Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Coppa – Where Cured Pork Neck Meets Fennel Pollen

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

According to the authoritative source on cured Italian meat, Prosciuttopedia (no joke), coppa is derived from a hock of pork neck and is dried according to a secret blend of tradition and spices.

The Coppa I’m talking about here is brought to you by Chefs Ken Oringer & Jamie Bissonette and is carefully formulated to be:

  • One part neighborhood wine bar
  • One part salumeria
  • One part wood-fired pizzeria
  • One part fine Italian dining

Indeed, this intimate enoteca and more is tucked away in the South End and keeps a relatively low profile despite churning out some eye-poppingly well-curated culinary delights, like what we ordered:

Fennel Pollen



Castagna Campanelle con Coniglio  $18/$27

Little bell chestnut pasta, rabbit, kabocha squash, cranberries, bianco sardo


Salsiccia   $16

Tomato, pork sausage, ricotta, roasted onion and fennel pollen



When scanning menus, my eyes immediately shoot laser beams at descriptors that hint at things like rabbit, oxtail, wild boar, beef short rib, pork belly, game birds, mutton – all the stuff your average medieval kitchen would have served.

So true to my form, I zeroed-in on the fancy-sounding Castagna Campanelle con Coniglio which was utterly fantastic. The chestnut pasta was unique and earthy, the rabbit succulent (probably braised), the squash finely diced into little cubes, and the cranberries creatively sliced paper-thin as if through a mandolin slicer (meaning the raw berries were not too overwhelming). All was adorned with an extremely flavorful sheep’s milk cheese from Sardegna. A fitting winter menu item. Take a bow, Coppa.

The sausage pizza was another dish dressed to impress. Delicious perfectly-fired pizza dough served as a fitting platter for a delicate mix of ground sausage, ricotta, good tomato sauce, and…fennel pollen? That was a new one for me – I zoned out thinking about the poor schmuck collecting pollen floating through the fennel fields to deliver for hungry hungry hipsters dining at South End restaurants. But it added a little complexity for the Foodie which was appreciated.

As a bonus, I can sound like a real douchebag when I tell people I ate fennel pollen.

In summary, Coppa is a solid establishment that has altered my worldview of Italian dining in Boston (which has had it’s rougher moments). Foodie-approved.

Spoke Wine Bar – Cheers to Goodness Upon Goodness

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie:  Recommends

Neat Bar Trick

After a few weeks in which Boston has seen badness spawned by badness, I’m thinking that it’s about time for an uplifting story for a change.

Am I talking about that puppy rescued from a dumpster, free snow cones on a summer day, or motherhood and apple pie?

Close, but no cigar. I’m talking about Spoke Wine Bar.

Spoke is what you get when a solid S’ville mainstay (Dave’s Fresh Pasta) branches out into new territory with a team led by the grape pro behind their excellent booze operation.

Whereas youngsters flock to the sandwiches and raviolis at Dave’s like tweens to Bieber, the cool kids will be taking a seat at Spoke for my fave gourmet pop stars Barbera and Burrata instead.

Spoke is small and intimate as any wine bar worth their sauvignon should be, whilst eschewing the ‘tude held dear by so many of it’s cabernet-pouring compatriots.

There are two main reasons to come here:

1.     FOOD

  • Nice selection of cured meats and cheeses presented on wooden planks
  • Spreads, flatbreads, and snacks ranging from marinated olives to the more glamorous peekytoe crab crostinis.
  • A small but respectable selection of small plates and more substantial dishes categorized into vegetables, seafood, and meat (oh my).
  • Though we only sampled the charcuterie, I am drawn to the handmade cavatelli, stinging nettle vellutata (just sounds cool but no idea what it will be like other than that it contains burrata) and handmade garganelli with lamb ragu, fava, and ricotta salata.
  • So yeah, the menu leans Italiano. As well it should at any fine wine bar. As well it should.

 2.     DRINK

  • The night we arrived, Spoke was pouring six whites and five reds by the glass, as well as three wines mysteriously set aside in the “other” category. We sipped on an excellent frappato from Sicily (close to a nero d’avola)  and dolcetto (also fantastic). Whites included a muscadet, a riesling, and gruner veltliner.
  • For those who like to palm their alcohol vessels rather than daintily cling to a glass stem, Spoke offers a respectable selection of bottled beers that will probably have something good on it that you’ve never heard of before like Baxter Phantom Punch Winter Stout (Maine), Nectar Ales Nectar IPA (California), and De ‘Proef’ Brouwerij Reinaert Wild Ale (Belgium).
  • I must also say that the bar staff here is genuine, knowledgeable, fun, and a pleasure to sit across from.

I am pleased that I can now eat the Cubano sandwich at Dave’s, buy a dozen wild mushroom raviolis, then sip a few glasses a couple doors down before stumbling home.

So remember, even in the midst of badness – goodness upon goodness is still possible in and around this great city. We’ve seen all the 021.XX zip codes and beyond produce such an impressive swell of giving, solidarity, and strength following the Marathon – we should wash it all down with some good vino to boot.

Cheers, Boston – and here’s to goodness upon goodness in times ahead.

The Foodie Returns…with a French Accent

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

That’s right, the recent lull has been caused by culinary exploration. And that’s the only reason there would ever be a lull.

A trip through Antibes, Juan le Pins and Cap d’Antibes on the Cote d’Azur brought more gastro-pleasure than you could imagine.

For your reading delight, following is a brief tour of dishes tasted, foods sampled, and beverages imbibed in one of the most marvelous areas on earth:

Rosé Wine

First of all, no meal is complete without a bottle of Rosé. People swig this stuff constantly in the south of France. Normally I’m not a big fan, but these wines are incredibly refreshing in warmer weather and if you’re gonna buy one, definitely make sure it’s from the area of Provence.

While I’m on the subject of wine, here’s a general tip for buying vino in this country: the French make it cheap to buy good wine. Tasted several bottles of Rosé from 4-6 euro all of fairly decent quality. You can often get good bottles from all over France from a local supermarket from under 10 euro that will be much better than what you’d expect for the same price back home.

Paupiettes de Veau

This is a recipe eaten all over France but I tasted it for the first time in Antibes. Life-changing.

Carnivores – picture perfectly seasoned veal meatballs wrapped in a thin escalope of veal and a thin layer of veal fat, then tied with a string. Topped with a mind-blowing tomato and garlic sauce. This is arguably the most amazing French comfort food creation I’ve ever tasted besides Cassoulet. It will warm my bones for years to come.


This is a Mediterranean white fish that we sampled and appeared to be a staple dish on many local menus. Rightly so. Slightly firm and less flaky than light white fish like cod. Incredibly flavorful and a real treat that we can’t find here in New England despite being a haven of the sea.

Rosette Sausage

A tantalizing dry sausage found in a local butcher shop that was outstanding. Nothing more to say.


If you ever find yourself in the South of France in old Antibes (and I recommend you do), the following three spots are certain not to disappoint and served up some of the best food I’ve had in this culinary mecca of the world:

L’Armoise – 2, r. de la Tourraque TÉL : +33 4 92 94 96 13

A true culinary talent behind the kitchen here people. This Michelin-rated spot the size of Ten Tables (JP) had an amazing ambiance, friendly service, and served us dishes like:

  • Artichoke velouté (soup) with seared foie gras and greens.
  • Risotto, chanterelle mushrooms, escargots.
  • Filet of dorade and fresh veggies


Entre 2 vins – 1, r. James-Close, TÉL : + 33 4 93 34 46 93

“Between two wines” is a tiny wine bar serving stellar grapes and a small but very satisfying menu of plates. They were the spot that served me my first paupiettes de veau and also turned my taste buds on with mortadella and truffle.




Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit

The only word to really describe our meal here is that it was truly a work of “art.” Owned by Christian Morisset, who is not only rocking one of the best handle-bar moustaches ever but is also a French master, this is one of those places where I felt like saying “I’m not worthy” as I tasted each dish. Writing would not do justice to the beauty of the food here. Instead of painstakingly trying to describe in a novella what we ate, let’s just have a moment of foodie silence instead.


Just a few highlights but more to come (on Paris) shortly.

A bientot,

Nick the Foodie.