Wine Tasting: Identifying Sweetness, Acidity, Oak, and Carbonation

Ryan and I watched the documentary Somm on a date night one evening. We have not viewed wine the same ever since. There are only 135 Master Sommeliers in North America. Of those 135, only 19 are women. Come on ladies, we need to commence with our wine drinking to bridge this gap! Anyway, Ryan jokes around that we should become master sommeiliers one day, but deep down I know he’s not joking at all! So to get us started, we decided to host a wine tasting with some friends.

With the help of “Wine: A Tasting Course” by Marnie Old, we organized three tastings that evening. We asked our guests to bring a bottle of wine, but we tried to be as specific as possible as to the style and country of origin so that it would fit with our tasting plan. We encouraged our guests to follow the tasting suggestions in the order presented. Below are the details on the tastings, with the specific wines we chose in parentheses:

A) Identifying Sweetness and Acidity


1. French Sauvignon Blanc (Petit Bourgeois, 2013): Very dry, Tart Acidity

2. California Chardonnay (Sutter Home): Dry, Crisp Acidity

3. Washington Riesling (Kung Fu Girl, 2013): Off-Dry, Tart Acidity

B) Identifying Oak

IMG_8588 Heron Mendo PNoir 10 face P

1. Unoaked French Chardonnay (Champy Macon-Villages, 2011): Low fruit, Low oak

2. Barrel Fermented California Chardonnay (Heron 2012): Medium fruit, Medium Oak

C) Identifying Carbonation

Mionetto-Prosecco_3 Santola

1. Italian Prosecco (Mionetto): High carbonation

2. Portuguese Vinho Verde (Santola): Medium Carbonation

Hosting a wine tasting is an affordable way to try a bunch of different wines. Ryan and I made some hors-d’oeuvres and we had friends bring cheese, crackers, and chocolates. We had so much fun with good food, wine, and even better company. We are already planning our next!

Do you have any tips on hosting a wine tasting? Any suggestions of wines I need to try?



DIY: Limoncello, Part 2: Bottling


Limoncello is an italian lemon liqueur that is traditionally served after a meal in Italy, as a digestif (or digestivo, in Italian). The genesis of my interests in mixology along with Lisa’s recent borrowing of Eugenia Bone’s cookbook “The Kitchen Ecosystem” collided in late December when flipping through Bone’s book I discovered her limoncello recipe. As I was still in the Christmas giving mindset I thought what a wonderful gift idea! It’s a DIY gift, so the giftee will know it came from the heart, took both time and forethought, and it will last for months—so it’s a perfect gift! Only problem, it takes 2 months to make.

As promised in our original post, here’s the final product (the recipe, is here).

5. Filter the limoncello, first through cheesecloth, then through a coffee filter. Bottle it and store it in your freezer (it’s best served cold). It will keep forever.

Filter first through a cheesecloth.
Filter first through a cheesecloth.
Close up.
Close up.
Then through a coffee filter.
Notice the color change.
Notice the color change.



PS- In case you’re wondering, Lisa gave it her approval. I’ll second that! Not too sweet, not too strong. Perfect.

Remember that Limoncello, like gazpacho, is best served cold.
Remember that Limoncello, like gazpacho, is best served cold.

PPS- Team white and gold!

Weekend Cocktail: Dark ‘N’ Stormy

Image credit: Eater NY (

The summer Lisa and I met, we were both interns at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Children’s Research Center program. Our romantic chemistry came to fruition one night at The Bug Jar—a well reviewed bar in Rochester, NY. That night was memorable for several reasons: aside from getting dumped by my former flame via an email, it was the first time Lisa, myself, and our peers went out for drinks and engaged in a friendly billiards competition. This might have been the first time Lisa saw my competitive side (As the youngest of three boys, I’ve grown to hate losing).

I remember during one intermission, Lisa ordered her favorite cocktail, the Dark ‘N’ Stormy. I’m not sure how a young man like myself could not fall for a smart, beautiful, Ivy-league grad, future doctor once she ordered that! I had never tasted a Dark ‘N’ Stormy before, but once she let me try her’s… well, the rest was history. Game over.

Ever since, this drink has had a special place in my heart because it reminds me of a moment when the thought first popped into my head that she might be the one for me.

Here’s the basic recipe:

  • Fill a collins glass with ice
  • Add 2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (or try Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s spiced version)
  • Add 5 oz. ginger beer (Bundaberg’s or Barritt’s are the most traditional in style, or make it yourself!)

Happy Weekend!


Eater 38 Challenge: #9 Cafe Sushi

Valentine’s Day was a perfect day to make some progress on our Eater 38 challenge.  February 14th is notoriously a bad day for trying out a new restaurant. Expert opinions warn diners to stay home, but we didn’t listen and went out anyway! We dined at Cafe Sushi for a Valentine’s Day lunch, which was perfect timing because it was right before yet another blizzard in New England. To make things even more of a flurry, Ryan accidentally thought he had made the reservations for 1:30PM, but he actually made them for noon. Coincidentally, there happened to be a guy named “Ryan Butter” with a reservation at 2PM. The hostess thought that he was Ryan Butter and seated us right as we got there. Luckily, service died down by 2PM and Ryan Butter also got a table without any problems.

Cafe Sushi is a very casual place. Although sushi is always a treat to eat, probably not the best place to score some points on romance if you are trying to impress your boo. Read: No intimate, warm fuzzy, candle light decor here. Service as predicted was on the slow side. The server (as predicted) seemed unhappy. Such is life when one is working on a holiday meant to be spent with loved ones, but instead you are serving others. I am a resident, so I empathize with this dilemma. I am going to give the server the benefit of the doubt and bet that he would smile more and be more pleasant on another day.

We ordered the Chef’s Sushi Lunch, the Sashimi lunch, and the Sake 101 flight. The sake flight was probably the best part of the meal. It was fun to do a tasting of something that we are not very familiar with. Sake has such complexity! This was a great introduction to sake for us, and I have a feeling that sake may become one of our next obsessions/vices.

IMG_0640 IMG_0641

Sake flight: Dewatsuru Kimoto, Minato, and Fukucho (from top to bottom, although they all look the same!)

Our meals came with a side of salad and miso soup, which were both well executed. The salad was so beautifully presented and perfectly seasoned. The soup was wonderfully balanced and was a soothing retreat from the New England cold.


Side Salad

IMG_0383 IMG_0642

Sashimi Lunch (left) and Chef’s Sushi Lunch (right)

The main courses though left something to be desired. They were both beautifully presented. The issue was I didn’t really know what I was eating because there was no description on the menu. I know what was tuna and salmon, and I think one was swordfish, but I’m not sure what the other proteins were! The rice was under-seasoned for my taste. I thought the chef’s sushi lunch was going to be a creative selection, but the fare was pretty standard and not too exciting. While it was affordable sushi, I am not sure if it was the best sushi in Boston as many claim it to be. I don’t have much experience with sushi in Boston, so I guess I’ll have to eat more and get back to you on that!

Another gripe of mine was that the restroom was in the back hallway of the restaurant, and I might as well have gone outside in the blizzard to do my business because that’s how cold the restroom was!

Decor: 2/5

Service: 2/5

Food: 3/5

Total rating: 2.33/5

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! What did you do with your friends and/or partners?


Weekend Cocktail: The Greyhound

Make & filter your fresh grapefruit juice


It’s snowing in greater Boston today and we’re stuck at home in our fair city of Cambridge again this weekend. With the MBTA shut down, what better way to celebrate than with a citrus cocktail?!

The past month or two it seems to me that oranges and grapefruits have been on sale on a weekly basis. Today’s cocktail, the Greyhound, is a simple cocktail variation on the classic screwdriver that will take advantage of those grapefruit sales. All it requires is ice, vodka, and grapefruit juice. This recipe comes from Mittie Hellmich’s “Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails.”

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 5-6 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice
  • Pour into an ice-filled highball glass and stir
Enjoy your Greyhound.




DIY: Limoncello, Part 1


Limoncello is an italian lemon liqueur that is traditionally served after a meal in Italy, as a digestif (or digestivo, in Italian). The genesis of my interests in mixology along with Lisa’s recent borrowing of Eugenia Bone’s cookbook “The Kitchen Ecosystem” collided in late December when flipping through Bone’s book I discovered her limoncello recipe. As I was still in the Christmas giving mindset I thought what a wonderful gift idea! It’s a DIY gift, so the giftee will know it came from the heart, took both time and forethought, and it will last for months—so it’s a perfect gift!

I decided to try it and see if it comes out any good! Here’s the recipe (I’ll add a Part 2, final product post in late February):

Makes 1.5 Pints of Limoncello (or roughly a full 750 mL bottle)

  • 4 lemons (thoroughly scrubbed)
  • 1 pint of vodka (preferably 100 proof, pictured is 80 proof Stoli)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup of sugar

The steps:

1. Remove the zest of your scrubbed lemons with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the pith (per Bone’s recipe, you need about 1/3 cup)

IMG_0546 IMG_0547

2. Combine the lemon zest and vodka in a pint jar, or any large jar (preferably a Ball-type jar). Screw on the lid and give it a healthy vigorous shake. Set aside for 1 month. Shake periodically (I found this part a great stress reliever).

IMG_0548  IMG_0551_2

3. After a month, transfer the lemon vodka mixture to a quart jar (I started with a half-gallon Ball jar, so I skipped this part)

4.In a small sauce pan, heat the water and add the sugar. Once the sugar is completely dissolved remove it from the heat and let cool. Add the simple syrup to the lemon vodka mixture. Give the mixture a few good shakes and put the limoncello away for another month.

Almost there! Stay tuned for “DIY: Limoncello, Part 2: Bottling” to see the final product.


Eater 38 Boston Challenge #8: Trina’s Starlite Lounge

I love reading the blog Eater. When I saw their recent recommendations on “The 38 Essential Restaurants” of 2015, I knew  a challenge was in the making. So many of these fantastic restaurants are right in our neighborhood, and while Ryan and I make it a point to cook at home as much as possible, I love indulging ourselves once in a while. It is a great way to explore a city and get to know some new neighborhoods. The challenge is to try all 38 restaurants by the end of the year. I already tried seven of them in 2014 (Oleana, Jm Curley, Hungry Mother, Craigie on Main, Bronwyn, Casa B, and Gene’s Flatbread), so I have a head start. Follow us as we eat our way through Boston!

Last weekend, Ryan and I scratched off number seven on our list by going to Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Inman Square. We dined here the night of the NFC/AFC championship games, the one in which the Patriots played the Colts. You can imagine that here in Cambridge (a city full of die-hard Patriots fans), this was a very important and big day. Thus, our experience may not be truly indicative of what average service is like here. This is a no reservations type of place. Despite the crowds, we were actually seated right away. The decor here is retro and so much fun. All the television screens were playing the game and the fridge near the bar was appropriately decorated with letter magnets that read, “Keep Calm and Go Pats!”


We started off with a cocktail called the Shaddock (above). Trina’s is known for its cocktails so pass on the beer when you come here. The Shaddock is a classic cocktail made of Genever, St. Elder, Aperol, and lemon. This cocktail was perfectly executed and delicious. Now  we cannot stop eyeing the bottles of Genever whenever we go to our local liquor store. Soon we will give in and purchase a bottle so that we can make our own version at home, I know it!

Starlite hot dog Starlite chicken and waffles

Then we got the Starlite hot dog and the fried chicken and buttermilk waffles. The Starlite dog was topped with french fries, coleslaw, and a mayonnaise based sauce (that I think had sriracha in it?). It was overall a bit too decadent for me. But maybe this is the kind of hot dog you want to watch a game and have a beer with? For five bucks, it was worth trying- but next time I’d order something else on the menu.

The chicken and waffles are one of Trina’s signature dishes. I can see why! These waffles were crisp on the outside,and the chicken moist on the inside. I would have liked more of that hot pepper sauce because it was so tasty. None of these plates came with any accompaniments. If you want a more balanced meal, order some sides. The very reasonable prices would allow you to do that and the portions are fairly large.

Decor: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Food: 4/5

Total Rating: 4.3/5 stars

I definitely see myself coming back here for a casual drink and snacks! I would love to try their “industry brunch” on Mondays some day.

Happy Dining!