High on High Street

IMG_0793The first stop on my latest wine road trip was to the home of the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Soon after I arrived and checked in to the Kimpton Monaco, I made my way past the vendors hawking championship gear on Market Street, towards High Street on Market.

High Street on Market is part of the High Street Hospitality Group, which also owns a.kitchen+bar and Fork in Philadelphia, and High Street on Hudson in New York. I have eaten at Fork, which was excellent, and High Street on Market is Fork’s more casual cousin.  High Street is open all day, from coffee and pastries to cocktails and pasta. My memory of Fork was that everything was exceptionally flavorful, so I was ready to have my taste buds roused once again.

I ordered a glass of Folk Machine Chenin Blanc, a Loire-inspired white from Mendocino, California, from the all-American wine list while I looked over the menu. Mineral-driven, citrusy dry white wines are my jam, so this was the perfect choice to fire up my appetite. A lot of things on the menu sounded to me as if they wouldn’t go well together, so I solicited the help of my server. Once he convinced me that it was okay to eat chow-chow alongside wild boar ragu, I was ready to order.  I started with the sunchokes, a dish from the section of the menu called “snacks”.  Sunchokes are one of those things that call to me from any restaurant menu. A root vegetable from the sunflower family, they have an umami flavor and a crunchy bite. These came roasted, with a texture that reminded me of eggplant, with slices of crisp, raw sunchoke mingled in.  Delicious.

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Clockwise: Crispy Broccoli, Pasta with Wild Boar Ragu, Sunchokes

My selection from the “plates” part of the menu arrived with my sunchokes. I chose the Crispy Broccoli with Chow-Chow and Scallion. The dish arrived looking like a giant tempura chia tree but the combination of flavors was so addicting that it was difficult to put my fork down. Chow-chow is a sort of fermented relish and it balanced out the lightly fried crunchiness of the broccoli very well. I took a break from my broccoli to order a glass of red wine in anticipation of my pasta course. This time I chose a spicy Cabernet Franc, in keeping with the Loire-inspired theme, from Ravines winery in the Finger Lakes, NY.

My pasta dish was Burnt Grains Campanelle, which is a bell-shaped pasta made from burnt wheat. The nutty-flavored pasta was dressed in wild boar ragu and parmesan. The dish was really rich, perfectly seasoned, and ridiculously flavorful. I overheard the ladies next to me talking about how their pastas had more flavor than most pastas. If I had heard that at any other time, I may have rolled my eyes, but as I dug in to my Campanelle, I knew exactly what they meant.

You may have noticed that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I didn’t even deign to look at the dessert menu. Instead I finished my glass of wine and took the long way back to the hotel, to walk off my very filling but heavenly tasting meal.

High Street On Market

308 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215)625-0988

Beets and Bigoli in Boston

If you’ve been following along, you may have caught on to the fact that I’m just a little obsessed with trying all the Barbara Lynch restaurants in Boston. After eating at The Butcher Shop and reading Lynch’s book, “Out of Line”, I basically made it my dining mission of 2018. Last week I was able to try No. 9 Park, Lynch’s flagship restaurant in Beacon Hill.

The townhouse space at No. 9 Park is polished, but the vibe is casual enough that you would feel as comfortable elegantly dressed as you would in your best jeans. Me and my best jeans arrived on the Acela from NY, checked in to The Godfrey Hotel, and made my way over to the restaurant. Since I would be dining by myself, I asked for a seat in the bar area and readied myself to study the menu.

The mere thought of dining alone used to horrify me. Since working in wine sales, however,  I have learned to embrace it, even enjoy it. One downside is that I can’t try as many menu items, and narrowing down my order to only a few things on the No. 9 Park menu was going to take all my decision making prowess. My first order of business was finding a wine to sip while perusing the menu, and I ordered a lively little glass of bubbles from Austria, a Sparkling Brut Rosé of Pinot Noir from Szigeti. A perfect aperitif, the wine was delicious, with red cherry notes and a touch of vibrant spice.

The other drawback to dining alone is that sometimes servers treat you like a pariah that is going to amount to half the check size of a party of two, and therefore half the tip. Not so at No. 9 Park. My server was very welcoming and helpful and didn’t make me feel weird at all (thanks Lee). Glass of sparkling empty, Lee poured me another and we decided that the beet & chicory salad with banyuls vinaigrette and black olive crumble was a fitting accompaniment for my first course. It did not disappoint. Banyuls is a fortified wine made from the Grenache grape in southern France, and the banyuls vinegar gave the dish a slight nutty taste. The black olive crumble was the perfect savory crunch.

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I saved up my carb intake for pasta and couldn’t pass up the Bigoli with peekytoe crab, grilled pepper butter, and lemon panko for my main course. Bigoli is a pasta originating in Venice. It’s a longer, thicker version of spaghetti and, besides, it’s really fun to say (Bigoli, Bigoli, Bigoli).  I felt like moving on to red wine, and when I saw that the pasta sauce was also red (from the red peppers), I decided on a lovely Bourgogne Rouge from Tollot Beaut.  The Pinot Noir’s herbal notes paired well with the earthiness of the Bigoli. The wine was also the only thing that that kept me from devouring the Bigoli without taking a breath.

I could easily have had another glass (or 2) but decided to call it a night and contemplate my meal and the day ahead. I still have four more Barbara Lynch spots to try, but Ill be back to No. 9 Park for the tasting menu, and a bottle from the extensive wine list, of that I am sure.

No. 9 Park

9 Park St, Boston, MA 02108

(617) 742-9991

http://www.no9park.com/

Discovering the Boston Dining Scene; The Butcher Shop

Screen Shot 2018-01-21 at 10.26.51 PMMassachusetts is one of my biggest markets for wine sales, so I have been spending more time in Boston than when I was a Connecticut high school kid kicking around Faneuil Hall. My main objective when in town is to visit restaurants and fine wine shops in hopes that they will find a place on their list or their shelves for my selection of California wines.  Selling wine all day can make a girl seriously hungry, so my secondary objective is exploring the local restaurant scene for some well earned drinks and dinner.

Having lived in New York City for 25+ years, I have a high standard for dining out; it’s what we do best in New York. The first restaurant that opened my eyes to the possibilities of Boston dining, was a bit of a lucky break. On a bitter, shivering cold Saturday night in December, my friend snagged us a last minute reservation at The Butcher Shop. I was so busy working and hosting wine tastings that I didn’t even research the place, which is totally unlike me. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything special, focusing solely on the chance to catch up with a good friend. But just walking in to The Butcher Shop on a cold winter night makes you feel welcome and cozy, and warm to the core.

The various cuts of meat, sausages, and salumi are on display in retail cases — this is an actual butcher shop after all — and there is a giant butcher block in the back where guests congregate to wait for their tables. After a glass of wine at the butcher block, my friend and I were seated at a high top table and promptly ordered a selection of pate and terrine, accompanied by a few more glasses of wine.  Keep ‘em coming, it’s Saturday!

Terrine is absolute heaven to me, and we enjoyed our selections fully, with a deliciously crusty baguette, before even thinking about ordering a main course. I didn’t feel that hungry but ended up ordering the prime sirloin, medium rare, served with fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach. Our server may as well have put my plate back in rotation after I was done, because there was not a trace of food left on it. Simple, perfectly prepared and delicious food served in a causal atmosphere — my favorite way to eat. This place had my heart.

Next visit, I will dig deeper in to the wine list, which is extensive and covers old and new world regions, but mostly old world. This time, we opted to go by the glass and try some of the nightly specials. The good news (and believe me, this is not generally the case) is there are plenty of exceptional options available by the glass.

The footnote to all of this, is that I started reading Barbara Lynch’s book, “Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire” about a week after this memorable experience at The Butcher Shop. I hadn’t realized at the time that this was one of Lynch’s restaurants. It all started to come together as I tore through the pages of the book, and I vowed to try more of Barbara’s restaurants during my visits to Boston.

I have since been to No. 9 Park, another Barbara Lynch restaurant, and am attending a book club to discuss “Out of Line” in a few weeks time. More on that later, but for now I suggest you don’t miss the food and wine experience at The Butcher Shop if you find yourself in Boston. Special shoutout to my friend Deb for taking me there!

The Butcher Shop

552 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02118

www.thebutchershopboston.com