The Daily Dish

Dish of the Week at Trident Cafe

By Cathy Huyghe
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These days, in this weather, very few things taste bad.

Partly it’s because we’re editing what we eat, choosing things that are lighter, more refreshing, spring-i-er. It’s fish tacos over Roquefort burgers. Iced tea rather than hot chocolate. Leafy vegetables before root ones. Whatever most jives with our surroundings of sunny, warm days and light-jacket weather.

Partly it’s because we’re shedding the Boston-winter survival tactic of tucking in and tucking under. Off with the layers of clothing. Off, too, with multi-course dinners and mucho-complex taste combinations.

These days we’re liking our food fresh, uncomplicated, and maybe just a little bit sweet.

Perhaps that why ours was just one of at least three tables yesterday within 25 minutes to sit down and ask our servers immediately for the dessert menu. This was at Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Newbury Street at about five o’clock in the afternoon.

The fresh fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream seemed to be the most popular choice, and it appeared over and over again, at our table and several others. The cobbler had just been pulled from a reheat in the oven, the pastry crust crackly and sprinkled with sugar and the fruit inside steamy and warm. I poured spoonfuls of sauce from inside the cobbler onto the ice cream, wilting it and bringing both components to a happy medium temperature.

The ice cream was cool, like the mornings and the evenings these days. And the cobbler was warm, like our sunny days. That combo makes this our Dish of the Week.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

The Garden, in Film and Reality: Two Surprises in Cambridge

By Cathy Huyghe
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Two surprises of the garden variety came in rapid succession last Wednesday at an event sponsored by the Food Literacy Project at Harvard. Fitting, given they came but a few days before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and WGBH’s upcoming broadcast of Food, Inc.

The first was the focus of the event itself, namely a screening of The Garden, an Oscar-nominated documentary about the largest urban garden in the United States. The garden, located in south central Los Angeles, was initiated after the Rodney King verdict and riots of 1992.

The music, the tone, the dialogue, and the setting of the early scenes of the film all indicated a fairly predictable story of a nature-oriented project healing a community’s wounds.

Here’s some of what the viewer took in, at least during the first few minutes:

“The vegetables taste so good because you took care of them, you made them.”

“Plants without chemicals. It’s better.”

“We’ve worked this land because you can’t eat the earth.”

“It’s a pretty simple idea. Land, people, food. Happy days.”

But then the reality sets in that will ultimately take the land away from the people who farm it, who are mostly undocumented Latino and Latina workers. Even though it’s a reality of ownership contention, back-room political deals, race relations, infighting, underrepresentation and misrepresentation, it still comes as a surprise.

Most specifically, and most poignantly, is the surprise of the developer’s bulldozers razing still-healthy plants like corn, papaya, bananas, and cilantro while their farmers stand just a few feet away, watching from the other side of the fence.

The second surprise of the evening actually came before the screening of the film itself, when a sophomore Harvard College student introduced the Harvard College Garden Project. The garden, in conjunction with the university’s Office for Sustainability and the Center for Health and the Global Environment, officially opened to the public two days ago, on Saturday, April 17.

The garden itself is located at the corner of Mt. Auburn and Holyoke Streets, in front of Lowell House near Harvard Square. The garden is meant as a multi-use space, with educational, cooking, and social events planned — but the main goal is to educate on the subjects of growing your own food, nutrition, and consumption.

The announcement of this garden and its intentions was made to the same audience who were about to watch the gut-wrenching story told in The Garden documentary. The irony was lost on no one: hope — like gardens — springs eternal.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Anne Amie winemaker dinner at Grill 23

By Judy Lebel
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The last time Thomas Houseman, winemaker for Oregon’s Anne Amie Vineyards, was in Boston, he ran the marathon on Patriot’s Day, 2004.

This time around, Houseman tackled Grill 23, not Heartbreak Hill. This time, on Wednesday, April 14, Houseman was more concerned with his pinot noirs than his mile splits.

The wine dinner at Grill 23 last week was no less intense an effort, however, because it’s the intensity of Anne Amie’s wines that make them work. It’s the intensity that enables Anne Amie’s pinot blanc and pinot noirs to stand up to Grill 23’s award-winning steakhouse cuisine. That’s right, pinot noir – not a cab, not malbec, not sangiovese – with steak.

These are not just any pinot noirs. Most of Anne Amie’s grapes come from two estate vineyards, which are both certified by Salmon Safe and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology). These organic practices along with intentionally reduced yields give the remaining fruit extraordinary depth and complexity.

Within an hour’s drive of Portland, you find yourself in the Yamhill-Carlton area of Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley.  The mission of this winery, named after owner Dr. Robert Pamplin’s two daughters, is to make memorable wines with a sense of elegance. Grill 23’s wine director, Alex DeWinter, and chef Jay Murray set the table to match that mission.

Dinner began with the 2008 Cuvee A “Amrita,” a jasmine-scented, white-wine blend of six grapes, offering just enough spice on the palate to complement Murray’s fresh California maki rolls and grilled scallop sushi. It’s the perfect fruit-forward quaffer to have at the ready for spring and summer.

For the next course, the lightly grilled, smoked salmon atop a velvety cauliflower puree and ricotta blini would have been tasty enough. But it was the flair of lemon mascarpone that brought out the Meyer lemon and crisp apple nuances of Houseman’s award-winning 2008 pinot gris.

Next up was a warm Rawson Brook chèvre cheesecake with pistou and a robust olive tapenade. With it, Anne Amie’s 2006 pinot noir, bringing berry and mushroom elements that embraced the rich, full flavors of the cheesecake.

Pinot noir is a tempting choice to serve with slow-roasted beef cheeks, especially when they’re served with bacon-wrapped salsify on a bed of forest mushrooms. Anne Amie’s 2004 “La Colina,” from the red volcanic soils of Oregon’s Dundee Hills, worked exceptionally well.

The dinner finished with three local cheeses from New Hampshire and Vermont paired with the elegant 2006 “L’Iris” Pinot Noir, followed by an assortment of mignardises, but I kept coming back to those beef cheeks. If you decide to roast your own beef cheeks, Beacon Hill’s Savenor’s Market will gladly special-order them for you.

Judy Lebel is the guest author for today’s Foodie Blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, where we explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Tips for getting adventure and value from your wine

By Cathy Huyghe
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Kerri Platt, owner of The Wine Bottega wine shop in the North End, has her internal lie detector tuned to high.

All. The. Time.

Which means that when a wine rep comes into the shop hoping to sell Platt on some wines, most will quickly fail her sniff test. That’s because Platt stocks her shelves with wines from vineyards she has either visited herself or that she and her staff have gone to great lengths to find that meet her qualifications:

Small producers. Organically farmed. Biodynamically produced.

All popular catch phrases these days — lots of shops claim to support such practices — but Platt is serious about it and she can tell, easily, when sales reps are just paying it lip service.

That’s why you’ll find wines on The Wine Bottega’s shelves that you literally will not find anywhere else in Boston or all of Massachusetts: they take the time, and make the effort, to source wines that meet the small-producer, organically-farmed standards through and through.

That makes The Wine Bottega the perfect destination when you’re hunting for, say, a bottle of wine for someone who already knows a lot about it. You are bound to find something unique.

You are also very likely to find unique bargains. At a blind tasting Platt conducted for members of the Boston Wine Meetup group on Wednesday night, she poured five wines and four of them cost less than $15 even though they tasted, at least to me, like they were worth well over $25.

As Platt spoke to the group about the wines we were tasting, she also relayed tips that she and her staff have picked up recently. It was, in essence, a small treasure trove of helpfulness for those of us looking for adventure and value in our wine choices.

And who wouldn’t want that? Here are a few of the gems she shared:

   1. Keep an eye out for pinot noir from Provence. Not a typical grape from not a typical place but, if the wine Platt chose to pour on Wednesday night was any indication, we’re in for some things good.
   2. Look for Barbera on a wine list, as it tends to be a lovely, exceptional wine at a great value.
   3. It’s okay to ask for your red wine to be chilled for a bit before it’s served, especially if the bottle has been stored behind a restaurant’s bar and especially if the bottle in question is meant to serve as a nice early-summer red.
   4. The reason you add milk to your tea is the same reason a fatty steak goes so well with a tannic red wine: the fat (from the milk and the steak) balances out the tannins (in the tea and the wine). That’s why it works.
   5. Platt and her staff like to play with expectations, like light-colored tannic reds and reds that show pretty fruit and earthiness but then switch it up with a hefty dose of tannins. Anyone in the shop can point you directly to some examples on their shelves.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Music, dancing, and loukaniko: Greek Independence Day in Boston Common

By Cathy Huyghe
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In honor of the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire (and Greek pride in general), the Greek Independence Day festival took over Boston Common on Sunday. The festival gave a hint of the wonderful culture — and food — one might experience on a visit, as with WGBH’s upcoming LearningTour.

Dessert of the Week: Real-Kind Lemon Meringue Pie, at Hi-Rise Bread Company

By Cathy Huyghe
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Lemon meringue pies, the real kind, are seasonal. That season started in February and — as lovers of real lemon meringue pie know — our favorite season is coming quickly to an end.

That’s what the people say at Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge.

We’ll stop making them within the month, they say.

But why, you say.

We make all of our tarts and pies according to the season, they say.

Well, okay, that’s a pretty good reason. It just sounds odd because we don’t normally think of lemons as seasonal the way we think of fiddlehead ferns or huckleberries as seasonal.

I suspect the seasonality of the real-kind lemon meringue pies at Hi-Rise — the kind Julia Child herself (who lived not so far from Hi-Rise) praised for their essence of lemony-ness — also has to do with the melting factor of meringue. That is, in hot weather, meringue melts. So the making of the pies, and the lovely eating of them too, needs to be done when the temperature is cool.

Fair enough. For now. And only because The Time is still here.

It’s the finding-a-substitute part in about a month, when lemon meringue pie season is over, that things get sticky.

So let’s look ahead a bit. What are your favorite early-summer desserts? Drop us a line and let us know!

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

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The Daily Dish brings you regular recipes from public media's favorite chefs.

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