Saturday, October 22, 2016

Harvest Dinner At Mayflower Cranberries

We were recently invited to a Harvest Cranberry Bog Dinner at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Massachusetts and it was quite the fun, unique evening.  So, come along with us and read about what the event was like.  

Upon alighting from the vans that whisked us off to the bog we were greeted with flutes of Prosecco. This was going to be good.

And, of course, as any generous and gracious host knows, one cannot be offered a drink without at least a bite to eat.  Silver trays were brought out to serve us duck and cranberry toasts to enjoy with our sips.

Jeff and Kim LaFleur, owners of the cranberry farm, came out to introduce themselves and meet us and give us a little history of the place and the unusual fruit that is native to Massachusetts.  We were then asked if anyone would like to don a pair of waders and experience the bog harvest for ourselves.  Of course, I was the first to volunteer.

The 112 acre family farm has about 24 acres of active cranberry bogs and not all of the fields are filled with water as cranberries can also be harvested from dry land.  They conduct tours of the bog and also sell the fresh cranberries directly to the public.  What a refreshing change from all the apple-picking trips!

We'd be working in Buttonwood Bog which dates back to 1940 and holds a variety of cranberry called Stevens.  Most of the fruit harvested from this bog will be used for sweetened, dried cranberries, the very kind we'd enjoy in our salads later on.  The crop will be sold to Ocean Spray which I did not know is actually a cooperative of independently owned cranberry farmers.

Walking in the bog is a an unusual sensation.  Cranberries grow on vines that cover the ground.  When a bog is flooded for harvest the cranberries, which have a hollow center, float up to the top.  The thick layer of heavy vines make it feel like walking on a mattress and the first few steps can be hard to maneuver but we got the hang of it rather quickly.

After our foray into the bog with assistance from the guys helping out with this year's harvest it was onto dinner.  The wine and beer was chilled and the table was set right there in the farm fields.  

There was music and laughter and great conversation.  We sat with the same guys working the harvest and other food writers, press and media photographers and videographers and I was lucky enough to sit next to the owner, Jeff, who filled me in on more detailed history including the fact that this was the very first harvest dinner held at the bogs.  

The meal was prepared by Chef Stephen Coe of nearby Mirbeau Inn And Spa At Pine Hills. Each of the dishes featured cranberries including this delicious Squash Bisque With Cranberry And Bacon Dust.  

Then there was Kale Salad With Dried Cranberries and, again, bacon, also terrific.  The main course was this Short Rib Braised In Cranberries, as tender and flavorful as we've ever had.

We ate and sipped wine and laughed and talked as the sun fell lower.  It was a beautiful day but cranberry bogs can be chilly into the evening so if you go, and we highly recommend the experience, bundle up.  It can be damp and foggy.

Cranberry Ice Cream Sticks With Pop Rocks (a signature dessert and ingredient for Chef Coe) were served up for dessert along with Cranberry Dougnuts and Cranberry Mousse.

All in all in was a beautiful, one-of-a-kind night that will long be a happy memory.  The Dinner In A Bog event can be arranged through the Mirbeau Inn but the season is fleeting.

As dinner ended we were treated to this spectacular sunset over the bogs, our dinner table festooned with lights seen off in the distance.

Then, within minutes, it seemed, a bright full moon began it's climb over the tree tops as we headed to the vans for the ride back. Another sumptuous food event in a spectacular setting as we continue our luxury tour 2016.

We were invited to this event as guests of Mirbeau Inn And Spa At Pine Hills and Mayflower Cranberries without remuneration or promise of any editorial coverage.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kiehl's Skin Care

I get asked three questions whenever I go out.  What restaurant should we go to?  How do you stay so skinny?  And, always, what's your skin care secret?

My answers are:  Go to one you like.  Don't eat too much (and I'm not being flip about that one because a diet book IS in the works) and I use Kiehl's.  

I worked at Kiehl's on Newbury Street in Boston, part time just during the holiday season years ago and fell in love with the products.  It's quality, plant-based stuff.  Ever since I've been an avid fan.  

No matter where I am traveling I make a quiet time each morning and night to relax and take care of my skin.  To me it's therapy.  

Drink lots of water, exercise every day and take care of your skin. It's worth it.

Photos shot at Mirabeau Inn at Pine Hills.  Products courtesy of Kiehl's L'Oréal without remuneration or consideration for any editorial content.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival 2016: Grand Tasting

We have often said that the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival is our favorite event of the year.  It's not just the Gilded Age setting but more importantly the people and the discovery of new wines and food products in a very comfortable social environment. 

As soon as one steps through the opulent foyer of Marble House and onto the back terrace one is greeted by a long line of smiling servers who hand you a goblet for the event and then offer up some tasty bites right away.

Like, for instance, this eye-popping taste of salmon and beets on rye bread.  It was a cool, sunny day and first impressions do count.  This set the tone for what was to follow:  several hours of tasting great artisan flavors and sipping interesting wines at a leisurely pace with the most interesting people.

Of course, I immediately headed to the demo stage where I bumped into Lydia Shire and Jacques Pepin chatting amicably.  It was a special mission for me to meet Jacques Pepin.  I've been watching him on TV for years but he has always eluded me.  He was very gracious and surprisingly spry.  Before the show was open to the public he wandered through the tent in serious conversations with vintners and food purveyors with never a hint of any star status expectations.  My only regret was that I never got a photograph with him.  I guess I'll just have to keep attending these events until that happens!

We checked out the food first.  There were many artisanal craftspersons there serving up samples of their best products and the quality was not lost on anyone.

As one can imagine, there was tons of cheese being served up.  It is impressive just how many quality small batch cheeses are being made throughout New England now.  And we make it a goal to try as many as possible.

One of the things we really liked about the subtle changes made this year was the setup of the chef demo table right on the water.  It made for some great photos and a way to enjoy the spectacular view.

We also had fun playing fashion photographer with the different vendors who were more than willing to oblige.

We tried a different tactic this year.  Instead of walking around and around for four hours resulting in exhaustion and aching feet we basically set up camp at a table in front of the Estrella Damm tent (very gracious people by the way) and let the party come to us.

And come they did, from all over.  We met people from Chicago and Canada and even this happy couple, Mark and Keri, who turned out to be from neighboring Somerville.

The wines?  Oh yes, almost forgot.  Our favorite sips from the event included the Chateau d'Esclans 2014 Les Clans Rosé, and the Prestige Rosé from Champagne Taittinger.  Our favorite wine of all, however, was the 2012 Riesling, Graacher Domprobst Grand Cru from Weingut S. A. Prüm of Mosel, Germany.  Absolutely fantastic.  Can't wait until next year!

It won't be long now until the garden clubs of Newport gather to decorate the mansions for the holidays.  We're totally looking forward to seeing that.

We were the guests of the Newport Mansions Preservation Society for this event with no consideration for coverage required or expected.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Forbes Under 30 Summit Hits Boston

photo © William McAdoo @TheBostonFoodie

Hundreds of foodie entrepreneurs converged at the State House Tuesday night for the last big bash of the Forbes Under 30 Summit and, of course, we were invited to attend.

I think we captured the picture of the night:  celebrity judges celebrating the delectable chocolates from Bon Bon Bon by Alexandra Clark of Detroit (MY home town).  Congrats Alexandra!!

The judges included (l to r) Chris Coombs, Boston host for the event, Randall Lane, Forbes Editor, singer John Legend, model Chrissy Teigen, Jenny Johnson of NESN's Dining Playbook and Lee Schrager of South Beach Wine And Food Festival.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wine Of The Week: Légende Bordeaux Rouge 2014

Our favorite wine this week is the Légende Bordeaux Rouge 2014.  The unusually warm autumn of 2014, after a gloomy summer, gave the vines optimal ripening conditions resulting in a great vintage year.

This is a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon 40% Merlot blend.  The dark fruit flavors are as strong as the ruby color is rich and the wine is very well balanced after 60% of the blend has aged in barrels.  The finish is slightly spicy. 

This is a great sip on it's own, as we've been enjoying it, or paired with meals and just seems right for the fall weather.  The suggested retail price is $17.99.

This wine was part of a sample provided to TBF by Pasternak Wines without any consideration for coverage or review by us. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Wine And Rosecliff 2016

It's like entering Downton Abbey.
Wine And Rosecliff, Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI

It's the first elegant soiree of the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, held each year in September in the mansions of Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island.  The mansion was modeled after the Grand Trianon at Versailles, built to impress and one certainly feels like a member of royalty when stepping across the transom into a bygone era of opulence.

A valet takes your car keys at the main entrance.  After walking down a long red carpet in the marble foyer one enters a large reception room.  It's like entering Downton Abbey. The gentlemen in tuxedos collect your invitation.  You are immediately poured a glass of Taittinger champagne.  This is the evening event where it's just as much about seeing and being seen as it is about the wine and food.  There is a dress code.  

Rosecliff is the mansion where the original Great Gatsby film was made.  If you walk from the entrance foyer right through the Grand Ballroom to the back you will end up at the fountain and rolling manicured lawn that leads down to the water.  Tonight there is a canopy on the back terrace and the weather is good enough to wander on the lawn and check out the classic cars placed there from the Audrain Museum down the street.  The people are beautiful.  The clothes are beautiful.  It's almost enough to make one forget one is there to enjoy the wine and food.

Yet, enjoy we did, especially our favorite taste of the night, this Native Crab And Corn Bisque With Sea Urchin Crostini.  The flavor was as spectacular as the jewels in the crowd and the texture some impossible level beyond a silky cream.  

The dish was presented by Newport Beach House, East Coast, a Longwood venue.

It wasn't just wine, either (and we'll have a full rundown of our favorite wines in the next post).  This was the team pouring the tequila from José Cuervo, a fun and lively bunch who we really enjoyed talking and laughing with.

The desserts were not bad.  Anything with rum buttercream is high on our list.

Coffee and sweets were served in the dining room, replete with soaring ceilings and crystal chandeliers as the live big band sounds began to wind down.  A perfect end to a perfect night.

Don't miss our next post on the Grand Tasting at Marble House where we will fill you in on the best wines you'll want to sip this fall season and well into the holidays.  

In Media Res



Monday, October 3, 2016

Mixology Class With Hennessy

One of the absolute highlights of our recent trip to Newport, Rhode Island, for the Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival was the exclusive Mixology Seminar provided by Hennessy.  It really brought home the fact that a truly great cocktail is a well-crafted work of art.

Held at the Hotel Viking, a classic Newport destination and one of the truly most sumptuous, polished hotels anywhere, we were ushered into an very elegantly-appointed room with beautifully laid out and decorated tables and all of the tools we'd need for our mixology course.  Photographers orbited about getting detail shots of the arrangements as we looked over the shakers and stirrers we'd soon be using.

We began with trays of delicious snacks such as these Crab Cakes With Chipotle Remoulade and Beef En Croute With Duxelle.  Every well-planned cocktail event begins with plenty of delicious finger foods and hors d'oeuvres and keeps them coming.  Real cocktail aficionados don't drink on an empty stomach and we were going to be sampling a few drinks during the next ninety minutes or so.

We took our places at our stylish posts and read over the ingredients listing for the cocktails we'd be preparing:  a Hennessy Sezerac and a Hennessy Sour, as we noshed and met the other participants.

Jordan Bushell, Hennessy Ambassador and Mixologist was about to begin.  We learned about the history of mixology and how it's been in practice for hundreds of years in Japan where cocktails were made with the same attention to detail and ritual as a tea ceremony.  Here, the role of lowly bartender has only been elevated to that of mixologist in the past fifteen years or so.  We'd be mixing libations today made with Hennessy V. S. O. P. which we learned stands for very superior old pale by order of royalty and more historical facts about cognac. 

We learned to measure, to pour, to properly stir, the use of ice and all of the mixologist's tools and best practices of use.  We curled precisely carved lemon peels to release the oils, using them to rub along the rim before dropping them in the glasses.  It began to dawn on us that this really is an art form.  Having the right accoutrement and knowing exactly how to use it all made a huge difference.

Not the least of this was learning how to correctly shake your mixed cocktail.  Yes, there is a proper form to this to get the best mix.  It was like getting advice on how to play baseball from a professional athlete; where to place the hands, how to turn the shaker away from you and then pull it back.  We practiced in slow motion to get it right.

Then, the pour, directly over the ice.  The anticipation of taking a sip of the ice cold cocktail was overwhelming.

Then, of course, the satisfying sips.  Incredible.  We're totally looking forward to more mixology lessons.

In media res:



This seminar was free and open to the public on a very limited basis by advance sign-up as part of the annual Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival.  You, too, could find about these cool events in advance by following us on Twitter and Instagram.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blue Plate Diner

We'd driven by many times and always were intrigued by the softly curved lines of the design, something one might see in a graphic novel that featured a diner, a diner that was an art deco throwback.

Entering into the Blue Plate Diner we were quickly escorted to our booth by uniformed servers that seemed to float about the room as if it were some choreographed ballet.  We were here for breakfast but the menu was so extensive and mouth-watering we considered lunch, or more.  Exactly why can't one indulge in a Reuben Sandwich for breakfast, anyway?

The crowd was a wonderfully eclectic mix of hipsters and retirees (or close), children with I-have-two-Dads families, colorful locals, teens and teens with parents.  The place was full at 9:30 AM except for the long bar fully stocked with premium liquors that we noticed off to the side. 

We dived into the breakfast menu the moment coffee was poured.  We ordered all the classics:  eggs over easy and scrambled, wheat and rye toast, breakfast potatoes, fruit cups and French toast.

And it was all good, solid diner food served with a smile in impeccably clean environs amidst décor that did not have to descend into kitsch.

Yes, we'll be back.  Likely for lunch and then again to see what happens along that bar late at night.

Blue Plate Diner
665 West Main Road
Middletown, RI  02482
Telephone:  401.848.9500