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New England Authors Expo: Book Sale & The Tipsy Sensei

Date: Fri, Jul 5, 2013 Wine Tasting

Would you like to meet me and obtain signed copies of my two Tipsy Sensei books? Would you also like the opportunity to meet other local authors and check out their books?

If so, then you should attend a specialBook Salebeing held by the New England Authors Expoon Wednesday, July 31, from 4pm-9pm, at the Danversport Yacht Club. The Expo is FREE to the public and the first 100 attendees will also get a FREE gift bag.

The Expo's Book Sale will consist of numerous New England authors, illustrators, publishers, writer's groups, schools, associated businesses and sponsors. It is an excellent place to buy books and gifts, meet many authors and artists, and discuss book writing, illustrating and printing with dozens of publishing professionals.

For a list of all the participating authors, illustrators and more, please check out thisBook Salesite.

I will be at the Expo selling paperback copies of The Tipsy Sensei & Others ($13) and Demons, Gods & Sake ($15). If you purchase copies of both books, it will only cost you $25.00. And as a special bonus, I will give my blog readers an additional $2.00 off their purchase. All you have to do for this discount is tell me you saw it mentioned on my blog.

The Tipsy Sensei & Others is acollection of nine food, wine and Sake short stories, including the first three stories in the Tipsy Sensei series. Demons, Gods & Sake is a novel and the fourth installment of the Tipsy Sensei series. I am currently working on Hand Fed Tigers, the next novel in the Tipsy Sensei saga.

Come see me, purchase copies of my books and chat about Sake, writing, Japanese legends, and more. Plus, check out all of the other local authors at the Expo, and pick up plenty of books to read over the summer, whether on the beach or within your air-conditioned house.

The Expo takes place at theDanversport Yacht Club,The Harborview Ballroom, 161 Elliott Street (Rte. 62), Danvers, MA 01923.

I hope to see you there!

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jul 4, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Boston Nightlife Ventures announces that Griddler’s Burgers & Dogs is teaming up with Union Square Donuts to launch the first ever ‘Bronut’. This donut-burger ($6) will combine a Griddler’s burger patty finished with a sizzling fried egg on top, inside a sweet, yet salty maple bacon glazed Union Square donut “bun”. The ‘Bronut’ will be offered only at Griddler’s with limited availability – beginning Saturday, July 6, it will be available Saturdays and Sunday only, from 11am-11pm, while supplies last.

I am not a fan of the name "bronuts" but the idea of a burger/donut combo is interesting.

2) This year, La Fête Nationale, the national celebration, is going international once again at The Beehive. On Sunday, July 14, in partnership with the French Government, the Consulate General of France in Boston, the restaurant will commemorate the storming of the Bastille with dinner, libations and a French flair of live Bastille street music. The doors will open at 5pm with inspired cocktails and flowing champagne from Domaine Chandon and Champagne Moet & Chandon. Dinner service will begin at 5:30pm and continues until 12am.

The event will heat up with a live special guest performance at 8pm when Lamine Toure will take the stage and fill the The Beehive with a French tribute to world music. Lamine Toure comes from a long line of musicians from Senegal and has been drumming since the young age of 4. Toure will be bringing his expert percussionist skills to The Beehive and will entertain the audience with a fusion of sounds combining Sengegalese mbalax with elements of jazz, funk, reggae and Afrobeat.

In addition to the regular menu, The Beehive will be serving Bastille Day specials including Frisèe aux Lardons Salade with Goat Cheese Crouton ($14), Skirt Steak Frites, Béarnaise sauce ($27) and Steak Tartare Frites ($26).

This event is 21+ and a cash bar will be open until 1am. For more information, or to make dinner reservation, please call 617-423-0069.

3) Mâitre d' hotel and Fromager Louis Risoli and Wine Director & Sommelier Lauren Collins present Salon Sessions, held at L’Espalier each month. Louis Risoli has defined the role of Grand Fromager across the east coast, as he was one of the first to bring this unique culinary practice to a restaurant setting. His passion for cheese is unparalleled and is the driving force behind the Grand Fromage at L’Espalier since 1988. Lauren Collins, Wine Director & Sommelier at L'Espalier, joined the team in 2012 and is a certified Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Lauren is one of five people in Boston to obtain this esteemed certification.

L’Espalier presents Salon Sessions—an intimate yet educational wine and cheese pairing. Join experts Louis Risoli and Lauren Collins, as they share their knowledge on pairing cheese with wine and beer. Cheeses are selected from L’Espalier’s award winning cheese cart and the sessions are held in the L’Espalier salon which overlooks Boylston Street. The July Salon Session, on July 11, at 6pm, focuses on the classic pairing of Italian Cheese & Wine. The cheese selections will feature: Caciocavallo, a spicy and bold ubiquitous cheese of the south that is gourd shaped and dense with a bit of elasticity. Pecorino Toscano, a classic sheep’s milk cheese that is well aged, dense and slightly crumbly with flavors of butter and sweet/sour undercurrents. Robiola del Rocca, a creamy soft cheese made from cow, sheep and goat’s milk. Taleggio, often called Italy’s most elegant cheese, has a supple meaty texture and rich summery flavors.

Reservations are required. Event pricing is $55 per person. For additional information and to reserve space, please call L’Espalier at 617-262-3023

4) L’Espalier’s Tea Sommelier Cynthia Gold with special guest Ron Mutai of the Kenya Tea Development Authority, presents the latest Sunday Tea Tasting featuring the Teas of Kenya. From poaching and picking to brining and smoking, Cynthia is an expert using numerous techniques to combine flavors of teas and food to create appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts. She has created a unique line of L’Espalier signature teas as well as a full line of tea cocktails. Ronald Mutai, Founder of Majani Teas, is a Kenyan native and expert in Kenyan teas. Growing up on a tea farm in Kenya, Mutai has a deep appreciation for the smooth, non-bitter flavor Kenyan teas embody.

Every Sunday, L’Espalier hosts a special Sunday Tea Tasting which highlights five teas around a specific theme. The theme is selected by Tea Sommelier, Cynthia Gold, and each are served and discussed along with a selection of tea sandwiches, pastries and petit fours. The menu includes dishes inspired by the theme and dishes cooked with the teas being served. The latest installment, on Sunday, July 21, 2pm, will be featuring the Teas of Kenya.

Tickets are $50 per person For reservations or more information please call (617) 262-3023.

5) Chef Jason Santos is mixing things up in the Financial District on Sunday, July 14, from 11am-3pm, with the return of Superhero Brunch at Blue Inc. Superhero Brunch features a superhero inspired soundtrack, superhero adornments, and a staff dressed head-to-toe in superhero fashions, and a menu full of dishes with the ultimate superhero aptitude. The menu will feature four brunch appetizers and ten brunch entrées, all priced under $15. Guests can choose to be the hero by choosing from the ‘The Good Guys’ menu (a menu that offers lighter options such as scrambled eggs and smoked salmon pizza) or the villain by choosing a dish from the ‘Villains’ menu (a menu that offers more indulgent options such as peanut butter pancakes and a crispy fried chicken sandwich), along with a choice of their very own ‘Sidekick’ of toast, hash browns, two eggs, fruit, bacon, and/or sausage to complete their perfect superhero or villain duo. Guests may also choose from a choice of espresso, cappuccino, an organic pot of loose leaf MEM tea or, a bottomless pot of coffee to pair with their superhuman meal.

Superhero Brunch is being offered at Blue Inc. for one day only, July 14.

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A New Craft Beer Cellar In Winchester

Date: Wed, Jul 3, 2013 Wine Tasting

The Passionate Foodie walks into a beer store...

I know, it sounds like the starting line from a joke but it isn't. On Monday, I checked out a newly opened beer store in Winchester. Yes, I went willingly. And even if you dislike beer, you should check out this store for its other offerings.

Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow used to work at the Cambridge Commonrestaurant and embraced the craft beer movement when it started becoming more popular. They eventually wanted to strike out on their own and, in time, decided on opening a craft beer store. In 2010, they foundedCraft Beer Cellarin Belmont and with their success, they have desired to open additional stores, as well as sell franchises. On Monday, they had the Grand Opening for theNew England Annexin Winchester.

The primary focus of the new store is beer, and they currently carry about 400 beers, all from New England, and at least half of them are from Massachusetts. The store is only about 1/3 the size of their Belmont store, so they can't carry as much and must use their limited space to the best of their abilities. Everything is displayed well, and it is easy to see all that they carry. They will hold free tastings most Thursdays to Saturdays. This is a beer lover's haven, especially for those who love it local and craft.

I asked Kate to give me three top beer recommendations, without regard to any particular preferences. She chose the Mayflower IPA, GreySail Flagship Ale, and the Pretty Things Jack D'Or. If you need a gift for a beer lover, and don't know their taste, try one of these beers. I then asked her what was the strangest brew they carried, and she pointed me to the beers of Night Shift Brewing. For example, they make a rye ale aged on habanero peppers, a saison fermented with honey dew melon, and a wheat ale with orange blossom honey that is aged on tea leaves. Very intriguing brews.

If you need a beer glass for your brews, they also sell a small selection of glasses of various shapes and sizes.

They don't sell just beer and their other offerings are compelling. First, they have a nice selection of local Hard Ciders, including Fatty Bampkins, Bantam, Woodchuck, Farnum Hill, Angry Orchard, Citizen Cider and more. I am a big fan of hard ciders and most stores don't carry more than 2 or 3, so it is nice to see this wide selection.

They also carry a nice selection of local Meads, from places like Moonlight Meadery, Honeymaker, Green River Ambrosia and more. Mead is another beverage which most stores only carry a few choices, so it is good to see all the available options here.

And, dear to my heart, they even carry 8 Sakes, and may add more in the future. Todd, of Boston Sake, helped them make the selections and there are some excellent choices available from cool breweries likeDassaiandNanbu Bijin, as well as the Kikisui Funaguchi in a can. I look forward to the additional Sakes they will eventually add.

You will also find approximately 20 wines available, though only one of those is from a local, New England winery. The Still River Winery Apple Ice Wine. Frankly, these wines seems more as an afterthought, just to have a few for any non-beer drinkers. Though the store's focus is on beer, I think this is a lost opportunity to extend the the theme of the store. As they carry all New England beers, ciders and meads, why not also carry just New England wines? As they only carry about 20 wines, they could easily fill that number with good New England wines, from Westport River Sparkling Wines to hybrid wines from Vermont. It would make this store more unique.

Overall this is a cool store, with a beer selection sure to please and even if you don't like beer, you can check out their meads, ciders and sake. I think it is great that most everything is from New England, though I think they need to extend that to include their wines too. There is passion to be found here and I would love to hear my reader's thoughts about this new store when you check it out.

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Enjoying Portuguese Wines at Meritage

Date: Tue, Jul 2, 2013 Wine Tasting

As I have said repeatedly, Portugal has some of the best wine values in the world. I recommend their wines all the time, and those who take a chance on those wines usually love them. At a recent luncheon held at Meritage, Chef Daniel Bruce's wine-centric restaurant at the Boston Harbor Hotel, I found even more value Portuguese wines, including a killer dessert wine at an unbelievable price. If Portugal is not on your wine radar, then you are depriving yourself of some delicious, value wines.

The luncheon was put on byFull Circle Wine SolutionsandMaster Sommelier Keith Goldstondiscussed the wines we tasted, as well as Portuguese wines in general, during the course of the afternoon. Keith mentioned that the greatest strengths of Portuguese wines are their diversity, acidity, earthiness and the fact that they pair very well with food. I would essentially agree with him on these points, though I would add that they often are excellent values too.

For Keith, the biggest problem for Portugal is the lack of organized distribution. They do not have a plan for U.S. distribution, and often rely on friends or happenstance to find an importer. Instead, they need to made a concerted effort to target the best potential markets, to make more of their wines available where they best would be appreciated.

Keith also provided us some of his generalizations about the different grapes and wine regions of Portugal. He feels that the wines of Castelao are similar to Merlot and Zweigelt style, easy drinking, middle of the road wines. The wines of Lisboa are more easy drinking while the those of Alentejo are more modern, with strong oak use. The wines of the Dao are more similar to the wines of northern Rhone or Burgundy while the Douro wines are more similar to those of Priorat. As an interesting aside, he also mentioned how people in Portugal often omit the last syllable of many words. For example, they pronounce "Vinho Verde" as "Vinho Verd."

The luncheon began with a brief reception, a glass of the 2012 Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima Colheita Loureiro Seleccionada, Vinho Verde ($8). This wine was made from the Loureiro grape and presents with a crisp, clean citrus taste and a bit of frizzante. Lemon is most predominant on the palate and it makes for an excellent summer wine, especially at this price. It is refreshing, an easy drinker not a complex thinker.

Keith stated that the Portuguese generally don't respect their white wines, and don't drink them much either. He also indicated that in the Vinho Verde region, about 40% of their production is for red Vinho Verde, which is a rarity locally. The red version is inky dark, tannic and is very tart and sour on the palate, like a sour Japanese plum. Rosé Vinho Verde is also produced and I have seen a couple locally over the years. I want to find a red Vinho Verde though.

Our first course was a Pan Roasted Line Caught Cod Loin with black olive tapenade and zucchini olive oil puree. A fine piece of flaky white fish, I actually enjoyed the puree too, though I am not usually a zucchini lover. The puree complemented the fish, adding some more subtle flavors.

With this course, we tasted three more Portuguese whites, and my clear favorite was the 2011 Quinta da Romeira Arinto,Lisboa ($11). Made from 100% Arinto and matured for a month on the lees, this is another superb value. It has a more subtle citrus aroma with a complex melange of flavors, lemon, apple, orange peel, minerality, and subtle herbs on the finish. It was crisp and dry, clean and fresh, with plenty of character. An excellent food wine, I recommend stocking up on this wine for the summer, and keeping some aside for the rest of the year too.

The second course was Char Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with wild mushrooms, fresh garbanzos, melted leeks and a red wine butter. Silky tuna with a compelling and light butter sauce, it was a good choice for our first round of red wines.

Of this flight, I had two favorites. The2008 Quinta de Lemos 'Dona Georgina',Dão ($45) currently does not have an importer into the U.S. It is a blend of 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Roriz and spends about 18 months aging in French oak. It has a dark red color with an alluring nosethat beckons to you for a taste. On the palate, it is a full bodied wine, with moderate tannins, and a meaty taste, with ripe plum and blackberry flavors, accented by subtle spice notes. Complex and with a lengthy, pleasing finish, it is a high quality Portuguese wine.

The2010 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas,Barraida ($25) is made from the Baga grape, which often can be overly tannic. Not the case with this wine, which was aged in used oak for about 12 months. With a medium red color and a deep fruity aroma, the wine offers an intriguing and complex palate of red and black fruits, herbs and mild spice. It is a wine that best goes with meaty dishes, though the tannins are well integrated. Would be excellent this summer with grilled meats.

Our final savory course, my favorite of the lunch, was a Tomato Braised Kurobata Pork Belly with white beans, spinach and sundried tomatoes. Melt in your mouth tender, the flavorful and meaty pork belly was fantastic, and another excellent accompaniment to the red wines to come.

Two of the three wines in this flight impressed me. My favorite red wine of the luncheon was the2009 Mouchao 'Dom Rafael' Tinto,Alentejo ($14), a blend of40% Alicante Bouschet, 40% Trincadeira and 20% Aragonez. The grapes are trod by foot and the wines is aged in large oak barrels for about 24 months, with an additional 6 months in the bottle. Dark red, this wine had an exotic and exciting palate of black fruits, earthiness, and spice. Moderate tannins, a lengthy finish and plenty of character. An excellent value and highly recommended. You are probably going to see this wine on my end of the year Favorites list.

The2010 Sogevinus 'Veedha',Douro ($12), made from a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz, is another very good value. Fruit forward, it still possess some depth with underlying spice and chocolate notes. A good choice for pizza, burgers, or BBQ.

For dessert, we enjoyed a Mini White Peach & Ginger Pie, with nice, tender peach pieces topped by a crumbly topping with mild ginger notes.

We enjoyed a killer dessert wine with this course, the 2005 Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal,Peninsula de Setubal ($12/750ml). Made from100% Moscatel de Setubal, this is a fortified wine with a 17.5% alcohol content that was aged for three years in small, used oak barrels. A rich, golden amber in color, the nose was compelling, and on the palate I found notes of apricot, dried fruit, honey, and herbs. A well balanced wine, the acidity ensured the sweetness was under control and its full-bodied flavors lingered long on the finish. Plenty of complexity and depth at this low price point make this an amazing value. Highly recommended.

Get on the Portuguese wine wagon now!

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Rant: Eliminating The Liquor License Cap?

Date: Mon, Jul 1, 2013 Wine Tasting

Let us hurt 1000 existing businesses so we can help new businesses get established.

Is that a fair trade-off? Is there an alternative which can help promote new businesses without hurting existing ones? Though several news articles have praised this potential new law, they have largely ignored the negative impact it will have on existing businesses. The proponent of this new law also seems to be avoiding discussing this negative effect.

Recently, Boston Councilor Ayanna Pressley, after working on the issue for a year or so,filed a home rule petition which will basically remove the numeric cap on liquor licenses in Boston, allowing the licensing board to determine who can get a new liquor license. Though the petition is not posted on the Councilor's website, her office sent me a copy. In short, the petition seeks to amendMassachusetts General Laws, Chapter 138, Section 17by striking out the sixth and seventh paragraphs in their entirety, and replacing them with some different language.

Curiously, Councilor Pressley's website says very little about the petition beyond an initial press release and a few links to news articles about the petition. I would expect to find much more supporting information about the petition on her site, such as the results of studies or a list of everyone who supports the petition. Why fail to post supporting information on your website? How can anyone make an informed decision about the petition if they can't find sufficient information on the website of the person proposing this petition?

There are approximately 1,030 liquor licenses (675 full licenses and 355 beer/wine) in Boston. Because it is nearly impossible to obtain a new liquor license, new businesses must usually purchase a liquor license from another business, and the cost for a full license can reach over $400,000. Essentially, an existing liquor license has become a financial asset of the business and it has significant value. If you possessed such a significant asset, would you support a law which drastically devalued that asset? Seems doubtful.

Councilor Pressley is concerned because many liquor licenses have been sold to downtown restaurants, in neighborhoods like the Seaport and North End. That means that some of the more outlying neighborhoods have fewer liquor licenses. Good restaurants can help elevate a community so the inability to obtain liquor licenses, which greatly help profitability, can hurt neighborhoods. The lack of licenses can also mean that some businesses will choose to locate in places like Cambridge and Somerville, where it may be easier, and less expensive, to get a liquor license. I agree that this is a valid problem which needs to be addressed. However, I don't think Pressley's petition is the best way to fix this matter.

People must also understand that Pressley's petition still has a long way to go before it might even become law. First, it must be signed by Mayor Tom Menino, who has not yet taken a public position on this matter. Second, if the mayor signs off, then the petition must be approved by the state legislature. I have not yet seen any public positions that anyone in the legislature will support this petition. What is the chance that this petition will overcome those hurdles?

Councilor Pressley's website does not provide a list of any people and organizations which support the petition. I have contacted her office to gather such a list but I have not yet received any response. I have also tried to determine the position of any of the local restaurant associations on this petition, but none have responded either. Does this petition have any significant support?

I have heard from a few individual restaurants about the potential effect of this petition, and how it would devalue their existing liquor licenses. With such licenses being able to be sold for $200-$400K, that forms a significant asset for their businesses. If there is no longer a cap on liquor licenses, then the value of those existing licenses drastically drops. They might be worth maybe 10% of their current value. The petition does nothing to address that problem, or compensate existing liquor license holders for that financial loss.

Under the new law, these businesses would still be able to sell their liquor licenses, but who would buy them when new licenses were now available? And if someone would buy them, they would be willing to pay only a tiny fraction of their prior value. With over 1000 existing liquor licenses, that is a lot of businesses that would lose a significant asset due to this law. They are very unlikely to support Pressley's petition and I am sure many of those businesses would actively oppose the petition.

Most of the recent news articles about this petition have been very supportive of the petition, and I see how allowing more liquor licenses could help small business owners start new restaurants, which could help to revitalize certain neighborhoods. However, helping those businesses should not come at the cost of significantly hurting other existing businesses. Businesses with existing liquor licenses don't want to stifle competition, but they also don't want to lose their financial assets. That is a very reasonable position.

Though I approve of the basic concept, of helping certain neighborhoods obtain liquor licenses, I think it could be accomplished another way beside simply lifting the cap on all liquor licenses in Boston. Instead, you could simply raise the limits on some liquor licenses, especially those set forth in the current paragraph 7, like "main street districts, urban renewal areas, empowerment zones or municipal harbor plan areas."

The current law already sets aside a small number of liquor licenses for such areas. If that limit was raised, there would not be a need to eliminate the main cap of liquor licenses. It would make liquor licenses available in the areas of concern. In addition, it would largely protect the value of liquor licenses belonging to existing businesses. I think that small change would be far more likely to gain general support than Pressley's petition.

What do you think?

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Vacationing In Provincetown: Culture, Entertainment & Community (Part 5)

Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2013 Wine Tasting

As further immersement into the culture of Provincetown, we visited the Provincetown Art Association & Museum (PAAM), meeting with Executive Director Christine McCarthy, President Jim Bakker (of James R. Bakker Antiques) and PAAM Development DirectorSheila McGuinness. Art is an integral part of Provincetown, which is home to the oldest, continuous art colony in the country. Back in 1899, Charles Webster Hawthorne, a famous artist, came to Provincetown and founded the Cape Cod School of Art (CCSA) at Land's End.

Though a number of artists came to Provincetown before 1899, Hawthorne was probably the first to offer instruction and his school attracted much interest. Other artists followed suit and by 1916, there were six art schools and about 600 artists and students spending summers there. During the last one hundred years, plenty of other art schools, artists and students came to Provincetown, and now there are over 60 art galleries in the town.

"The objects and purposes of this association shall be to promote and cultivate the practice and appreciation of all branches of the fine arts, to assemble and maintain in the town of Provincetown and environs a collection of works of art of merit, to hold exhibitions, and by forums, concerts and similar activities to promote education of the public in the arts and social intercourse between artists and laymen."
--Constitution and By-laws Provincetown Art Association & Museum

PAAM is a small art museum, with an eclectic assortment of art, including paintings, sculptures and other less categorizable pieces. They also have a few rooms where they conduct various art classes, continuing the tradition of Hawthorne. In addition, they hold a couple of art auctions each year.

I thought this tentacle sculpture outside of PAAM was fascinating, reminding me of Cthulhu or some other tentacled sea monster.

We also attended a cocktail reception at one of the art galleries, theBerta Walker Gallery.This was an interesting visit as Berta was quite a character, as well as very knowledgeable about the history of artists in Provincetown. The artists she displays essentially all come from Provincetown and there is a wide diversity in styles and mediums. The fascinating piece above was done by Elspeth Halvorsen, who creates "box constructions." This one is called "The Whole World Is Watching" and deals with 9/11.

Another compelling sculpture.

"Perhaps it is the fantastic structure of the dunes, carved in intricate mouldings: some with smoothly rounded tops, others combed by unseen fingers, others running into spectral peaks, and still others with long, flat summits — weird sentinels, linked together by the most unstable and most resistless chains."
--Agnes Edwards,Cape Cod: New and Old

My last visit to Provincetown was many years ago, when I was a teenager, and I still recall touring the dunes. I got to do so once again, with Art's Dune Tours, which has been family owned and operated since 1946. You have several different options, such as a one hour Daily Tour ($27) or two hour Sunset Tour ($43). Each vehicle holds 6-8 passengers, and the driver gives you an ongoing history and nature lesson as you drive through the dunes.

The dunes are not just miles of flat sand. There is plenty of varied vegetation as well as numerous hills and valleys. Who would have thought that you would even find cranberry patches in the dunes? Such beautiful scenery and I took many pictures.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the dunes are the dune shacks, primitive buildings, usually without electricity or running water. These shacks once were temporary residences for mariners, artists, writers, playwrights and others who wanted isolation and privacy. There are now around 19 dune shacks, though there once were many others. The government took control of them and destroyed many before they were convinced to maintain them for historical purposes.

A non-profit group now controls some of the shacks and rents them out, through a lottery system, and many artists vie for a spot though anyone can enter the lottery. They still generally lack electricity or running water.

One afternoon we were supposed to check out the Tea Dance. Historically, a tea dance has its roots in France and England, and often was an early evening dance, often accompanied by tea and pastries. In the U.S., tea dances have become more casual, and in Provincetown, during the summer, they hold a daily Tea Dance at the Boatslip Resort. This is primarily an outside dance party and on the night we were supposed to go, it rained so very few people showed up for the party. On a normal night, this place would have been packed with people.

For the final scheduled event of the trip, we adjourned to the Crown & Anchor, a hotel, restaurant and entertainment complex. The restaurant, Central House at the Crown, provided us a good meal and then we went to a drag show at the Crown Cabaretandsaw Dina Martina. I certainly didn't know what to expect, except that it would be a comedy. And it is somewhat hard to describe the show, a combination of jokes, songs, video and more. It was twisted, bizarre and extremely funny. The humor is going to appeal to most audiences and I would recommend that you check out another Dina show. You are sure to laugh plenty. Afterwards, we sat at the Piano Bar, sipping cocktails and enjoying our final evening in Provincetown.

It was a fun, enlightening and interesting time in Provincetown and I would like to return again in the near future to check out what I missed this trip. Put aside your preconceptions about Provincetown and check it out as a cool vacation destination, a place that caters to people of all types. Go for the food, the art, the history, the shopping, the beaches and more. Special thanks go toAnthony Fuccilllo and the rest of thestaff at Provincetown Tourism Office for showing us the wonders of Provincetown.

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Vacationing In Provincetown: Culture, Entertainment & Community (Part 4)

Date: Sat, Jun 29, 2013 Wine Tasting

What is the essence of Provincetown?

This year, Fodor's placed Provincetown on its list of the10 Best Small Towns in America while
the Smithsonian listed it as #10 of their Best Small Towns To Visit. Provincetown is garnering much deserved praise. I have previously discussed some of the reasons why I find Provincetown compelling and am back to provide even more reasons.

On our media trip, one of our first meetings was at the Provincetown Town Hall, where we learned a bit about the history of Provincetown, as well as about some of its sights, attractions, cultural aspects, and more. The town hall, which has the largest auditorium in the town, used to be located near the Pilgrim Monument, however, in 1877, the building was hit by lightning and burnt to the ground. In 1886, the new town hall, at its current location, was dedicated and has underwent some recent renovations.

Val Marmillion, a resident of Provincetown and the President ofMarmillion +Co., a public relations firm, provided an intriguing overview of Provincetown. Obviously, as he works in public relations, you have to carefully consider his words, to separate the truth from the hype. After dealing with many PR people over the years, I have attained a good level of discernment as to what they tell me. With Val, I spent some time outside of this meeting talking with him, and it was clear that his passion for Provincetown is true. He seemed very honest and forthright, so I felt that much of what he said was authentic.

Val stated that Provincetown is a place where diversity is celebrated and promoted, that it is a town where it is not about how much you own, but it is about what you enjoy. It is a "created village" that is not hamstrung by "can't do." It is a progressive, liberal town that values freedom of expression and offers no apologies for its positions. Curiosity is important and each day is unpredictable. The showing of emotion is accepted and not suppressed. It is quaint, a town of pets and bicycles, of art and theater, of eco-tourism and a strong GLBT community.

Brian Carlson, manager at the department ofHealth & Environmental Affairs, discussed eco-tourism and poetically stated that Provincetown was "a floating sandbar in the middle of the ocean." The town sits on a sand bar, which is about 5000 years old, and has 21 miles of coastal shore line to explore. In the dune region, there are twenty dunes which are at least 100 feet in height. There are also 9 state recognized freshwater ponds, though Provincetown gets its fresh water from Truro. There is plenty of wildlife in the Provincetown region, a great place for birdwatchers. Go swimming, sit on the beach, hike through the dines, go bird watching, rent a kayak. If you want a more active, outdoor vacation, then you can consider Provincetown. Brian also mentioned that the largest environmental problem facing the town is handling waste water, trying to prevent it from flowing into the ocean, but that they are doing a very good job of handling this issue.

In addition, we met Doug Johnstone, the Town Clerk, who discussed the issue of same sex marriage. As Doug teared up while discussing this issue, it was clear how important it was to him, how proud he was of Massachusetts for leading the way on this matter of equality. With the recent Supreme Court decision on DOMA, this can be expected to become even more important. Back in 2003, there were only about 20 weddings held in Provincetown. In 2004, after Massachusetts legalized same sex marriage, there were 900 weddings held in Provincetown, more than any other Massachusetts community. Currently, about 350-400 marriages are conducted there each year, a significant economic boom to the town. People come from all over the country to come here to be married.

Afterwards, we explored some history by a visit to the Pilgrim Monument and Museumwhere our tour was conducted by John McDonagh, the Pilgrim Monument Executive Director. Construction of the monument, to honor the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown, began in 1907 and President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone. It was completed in 1910, and was dedicated by President William Howard Taft. The monument is 252 feet and 7.5 inches tall and is one of the first sights you see as you approach Provincetown by the ferry. Through 116 steps and 60 ramps, you can walk to the top of the monument for a great view.

The museum, located a short distance from the monument, is medium-sized and fascinating, with exhibits on the Pilgrims, Provincetown history, the fishing industry, theater, Arctic animals, Inuit items, Native American artifacts, and much more.

This is the town’s first fire engine, built in the 1830s by an apprentice of Paul Revere. There is also a small gift store at the museum where you can purchase souvenirs or books about Provincetown. I picked up a cool history of Provincetown, as well as an intriguing book about the origins of Cape Cod names.

We had an opportunity to take to the seas, as part of a Whale Watch excursion on one of the Dolphin Fleet boats. This company originated whale watching on East Coast and they run excursions, three to four hours in length, from April through October, from three to twelve trips per day. The basic cost for an Adult ticket is $44 and Children's tickets, aged 5-12, cost $29. Aboard, there is a galley where you can get food and drink.

A naturalist accompanies each trip and gives a lesson on whales and other sea creatures while the ship tours around seeking whales.

I enjoyed being on the boat, traveling the sea, though we saw few whales, probably only two. It is always an unknown when you board the boat whether you will see many whales or not. They are wild animals, not tame creatures in a pen. However, it is such a fascinating moment when you first see a plume of spray, noting the presence of a whale, and then see its fins or tail break the surface of the sea. Such majestic creatures, sure to instill wonder.

For a more low-key experience, you can check out the Provincetown Theater to see a play, maybe something modern and avant garde, or something more of an American classic, like a play by Eugene O'Neill. Provincetown is one of the originators of the Modern American Theater, and the Provincetown Players, which started in 1915, was one of the "little theaters" that sprouted up during this time period. They performed Eugene O'Neill's first play, Bound East For Cardiff, and would give fame to others too, such as Tennessee Williams. You can even attend the Tennessee Williams Theater Festivalor theProvincetown International Film Festival.

Provincetown has long been a favorite spot for artists or all types. For example, a number of writers have lived or worked in Provincetown, including Norman Mailer, John Dos Passos, Harry Kemp, Stanley Kunitz, Michael Cunningham, Wendy Kesselman, Paula Vogel and John Guare. Some of them spent their time in the isolated dune shacks, gaining privacy and quiet so that they could work. During some of my free time, I was even able to do some writing on the next Tipsy Sensei novel.

To Be Continued...

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Vacationing In Provincetown: Dining & Drinking (Part 3)

Date: Fri, Jun 28, 2013 Wine Tasting

Before going to Provincetown, I was immensely curious about its culinary scene, whether it would be a mass of tourist traps or instead whether it might offer some intriguing finds. The restaurant world in Provincetown is relatively small, with about 30+ seated restaurants and a number of more fast food/counter spots. You will find plenty of seafood and American fare, however you will also find diverse cuisine such as Thai, Japanese, Mexican, French and more. Forget McDonald's and Taco Bell, as you won't find any of those restaurant chains in Provincetown. In fact, the only chain that you will find is Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, and that really isn't a typical chain anyways.

Overall, I enjoyed plenty of delicious food in Provincetown, at high end restaurants as well as small cafes. Many of these places would be welcome additions to the culinary scene of Boston. Besides the food, I was pleasantly surprised by the wine lists, which were far more diverse and interesting than I expected. In fact, they were more diverse and interesting than some Boston restaurants I have visited. Wine prices were also generally lower than what you find in Boston. Though I only scratched the surface of the culinary world in Provincetown, I was impressed by what I found and want to explore it more, maybe at the Food & Wine Festival in October.

On our first day, we began with a cocktail reception at the Harbor Lounge, located on Commercial Street and facing the ocean. A small lounge, I still was pleased at the diversity of wines available by the glass. They have a full bar and I chose to drink a Dark n' Stormy, with Goslings Black Seal Rum. We received a large platter of cheeses, meats, dips, crackers, grapes and more. Fresh, high quality and tasty, this was a pleasant way to start off our evening. With a great view, this is a nice spot to stop by for a cocktail or glass of wine.

Our first dinner was at The Mews Restaurant & Cafe, which is co-owned by Ron Robin, who we met during dinner. Known as Rockin' Ron, he also works as a radio personality on Dunes 102.3 FM. The original location of the restaurant, in 1964, was discovered to have once been a stable, and the old English word for stable is "mews," hence the restaurant's name. In 1993, the restaurant was moved to its current location.

The upstairs area is for the bar and cafe, while the downstairs is the main dining area, though the downstairs is really at street level and you have a great view of the beach. All of the art and stained glass windows in the restaurant were created by local artists. Local carpenters also designed the tables and benches. The dining room has a cool and casual vibe, a homey place which will appeal to couples, families and groups.

The wine list is interesting, though I was especially impressed with their vodka list, which contains over 260 selections from all over the world. Who would have thought you would find such a vodka selection in Provincetown? I enjoyed a couple of vodkas, including a Chopin Rye and Belvedere Rye, which I had never tasted before. I could come here dozens of times, just to taste through the intriguing vodka list.

Executive Chef Laurence DeFreitas has worked for The Mews for 24 years and Ron mentioned that the chef seeks to create "flavorful food," and not "vanilla" cuisine. Despite his lengthy position at the restaurant, Chef DeFreitas is not dwelling in the past and his menu remains fresh and interesting, often relying on fresh and local ingredients. A number of the dishes have an Asian flair to them. The menu is divided into Starters ($10-$16), Salads ($9-$14) and Mains ($22-$35). Begin with a Starter like a Wild Boar Naan Pizza or a Tuna Sushi Tempura and move onto a Main like Mongolian Style Grilled Lamb Chops or Pork Vindaloo.

Some fresh bread to start the meal.

I began my meal with the Lobster Dumplings in a Miso Broth ($13), three plump dumplings in steamed shumai wrappers. Each dumpling was filled with fresh lobster meat, ginger, scallions, and oyster & sherry sauces. The dumplings skins were just firm enough and the interior had plenty of sweet and flavorful lobster, enhanced by the umami of the savory miso broth. An excellent starter.

A Special that evening was a Venison Carpaccio dish, topped by thin sliced cheese. Though I didn't taste it, it looked fantastic and the person who ordered it enjoyed it very much.

I continued with The Wedge ($10) a salad of baby romaine, topped by cracked black pepper & Parmesan vinaigrette strewn with pancetta crumbles. Fresh romaine with lots of salty pancetta and a very pleasant vinaigrette. Simple but tasty.

For my entree, I selected the Shaking Beef ($31), a Vietnamese inspired dish with chunks of beef tenderloin, wok sautéed with scallions and red onions over watercress with a lime black pepper dipping sauce. Very tender beef, with a compelling sauce and a minor bit of heat. There was plenty of tenderloin and I definitely would recommend this dish. Everyone was very happy with their own dishes too. The Mews was a winner!

For lunch the next day, we stopped at the Patio American Grill & Cocktail Bar, which is also located on Commercial Street. It serves plenty of seafood dishes, New England cuisine, and sandwiches. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a wide range of cocktails and wines. I enjoyed a glass of Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose with my lunch.

We sat on the outside patio, allowing us to people watch everyone walking down Commercial Street. It was a fine, sunny day so this was a great spot for a leisurely lunch.

We started off our lunch with The Monument ($88), a large seafood sampler, which can easily feed four people, and includes 12 oysters, 6 littleneck clams, 6 jumbo shrimp, snow crab claws, shrimp ceviche and a whole chilled lobster. I gorged myself on this very fresh seafood, including the huge, plump shrimp and sweet lobster. The ceviche was also quite tasty, with nice citrus and spice notes. If you want a piece of New England, the seafood in this dish will give it to you.

After that, I tried the Corn Chowder ($8.95) with lobster, tarragon and chili oil. This seemed to me to be more like a bisque than a chowder as the corn was essentially liquified. However, it tasted good, with a strong corn flavor complemented by sweet lobster and the hints of heat from the chili oil. For my main dish, I went with another New England dish, the Fried Ipswich Clams with fries. Plump clams, with a clean, crunchy coating certainly hit the spot.

I wasn't going to have dessert, but they brought us a couple dishes anyways, including a Strawberry Shortcake ($8.95). This was a superb dish, with fresh whipped cream, sweet berries and a soft, fresh cake. I probably could have devoured this entire dish by myself.

After a whale watch, we made a brief sojourn to The Purple Feather Cafe & Treatery, where you can find lunch, gelato, desserts, chocolate and more. It is owned and operated by Peter and Ann Okun, year round residents, and Ann has about 25 years of chocolate making experience. The Purple Feather has gone beyond just chocolate, selling a wide range of enticing sweets.

There are lots of intriguing chocolate concoctions, like the tastySweet & Salty Coconut Pretzel, a crispy pretzel dipped in caramel and chocolate, and then covered in toasted coconut. I thought the components were well balanced, especially as I am a fan of the combo of sweet and salty. The Chocolate Bacon contains thick sliced bacon covered in dark chocolate, providing more of that delicious sweet/salty combo.

They also have an assortment of Gelato and Sorbetto, which you can have in a bowl or cone, in a shake/smoothie, or between two cookies of your choice.

That evening, after a tour of the dunes, we went down to one of the beaches for a traditional New England Clambake. It was a beautiful evening, though a bit chilly for some, though we had a fire set into the sand. The clambake was catered by Ptown Parties, and they did an excellent job in arranging the event, as well as providing plenty of delicious food. For example, they had blankets for everyone, in fact two per person, so that you had one blanket to lay down atop the sand and another to wrap around yourself if you were chilly.

We began with bowls ofClam Chowder, and frankly it was one of the best chowders I have had in quite a while. It was the right consistency (not too thick or thin, just creamy enough), full of flavor, and contained plenty of tender clams. I enjoyed it so much that I had multiple bowls. Next up were Littleneck Clams, sauteed with onions and linguica, in a wine broth. Again, this was another delicious dish, the linguica adding a nice element to the clams, and I once again had multiple portions of these clams. Sitting on the sand beside a fire, with the ocean a short distance away, and eating these clams was just such a New England thing.

The main dish wasSteamed Lobster, though they were accompanied by jerk chicken, roasted potatoes, grilled veggies, and jalapeno corn bread. A smorgasbord of culinary tastes. I am generally not a fan of eating a whole lobster at a restaurant cause it can be very messy, and water can squirt out when you try to crack open the lobster, and sometimes it shoots where you don't want it to go. But in the fire-lit darkness, such problems become much less visible, and you can dig into the shells of your crustacean. With the briny smell of the ocean as a background, the sweet lobster meat tasted even sweeter.

The cost of such a clambake is roughly $62.50 per person, with an added cost for the staff, dependent on the number of people at the clambake. There are plenty of extras you can order as well. In addition, they have a more budget option, for only $47.50 per person. For this type of event, and the quality of the food, I think the prices are reasonable. We had plenty of delicious food, and the setting and experience are quite memorable. If you want a true New England experience, then you have to have a beach side clambake.

We even had two coyotes stop nearby us on the beach, wanting to join our clambake, but they simply watched us from afar.

The next morning, I was on my own for breakfast, and after receiving a couple recommendations, I chose to eat at Cafe Heaven, which turned out to be an excellent choice.It is a small, casual spot, with windows looking out on Commercial Street. Their breakfast menu has plenty of the usual offerings, with some of their own more unique items, from homemade English muffins to linguica. Everything is reasonably priced too.

On the walls, you will find a number of breakfast and lunch specials. I tried the linguica, a large piece of a slightly spicy and flavorful Portuguese sausage. The homemade English muffins were also very good, with plenty of nooks and crannies for butter, and the consistency of the bread was just right. They are larger than the typical English muffins you buy at the grocery store.

For my main dish, I went with one of the specials, Corn Bread French Toast. It sounded so enticing, and I had never seen any other restaurant make this dish, so I had to try it, hoping for the best. Well, it was superb! The corn bread was thinly sliced, moist and with a delicious, sweet corn flavor. This would have been delicious corn bread on its own. Adding the eggy batter to its grilled goodness, enhanced and elevated this dish and I was extremely happy that I had ordered it. It had no faults and I would love to see other restaurants trying this as well.

The recommendations for Cafe Heaven were spot on, and I add my own hearty recommendation for this restaurant.

For lunch, we dined at a small casual spot, Lucky Dog Ptown, which primarily sells gourmet hot dogs and lobster rolls. They sell ten different hot dogs, the the hot dogs are made from their own special recipe. You can get your dog ($4.95-$10.95) topped with items like chili, mac n' cheese, slaw, bacon, baked beans and more. There are six different lobster rolls ($15.95-$19.95), made with simple mayo or butter, or topped by items like bacon or mac n' cheese. You'll also find a few other sandwiches, from pulled pork to sausage, as well as sides, such as baked beans, potato salad and chili.

I went with the Bacon & Blue Dog ($7.95), with smoked bacon & blue cheese and wasn't disappointed. The meaty dog went well with the crunchy, smoky bacon pieces and the tang of the blue cheese well accented the meats. You really need a fork to eat these dogs as they are so full of toppings that it is too difficult to just pick up and eat. Everyone else also enjoyed their dogs or lobster rolls and I would return here in a heart beat. A simple menu, they invest their passion in the items they create and it comes out in a well-made and delicious product. Highly recommended.

I thought these plastic utensil dispensers were so cool! Rather than have a cup filled with plastic utensils, where everyone can be touching them, these dispensers help keep the utensils more sanitary. You just dispense the utensils that you need, and never touch any others. Would love to see these used in many more restaurants.

On my own, I also stopped at the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery, which not only is a bakery but also serves breakfast and lunch. With Tibor Bago as the main chef, the bakery sells a variety of appealing Portuguese pastries, breads and more, and they all look enticing. I had to order the Malassada, a type of Portuguese donut which resembles fried dough, and it was well worth it, especially if they are still warm. It is far better than a carnival fried dough, being lightly sweet with a great, flaky pastry. This is a must stop if you visit Provincetown!

If you are a food and drink lover, then you should consider Provincetown as a culinary destination. From a killer Portuguese bakery to a voluminous vodka list, from a hearty tower of fresh seafood to a a unique French toast, you will find plenty to appeal to your palate.

Mews Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Patio American Grill & Cocktail Bar on Urbanspoon
Purple Feather on Urbanspoon
Cafe Heaven on Urbanspoon
Provincetown Portuguese Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jun 27, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1)On Tuesday, July 9, at 6:30pm,BOKX 109 American Prime, located on the grounds of Hotel Indigo in Newton, will host a special Five-Course Tequila Dinner on their outdoor patio. In addition to sampling various forms of this famous summer spirit, guests will be treated to a special prix fixe menu prepared by Executive Chef Stephen Coe himself. Boasting an assortment of exotic dishes, the evening’s culinary component promises to enhance the intricate flavors of each paired tequila-based libation.

The Menu:
Yellow Watermelon Ceviche (carbonated tuna sashimi, cilantro fluid gel, lime pop rocks)
*Paired with Ultimat Elderflower cocktail
First course
Adobo Rubbed Diver Scallops (sweet corn and chorizo humitas, saffron espuma)
*Paired with Gran Patron
Second course
Grilled Cactus and Drunken Mushroom Salad (agave and green garlic purée, truffled sherry vinaigrette)
*Paired with Patron Reposado
Third course
Sous Vide Halibut (creamed maze pudding, crab escabeche ravioli, corn emulsion)
*Paired with Patron Anejo
Fourth course
Confit Pork Belly and In-House Porchetta (garbanzo bean purée , white nectarines, sherry lacquer, rhubarb lattice)
*Paired Gran Patron Burdeos
Xo Cafe Gelato (cumin lace cookie)

COST: $65 (excludes tax)
Reservations are required. Please call 617-454-3399

2) Get a peek behind the closed kitchen doors of an award-winning restaurant during the new ”Off the Menu” cooking demonstration at 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar located in Salem, on Thursday, July 14 at 6pm. Guests will experience how to create some of the restaurants most popular dishes while watching Chef/Owner Antonio Bettencourt slice and dice the freshest local cuisine.

Cooking aficionados are invited to this behind-the-scenes opportunity to learn how to create some of the restaurant’s unique Italian dishes, as they listen to anecdotal tales from the kitchen of both mishaps and strokes of genius. Highlighting some of the most delectable foods and flavors of the season, Chef Bettencourt will prepare a 3-course meal beginning with Seared Sea Scallops with spicy pickled grapefruit, avocado & crispy prosciutto. Diners can watch as a giant Raviolo al'Uovo stuffed with ricotta, a poached egg, wild mushrooms, black truffle and pancetta is prepared right before their eyes. And if that isn’t mouthwatering enough, the presentations will end on a sweet note with a Toffee Pudding.

Tickets are available for $45 per person, with an optional wine pairing for an additional $20. Tax and gratuity not included.
Reservations are necessary and can be done by calling 62 at (978) 744-0062

3) To celebrate the Fourth of July, Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro (BHHB) is exercising its independence and going all-American this Thursday, July 4. From 5:30pm-1pm, the BHHB is celebrating all things “4” by offering a 4-course seasonally inspired meal for $44 per person (tax and gratuity not included). Space is limited and reservations are recommended. Regular menu also available. For reservations please call Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro at 617-723-7575

--Grilled Asparagus, Gremolata, Sauce Gribiche
--Fresh Pasta, Woodbury's Clams, Peas, House Made Ham
--Spiced Lamb Sausage, Potato Turnip Salad, Sourdough Crumb
--Mixed Berry Shortcake

4) At Michael Schlow’s Tico in the Back Bay, they are going to hold an All-American BBQ on Sunday, July 14, from 2pm-8pm. The Summer BBQ features tastings and giveaways from Patron and Corona, including two tix to a harbor cruise.

The $25 all-you-can-eat BBQ menu includes:
· Bacon cheeseburger sliders
· Homemade pork bratwurst with spicy mustard pickles
· St. Louis style ribs
· Grilled paprika chicken wings with aji verde
· Smoked cola-crusted brisket
· Marinated vegetable skewers
· Grilled corn on the cob with chipotle aioli and cotija
· Watermelon salad with queso fresco
· Tomato and cucumber salad (dill, mint and > cilantro)
· Green beans and Serrano ham with pickled red jalapeno
· Chilled pasta and egg salad
· Traditional and cheesy broccoli corn bread
· Assorted homemade pickles
· Ray's kettle chips

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Vacationing In Provincetown: Land's End to John Randall (Part 2)

Date: Wed, Jun 26, 2013 Wine Tasting

On a sunny summer morning, you wake up and step out onto your porch, looking out at the ocean, the boats in the harbor, the beach. Serenity engulfs you, and for that time, any and all of your problems vanish. The essence of a relaxing vacation.

There are over 90 inns in Provincetown and the writers on our trip were split up, staying at different inns across the length of the town. I ended up at the inn that was the farthest from the downtown but that was not an issue as I got to spend two wonderful nights at the Land's End Inn, located on Gulf Hill near the end of the West End region.

Back in the later 1800s, the main road ended at this point, the rest of the land being primarily tidal flats and marshes. So this location was then known as the "land's end." Since that time, the surrounding area has been built up so that now roads and land extend beyond this region. It may not longer be the literal land's end, but it still is fairly close to the end. This neighborhood is more a residential area, a quieter region, with a few inns scattered around.

The Land's End Inn has an interesting history, extending back toCharles Lothrop Higgins, who was born in Provincetown and eventually purchased the Gull Hill area in 1903. Higgins could trace his ancestry to the Mayflower, a descendant ofPeregrine White, who had been born aboard ship in Provincetown Harbor in 1620. As a young boy, Charles left Provincetown and became a hat maker in Boston. After buying Gulf Hill, he decided to build a summer house atop it and he became known as a supporter of the theater and arts.

After his death in 1926, the Buckler family purchased the house and began to rent rooms. They were world travelers and brought home numerous intriguing souvenirs, placing them within the inn, and some of those items can still be found there. Eventually, in 1972, David Schoolman purchased the inn and his renovations and additions brought the inn close to its current form. He added more antiques, artwork and other unique items to the decor of the inn and one of the suites at the inn is now named after him.

In December 2012, the current owners,StanandEva Sikorskipurchased the property. They first started visiting Provincetown back in 1966 and always have had a special love for the town. Seeking a new career, they decided to enter the hospitality industry and purchase an inn. As they were seeking an opportunity, their daughters, Natalia and Julia, somehow found a listing for the Land's End Inn. The Sikorskis fell in love with the inn and now are doing their best to continue its tradition as a superior accommodation. They were quite welcoming to me, and their passion for Provincetown and the Inn was quite clear. They have no plans to make any significant changes to the Inn, preferring to maintain its charm and eclectic style.

The inn currently has 18 different guest rooms, each distinctive and with its own name, roughly priced at $300-$600 a night with discounts during the off season. About 70%-80% of their guests are return guests, and some people have been coming here for over thirty years. It is a place that has engendered customer loyalty. About 75%-80% of their guests are from the New England/New York region though they have some international guests, as well as Hollywood celebrities during some of the film festival weeks. Weddings are also held here so a large wedding party can sometimes take most of the rooms. During the winter, most of their guests are from Cape Cod.

The Inn provides a continental breakfast each morning, including fruit, bagels, hard boiled eggs, cereal, coffee, tea and more. In the afternoons, they also have a wine reception, where you can sip a glass of wine while sitting on the porch, enjoying the stupendous view. The common rooms in the inn are packed full of an eclectic and fascinating mix of antiques and exotic items. You'll find items from all over the world and you will find similar items in the various inn rooms as well. You never know what you might find in any particular corner, shelf or niche. I found so many intriguing items scattered around the inn.

The antique that most caught my attention was a Chinese urn with a fascinating and creepy backstory. The urn is supposed to be a representation of Meng Po, the Lady of Forgetfulness in Chinese mythology. Meng Po lives in the Chinese realm of the dead, and it is her function to give a mystical tea of forgetfulness to all the souls who enter the realm. That tea will wipe their memories so that they can be reincarnated without remembering anything of their prior lives. This particular urn allegedly contains the ashes of a revered Buddhist monk. That is intriguing on its own, but the legend gets eerier.

The legend of this urn states in the 19th century, a drunken American sailor stole it from a Buddhist monastery. Somehow, after all of its travels, it ended up at the Land's End Inn where it is thought to be cursed. It is claimed that grave misfortune, and even maybe death, comes to anyone who dares touch it. The urn has been placed up high on a shelf so that no guest can touch it, intentionally or accidentally, and suffer the curse. Would you risk touching it?

The Schoolman Suite, where I stayed, is an expansive and luxurious room, with two bedrooms, one on a small second floor. The arc window, visible above, looks into that second bedroom, a stunning and romantic room. There is a large living room, with a flat screen TV, and it leads out to an expansive deck where you could probably have a party with twenty friends. The view from the deck is amazing, looking out at the shore and sea, a superb panoramic scope. This is luxury suite sure to please most any guest and I felt fortunate to have stayed here. If you want to splurge for a special occasion, like an anniversary or birthday, this would be a perfect place to do so.

The inn is located roughly a mile from the downtown area, which is an easy and pleasant walk on a nice day. At night, or in inclement weather, you might want to take a cab or pedicab. It is far enough away to give you more quiet and privacy, while being close enough to easily access the more vibrant downtown area.

I also spent a single night at the John Randall House, an inn located on Bradford Street, only a short walk from Fisherman's Wharf. Rooms are more reasonably priced, from about $150-$220, though they are also smaller, more like a typical quaint inn. My room was clean and comfortable, and it is at an excellent location. On vacation, sometimes you just want a simple place to sleep and this inn would serve that purpose quite well.

To Be Continued....

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Vacationing In Provincetown: Ferry to Pedicab (Part 1)

Date: Tue, Jun 25, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Provincetown is different from all the rest of the Cape: different from all the rest of the world--although all 'land's end' places have a certain haunting odor and resemblance."
--Agnes Edwards, Cape Cod: New and Old

When you think of Provincetown, the furthermost town on Cape Cod, what first comes to mind? Asking this question online, I received a wide array of responses, clearly indicating that there is no single view of Provincetown. However, unless you have traveled there recently, your thoughts about this Cape Cod town may not be accurate or complete. You might not realize all that Provincetown has to offer, and that it is a destination that will appeal to a broad range of people, young and old, married and single, straight and gay. If you have not visited recently, then it is worth considering as a destination for your next vacation.

I was the teenager the last time I visited Provincetown, and maybe the most prominent of my memories was of touring the dunes. Touring them again brought back pleasant memories. Since my last visit, so many years ago, the town has changed in many ways, yet in other respects it has remained the same. It is still a town with its feet firmly set in its historical beginnings yet which also is progressive and modern. In many aspects, it is a quintessential New England port, with quaint inns and shops, a bustling waterfront, the smell of fried seafood. salt water taffy and sun burnt fishermen and sailors.

Earlier this month, I was invited by theProvincetown Tourism Officeto participate in aMedia Familiarization Tour. This four day, three night trip was intended to provide us a sampling of what Provincetown has to offer tourists. My fellow writers included:Rebecca Caro,Lukas CorVatta,Sophia Dembling,Eric Jansen,Thomas RoutzongandSteven Skelley. Overall, it was a fun and interesting exploration of Provincetown, making me desirous of a return trip, like maybe during the Food & Wine Festival in October.

"Fluctuation is the dominant characteristic of Provincetown history: fluctuation as regards both land and those who settled upon it."
--Agnes Edwards, Cape Cod: New and Old

Some of the first inhabitants of Cape Cod and the Provincetown region were the Nauset, a Native American people, who bore some similarities to the neighboring Wampanoag peoples. They spoke a dialect of the Algonquian language, and they referred to the Provincetown region by two different names: meeshaum and chequocket. Meeshaum might be related to the word mushauwomuk, which means “where there is going-by-boat” while chequocket is related to chauquaquock, which means “Englishman.” The later term obviously came to be used after the Nauset's first encounters with Europeans.

Potentially the first Europeans to visit Provincetown were the Norse, and there is a theory that Thorwald Eriksson, brother to the more famous Leif Erikkson, came to Provincetown around 1004. In 1853, during an excavation, remnants of a wall were found in Provincetown and it was thought to be connected to Thorwald, possibly ballast stones from his ship. During the 1500s, a few different explorers passed by Cape Cod, some who might have stopped in the Provincetown area. It would not be until the early 1600s that the Provincetown region would get major attention.

In 1602, an English explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold investigated and mapped the Cape region, giving it the name Cape Cod, due to the great abundance of cod in its waters. In the following year, another English explorer, Martin Pring, sailed into the bay near Provincetown and called it Whitson's Bay for John Whitson, his benefactor and the mayor of Bristol, England. In 1616, Captain John Smith, of Jamestown fame, created a map of Cape Cod, calling the Provincetown area Milford Haven, after a harbor in Wales from which Martin Pring sailed.

Before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, they first stopped at Provincetown. In fact, on November 11, 1620, while anchored in Provincetown Harbor, they signed the Mayflower Compact, a charter establishing their government for the new lands they had found. This is a vital document in U.S. history, and helped pave for the way for the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. After signing the document, the Pilgrims landed in Provincetown, and spent about five weeks exploring the land.

Many of the Pilgrims considered the area to be too desolate, and not conducive to the needs of a permanent settlement. They encountered the Nauset, whose previous experiences with Europeans were usually negative, and the Pilgrim's encounters did not go well. In addition, the Pilgrims stole corn from Nauset graves, which further aggravated relations. So, the Pilgrims eventually moved on and traveled to Plymouth though their legacy in Provincetown has not diminished. Check out this brochure for information on the Pilgrim related sites that you can visit while in Provincetown.

The Provincetown region eventually became popular with fishermen because of the abundance of seafood available offshore. On June 14, 1727, it was incorporated as a town called Provinctown, though the residents actually wanted to call it Herrington. The name Provincetown came from a provision in its charter referring to the Province of Massachusetts. After the Revolutionary War, the town saw a population boom of fishermen, whalers and Portuguese sailors. The next two hundred years would see many changes come to Provincetown, a rich and diverse history which is well worth investigating. If you love history, then visiting Provincetown would help cater to that interest.

"It is here that we find the quintessence of the seafaring atmosphere, for although the inhabitants no longer depend exclusively upon the ocean to bring them their means of livelihood, yet in a place so completely surrounded by water, peculiar and charming customs become an integral part of the daily life."
--Agnes Edwards, Cape Cod: New and Old

Today, Provincetown is nearly 4 miles long and more than 2 miles wide, occupying about 8.35 square miles of land. It is roughly divided into the West and East Ends, with the Fisherman’s Wharf acting as the dividing line between the two sections. The West End was once considered mainly the Portuguese section while the East End was more for the wealthy as well as tourists and artists. Those divisions have largely been erased, though it should be noted that high real estate costs are still a problem. Fortunately, efforts are being made to construct more affordable housing.

There are two main streets in Provincetown, which roughly parallel each other, called Commercial Street and Bradford Street, though they were once known as Front Street and Back Street. The name change essentially occurred when the town's industry changed from an emphasis on the sea to an emphasis on tourism. The average year round population is now only about 3500, down from a high of 4642 back in 1890. However, with the seasonal influx of tourism, the island's population can rise up to 100,000 or more. Tourism provides a huge economic benefit to Provincetown.

How should you travel to Provincetown? You have several choices, including car, bus, ferry and airplane. As Provincetown is located roughly 115 miles from Boston, that should mean a car ride will take a little over two hours, unless you encounter the infamous Cape Cod traffic. If that happens, the length of your journey could at least double. And once you reach Provincetown, you will find you rarely, if ever, need to use your car while you are there.

A better option, which I used to reach Provincetown, is the ferry and there are a couple ferry companies in Boston which you can use. I went through theBay State Cruise Company, located on Seaport Boulevard next to the World Trade Center. They run several ferries each day and I recommend that you make a reservation rather than just show up to buy a ticket. Try to get someone to drop you off at the ferry as overnight parking in the area can be expensive. An adult round trip ferry ticket costs $85 and the trip itself only takes about 90 minutes. There is a small galley on board where you can buy food and drink.

"One may get a glimpse of Provincetown in an hour; a day is better; a week is better still; and a summer is none too much."
--Agnes Edwards,Cape Cod: New and Old

My ferry ride to Provincetown was very pleasant, especially as the weather was beautiful that day. It certainly beats sitting in my car in traffic trying to get over the Sagamore bridge. As it was such a clear day, it was pleasant to watch the approach to Provincetown as you curve around its hook and come into the harbor. Unfortunately, my ferry ride back to Boston did not go as well. There were rough seas, and let us just say that it was quite rough on the stomachs of many of the passengers. You might want to carry some Dramamine just in case you encounter rough seas.

Once landing in Provincetown, I took aPtown Pedicabto the Land's End Inn, allowing me an opportunity to check out the town as the pedicab pedaled down the streets. My driver was from Lithuania, and I would later learn that many Eastern Europeans come to work in Provincetown during the summer. This was actually my driver's first day operating a pedicab and he had been in Provincetown for only about three weeks. You can walk to most places in Provincetown, though sometimes you might want a pedicab or taxi.

To Be Continued...

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Rant: Teens, Binge Drinking & Irresponsible Parents

Date: Mon, Jun 24, 2013 Wine Tasting

Parents, do you care that you may be causing brain damage to your children? Do you care whether you get arrested and maybe face prison? Do you care that you might have to pay millions of dollars in compensation? This is your wake-up call so pay close attention or otherwise face the consequences of your reckless behavior.

During this season of high school graduations, proms, and other related occasions, why do some parents allow alcohol-fueled parties at their homes for underage teenagers? I am not talking about letting your children drink a glass or two of wine or beer with dinner. I am talking about parties where cases of beer, bottles of hard liquor and other alcohol are available to teenagers and where they generally can drink as much as they like. What the hell are these parents thinking?

The most common reason given seems to be that the parents would rather their children drank in front, or near them, rather than sneak it outside somewhere. I think that is a weak argument, and the situation can cause far more harm than good.

It is extremely doubtful that the only time those teenagers are drinking is at a home sanctioned party. They are doing so in the woods, at homes where the parents are away, in parks, and elsewhere. There are parties every weekend somewhere. Many of these teens are not just sipping a beer or two. They are getting drunk, swigging down beer after beer, or shot after shot. Letting those children drink at a house sanctioned party only tells them that is it ok to drink at other times as well.

Compounding this matter is that when those drunken teens stumble home from their unsanctioned parties, their overly permissive parents might gently chide them, if even that, and the scene will get repeated time and time again. The teens know their parents won't really do anything about their drunkenness, so they have no incentive to curb their behavior. And that behavior comes with a cost those parents are not even considering.

Even at a house sanctioned, I think parents are deluding themselves if they think they have it under control. Do they personally ensure that each and every underage child at their party does not drink too much? How do they monitor that? Do they personally monitor and inspect each and every child as they enter and leave the party? Or are the parents off in another room of the house, allowing the children their freedom? It seems likely the parents are not in the main room with all of the teenagers. How many children want their parents hovering around their party, watching everything? I generally believe that any monitoring is lax, and fails to accomplish its intended purpose.

What harms could result from the action of these parents?

First, such behavior is illegal, a violation of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 138, Section 34, which states in part: "whoever furnishes any such beverage or alcohol for a person under 21 years of age shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year or both. For the purpose of this section the word “furnish” shall mean to knowingly or intentionally supply, give, or provide to or allow a person under 21 years of age except for the children and grandchildren of the person being charged to possess alcoholic beverages on premises or property owned or controlled by the person charged." By allowing an alcohol-fueled party for your underage children's friends, you could be fined or even go to prison. Is it worth the risk?

As an example this year, there was an arrest ofparents in Connecticutfor hosting an underage drinking party as well as an arrest of anadult in Hinghamfor the same. And every year, there seems to be other parents and adults arrested for allowing parties at their homes where alcohol is served to minors. Do you really want to be in the news, maybe even on the front page, for such an arrest? What example does that serve to your children?

Second, you open yourself up to potential civil liability if one of the drunk, underage teenagers at your party injures themselves or others. Every year we read about a deadly drunk driving accident involving a teenager. In 2010, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 30% of the 15-20 year olds that were killed in automobile crashes had a blood alcohol content of .01 or higher while 25% had a blood alcohol content of 08 or higher. That doesn't consider all of the other drunk driving accidents that occur where there is serious injury, but not loss of life.

No matter how many times teenagers are warned about the dangers of drunk driving, some of them still do it each year. Some parents like to think that their children are smart enough not to drink and drive, but teenagers don't always make the best decisions. They think they are invulnerable, that bad things happen to other people, not themselves. They screw up, cause they are teenagers and sometimes don't choose the right thing to do.

Do you really want to be partially responsible for a death or serious injury of one of those children you claim you want to protect? Do you really want to open yourself up to potential liability, which could be in the millions? If you can't guarantee 100% monitoring of any such underage party, and it is probably impossible to do, then there is a possibility one of those drunk teenagers could injure or kill themselves, or someone else. I certainly wouldn't want that on my conscience. Would you?

Third, and a point that most parents don't seem to realize, is that binge alcohol drinking by teenagers can permanently harm their developing brains. In the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (Juy/August 2013), there is a disturbing article, Bad Mix For the Teen Brain by Janet Hopson. It discusses the effect of binge drinking on teenage brains and the results should scare any parent who allows their children to have alcohol-fueled parties at their homes, or who does little to curb their teen's drinking away from the house.

Approximately 24% of high school seniors and 44% of college students binge drink, which means they consume at least 4-5 drinks at a single occurrence at least once every two weeks. Just consider how many weekly alcohol parties occur with teenagers, and it is easy to see that binge drinking for some of them can occur every week, and not even every other one.

What is the harm in that? A very serious one. "An emerging body of data indicates that alcohol damages specific regions of the maturing brain." (p.68)It gets even worse."Periodic heavy drinking is more damaging to both body and brain than smaller amounts of alcohol consumed more often because extremely high blood alcohol levels are toxic to organs, severely impair sensory and cognitive functions, and encourage habit formation of addiction." (p.68) Teenage brains are still developing and binge drinking can wreak havoc with that development, especially in cognitive abilities. It is currently unknown whether that damage is permanent, or whether there may be a way to fix the damage. The key obviously is to protect your child from sustaining that damage in the first place, and allowing underage children to binge drink at your home is part of the problem, not the solution.

And don't expect your children to be able to control their alcohol consumption. "In addition, a youthful brain has weaker controls that would stop a person from drinking too much." (p.68) If they have access to alcohol at a party, their psychological ability to control their drinking is far less than it would be in an adult. They often make poor choices in regarding to drinking, which can cause additional damage to their maturing brains. Those weaker controls also contribute to why such teenagers may drive while they are drunk.

Stop allowing your teenage children to drink alcohol. You are not doing them any favors. Instead, you are opening yourself up to arrest, civil liability, endangering the lives of those children and you could be contributing to damaging their maturing brain. Being the cool or permissive parent is an insufficient reason to allow underage drinking. Parents, wake up and start acting like a responsible adult and do the proper thing for your children.

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Sequoia Grove Winery: Michael Truijlllo, A Forte With Fermentation

Date: Fri, Jun 21, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Fermentation is a more important discovery than even fire."

With a jolly smile,Michael Trujillo, the President & Director of Winemaking atSequoia Grove Winerywanted to emphasize his passion for winemaking, using a bit of hyberole to make his point. That passion was evident in much Michael said at dinner earlier this week at Grill 23 and Bar.

I was invited, along with two other writers (James Campanini, editor at theThe Lowell Sun, and Anne Banas, executive editor at Smarter Travel) to meet Michael Trujillo for dinner and get the opportunity to taste three of his wines. Joining us was also Mark Carnucci, a manager for the distributorKobrand Fine Wine & Spirits. Michael was personable, charismatic, open and passionate.

It was a very pleasant evening of excellent conversation, food and wine. To Michael, the importance of wine and food cannot be underestimated, as he feels it permeates many aspects of our lives. He is also pleased to think that 90% of the wines that come off his bottling line will lead to happy occasions. Wine is most often a source of pleasure, not despair, so it plays an important function in our lives. We all can use a bit more joy in our lives so why not let wine bring us some?

Let us start with a little history lesson. In 1979, the Sequoia Grove Winery was founded by Jim Allen in the Rutherford AVA in Napa Valley. The vineyard consisted of 22 acres and Jim consulted with some legendary winemakers such as Andre Tchelistcheff and Tony Soter. In 1982, Michael Trujillo started working with Jim and by 1991, Michael would also start his own small brand, Karl Lawrence, which he continues to produce.In 1998, Michael became the Assistant Winemaker at Sequoia, though the 1990s were a challenging time for the winery. In 2001, Jim retired and the Kopf family, who had been partners since 1985, took control of the winery and they placed Michael in charge of winemaking operations.

Michael grew up on a Colorado ranch and stated that he spent much of his early years behind the wheel of a tractor. He credits his father with instilling in him a strong work ethic. He is also very proud of his Spanish heritage, being able to trace his ancestors back to the mid-1500s when they settled in the area of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In response to one of my questions, Michael said that no one has ever inquired about his heritage, and he believes he is one of the few winemakers with a direct Spanish ancestry. Michael also mentioned that he currently is on a kick, seeking out value Spanish Tempranillo wines.

Since Michael took charge of winemaking operations at Sequoia, great change has come to the winery. For one, in 2003, Molly Hill, a UC Davis graduate, was taken on as an assistant winemaker and would eventually, in 2008, become the winemaker. Another important step, in 2006, was the acquisition of the 48-acre Tonella Estate Vineyard, which they replanted with select Cabernet Sauvignon clones. Tonella's first harvest was in 2010, and it is allowing Sequoia to transform from a winery which once purchased about 80% of their grapes to a winery which will soon be using about 80% estate fruit. The original 22 acre Sequoia vineyard is planted primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, about 85%, and the rest has Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

To Michael, purchasing such a large percentage of grapes put them at the mercy of inflation, as well as the vineyards who might or might not choose to sell them grapes in any particular year. For more independence, and as a potentially cost-cutting measure, he knew that growing more of their own grapes was necessary. However, he doesn't want to use 100% estate fruit, as he wants the flexibility of being able to purchase grapes to help in his blends. His vineyards are not the best source for all types of grapes, so he would prefer to buy other grapes from where they grow best.

Their vineyards are fairly organic, though not certified, as Michael has issues with certification laws. He understands that such laws are often too broad, that federal definitions allow much leeway, allowing for some practices that others might not consider to be organic. Michael also feels that the Rutherford region has the best microclimate for Cabernet Sauvignon, and that Rutherford Cabernets reflect its terroir. Famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff once said that "It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet." You will find some famous vineyards in this AVA, including Beaulieu Vineyards, Caymus, and Grgich Hills Estate. To Michael, the typical Rutherford Cabernet is silky, fruit forward and with a dusty/earthy element to it.

Michael's personal philosophy is that "everything in our life comes back to wisdom and experience." This is applicable to all aspects of life, including winemaking. He values his mentors in the winemaking industry and now possesses 30 years of his own experience. He continues to perfect his winemaking style each year, and states that much of what he does is by feel and taste, based on his lengthy experience in the field. He may used technology at times, but is not wholly reliant on it and believes he could still make great wine without it.

One of his greatest lessons was provided by Andre Tchelistcheff, who use a tea brewing analogy to make him understand the process of fermentation. Andre took Michael to the top of a fermentation tank, explaining how the process is similar in respects to steeping tea. As you steep your tea, you constantly taste it to determine when it is at its optimal flavor. The same goes with fermentation, that taking it continually will allow you to know when it is ready. You don't need a slew of scientific instruments to tell you when your wine is ready.

Michael believes there are not many bad wines on the market any longer, but he also feel that far too often there is "too much frosting on the cake." He means that there is too much manipulation of wine, which obscures its sense of place. Part of that problem he attributes to the 100 point scoring system, which tends to lead to bigger, overmanipulated wines. To Michael, a "great wine is about balance" and it is those balanced wines which will age the best. His goal is to produce wine with a sense of place, that shows the varietal and which possess a sense of balance.

Michael's winemaking style is more Old World except that he brings in some California sunshine. He finds some Old World wines to be too rustic and wants to take advantage of the fine California weather. It would be a disservice not to take advantage of what California weather brings to the vineyards. Michael believes that his forte is fermentation, and that with white wines, everything happens within those roughly ten days of fermentation.

His goal is to "build a house brick by brick," to allow the winery growth to be slow and steady. He wants his customers to be able to expect consistency from year to year. He does not want to become the next Screaming Eagle, but rather would like to be the next Silver Oak or Cakebread, two brands which he feels followed that slow and steady pattern.

The biggest challenge he faces is getting people to taste his wines, to get to know his brand. Michael feels that his wines over deliver for their price and are as good as any other high-end California Cabernets. He feels his wines are competitive on the market, and continue to improve each year. Because of this, he ensures that the winery tasting room remains unpretentious, that it is a welcoming place for all.

Michael is not a fan of the "one man critic," preferring when wines are assessed by panels or groups. His best advice for consumers is to "build a relationship with a local retailer." Consumers need to be open minded, willing to take recommendations from their retailer so that they can learn about the wine types and styles they prefer.

Sequoia wines are currently exported across the world, and Japan is one of their best foreign markets. They have chosen not to aggressively court the Chinese market, but see lots of potential in the international market. Within the U.S., they obviously are strong in California, but they also do very well on the East Coast. Currently, only three of their wines are available for sale in Massachusetts through Horizon Beverage Companyand I got to sample all three. Michael, like most California winemakers, noted that the 2012 vintage was great, and will lead to many great wines. However, though many winemakers say 2011 was a challenging vintage, Michael feels that his 2011 vintage red wines are close to perfection.

We began with the 2011 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay ($28), which is produced from 100% Chardonnay which spent 10 months sur lie in 35% new French oak barrels. The wine underwent minimal manipulation and no malolactic fermentation. Michael stated that the French use malolactic to tame the acidity in their Chardonnays but that California wineries don't need to do so, or only to a minimal level. However, French chardonnay ages much better than California and Michael feels that keeping a California Chardonnay for five years might be pushing it. He also feels that California really doesn't need to age their Chardonnay, that they shouldn't try to be something they are not.

The wine is produced in more of a French style and possesses a crisp and fresh taste with appealing flavors of apple, lemon and melon, with elements of toast and minerality, especially on the finish. It has a bit of richness to it, and Michael suggested it would pair best with oilier fish, or seared scallops as the caramelization would work well with the wine. I had some oysters with the Chardonnay, and it wasn't the best pairings due to the brininess of the oysters. It was still a tasty wine, with sufficient complexity to make it interesting as well.

For my entree, knowing we had two Cabernet based wines ahead of us, I went for the beef, a 100 Day Aged Ribeye. An excellent hunk of steak, it possessed a strong and savory taste, full of flavor and a perfect companion to the red wines.

The 2009 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon($38) is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 6% other Bordeaux varieties. The wine spent about 20 months in 45% new American oak barrel and has an alcohol content of 14.2%. It is their "workhouse," wine, the one of which they produce the most each year. This dark purple colored wine possesses an alluring aroma of subtle black fruit and spice, and on the palate it presents as silky and elegant, with delicious flavors of black cherry, ripe plum, subtle spice, vanilla and hints of leather. A well balanced wine, the smooth tannins lead to a lengthy and satisfying finish. Paired with the steak, it was a worthy companion. Impressive and highly recommended.

One of their higher end products is the 2008 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cambium ($140), whose name refers to the layer, the growing layer, of a tree between the bark and the wood. The blend, which varies year to year, is86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Though the blend often would qualify to be labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael wants the flexibility to go against that blend if he feels it is warranted. 2008 was a challenging vintage. This wine spent 22 months in 100% new French oak, was aged two years in the bottle and possesses an alcohol content of 14.4%. This wine is intended to compete with wines such as the Caymus Special Selection.

This inky dark wine has a more intense aroma than their basic Cabernet, with rich black fruit, dark spice and hints of mocha. Again, it is a silky, elegant and well balanced wine with complex and deep flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, toast and subtle, and almost elusive, hints of other flavors that tantalize your palate, including an underlying earthiness. The tannins are smooth and well integrated, the finish is incredibly long and pleasing, and the wine impresses with its intriguing complexity and depth of flavors. It also was a superb accompaniment to my steak and I am sure this wine would impress most wine lovers. It is pricey but is worthy of a splurge for a special occasion.

I ended the evening with some Famous Coconut Cake, accompanied by pineapple sherbet and coconut dulce de leche. This sizable slice is large enough to share with another person or two, and was moist and flavorful, with plenty of coconut, satisfying my love of coconut.

It has been maybe ten years or so since I last tasted a wine from Sequoia Grove, so it was enlightening to taste them again after all of this time. The wines clearly have improved greatly and Michael's vision and philosophy seem to be pivotal to those changes. Sequoia Grove, led by Michael, is now producing impressive California wines which are competitive to other established brands. I recommend that my readers check out the wines of Sequoia Grove, and acquaint yourself with some delicious and complex wines which don't conform to the big and bold Cabernets that far too often dominate the market.

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jun 20, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1)Donato Frattaroli, owner of Lucia Ristorante in Winchester, and Executive Chef Pino Maffeo continue their cooking class series by offering guests an opportunity to learn how to create five different fresh, summer-inspired salad favorites.

On Wednesday, July 10, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Lucia Ristorante will hold the next in its series of cooking classes, where guests will have a hands-on lesson on how to make the freshest Italian- style summer salads, along delicious vinaigrettes to pair together. Just in time for the heat of the summer, these not-so-typical cool salads are the perfect dish for any summer barbeque or dinner. Following the class, guests will be invited for a family- style meal of class-prepared dishes with both chefs. Notebook, recipes, and aprons will be provided.

This class will include hands-on demonstrations on how to make:

L’Insalata di Patata Italiana (Italian Potato Salad)
Caprese Salad
With Balsamic Vinegrette
Arugula Salad With Lemon Vinegrette and Bresaola
L’Insalata di Pomodoro Italiana (Italian Tomato Salad)
Sicilian Orange Salad with Blood orange, Fennel, EVOO

The Summer-Salad class costs $60 per person For more information about this event, or to make a reservation for the class, please call (781) 729-0515.

2) Ducali Pizzeria and Bar is upgrading its brunch for the summer. Starting this Sunday, in addition to the regular brunch menu Ducali will be offering a summer “Kegs and Eggs” special: a beer flight + a breakfast pizza for $12.

Start with the choice of a beer flight, Beantown (Massachusetts brews only) or Around the World (multi-regional brews), which offer guests a selection of five, 4-ounce pours. Pair it with the choice of a Breakfast Pizza including: Pizza Ducale with potato, pancetta, mozzarella & egg; Pizza Verde with spinach, cherry tomatoes, mushroom, mozzarella & egg; Pizza Abbruzzese with sausage, onion, mozzarella & egg, and it may just be the classiest form of kegs and eggs around.

Other brunch menu entrees range from $7 to $12 and include:
Frittata Occidentale (Mushroom, onion, red pepper & pancetta frittata served with country toast & Italian style potatoes)
Frittata Tricolore Cheese (basil & tomato frittata served with country toast & Italian style potatoes)
Granola (Mascarpone & fresh berries with homemade granola)
Americano (Two fried eggs, Italian sausage, country toast and Italian style potatoes)
Pane Dolce (Baked French toast topped with Nutella, served with fresh fruit)
Frutta Fresca (Seasonal fruit bowl)

Brunch is held every Sunday 11am-3pm

3)Chef & Owner Jeff Fournier,of 51 Lincoln in Newton,is revitalizing the restaurant by adding new talent to the kitchen, rebuilding the menu, and creating a new interior look and feel. I am a fan of 51 Lincoln and am intrigued by the new changes.

The new culinary team includes: Nate Gibsonas the new Chef de Cuisine, a promotion from his former role of Sous Chef at sister restaurant Waban Kitchen; Nicholas Maceas the new Sous Chef, a promotion from his former role of first line cook; and former BU culinary student, Fernanda Tapia, has taken on a more independent role by creating The Cooking School at 51 Lincoln, a weekly hands-on cooking series which teaches a small group the ins and outs of everything from knife skills to how to butcher a while pig.

Fournier and Chef de Cuisine Gibson have rebuilt the menu from the ground up, going back to basics and focusing on fresh, local ingredients and creativity. Fournier sees everything besides the protein as the vehicles for that dish, thus focusing on sustainability all the way through the fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. The kitchen is experimenting with innovative techniques daily (pickled beet relish, apricot clafoutis in mason jars, an Asian Surf & Turf made with seared skirt steak, salt & pepper oyster, warm egg yolk, scallions, Fresno peppers), and the menu changes true to season.

The new menu for summer is composed of:
--Cheese & Charcuterie, such as Pickled Smoked Pork and Valdeon, a Spanish cheese.
--Appetizers, such as Watermelon “Steak” Salad with golden beets, French feta, red beet vinaigrette, and fresh herbs and New England Style Shrimp Chowder
--Entrees, such as Herb-Roasted Fried Chicken with made-to-order buttermilk mashed potatoes, field greens, and plum jam and Pan Rendered Long Island Duck Breast with chilled buckwheat soba noodles and garlic sautéed gai lan.
--Vegetables, such as Ginger & Fennel Dusted French Fries served with chipotle & lime aioli and Polenta Fries with truffled parmesan dip.

Chef Fournier, Gibson, Mace, and Tapia are all hands-on with the creation and fruition of the 3,000 square foot 51 Lincoln Rooftop Garden. The garden grows a majority of produce used at the restaurant, and serves as inspiration for his house made and aged sausages and many whim dishes, producing: tomato plants, many types of herbs, cucumbers, potatoes, and many varieties of peppers. This August, Fournier and Gibson will be using this rooftop produce as a major component during Raw August, a month-long celebration of internationally influenced raw cuisine featuring dishes such as: Fresh Hamachi & Heirloom Melon Sashimi, Rosewater Ponzu, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Bulls Blood and Colorado Lamb Kibbe, White Onion, Parsley, Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette, Naan Bread.

For the summer season, the craft cocktail program concocted cherry and lavender infused vodka, coconut infused tequila, strawberry & lemongrass infused gin, and brown sugar & BBQ-spiced bourbon, to create the offerings: El Cocodrilo - Loco Fresno Chili & Coconut Tequila, Homemade Sour Mix, Fresh Muddled Avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime; Cherry, Darling! - Cherry and lavender infused vodka, Contratto Vermouth Bianco, Campari, dash of simple syrup, and garnished with an orange twist; Bubble Moon - Strawberry & Lemongrass Gin, Creme de Violet, Fresh Lemon, Je T'aime; My Carolina Crush - Brown Sugar & BBQ-Spiced Bourbon, Pineapple, Pomegranate-Soaked Cherries, Lyle's Golden Syrup.

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"Dimat" is a major Poker Book publisher, with a popular Poker Forum, which originated from the book Internet Texas Holdem, by Matthew Hilger. Internet Poker Rankings tracks the top online poker players. Poker Bonos Gratis was designed to bring Free Poker Gifts to the Spanish Speaking Market.