Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cheesetique (Shirlington location) - Arlington, VA

Today I really wasn’t all that hungry and was just craving a little snack.  I figured a little cheese and chacuterie plate from Cheesetique in Delray would be perfect.  Unfortunately, I got over to the Delray location only to find that they close at 6PM on Sunday.  Yes, I know….hence the reason you should always call first.  But even so, this gave me an excuse to check out this area called “Shirlington” that borders Arlington, as Cheesetique has a location there as well.

Shirlington definitely has some buzz, with a bunch of restaurants and bars crammed into a little 2 block area.  All of the restaurants here have outdoor seating, and at 7PM on a Sunday night, I didn’t see many open seats at any of the restaurants outside.  Great night for a little dinner on the veranda.

I popped into the bar and grab a stool there.  There was just one other gentleman sitting at the bar, and a few tables here and there seated inside the restaurant.  Bartenders name was Mark, and I ordered a glass of Cotes du Rhone.  Nothing crazy or over the top, and a decent glass of wine.  Was it worth $9?  Given the markup in restaurants in this area, sure.

From the menu tonight I went with the Select 5 board, meaning I pick a combination of 5 cheeses and meats.  My choices were the Lomo, Soppressata, and Creminelli Barolo for my meats.  All of them had different characteristics, and I wish I could tell you which was which in the picture, but for the life of me I can’t remember.  The one in the bottom left was a harder meat, where the one on the top center was a nice prosciutto style, and the one on the right was nice and soft with some good smokiness to it.  I’d order these same 3 again in a heartbeat.

For cheeses I went with the Beemster, which too was nice and smokey, and had a nice firm crumble to it.  This was extremely enjoyable.  For an old standby, I went with a Young Manchego, and as always, I really love this cheese!  Can you go wrong with Manchego?  I don't think so!

Accoutrement's with the board was some fresh baked bread from Lyon Bakery, New York flatbreads, membrillo, cornichons, grapes, a nice grainy mustard, and a jelly like substance. 

In short, quality products and good service from Mark behind the bar.  This area has a nice buzz, and I will definitely be back in the future.  Next stop will be the Carlyle I think!  Cheers!

Cheesetique - Shirlington
4056 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA  22206
Phone:  (703)933-8787

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vermillion - Old Town Alexandria, VA

Well, I have taken it upon myself to make my Wednesday night the night to go out and have a good meal before I make the trek back to Jersey (assuming I am not teleworking from Jersey that week).  Tonight I decided to hit Vermillion in Alexandria, as it is just a few steps from "The Bistro South."

I sat down at the bar and was greeted by Alex, who has been my bartender before.  I ordered a glass of pinot noir, and he gave me 2 different options to "try before I buy."  Needless to say, I went the Burgundy route (2009 Jean-Michel Guillon), and was plenty happy with this.

I decided to try the tasting menu tonight, and I was very impressed.  First out was a canapé, with a pureed carrot of sorts I think.  Needless to say, this was a nice starter to wet my whistle.

Next course was a Softshell Crab BLT, that I thought was nice and creative.  The soft shells were fresh with nice flavors, though a bit on the watery side, but this happens.  This was served with a crisp smoked bacon, curly endive, 2 slices of delicious fried green tomato, and a whipped avocado. The flavors were succulent, and the preparation was very nice.  I would order this as an appetizer again in the future.

From here we went to today's Atlantic Fish selection, which was grouper, and this was by far my favorite item on the tasting menu.  This came with a perfect sized piece of crusted grouper, served over a bed of fresh market vegetables and bacon.  There were some other ingredients here as well, but I can't remember them off the top of my head.  Even so, this was very fresh, very light, and extremely delicious.  I could eat this a few times a week and never get bored!

For the steak course, I ordered a glass of cabernet (2009 Pellegrini “Cloverdale Ranch”).  This was a decent cabernet for a by the glass wine.  It was more new world and fruit forward, which is sometimes how I like them.  Tonight it hit the spot.

From here the next course was a Flat iron steak and this too was delicious.  Nice tender strips of flank steak with baked crespelle, spinach, Maitake mushrooms, and a truffle jus.  Aside from the steak, the highlight here for me was the Maitake shrooms.  The flavors were amazing, and they were cooked absolutely perfectly.

Finally for dessert was a piece of cheesecake with a pecan granola, fresh local rhubarb, and a sherry gastrique.  Though I am not a huge cheesecake fan, the flavors here were delicious, and it was a great way to close out the meal.

At the end of the day, this was a great meal, and a good value.  There were a lot of fresh flavors and ingredients, and it made for a nice meal.  As always, the service behind the bar was great, and this was Alex's 2nd to last night behind the bar before he heads to ChurchKey in DC.  I wish him the best, and will be sure to check the place out in the future.

Vermillion will be on the list for another glass of wine in the future, and as always I look forward to it.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

1120 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone:  703.684.9669

Friday, February 24, 2012

2008 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Aubaine Vineyard

Twist off and poured this tonight while waiting on some Chinese delivery for the first Friday of Lent.  Something big, that could stand up to garlic sauce and other Asian delights was in order, and this seemed to fit the bill.

Nice dark purple color in the glass, with a nice nose of black fruits.  The first thing however I noticed was the hint of tea on the nose.  It came through plain as day, and this was the first thing that I noticed.  There was also some blackberry and prune on the nose, with a hint of raisin.  The nose was definitely not what I expected, but as this opened up, I got nice hints of raspberry, and strawberry, with some star anise, baking spices, and more black tea.

On the palate, this was a bit tart for the first 15 minutes, but as it opened up, it became a great wine.  It seemed very tame and balanced compared to Loring's of the past, and that is neither a bad thing, or a good thing.  All I can say is that I LOVE Brian's wines!

On the palate, some nice black cherry and strawberry dominate.  The plum/raisin disappeared fast thankfully, and more lush raspberry came through.  This didn't seem nearly as big or ripe as some of the other wines Brian produces, and just seemed to be in good balance.

While the finish was short, it was plenty pleasant, though not overly complex.  Bottom line, for the price, this was yet another great wine from the Loring team, and worked perfectly with Chinese delivery tonight.  Kudos to Brian!  Cheers!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint - Gulfport, MS

A trip to the deep south requires a trip to get some good bbq.  As you all have seen my pictures here (maybe), but definitely on Facebook, you know my love for BBQ, and you know my love for smoking.  I love to smoke anything from meats, to nuts, to cheeses in my smoker at home, and I love BBQ even more when I don't have to make it.  So we took a trip to The Shed tonight, to see what it was all about.

From the outside, this looks like a classic BBQ joint.  The setting suits the theme, not fancy by any means, just a down and dirty BBQ joint.  You walk in, order at the counter, have a seat, and out it comes.

I ordered The Shed combo plate tonight, where you pick 2 meats, and 2 sides.  For my meats, I had to try the brisket, and for my second meat, the young lady taking my order talked me into the sausage instead of the pulled pork.  For my sides, I absolutely had to try the baked potato salad, and the mac and cheese.  I decided to wash this down with an ice cold Blue Moon, and I was off to find a table to sit down.

Out came my combo moments later, packed in styrofoam with a piece of aluminum foil on top.  The first thing I noticed was how cold the potato salad was.  Perfect!  There is nothing worse than warm potato salad, so I took a bite, and the flavors were awesome!  The binder for this was very nice, with great flavors, but the real flavor came from the baked potato.  The whole baked concept adds a nice element to this, and it was a joy.

The mac and cheese was good as well, but nothing to write home about.  While it was good, it really didn't put itself above any other mac and cheese I have had at another BBQ joint over the years.

As for the BBQ, the sausage had nice flavors, and was smoked nicely,  The flavors from the smoke worked well, but quite honestly, I think that the BBQ sauce that this was smothered in really took away from the sausage.  There was nothing at all wrong with the BBQ sauce, and it had good flavors, though like I said, it was just a bit overwhelming.  I would have preferred this with the sauce on the side.

The brisket, while juicy with nice flavors, really didn't do a ton for me.  If I didn't know what I ordered, this could have passed as pulled pork.  It was stringy like pulled pork, and even tasted quite a bit like pulled pork.  Maybe they do their brisket a little different down there, and slice it differently.  I am used to the nice, thick slices of brisket, and this was not the case here.

Even so, the flavors were still nice, and again, the smoke on the meat was nice.  But also again, this was smothered in BBQ sauce, and really took away from the flavors of the meat.  I couldn't tell what kind of flavors the meat got from the rub here, but no matter, it was still enjoyable.

In short, I can appreciate good BBQ, and this was good.  Would i go back there again next time I am in town?  Absolutely!  Is there better BBQ in the area?  I have no idea.  Have I had better BBQ in the past?   Yes, even here in New Jersey, but what can you do?

The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint
15094 Mills Road
North of 49 to 53 West 1 mile
Gulfport, MS 39503

Hours: Mon Closed, Tue-Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-8pm

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cafe du Monde - New Orleans, LA

The legend of Cafe du Monde speaks for itself, so while traveling to New Orleans on Fat Tuesday of all days, a trip to the French Quarter was an absolute must.  And no trip to the French Quarter would be complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde for a beignet and some chicory coffee!

All of that said, we grabbed out rental car at the airport, and headed to the Quarter to check out the festivities.  We parked about a mile and a half away from the Quarter, and started walking towards the main drag.  We hung a left down Bourbon Street, stopping to get a frozen hurricane, which was also a must.  We walked about half way down Bourbon, and took a right on a side street to head towards the river.

After seeing the riverfront, I told my comrades that we absolutely had to stop at Cafe du Monde.  Of course the lines were long with tourists being Fat Tuesday, but no matter.  All in all, we waited about 30 minutes in line, and as always, it was worth the wait.

We got up to the window, and ended up ordering 3 orders of beignets for all of us.  They come 3 in a bag, and this was plenty as we wanted to save room for some Po-Boys for dinner!  But you might be asking yourself, "Self, what the heck is a beignets?"

Well, this best explanation I can give you is that it is deep fried dough, light, fluffy, and covered in powdered sugar.  You can also get a better description via the Cafe du Monde website.

These came out piping hot, in a small brown paper bag, covered in powdered sugar.  The first bite brought me back to the first time that I had these with my wife way back in the day when we were in New Orleans for Jeff and Jill's wedding back in 2004?  Or maybe it was 2005.

Whenever it was, I have never forgotten just how good these were, and how great they taste right there at Cafe du Monde.  I have made these at home, and it just isn't the same.  From the ambiance, to the flavor and texture you get eating the original, it just cannot be beat.  And the chicory coffee was delicious like always.

All in all, what is there to say about this legendary establishment?  Either you get it, or you don't.  Either you appreciate them, or not.  I know that I do, and I look forward to the next chance I get to visit the Quarter and have them again.  Great stuff with a great gang, and I hope it's not another 8 years plus before I have them again.  Cheers!

Café Du Monde
French Market

800 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA  70116

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Le Singe Vert - New York, NY

So when my good pal Joe of Foodie and Blogger fame sent me a note saying that he was heading to NYC from DC, I knew a little trip on the train was in order to meet up with him.  After going through a plethora of Manhattan options, he said that we must make a visit to Le Singe Vert, aka The Green Monkey.  So a trip on the NJ transit got me into Manhattan around 3:30PM, so I killed some time at Chelsea Market before heading back to 7th Avenue to meet up with Joe.

I walked in around 5:15PM, and they were just getting the restaurant in order, and ready for tonight's dinner service.  I was greeted by French hostess Melissa, and grabbed a seat at the bar, for a glass of Cotes du Rhone as I waited for Joe.  In this case it was an '07 Mas des Roches, and who can complain really at a NYC restaurant.

Joe arrived a few minutes later, and were were greeted by Chef Pascal.  He found us a table in the back right hand corner of the restaurant, and talked to us about a few of his specials tonight, and some things that we just couldn't pass up.

First up was the Chacuterie plate, and all I can say about this is wow!  This was absolute heaven, loaded up with prosciutto from pig raised in Missouri, a salami of sorts from New Jersey I think, and a ham of sorts from Virginia.  All 3 meats on this plate were to die for, however, the prosciutto melted in your mouth, and was absolutely amazing.  You can see that fatty prosciutto near the top at the picture, and words cannot describe this heaven.  There were also 2 pates, both made from pork if I remember correctly, and these are made in house and delicious.  The one on the left was the rillette, and had some great clove and cinnamon spice to it, while the one pictures above was amazing as well.  Add some crusty French bread, and this is something that I could nosh on several days a week for lunch, or even dinner.  Awesome.

From here, Chef Pascal sent out his famous steak tartare.  This could very well be the best steak tartare I have ever had.  Chef Pascal takes much pride in this dish, making it from raw filet mignon.  As a binder for the tartare, he uses his homemade cocktail sauce, and that adds a great element.  If you didn't know however, you would never guess there was cocktail sauce in there, so don't take that the wrong way.  This had some nice onion flavor as well, and was topped by a quail egg, which I poured right over the top.  Again, this was amazing, served with a side of French fries, and a small watercress salad.  Next time, I may be very tempted to make a meal out of this, as it was absolutely delicious.  The mustard that is served on the side of this is also fab, and has a great hot spiciness to it.  All in all, this dish is an absolute winner.

For entrees tonight, I was absolutely torn.  I really wanted to try the Cassoulet, especially at a restaurant like this, however, I was already starting to fill up.  Plus Joe said that he was going to order it, and I really didn't want to order the same thing, so we agreed that he could try some of my entree, and I could try some of his.  Needless to say, I am glad that we agreed to this!

This was a very traditional cassoulet, and absolutely delicious.  As fun as this can be to make at home, it just isn't worth the time when I can come here and have this for under $25.  This was a white bean stew base, with great tomato flavors.  It was then topped with some braised pork belly, duck leg confit, and a delicious pork sausage.  The flavors and seasoning here were right on, and this was a winner!  I would definitely order this again for all of the different elements, and that says a lot considering I am not a big white bean fan.

For my entree tonight, I went with the chef's recommendation, and ordered the New York strip.  He said that he is getting great cuts of meat right now, and for the price, in Manhattan even, this was a heck of a bargain.

The steak was cooked to a perfect medium, with a nice char on the outside, and a very juicy, hot pink center.  The flavors from the grill were very nice, and you could tell that this was no cheap cut of meat.  The texture and flavors melted in your mouth, and the Maitre de hotel butter on top wasn't even necessary, but it sure did add some nice flavor to it.  This too was served with French fries, and a side of watercress.  All the items were very nice, and at this point I was stuffed.

We ended up skipping dessert, because at this point we were stuffed.  Joe's good friend George ended up stopping by, and we hung out and shot the bull with Chef Pascal for a while, as we sipped our beverages.  At this point, I had switched to a nice Grenache, Carignan, Syrah blend, that was going down smoothly, and very nicely.

All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic dinner, and given the location, I think the pricing was extremely affordable.  It was nice to meet Chef Pascal, who was a great guy, and who has a true passion for food.  Having the opportunity to talk with a very talented chef throughout the evening is a bonus anywhere, but in Manhattan it is almost unheard of.  He obviously has a great staff who he can trust behind the line, and I think this restaurant is turning out some great French cuisine.

In short, I found a great new spot, with great ambiance, a nice selection of wines by the glass that you may not see on most wines lists, and great food.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it, and I know that I will be back for the Chacuterie alone soon!  Cheers!

Le Singe Vert
160 7th Avenue (between 19th and 20th) in Chelsea
New York, NY
Phone:  (212)366-4100

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eleven Front - Trenton, NJ

About a year ago, my neighbor and good friend David told me of a new restaurant and bar in Trenton that I absolutely needed to check out.  So a few weeks go, I looked at my restaurant "to do" list, and headed to Trenton to give it a whirl.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't check their hours first, and when I arrived at a quarter 'til 8, the kitchen was already closed.  Tonight  however, I left in plenty of time to grab dinner and a drink.

I arrived on Front Street and parked right around the corner from the restaurant.  It's amazing to me how the area near Eleven Front is buzzing with life around lunch, but come dinner time, it is an absolute ghost town. The government employees have gone home, the stores and luncheonettes have closed for the day, and it is eerily quiet.

Walking up to Eleven Front you see nice fresh paint in a converted row home.   The restaurant has a nice facade, with a few small windows with some neon beer signs.  This restaurant could however be easily missed if you weren't looking for it.

Upon walking in, I was absolutely shocked with what I saw.  It really wasn't what I was expecting at all.  The first thing I noticed was the gorgeous, fresh paint on the walls.  The colors are earthy, and really remind me of colors that we used n our home.

Next thing I noticed was the gorgeous wood bar, and the nice woodwork behind the bar, with glass shelves housing the hard liquor, smartly placed mirrors to give the bar more depth, and nice clean white trim and crown molding to finish off the clean look.  This was well done, and you can tell that the owners put some blood, sweaty and tears into this restaurant to make it a nice place.

As for the crowd, there were 2 other people sitting at the bar when I arrived. One an attorney talking about his case today, and the other a younger gentleman talking about other restaurants. There was also a table sitting in the back, of what I can make a pretty good assumption were people who worked somewhere in State government.  Definitely not a down and dirty bar, and it didn't seem to attract the riff-raff.

Upon grabbing a stool at the bar, I was greeted by a young lady, and ordered a glass of Cabernet, and was offered a menu.  I came here knowing I was going to have a burger tonight, and that was still what I was craving.  I know, to be in Trenton and not go to Rossi's or Social for a burger is a sin, but you all know how I love to try new places.

As I watched the waitress pour me a Kenwood Cabernet, a woman came over and asked if I have been helped, then asked my name and if I had been here before.  She introduced herself as Karolyn and took my order.

While perusing the menu,  made an amazing discovery, one that is quite frankly, unbelievable.  There, smack dab in the center left portion of the menu is a Genuine Vienna Beef Chicagostyle hot dog!!!!!  How on earth has this restaurant been here for almost a year and I did not know this?  How on earth does the Vienna Beef Locator APP for the iPhone not list this?  Regardless, it was an amazing discover, to find a taste of home just 15 minutes from my house!  I will be back soon for this....possibly very soon.

So seeing this information, I was intrigued, and I had to ask the owner what inspired such a thing, only to find out that her husband Vince, who had just walked into the restaurant, was originally from McHenry, IL, not too far from where I grew up.  As a matter of fact, he worked in Barrington, IL for while, roasting coffee at the old "Gray Lady" for the Jewel Tea Corporation.  Very small world.

Out came my burger and fries, and it was absolutely perfect.  Cooked to a nice medium, perfectly seasoned, topped with Provolone cheese and some onions.  You could tell the beef was nice, and had just enough fat in it to keep it juicy and tasty.  The bun was fresh with a nice crusty outside, and a nice soft inside.  These were obviously baked fresh, and probably delivered daily.  The fries were nice thick cut steak fries that you see at a lot of places, and they accompanied the burger well.

After dinner I continued to speak with owners Vince and Karolyn, and they were just a joy to talk to.  For the most part, Vince runs the front of house, and when there are orders, Karolyn is in the kitchen.  It turns out she was an attorney for 20 years, and she just got tired of practicing, and is now doing something she absolutely loves.

Vince and I really hit it off with the wine talk, and he has a true passion for wine.  Unfortunately, I really haven't even looked at his wine list yet, but I do know that the Kenwood Cabernet he pours by the glass is not the regular bottling you see at most restaurants.  For the price, it's a nice wine, and better than most any "house wine" I've had in a restaurant, though Vince doesn't believe in pouring house wines.  I can't blame him really.

We also talked about his pride and joy, which is the family recipe for his red sauce, which he is now the holder of.  This recipe is 125 years old, and has been in his family since then.  He currently makes the sauce, bottles it, and sells it.  I can't wait to find it and give it a try, and he stated that it can be purchased at the Pennington Market.  I will have to find this soon and write a review about it!

By this point in the evening, I had to head to an appointment, though I would have much rather sit around shooting the bull with Vince about wine.  So I squared up, and headed on my way, knowing that I will be back sometime next week to get my Vienna Beef dog fix!

All in all, a great meal in a great establishment owned by great people who are helping clean up Trenton.  The places has nice ambiance, is clean, and they make it appoint to remember you by name.  I'll report back soon!

17 Feb 2012:

Well, sooner came a week or so sooner than I though, as some of my Air Force buddies wanted to go out tonight to see what this whole Chicagostyle hot dog is all about.  But tonight is also a night of celebration, but we'll get to that in another post soon.

We arrived a few minutes before 7PM tonight, and there was a nice little Happy Hour crowd.  At the time, there were no seats available at the bar, but a few minutes later the end. Of the bar opened up, so we pulled up a chair and grabbed 2 stools.

Vince greeted us, and even remembered my name from last night, and as I said, they seem to pride themselves on this which I think is awesome.  I ordered a glass of Cabernet again, the the boys were drinking beers.  One thing I did notice was that they have Shiner Bock in bottles which is a bonus as I love this beer.  Regardless, it was a wine night for me.

Karolyn came over and asked us if we were eating, and indeed we were.  We started off with an order of calamari for all of us, and it came out piping hot, straight from the fryer a few minutes later.  This were fried nicely to a golden brown, and you could tell the oil they were fried in as fresh and clean.  No dirty, burnt crumbs, and just fresh flavor.  This hit the spot, and was the perfect starter.

From here, we all went the hot dog route, and the only thing on the dogs that is not "imported" from Chicago is the poppy seed bun.  I forget which bakery Vince told me makes these for him, but it took them 4 tries to get one that was to his liking.  Now he has them arrive fresh daily.  Though they aren't identical to the fresh, steamed hot dog buns in Chicago, they are a nice substitute, and definitely do the job.

As for the dog itself, these bad boys looked like absolute heaven. Again, not knowing I had this tasty delicacy of home just 15 minutes from my house is an absolute sin.  From looking at the poppy seed bun, to the genuine ingredients that come from Chicago, I was drooling and in heaven.  But what makes these hot dogs so special?

Well, first is the dog itself.  These are Vienna Beef brand hot dogs, and they have a distinct flavor.  Maybe that's because I grew upon them, I don't know, but when you move 850 miles away and can no longer get them at a restaurant on any corner, it makes for a treat.  Next is the poppy seed bun.  Yes, poppy seed, it's a must have, but now let's talk ingredients:

First, we have yellow mustard.  Get that ketchup crap outta heeeahh and fuggetaboutit!  From here we have done diced onion, 2 slices of tomato,a pickle spear, neon green relish, sport peppers, and celery salt baby!  Yeah, it sounds like a lot, and it is a lot, but once you've had one, you'll know what all the hype is about!  Yeah baby!  This is where it's at, and these were a joy!  Steak fries on the side of these again, and I really couldn't be any happier!

As like last night, the service was great from Vince and Karolyn, and again, Vince's daughter was waitressing throughout the restaurant.  Another thing I did notice tonight was the nice stone patio that they have out back, complete with a misting system, canopy, etc.  This could be a great place to host an event, in the heart of the city.

But what is important to me here is the Chicago connection.  I found what I've been searching for to get my fix of ChiTown, and that makes me a happy camper. I will most definitely be reporting in again soon, and I'm sure I'll tell you all about it on here or on Facebook, so stay tuned!  Cheers!

Eleven Front
11 Front Street
Trenton, NJ  08608
Phone:  (609)392-6900

Hours - Monday-Friday
Lunch - 8PM

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Palate - Newtown, PA

Having spending quite a few evenings a week over in Pennsylvania, it has given me the opportunity to check out some towns I would never have stumbled upon otherwise, and I have found some great restaurants in these areas.  This was yet another trip to charming Newtown, and I stumbled upon Palate.

I actually first heard of Palate because of head Chef/Owner, Justin Kaplan, who used to work at Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell, which is another one of my favorite BYO's.  I had heard that he opened Palate sometime over the summer of 2010, so when I remembered this, I had to seek it out!

That being said, a trip here was in order, and I happened in on a night that they were still serving their Valentine's Day menu, that they actually served it the weekend prior to Valentine's Day as well.  Regardless, I wasn't that hungry, and there were items on the menu that I was interested in.

First out was a complimentary amuse bouche, which was a roasted red pepper cappuccino.  This was absolutely genius, nice and frothy, and something that just makes you say, "Wow, who thought of this?"  While it sounds odd, and even has odd texture in your mouth, it was absolutely perfect and delicious!

For starters, I just could not pass up the pork belly.  Unfortunately, they do not have a description of the appetizer on their menu, but it was some nicely cooked, crispy skinned pork belly, with a maple glaze of sort and an apple slaw, I think.  The flavors were both sweet and savory, and this was just a great appetizer.  I would definitely order it again, and anyone who reads my blog and follows my Facebook knows my love for the 19th wonder of the world, pork belly!

For entrees tonight, I went with the Seared Sea Scallops with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Garlic -Potato Puree, and Pine Nut Brown Butter.  If I had to nitpick here, I would say that the scallops were just a bit over-seasoned and salty, but this only applied to about half of them.  Though I am not a salt junkie, I still didn't find it offensive, especially seeing as these were cooked absolutely perfectly, and there was ZERO grit to the scallops which is one of my pet peeves.

The brussels sprouts were nicely roasted, and what is there not to like about bacon and some butter with some brussels sprouts?  These were awesome, and the garlic potato puree hit the spot as well.

Really couldn't pass up dessert here, and the Ginger Cookie Tres Leches hit the spot.  This was served with a nice chill, was thick, dense, and flavorful.  Definitely no complaints here.

As for the restaurant itself, it is simple, charming, and just looks clean.  From the nice built in banquette, to the clean, dark tables and wood floors, it is just a great place!

The service was friendly and wonderful with a very attentive staff ranging from the Chef, to the bus staff, to the servers. 

While I have only been to Newtown twice, and I am sure there are many other restaurants to check out here, I hope to visit this restaurant again, and hope that I don't have a HUGE gap like always seems the case with restaurants that I enjoy.  Though off the beaten path, I think it is definitely worth the trip.  Check it out for yourself, and let me know what you think.  Hail to the chef!  Cheers!

31 South State Street
Newtown, PA 18940
Phone:  (215) 860-2898

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard

This is always my favorite wine from the Kosta Browne Single Vineyard Designates, and this did not disappoint on Valentine's Day, popped and poured at cellar temp, though it did have a little time to warm up in the car on the way to Lambertville.

Gorgeous Kosta Browne nose with some sweet red cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and hints of baking spice.  Secondary nuances included just a hint of cola, vanilla, and some floral notes of violet.

On the palate, the alcohol is well integrated, and this wine is absolutely singing....singing to the point that I truly wish I had more of these in the cellar.    Great spicy fruits of raspberry and strawberry, but the cherry is again the star here.  Nice, sweet cherry fruit dominates, and it is absolutely delicious.  

Definitely a delicious wine, with a big mouthful.  The finish shows some supple, sweet tannins, and this wine has several years left ahead of it.  I can't imagine this wine getting much better, but I guess you just never know.  Regardless, this hit the spot today, and was enjoyed by all!  Cheers!  93 points!

The Boat House - Lambertville, NJ

Sometimes you just don't feel like heading home, so a little trip to check out a place off the beaten path is in order. After a nice dinner and a full belly at Bell's Tavern, The Boat House in Lambertville was just that spot.

The Boat House is in the old pork yard, and I have seen it many times on trips to Hamilton Grill Room. From the outside, it looks very cozy, with a small bar, some seating upstairs and downstairs, and floor to ceiling
artwork in a nautical theme.

To me, hanging out at The Boat House is like hanging out in your grandfathers old office. The décor is amazing, and the ambiance is just so cozy! A seat at the bar was in order, but what I really love is how you
walk in, and the hostess/waitress/bartender gives you your seating options.  "There's a table upstairs with chairs, there's a seat at the bar, or there's a seat on the couch." You gotta love it!

Everyone hanging out at The Boat House seems friendly, but you have to be. The quarters are tight, tiny, and intimate. You could have your back right up next to someone sitting in a chair next to you, or sharing one of the small cocktail tables with you, either upstairs, or downstairs.

An old wood paneled staircase leads upstairs where there is a small bathroom. The nautical theme continues upstairs with some bookshelves in one corner. All kinds of nautical décor again cover the walls and ceilings.

There is also plenty of Navy themed art, as well as some pennants from different Ivy League schools. All in all, it is very cozy, and very intimate, and the kind of place I have dreamed about building for years in my backyard for a man cave. Maybe someday.

The wine list at The Boat House is decent, with selections from Domaine Drouhin for a little Burgundy, or some Washington State cabernet sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills (H3) vineyard. There are plenty of other selections as well, and I am sure they have plenty of spirits that can be ordered.

One thing to note which I have no problem with is the no speaking on cell phone rule. Not a bad thing in the least in a small establishment like this, though you can text and surf the net. I know as I read the news on my cell while hanging out at the bar. Service was friendly enough, and it's a good little place to hang out and veg. Lots of people coming in and out, some just stopping in to take a look at the place. All in all, very cozy with a lot of charm. Bring your special somewone there and check it out! Cheers!

The Boat House
8 1/2 Coryell Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Phone: (609)397-2244

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bell's Tavern - Lambertville, NJ

Bell's Tavern is one of those places off the beaten path in Lambertville, while on one of the main arteries, if you didn't know it was there, you would never stumble upon it as it is heading out of town. That said, I checked it out on a Sunday afternoon while relaxing and having the day to myself.

Walked in to a bar surrounded by locals. They actually looked at me as if I had 4 heads, wondering while I was in their establishment! OK, maybe not, but it was a bit uncomfortable. I grabbed a high top on the back wall and watched a little golf on the flatscreen across the bar, and ordered a glass of cabernet. Nothing too crazy on the wine list, and nothing inspiring at all really, but what can you do?

The server came over with some bread, and started with an appetizer of fresh mozz, some olives, and roasted reds. All good by any means, and something for a little tide over until the pasta course came out. Pasta course was a half order of the cheese tortellini with the Rosata sauce, a light tomato cream sauce with peas, prosciutto, and plum tomatoes. This was tasty, and the perfect sized portion.

Main entrée was chicken parm, which had 2 nice chicken breasts, and was smothered and topped by a melted mozz. The chicken was tender and juicy, and cooked perfectly all the way through with a nice breading. This came with a side of linguini, and there was plenty leftover for a little Monday lunch. All in all, the pricing here is cheap, and the food is a darn good value....and the service is good too!

Would I go out of my way to come here? No, but I wouldn't hesitate to go back either. Good Italian comfort food at good pricing. Worth checking out. Cheers!

Bell's Tavern
183 North Union Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530-1629
Phone: (609) 397-2226

Thursday, February 9, 2012

1982 Château Haut-Brion

From 29 JAN 2012:  All I can say is that I couldn't be any more grateful to have such generous friends.  In the past year, I have had the chance to drink amazing bottle of Krug, Burgundies from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and many first growth Bordeaux, including this one, poured by my good NYC pal Philipe on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

The cork came out of this bottle and was about 90% soaked through.  The bottle was then decanted through cheesecloth, and served at cellar temp.  This was allowed to warm up in the glass and decanter, and consumed over the course of 4 hours.

First thing you notice is in the glass is the garnet, ruby color, and there is definitely some bricking going on. 

On the nose, this is pure Graves Bordeaux, aged, and gorgeous!  There was however a bit of funk on the nose, but this seemed to blow off after about 20 minutes.  When I say funk, I am referring to some dirty barnyard, and perhaps a hint on green pepper.

Once this blew off, the plum overwhelmed the nose, with some nice hint of cassis, and dark black fruits.  In all honesty, the fruit was a bit subdued compared to the two other times I have had this wine.  Perhaps storage was an issue with this wine, or perhaps this was a fake!  Kidding of course, but that is a funny topic for another blog entry!

Aside from the fruit, this had some classic pencil lead, tobacco, leather saddle, toast, and hints of Asian spice on the nose.  Again, not the best nose of an '82, but it was still opening up at this point.

Upon first sip, you get can tell this is a classically aged Bordeaux.  On the palate, there is some tart blackberry, more cassis, plum, and dark currants.  There is still plenty of life left in the fruit on this wine, and it continued to evolve as we consumed this bottle.   The longer in the glass, the more the fruit started to come out over the course of 2 hours.  After that, it seemed to plateau. There were also some nice spice notes. 

This wine was very smooth on the palate, and it went down easy peasy as expected.  This finish was very nice, and lasted a good 30-45 seconds.  The tannins were there during the first glass, but at the 2 hour mark, it was almost as though they were non-existent. 

All in all, I couldn't be anymore thankful to have had the opportunity to have this wine again, and if I did have any in my cellar, I wouldn't hesitate to pop one.  Though this has many years still ahead of it, I just cannot see it getting much better than this.  This was one of those wines that I will always remember.  Thank you Philipe!  Cheers!

2007 Auteur Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard

It's been almost 2 years since I have checked in on this wine, the last time it showing wonderfully at a restaurant that didn't show so well, that is now out of business, but we all saw that coming.

Popped and poured at cellar temp tonight, and allowed to warm up.  Poured into a Riedel Grapes Syrah glass, and the nose and palate gave off nothing at all which I found very odd.  That said, I poured this into a Riedel XL, gave it a few swirls, and allowed it to warm up for about 10 minutes in the glass.  Call me crazy, but the glass made a magnificent difference.  I know, I find it odd as well, boy what a difference it made.

Gorgeous Shea fruits on the nose, with plenty of dark black fruits.  Oodles of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, and currants, with some nice spice, pepper, and floral notes.

On the palate, the raspberry dominate, with hints of blueberry, cranberry, and just a hint of cola.  The alcohol has integrated nicely on this wine, and the finish though short, shows some very nice pleasantries.  All in all, this has developed into a great wine, and I am happy to have more in the cellar.  Kudos to Ken for another great wine!  Cheers!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Black Bass Hotel - Lumberville, PA

Today was a great day to hop in the car and go for a nice little drive.  One of my Facebook followers made a mention to me of a wine shop in Stockton that I haven't visited in quite a while, so it was on my agenda for today.  That said, I figured a seat at the bar at The Black Bass was the perfect place for lunch.

Walked in and asked for a seat at the bar and had the bar to myself.  Nice crowd in the dining room, overlooking the Delaware, but a seat in the cozy bar was right up my alley today.

Sat down and ordered a glass of Cali cabernet, and ordered the Grilled One-Half Pound All Beef Burger , topped with double cheddar cheese, crispy fried red onions, lettuce, tomato and kosher dill pickle; served with French fries.

The burger was cooked nicely, with good grilled flavors.  The fried red onions were nice, and the fries were good and crispy.  Was this the best burger in the area?  No, not by any means, but it hit the spot today.

Look forward to heading back soon for dinner so I can have the crab dish that they are famous for.  Good stuff!  Cheers!

Black Bass Hotel
3774 River Road
Lumberville, PA 18933
Phone:  (215)297-9260

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Concerto Fusion - Morrisville, PA

I think it has been years since I have visited Concerto Fusion, and I have to say that the place is as good as I remember it being.  I showed up late on a Thursday night, well, late for dinner at least as it was about 8:30PM.  The sushi bar and regular bar were empty, so I  grabbed a stool and sat down for a couple of appetizers.

There were about 8 tables sat in the restaurant, which wasn't bad given the time.  Morrisville isn't exactly on the beaten path, so I am sure they were happy to have a decent crowd in there.  If I had to guess, the crowd is equally from both the NJ and PA sides of the Delaware River, that this restaurant sits just feet from.

For starters, I had the sushi pizza, which was a green onion pancake topped with and  avocado mix, sliced tuna, and slived yellowtail, served with light spicy fresh fruit sauce.  As you can see from the picture, this was absolutely gorgeous.  Great vibrant colors on the fish, and absolutely delicious.

If I had to change one thing about this dish however, it would be the "pizza crust."  To me, it was a bit chewy, thick and dense, and if I were to do this dish, I think I would come up with a thinner crust that had some crunch.  Regardless, there was nothing wrong with it the way it is, and the flavors are nice.

From here, I couldn't pass up the Caribbean Phyllo Crusted Prawns, that seem to be what put Concerto Fusion on the map.  Everyone that has been here and knows that I have been here asks if I have had these, and I have to say, "of course!"

The are a lightly fried jumbo shrimp wrapped in phyllo, served with guacamole mango salsa and delicious!  What is there not to like about these?  The phyllo is wrapped around the shrimp and cut super thin like angel hair, then wrapped around the tempura shrimp and fried.  All I can say is awesome!  I thought this was so inventive the first time I had it, and to date, it is still the only place I have seen it.  Unfortunately, the mango salsa left something to be desired, was sour, bitter, and just tasted off to me.  That being said, I left it be, and just enjoyed the shrimp.

Washed all of this down with a cheap glass of pinot noir, and left plenty satisfied.  Good food, great ambiance, and just a little off the beaten path.  Won't be my last visit, and I look forward to going back again soon.  Cheers!

Concerto Fusion
2 South Delmorr Avenue
Morrisville PA 19067 
Phone:  (215)428-2899