Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Gin Lane 1751: Victoria Pink Gin

Juniper, a crucial ingredient in Gin, has been revered for at least two thousand years for medicinal purposes. Around the 16th century, it would be the Dutch who would finally distill a juniper-flavored alcohol, which they called genever, creating a spirit that was intended to be something other than a medicine. Around the 1690s, genever began to be exported to England and it quickly become the most popular spirit, especially with the lower classes, and it was renamed gin.

It helped that unlicensed gin manufacture was legal in England, so gin proliferated across the country.  By the 1730s, people in London were drinking an average of 2 pints a week. However, all of this gin consumption was alleged to lead to increased crime and other undesirable attributes so the government took some steps to curb consumption, starting in 1729 with a law that increased the retail tax on gin. Then, in 1736, another law was passed that imposed a draconian expensive license fee for gin retailers while also raising the retail tax. In essence, the fee was so high, only two licenses were ever obtained and consumption dipped for a short time.

However, illegal gin shops started to sprout up and riots occurred, protesting the 1736 Act. Eventually, the Act was changed, leading to decreases in the retail license fee and retail taxes. However, the government was still concerned about gin consumption, leading to The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (known as the Gin Act 1751) which prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed retailers and also increased retailer fees. The effect was to eliminate most small gin shops, limiting sales to larger distillers and retailers, and making gin more expensive for consumers. This was more successful and within the decade, the so-called Gin Craze had ended.

In homage to this Act, Gin Lane 1751 was established, a company which produces gin that hearkens back to Victorian times. The company is a partnership between Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers, an eighth generation distiller, and The Bloomsbury Club, a group of gin lovers and drinks industry professionals. As their website states, "Our beautifully handcrafted family of gins is of a classic Victorian style originating in an age when there was a bold predominance of juniper berries, hints of liquorice and a refreshing citrus finish. For your edification, we have created a well-balanced, complex gin of eight natural botanicals."

They currently produce four gins, including the London Dry Gin, London Dry Royal Strength Gin, Old Tom Gin, and Victoria Pink Gin, each priced at about $24.99 to make them more affordable. "Gin Lane 1751 is going back to gin’s roots with a bold yet refreshing profile along with three varietals that all have history and origin in the Victorian period.” Each gin is handcrafted in small traditional pot stills and contain eight natural botanicals, including juniper, orris root, Seville oranges, angelica, Sicilian lemon, star anise, cassia bark and coriander.

I received a media sample of the Victoria Pink Gin, which has a beautiful pink color from the addition of natural blended spiced bitters, and doesn't contain any artificial colorings or flavoring. It is said that the British Royal Navy was the first to mix gin with bitters, allegedly as a cure for sea sickness. You may see the Pink Gin cocktail at some local bars, which simply adds bitters to gin. The Victoria Pink Gin does that blending already for you, so you can drink it as is, or use it as a primary ingredient in a cocktail.

The Victoria Pink Gin possesses a prominent juniper aroma so there is no mistaking that it is gin. However, on the palate, this is a very balanced gin, with a complex and interesting melange of botanicals and a strong spicy element from the bitters. It is smooth and easy drinking, with a lingering and pleasant finish. The spiciness within this gin was intriguing, placing it above many other gins, and I think that element would elevate your usual gin cocktails. I'm very choosy about the gins I enjoy, and this is one I would strongly recommend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2010 Gloria Ferrer Anniversary Cuvée: Plus Waffles & Bacon

Waffles, Bacon & Bubbly: The Lunch of Champions

This past Sunday, I enjoyed a delectable lunch of home-made waffles and bacon, accompanied by a bottle of Sparkling Wine. First, as I've long said, traditional breakfast dishes taste just as good if you serve them for lunch or dinner. Who says you can't have a stack of blueberry pancakes for dinner? It isn't easy finding restaurants serving such breakfast items for lunch or dinner, but you can always prepare them at home. I love waffles and I'll eat them at any time, whether it's noon or nine in the evening.

Second, I've also said on multiple occasions that more people should drink Sparkling Wine with food. It can make an excellent pairing for a wide diversity of dishes. Unfortunately, many people primarily see bubbly as a celebratory wine, something to have before you begin eating. It most often is the opening toast to a dinner and other wine is brought out for the actual meal. However, we have to get over that preconception and embrace Sparkling Wine and food pairings, drinking bubbly during the entire course of your meal.

It doesn't have to be a special occasion when you break out a bottle of bubbly. I opened a bottle of Sparkling Wine on Sunday just because a friend came over for lunch. That was special enough for me. And I also thought it would go well with Waffles & Bacon! Bacon & bubbly is an easy pairing, as bubbly often goes well with salty dishes, from oysters to potato chips. And as for my waffle, smothered in butter, the crisp bubbly cut through the fat of the butter. It was simply a fun and tasty pairing, not a usual pairing, but experimenting with wine pairings is a worthy endeavor.

For my waffles and bacon, I chose a sparkling wine from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, a media sample I received. The roots of this winery extend back to the 16th century, to the Ferrer family which would eventually produce Sparkling Wine, creating the Freixenet Cava in 1915. During the early 1930s, Pedro Ferrer Bosch traveled to the U.S., desirous of producing Sparkling Wine there but had to return to Spain near the start of the Spanish Civil War. It would be up to his son, José Ferrer, and José's wife Gloria, to follow Pedro's dream.

In 1982, José and Gloria purchased 160 acres in the Carneros region of Sonoma County, planting about 75% of the land with Pinot Noir and the rest with Chardonnay. Four years later, they opened as Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, being the first Sparkling Wine producer in the Carneros region. Since then, their holdings have grown to about 335 acres, and they produce a number of still wines as well. Sustainability is very important to them, and they were among the first wineries in California to implement the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices.

The Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée ($40) was produced from a blend of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay, the grapes from their estate vineyards in Carneros. Only the first press of the grapes was used for this wine and it is also a blend of 14 separately fermented lots, all from the 2010 vintage. The 2010 vintage was one of the coolest on record, and produced excellent grapes with plenty of concentration and character. The lots were fermented about 6 months prior to that blending and then the blended wine remained in the bottle, on the lees, for another five and a half years before it was disgorged.

This Sparkling Wine presents an alluring aroma, enticing fruit flavors with a hint of vanilla, as well as tiny and persistent bubbles. On the palate, it is elegant and crisp, with a creamy mouthfeel and delicious tastes of pear, green apple, vanilla, and light spice notes. There are even subtle red fruit flavors flitting within your palate, especially on the lengthy and satisfying finish. Plenty of complexity, bright acidity, and pure hedonistic pleasure. And this Cuvée paired very well with the waffles and bacon, elevating that simple lunch. The Cuvée would pair well with many different dishes, from oysters to lobster, burgers to pizza. Highly recommended!

The next time you're planning a wine pairing for your lunch or dinner, consider a Sparkling Wine. And then consider the bubbly from Gloria Ferrer.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rant: Become A Wine Activist

In about two weeks, I'll be giving a presentation, in Chicago, on Georgian wines, similar to one I gave in New York City back in April. I'll discuss the history of Georgian wines, taste the attendees through four different wines, and explain why they should drink Georgian wines. Near the end of that presentation, I'll also ask them to become wine activists.

I've long been a passionate advocate for wines which are not as popular as they deserve. For example, I've previously written Ten Reasons To Drink Georgian Wine as well as Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine. I've reviewed plenty of Georgian and Greek wines, recommending many excellent examples of wines from this compelling countries. I've also reviewed and promoted wines from countries such as Israel, Armenia, Lebanon, and Uruguay. In some respects, this means I've been a wine activist, using my platform to economically assist these regions, trying to get more people to buy and drink their wines.

This became much clearer to me after reading a recent article in SevenFiftyDaily, "How Wine Buyers Can Become Activists" by Peter Weltman, a sommelier and writer in San Francisco. Peter describes how his view of being a sommelier shifted, of how he became more of an activist by "leveraging wine’s privileged standing to improve people’s lives." He even has a hashtag for his activism, #BorderlessWine, which you might have seen on social media. In this article, Peter states that, "With our wine purchases, I believe, we can help advance regional peace, provide support for farmers in war-torn regions, have a voice in geopolitics, and aid in economic recoveries."

Wine is often seen as a mere luxury, something of little importance in the greater picture considering all of the problems in out world. However, wine purchases can actually have a significant impact in numerous ways, even on a global basis. Such purchases are vital to the economies and political stability of numerous countries. It can be a valuable export, provided other countries are willing to buy their wines. To assist these countries, we should consider that potential impact when we decide which wines to buy for our consumption.

In his article, Peter discusses wines made in Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, and Georgia. Those are all the types of wine regions I especially enjoy exploring and writing about. One of Peter's primary points is that "Financial support of a country’s wines contributes to the well-being of regions, countries, and producers." Countries like Greece, whose economy has undergone much turbulence, can economically benefit if more people purchase their wines. Georgia, which is still recovering from when Russia controlled the country, would also benefit from more people buying their wines. With our wallets and pocket books, we can help to bring about positive change.

Your support of wines from these regions should be easy because these countries are making plenty of delicious and interesting wines, often from unique and indigenous grapes. They often have lengthy wine histories, extending thousands of years into the past. They produce all types of wines, reds, whites, rosé, sparkling, dessert, fortified, and more. Wine lovers can learn so much by exploring these regions. I've introduced numerous people to wines from these regions and most often receive positive feedback from these people.

I strongly urge you to read Peter's article and then give much more consideration to which wines you purchase. Try to support and improve these regions by purchasing their wines, as well as spreading the word about their wines. If you are so inclined, become more of an advocate for these wines, becoming an unofficial ambassador. I'll continue my own passionate advocacy, maybe with an added impetus of being more of a wine activist. Please join me in this endeavor.

As Peter concludes, "Wine transcends borders and bridges cultures, and it can be used to improve lives if we make the right purchases."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) It's that time again, the Annual Heirloom Tomato Celebration at Bistro 5 in Medford. From Wednesday, September 13th through September 28th, Chef Vittorio Ettore and team will offer seasonal favorites, highlighting the Tomato, into 5 different dishes, including a dessert. Every year, Chef Vittorio Ettore and team put in countless hours trying to come up with unique ways to incorporate the tomato and they always create some amazing dishes. Bistro 5 is an excellent restaurant year-round, but the tomato celebration is always special.

Heirloom Tomato Tasting Menu 
--Tartare of pineapple and plum tomatoes, with avocado and olive bread chips
2016 nortico, alvarinho, portugal
--Escargots with speckled roman tomato brulee, saffron bubbles, and pancetta dust
2015 gilbert picq, chablis
--Lobster pappa al pomodoro with green zebra tomato, with cucumber and radish
2016 valentino ‘mucci’, rosato, cerasuolo d’bruzzo
--Duck breast with compressed carbon tomatoes, with chanterelles, dauphine potatoes, and corn puree
2013 marco bonfante ‘stella rossa’, barbera d’asti
--Basil torta with persimmon tomato gelato, meringue, and lemon cremeux
2015 felton road, riesling, new zealand

Cost: 3 courses $55 (with wine pairings $20 more), 5 courses $75 (with wine pairings $30 more)
**All our heirloom tomatoes are sourced from Kimball Farms in Pepperell**
To make Reservations, please call 781-395-7464

2) Paella rocks! Such a classic Spanish dish and I love it, from the crispy rice to the tender seafood. Just look at that amazing picture above of a huge Paella pan. Thus, I was excited to learn about an upcoming Paella Showdown between two famed Boston chefs. In such a showdown, the attendees can't lose, getting to enjoy two different Paella recipes.

On Monday, September 25, starting at 6:30pm, you can witness Paella on the Porch Showdown: Chris vs Jamie at The Automatic, located at 50 Hampshire Street, Cambridge. Chef Chris Schlesinger will face off against Chef Jamie Bissonette in a pugilistic cook-off to see which chef can create the Best Paella!

Chris Schlesinger, a James Beard award-winning chef, founder of East Coast Grill and author of several books, opened The Automatic with his friend, legendary bartender Dave Cagle. Chris's Paella recipe has become famous, even featured in The New York Times. Jamie Bissonette, who is also a James Beard award-winning chef, can brag about his Paella too. He headlined this year’s Food &Wine Classic in Aspen, showcasing his Paella to the crowds.

As they say, There Can Only Be One Paella On The Porch Champion!

Chris said, “I welcome Jamie to our patio for the ultimate paella cookoff. There’s a deep sense of camaraderie in the Boston chef community, and this will be a whole lot of fun!

And Jamie has said, “I can't wait to throwdown with Chris this year. It's such an awesome event and I'm stoked to be a part of it all."

Price: $45.00/per person, includes food and one glass of Ameztoi Rosato. Guests will vote for the Champion Paella.
To make Reservations, please call 617-714-5226. I suspect this will sell-out quickly so I recommend making reservations quickly.

3) On Monday, September 18, at 7:30pm, Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca Chef Mario LaPosta and his team of sommeliers invite guests to join them in welcoming Michele Bernetti, son of founder Massimo Bernetti of estate Umani Ronchi, who will be showcasing his wines alongside Chef LaPosta’s menu. Bernetti will be bringing a few bottles that are not available in the US, but will come directly from the winery’s cellar.

The featured menu/wines will include:
Antipasti:
Focaccia w/ Caciocavallo & Salumi
Calamari Fritti
2016 Umani Ronchi Terre di Chieti Pecorino
Primo:
Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Lobster, Brown Butter, Butternut squash
2012 Umani Ronchi Casal di Serra Vecchie Vigne Verdicchio
Secondo:
Pecorino-crusted Lamb (Sweet Pepper Marmellata)
2010 Umani Ronchi 'Pelago'
AND
2014 Umani Ronchi 'Jorio'
Dolci:
Apple SottoSopra (Brown Butter Gelato)
NV Umani Ronchi MAXIMO

Cost: Tickets are $95 and can be purchased by logging onto https://umanironchidinner.splashthat.com

4) Kings Dining and Entertainment’s 1200 employees, in 10 locations in 5 states, commit to fundraising for hurricane relief and will be donating proceeds from various promotions to hurricane relief efforts. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Jose, Kings Dining & Entertainment will be hosting a fundraising drive throughout September to help their neighbors affected in the south.

Kings, which has locations in Doral, FL, Orlando, FL and Raleigh, NC, has felt the effects of these hurricanes firsthand and has seen the devastation they have caused their guests and supporters. Kings is determined, through its charitable arm: Kings Cares™, to work with their employees and the communities they operate in to raise money to donate to the American Red Cross disaster relief.

There are multiple ways to give back, and have fun while doing so. The following options will be available at all Kings MA locations starting on September 13th:

--Monday, September 18 and Monday, September 25: 50% of Kings’ gaming sales will go directly to hurricane relief efforts. Bowl for Hurricane Relief bracelets will be available at each of Kings’ locations for $5 each, with all profits going directly to relief efforts.
--For every $10 that any Kings’ guest donates through Kings’ “Bowl for Hurricane Relief” GoFundMe page (Gofundme.com/kingscares), that guest will be entered into a raffle to win a King Pin Room party at the Kings location of their choosing.
--For every corporate event booked at Kings between September 25th and September 29th, Kings will donate $100 to hurricane relief efforts.
--Kings locations are available to partner with individuals to host group fundraisers at Kings to support hurricane relief.

Additional details can be found at http://www.KingsCares.com.

5) Chef/Owner Matt O’Neil, of the new Ledger restaurant in Salem, in conjunction with Executive Chef Daniel Gursha, Chef de Cuisine Craig White, and Pastry Chef Michelle Boland, is starting Sunday Brunch on Sunday, September 17. Available weekly from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Ledger’s brunch menu remains true to the restaurant’s mission of serving New England-inspired dishes elevated by today’s resources and culinary techniques.

Pastry Chef Boland will serve an array of decadent, fresh-from-the-oven-treats like gooey Cinnamon Rolls, warm Banana Bread, and “Jordan Marsh” Blueberry Muffins, along with a rotating selection of homemade Donuts. Ranging in price from $11 to $24, Ledger’s hearty brunch dishes consist of evolutions and riffs on famous classics, with highlights including Banana Bread “Foie-sters” (griddled banana bread, rum caramel sauce, seared bananas, and house-made foie gras butter),  Chicken and Waffles (buttermilk fried chicken, corn waffles, green chile butter, honey hot sauce, pickles), House-Cured Pastrami Hash (hot-smoked Creekstone brisket, fried egg, Sparrow Arc breakfast potatoes), Prime Skirt Steak Frites (green pepper & sunflower relish, two fried eggs, Sparrow Arc breakfast potatoes), and a baked-to-order Buttermilk Pancake (candied nuts, crème fraiche, Morningwood maple, and macerated fresh fruit) $12.

There will also be some brunch sandwiches including a Breakfast Burger (North Country bacon, fried egg, cheddar, smoked hollandaise, brioche bun) $19, mammoth EBLGT (fried egg, North Country bacon, farm lettuce, fried green tomato, aioli, brioche) $11, Open-Face English Muffin (Ducktrap smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, chiles, red onion, farm greens (+$10 for caviar) $15, and Sausage and Biscuits (housemade breakfast sausage, buttermilk biscuit, scrambled egg, sweet pepper) $14, all accompanied by crispy Sparrow Arc breakfast potatoes and a tangy dill pickle spear.

Brunch cocktails include the 22 oz. Bloody Mary, (secret recipe) along with the Apple Pie Mimosa (French vanilla vodka, caramel, apple cider, prosecco), Banana Bread (caramel-infused vodka, banana liqueur, Frangelico, cream, cinnamon pecan rim), Not Your Average Mimosa (orange-infused vodka, orange juice, bitters, champagne) Sunrise On Washington (grapefruit vodka, Aperol, champagne), and refreshing Paloma (platinum tequila, lime, grapefruit soda, salt rim), along with a duo of Red and White Sangrias.

To make a reservation, please call 978-594-1908

6) Six years ago, I asked Where Is The Filipino Love? I lamented the lack of Filipino restaurants in Boston and Cambridge, noting the tiny amount of Filipino restaurants throughout the U.S. Since that time, there have been small inroads into bringing Filipino cuisine to the Boston area, and a new group is hoping to continue introducing Bostonians to this complex and compelling cuisine.

BOSFilipinos has recently launched with a mission to "connect the Greater Boston area to the Filipino community through content (expect tons of food) and programming." Their site has a blog about all matter Filipino as well as a list of upcoming Events.

They will be hosting their first pop-up in a couple of weeks, on Monday, September 25, at Saus, located at 33 Union Street, Boston. There will be two seatings, one at 6pm and the other at 8:15pm.

The tasting menu will be presented by Chef Roland Calupe, from the Milagros Project, and looks amazing, including:

--Scallop Kinilaw (local scallops marinated in coconut vinegar, chili, and herbs)
--Ilocos Empanada (fried empanada made of rice flour and annatto with vigan style pork sausage, green papaya, and egg)
--Pancit Molo (savory wonton dumpling soup with shrimp, pork, and garlic)
--Chicken Inasal Steam Bun (grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass annatto and garlic in a steam bun with scallions and aioli)
--Pork Rib Adobo (braised pork ribs in soy sauce, spiced vinegar, palm sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorn)
--Sinangag (a Filipino meal wouldn’t be complete without garlic rice)
--Leche Flan with Lavender Ube Halaya (sweet egg custard with lavender scented purple yam sauce)
*Unfortunately, for this event, there will be no substitutions available.

Cost: $65 per person
Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/milagros-project-bosfilipinos-filipino-food-pop-up-tickets-37512451753

7) On Wednesday, September 20th, from 7pm-10pm, Bar Boulud and Chef Daniel invite guests to celebrate the greater breadth of France’s culinary heritage with a five-course Rhône Valley Wine Dinner, featuring elegant and focused pours from Domaine Yves Cuilleron.

Pairing hand-selected varietals with regionally-inspired dishes from Chef de Cuisine Michael Denk and Pastry Chef Robert Differ, the menu will showcase French countryside classics. The five-course Rhône Valley Wine Dinner will be served as follows:

Soupe de Châtaignes (chestnuts, celery, Swiss chard, sausage caillette)
Yves Cuilleron, Marsanne, Collines Rhodaniennes, 2016
Homard aux Choux (lobster, Savoy cabbage, grapes, coral custard)
Yves Cuilleron, Saint Joseph Blanc, Digue, 2015
Loup de Mer (fig, fennel, sauce Syrah)
Yves Cuilleron, Syrah, Collines Rhodaniennes, 2015
Canard aux Navets (roasted duck breast, turnips, glazed onions, mushrooms, sauce au sang)
Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph, L’Amarybelle, 2014
Yves Cuilleron, Côte-Rôtie, Madinière, 2014
Bombe au Chocolat de Lyon (genoise cake, ganache, praline ice cream)
or
Tarte aux Pommes (crème fraîche)

COST: $175 for five-course menu with wine pairings (Ticket price includes tax and gratuity)
Tickets are available on Eventbrite.com: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rhone-valley-wine-dinner-with-chef-daniel-boulud-tickets-37254937521

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mooncusser Fish House: Initial Impressions

Excellent seafood is becoming more and more common in the Boston area as a number of new seafood restaurants have been opening within the last few years. One of the latest openings, at the end of July, was Mooncusser Fish House, located in the Back Bay. Ian Calhoun and Vincent Vela, who previously opened 80 Thoreau in Concord, have now chosen to open a seafood restaurant in Boston.  80 Thoreau Chef Carolyn Johnson has also brought her culinary skills to Mooncusser and the result of this collaboration is dish after dish of compelling seafood creations.

Mooncusser is actually divided into two parts, the Moon Bar located on the first floor and the actual Mooncusser Fish House on the second floor. The Moon Bar, pictured above, is the more casual dining area while the upstairs is more high-end. The upstairs area has a minimalist design aesthetic with several large windows that look out onto Columbus Avenue.

Recently, I dined at Mooncusser with a couple good friends, Adam and Andrew, and I wanted to provide some initial impressions of the restaurant. This is not a comprehensive review, especially as the restaurant has been open for less than two months, but I wanted to bring attention to the restaurant based on my dining experience. I've long encouraged people to eat more seafood so I'm always pleased to see a new seafood restaurant which hopefully will get more people enjoying fish and other seafood.

The wine list is compelling, diverse and interesting, with plenty of classic wines, from Bordeaux to Barolo, while also celebrating less common wines, from Spanish Txakoli to Greek Moschofilero. The list is long, without being overwhelming, and should please a wide range of wine lovers. It helps if you know the usual retail prices of the wines on the list (or can Google them) as the mark-up seems to vary dependent on the specific wine. You'll find a fair share of wines that are more reasonably priced at about twice the average retail, with others are closer to three times.

We began our evening with a bottle of Grower Champagne, the 2008 Pierre Gimmonet "Cuvee Gastronome" 1er Cru ($120). I've visited this winery before and love their portfolio of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes. And this bubbly didn't disappoint, with lots of crisp acidity, fine bubbles, complex flavors and a satisfying finish. And as this wine retails for $60-65, the mark-up is very reasonable.

Later in the evening, we also ordered a bottle of an Austrian wine, the 2008 Pichler Riesling Smaragd. A superb Riesling, it was dry with lots of acidity, stony minerality, and delicious peach and apple flavors. Lots of complexity made each taste bring something different to my palate, and it paired very well with a variety of seafood.

We began our dining experience in the Moon Bar, thinking to have some wine and an appetizer or two, though we ended up sharing a number of small plates. The menu in the Moon Bar includes numerous Small Plates ($6-$15), and Sandwiches & Entrees ($15-$24). Of the 17 options, only 3 do not have any seafood such as Marinated Olives and Spicy Greens Salad. This is definitely a restaurant for primarily seafood lovers. They have also just started Lunch Service in the Moon Bar and the lunch menu is slightly different from the regular menu. One of the main differences is the addition of several salads, and you can add a variety of seafoods atop those salads.

Upstairs in Mooncusser, you can opt for a 5-Course Tasting Menu, or select your own dishes off the menu, which is divided into First Courses and Main Courses. There are 8 options for First Courses, priced $10-$18, and there are a couple of the same dishes found in the Moon Bar, but priced $1 more. You could opt for the Seared Gnocchi (with uni, chanterelles, mustard) or Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab. The only non-seafood option is the Baby Kale Salad. There are 9 choices for Main Courses, priced $28-$42. You could opt for Monkfish or Stuffed Skate, and they also have 3 non-seafood choices including Lamb, Guinea Hen, and Stuffed Squash.

At the Moon Bar, with our Champagne, we ordered a number of dishes, revelling in the seafood. The Fried Scallop Ravioli ($15) are made with potato & chives and include a side of green goddess sauce. The Ravioli were light and crispy, with a tender, sweet piece of scallop within. Very tasty.

The Smoked Salmon Choux Buns ($6), a warm choux with chives & paprika, were light with an intriguing smoky flavor accompanying the salmon flavor. Kind of a savory seafood donut which worked well.

The Grilled Squid ($15) comes with escarole, cranberry beans, charred corn, parsley, chili, lemon, and corn aioli. The squid was tender and flavorful and the rest of the dish seemed fresh and clean.

The Grilled Swordfish Souvlaki ($17, though this dish was comped to us) is made with garlic, oregano, lemon, cucumber, tomatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and pita. They use the swordfish belly so it is very tender and moist, with nice charred bits. Again, everything was very fresh on the plate and this would be a healthy and delicious option.

The Smoked Salmon Pate ($12), made with horseradish, dill, dijon, & lemon and accompanied by walnut toast, was another winner. The creamy pate burst with flavor, and the nuttiness in the bread was an intriguing addition.

The Fish Tacos ($18) are made with beer-battered fish-of-the-day, cabbage slaw, cilantro, red onion pickles and Thoreau sauce (which is on their burger at 80 Thoreau). Tasty tacos with lightly battered, moist and tender white fish, and fresh toppings.

We finally adjourned to the second floor, to Mooncusser itself. Two of us opted for a First course of the Mooncusser Chowder ($12), made with skate, clams, smoked scallop, creme fraiche, & barley crackers. This was quite a large bowl of chowder and I loved the complex flavors within this chowder. It wasn't overly thick or thin, just the right consistency, and there was plenty of seafood within its depths. This was probably one of the best values on the menu and highly recommended.

Another friend ordered the Scallop Tartare ($16), made with corn, purslane, & truffle. You don't often see Scallop Tartare and I got to taste this dish, finding it to be delicious, with silky scallop, enhanced by the sweet corn and truffle accents.

For a Main Course, two of us ordered the Grilled Tuna ($40), with wild rice, walnuts, & peaches. The two large pieces of tuna were cooked perfectly, seared on the outside and raw within, and it was silky and tender, rich and flavorful. And the peaches were amazing, a nice sear on the outside with lots of juicy sweetness within.

And our other friend chose the Whole Grilled Black Bass ($40), with saffron, cherry tomatoes, & chickpeas. Again, this was a perfectly cooked fish, with plenty of tender white flesh within.

Everyone should be eating more seafood as it is one of the healthiest foods you can consume. And Mooncusser delivers with plenty of delicious and interesting seafood dishes. Chef Carolyn Johnson has created an intriguing and tasty menu, which isn't a surprise considering her great work at 80 Thoreau.

Have you been to Mooncusser, and if so, what were your thoughts?