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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Phantom Gourmet Wine and Food Festival

This past weekend we continued our sampling of local foods and libations by attending the Phantom Gourmet Wine and Food Festival! The food and wine festival was held in the beautiful main atrium of the Boston Center for the Arts. and provided locals with a sampling of 12 of Phantom's favorite foods, along with 36 varieties of wine.

The Phantom Gourmet is a food-related television and radio show based here in New England. Originally, the Phantom Gourmet was an anonymous critic who visited local restaurants, provided reviews, and conducted interviews with chefs and restaurants owners. Today, The Phantom Gourmet, Inc. is run by the Andelman brothers, Dave and Dan. Though the original concept of the anonymouse critic is no longer part of the show's format, the company logo and overall idiology remain intact: "Food and Fun. That's all we serve." The festival, complete with a "Wine Snob Detector," was very relaxed, and provided a casual, social environment in which to eat, drink, and be merry.
Our group began with samplings of classic red wines such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from Ghost Pines vineyard. Ghost Pines is a California-based vineyard named for the ghost pine tree, which is native to Califronia, and grows in nutrient deficient soils, the same as the grapes used to make their Cabernet. Ghost Pines relies on the blending of grapes from different appellations to craft each of their wines' unique characters. One of the vineyard's signature blends, their Cabernet Sauvignon, is created by the mixing of Cabernet grapes from their Napa county vineyard, and Merlot grapes from Sonoma. Robust, dense, and hinting of oak, Ghost Pines was a favorite amongst our dry wine fans. Though the blending process makes each of these wines unique and impossible to duplicate, our group found the samplings to be a bit too dense for our liking.

Between libations, we sampled local foods from shrimp Mozambique to savory cheesecakes. A favorite among our group was Harrows Chicken Pies. Harrows was originally opened in Reading, MA in 1930 by Charlie and Winnifred Harrows, and has remained a New England staple for more than 70 years. Though the Harrows no longer own the business, it was purchased by an employee, Walter Arsenault, in the 1950's and has been owned and operated by members of the Arsenault family ever since. Harrow's pies are made with all white meat chicken, potatoes, carrots, and the same buttery crust that made the restaurant's pies in 1930. With New England just beginning to emerge from this year's exceptional snowfall, our group agreed that Harrow's pies would make for outstanding comfort food in New England winters.

Towards the end of the festival, we stumbled upon another California vineyard called Bread & Butter.  Bread & Butter is noted for their cool climate grapes and cold fermentation processes, which, combined with their malolactic fermentation process, creates wine that is smooth, rich, and void of sharp acidities. Their flagship wine, a Chardonnay, is a perfect balance between the "bread" and the "butter" for which the vineyard is named. The bread, is B&B's process of storing their wine in barrels made with a range of oak woods from France, the United States, and Eastern Europe, which imparts flavors of vanilla, toast, and nuttiness to the wine. Meanwhile, the butter is B&B's malolactic fermentation process, which takes the malic acid, (the tart notes found in green apples and other citrus) and converts it into lactic acid, (the softer, richer notes found in butter and cream.) This Chardonnay is a personal favorite of our friend Grace, who notes that the stability and buttery notes of this wine make it a wonderful cooking wine, suited best to shellfish and risottos.

Winding down our sampling, our group had a calling of the sweet tooth, and decided to partake in one of Boston's sweetest treats, Chilly Cow's frozen custard. Chilly Cow's has been a New England manufacturer of ice cream pies, cakes, and frozen custards since 2006. Made from high-quality cream, sugar, and eggs, the frozen custard at Chilly Cow's isn't just any old ice cream. The creamy texture of frozen custard courtesy of the egg yolks, sets it apart from traditional ice cream in both texture and flavor profile. Chilly Cow's had vanilla, salted caramel, and black raspberry available for the festival attendees, and our group made sure to sample each variety. Twice.

Overall, the Phantom Gourmet Wine and Food Festival was a very casual event, and an easy way to spend an afternoon. If you are looking to try various types of wine in a snob-free environment, this festival would certainly hit the mark. Though the large crowd was a positive marker for the festival's turnout and provided mass exposure for local businesses, our group feels that this event will not be a repeat offender in our list of weekend excursions, due to the excessive crowding of these events.

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