Thursday, September 30, 2010

IndeBlue - Collingswood, NJ

Restaurant week in Collingswood.

Full review to come!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Congruence Wines - Website launches tomorrow for 2008 release!

I have to tell you that I am so excited that tomorrow marks the exciting day that Congruence Wines goes online!  Tomorrow will also be the release of their 2008 cabernet sauvignon!  So as soon as the website goes on, be sure to get your orders in!

Some of you might remember me writing about the 2007 Congruence cabernet sauvignon.  This is a wine that has been meticulously made by NJ native, and friend of mine Steve Eisenhauer.

I have known Steve for a few years now, and know Steve's passion for wine, as well as his palate very well.  I was very excited to try his 2007 cabernet last November that was made in very limited quantities.  Needless to say, it was a gorgeous wine, and I was fortunate enough to get a bottle from Steve that I will cellar for another 5-10 years.

I have been keeping up with Steve's progress through all of this, and his e-mails are nothing but inspiring when I receive them.  Steve's meticulous attention to detail in working to develope this wine with his consulting winemakers has been second to none.  He has spent countless hours back and forth to California to check on this wine, having barrel samples sent to NJ, and trying different blends.

I am confident that the final product will show all the love and care that Steve put into this wine, and I look forward to placing my order for a few bottles tomorrow.  That being said, I encourage you to do the same!  And I'll even go a step farther and say that if you order a few bottles of this wine, and fine out that you don't care for it, I'll buy them from you at the same price you paid for them.  Yes, I am that confident!

In short, check them out tomorrow, and tell them that you heard about them here!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Cranberry Festival - Bordentown, NJ October 2nd and 3rd, 2010

The annual Cranberry Festival in Bordentown takes place the first full weekend in October, to this year's festival will be Saturday October 2nd, and Sunday October 3rd!
As always, Farnsworth Avenue will be closed from Burlington to Park Streets, and the vendors will have their tents and booths setup. The local restaurants will be out in full force selling their scrumptious cuisine, and as always, we will do our best to support our local restaurants. There will also be other restaurants participating as always. The other vendors will be selling anything from arts and craft items, to pretty much everything under the sun!

I am sure that Valenzano Winery will be back again this year as they always are pouring their fruity wines, and the cranberry wine will be another big seller for them this year in celebration of the festival.

More information can be found at: It's definitely worth the trip, just to check out Bordentown if you have never been there. They don't call it "The little city with a lot of charm" for nothing! It's a gem of a town! Cheers! -F. Scott

Chowderfest 2010 - Long Beach Island, NJ October 2nd-3rd, 2010

Just a reminder that LBI Chowderfest is also the first weekend of October, and will be taking place on Saturday and Sunday October 2nd and 3rd! More information can be found: HERE.

Unfortunately, it looks as though yet again we are not going to be able to make it this year. Stink! Once of these years we'll be able to make it hopefully! Nothing says fall like some good old New England clam chowder! For those of you that are going, have several bowls of chowder for us! Cheers! -F. Scott

Monday, September 27, 2010

Collingswood, NJ Restaurant Week - Sept 26th-30th, 2010

Just a quick reminder that restaurant week in Collingswood, NJ started yesterday.  All of the menu’s are listed at either $30, or $35 for four courses!

Participating restaurants include:  Joe Pesce | Tortilla Press | Casona | Inde Blue | Sapori | El Sitio | Nunzio's | West Side Gravy | Blackbird | Prime 505 Steak and Chop House | Woksabi | Villa Barone | Bistro Di Marino | That's Amore | The POP Shop | Cafe Antonio

More information can be found:  HERE.  This site also lists all of the menus for each restaurant, so you can check it out before you visit!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Coltello Ristorante Italiano - Crosswicks, NJ

What is there to say other than the fact that it was a gorgeous NJ night to go visit Coltello.  Again, yet another restaurant that we haven't visited nearly as frequently as we should, and I wish we had a good excuse.  But it really is hard to get back to many restaurants all the time when we have so many new ones that we want to visit!
As we pulled up, the valet gave me a ticket and we went inside.  The restaurant was nicely lit and looking gorgeous as ever.  There is just something so cozy about Coltello that I love.
We were sat at a 4 top along the right hand side of the restaurant, and I pulled a 2006 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from the carrying case along with our standard Riedel glasses.  There really is nothing at all wrong with the stemware at Coltello, but we are just in the habit of using our own stems.  Our wine was opened and we were on our way.  Our waitress came over, and I want to say that her name is Jessica, but in all honesty I can't remember now.  Sorry!  She read us the appetizers that were tempting, and we gave it some thought. 
She came back a few minutes later and we started with the meat and cheese plate.  This came out in a long and narrow dish, and looked gorgeous.  Very thinly sliced apples, olives, a soft sliced in square chunk salami, blue cheese, and another cheese.  This was a huge portion really, and at $12, it was worth every penny.  This went very nicely with the grilled bread that was topped with roasted garlic cloves.  One thing however I do miss that came with the breads at our last visit is the roasted red peppers and onion that was gorgeous.
Next out were the soup and salad.  Zelda's salad consisted of good fancy greens with a very fresh tasting balsamic vinaigrette.  This was tasty!  I opted for the soup, and it was a vegetable medley that consisted of great vegetables and a very nice stock.  I have no idea what vegetables were in here as there were many, but there were some beans, zucchini, carrots perhaps, tomato, onion, and I am sure many others I am missing.  This was awesome topped with a bit of fresh parmesan cheese.  We ended up switching dishes about 1/2 way through so we both got a taste of each and they were both stomach pleasers!  This was perfect as we waited for our entrees.
Speaking of entrees, Zelda had the lobster risotto that was cooked perfectly.  This was served with a half of lobster tail that was split lengthwise, and served over the risotto.  The risotto had very nice flavors, and was cooked without a flaw.  It actually made me wish I had ordered a side of the risotto, but I ended up just picking off of her plate a little bit, and there was so much there that neither of us could finish the last quarter of the dish.
I ordered the Chicken Domenico, which is a little out of my comfort zone, but I had a hard time choosing, and this just sounded perfect tonight.  This starts out with two nice chicken breasts, topped with a Marsala sauce and crispy fried prosciutto.  Again, awesome flavors here, and the chicken was cooked perfectly.  I devoured the giant chicken breast, but that still left me enough for lunch for tomorrow.
All in all, what is there to say other than the fact that we had 2 great meals.  We wanted to send our regards to Chef Dominick, however, it turns out he wasn't even there tonight as he was working the Italian American Festival at Mercer County Park this weekend along with his father Richard!  The beauty of this is the fact that we never would have known had we not said something, so kudos to whomever was filling in for Chef Dominick tonight!  Everything was still fantastic, and we look forward to seeing the family on our next visit.  Keep up the great work!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

2006 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain District)

Sometimes opening something on the young side can be fun to get a baseline on a wine, and this proved to be one of those times.  This is a cab that I have really been looking forward to as we enjoyed their syrah from this vintage a few weeks ago.

Popped and poured at Coltello Ristorante in Crosswicks, NJ, this showed some very dark purple color in the glass.  The nose here is definitely tight as you can tell this wine is super young.  On the nose, there are some nice cassis and currants and raspberry, with some blackberry, blueberry, and leather on the nose.  Nice oak tones as well as spice round out the nose, but it isn't giving off a ton yet.

On the palate, you can tell that this wine is big, but you can also tell that it really needs a few hours in the decanter before it starts strutting its stuff.  There is some fruit here, and it is big jammy blackberry and raspberry, and it seems very thick and concentrated, but seemed to thin as this warmed up from cellar temperature.  Lots of juicy tannins on the finish with some alcohol too, and again, I don't think I can stress the fact enough that this wine is young.

All in all, this is going to age nicely, and is going to be a giant powerhouse in a few years in my humble opinion.  Could easily be a 93+ point wine, and for the money, I think it is delicious.  It will only get better in time, and I am excited to have a few more in the cellar to age!  No score.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Friday, September 24, 2010

2005 Core Red Blend

Sometimes there is nothing more fun that seeing a friends wine in a wine shop on the opposite coast, and picking up a bottle of it to drink.  This happened to be the case with this wine tonight, made by our good friend Dave Corey.  This is one of Dave's Rhone styled blends, and a nice sipper to say the least.

Unfortunately, the nose gave up very little when this was first popped and poured.  I was actually a bit worried that I wasn't going to like this based on the muted nose, but as the glass warmed up, the aromatics started to rear their head.  Nice cherry and raspberry were the starts here, with some blue fruit and white pepper.  This had a nice Rhone styled nice for sure.

On the palate, this was incredible at hour 2, and I am very glad that we took our time drinking this, giving it time to warm up, and open up in the glass.  You can really taste the Grenache influence in this wine, and that is something that I won't complain about.  More cherry, strawberry, and blueberry on the palate, with just enough acidity to give this a nice backbone.  There is still a bit of alcohol here, but I think that will integrate nicely with another year or two in the bottle.  Just a touch of tannin on the finish, which is medium in length.

All in all, at around $20 this is a tasty wine, and a heck of a nice QPR.  I'll look for more of these in the future for certain!  90 points.  Cheers!

The Farnsworth House - Bordentown, NJ

Finally, week one of two straight is over, so we came home from work, did some house cleaning, and then I took a shower. Friday's are usually delivery nights on work weekends, but tonight we decided to take a cruise into Bordentown and hit the Farnsworth House for a little something something off of their bar menu.

They have one of my many favorite fall beers on tap right now, and one of them is Dog Fish Head's Punkin Ale, so I ordered one of those. Zelda went for her standard Tanqueray and tonic, and we asked for some bar menu's.

I really didn't even have to look at the menu as I knew what I would be ordering, but I looked anyway as it changes from week to week. Zelda ordered the falafel, and they actually put a little twist on the falafel now. Instead of rolling them into balls, they are actually rolling them into smaller patties, and from what Fatih said, this gives them a better texture, which in turn gives them better flavor. Needless to say, they were indeed tasty, as was the sauce that they were served with.

I went for the kofte kebab that I absolutely love! This is a gorgeous sausage blend with a all sorts of good spices! There are 4 large sausage, and they actually changed these a little bit from the last time I had them. Now, they are a little more plump, and this makes them cook nicer, and more tender. They had a great juicy flavor, and who would have though these could be improved! This was served with 8 sliced, soft flour tortillas, shredded lettuce, sliced red onion, this sliced tomato, a long green pepper that had some nice heat, and the sauce. This was awesome, and definitely one of my favorites on their menu. It is just flavorful, and different! Definitely not something you can find just anywhere, and even if you did, it may not be as good as these!

All in all, another great night on the cheap at the bar at The Farnsworth House! Kudos to Fatih and the staff for doing a great job, and for being home to some of the best bargain food in Bordentown. Their bar menu really cannot be beat, and it isn't at all your typical bar food! Stop in and check it out, and tell them that F. Scott and Zelda sent ya! Cheers!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2005 Chateau Tour de Gilet

It's been about 18 months since we've tasted one of these, and it just happens that this was what I grabbed from the cellar today.  Popped and poured with a purple/garnet color in the glass.  On the nose, there were plenty of red fruits here, mostly strawberry and cherry.  Other black fruits were prevalent as well, but there was no real standout.  A bit of cedar rounds out the nose, along with some pepper and spice.

On the palate, you can tell that this wine is mostly petite sirah.  It has that petite mouth feel to it, that is kind of hard to explain.  It is almost as though it is lacking acidity, and kind of a flatness to it.  Some more cherry on the palate, with a hint of blueberry.  To me, this wine is lacking complexity, and it not all that interesting.  But even so, it's a good daily drinker, and at the price, it's a decent QPR.  Definitely wouldn't go out of my way to buy this wine, but it is what it is.  Drink or hold.  85 points.

Trenton Kebab House - Trenton, NJ

Well, I had to take a spin into Lambertville to hit Pure Energy Cycling and Java House, and on my way home I was contemplating what I really wanted to eat for dinner since Zelda was stuck in meetings tonight. I contemplated Marhaba in Lambertville, as well as Rick's, and the bar at Anton's at the Swan. Nothing really sounded all that great to me, and I didn't want to snub Zelda by having a great meal when she was probably stuck eating nasty warm sandwiches in her meeting, so I started heading towards home.

Cruising down Route 29 towards Route 1, I thought about stopping at "It's Nutt's" just to see if maybe they had a decent burger, but that didn't sound all that good either. If I wanted a burger, Rossi's could technically be on the way home, so I could have stopped there. But then I remembered the Trenton Kebab House, and that was my destination.
Pulled up, walked in, and saw 3 other tables in the joint tonight. This is obviously more of a lunch destination with Trenton, as well as NJ State employees, but I am thankful that they are open for dinner too until 8PM so I actually have a chance to get over here.

Ordered my usual gyro with no lettuce, sauce on the side, and fries. Grabbed a Welch's grape juice out of their cooler, paid, and sat. I saw the gentleman on the line drip the fries into the fryer, and saw his who I am assuming his father sharpening the knife used to shave the gyro meat off the spit.

About 5 minutes later, out came my sandwich, and once again, perfection! I really wish more places in NJ would embrace gyro's, and sell the real deal, not that processed, flat, warmed on a flat top meat that just doesn't have the same flavor. This was again perfection, with nice meat, that was grilled just house it should be on the rotisserie, then shaved off and stuffed in a pita. The think slived red onion was fresh and vibrant, and the thin sliced tomatoes were nice as well. My only complaint is the sauce, and it needs some work, but maybe that is how they do it on the East Coast. Ours in Chicago however was a little different.

But even so, the sauce is good enough, and the Trenton Kebab House still has my vote as the best gyro in New Jersey! Best one that I have had anyway! How about you? Who serves your favorite gyro? Let me know so I can give it a whirl! Cheers! -F. Scott

Bordentown City NJ Spirit Walk - October 22nd

The Downtown Bordentown Association (DBA) is planning a street wide fundraiser on Farnsworth Avenue to raise money for the town’s Christmas decorations and tree lighting.
The event, tentatively called the “First Annual Holiday Spirit Walk,” will take place on Friday, Oct. 22, and will be very similar to the Spirit Walks that took place three years ago for Bordentown City’s 325th anniversary celebration.

The restaurants, shops, and service companies in downtown Bordentown will be giving discounts and specials to those who purchase tickets for the Spirit Walk. The proceeds of which will go directly to the winter holiday decorations and tree lighting.

The event is scheduled to begin at 5PM and will run through 11 p.m. or midnight. The businesses themselves may choose to extend their discounts beyond Oct. 22 for those customers who retain their tickets.  There will be live entertainment and a beer garden on-site. All ticket-buyers will also receive a commemorative T-shirt.

Stephanie Pecht, one of the Spirit Walk’s planners, says that every year there are ornaments and lights that break from normal use. The money raised annually by the Spirit Walk will help replace these and hopefully lead to other decoration improvements. According to Ms. Pecht, the DBA is planning a more elaborate tree-lighting event this year, but much of those preparations depend on how much money is raised from the Spirit Walk.

Ms. Pecht said she expects the Spirit Walk to be “a wonderful event,” one that the DBA hopes will help keep the tree-lighting celebration a destination event for the residents of the city, as well as visitors. This year’s tree lighting will take place on Saturday, Nov. 27, at the corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Crosswicks Street.

Tickets to the Spirit Walk are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event. For additional information or to purchase tickets, contact Stephanie Pecht at (609)298-1824.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 3: Hot Dog Challenge! 3 Days, 6 brands! What hot dog will reign supreme?

I have to say that after eating hot dogs for the last 3 days for lunch in the office, the last thing I wanted to do was fire up the grill today, and eat yet another hot dog!  But it had to be done, and we had to find a clearly defined winner in the quest to find out “which hot dog reigns supreme.”

So with that said, I once again fired up the grill at 11:30AM this morning, and prepared the dogs to hit the grill.  The semi-finalists for the challenge came down to the Hebrew National, versus the Sabrett.  These two were neck and neck throughout the taste test, and the ones that everyone had come back.  Would these dogs however be that different in a side by side taste test?  Well, we are about to find out.

The dogs were once again cooked the same on the grill as they were last week.  The grill was searing hot, and the dogs would be cooked to a nice char.  Again, both dogs would be topped with the same ingredients, that included mustard, ketchup, relish, and onion.  Some used all of these ingredients, while others did not, but they prepared both hot dogs the same.

In my mind, I had a clear cut favorite from last week, but I was keeping an open mind to see if I could be proved differently.  After my mind was made up, we went around the office to see what others had thought, and I was pretty shocked to hear that many of the judges had agreed with me.  In my opinion last week, the Hebrew National was the clear cut victor.  I thought that I might be the only one to change my mind and pick the Sabrett as the clearly defined favorite.  However, at a margin of 6 to 1, the victor of the 2010 Logistics Readiness Flight Hot Dog Show Down was indeed the Sabrett.  Congratulations!

In tasting these side by side, the Sabrett just had a better beef taste.  How do you really describe how a hot dog tastes in the first place?  It is hard to do, but  we all just knew which dog we preferred.

So in recap, 4 days, and 6 different brands of hot dogs, the battle has been settled, and the Sabrett brand hot dog reigns supreme!  I can now say that I have no desire to eat a hot dog again for a very long time!  LOL!  Now we’ll see what competition will come next!  Bratwurst perhaps?  Flannery burger blends?  There probably won’t be another contest, but you just never know!  Hope everyone enjoyed reading this, and found it educational!  Now, my question to you is, what is your favorite hot dog?  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2005 Conundrum Wines White Table Wine

Whomever told me years ago that this wine wouldn’t age more than 2 years was insane.  At over 5 years old now, this aged perfectly, and in all actuality, I wish that I had some more of these older ones.  Unscrewed and poured tonight on the bistro with grilled tuna and homemade scalloped potatoes, this was a great crowd pleaser.
Nice sweet and floral nose, with lots of tropical passion fruit, honeysuckle, pear, peach nectar, lemon, lime, and melon.  There were also nice hints of lemon grass and green apple!  On the palate, what can you say other than smooth?  This was a very nice treat, with a good sweetness and acidity to it.  This wine has come together perfectly, and you couldn’t ask for a better wine for that this is.  More tropical fruits on the palate, with a jammy, nectarish feel on the palate.  Some peach rounds this out, and the finish is short and pleasant. 
All in all, a crisp and refreshing summer simmer that can be enjoyed by most.  This is a must have in our cellar!  90 points!  Cheers!

Marsha Brown Restaurant - New Hope, PA

I can't tell you how many times we have walked past Marsha Browns and not even though about walking in here for dinner and lunch, but I would have to guess it has been at least3-4 dozen times.  You never really hear anyone talk about this restaurant, and I really don't see anything on any of the different foodie boards or blogs that I visit.

So today, as we walked by, we looked at the menu, and both of u were curious.  Their sign out on the sidewalk said that they had the best burger, which had me a little intrigued, and actually sounded good as I saw Sandra Lee making sliders on her show as I was getting into the shower this morning.  Our other option was to head down to Mother's Wine Bar, and grab a sandwich there.  But we ended up wanting to see what Marsha Browns was all about, and I am actually glad that we did.

We walked and in and were given the option to sit in the dining room, or at the bar.  It looked like most everyone was in the bar, and it seemed like they were kind of pushing the bar, so that is where we went.

The bar is large, with big murals painted on the back wall. The bar is 4 sided, and there are tables along the right hand wall of the bar. Very cozy, and they have a few tv's to watch sports or whatever might be on.

The bartender came over and asked us what we wanted for drinks. Zelda went for a belini, and in looking around the bar, I saw a woman to my right that had a Mojito that looked delicious. Needless to say, the drinks came back, and were indeed tasty.

In looking at the menu, it's nice to see a Creole inspired restaurant in the area. I had no idea that this was a Creole restaurant, but you can definitely spot the New Orleans influence in the menu. What drew me in today however, was the burger. The sign out front stated that they had the best burger, which is a very bold statement when directed towards me, as I love a burger more than most. So that said, I have to see for myself.

Zelda had quite a few items of interest, and she was having a hard time decide on what to order. In the end she decided on the Mamere's Crab Cheese Cake, which is something that I actually considered for my next visit here, if we decided to come back.

For starters, I wasn't craving anything, but Zelda wanted to try a cup of their "Real Gumbo Ya Ya." This came out, and had chicken, andouille sausage, rice, and okra in it, and was very tasty. It had a nice spice to it, and the heat from the spice hit ya in the back of the palate. All in all, this was a tasty cup of soup, and better than most of the gumbo I've tried in this area.

A little while later out came the entrees, and they both looked gorgeous. You can tell that Zelda's is premade ahead of time, and is sliced almost like a piece of quiche. The top had a nice golden brown crust to it, and it was served with a side salad. Let me say that the crab in this dish was great, and paired with the gouda cheese, you really have a winner here. As you can see in the picture, there is a green onion coulis on the side, that is drizzled with a remoulade sauce. This had incredible, fresh, and vibrant flavors. All in all, the elements of this dish went together very well, and it was absolutely tasty. I would definitely order this again, and my only gripe, which Zelda disagreed with, was the fact that I thought it could have been warmed up a little hotter.
As for my burger, this came out and was a good sized portion. This was served on an onion roll that looked absolutely delicious! The cheese was melted on top, and the fries looked nicely seasoned. Upon first bite, the flavors were delectable, and the grill had a nice flavor to it. The burger itself really reminded me of the burger from Braddock's Tavern, and that is not a bad thing in the least. The beef had good flavor, and it was just all around an enjoyable burger.

That said, regardless of the negative press I've heard about Marsha Brown's, I have to say that we had a great experience. If I had to gripe about one thing, it would simply be the prices on the drinks. 2 drinks at $10 a pop is a bit ridiculous to me. We're not in Manhattan people, we're in po-dunk Pennsylvania, well out of Philadelphia, but I'll take it as a lesson learned. We'll definitely be back in the future! Cheers!

Marsha Brown Creole Kitchen and Lounge
15 South Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938
t: 215.862.7044
f: 215.862.7077

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Valenzano Wine Fest 2010 - Shamong, NJ

I know what you are thinking,and we were thinking the exact same thing, but it realy turned out to be a great afternoon with god friends!  Special thanks to Charnel for putting this all together, and organizing this event and reserving he private tent.  Getting a tent really is the way to go, and as you can see from the picture at the right, Rory had a grand old time!  LOL!

Along with the tent came 3 bottles of some of Valenzano's most horrific finest wines.  The got a bottle of their world not so famous Shamong Red, Cranberry, and 2007 Cabernet Merlot.  Now don't get me wrong here, as there are definitely people that like these wines.  I gave them all a chance, and tried each and every one of them, and I wasn't impressed to say the least.  For those who liked sweet wines, these just might be for you.  The cabernet/merlot I expected to be kind of interesting, but to me, it tasted like an oak stick.  I actually wonder if they add oak chips to the barrels to enhance the flavor of the oak.

Needless to say, we had a great time, and actually enjoyed some good wines, though not in a way that I am proud to admit.  But I will say that empty Dasani bottles can come in handy, along with bottles of your favorite wine in a cooler in the car!  ;-)  Thank God for large pockets in cargo shorts to make it easier to smuggle these in.

As far as the food goes, it was "carnival food" for the most part.  I grabbed a gyro from one of the catering places that was there, and it was your typical processed gyro meat on a cold pita that seemed a bit on the stale side.  The sauce was boring, the lettuce was wilted, and the onions tasted as though they were chopped 2 weeks prior.

Zelda opted for some wings from the Pic-A-Lilli where we have gone many times.  She got a basket of ears, wings, and tails, and these had great flavor, although they could have used some more time being cooked as they were not exactly hot.  But again, we weren't there for the food, and in the future, we now know that we should just order a giant 8 foot haogie to feed everyone.  We were smart enough however to bring snacks, and Charnel made a great dip.  There were also other chips, and brought a giant tray of pretzels from he Philly Pretzel Company.

The grounds themselves were beautiful with grape vines growing all over the place.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind of grapes they were, but from the looks and taste, I am guessing they were all Concord, and guessing that they were just there for show.  But with that said, it is effective, and it did look nice.

There was plenty of live music being played, and the grounds were absolutely packed!  You could also do some tasting, and the lines for tasting and to purchase other bottles was ridiculous.  What I found most amusing was the people walking around with bottle in one hang, glasses in another as though they were drinking Krug!  It really was a funny sight, but all that matters is that it was a great afternoon with great friends.

Definitely lookig forward to this event again next year, and again, we will be BYO'ing and drinking something other than NJ's finest!  It really was almost like being out in wine country, and what more could you ask for other than a great afternoon with great friends?  More to come! 

Below is information cut and pasted from their website:

September 18 & 19, 2010 - Noon to 5:30pm Valenzano Winery, Old Indian Mills Rd, Shamong, NJ

All information from their website at:

Come out and enjoy New Jersey's Favorite Wine & Music Festival. WineFest is our opportunity to celebrate the coming harvest and to put on a great party for our customers and friends. This will be our 8th year hosting WineFest and the event grows bigger and better each year. We doubled the size of the festival grounds to make room for more seating, picnicking area, more crafters and vendors. We also will have a larger wine sales tent making it easier and more convenient to get a glass or bottle of wine as you enjoy the concerts.

Musical Performers Include:
Gas House Gorillas - Saturday & Sunday
Scoville Blues Band - Sunday
South Saturn Delta - Saturday


* Wine Tasting with souvenir wine glass
* New Model Car Show by Cherry Hill Auto Group
* Helicopter Rides of the Pine Barrens
* Cheese Tasting by Cabot Creamery
* Children's Concert and activities by Studio Lulu

Participating Restaurants and Food Vendors:

* UpperCrust Restaurant & Pizza
* Murphy's Market & Catering
* Pic-A-Lilli
* Best of Show Catering
* J-Dogs Catering
* Corny Island
* Mom's Food Concessionaires

Advanced Tickets: $8.00
Tickets at the Gate: $12.00
Children Enter for FREE (under 17)
Tickets are valid for ONE DAY ONLY.
Two day ticketing is available.

Be sure to get your advanced tickets. It will save you money and time getting into the event.


* Parking on the road is prohibited. There is 20 acres of open parking right next to the entrance of the event. Why people continue to park on the road and walk a mile to the festival is beyond me. Last year I posted 75 signs along the side of the road informing people about our CONVENIENT FREE PARKING and asking them not to park on the road. All 75 signs were run over by parked cars.

* Alcoholic Beverages other than Valenzano Wines are strictly prohibited.

* Coolers and picnics are permitted but security will search bags and coolers upon entrance to the festival.

* Any found beer or liquor will be confiscated and consumed by our staff at a later time and location.

* Small, well behaved dogs are permitted as long as we do not get many complaints. I can handle a few complaints but if there are more than a handful we will no longer allow dogs.

* Pop-up Tents are not permitted. We sell Private Party Tents. If we are sold out of Private Party Tents it means that there is no more places that a tent can be placed where it wont be an obstruction to the other guests attending the festival.

* Wine consumption and having a good time is permitted and recommended

* Being drunk and out of control is not permitted. We reserve the right to stop serving anyone for any reason at any time. Refunds will not be given.

* Discounted Tickets are available to Designated Drivers. We encourage everyone to have a designated driver.

* Please be nice to our volunteers. It takes over 85 friend, family and volunteers to pull off WineFest. Not everyone is informed about all the aspects of our winery or the event.


1) There is no line for wine tasting
2) Step up to the tables and let our volunteers know what you would like to sample
3) step back to make room for the people behind you while you sample your wine
4) step back to the table when you would like another sample
5) Drink dry whites first, then dry reds, than sweet wines, and fruit wines last. If you sample in this order there is no need to constantly rinse your glass and you can actually TASTE the different characteristics in the specific wine.

Friday, September 17, 2010

West Side Gravy - Collingswood, NJ

We walked in and saw about 5 tables seated at West Side Gravy, and this was a shock to me on a Friday night. Why this place is not packed night in night out is beyond me. We were immediately greeted by the same waiter who waited on us the last time we had visited. He is super personable, and just a nice guy. He asked if we wanted the same table in the window that we had sat in last time, and we said sure, why not! It’s a great place to sit and people watch.

Our server Mai Ling (I think that was her name) came over and greeted us. She had recognized us and said that it had been a few months since we had been in. Wow, that is some good customer service. She also made a mention of the blog, and said, “You guys are F. Scott and Zelda right?” Too funny, and it is good to know that there are actually a few people that read what we have to say! It’s good to know that I am not just brushing up on my typing skills here for nobody other than myself! LOL! In all honesty, it really is nice to know that we have people reading here, that are actually interested in what we have to say.

At this same time I reached into the Riedel carrying case, grabbed out stems, and grabbed a 2006 Carlisle Syrah Sonoma County. I opened it up, and Mai Ling came back and told us about their new chef, which we had actually heard about from our friend Sherry earlier in the day. It turns out that Chef Capasso had hired a new sous chef for West Side Gravy, and her name is Siobhan Allgood, a Philadelphia native, who just happened to be on Season 7 of Hell’s Kitchen. What is there to say other than awesome!

Mai Ling asked us if we would let Chef Allgood put together a tasting menu for us, and asked us if there were any restrictions. We told her that we were definitely up for this, and the only restrictions were first that Zelda doesn’t eat beef or pork, and secondly, that the West Side Gravy Fries with the pinot noir gravy are an absolute must! What is there to say other than awesome? Needless to say, we were very excited that she wanted to do something special for us, and give us the chance to taste a bunch of her new creations!

In the meantime, we sat and were looking out the windows, and wondering why the restaurant wasn’t absolutely packed. We looked down towards the Pop Shop, and there was no line there either, however, the Tortilla Press had a line 5-12 people deep over the course of the evening. This is surprising to me, as we’ve been there, and I didn’t think it was all that good. Maybe it is a niche market, and maybe they have their fans, I don’t know. I really wanted to go over there with some menus and try to get some people to come over to West Side Gravy, but that really isn’t our place to do that. If only these people knew that they were missing out on!

Out came our first dish, and it was Chef Allgood’s take on Amuse Bouche. As you can see from the picture, this is a single shrimp that was poached in a coconut milk, served cold, and cooked perfectly, atop a wasabi cucumber sorbet. What is there to say about this dish other than fresh? The sorbet is absolutely delicious, and quite possibly one of the freshest, most refreshing things I have ever eaten. This is a very innovative take on sorbet in my opinion, and it works very well. With the freshness of the shrimp, the sliver of chive on top, and the sorbet, it is just awesome and amazing! I would love to suck these down on the beach all afternoon on a hot day! The wasabi is mellow and subdued, and then the freshness of the cucumber hits you. Two totally separate entities, but both are awesome. Definitely not comfort food here, but I am not complaining in the least. This gets a big thumbs up!

Next out is one of my favorites, and that is the hand-cut West Side Gravy Fries with the pinot noir sauce and awesome. I love the fact that these skins are left on the potatoes before slicing them, as it gives it a nice element. These are sliced nice, small, and thin, and they come out straight from the fryer, steaming on. As I said the last time we were here, I am not a big fan of gravy type sauces, but this is a gravy that I could put on anything. It is great on the fries, but would be awesome on a hot Chicago style beef and cheddar sandwich. It is good to the point where you could practically drink it. What is there not to like about this?

Next out was a soup, and in all honesty, had this not been brought to us, it is something that I probably would not order just based on the name or description. This was an apple soup with carrot and paprika oil, and let me tell you, it was something that blew my hair back. The site of this alone was gorgeous, with the different colors from the vegetables, to the oils, creams, etc that topped this soup. For me, I think that the apple was the star here, as the carrot seemed to be more in the background. Neither flavor overwhelmed anything here, and it was yet again a nice, clean soup. This was drizzled with a smoked paprika oil, and was topped with a dehydrated carrot, and it rocked! Again, I never in a million years would have ordered something like this off of a menu anywhere, but my mind has definitely been changed. This rocked, and was once again very innovative. Nothing comforting about this dish at all in my opinion, but it worked, and worked well. I would love to eat this any day of the week!

From here we were served the Signature Salad, made from farmer’s greens, with Granny Smith apple, gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, dried cranberries, and a balsamic vinaigrette. I can still remember when salads like this started popping up in restaurants, and how awesome I thought they were. I still think that this is the case, and I think that it has turned into a comfort food of sorts. The greens were fresh, the fruits were fresh, and the dressing is made with love, and very homemade. There is nothing not to like about this salad, and it was great. I am however wondering how much longer this salad might be around as it seems to be getting “played out” as everyone seems to have it now. But with that said, it is obviously working, and this one definitely did. It hit the spot, and the dressing couldn’t have been any more delicious. It all just works nicely together!

From here, we were heading south of the border and were both brought some Baja Fish Taco’s! These were made from fresh Pollock, then lightly battered and fried, served on a miniature tortilla. The Pollock is the perfect pairing for this, and the batter on the fish is super light and airy! This is then topped with a thin shredded cabbage, and a secret sauce that has some nice, smoky, chipotle elements to it. This is another dish that I could eat on a daily basis, and it was a heck of a good appetizer! This too is something that I would order off of the menu in a heartbeat, and their rendition of this classic puts Surf Taco to shame! Sorry Surf Taco, I still love you, but there is no comparison!

At this point, I am comfortably getting full, and really starting to wonder how much more food we are going to get! Then out came the mains! Holy moly I need to take a deep breath so I can make some more room in my belly! I also saw a couple outside who was looking at the menu, just as many had throughout the evening. Maybe some of these folks had already eaten, and were just curious for their next visit to town. This couple however was not getting away, so I went outside to talk to them. They lived in town, and they said they have wanted to stop in, but that they really love Thai Basil down the street. So I told them that they have eaten at Thai Basil plenty of times, and that they need to come in and try West Side Gravy. I gave them a quick little insight to Blackbird, and then mentioned the fact that Chef Allgood was now here. The girl actually had a friend who was on Season 6 of Hell’s Kitchen, but I forget who her friend was. Needless to say, my persuading worked, and they came in. This was a great feeling, and by the time they finished their dinner and left, they absolutely loved it, and they will be back again! Score one for us and for West Side Gravy!

For my entrée, Chef Allgood prepared a braised short rib, with a horseradish mashed potato, fresh spinach, and the ever so lovely pinot noir sauce. Let me say that these short ribs were some of the most tender short ribs I have ever had! Short ribs is by far one of my favorite dishes of all times, and I have had them at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant London, No. 9 in Lambertville, Darryl Wine Bar, Bobby Flay’s restaurant, etc. Just the fact that she chose these is awesome in itself since this is a staple in my book, and not something that everyone can do correctly. These however were done right, and they were awesome. This was a great cut of meat, and these were cooked better than I could cook them myself. The fat in these was minimal, and they were just delicious. The spinach paired perfectly, served in between the potato and the short ribs. It was not only tasty, but it looked beautiful as well.

For Zelda’s entrée, Chef Allgood chose a seared Ahi tuna, served over rice. This was nice, sushi grade tuna, that was sliced and seared to perfection. There was a nice pink line going through the center of the tuna, and they were topped with pea tendrils that make a great garnish, and compliment the dish nicely. I could actually eat pea tendrils like popcorn as they are so tasty. The dish was surrounded by a nice foam, that had drizzles of an oil of sorts. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what either of these were, but they were good, and they complimented the tuna nicely! Yet another solid dish!

At this point, we were absolutely stuffed, but we knew that dessert was yet to come! Hopefully it wasn’t something too heavy! Before dessert, Chef Allgood came out to introduce herself, and we had a nice 5 minute or so conversation. She was very personable, and we asked her about her experience on Hell’s Kitchen, and she seems as though she thoroughly enjoyed it. We asked her a whole plethora of other questions, ranging to where she was from, where she has worked, what she thought of Chef Ramsay, her fellow contestants, etc. Needless to say, she was great, and seemed very genuine.

Moments later, Chef Capasso appeared from the kitchen, and had come over from Blackbird. He had his usual rounds around the restaurant, and then came over to our table to say hello. Again, we congratulated him on such a great venture, and on his recent hiring of Chef Allgood. As our dessert appeared from the kitchen, he described the homemade Snickers Bar, the West Side Gravy pudding, and the Orange Dreamsicle inspired cake. All of these were great, but that was expected. The Snickers was actually better than the real thing, with better homemade flavors. The butterscotch pudding, or whatever it is actually called is a staple, and it should be a food group in itself. The Dreamsicle cake had very nice orange flavors, and was served with a sweet, caramelesque sauce. All the desserts were wonderful, and at this point, I couldn’t take another bite of anything! WOW am I stuffed!

I have to say that so far in 2010, there have not been many new restaurants to pop onto the scene that have gotten me excited, but West Side Gravy is by far the most exciting of the new restaurants we have frequented. Based on Chef Capasso’s menu. These are comfort foods at their finest, and on steroids. He takes dishes that people love, and puts his own special twist on them, and I am assuming now Chef Allgood is putting her twist on them as well. Then they put them on the menu at under $15, and they have a gold mine in the making. The most expensive entrée that I remember on the menu is $18.50, and that was the steak frities. Most of the items were in the $14-$16 range, and small plates anywhere from $8-$10. Appetizers or small plates started around $5.50, and went all the way to $8.50, and salad were $7-$9. In this economy, these are bargains! But my question is, why is this place not full every night of the week with these prices in this economy? Was it Craig LaBan’s rude headline on titled “What’s Up with Alex Capasso’s West Side Gravy?” ( I seriously hope not, as he clearly states in the article that he has never been there. He does however state that the space seems uninviting. Well let me ask you Craig, what exactly is uninviting about this space? As for the comment that it is “still trying to find its crowd,” I gotta say that every other time we have been here, the crowd has been there, so I think the crowd has definitely been found.

To me, the space at West Side Gravy is awesome! I love the tables up in what used to be the Woolworth’s window display, and this is where we always love to sit. It is a great place to people watch, and to see what the other restaurants in town or doing. As far as the interior of the restaurant goes, it has nice hardwood floors, and I love the tattoo inspired “food art” on the walls. It is just very cool artwork, and a bit on the retro side. It is just a cozy restaurant to me, and I don’t get what Mr. LaBan’s beef is with the restaurant. But in all actuality, can you really take his word for if seeing as he has not eaten there? To each their own I guess, and I really doubt that this article has any bearing whatsoever. But if you have been to the restaurant, leave a comment about the article like I did!

I think it is just a matter of time before people discover West Side Gravy. At this point, there is no website, and I have yet to see any publicity. Maybe this has been done on purpose, but once word gets out as to who is actually involved in this restaurant, being Chef Capasso, who the sous chef is, the type of menu, and the pricing, I think that they are going to be hoping that they had more space. This is a gold mine in the making, and everyone will see this in time! By the time we were ready to go, we had seen another dozen tables come in to be seated, so it is good to see them getting some decent foot traffic. Next time, we'll recruit more people to come in, and again, they will be giving us some praise for luring them in!

In short, if West Side Gravy was here in town, we would probably eat there a minimum of 3 nights a week! And starting tomorrow, they will be serving Sunday Brunch! Stay tuned for more exciting happenings coming on West Side Gravy! I have much more to say, and it is only going to get better! Cheers! -F. Scott

PS:  as always, the pictures from the Blackberry just do not do the food justice.  I really need to start bringing the Canon out with us, but I think that is a bit rude!

West Side Gravy
714 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108
Phone: (856)858-7153

Tue-Thur: 11AM-9PM
Fri-Sat: 11AM-10:30PM
Sun: 11AM-9PM

Sunday Brunch Menu:

Not that all artwork was borrowed from the West Side Gravy Facebook page.