Lyme Disease: We Are Not Crazy

January 23, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

I should not have clicked. That’s the moral of this story. If I had just been following my New Year’s resolution to avoid click-bait stories, I would have passed this article by, and been all the happier for it. But I did click. And now I’m angry at what I read.

Let’s get some things straight before we get going on this blog. Today, you will not be reading about wine. Or the latest dinner I’ve made. Or the newest trend in whiskey. Today, we are going personal. If you don’t want to go there with me, best to get off this train now. Also, it’s important to know that while I do love to buck the trend, and am most definitely my own person, and do love the Sons of Anarchy, I am at heart a herd follower. I do not believe in conspiracy theories (although I did once fall down the rabbit hole that Paul McCartney is not actually Paul McCartney, I mean the internet makes a very convincing case), I do not believe that the government is working to plot our demise, I do believe in our society’s rules and expectations. I vaccinate, I get the flu shot, I eat organic, I pick up my dog poop.

Back to the click-bait. The headline said this, “Real Housewife, Fake Disease.” It was what I will classify as an opinion piece – because it contained no actual scientific data outside of links to status quo studies – about Lyme Disease. Specifically about Yolanda Foster, the Real Housewife of Beverly Hills who has been very open about her struggle to feel well after being diagnosed with Lyme. I really try hard not to read the articles about her because it brings me back to my own, sometimes hopeless, struggle with Lyme, and I always get sucked into the comments which consist of only two things – other people’s pain because they too have been sick with Lyme, or disbelieving comments saying people with Lyme are just looking for attention. Both make me sad, and frustrated. In all, I just try not to think about Lyme disease, even though it has framed my life since the spring before we opened The Urban Grape.

I honestly couldn’t believe the tone of this click-bait article. It was degrading, patronizing, and misleading. It was written by a doctor under a pen name. I clicked through to his Twitter feed, also a pseudonym, and was blown away by his arrogance, his disregard for people’s pain, his bullying tone and his smugness. His pseudonym had given him power to be unkind in this new kind of way that we see now – the anonymous social media unkindness that I will go so far as to say is ruining our country. He wasn’t an infectious disease specialist, he was a pediatrician. So how he felt he had the right to write something so baseless, I will never know. It wasn’t until he let slip that he worked at a prominent Boston hospital that it all became perfectly clear. Because my story also starts at that same hospital. So let’s head there now.

In April 2010 I took the boys to my parents’ house on Martha’s Vineyard, what one compassionate, leading researcher in Lyme later described to me as the “Lyme Chernobyl.” TJ was in Boston, overseeing the construction of UGCH. It was unseasonably warm, and we worked outside in my mom’s garden and the boys and I played and sat in the grass most of the time we were there. Because it was off-season, my parents weren’t yet spraying for ticks around their house like they do all summer. It’s expensive, but it keeps us safe, or safer, from ticks.

About a month later, I wrote to my doctor complaining of persistent, debilitating headaches. He suggested it was stress-related because we were in the final stretch of opening UG. He prescribed me Amitryptilyne. I never took it (although, fast-forward, I do take it now).

That whole fall of 2010, I felt strange. I had sensations that I was falling backwards, my limbs felt funny, I had headaches and memory loss. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t right. I went to the same doctor in January 2011 and he gave me every test in the book, hoping to disprove his initial concern that I had MS. He did not give me a Lyme test. All of my tests came back negative – I was the picture of health. He told me to get more rest, try to relax and do more yoga. He said I was suffering from the exhaustion that so many new mothers feel.

I went back to him a year later. It seemed a pattern was arising – I was okay in the spring and summer, and then got sicker and sicker through the fall and holidays. By January I was a mess. We are now in January 2012. Again, every test but a Lyme test was performed. Again, I was declared fine. My doctor’s advice? Try to ask TJ to help more around the house….you seem overwhelmed.

By January of 2013 I was in agony. My jaw was practically locked shut. I had migrating joint pain – one minute in my elbow, the next in my knee. That spring my knee stopped working. I was having agonizing knee pain, but there was no diagnosis. I had no memory function. I was messing up words, confused, and had so much brain fog that I would sit at my computer for hours just staring at the screen.

And the headaches. The headaches were unbearable. I remember once begging TJ to take me to the hospital, and then remembering that we were hosting a group of women at UGSE for Smarty Boston and I was supposed to give a presentation. I got up, got dressed, put on make-up, went in and gave a killer talk to the group, cried the whole way home and had to crawl to bed. No one but TJ knew how much pain I was in. TJ and I devised a safe word that I could text to him if things were really bad and I was unable to care for the kids – “Eskimo.” I used it more than once. I would just like to pause here and say, my husband is amazing.

The summer of 2013 I retreated to my parents house after a whole new round of doctors at not one but now two major Boston hospitals could not figure out what was wrong with me. And, no. I was never given a Lyme test. The latest doctors’ advice – “Maybe you should consider an anti-depressant, you seem really down.” And “Maybe some time away would help you clear your head.” I was basically unable to care for the kids, at least not in any coherent, present, loving way. I could barely take care of myself. I was having episodes of vertigo, crushing headaches, jaw and knee pain, memory issues, fatigue, and yes, I was depressed. Honestly? Who wouldn’t be? I could barely get a doctor to believe how sick I was, much less come up with a practical solution.

On the Vineyard, I started seeing a physical therapist and acupuncturist for some pain relief. On my initial intake they both said the same thing to me, “You have Lyme Disease.” When I mentioned this to my doctor over email, it barely registered with her. All I got was a vague maybe, with a more concrete admonishment that we couldn’t chase down all the guesses of these Vineyard practitioners. I knew that to get healthy I had to get out of the major hospitals and find a whole new kind of medicine.

I will save you the tedium of how I came to advocate for myself, found a doctor who would listen to me, and get a Lyme test (guess what, it was positive). I’ll also save you the ins and outs of my treatment, but it involved several months of herbs and antibiotics. Even more painfully, it involved no alcohol. I’ll skip to the total out of pocket cost for my Lyme diagnosis and treatment – $17,000. None of which was covered by insurance, because the hospital I was affiliated with wouldn’t treat me. Or maybe it’s more fair to say didn’t know how to treat me. Which ever you choose, the result is the same.

When you have Lyme in your body for three years, undiagnosed and untreated, it wreaks havoc with your systems. I now have an aggressively auto-immune body. The easiest way to think about it, for me, is that my immune system spent so long fighting something, that now it just attacks whatever it can find. That includes my thyroid, my inner ear, who knows what else. I live in a constant state of inflammation and pain. My headaches remain, to the point that I have started getting Occipital Nerve Blocks in the nerves around my head and jaw just to get relief (I get these at the Faulkner which is like a totally different universe in terms of compassion from what I was used to). I take a low dose of amitriptilyne every night to help with my joint pain and headaches. I have to watch everything that I eat. I should be eating even better than I do. I have found most of my answers on-line and on blogs, not from the established medical doctors in Boston. A few months ago I saw a well-respected rheumatologist to see if there was anything else I should be doing to ease my pain. He told me to take fish oil and work out. He also told me that he believes I never had Lyme.

Doctors like the one who wrote this article and who gleeful mock people with Lyme on Twitter maintain that Lyme is rare – and that these rare cases are easily diagnosed, treated and cured. It seems like a game to them, to maintain that the world is flat, and that they are right because they’re “The Doctors.” As one doctor in this long, useless line of doctors said to me, “We can’t test for something we don’t believe exists.” But here is the important part – a medical system that doesn’t believe in a disease completely misses early stage cases of Lyme that can be treated and cured long before they become debilitating. These doctors are failing us long before they mock us. Their disbelief is the reason that patients are being felled by Lyme.

When I read that ridiculous article on Wednesday, I spent the rest of the day shaking. Literally shaking. I was thrown right back into the disbelief, the mocking, the being made to feel crazy. And then I decided NO. I’m not letting someone do this to me again. I am not going to let someone call this disease FAKE. I am not going to let someone call people with this disease QUACKS. I am not going to let someone refer to Lyme sufferers as CRAZIES. I am not going to let someone say that Lyme disease has no lingering effects on people. I mean, did we tell little Bobby to throw off his iron lung and get over it after Polio?

I am not going to let these people call themselves AUTHORITIES IN MEDICINE without saying this – your arrogance is having devastating effects on your patients. Your arrogance says more about you, and modern medicine, than it will ever say about people with Lyme Disease.


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Reclaiming the Old Fashioned

January 16, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

If we are what we drink, then I am a genetic combination of Gin & Tonics and Bourbon Old Fashioneds. These were the two drinks that I saw made in my home with any regularity – actually, with quite a bit of regularity – when I was growing up. Gin & Tonics from April 15 to October 15, Old Fashioneds for the other six months of the calendar. Start and finish dates were weather dependent, but roughly coincided with the tax filing deadlines. 

Once on my own, I fully embraced G&Ts. They were my drink of choice at every bar before the cocktail craze came to Boston, and they’re still the number 1 drink I make for myself at home, especially in the summer, and with far more attention to the ingredients than my dad’s version. But the Old Fashioned? That one took a little while to grow on me. 

My mother loves Old Fashioneds, and her recipe goes something like this: muddle a flaming red cherry (the more carcinogenic red dye the better) with a small slice of 5 day old orange, fill glass with minimal ice, pour in one drop of simple syrup and one drop of bitters. Fill the rest of your double old fashioned glass with Makers Mark. Do NOT add water, I repeat, do NOT add water. Make sure dinner is cooked before you start drinking, because that first sip is going to knock you on your ass for the rest of the night. I can force down her version when I have to, but honestly, it’s a little bit like lighting my face on fire. I need to dump half of it out and pour in orange juice just to get it down.

I don’t think I’d really ever had a proper old fashioned until this fall when TJ and I went out to dinner at Bistro du Midi and we shared one there (one glass, two straws, we’re cute like that). A real old fashioned is really freaking good. Fast forward to New Year’s Eve when one of our guests brought pre-batched Old Fashioneds. That guest happened to be Dave Willis from Bully Boy. I had a sip of TJ’s and once again was blown away – so balanced, so dry, just the right hint of sweetness. From that moment, I’ve been utterly hooked. I’m still working through a bottle of Dave’s pre-batch, and am already feeling the shakes I’m going to have when that bottle runs dry. 

What I’ve realized is this – Old Fashioneds are better with whiskey than they are with bourbon. As much as I love it, bourbon is too dominating, too sweet, too clunky. You need a spirit that will integrate a little better, and let the other flavors have their share of the spotlight. 

Here is a recipe I’ve been making, and I like it quite a bit. It’s from the Williams Sonoma drinks guide. 

3 dashes Angustura bitters
1 orange slice (I’ve been using clementines)
I lemon wedge (this is not traditional, but I approve. Traditionally there was just a piece of lemon peel as a garnish. I like how citrusy the wedge makes it, but I am a real lemon-aholic. If you don’t love lemon, just leave this one out.)
1 maraschino cherry (no, just no. Come get the Luxardo cherries at UG. They blow the others away)
1 sugar cube (who has sugar cubes? Not me. Keep some simple syrup in the fridge and add to taste)
2 1/2 fl oz of whisk(e)y – Canadian, American, Irish, Japanese….play around with it and see what feels right. We’ve been using the Bully Boy American Whiskey because it’s affordable and tastes really great in this drink. 

Muddle everything in a glass, fill with ice and add the whiskey. Stir. I add a quick splash of water, but that’s usually because I’ve added a little more than 2.5 ounces of whiskey. After all, I am my mother’s daughter. 







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Dill Bread – A 1970′s Throwback

January 15, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

On this throwback Thursday, I offer you the recipe for my mother’s iconic dill bread, which given its list of crazy ingredients, surely must have originated in the 1970s. In fact, I vaguely remember my mother originally serving this with her also iconic 1970s treasure, the hot dog casserole. It was a different time. There’s no judgement here. 

Anyway, my mom used to make dill bread every Thanksgiving and then she just stopped. While I understand that as her family grew to include spouses and grandchildren, something had to give, I have missed my yearly love affair with this bread. But I’ve always been too scared to make it myself because it involves yeast, and letting the bread rise, and things like punching down – all kitchen techniques that have petrified me for as long as I can remember. 

Fast forward to December 27th, when I was flipping through a cookbook that TJ gave me for Christmas, Homemade. In it was an incredibly easy recipe for homemade bread – with pictures! Step by step pictures! As I sat there looking at them, I realized that yes, I CAN make bread! And just like that my first homemade loaf was born. 

Buoyed by my success with the Homemade bread, I decide to dive right in and tackle my mom’s dill bread. The recipe I have from her left much to be desired – there were no step-by-step pictures, first of all, and very little in the way of suggestions for technique. So I just applied what I had done with the first bread to the second bread. The result was spectacular, but very different from my mother’s dill bread. Hers is more delicate and airy, mine was more dense and robust. Both had their pros and cons. Regardless of the difference in texture, my bread, just like hers, tasted out of this world, especially when cut into thick slices, toasted and slathered in butter. This is the single best way to eat dill bread, because the edges get all dark and crusty and the butter melts into all the nooks and crannies. 

So many people have asked for this recipe since I posted the picture on Instagram that I decided to put it up here. The technique you use is really up to you, lord knows that after four loaves of rising bread to my name, I am no expert. I’d love to hear from you if you make it, or have you send me bread making suggestions in general. 

Brad Morash’s Dill Bread

1 package dry yeast (already I veered off course by using 2 1/4 tsp of instant yeast)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup….wait for it….creamed cottage cheese (they do not seem to make this anymore, just buy small curd and smash it)
2 T sugar
I cup minced onion (little, little, little)
1 T butter, melted
2 tsp dill seed (impossible to find – I finally scored some at Stop and Shop)
1 tsp salt
1/4 soda (I’m assuming this means baking soda. Who knows)
1 egg, beaten
Lots of fresh chopped dill (an addition that came later, possibly in the 90s)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour  

Okay, I know you’re grossed out by the cottage cheese, but just stick with me. 

Heat the cottage cheese to lukewarm. I also stirred the butter into the cottage cheese to melt it. There is no mention of melting the butter at all, but how else are you supposed to get it into the batter not in a giant ball? This is not explained, so I improvised. 

Soften the yeast in the warm water. 

In a mixing bowl combine cottage cheese, sugar, onion, butter, dill seed, salt, soda, egg and softened yeast. Add flour to form a stiff dough, beating well after each addition. Ok, let’s pause here. I did not get the sense that I should be using a mixer up until this point, did you? So the “beating well” confused me. I just used a spoon and stirred it all together to form the big ball. I was worried about over mixing. 

Cover and let it rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size, 50-60 minutes. Mine took a little longer to rise, I think because I used different yeast. Our kitchen was freezing, so I stuck it in the oven which has a pilot light where it was nice and toasty. Thank you google for this tip. 

Stir down the dough. Listen, I have no idea what in the hell this means. So I took the dough out, put it on parchment with some flour and punched it down about six times. I think this is why mine was denser than my mother’s. To me, punching down was punch, fold, flip, punch, fold, flip…repeat six times. Who knows if that is right (I am inspiring no confidence in you, I realize, but my point is….I think this is hard to mess up). Form into a cute little ball (this part is seriously satisfying. It is so adorable at this stage). Let rise again for 45 minutes. 

Here it is after the second rise. 

Turn into a well greased 8 inch round. This is what the directions say. WTH?! I vaguely remember my mom baking this in some sort of small cake pan. But then she switched to regular bread pans. Lacking all sense of direction, I went back to the Homemade bread recipe and used her technique, which follows. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with a dutch oven inside of the oven. When the oven is preheated, lift the bread up on the parchment and place it in the dutch oven, with the parchment sticking out the sides. Immediately put the lid on top. Stick that whole thing in the oven. After 30 minutes take off the lid. After 20 more minutes, voila. A perfect boule of bread – crispy on the outside, soft and lovely on the inside. Mine was way more free form than my mom’s, which is a true loaf. 

When it comes out of the oven, rub a stick of butter all over the top and sprinkle with salt. This step is vital, do not skip it!

So there we have it. The most confusing recipe for bread ever written. Play around with it and let me know how you like it! Maybe next week I’ll put up the hot dog casserole recipe, which I actually do have too! 





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New Beers Eve

January 14, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

*Having a dinner party in the coming weeks? Take a little inspiration from Brendan’s “New Beers Eve,” a five course food and beer pairing menu that he served this past New Year’s Eve. 


Ringing in the new year with a party is a time-honored tradition, but several years ago I decided to put my own twist on it. Every New Year’s Eve, I invite over a dozen or so friends, and prepare a multi-course feast, with a different beer selected to pair with each. While the pairing of food and beer isn’t nearly as universally done as that of wine and food, the vast variety of beer styles makes it endlessly fun to find the perfect beer for any dish. This was the fifth year we celebrated this tradition at my home, and it continues to be a great opportunity to play around with beer pairings and ring in the new year properly with friends.

Some years I try to put together a theme for the beers, some years the food, and some years I simply decide to find a few courses or beers that I want to try and go on from there. Last year’s theme was quite fun: I honored the Red Sox championship season by selecting a beer from every city that they’ve defeated in a World Series. I decided to stay simple with this year’s theme, going with Boston-based brews, all (by remarkable and totally unplanned coincidence) available at our very own Urban Grape.

I like to start these dinners informally, both to give myself a bit of breathing time before the whirlwind begins in the kitchen, and of course to give my guests leeway on the start time as they fight their way into Somerville on New Year’s Eve. The first course was home-baked bread with an assortment of cheeses, while opening a few bottles of Mystic Brewery’s Table Beer. This light, easy-drinking saison is the perfect opener, with enough intriguing character from Mystic’s farmhouse yeast to hold up to the rich cheeses while not overwhelming the palate.

We then gathered at the table to officially start the dinner with a cheddar and curry-roasted cauliflower soup. For beer, I chose Slumbrew’s Trekker Tripel, a rich, sweet Belgian-style ale with notes of fruit and clove to complement the spicing and earthy notes of the soup.

The soup done, we moved on to a blood orange, beet, and fennel salad, alongside Trillium Brewing’s outstanding Fort Point Pale Ale. Every one of Trillium’s beers is a thing of well-crafted beauty, but the Fort Point Pale’s delicate blend of citrusy hop and lightly sweet malt make it stand ever so slightly above the rest for me. The hearty beets and light blood orange paired perfectly with the ale.

The first of the meat courses was an ale-marinated sesame-ginger chicken with carrots and cranberries alongside the Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, Sam’s take on the Flemish red style. Based on their Kosmic Mother Funk, a sour ale brewed with wild yeast and friendly bacteria, this beer opens with earthy, challenging barnyard notes, but finishes with a wonderfully sweet-tart bite.



As it was a winter meal, the feast will took turn for the hearty with a plate of mustard-glazed short ribs and herbed polenta. The ribs were braised in and paired with Idle Hands’ Brunhilda, a Munich-style dark lager. The dark roast of the beer will stand up to even the richest of meats, but its relatively light body and sweet fruit notes added a touch of contrast to the heavy umami of the dish.

The meal finished with a dessert of pumpkin ice cream with whipped mascarpone. Since it was the end of the night, everyone was well served by a slow-sipping beer that could be enjoyed over the course of a lingering conversation. I decided that Our Finest Regards, a barleywine by Pretty Things, would work best. Richly sweet and thick without being syrupy, a good barleywine on a cold winter’s night makes everything seem better. The dark fruit notes and intense malt of the beer complemented the ice cream exceedingly well.

As an avid home chef, the possibilities of pairing were a big part of my early explorations in craft beer. Few experiences are as joyful and relaxing as a properly-cooked meal from one’s own kitchen, accompanied by a well-crafted brew. If you’re intrigued by the world of beer but unsure of how to start, food’s as good a place as any, maybe best of all. And if you’re ever in need of advice on the best beer for a great meal, we’ll be happy to help you find the right brew.


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Spotlight Wine: 2012 Faust Cabernet (Napa, CA)

January 13, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

2012 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, CA)

Faust Cabernet Sauvignon has very quickly become an iconic California brand. It’s relatively easy to find, it is always reliably tasty right out of the bottle, and most importantly, has more quality than the price conveys. Compared to other Napa Cabs, Faust is inexpensive for what is contained inside the bottle. Today, at 25% off, it’s even more affordable! 

The 2012 vintage was ideal. Everything trucked right along according to schedule thanks to ideal weather at bud break and bloom. The summer consisted of warm nights and cool evenings, and harvest was dry and orderly. It’s the type of growing season that many regions in France are begging for! 

Faust is primarily Cabernet, with a touch of Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot blended in for depth. The palate tastes lusciously of cassis and cocoa. You can age this wine, of course, but the beauty is in its pop and pour-ability. It’s ready to go today, and will taste delicious from the first sip to the last. 

This is an ideal winter sipping wine. It is a perfect match for food, yes, but it’s also approachable enough for an afternoon by the firing, enjoying a glass of wine and a wonderful book (I cannot recommend All The Light We Cannot See more highly if you’re searching for your next tome!).  

Regular Price: $55/bottle

15% per Bottle Discount: $46.75/bottle
25% four-bottle Discount: $165 ($55 savings at $41.25 a bottle) 
*That’s like buy 3, Get 1 Free! 




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TJ Talk on Whiskey – A Wrap-Up!

January 12, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

Last night’s TJ Talk on Whiskey was easily our best event at The Urban Grape, and that is saying a lot because we’ve had some truly amazing educational classes there. We were lucky enough to have three people who are passionate about whiskey giving talks – Manny Gonzalez, the Beverage Director at Saloon and Foundry; Dave Willis, Co-Founder of Bully Boy Distilling; and Troy Clarke, Director of Spirits Education for United Liquors. 

There were lots of take-aways from the night, but here are the most important ones: 

- The evolution of whiskey in the United States, as well as in countries like Ireland, has been directly influenced by the government and their attempts to tax small farm distillers’ income on the earliest forms of whiskey. 

- The earliest American whiskies were from states like Pennsylvania. But taxes forced these farmers South to states like Kentucky, where the water and the grains were different – instead of wheat and rye, they had to use corn – and Bourbon was born.

- Whiskey is incredibly terroir driven, not only by the grains that are used, but more importantly by the water. What elements the water has to travel through in the ground make a significant difference in the whiskey. 

- Whiskey is booming, both domestically and internationally. The Asian markets are buying up our American stock faster than we can produce it. This is why we are seeing domestic whiskey shortages, especially on brands like Pappy. 

- The demand for whiskey has coincided with bad luck for whiskey producers – a number of cooperages (barrel makers) went out of business in the 80s when everyone was drinking vodka and whiskey was considered the “old man’s” drink. The remaining coopers can’t keep up with the demand for barrels, and recent weather issues have meant that the American Oak used for barrels has not been growing reliably. Barrels that cost $100 in 2010 when Bully Boy started, now cost $400. These factors and the global demand are going to add up to higher whiskey prices. 

- Irish Whiskey, a spirit that traditionally has not sold well at The Urban Grape, has seen the highest growth in recent years. In 2002, 434,000 cases of Irish Whiskey were sold in the US. In 2013, that number had jumped to 2.5 million cases. That’s a 485% increase in just 11 years. And it’s not the junky stuff that is selling – the highest growth areas are in High End (aged 5-18 years) and Super Premium (aged 18+ years). You can expect UG to dive into Irish Whiskey in 2015, and find the most unique offerings available. 

- There are many countries that can help us fill our whiskey shortage. For example, in Japan, they are used to producing for a huge market – their own country. As whiskey from other countries increases in popularity in Japan, they will export more of their whiskey here. Japanese whiskey is a perfect entry point for new whiskey drinkers (a selling point we’ve been using since we opened), it’s food-friendly, soft, fragrant, and accessible. I’ve written many times that I have trouble drinking whiskey neat. Not so with Japanese Whiskey. But it’s not one-note either – even experienced whiskey drinkers like TJ love Japanese whiskey. 

- But Japan isn’t the only country that is seeing its whiskies explode on the US Market – Canada, Scotland, Ireland, even countries like India and Taiwan, are producing whiskies of excellent quality. 

- Local distilleries are also helping to fill the shortage. Local means something to consumers now – we are proud to drink Boston whiskey that comes from here and reflects our heritage (if water adds all the character to a whiskey, then you gotta love that dirty water!). Bully Boy has seen enormous growth since it opened in 2010, to the point that they will be moving into a new distillery in May that will increase their production from one barrel a week to a barrel a day, with a barrel room for aging. This is amazing news for people that love their brand.

I could write 100 more bullet points, but I want to talk about my favorite whiskey from the night – one that was also the biggest surprise for me and TJ.

We were absolutely blown away by the Redbreast 15 year Pot Stilled Irish Whiskey. Pot  stilling was the original form of whiskey distilling in Ireland, but it fell out of favor (honestly, it all comes back to the government and taxes) and what we think of as Irish Whiskey – a lighter, blended spirit – dominated the market. Redbreast is now riding the wave of a return to pot stilling, which makes a creamier, more complex style whiskey. 

Now normally I would turn away from a creamier, more complex whiskey. After all, I have just declared my love for light and accessible! The honeyed aromas of this whiskey alone were enough to make me fall in love. Despite being creamier and more robust that most whiskies that I like, this didn’t lead to a viscosity that I was anticipating/dreading. Instead it just made the entire mouthfeel incredibly smooth. There was fruit, spice, and lots of cozy caramel goodness on the palate. Just delicious. 

So what did we learn last night? That there is a lot left to learn. So hang up your love affair with Pappy. It’s time to move on. There is a whole world – literally – of whiskey waiting for you to try! 

A huge, huge thanks to Manny, Dave and Troy for their fantastic efforts to make last night truly memorable. 


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Better For What?

January 8, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

*Curtis wrote this blog for me in December, but I’m just getting it on here today. I love what he has to say about UG. We’re selling wine by making a connection to you, and not just looking for the best for best’s sake, but asking “Better for WHAT?” 


One Sunday morning a few weeks back, a bit older young man walked into our Chestnut hill store and asked “I see from the signs on your window, that you are a best of Boston store, what makes your store better?”

Before showing him, I thought of  famed wine importer, Kermit Lynch’s reply, when asked if a particular wine was better than another, “Better for what,” he asked? (I’m making this next sentence up) Are you turning one hundred and eating Sea bass with Jesus, or having a frozen pizza with broccoli and sausage after a hard days work. You get the point.
 Through the thoughtfully chosen products we sell, our progressive racking system, and the mindfully chosen people with whom we are blessed to have sell them, we answer that question, and convey that notion.

To me, Urban Grape is about the classic, yet now seemingly progressive way of truly, and intuitively connecting with people, which in turn allows them to connect with a treasure they will enjoy going home with. It is progressive drinking, via connective thinking. It is simple.  People like connection. When they don’t, the world gets expressive art like that found in Edvard Munch’s painting, “The scream.”

We pride ourselves on our concierge like service. We relish connection. It is why we are here, helping find that treasure, for that moment, with that story-in a way that conveys subjectively, the realization of an ancient Chinese philosopher: “When you turn your back on the object-you will find the subject.” And therein lies the treasure.

The days of the objective thinking, number scoring wine critic are coming to an end. Wine is again returning to the realm of the subjective.  Progressive shops like Urban Grape are offering the refreshing service of humanistic connection- finding the right treasure, for the person, intuitively, with stories-and by raising the question, “better for what?”

A new customer stated to me recently, “I don’t recognize any of the products in your store?” Wonderful, that’s so good I thought.  Thats the same thing I noticed the first time I visited Paris, and I always want to go back! You’re beautiful Paris, don’t ever change.

I’ll close my thoughts with a quote on loan to me, via my 12 year old daughters skype profile:

” if you spend your life comparing yourself to everyone around you, you will never be happy.  There’s always going to be somebody who’s killing it but the good thing is, you are going to be killing it in your own way”-Tyler Oakley


On a more objectively subjective note, of the 143 bottles of Tesseron, Master Blend Cognac 100 that exist in the entire world, We have two?! How can they still be here, I think-every single day.

The cognac for this blend originates in The Tesseron Caves, a treasured and undisputed underground source for rare cognac. It is taken from sealed glass vessels that date back to the late 19th century!

That about puts it on a table at the Lapin Agile- In the hands of a Modigliani, an Oscar Wilde, Degas, Renoir, or  maybe a Suzanne Valadon, sitting at the piano with Eric Satie-about to tell him something he won’t like, but will cause him to make some interesting music nonetheless.  


I finished this picture of my daughter, her Christmas card, while I was writing this post. I made it on the lid of a Rivetti, La Spinetta Barbaresco crate. I think it captures some of the spirit within the text. I call it: “To the Moon and Back.”

Hope you’ll be killing it this new year, and into the next - in a way all your own.


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Spotlight Wine: Owen Roe “Chapel Block – Red Willow Vineyard” Syrah

January 6, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

2011 Owen Roe “Chapel Block – Red Willow Vineyard” Syrah

As New Englanders, our palates and food tastes change in winter. We crave heartier, warming foods. I always say I’m building a sweater under my sweaters that keeps me warm! Because our food changes, our wines change too. We go for creamier wines with robust body and flavors. Our liquid sweater, if you will. 

Today’s spotlight wine from Owen Roe fits this bill perfectly. This 100% Syrah is rich and creamy enough to stand up to our stews and braises. But more importantly, it maintains its elegance and finesse. This all adds up to a wine that you can sip while dinner is cooking, but that takes to food beautifully. 

A very small production wine, this vintage received a 94 from both Parker and Wine Enthusiast. But all the reviews pale in comparison to TJ’s tasting note – “Man, this wine is so so awesome.” Expect the finest aromas and flavors that Syrah has to offer – rich cassis aromas burst into big cherry flavors with comforting hints of brown sugar and spice.

Regular Price: $55

15% off per single bottle: $46.75

25% off Four Bottles: $165 ($55 savings at $41.25/bottle) That’s Like Buy 3, Get 1 Free!




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Holiday Detox Soup!

January 5, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

At our first holiday party on December 6th, TJ and I went all out – we brimmed with excitement that electrified, and stayed out until the babysitter begged us to come home. Our outfits matched our attitude – we were sparkly, polished, and decked out in our best. 

Fast forward to our last holiday party on January 2nd, our annual staff party. Despite holding it at our house, and despite the fact that it was an incredibly fun evening, I left the party and went to bed at 12:30, barely able to stay awake for another second. TJ stayed up until 3 AM, not partying, but cleaning our house of every holiday entertaining apparatus – decanters, glasses, make-shift bars, cake stands – you name it, it was all back where it belonged. Within an hour of waking up the next morning, the tree was down and the ornaments packed away for a year. We were holiday-ed out. 

Anxious to get our waist lines back on track after a month of excess, I knew we needed a meal that we could eat a lot of, without it being packed full of calories. We needed something to fill those stretched out holiday bellies. I turned to a Curried Vegetable Stew that I had this fall at book club. It did the trick and got us right back on track. Despite a serious craving for a glass of wine, we paired the stew with spearmint tea from David’s Teas, and an early night to bed. If you’re craving something filling, but light, this week, than look no further than this recipe (originally found on Kitchn, although I have made some small adjustments. You might want to read the original recipe first to see which you prefer). 

Curry Vegetable and Chick Pea Stew
Serves 8-10

1 T coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
2 baking potatoes, peeled and diced (see note at the end of the recipe)
1 T salt
1 T plus 1 tsp curry powder
1 T brown sugar
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 c vegetable broth
2 16 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
black pepper
10 ounces baby spinach
1-2 cups coconut milk (I used light)
Garnish with: cilantro, yogurt, roasted hazelnuts or peanuts

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion with 1 tsp of salt until translucent, add the potatoes and another tsp of salt, sauté until just translucent around the edges (they will stick to your pan, not to worry).

Stir in the curry, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, then deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of broth. Pour all this into a slow cooker. Then add rest of broth, chickpeas, peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes and juices, pepper and final tsp of salt. Stir to combine. The liquid should come half-way up the sides of the bowl. Cover and cook four hours on High.

Stir in the spinach and coconut milk (I added less broth and more coconut milk at the end, because I wanted that flavor more pronounced, this is obviously up to you). Taste for seasonings – I found that it needed quite a lot more salt, and lots of pepper. This probably depends on your broth, but don’t be afraid of adding salt. It really needs it to make all the flavors come together.

Garnish with Greek yogurt, cilantro, roasted and split hazelnuts or whatever you’ve got on hand. I also ate it the next day with fresh avocado on top.

**I personally will make this with sweet potatoes next time, as I think it would make it even more delish! 




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24 Day of Giving: December 22nd!

December 22, 2014 by: The Urban Grape


At times, my worlds as co-owner of The Urban Grape, and co-parent of two kids come crashing together, and one has to give. This is where TJ and I find ourselves three days before Christmas, with two stores to run and two kids who have been desperately sick since Friday. Here’s what we’ve decided – I’ll handle everything at home, TJ will go and work between the two stores to help you all with your last minute shopping. 

So this is the inglorious end to what has been a glorious gift guide. Here are is our last minute advice: whatever you need alcohol related, we’ve got it at UG. We can suggest it, we can wrap it, we can deliver it. 

Here are our hours of operation for the next three days: 

South End - 
Monday: 10-10
Tuesday: 10-10
Wednesday: 9-6

Chestnut Hill -
Monday: 10-8
Tuesday: 10-8
Wednesday: 9-6

Thank you, everyone, and Happy Holidays!!



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