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C. Paul Luongo's Published Columns

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stanhope Grille


Jurys Boston Hotel

Jurys Hotel opened four years ago at the former site of the Boston Police Headquarters in Back Bay at the corner of Stuart and Berkeley Streets. Stephen Johnston is the General Manager and has done a wonderful job running 223 superior and deluxe guest rooms plus two executive suites and an elaborate Presidential Suite.
Young Bostonians are drawn to the CUFFS bar on the lower level, before entering the main dining room, The Stanhope Grill. I1 BARISTA is a bar-lounge on the main floor.
The STANHOPE GRILL has prepared a new menu for the current season which includes specialties such as Braised Lamb Shank ($34), Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin ($30), Pan Seared Ahi Yellow Fin Tuna Steak ($31) and Fresh Herb Tagliatelle Pasta ($22).
We began by sampling exotic two portion carafes of martinis from their “Most Wanted” list ($11), including a Green Monster named in honor of the Red Sox, as well as a Watermelon Martini.
Our dining adventure commenced with an Amuse Bouche consisting of a pan seared scallop in a light Miso and PonZo glaze. Fresh Focaccia Bread with delicate herbs, olive oil and imported Irish butter, was a fabulous beginning to a lovely evening. We split an order of Tagliatelle Pasta, tossed with asparagus, olive oil poached tomatoes, kalamata olives and spinach that can be garnished with pecorino Romano cheese. It was the most delectable pasta dish I’ve had in a long time, exceeding the North End and yet prepared by an Irish Chef!
I had the Casco Bay North American Atlantic Cod ($28), bacon crusted and served with a lentil ragout, Chanterelle mushrooms, smoked tomatoes and pearl onions. It is so good, the Chef should win a Culinary Oscar! My assistant, Marion, had a 12 oz. Northeast Family Farms Sirloin $38 with a Pinot Noir risotto cake, asparagus and red onion jam accompanied by a Bordelaise sauce. She reported a savory melt-in-your mouth beef. Susan, another guest, had the Niman Ranch pork chop ($30) on the bone, cooked to perfection – thick, juicy and well-trimmed, served with a Vermont goat cheese bread pudding and steamed spinach with a mustard sauce and pancetta. The flavors combined to create a hearty celebration of the harvest season.
There also is an extensive list of domestic and imported wines.
Deserts ($8) include Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake with Chantilly cream to die for, Chocolate Fondant with espresso ice cream and Jameson carmel sauces, peach sorbet, Mango Crème Brulee and several others including home made ice cream.
The STANHOPE GRILL is tucked behind CUFFS BAR. Low ceilings, walls covered in textiles and a comfortable mix of banquettes and stand along tables.
The STANHOPE GRILL is open for lunch and dinner, 7 days and breakfast is served both buffet style and a la carte with a special Irish breakfast ($17) two eggs, home fried potatoes, black and white pudding, rasers & sausage, Bachelors baked beans, grilled tomato and brown bread. Whew! This breakfast will last you for days and is worth every dollar bill! Brunch is available on Saturday from 7:00 am to 11:30 am and Sunday from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm.
An inexpensive menu at CUFFS served day and night includes such favorites as BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich ($9), CUFFS Blackened Burger ($13), ¼ pound Hot Dog ($9), Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($10) and Lobster Roll ($16).

350 Stuart Street
Boston, MA 02116

Hotel Telephone – 617-266-7200
Stanhope Grill – 617-532-3827
Fax – 617-266-7203
Breakfast Hours – 7:00 am – 10:30 am
Brunch -Saturday – 7:00 am – 11:30 am
-Sunday – 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
Luncheon – 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Dinner (week days) – 5:50 pm – 10:00 pm
Dinner (Friday & Saturday) – 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
All Credit Cards Accepted

November 2007
C. Paul Luongo is the President,
C. PAUL LUONGO COMPANY, Public Relations and Marketing, Boston

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Top of the Hub
52nd Floor, Prudential Towers

By C. Paul Luongo

On a clear day, you can almost see New Hampshire’s Mt. Monadnock from the Prudential Center’s 52nd floor, home of the Top of the Hub. Boasting such an impressive view over the city skyline, it is obvious why it has been a Boston attraction since 1965. General Manager Raphael Oliver has overseen the Top of the Hub through three transformations since he began in 1990. Describing this latest renovation as a “softer” look, he points to the cream-colored linens, the recently-installed wine cellars partitioning the dining space, and the clean architectural lines that come together to create a surprisingly intimate atmosphere.
The polished and expert wait staff quickly serves exotic drinks as Oliver chats amiably about his desire to continue adding to the restaurant’s growing wine list. The Three Berry Martini ($12) with Stoli Blueberi Vodka, Chambord, cranberry juice, and sweet & sour, is a heady blend of summery fruit, while the Watermelon Martini ($11) with Ketel One and watermelon liqueur is a lighter, more subtle option (without a watermelon garnish). The Silk Pomegranate Martini ($13) was a bitterly refreshing blend of Silk Vodka and pomegranate juice, and the Tropical Splash ($10) was a tropical, sweet, clean and refreshing bouquet of Bacardi “O”, Bacardi Limon, Bacardi Coco, and pineapple juice. Fortunately, for the guest who believes that calling anything except the classic Beefeater, dry with three plump olives, a martini, is near blasphemy, the Top of the Hub’s bartender understands the subtle art of creating the perfect treatment for gin.
To start, we are presented with the Tempura Shrimp ($16), attractively plated in
the elegant and simple Asian-inspired style. Biting into the lightly-battered shrimp, the pineapple glaze gives it a sweet afterthought.
As the next appetizer is brought to our table, Executive Chef Mark Porcaro explains how they prepare the Chicken Lollipops that are settled in front of us. In his
quiet way, he describes how they are steamed, drenched in corn starch and deep-fried, and then tossed in a sambal honey sauce. The plates are cleared quickly as we are served a small sampling of the Capellini Pasta ($28 for a full order) with Braised Baby Clams, Pancetta, Garlic, and Roasted Tomatoes. Additionally, the Tartar of Yellowfin Tuna ($15) with Avocado, Cilantro, and Pickled Ginger was memorable for its flavor, texture and freshness.
The soup that is brought out next is the cause of some light-hearted debate. Sopa Vermelha ($7) is a Portuguese soup with chorizo, potato, beans, and a thick, textured tomato-based broth. It is closely reminiscent of kale soup, which spurs a good-natured debate over the nature of “proper” kale soup between Oliver and Porcaro. Their congenial banter continues for a few moments as the table is cleared to make room for the entrées.
The Braised Lamb Shank ($29) with Roasted Garlic, Rosemary mashed potatoes, Lamb juice and Gremolata is a Brobdingnagain (more than a pound) serving of delectable lamb falling off the bone, and enough for two, really!
The Dry Aged Sirloin ($44), aged for 22 days, was worth the wait, perfectly served charbroiled on the outside with a cool pink-red center.
Adobo Rubbed Grilled Center Cut Pork Chop ($28) came on the bone, and was a thick, juicy mouthful. The creamy masa offered a smooth, corn-infused side dish and blended perfectly with the chunky tomato, green pepper and red onion salad heaped over the chop.
The Sauteed Salmon ($29) was heavenly, with tender, buttery meat topped with a
crispy-thin layer and served over black truffle corn polenta. The sweetness of the polenta was complemented beautifully by the 2005 Hitching Post Pinot Noir, a tarty red with a little buzz.
To finish the evening in style, trays laden with every dessert on the menu are laid on the table. The Caramelized Pineapple Vanilla Bean Tea Cake ($9) is served with Chai Tea Ice Cream and Myer Lemon-Honey Coulis. The Toasted Coconut & White Chocolate Mouse ($9) was sweet and playful, while the decadent Warm Chocolate Cake
($9) is paired with refreshing mint ice cream to contrast with the richness of the dessert.
The Crème Brûlée ($9) is dangerously addictive as their special dessert offering. The Freshly Baked Cookies ($12), including sugar, peanut butter, chocolate chip, and Heath bar, are served with Chantilly Cream and come warm and soft, straight from the oven.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect spot to host your special event, share a romantic dinner, or impress your friends from out of town, the restaurant will cater perfectly to your needs. Its welcoming and elegant atmosphere, excellent cuisine, and personable staff, (not to mention the most stunning view in Boston), make The Top of the Hub one of Boston’s most timeless gems.
Top of the Hub
52nd Floor, Prudential Towers
All major credit cards accepted.

Open 7 days a week 11:30am - 1:00am and Sunday brunch beginning at 11:00am.
The lounge hosts live music nightly including vocalists on weekends, with no cover charge, though there is a $24 minimum if seated at one of the lounge tables.
Sun & Mon: 8:00 pm-12:00 amTues - Thurs: 8:30 pm-12:30 amFri & Sat: 9:00 pm-1:00 am
August 2007
C. Paul Luongo is the President of C. Paul Luongo Company,
Public Relations & Marketing, Boston.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Beyoncé & The Summer Shack


The summer evening began with a cool pitcher of Peach Sangria at the SUMMER SHACK ($27) and it was so good that if it had not been for our tickets to see Beyoncé, I’d have stayed sipping all night! Olé!

The Sangria marinates for 24 hours with white wine, peach schnapps, oranges, pineapple and peaches, and a little sugar.

The Summer Shack as you know is our Best Seafood Restaurant in New England with locations in Boston, Cambridge, Logan Airport and Mohegan Sun. One will be opening in Atlantic City next year.

Despite the fact that their specialty is seafood, they also have the Best Hot Dog in Town at $5.50 from Pearl Kountry Club. It comes accompanied with fries and sauerkraut. They also make the best fried chicken wings in town and you can buy them singly for only $2.75 apiece.

My companion and I split their monster hot dog and chicken wings (buffalo and fried) followed by a Shack Surf & Turf special for $50, including 12 oz. of steamed king crab legs and a 16 oz rib eye steak done to perfection (I am finicky about meat being burnt to a crisp). I ordered it medium-well and it was wonderful. It also came with corn on the cob (my passion).

My companion is not a seafood person so he ordered the 12 oz. NewYork Sirloin with béarnaise sauce and fries for $26 with a special order of brown rice, $4. He approved.

For dessert I had a refreshing watermelon granite which consists of watermelon puree, sugar, ice and vodka and blended so that it forms crystals served in a cup, $8.

The Summer Shack is open seven days, 11:30AM-11PM on weekdays. ‘Til 1:30AM weekends, food service ‘til 11PM, late night menu ‘til 1AM.

All credit cards.

Reservations call (860) 862-9500.


Now about Beyoncé! My God. The show begins and pandemonium breaks loose as the screaming audience stands and dances in the aisles. A big fire is at center stage with fireworks, smoke and flashing lights all around.

Suddenly Beyoncé appears on stage at the top of the stairs in a silvery chic gown, which ultimately reduces to a short dress.

The band consists of ten female musicians, 3 back-up singers, 6 female dancers and 4 male dancers.

During the 2-hour concert with 5 costume changes, multicolored computer graphics and lights in the background, Beyoncé, who is very beautiful and has a powerful voice, begins to sing her set list which consists of CRAZY, FREAKUM, GREENLIGHT, BABY BOY, BEAUTIFUL LIAR, NAUGHTY GIRL, ME MYSELF AND I, DANGEROUSLY IN LOVE, FLAWS AND ALL, DESTINY’S CHILD MEDLEY, SPEECHLESS, I BE DAMN (GHETTO TANGO), RING THE ALARM, SUGA MAMMA, UPGRADE, BONNIE AND CLYDE, CHECK ON IT, DÉJÀ VU, GET ME BODIED, DEENA, LISTEN, and IRREPLACEABLE.

Many of the songs were co-written by Beyoncé and she has been honored by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) by receiving the Songwriter of the Year in 2005. In addition, that year, she received the most Performed Songs Award.

There are terrific keyboard and saxophone solos through the night and at a certain point Beyoncé floats down from the ceiling to the stage by gripping a giant umbrella.

There are ballet dancers and very athletic male dancers doing complicated choreography and Beyoncé even includes a DREAMGIRLS segment. The show ends with her singing Happy Birthday to everyone, which refers to her newest album B’day (short for Birthday).

Beyoncé is sure to be a superstar for a very long time.

Ticket prices were $150 to $90.75 and she packed the arena with 8,000 screaming fans.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Todd English's Tuscany


Anytime a restaurant manager comes to my table with an overflowing, fresh banana martini, I’m off to a good start! That’s exactly what David Weiler, Restaurant Manager at TUSCANY did on a recent Saturday evening prior to the FRANK SINATRA JR. show at the Cabaret.

TUSCANY has rustic charm with exposed beams with fiberglass boulders to emulate the Taughannick Falls. While there is no water flowing inside the restaurant, there is a courtyard near the falls outside with patio seating. The 55-foot high waterfall is called the Taughannick Falls because it represents a treacherous crossing point during the tribe’s migration.

There are 180 seats with a full bar for 10 seats (you can also eat at the bar) with three alcove private tables complete with curtains for privacy and a chef’s table for 10 looking into the glass-walled kitchen.

We started our dinner with delicious flatbreads with names like Arthur Avenue, Bronx Bomber, Bianco, Rustic Margherita, Tuscan and Almalfi Shrimp. They are like mini- pizza slices each with various combinations of tomatoes, mozzarella, pepperoni, basil, prosciutto, rock shrimp, scallions, etc. They range from $9 to $12 for a whole flatbread. Arthur Avenue refers to the famous Italian section of Brooklyn known for its Italian cuisine!

Next came Antipasto dell Casa, at $4 for each item, including “Vegetale” cauliflower, artichokes, peppers, etc. Salumi consists of prosciutto, mortadella, capicola and other cold cuts and finally Formaggio with a mixture of cheeses. I can’t eat cheese but made a good dent in the Salumi of prosciutto and mortadella with my flatbread and was by now sated before the entrees arrived.

But being the good critic that I am, we did manage to sample a bit of the Crispy Cod ($28) with macadamian nut crust, tatsoi salad. The cod was not flaky or tender. I also sampled Grilled Rack of Lamb ($32) with vegetable Panini, couscous yogurt (mine wasn’t well done as expected) and Garganelli, a wild boar sausage with broccolini and pasta aglio e elio. Ricotta pesto comes with this but I cannot eat it ($24). The pasta was a bit gummy.

My companions sampled the Wood Grilled Tuna with chilled noodles, stir-fry vegetables and toasted peanut ($32) which they say was very tasty, the Mahi Mahi with celery root puree, crispy oysters, plum Glaze ($32) cooked perfectly to satisfy my guests and the Filet Mignon grilled onion watermelon salsa, cornbread ($38) which they reported as “cool sweetness and warm buttery meat.”

We also sampled the Kurabutto Pork Shank with sweet potato polenta and toasted walnut salad $30. This was the hit of the evening. It’s braised by Chef de Cuisine, Jeffrey, for five hours.

As an extra attraction on Friday and Saturday evenings there is an Italian strolling guitarist who comes to your table and sings!

There are few desserts and therefore I opted for another banana martini as a wonderful way to the end the meal and prepare for the Sinatra show. The restaurant is open 7 days, lunch and dinner. Lunch reservations can be made by telephone at (860) 862-3236. Telephone dinner reservations can be made at (888) 226-7711.

Lunch is served buffet-style at the Tuscan Table everyday from 12PMto 3PM. Dinner hours are from 5PM to 10PM everyday except Saturday, when the kitchen stays open until 11PM.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Judy Garland

And Now Ladies and Gentleman, Miss Judy Garland

This 90-minute (no intermission) show opens with Judy, garbed in a white pant-suit, attempting to deal with a tape recorder in her London hotel room. She is struggling to record memories of her life for a book to be written as she needs the cash.

Through her reminiscences, we learn that she began performing at a tender two-years-old in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and appeared in vaudeville as part of the GUMM SISTERS with her siblings and parents. She complains about how many people stole money from her and reveals that it was George Jessel, the noted comedian, who gave her the last name of Garland which later became Judy Garland. This is part 1 of a 2 part presentation with Tim Evans at the piano (that I think needs tuning).

Kathy St. George, formerly a school teacher from Stoneham, plays Judy. She offers a pleasant presentation of Judy without Judy’s vibrato. Otherwise she’s mastered the hand mannerisms and hair (wig) and in Part II makes three costume changes. She first appears in a silver beaded top with blue skirt, later changes on stage behind a theatre trunk into a black dress and finally into a tramp outfit to sing, A COUPLE OF SWELLS, a song made famous in one of Judy’s movies with Fred Astaire.

During the second act she sings all the songs identified with Judy Garland, including-
ZING WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART, (which she sang as an audition for MGM,)
GET HAPPY (with Soft Hat),

There was a standing ovation in the half-empty theatre. It makes for a good summer theatre presentation and is entertaining. The show closes July 1 and plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. There is also a matinee on June 27, 2PM. For more information about the show, check out www.andnowjudygarland.com.

And Now Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Judy Garland
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tribute to Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee

Everett Longstreth Orchestra Tribute to Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, with Vocalist Amanda Carr at The Stoneham Theatre

Some things just never go out of style. Pearls. Well-made suits. And swing music. And when Everett Longstreth and his 14-piece orchestra took to the stage at the Stoneham Theatre to pay tribute to Benny Goodman, it was clear why. The precisely executed arrangements and tight integration of reeds, horns, drums, chords and ivories never fail to get toes tapping and heads bobbing.

The evening featured a wide range of Goodman’s best-known works, and was enhanced with the vocal renderings of Amanda Carr, covering songs from the more than 60-year career of Peggy Lee.

Leader Longstreth kicked the evening off with “Let’s Dance”, giving clarinetist Sil D’Urbano and alto sax player Ted Casher the first of many spotlight solos. Alas, the restored movie theatre did not have room for dancing – to the dismay of a nearly sold out crowd of 360+ (if the bouncing of the row I was in was any indication of the audience’s desire to “cut a rug”!?).

Other favorites in the first half included “Stompin at the Savoy” (another one screaming for a dance floor), “Don’t Be that Way” and “Benji’s Bubble”, a light and bouncy tune written for one of Goodman”s daughters.

Amanda Carr began her tribute to another one of Goodman’s legacies – Peggy Lee – with “Tangerine”. Dressed in a long-flowing gown, reminiscent of the days of glamour, Carr did justice to several other Lee favorites, including “It Might as Well Be Spring” and “Indian Summer.”

The second half of the show began with “A String of Pearls” (of course, what would a night of swing music be without the Glenn Miller signature tune?). Followed by “Clarinet Marmalade”, when leader Longstreth gave D’Urbano more than a moment to impress the crowd with his homage to the clarinet genius that Goodman was at the height of his career. Not to be outshone, the orchestra’s drummer Jimmy Latini, wowed the crowd on the next tune -- “Runnin’ Wild” – with a solo that lasted long enough to let the other band members lay down their instruments and lean back in the their chairs, as Latini took to the skins in a frenzy.

Carr joined the orchestra again, and spent the next 45 minutes revisiting Lee’s career, mapping her selections to the varied and ultimately troubled life of the young woman from North Dakota who lit the stage with Goodman, and for decades later. “It’s a Good Day”, marking Lee’s launch, then on to the more vamp-ish tunes Lee is known for, including “He’s A Tramp” (penned by Lee for Disney’s “Lady and The Tramp” and, according to Carr, well-suited for describing Lee’s picks when it came to men), “Big Spender”, “My Man” and “Fever”.

Illustrating the differences between the world in which Lee lived and the world we live in today, Carr sang “Mañana”, a No. 1 hit in 1954, definitely outside the realm of political correctness. Carr’s cover of “Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World”, written by Lee near the end of her career, was a sincere tribute to Lee, who’d paved the way for so many women singer/songwriters, with just the right blend of wistful tone and powerful delivery.

After nearly two hours, the evening came to close as Longstreth ended with “Swing, Swing, Swing” – as much a tune as a cheer for the wonderful sound of the big band.

Naked Comedy

Naked Comedy

The first Wednesday of every month is the Naked Comedy Showcase at the IMPROV BOSTON, Cambridge, with Andy Ofiesh as your naked host. Yet this middle-aged, be-spectacled, chubby, out of shape, owlish looking comedian spends his daytime hours as a software engineer! Yes, the whole show is naked, 7 performers, male and female, each does a naked stand-up of about 7 minutes while telling funny stories or jokes.

Most of the comics are twenty-something or early thirties. One exception is Dr. NO NO NO, a 60-ish school teacher, who asks the audience questions about lots of things to be answered by members of the audience. Yes, he too, is naked and the questions range from oral sex, to “is sex more important than money?” to children and sex, wildest sex, etc.

There’s even a BU linguistics student who performs and I asked if any of his classmates has seen him or if he is ever propositioned. It’s a no on both counts.

The club is small, 60 seats maximum with stadium seating in the center and theatre seats on each side. The show is about 90 minutes. There is no food or booze. Admission is $10 cash or online. The audience is mixed both male and female. You must be 18 or older.

Toward the end of the show Andy asks if anyone in the audience would like to perform and sure enough, on the night I was there, a young 20-something female ripped off her clothes and told stories about her hippy parents. Amazing. However, it’s not that uncommon.

When asked about some of the strangest or wildest responses from the audience, Andy was quick to reply with a story about a couple who had come to see the show. When asked if anyone from the audience would like to join the comedians on stage, the young man was quick to volunteer, and even quicker to get his female companion equally undressed because he refused to go onstage naked unless she either donned a blindfold or did the same. To the amazement of the audience, the young woman opted out of the blindfold (and her clothing) and met her boyfriend on stage.

Another comedian that I didn’t see asks if anyone would like to perform with him but they must be naked. No problem.

Andy says, “We don’t strip; we’re just naked,” and that there are similar clubs in Worcester and New York.

1253 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Diana Ross and the Paragon Restaurant

Mashantucket, CT
By C. Paul Luongo and Susan Bassett

Welcomed by a nearly sold out crowd, 63-year-old Diana Ross rocked the Fox Theatre with an energetic mix of favorites – covering her years with the Supremes, on her own and honoring women of song who inspired her.

Her entrance reflected a flair for drama, with her arrival on stage heralded by her own
cries of “I’m Comin’, I’m Comin’,” before she ascended a staircase in the middle of the stage to “I’m Comin’ Out,” dressed in a brilliant red off-the-shoulder gown and surrounded by a foamy red boa.

From that moment on, Ross’ performance was all business – solely focused on delivering the performance. Ross ran the tightly orchestrated performance like a well-oiled machine – covering nearly twenty songs and five costume changes in just over an hour. She didn’t acknowledge where she was or even comment on the enthusiasm and outpouring of love the audience offered – but the almost mechanical nature of the engagement did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm.

Backed by 2 vocalists and a 5-piece band, the Queen of Motown quickly brought the crowd to its feet with an invitation to revisit the good old days. Her repertoire covered the 40+ years Ross has been performing, hitting favorite after favorite, including “Baby Love”, “Stop in the Name of Love”, “Touch Me in the Morning”, “Sweetest Hangover”, “Love Child”, “Ease on Down the Road”.

Her band offered musical interludes between outfits – freshening up the old favorites with a Latin twist or a tribal beat, giving the audience an opportunity to linger just a little longer in those days of yore.

While the Motown, disco and soul numbers are full of heart-thumping rhythms and danceable lyrics, Ross’ singular talent came through near the end of the performance. Dressed in a white sequined gown and under a single spotlight, Ross delivered two Billie Holiday signature songs, stilling the crowd and demonstrating yet again why she is indeed one of America’s most treasured artists.


Par∙a∙gon (pār´ə-gŏn´) 1. a model or pattern of excellence. 2. the perfect name for the ultimate dining experience at Foxwoods’ Casino. Perched high atop the Grand Pequot Tower, Paragon provides an elegant venue for celebrating momentous occasions or success at the Baccarat table with superb food, attentive and skilled service and gracious atmosphere.

Paragon, one of the precious few AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurants in Connecticut, is the brain child of Chef de Cuisine Scott Micaelson, who spent 14 years at other Foxwoods’ eateries before designing and opening Paragon in 2000. From the starched white linens to the monogrammed china rimmed with platinum and hefty silverware to the slipper dining chairs, Paragon speaks of worldly indulgence – in good taste, of course. A recent visit was short, but delicious enough to leave us eager to return to experience more of the culinary excellence offered there.

Greeted warmly by the maitre’d, we were seated immediately at a table before floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a panoramic view of the valley below. Described as continental, Paragon’s cuisine reflects a mix of influences with a strong emphasis on organic, naturally raised foodstuffs. The menu, still in winter mode, was well in keeping with the fact that spring was still in hiding. The indulgence began with the evening appetizer special: a pound of Alaskan King Crab legs, steamed and served, of course, with drawn butter [market price]. Meaty, generous and presented in an elegant array, the shellfish provided a festive beginning. The second choice, a heady bowl of French Onion soup [$12] , seasoned with fresh thyme and Marsala wine, was thick with sweet flavorful onions. Topped by a large piece of thick, crusty French bread, covered in Gruyere cheese, the dish smoothed out the rough edges of a weekday and warmed body and spirit.

Warm, lavender-infused cloths were provided to wipe away any sticky residue and it wasn’t long before the steaming and aromatic main courses – Angry Lobster
[market price] and the Veal Chop “Elephante” [$42] arrived. The lobster was succulent and spicy, seasoned with browned garlic, fresh red chilis, cognac and a splash of pomodoro, tossed with a generous serving of fettucine, which unfortunately was just a little too toothsome.
The veal chop, was indeed an elephant-sized portion – barely fitting on the plate. Covered in buffalo mozzarella, pepperocini and pomodoro, the chop was just a little past the medium ordered, but the flawless balance of the sauce more than compensated – fresh, tangy and vibrant – it tasted almost of a sunny day in Italy.

An unexpected highlight was the spinach, sautéed with garlic – a perfect medley of earthy and intense flavors. The side dish selected was the quintessential seasonal vegetable – an asparagus and mushroom sauté in a brown butter béarnaise [$12]. The spears were well-trimmed and cooked with just enough rosemary to restore hope that spring may indeed arrive.

Time and capacity for rich dishes were limited and so dessert was not part of the experience at Paragon. If the winter menu’s sweet choices are any indication of promise, it’s likely that when the restaurant reopens on Mother’s Day after a kitchen renovation, those with a penchant for decadent flavors will find satisfaction at Paragon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year at the Mohegan Sun's BAMBOO FOREST

The Year of the Pig, 2007, means a year of prosperity and fortune to the Chinese people. To start a great year, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT, planned a selection of events from February 18 thru February 25. The events included the Chinese Lion Dance, a concert by a popular Chinese performer and, of course, how could there be a celebration without food! In the only Chinese restaurant at Mohegan Sun, Bamboo Forest, an excellent and authentic Chinese New Year’s meal has been prepared by Chef Lee.

Chef Lee was born in Kwongtong Province, and later moved to Hong Kong where he worked as a chef for five years. Before coming to Mohegan Sun in 1996, Chef Lee was the Chief Chef for Chinese Fortune Kitchen at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casinos in Atlantic City, following an exciting and impressive culinary career.

There are 12 different dishes on the special New Year’s menu, all with very wonderful and lucky names. The ingredients are shipped daily from New York and Boston’s Chinatown, selected by Chef Lee. They are all guaranteed to be fresh and healthy.

The first course is “Wonderful”- a soup with clams and vegetables with bean curd. The clams are very fresh; the soup is light and refreshing.

The second course on the menu is the “Cold Holiday Platter”- jellyfish with pickled pork on the side. With a crunchy and chewy texture, jellyfish is something you don’t see used in other cuisines, but it is a popular course in a Chinese restaurant.

The third course is called “Good Fortune”- a dish of dried oysters, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables over a bed of lettuce.

“Triumph” is the fourth dish on the menu. It is a traditional New Year’s plate of pigs feet and Chinese broccoli. The meat has been carefully cooked; it is not dry, and the fat does not feel greasy.

The fifth course on the menu is “Spirited”- lobster plated over a bed of Chow Fun flat noodles.

The sixth dish on the list is “Spectacular.” The name accurately implies that the dish is delectable. It includes whole abalone, dried oysters, fish mai, dried scallops, sea cucumber, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables. Fish mai tastes soft, reminiscent of tofu, and the sea cucumber is slightly chewy, like biting into a piece of pork skin.

Next on the list is “Crispy Chicken”- half of a chicken nicely fried, with crispy skin and tender meat.

The eighth course is “Catch of the Day.” It is traditional for a Chinese family to always have fish during the New Year. Fish in Chinese is pronounced “Yu”, and it has the same articulation as “to have extras.” In Chinese culture it means to always have prosperity year after year.

Next is “Buddhist Delight”- a mixture of mushrooms, vermicelli, bean curd and bamboo pith. The bamboo pith comes from the inside of a bamboo, and is both crunchy and soft and rarely seen on menus in America.

Tenth on the list is “Marvelous”- stir-fried clams with stuffed fried tofu. The tofu was stuffed with shrimp and fried to seal in the stuffing.

Next on the menu is “Seasonal Greeting”- dried scallops and bamboo pith with pea leaves. The pea leaves were very tender, and the bamboo pith was well seasoned with the dried scallops.

Last but not least on the menu is “Happiness”- fried rice with baby corn, scallions, carrots, lettuce, chives, shrimp and Chinese sausage. During the Chinese New Year it is traditional for families to have dried meat, so the sausage is an important addition to the meal. In ancient China, without refrigeration it was important to preserve food and the practice has been passed on for generations.

From the menu one can feel the passion Chef Lee puts into his career. His dishes are carefully thought out, hoping to bring good luck for the people who come to Mohegan Sun.

The prices for these dishes also have very deep meanings. In Cantonese, the number “2” is pronounced “I,” the same pronunciation with “easy,” so $22 means to have a very easy year. The number “8” is pronounced “Fa,” the same pronunciation as “to make a lot of money,” so $28 means “to make a lot of money easily.” The number “6” is pronounced “lou,” the same as “road,” and when you put 6 and 2 together you get “the road in the future will be very easy for you.” It is in his careful attention to detail where one can see the chef truly loves his job, and is thankful for every opportunity. He wants the best for the people who come to taste his food, and wishes them well in the next year.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sex in St. Patrick's Cathedra. A Snicker Kiss. Men in Thongs. What's Gone Wrong Here Promotionally!

Sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. A Snicker Kiss. Men In Thongs. What's Gone Wrong Here Promotionally!

Just this month, Boston received an apology and $2 Million for a TURNER BROADCASTING campaign gone wrong. Blinking electronic devices were left on bridges and subway stations for some crazy reason to help promote a late-night cartoon, AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE on Turner’s Cartoon Network about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a wad of meat!

What kind of insane person would create, much less approve of, such a wacky campaign? I wonder.

For the SUPER BOWL, MARS showed two men committing violence against themselves after they accidentally kiss! This would sell candy bars? Come on. Something’s gone wrong on Madison Avenue. A while ago, a beer company (whose name I won’t mention out of respect for the church) actually created a contest to sell beer, “Sex For Sam 3,” by daring someone to have sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Imagine that! This to sell beer?

What geniuses on Madison Avenue are creating these monstrous ads and wouldn’t the public know better? No wonder that Pepsi asked the public to create a Doritos spot for the Super Bowl instead of their usual “creative sources.” We obviously have a shortage of promotional talents in America if all they can do is create campaigns that are offensive, not pertinent and cause friction in the community.

MEN IN THONGS selling beer? Followed by an apology by the company for the commercial on the Super Bowl was a complete embarrassment for the company and the viewers.

And how ‘bout the jockstrap commercial for the NFL? Outrageous.

When I worked on Madison Avenue for YOUNG & RUBICAN, a large prestigious Advertising Agency, everything we did was to promote the client’s brand to sell more goods and services. Nowadays, no one pays attention to the objectives and instead focuses on creating the wackiest ads just for the sake of attention without regard to the client’s aims.

Another example is the milk campaign where celebrities are photographed with a milk mustache. This is insane. It’s been proven that the campaign has failed to sell more milk despite the fact that the campaign continues, I suppose, just for the sake of amusement. That’s expensive amusement! And Mayor Menino agrees.

Let’s go back to the grey flannel suit era where advertising and promotional campaigns had class, were pertinent, and sold the goods and services agencies were paid to produce.

We’ve gotten far-a-field, and pay attention more to gimmicks, celebrities, and non-effective ways of promotions that do nothing but waste stockholders’ money without any redeeming value.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Louis Prima, Jr.


In the fifties I went to see LOUIS PRIMA with KEELY SMITH at the old RKO BOSTON theater on Washington Street, with my mother and older sister and afterwards treated to dinner at LORDS, famous for their fried clams. This was before LEGAL SEA FOODS! (Such a treat for me who is addicted to these bivalves.) Louis is gone and Keely Smith is a friend of mine. Having seen her in New York at the REGENCY HOTEL. I was so impressed with her performance that I recommended her to Fred Taylor who books the talent at SCULLERS in Cambridge. Since then she has appeared there yearly. She’s 76, a recent widow, and her voice is as good as new!

To bring you up-to-date, now there is LOUIS PRIMA JR he lives in Las Vegas, of course. He is the product of Louis Prima’s marriage to another singer who replaced Keely Smith after their divorce. Her name is Gia Maione. She also recorded with Louis, Sr. and now lives in Florida.

Anyway, all this by way of the fact that LOUIS PRIMA, JR. is a dynamic, explosive entertainer who comes on stage with a six-piece orchestra (the Witnesses) and female vocalist, Emerald Yancey. Louis never stops moving. His arms and legs are in constant motion, he wears a business suit and tie and three earrings on each lobe. He is of medium height and 42 years old. At the early age of five he began playing the drums and by eight also played guitar. In the 80’s he formed a rock band and by 1995 returned to his father’s music.

Today, in addition to managing restaurants at Las Vegas airport, he recreated THE WILDEST SHOW set by his father in Vegas which was a top attraction for many years. He sings and plays trumpet (like his father) with all the LOUIS PRIMA hits including SING SING SING, JUMP JIVE AND WAIL, ANGELINA, JUST A GIGOLO, THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC (a favorite of mine) BUONA SERA and WHEN YOU’RE SMILIN. Louis duets beautifully with Emerald Yancey in I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN, CRAZY and OLD BLACK MAGIC. I AIN’T GOT NOBODY receives a standing ovation and he ends the 90 minute show with WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN where all of them parade through the audience playing and singing the title song. It was a bravura performance at the CABARET sold-out show for 350 excited guests, $30 cover.

Afterwards, I met with Louis backstage and asked if he was on amphetamines, and he said no, that he’s always this energetic. I also asked if he had seen many of his father’s TV shows and he hadn’t but screened some scenes of them for his show at MOHEGAN SUN. I told him we’d like to see the show in Boston and he’s willing to come! I immediately placed a call to Fred Taylor, Master Booker at SCULLERS in Cambridge to act on it.

Tommy Amarto is the Musical Director and terrific saxophone player and all of the musicians do solos on trombone, sax, trumpet, piano and guitar. From now on every time I hear the word “jump” I’ll do it just as Louis, Jr. does when he sings the word. Don’t miss this show wherever you are! And tell Louis C. Paul sent you.

Pompeii and Caesar

Dinner at Mohegan Sun - POMPEII AND CAESAR

It was the best FRITTO MISTO ($17) I’ve ever had! It’s an appetizer but let me tell you, it’s so big. You don’t need an entrée. And delicious? My, oh my! Succulent pieces of scallops, swordfish, fried shrimp, salmon, bass, and calamari were marinated 20 minutes in buttermilk and a secret spice blend, than rolled in part semolina wheat flour and fried in clean oil. FRITTO MISTO is the Italian version of the Japanese tempura.
It was followed by SPAGHETTI BUCANIERA ($23) which was a Brobdingnagian serving of pasta. It was done to perfection, not hard or very soft, just right. Instead of al dente, which often is under-cooked, it was in a perfect tomato sauce and served in a open Foccacia Bowl (edible) with oodles of shrimp, calamari and scallops. I ate it all except for the bowl. I was by now fully sated!

My companion devoured the night’s special which was a boneless breast of chicken filled with roasted red peppers, oven-dried tomatoes with sautéed spinach wrapped in prosciutto pan seared and served with a jumbo lump crab and lobster risotto ($36).
A Burgenland Riesling from Austria is ($13) per glass. Desserts included a wonderful, warm pineapple upside down cake with caramelized brown sugar sauce and coconut ice cream and tiramisu with kahlua flavoring ($8).

We didn’t have a chance to sample the entire carte du jour which included appetizers Oysters Napoleon ($16) Lobster Salad and Avocado Tier ($16) and entrees with Osso Buco and Farro ($28) Rack of Lamb ($32) and Seared Beef Tenderloin ($34).
Dennis Young is the Chef (formerly of Biba and Rialto) and I can’t wait to return for more!