Monday, June 27, 2011

Dinner at La Summa-Boston

Recently, after a visit in Massachusetts with my son and his family--including my two sweet angel grand-daughters--my sister Cindy and I had a couple of days of sisterly bonding in Boston. This mostly comprised shopping and eating. And if not eating, talking about where to eat next.

One of the musts, of course, was the North End, the Italian neighborhood. I always make time for that when I fly in and out of Boston. There are scores of wonderful Italian restaurants and a couple of great markets and at least two incredible pastry shops. Mike's Pastry Shop is my favorite.

Our first dinner was at La Summa. We chose that because it was a little off the main drag, and were happy we did. It was small and a lot quieter than most. Our server was delightful. She knew all the details of all the dishes, made appropriate suggestions, and gave perfect service. She was attentive without being intrusive.

For our first dish we split a special of the evening, Eggplant Bruschette.

The eggplant had been lightly breaded and was obviously freshly cooked. And perfectly cooked, with a creamy center and a crispy outside. The tomato topping had fresh basil, a touch of garlic and a fine fruity olive oil. Topped with shredded mozzarella and heated just enough, every bite was delicious.

Then we split the ever-present Insalata Caprese.

Although the tomatoes could have been a bit riper, I suppose we must remember that seasons aren't the same in Boston. They still had dogwood and azalea blossoms while ours have been gone for weeks and weeks. Still, the mozzarella was obviously freshly made (something I never see in Memphis, at least not since Mantia's closed!) and the olive oil was obviously a cut above standard supermarket brands, fruity with a bit of a peppery bite.

And then we split the main course the server recommended: Vitello Speciale.

It was described on the menu as "Barbara's specialty - lightly breaded veal or boneless breast of chicken layered with prosciutto, mozzarella and mushrooms in a wine reduction." Once again we were delighted with the choice. It was a substantial dish. What I show is one half of a serving, since the kitchen very considerately split it for us.  Loaded with sautéed mushrooms, in a rich Marsala wine reduction, it was the perfect ending to the meal.  Ending because there was no way we could manage dessert after all this.

And you certainly couldn't quibble with the price.  With generous servings, plenty of warm crusty bread and a bottle of very nice pinot grigio, and with a generous tip, our check was still less than $100!
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Fabulous white sangria!

I’m in a wine dinner group that meets monthly. The host picks the theme and makes the main course and each guest couple signs up for a different course, along the same theme. Sometimes it’s based on one kind of wine, but usually it’s geographic.

Everyone in the group loves to cook and does it well so we have some stellar dinners. Recently it was our turn to host, and I picked Spain as our wine region.

Once again, every single course was exceptional. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’m going to share several of the recipes we enjoyed.

Our first course appetizer was served with white sangria made by Commercial Appeal Food Editor, Jennifer Biggs. It was, with no competition, the best white sangria I’ve ever had (and with my age and travels, I’ve had a few). And it looked absolutely beautiful in the clear glass pitcher, with berries on the bottom, citrus slices and fresh mint.

The secret ingredient was one we all had a little trouble identifying: fresh tarragon. Who would have thought? It was subtle but made all the difference in the flavor. Don’t be tempted to leave it out.

You can make your infused lemonade ahead of time and chill all the components to be assembled when you’re ready to serve it. Have an iced tea spoon ready so you can scoop out a blackberry or two for each glass, pour, and enjoy!


16 oz good lemonade (see note)
1 handful fresh mint
1/2 handful fresh tarragon
1 750ml bottle dry white wine
8 oz. grapefruit soda (see note)
1 cup Cointreau or triple sec
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
Blackberries or other berries
Handful of mint sprigs for garnish

Bring the lemonade to a boil and add the mint and tarragon. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse at least 15 minutes. Discard the herbs and allow the syrup to cool. Put the wine in a pitcher, then add the herbed lemonade, grapefruit soda and Cointreau. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

To serve, place fruit, berries and mint garnish in the serving pitcher, add ice, and pour in the sangria. Add more grapefruit soda or Sprite if you want a bit of fizz. Makes 8 to 10 five-ounce servings.

NOTE: Jennifer used a bottled not-from-concentrate lemonade available in the juice section of the supermarket. For the grapefruit soda she used Ting, available from the Winchester Road Farmers Market, or in the international aisle of some supermarkets. Fresca or Squirt would also work, but would be less sharp.

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