili peppers (sliced fresh jalapenos) on the side.  Also, if you’re like me, please pass the Sriracha, which they gladly did.  Served with chopsticks, a spoon and fork, it really hit the spot.  A large was hard to finish, but it was delicious enough that I forced myself.

Pho Dakao really is in deep, downtown Framingham, but a really nice addition to the neighborhood.  It’s clear the owners pumped some money in to redecorating, and it was bright and airy, and very clean.  The staff was friendly and efficient; it can be hard to go to an ethnic restaurant where the food is unfamiliar, but the staff was more than happy to describe and explain the choices, and there were several repeat customers around us more than happy to share their suggestions.

More on the way.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 2015 Connoisseurs’ Corner

Connoisseurs’ corner

Back in the saddle, and studio with host extraordinaire, Jordan Rich to record some new Connoisseurs’ Corner features that will begin running tomorrow, March 18, 2015 at 11:55am, or thereabout.  Over the next few days, I will launch little pieces of what we recorded and what will broadcast.  Also, I am trying to add a new feature...linking the audio files so those of you that can't find your way to a radio, or to CBSBoston.com, can still hear the dulcet tones and stylings of Jordan and Eric.

Without further ado, here are the first two spots…

1) JF&CS nutrition services:

We’re lucky that we can talk about food and some great places to eat, but there is a huge constituency that can’t afford fancy meals, or even basic meals, but there are some great social service agencies that can help. 

Jewish Family &Children’s Service of Boston is one such human service agency, which among other things provides nutrition and food services.  JFCS Nutrition Services empowers people to improve their health by learning how to shop for and prepare healthy and affordable meals. 

Among other things, JF&CS’s website offers a list of healthy and nutritious recipes.  All Nutrition Services recipes are designed to meet the nutrition standards of the government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and cost $2.50 or less per meal. All recipes include the cost per serving, cost to buy all ingredients new, and the nutrition analysis.  You can sign up to receive the recipe of the month.  Some of the terrific recipes are Chicken Chili, Chicken Salad with walnuts and Apple and Spinach and Mushroom quesedillas.  You can check out all the recipes from starters to desserts at jfcsboston.org by clicking here.

You can listen to a raw feed (unedited) of the spot here

2) JF&CS Cookbook:

I’ve said before, we’re lucky that we can talk about food and some great places to eat, but there is a huge constituency that can’t afford fancy meals.  Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Boston, a human and social service agency, provides among other things, nutrition and food services, and has just published a great cookbook for displaced families and individuals with limited cooking facilities called “HomeCooking Without a Kitchen”.

JF&CS says that there are approximately 1,700 homeless families residing in hotel and motel rooms across Massachusetts. Most of these families have access to little more than a microwave and a bathroom sink to prepare healthy meals for their children.   In response, JF&CS created Home Cooking without a Kitchen in partnership with Project Bread.  Based on five years of experience working with families living in hotel rooms, they developed recipes that are family friendly, healthy, and budget friendly. 

The book is available as a .pdf download, or you can call JF&CS and order a bound copy.  Staying true to the mission of helping people, the book is available without charge, but donations are gladly accepted.

There are some great recipes for quick bites, such as “Banana in a Blanket” and some interesting ones like “Smashed Chickpea Pocket”.  For families with limited cooking facilities, as well as a huge student population around the city, JF&CS of Boston is providing a great service. Visit jfcsboston.org or click here for the link to the cookbook.

You can listen to a raw feed of the spot here

Stayed tuned for more great spots, on Connoisseurs’ Corner and right here at criticalpalate.com.