Tag Archives: Food

A Tour of GrandTen Distilled

EDIT: Lonnie from GrandTen sent an email my way and let me know that he enjoyed my review. Also, I am now aware that his name is not Robbie. Correction made!

For whatever reason, most of my experiences around Boston have been centered around brewery tours. Or trying to find a decently priced  sushi restaurant with an atmosphere that we enjoy. But mostly brewery tours. If ever we’re at a loss for something to do on the weekend, there’s a pretty good chance will head on down  to the Harpoon Brewery and see how many free samples we can consume in fifteen minutes.

Yesterday, we decided to continue the trend, but in a slightly different direction. A couple of friends and I went to take a tour of the GrandTen Distillery, which just opened in South Boston last April. It’s about midway between Andrew Station and Broadway Station on the Red Line, although, if you have your druthers, get off at Broadway and walk down. There are a lot less…bones on the sidewalk in that direction.

We’re used to the strictly regimented and tightly coordinated tours of Sam Adams or Harpoon, come in twenty minutes ahead of time, get a ticket for next available tour, muddle around the conveniently located gift shop and then get herded through the brewery by excited youths. At GrandTen, we walked through the door and were immediately greeted by Lonnie.

He asked us if we wanted to go on a tour and then away we went. It was very relaxed, very informal and one of the most easy-going tours I’ve been on. He showed us around the stills and the fermentation tanks and the barrels where their Medford rum and gin were currently aging and I learned there’s more to aging liquors than just throwing it into a barrel and walking away.

Afterward, we went back to the tasting room. GrandTen currently has five different products available and all of which we were able to taste: Wire Works Gin, Fire Puncher Vodka, Amandine, Angelica and Craneberry. Most of the names and references in their products draw from local industries or legends and really help to cement GrandTen as a Boston institution in spite of its youth. For example, Fire Puncher is named for a local man who, in an act of incredible bravery, attempted to put out a fire in the building using only his fists.

All five spirits and liqueurs offer an incredible range of flavors and complexity. Fire Puncher is a vodka that was distilled with chipotle peppers and then aged, giving it a smokey flavor with a deep, slow burn. Wire Works gin is the gin you offer to your friend who does not like gin. It lacks the usual sharp, piney flavor of most gins, and goes for a more rounded, citrus flavor. The juniper berries act as a bind for all of the other flavors, giving the gin a mellow and more delicate taste, instead of being the one, overriding flavor.

And while normally I’m not a big fan of liqueurs because they’re usually saccharine sweet and a little too thick, GrandTen’s selection all hits the right notes without dumping a metric ton of sugar on your palate. While I’m not normally a big fan of amaretto, Amandine just hits in the right ways, while Angelica is a flowery fruity concoction. Craneberry is astonishing in its drinkability, but I don’t really want to talk about it so much, because they’re almost out.

The most exciting thing about all of their products, but their liqueurs in particular, is their potential in cocktails. As Lonnie pointed out, their strengths are their ability to enhance and brighten other drinks. They would all be powerful and useful tools for people who love to experiment with new cocktail creations.

All in all, if you’re in the Boston area, I recommend checking out the GrandTen Distillery tour. And, if you can’t take the tour, you can always track down their products here.

I would give them five out of five Hours of My Saturday Morning.

BONUS FACT: The tour is free!


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A Place of Our Own

Emily introduced me to sushi a few years ago and, since then, we’ve gone to about six or seven places in the Boston area and never more than once. None of the places we went to were necessarily bad (except for the one in Somerville where the waitress corrected Emily in the most condescending manner possible. Good fish though.), but there was just nothing there to make us come back.

But now I think we’ve finally found a place that’s worth revisiting a second time. We went to Cafe Sushi in Cambridge tonight and it was one of the better sushi places I’ve been to, either in Boston or anywhere else. It’s a middle-sized place, definitely larger than some of the hole-in-the-walls we’ve been to recently, but nowhere near as large as Fins. The waitstaff were friendly and helpful and it’s convenient to get to, especially for the car-less.

Now, the fish was good and I enjoyed the rolls, but that’s not what sold me. They have craft beers! From Japan. Of course, I managed to go through almost their entire selection of Japanese beers, but not all, so I still have a reason to go back again. They serve beer brewed by Hitachino Nest, which has the most adorable owl mascot. I tried the Sweet Stout, the White Ale and the Red Rice Ale, all of which were uniquely flavored and delicious in their own ways.

The White Ale is crisp, sweet and refreshing. The sweet stout, very smooth, mellow and also very refreshing. The Red Rice Ale was extremely fruity and sweet. Emily said it tasted like gummy bears and I think that’s the best possible description. It was a great trio of beers and if I can find them outside of Cafe Sushi, I’ll definitely pick them up.

If you want great sushi, great beer and without a hefty price tag, I recommend checking out Cafe Sushi.

I give it four owls. In their nests. Eek! They even have a little owl icon for the Chrome tab.



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Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part III)


Continuing on along our education of stouts and porters, we have come across our first porter. Now, from everything I have read, porters are a bit of a mystery. Once, a long time ago, porters were an extremely popular form of beer of which stouts a type. But, along the way, porters fell by the wayside and, eventually, people stopped making them entirely. The last porter brewed was by Guinness and they stopped in the mid-seventies. Then, after a good twenty years, people decided to bring back porters based on half-forgotten recipes and old myths of what porters were supposed to be.

As a result, there’s not a lot of consensus of what a porter should taste like, because, in truth, no one knows what one should taste like. Different breweries try their hand at porters and they all come up with different answers to the question: what is a porter?

Today, I tried Zywiec‘s Porter and if all porter’s taste like this, I would drink them more often. It has a very hearty, fruity aroma out of the bottle and the taste followed suit. It tasted like dark cherries, sweet and heady and full of flavor. It had a very smooth and full mouthfeel without being thick and syrupy.

For a type of beer with close ties to stouts, I was surprised to find how refreshing it was. It was clear and strong and wasn’t overwhelming in either texture or taste.

It was very decadent, sweet without a lot of bitterness. I would serve it with a dessert, but a less rich dessert like a white cake or  some vanilla ice cream  It was a great beer, maybe not one that you would all the time or one after the other, but definitely a beer that you would have every once in a while as a way to remind yourself of how different beers can be from one another and how good those differences can be.

I would give this one three chocolate covered cherries and two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

This rating system might prove to be prophetic considering an entry I have planned down the line.



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Brewing an Education: Stouts and Porters (Part 2)



I’ve been reading a book called Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and I’ve been using it as a guide to beer tasting (obviously). While I already knew some of the basics (checking the clarity, the color, the aroma) I was/am still very much a novice. The best part about this particular book is that it goes into great detail about absolutely everything to do with beer; from how taste buds work to the history of particular brewing styles to the chemical compounds that produce the specific flavors. You get what you want from the book. If you’re not interested in a chemical breakdown of the smell of beer, you can always move ahead to the history of the stout, instead.

Speaking of stouts (and leaving this very forced segue behind), the Founders “Breakfast Stout” is next up.  After the last two, fairly disappointing stouts, the “Breakfast Stout” is pretty amazing. It has a well rounded and smooth mouthfeel, which is, apparently, common of oatmeal stouts. It’s a hearty beer and one that’s best suited for cold winter nights when the snow is falling and you’re warm and snug inside and full on heavy beer.

There is a strong coffee flavor, especially at the start, strong, black coffee. If diners served beer, this would be on the menu.

It’s a little sweet, but ends with a bitter flourish that’s very reminiscent of an IPA. All-in-all, it’s a very satisfying experience. I can see this being paired well with roasts and potatoes and steamy rolls with melted butter.

I give this one two baked hams and a crackling fire.

God, I’m hungry.


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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Harvest Season


Sometimes, it’s important to take a break from Halloween in the middle of the season and remember that Fall is great for other reasons as well.

When I was a kid, we used to head up to my grandparent’s house in Virginia in the Fall to pick the apples in their small orchard. My dad would climb into the trees and shake them as hard as he could and the apples would rain down. We’d gather them up and sort them out, the bruised and abused apples being set aside for cider.

The cider making was really the best part. The cider  press and grinder was a cantankerous wooden and iron contraption that would tear through the apples, grinding them into pulp, the pulp falling into a cloth lined bucket, which was then pressed. Swarms of yellow jackets and wasps would gather and I would always watch anxiously, hoping that they wouldn’t become part of the cider. Which, inevitably, they always did.

After we moved from North Carolina to New York, we stopped going down every year for apple pickin’. It has been years, maybe a full decade, since I last did any kind of apple picking.

Today, Emily, a couple friends and I all headed out West, going a little further out into Massachusetts, where there was fairly large scale U Pick apple orchard. I had been to a few of these operations, but this was probably one of the larger that I had been too. There were goats and pigs and hayrides and plastic jugs of cider and trees going red, yellow, gold and the apples. So many apples.

As a kid, it was one of the ways I defined Fall: you went out into the country and collected apples by the bagful and you got out into the air that was just starting to get chilly and you really saw Fall for the first time, in all its colors.

It was nice to be able to do that again and to usher Fall in again that way.

TOMORROW: Blood and Horror at Rock and Shock


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31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Horror in the Tin

I really like the show Good Eats with Alton Brown. This is important if you’re to know about The Horror in The Tin and why I did what I did. I need you to understand that I was once very much like you and I was normal. I was so normal.


Alton, I can call him Alton because, in my head, we’re good friends, began to talk about these little fish called brislings and how good they are and how, yes, technically they’re sardines, but they’re still good and healthy and provide valuable nutrients and you should eat them. I laughed at my friend Alton’s claims and shook my head. “I will never eat sardines, Alton. No matter how good you say they are.” Alton didn’t respond, because he’s on the television.

But later, in the grocery store, I kept thinking about those damn little fish. Alton said they were good. He doesn’t lie. Maybe…maybe I could try them. I stood staring at them in store for ten minutes, trying to make up my mind. Finally, I grabbed the most expensive can (because I’ll be goddamned if I buy budget fish in a can) and bought them.

I brought them home and set them on the table. The spider watched me. He would not follow me on this journey, his red eyes reproachful and wary.


They looked unassuming in their cheerful red wrapper. How bad could it be? How truly awful could this…Horror in the Tin be?


They could be that bad. Immediately upon opening the tin, I was awash in the smell of fish. They lay in their untidy little rows, oily and glistening. I poked them with my chopsticks (Alton recommended eating them with chopsticks) and they broke apart easily, exposing the dark flesh inside, the skin sliding free from the meat. Their fins lay folded flat against their sides, thin membranes stretched between clear points of bone.


I picked one up, pulling it free from the oil and the other fish. I had been so worried that they’d still have their heads, but that might have been a silly fear. They do not, they did not, look like any kind of appetizing. But, over the years, I’ve learned that it’s best not to dwell and just throw yourself in, even if the water is moving fast and filled with dirt and sticks and poisonous snakes. I ate the little horror from the tin.


And, as soon as it began, it was over. The tin was empty. Flecks of silver scales and bits of meat and bone floated in the remaining oil. It had been so fast, so brutal and I had eaten them all, consuming the horror with relish and without pausing and, by the end, I realized that it was I that was the horror the WHOLE TIME.

They were pretty good. I’d probably get them again.



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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Spoooky Beer Review: Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale

For whatever reason, I’m incapable of not drinking pumpkin ales. It’s becoming a struggle for me. I use the reviews as a cover, but, deep down, I would drink the pumpkin ales anyway. Do you know how many I’ve bought to review and then just made disappear before even managing to snap a blurry picture of them with a monstrous spider in the background? A LOT.

At first glance, it has the same orange-y hues that most pumpkin ales have, but it’s deeper and darker, almost red. It smells a lot like any other pumpkin ale, but maybe with headier blast of spices.

It tastes a little like a subdued Pumking. No, that’s the wrong word for it. Not subdued. More subtle, not as bold a pumpkin flavor. But just as complex. Maybe MORE complex. Both beers are great pumpkin ales. They both deliver on spices and pumpkin and make you think of Fall with a beer, which is really all you can ask of a pumpkin ale.

But Imperial Pumpkin Ale is more spice than pumpkin and is quieter and more sly. If you have a friend who thinks Pumking is too much for him, then go with Imperial Pumpkin Ale. They’re both royal. They’re both imbued with the power of Halloween. And they’re both really great pumpkin ales.

Let me put it this way, before Imperial Pumpkin Ale, I thought Pumking was going to be the the best all season, but Imperial Pumpkin Ale has shaken my faith.

I give Imperial Pumpkin Ale five Pumpkinhead-era Lance Henriksens.


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Spoooky Beer Review: Cambridge Brewing’s The Great Pumpkin Ale (Entry II)



 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Cambridge Brewing’s The Great Pumpkin Ale



I’m going to be honest with you: I’m kind of getting sick of pumpkin ales. They taste violently of pumpkins and I can only take so much of it. And why JUST pumpkins? Come on guys, there are more ways to celebrate the season than with the flavor of pumpkins! Like….candy corn beer.

Ugh, never mind. Talked myself out of that right quick.

Luckily for me and my sudden bitterness toward pumpkin ales, The Great Pumpkin Ale is nowhere near as strongly flavored as the truly awesome Pumking. It has a strong, spicy smell that’s immediately no better or worse than any of its cousins. And the first taste gives you a strong burst of spice flavor, but not a lot of pumpkin flavor.

It’s the finish that makes this a more dissatisfying beer, pumpkin ale or otherwise. It just kind of…stops and leaves you hanging with a kind just-there aftertaste. It feels…incomplete.

I made Emily try some while she was eating some pumpkin bread (that I baked myself) and she said it was really good. So! If you want a good beverage to go with your pumpkin based foods, go with The Great Pumpkin Ale. Its less in-your-face pumpkintude will complement your meal with aplomb!

I give it a Charlie Brown Halloween Special.


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Restaurant Review: Hungry Mother

Emily and I have gone to a few restaurants in the area now and I think we have a good bead on what’s good in Boston/Cambridge.

For us, the best restaurant we’ve gone to, either here or elsewhere, is Hungry Mother. We’ve only been there twice, because that’s as often as we can afford to go there, but both times we’ve been there, it’s been great every step of the way.

The food is always excellent and they make use of locally grown produce whenever possible. Since they advertise as a Southern style restaurant, they do have to dip into Appalachia for some of their ingredients.

Last night, we ordered the Smoked Beef Tongue ‘Au Jus’ and the Carolina BBQ Pork Biscuits to start. Emily got the Braised Beef Cheek ‘Parmentier’ and I got the Cast Iron Chicken.

Both the beef tongue and the pork biscuits were the right size for appetizers, so we were both still hungry when the main course came. And they were a great blend of flavors: The smokiness of the tongue mixed well with a horseradish and swiss cheese. And no offense to my home state, but that was some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had and I’m angry it was in such small amounts.

My chicken was phenomenal and was probably the best chicken I’ve ever had. Rather than masking the chicken in a bunch of spices and sauces, they used the flavor of the chicken, accenting it with this green sauce stuff. It was the right balance of taste and some of the most tender chicken I’ve had.

The last time I was there, I had their Catfish Pecan ‘Meuniere’, which I can still vividly picture. I miss that catfish.

Emily’s beef cheek was also amazing. Very tender meat. Great mixture of textures and spices.

After dinner, we ordered the seven layer cake, which was everything I’ve wanted out of a restaurant’s dessert. Usually, it seems like they try and overwhelm you with some kind of overly-chocolatey death by fudge concoction. The seven layer cake went the opposite route by being light and airy without being oversweet. It was the perfect way to end the dinner.

Hungry Mother has a good selection of drinks. I tried their hefe weissbier (Weihenstephaner) and a whiskey (Redbreast 12yr.), both good.

Their waitstaff was always on hand and helpful. When our original selection for dessert was sold out, they even gave us a free scoop of their ice cream, which was also the best ice cream I’ve ever had. They were never intrusive and always managed to arrive right when we needed them. Duane, our water for most of the night, was also knowledgeable about the mixed drinks.

I realize I’m using the word “best” and “perfect” a lot here, but really, there’s no other way to describe Hungry Mother. Everything has either met or exceeded expectation threefold both times we went there. The atmosphere is relaxed, the food is delicious and the staff are among the best (there’s that word again).

I can’t recommend them enough. If you’re willing to spend the money for it, it’s the best dining experience I’ve had.

Dylan Charles

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Restaurant Review: Empire Garden

Emily and I had decided that we were going to get Chinese food one night. That, of course, meant that we had to go to Chinatown. By the time we got there, we were so hungry that we just lurched into the first restaurant we saw and that’s how we discovered Empire Garden.

When you first walk into Empire Garden, it’s like stepping into a dingy movie theater lobby. And then you go upstairs. Now, I haven’t done much (any) research, but I heard it used to be a theater before it was converted into a restaurant and I can believe that. There are murals and mirrors and massive high ceilings and it’s gaudy and wonderful all at once. It’s one of the most fantastic looking places I’ve been in.

I’ve only gone to dim sum a few times, but Empire Garden’s food is above average compared to the other places I’ve been. We’ve been there five or six times now and the food has always been good. I’m not crazy about their chicken buns, but the yellow bean and pork buns were awesome. The duck was also pretty good.

They also have a bewildering array of mixed drinks with things like the ubiquitous scorpion bowl and a whole host of other tropical drinks in tiki head cups. There are also a couple of Chinese beers (like Tsingtao)

And here comes the best part; generally speaking, we’ll spend about $35 on a meal there. That’s including the tip and enough food and drink to make sure that we have trouble walking home.

It’s cheap, it’s good and the atmosphere is old style insanely over the top. It’s only a block away from the Chinatown station on the Orange line (located at 690 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111), so go check it out.

Dylan Charles


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