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Osterville’s Slice Above

For delicious pizza, CRISP is a new Cape hot spot on Main Street, Osterville.

Osterville's Slice Above

All summer long, the buzz built about the new Osterville restaurant shaping up at the site of the former Sweet Tomatoes restaurant on Main Street.

The word was that this would be Jamie Surprenant’s new place. The talented restaurateur—whose parents started the Hyannis blockbuster Sam Diego’s in 1982—is a co-owner of both Osterville’s tony Five Bays Bistro and Falmouth’s popular Anejo Mexican Bistro.

Just in time for the Red Sox playoffs in early October, CRISP Flatbread Inc. opened its doors. Diners lined up for tables in the hip interior decorated with streamlined ambiance in low-key earth tones with pops of color. Families filled comfortable, padded booths and groups of friends settled around high top tables for a view of the Sox beating the Rays on two flat-screen TVs over the crowded marble-topped bar. Since it was a warm night, the crowd spilled over into an inviting, well-landscaped outdoor dining area that includes two fire pits, attractive seating areas, and an outdoor ping pong table.

Inside and out, friendly staff delivered steaming flatbread pizzas, cooked in a high-tech, wood-fired EarthStone oven. Pizzas flew out of the oven in just three minutes, the 900 degree fire delivering hot crusts, but delicious, soft centers. All ten tantalizing versions feature hand-crafted dough and organic ingredients.

Osterville's Slice Above

The word on the street was to try the Duck Bacon ($18), reportedly Jamie Surprenant’s favorite, a tantalizing combo of smoked duck bacon, homemade mozzarella, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, dried tart cherries, shallots, and pomegranate drizzle. My favorite was the Margherita ($14), featuring huge fresh tomatoes, big circles of melted homemade mozzarella, and garlic-infused olive oil with lots of fresh basil. Eclectic choices include the Wellfleet with cherrystone clams and bacon ($16) and the New Beige with New Bedford linguica ($15). A wide variety of add-ons are available including several cheeses, meats, seafood, and fresh vegetables.

Salad choices ($8 to $11) include a zesty Rocket with arugula, lemon, olive oil, and Parmesan; a delicious Caprese; and Caesar. Creative pasta options are all made with fresh pasta and homemade sauces. Be sure to try the Wicky Wicky Chicken Biggies featuring free-range chicken and rigatoni in spicy tomato cream sauce ($17).

Jamie Surprenant says he has long dreamed of opening CRISP. “I would drive by on my way to Five Bays and think: ‘that’s a great location to have a really good pizza restaurant’,” says Jamie. “I wanted to make this a neighborhood gathering place where everyone could come for great pizza.”

There are lots of things to like about CRISP; the interior is elegant, yet casual. The wine and beer choices include some good local brews and fine imported vintages. On warm evenings, you can gather with your friends or family for food and drinks around a fire pit, or keep the kids entertained with impromptu ping pong games.

But when all is said and done, what makes CRISP a true slice above is their pizza. The Margherita was the best we’ve tasted since we devoured a memorable pie in Locarno, Italy. And the Duck Bacon? “I just love it,” says Jamie. Pizza lovers at our table agreed. Anyway you cut it, CRISP is bound to be an Osterville hot spot all year-round.

CRISP is currently open year-round, seven nights a week for dinner at 791 Main Street in Osterville. Lunch menus are being planned for 2014. For information, call 508 681-0922, or visit crispflatbread.com.

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Port of Call

Enjoying a glass of port is synonymous with winter. Oohs and  aahs follow those first luscious sips of the season—sips that deliciously pair with nuts, Stilton cheese, a dessert course, or just by itself. Each variety of port has a different personality: some are bold and muscular, others mature and focused. But they are always sweet—and they always make a great gift.

Port of Call

Port is a wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal (authentic Portuguese port is labeled “Porto”) that has been fortified with brandy. The history of port dates back to the 17th century, when English wine merchants came to Portugal to look for new wines and encountered hearty reds infused with brandy as they fermented. Fortifying wines also kept them stable during shipping.

Port is either bottle-aged or barrel-aged, and with a few notable exceptions, it’s usually red in color. The best bottles are made with half a dozen highly regarded grapes blended together to give the wine an intense color, body, taste, and aroma. With the holidays upon us, here’s a guide to different port varieties along with a few selections available at local package stores.

Vintage is the top port as well as the most expensive. It’s made from a blend of the best grapes culled from top vineyards three or four times a decade—the years that port shippers declare to be vintage years. Vintage ports should age quite a long time before being served, and it’s best to buy a bottle that is at least 10 years old if you want to drink it right away. These are rich and dense with lots of tannins. They are also unfiltered, so expect sediment on the bottom.

Single Quinta port has a key difference from vintage ports: they are produced from grapes from one vineyard (quinta means “farm”) in a single, non-vintage year. The label displays the vineyard’s name. But single-quinta ports are crafted much like vintage ports, offering powerful berry fruit tastes that need significant bottle age to come together. They are a less expensive alternative to a port from a vintage year.

Also known as LBV, Late Bottle Vintage is a variety from a single vintage that’s aged in the barrel four to six years before being bottled. While they are not made in vintage years, they are robust, ideal for drinking right away, and usually half the price of vintage ports.

Standard Rubies are the most basic ports: young, sweet, simple, and inexpensive. These have tasty raspberry and cherry fruit flavors. You’ll find labels that say “Finest,” “Reserve,” or “Vintage Character.”

While the labels on Aged Tawny ports might say 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old, the bottles themselves haven’t actually aged that long. Rather, they are made with a blend of ports barrel-aged for different lengths of time. The age is an approximation of the taste; for instance, a variety labeled 20 years old tastes like it should be that age to the port maker. The blending and wood aging gives a pale color and silky texture with nutty, butterscotch, and dried-fruit flavors.

Lastly, Colheita is a tawny port from a single vintage that usually has woody and vanilla flavors. Port makers don’t usually keep them in large quantities. Colheita ports are usually aged at least seven years, but you might find a few that are 10 to 50 years old.

A New England Dish to Celebrate

Sometime before I was born, my parents were celebrating Christmas Eve. My dad was still a carpenter back then, and my mom worked at L. L. Bean. Her shift got off at 6:15 p.m. They were having their friends over for dinner (my soon-to-be godparents), and my mom wanted to serve pot roast to celebrate. She asked my dad to cook, and he agreed.

A New England Dish to Celebrate

When she walked in the door at 6:30, the house was curiously devoid of scent. My dad was standing in the kitchen, peeling and chopping, and she asked him what had happened to the plan. Slightly insulted, he informed her that he was making it! Couldn’t she see?

The thing about making pot roast is it takes three hours, maybe four. (I should say in my father’s defense that he has since come a long way.) My mother and father spent the next few minutes furiously chopping vegetables and cutting the meat into teeny tiny pieces, and by keeping the pot at a rolling boil, they managed to have dinner on the table at 7:15. While this is not recommended, it is certainly a nod to a long history of Yankee ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Pot roast is very much a New England dish, delicious despite its base of monotonous winter vegetables and inferior cuts of meat. There have been boiled meats and vegetables for centuries, but pot roast as we know it dates back to 1881, according to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.

The recipe my mother makes is from an older Joy of Cooking cookbook. It calls for a chuck, rump, or bottom round roast—tough, fatty cuts with excellent flavor that will eventually tenderize with heat. You dredge the meat in flour, brown it, and then throw some vegetables in.

What my mother uses varies depending on what she has on hand, but generally it’s the usual cast of carrots, potatoes, garlic, onion, or celery. Turnips are nice, as are parsnips, and she likes to add a bay leaf. Then it’s just red wine, water, and a pinch of salt, and dinner is on the stove.

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