Friday, October 29, 2010

2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Uvas Creek Vineyard

I’ve had a case of these resting in the cellar for almost exactly a year now, and figured why not pop one after the great showing this had at our Stefania tasting back in September.  Unfortunately, I think this is the last Uvas Creek that will be produced by Stefania which is a shame.  Paul and Stef really know how to make good wine from the fruit at Uvas Creek, and I will definitely miss this one from their lineup. 
Popped and poured this bad boy tonight, and it showed a nice dark red color in the glass.  Very nice nose of a berry medley, with cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and other dark berry fruits.  There are also some nice layers of spice here, and a certain oak smell that I can always recognize in Paul and Stef’s wines.  I really think this has everything to do with the barrels they use, and if I had to put money on it, Paul used a brand new Seguin Moreau barrel in this wine, that seems to be one of his signature.  No, I am not crazy, it is that distinct, and very common for Paul to do.
On the palate, this is definitely young, and could have used a couple hours in the decanter.  As this wine opened up, it showed more nice red fruit, mainly cherry, and a whole lot of creamy vanilla, which again I attribute to the oak.  There is also a bit of cassis here, and just a bit of pluminess.  A little bit of spice rounds out the palate, and is seems to be a pretty big wine.  There is definitely a bit of tannin on the finish, and maybe even a touch of alcohol, but these will both mellow with age.
All in all, this is a very nice wine, and quite possibly the best Uvas Creek yet, which is truly a shame since it is going to be the last.  To me, this had just as much fruit as the ’05, which is drinking really nicely right now by the way, yet it was a bit more structured than the ’05, and more like the ’06 in that tense.  All in all, a delicious wine that will benefit with air, and benefit even more from some storage time in the bottle.  Drink now with 2-4 hour decant.  91 points.  Cheers!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Village Whiskey - Philadelphia, PA

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous, and I only wish we would have had this weather 4 years ago when we got married in Medford, NJ. But even with a little rain, it turned out to be a beautiful day, and one we will both cherish forever!

For the first time since we’ve been married, we really didn’t plan a big, glorious, over the top dinner. In all actuality, we didn’t even make up our minds until the day of our anniversary as where we wanted to go. After wanted to check out Iron Chef Jose Garces Village Whiskey, we figured that today was the day, so we hopped in the Audi, and we were Philly bound.

We found parking on the street about a block away, and walked up to Village Whiskey, only to find that it is right next door to one of Chef Garces’ other restaurants, Tinto ( We were greeted at the door by the hostess who said it would be about a ½ hour wait, so we said we’d hit the bar for a drink. Needless to say, we found two open stools, and decided to eat dinner right at the bar. Pretty romantic for an anniversary celebration! ;-)

The bartender was very nice and attentive, came right over, and took our drink orders. I looked over the wine list for a quick second, as Zelda ordered her signature Tanqueray and tonic! I ended up going for a Boulder Pale Ale which I’ve had in the past. Our drinks came out seconds later, and we ordered a few apps from the menu. Zelda chose the deviled eggs which are one of her favorite things to eat, and we also ordered the cheese puffs, and tater tots.

As we waited for our apps, we watched the bartender making Old Fashion after Old Fashion for the patrons. It was interesting to see, and he really has it down to a science, from the way he put the bitters on the sugar cube, to the number of stirs, the number of ice cubes, etc. It was interesting to see. We also got a quick brief on the 30 or so different bitters that they have in the restaurant. Very interesting to say the least, and they even have a celery infused bitters.

First out were Zelda’s deviled eggs. This was 3 egg halves, and she said that they were absolutely delicious, and almost as good as the World Famous Weez’s deviled eggs. Weez is a friend of ours who is now stationed in Europe, and to this day, still have the best deviled eggs.

Next out were the cheese puffs and the tater tots! This is what I am talking about! Comfort food heaven right here! The puffs were nice, baked, puffed pastry, smothered with cheese. They were light and airy, and had nice flavor to them. I think I could eat these by the dozen. The tater tots were a bit greasy, but who am I to complain about a little grease? These had a nice crisp outside, and a soft and chewy center. They were very hot, and very good. This was served with a side of an onion sauce that had some really good smoke to it. All in all, 3 very solid appetizers here.

Meanwhile, I saw a Pear Cider on the menu that I wanted to try, so I ordered it up. This was made by Ace I think, and it was very refreshing. This would be a gorgeous cider to drink on the beach, and just had some great, refreshing, summer flavors! I could drink this for dessert as well!

Our entrees came out shortly later, and Zelda opted for the Lobster Roll. I was really hoping that she was going to order this, as I was very curious to see if it was worth the $28 price of admission. This came out on a delicious, soft, toasted roll that had a really nice texture to it. It was then topped with a long slab of bacon, a slice of lettuce, and a lot of claw and tail meat. It was then covered with a sauce of sorts, and once again, the flavors were very nice. The lobster was cooked nicely, and what is there to say other than awesome here? Wow this was good!

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone what I went the burger route here, and I ordered it with bacon and caramelized onions. Unfortunately, I must have forgotten to ask for cheese, but it was still good. I LOVE cheese, but this burger didn’t need it. This had a nice dressing of sorts on it, that although wasn’t needed, was still good. The flavors in the meat were nice, and what is there not to like about bacon and grilled onions on a burger? Even the pickle was delicious, but I did however remove the lettuce and tomato, as I don’t think they are needed when you have bacon and caramelized onion.

For our side tonight, we were for the Duck Fat Fries with cheese on the side, and these rocked. These were nice fries cooked in duck fat, but you would never know. I expected them to be a little greasy, but that was not the case at all. Even the cheddar on the side was delicious!

All in all, what is there to say other than the fact that Chef Garces has another winner here? It may not have been a fancy, romantic dinner, but we sure left with happy belly’s…but we did save enough room to hit the gelato shop across the street on the way back to the car! Happy anniversary to us! We’ll be back here in the future! Cheers! -F. Scott

Village Whiskey
118 S 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA
Phone: (215) 665-1088 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tsukasa Japanese Restaurant - Bordentown, NJ

What’s there to say about a chilly Friday October night in New Jersey?  Well, with the Spirit Walk going on in Bordentown this weekend, we decided to take a stroll out that way, and the cold weather was calling for some good warm noodles, so Tsukasa was out spot!

Walked in and saw just 3 tables open, so we picked one furthest from the door since it was so chilly.  Sat down, and popped and poured a 2006 Kosta Browne Gary’s pinot noir.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but Tsukasa is a great little family run gem.  The father is always rolling the sushi while his wife is working in the kitchen, creating soups, tempura, teriyaki, etc.  Their son runs the front of house, taking care of drinks, taking orders, and running food to the tables.  They are such a great family, and they are living their dream, and I am sure that the residents of little Bordentown City find them to be a great asset.

We both started off with rolls tonight.  Zelda opted for the spicy salmon roll, and I went for the spicy tuna roll.  As always, these came out fast, and they were delicious.  They were nice and plump, and fresh and delicious.  Enough said.

We both ended up going for the soup tonight since it was a chilly evening!  Zelda went with the tempura udon, and I went with the tempura soba.  This is a nice Asian styled broth with noodles, the udon being a fat noodle, and the soba being a skinny noodle.  The tempura shrimp and vegetables are then served on the side, consisting of onion, broccoli, sweet potato, green beans, and potato.  There were 2 pieces of shrimp, and several pieces of vegetable, and as always, this is good.  Great comfort food on a chilly night, and just a joy.

As usual, another great meal at Tsukasa, and the family there is always so nice, and the prices are cheap!  We’ll be back again several times over the winter for sure to get our soup fix to stay warm!  Cheers!

Friday, October 22, 2010

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Garys' Vineyard

Popped and poured, and this really could have used a few hours in the decanter.  The nose was gorgeous with lots of bright black cherry, strawberry, raspberry and cranberry, but you could also still detect some heat on the nose.    There was also a bit of plummy-ness to the nose, and some vegetal spice.


On the palate, there wasn’t a whole lot that inspired me here, and I have to say, that I have not been all that impressed with the last few wines we’ve had from Gary’s Vineyard, whether they be from Kosta Browne, or other wineries.  Maybe this vineyard is just not appealing to me, I don’t know.  Or maybe it was just the 2006 vintage that we haven’t enjoyed.  Time will tell.


More dark cherries on the palate, but this definitely had some heat, and was a bit on the bitter side.  Sometimes bitter is not bad, and this wasn’t overly offensive.  Secondary nuances of strawberry, cola, spice, and a bit of herb rounded out the palate, with some tannin and alcohol on the finish. 


In my opinion, this wine just needs some more time to come around, and we’ll give it another couple years before we pop another!  86 points

Cheeseburger in Paradise - Langhorn, PA

First and foremost, let me say that it is not often that we visit chain restaurants, let alone blog about them, but our experience here was so weird, and such a trip back in time, that I thought it was worth writing about it.


The night started as we had to take a ride across the Route 1 bridge into PA to get some Halloween props that we could only find at one store.  Afterwards, we figured we’d go for a little drive since we had never been in this area, and figured we’d find something to eat somewhere.  I remembered this Cheeseburger in Paradise was by the mall, and just joking, I threw it out there for Zelda to contemplate.  Surprisingly, she was game, so being the burger connoisseur that I am, I figured why not.


So we get rock star parking in the lot, and walk in, and there was a young girl working the hostess stand.  She’s working hard on something, and says hello without even looking up to acknowledge us.  Next a girl comes up and starts rattling off table numbers to the other girl, who then grabs some menu’s and starts walking.  About 5 steps later she asks us to follow her.  Weird!


She must have had a specific table in mind for us, as we walked past 10 or so open tables en route to our destination.  When we get there however, the table was just being bussed, so we stood there and waited while they cleared the dishes, and wiped down the table.  OK, so we’re sitting, but what the heck was this all about?  What was wrong with the 10 other tables that they passed on the way to this one?  Or maybe it was our servers turn next, and we had to sit in her section.  From the looks of it however, they were not broken up into sections, and each server had tables scattered around the entire restaurant, which I also thought was weird.


Regardless, our server came over, and she was very nice, and very young.  She asked if we had ever been here before, and we said now, and she gave us a nice welcome and immediately took our drink orders.  I went for the Paradise Beach ale that is made for them, and went with the 14 ouncer –vs- the 22 ounce pour.  Zelda opted for a Tanqueray and tonic.


From here we perused the menu for about 5 minutes.  Both of us thinking we were coming here for burgers, and my mind was pretty well set.  The table next to us had their food brought out, and I saw the bacon cheeseburger, and it really didn’t look all that appealing.  They also had a plate of sliders, which did however look delicious, so my mind was set.  10 minutes after their food came out, another guy showed up at their table to eat the sliders.  By this point, they had to be pretty cold.  But where was this guy?  Where did he come from?  Very strange!  He actually looked like he just woke up.  Maybe he was at home napping and they didn’t want to wake him when they left for dinner?


A few minutes later, our server came back and told us that the bar was backed up, but our drinks were coming.  In the meantime, we went ahead and ordered.  Zelda going for the turkey sliders with pressed, which meant they were served with Velveeta cheese (YUM), salsa ketchup, pickles, and mayo.  I ended up going the mini cheeseburger route, which had cheese, onions, and pickles.


About 5 minutes later our drinks came out.  Thankfully, the “bar rush” must be over.  In looking at the restaurant, the place wasn’t even ¼ of the way full, so obviously the bartender is not working effectively.  In all actuality, it looked like there were maybe 4 people sitting at the bar, but I am sure this bartender was doing all the drinks for the entire restaurant.  That said, we’ll let it slide.


As we sat waiting for our food, we did some people watching.  Let me tell ya that this is a great place to people watch.  Is this the land before time over here?  The extremely young couple next to us was going through a contract of sorts, and talking about down payments.  I think it was from a furniture store, so maybe they just got their first apartment or bought their first house, and are getting ready to finance some new furniture.  I remember those days, and it was a very exciting time.


Meanwhile, the table with the guy that just woke up is scarfing down their burgers, as they talk with their mouths open.  The guy that just woke up is making a spectacle as he jokingly stuff the sliders in his mouth whole, one after another.  The table on the other side of us, a group of cougars talks about heading to a “club” called Michael’s, and they then talk about their plans for the young men they plan on picking up tonight.  Good lord we are in the twilight zone!  Did we leave civilization and go to Pennsytucky?  Can’t be!  We’re just 15 minutes from Princeton!  God helps us!


Anyway, the manager, who couldn’t be a day over 23 brought our food out, and we were ready to eat.  Our server came over and asked if we needed anything, and we stated that we just needed the world famous cheese that we asked for with the fries, and I needed silverware and napkins.  Out came the cheese, and out came the napkins.  I really didn’t need any silverware anyway considering the cuisine.


Zelda’s turkey burgers were tasty, and mine, although a bit overcooked had good flavors to them.  The fries were warm, but could have been hotter and crispier.  But even so, they were nicely seasoned, and the cheese for them was delicious.  Would I go out of my way to eat here?  Absolutely not, but it was better than some places we’ve visited, but that doesn’t say much.


I had finished eating, and our server came over to take my plate.  She asked if I was finish and said yes, she then asked if she could take the cheese from the fries, to which I replied no as Zelda still had a plate full of fries, and a slider and a half to finish.  She then asked if she could bring us dessert, to which I replied no, and she then said she would bring our check.  OK, what’s going on here?  Zelda’s not even done eating yet, still has 1/3 of her food on the plate, and she’s already bring us the check?  Call me temperamental, but that is a bit rude. 


Our check came over, and for $26 and change with a drink each, it wasn’t a bad deal.  I throw my card in the book, stand it up on the table, and she comes and takes it a few minutes later.  She runs the card, brings it back, and tells us to have a good evening.   Easy enough.  I open up the book to sign it, and what do you know, there is no pen to sign the credit card slip.  Does she not want to get paid here?  Thankfully, Zelda had a pen in her purse, and we’re on our way.  We go to leave, and there is nobody at the front of the restaurant, and off we go.


Again, maybe I am used to having good service.  Maybe this is just the norm in chain restaurants?  Or maybe I am just a big fat @$$#*!&…I don’t know, but it was a weird experience, and worth mentioning.  Cheers!


750 Middletown Blvd

Langhorne, PA

Located at the Oxford Valley Mall

Phone:  (215) 757-3179

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scott's Country Market - New Egypt, NJ

After eating my leftover Moosewood Restaurant Leek and Asparagus strudel for breakfast this morning, I needed to come up with a lunch plan. Since I couldn't think of one, I ended up going for a drive, and next thing you know I was in New Egypt and wandered into this place...

I walked in an saw the deli case in the back with all kinds of hot creations!  The first thing that caught my eye was the panini’s.  It looked like there were some stuffed with salami and cheese, another with prosciutto, cheese, and spinach, and finally another one with sausage, spinach, and cheese.  These looked wonderful.

They also had anything in the case ranging from pulled pork, to meatballs, to ribs, to BBQ chicken, sausage and peppers, etc.  One of today’s specials was a hot roast beef sandwich, and the beef looked very nice, bathing in warm gravy!  There was also a nice steak sandwich today as well that looked good. With so many pre made lunch options, you can get in and out of here pretty quick.

The two gentleman in front of me ordered made to order hoagies, and those looked nice as well.  They have a sandwich board with 20 or so different sandwiches, but I am sure they can make anything you ask them to.

I ended up going with my gut, and ordered one of the pre-made panini’s.  They just looked too good to pass up, with nice grilled sausage, and the melted cheese oozing from everywhere!  Paid and brought it back to the office, and I’ll tell ya, the car ride back to the office was heavenly, and you could really smell the garlic.

Unwrapped my sandwich, and took my first bite, and sure enough, the garlic was there!  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love garlic, and this is definitely not for the faint at heart.  I think the garlic was all in the spinach and the way they cooked it, but even for me it was a lot.  All in all, not a bad sandwich in the least, but it didn’t blow my mind either.  In all actuality, I think I should have gone for the roast beef, but what can you do?  Just looks like I’ll have to go back again in the future to give it a try!  Stay tuned!  Cheers!

Scott’s Country Market
19 Main Street
New Egypt, NJ 08533
Phone (609) 758-2143
Fax (609) 758-3259
Hours 6 AM - 9 PM
Since I cannot get the pictures to move today, his is going to have to stay down here until the editing function on blogger starts functioning correctly again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Garces Trading Co – Philadelphia, PA from 21 August 2010

This is actually a trip that we made back on August 21st, and I had started writing the review, but never got around to finishing it. Now that I have, I think that it is best to post this at the top of the blog so it doesn't go unseen. Enjoy!  Actually, I just want to see if our friends at South Jersey Wine and Dine are paying attention since he asked me about this review when we say him on September 11th at the Stefania tasting!  ;-)

After our trip to Delorenzo’s on Thursday night, one of their waiters, Tony, who always has good suggestions for us, said that we had to check out Garces Trading Co in Philadelphia. That said, here it is Saturday night, and a great night to take a trip into Philly, even though it’s a work weekend for me. Thankphilly, I mean, thankfully, Philly is nice and close, so it wasn’t a bad drive at all.

I had originally heard about this restaurant in a big old storm of controversy, as restaurant owners and big wigs in Philadelphia were upset with the fact that the PALCB let Chef Garces put this store in his restaurant. I can’t remember how all the controversy started or ended, but there was a big spat for a while, and I am assuming that it has calmed down now.

For those of you who do not know who Chef Jose Garces is, he won Season 2 of The Next Iron Chef, and is currently undefeated on Iron Chef. He is originally from Chicago, and owns 5 other restaurants in Philly: Amada, Tinto, Distrito, Chifa, and Village Whiskey. What had me most intrigued with this restaurant is not only the fact that Chef Garces is from Chicago, but also the fact that he has deep dish pizza on the menu! Could this possibly be as good as anything back home? Could it be authentic? We'll see...that is of course if I am in the mood for some deep dish.

Popped and poured the Burgundy on the street, and started looking at the menu. Down the whole left hand side of the menu is a great selection of cheeses, broken down by region. He has anything from cheeses from Spain, to France, to Italy, and the United States. We ended up going for the 3 cheese sampler, with the manchego, brie de nangis, and house made mozzarella. For a dollar each, you can also order condiments on the side, so we chose the truffle lavender honey, as well as the roasted garlic duce de leche which came highly recommended from our server.

So we sat and drank our wine, and watched the hustle and bustle of the cars, as well as the foot traffic, and had a nice conversation with two of the boys who were sitting at a table beside us. A few minutes later our first two cheeses came out, along with the condiments for the cheese. We also received some fresh crusty bread, and what may be some of the tastiest olive oil I have had this summer.

Back to the cheeses, these came out on a long and narrow piece of stone, and it looked very nice. The stone was then garnished with slices of fresh apple, which complimented the cheeses nicely. The first I tried was the manchego, which comes from Spain, and is a firm sheep's milk cheese. This was a nice rich cheese with good flavors and great texture, and I really enjoyed this with the truffled honey which was delicious! As for the brie, this was French of course, and a soft cow cheese. This had a nice mild nuttiness to it, with buttery characteristics as well. Our waiter recommended using the roasted garlic dulce de leche on this, which was tasty. I did however prefer the truffled honey on both of the cheeses, while the garlic dulce de leche was wonderful on the bread.

About 10 minutes later our mozzarella came out. This takes a little longer, and is actually made to order in house. What a fabulous idea, and a great cheese. We actually took a mozzarella making class back in the spring on Zelda's birthday, so I can definitely appreciate the effort that goes into making this!

This came out in a bowl with a nice, round flatness to it, positioned over some fresh olive oil in the bottom of a bowl, and scored into 4 sections. It was then drizzled with olive oil, and topped with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. The texture in this is absolutely awesome, and it comes out still warm. You really can tell that this was fresh pulled and shaped, and it was gorgeous. Nice subtle flavors, and a million times better than the balls of mozz you buy at your local grocery store. What is there to say here other than awesome?

For entrees tonight, there really were ton of options I could have bought into. One nice feature they have is the "Plats Du Jour," which is a special they have every night that serves to. The special tonight however was the Steak Frites, which sounds great to me, but not so good for my non-meat eating partner in crime Zelda! At $30 though, this seems like a heck of a great deal! Other weekly specials include Coq Au Vin on Monday, Choucroute on Tuesday, Grilled Whole Bronzino on Wednesday, Bouillabaisse on Thursday, Paella on Friday, and Lasagna on Sunday. This range from $28-$45 for the meal for 2. Not a bad deal at all!

Tonight however, Zelda talked me into the deep dish, and I was very hopeful that it would be in the style of the Original Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due in Chicago. Needless to say, it came out, and it looked gorgeous. The crust was very nice, and pretty authentic. I'd say it was pretty similar to what you would find in Chicago, but lacked just a bit of the flakey butteriness that I love about Chicago style pizza. Regardless, it was still good, and it by far the most authentic thing I have had around here.

Zelda went with just cheese on her side, and I figured I would give the sausage a try. What I was really hoping however was that he got some good sausage "imported" from Chicago to use on his pies. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and it was actually a sausage that was in the casing and sliced. Although this was tasty, to me it didn't do the pie justice. The sauce on the pie was good, but again, not truly authentic. The flavors in the sausage were good, but again, not authentic.

All in all, I will say that I wasn't disappointed in the pie in the least, however, I was really hoping that it would be something similar to the great deep dish pies of Chicago. But I think Chef Garces has the right idea here in not trying to duplicate a true Chicago style pie, as it seems that people around here just don't get Chicago style pizza! I guess when you are born and raised on this thin stuff out here that you have to fold in half to eat, you just aren't open to try "the good stuff! ;-)

At the end of the meal, we paid our tab and stopped inside to check out the store, mainly on the lookout for the truffle honey to take home. It was also nice to see them selling many different kinds of olive oil, so we picked up a bottle of the California oil that they were actually serving on this night!

So what's there to say other than the fact that we had a nice dinner at a new to us restaurant. It was a great night to sit outside, and we really enjoyed it. I love the fact that it's BYO, but just in case you don't have anything, you can stop in the PALCB store inside, which has a nice selection, and good storage conditions in their climate controlled room. Next I'm looking forward to checking out Chef Garces other restaurant that intrigues me: Village Whiskey! Stay tuned!

Garces Trading Co – Philadelphia, PA
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215)574-1099

Dave's Famous Subs - Cookstown, NJ

Here it is, a cold and rainy New Jersey day in October.  I forgot my homemade mac & cheese leftovers from Zelda’s awesome creation, and I have to stop at the dry cleaners.  That said, I am craving a hot sandwich, so figured I would stop at Dave’s Famous Subs in Cookstown while I run my lunch time errands.

Dave’s opened probably 4 years ago if I remember correctly, and has been in the same plaza since its inception.  Today, I got there at about 11:15AM, and just beat the lunch rush I think.

Dave’s a small place, but they do have a few tables for your dining pleasure.  You walk in and see the soda fountains and deli case to your right, along with the sandwich line where they prepare your sammich.  On the wall behind that is the menu, ranging from breakfast, to cold subs, to hot subs, wraps, salads, and your fried sides.

I ended up going the hot route and ordered the pastrami and Swiss, which was cooked on the flat top in what looks to be a nice clean kitchen area in the back.  Meanwhile, another guy was building sandwiches for people, and by this point, he was about 5 deep.  Two other gentleman came in and ordered chicken cheesesteaks, and the guy working my pastrami on the flat top took care of those as well.  I think his name was Jeff.

From what I remember, the lines here can get very long at the lunch rush, but the two of them seemed to have a good system working for them.  Regardless, when you have 20 people waiting in line, I would have to guess it gets a little hectic.  Maybe they have other help on other days, I don’t know, but again, they had it down for the amount of customers who were there right now.

Took the sandwich back to my office, and found a nice crisp roll on the outside, with a nice soft center.  The pastrami was nice and warm, and well seasoned, topped with melted Swiss cheese, and some yellow mustard.  I actually reached into the fridge and grabbed a little Boars Head brown deli style mustard, and the sandwich was delicious.  Size here was about average, and it made for the perfect meal along with a small bag of Herr’s potato chips.  As for value, again, it was about average, as the sandwich and chips came to about $8.  All in all, a decent and convenient lunch, and I’ll definitely be back again in the future.  Cheers!

Dave’s Famous Subs
26 Wrightstown/Cookstown Road
Cookstown, NJ  08511
Phone:  (609)758-1103 or 754-1031
Mon-Fri:  7AM-2PM

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2006 Acardian Syrah Sleep Hollow Vineyard

After a little running around in Princeton today, I remember an e-mail I received on Friday I think from Joe Canal’s saying they had this on sale for under $18.  At that price, I had to stopped and pick up a few bottles, so I grabbed 3 to give it a whirl.  Arcadian’s pinot noir are fantastic, and seeing as this is our favorite time of year to drink syrah, why not!  If I recall, this wine was hovering around $30 on release from the winery, so to find this on sale for under $18 I had to give it a whirl.  In all actuality, I think I need to go back and back up the truck, taking all that they have left!

Popped and poured on “the bistro” today after doing some Halloween decorating on the street, and it had a gorgeous deep red ruby color in the glass.  Almost similar to cranberry juice, but it was also getting dark, so I could be a little off.  Great nose, with lots of pepper, cedar, and some black fruits.  Mostly blackberry, but also hints of black cherry and boysenberry.  Definitely a bit of spice on the nose as well, but I sensed next to no alcohol, so this wine has really come together I think.

On the palate, more of the same, with the black and red fruit dominating.  More blackberry and some black cherry, with maybe even a bit of currant.  On the finish, the pepper comes through, and is a bit more prominent than what I usually like, but for whatever reason, this didn't bother me a bit.  The finish was smooth and lingered, and you can tell that this is just a well made wine.  All in all, I'll be heading back for a few more of these, and this is worthy of 92 points.  I actually gave this an extra point based on the QPR factor.  This is a hard syrah to beat for the money!  Cheers!

Bon Appétit – Princeton, NJ

Today we had to run to Target to get our 86 year old neighbor, Mrs. Johnson some purple lights at Target so she could decorate her house for Halloween.  After leaving Target, I just started driving, in search of a good lunch somewhere.  We really couldn’t think of anywhere in town we wanted to eat, so next thing you know we’re driving down Nassau Street towards Harrison Street, when Bon Appétit popped into my head.  Bon Appétit is located in the Princeton Shopping Center off of Harrison Street.

Bon Appétit is a great little gourmet shop, that has anything from great, hard to find gourmet items, to a bakery, deli, etc.  You can find anything from truffle butter here, to an incredible cheese collection, to olive oils, truffle oils, crackers, sandwiches, meats, etc.  This is one of those shops that you walk into even when you are stuffed and can’t eat a thing, and find something to eat just because you’re there!

So today we decided to see what was on the menu, as their sandwiches are always a stomach pleaser, as well as their different salads they have, such as the orzo, or any of the other pasta salads.  Today however we went the sandwich route, and kind of the comfort food route for both of us.  Zelda went for an egg salad sandwich on rye, as this is one of her favorites.  Needless to say, she was very pleased with it, and she had a side of BBQ potato chips with it.

I went for the pastrami Rueben, which came out nice and hot, with some sauerkraut and thousand island dressing.  The flavors in the pastrami were great, as it was thinly sliced.  The ‘kraut also had great flavor, and it was all around tasty.  The bread seemed to have just a bit of sweetness to it, almost like French toast at first, but I am wondering if this was just from something that may have been cooked in their press or on the flat top before it.  Very strange, but not overly offensive, and it only seemed to take taste on the first half of the sandwich.  Regardless, it’s worth noting in my opinion.  I too went for the BBQ chips on the side, and we left very satisfied!  YUM!

The best thing about Bon Appétit is browsing while waiting for our sandwiches.  Their cheese selection is one of the best around, and today they were sampling a nice, soft cheese made from cow’s milk.  In all honesty, I forget what cheese it was not, but it was delicious.  They also have some great looking items in their deli case, ranging from good looking prosciutto, to pasta salads, to pot pies, etc.  Everything looked fabulous.  They also have a great selection of olive oil on one of the shelves, as well as a cold case where you find anything from truffle butter, to smoked salmon, to other tasty spreads.

All I’ll say is that if you are in the area, it’s worth stopping in to check it out!  If nothing else, stop in and grab a cookie!  They have many different kinds, and they are delicious!  Cheers!

Bon Appétit
301 North Harrison Street
Princeton, NJ  08540
Phone:  (609)924-7755

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Manila Bay - Philadelphia, PA

When Zelda mentioned today that she had a craving for Manila Bay today, I can’t even tell you how excited I got!  You don't have to tell me twice to go to "The Bay!"  For me, going to Manila Bay is the next best thing to going to my Mom’s house in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, and having an awesome Filipino inspired meal!  Well, being 850 miles from Mom’s, Manila Bay fills the void, and is just a bit over a ½ hour drive!

Manila Bay is located on Castor Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia.  For us, it is actually very easy to get to, as we just take the 295 to Route 73, then take the Tacony Bridge across the Delaware, and then hang a left onto Route 1.  In all actuality, we could take Route 1 all the way up, but that takes a bit longer in my opinion because of all of the stoplights.

So when Zelda mentioned Manila Bay, I Blackberry Messaged our friend and owner Bob Coll, to let him know we’d be coming in tonight.  He let Cherrie, his wife know, and she reserved a table for us at 8PM with a good view of the big screen to watch the Phillies play the San Francisco Giants tonight in the National League playoffs.

We ended up getting to Manila Bay about 25 minutes early, and our table was all ready for us.  We were greeted with hugs and kisses from Cherrie, as well as Caroline who was our server this evening.  It really is amazing how family oriented they are here, and Cherrie and Bob really do make you feel like family in their restaurant.  Unfortunately, Bob was serving the city of Philadelphia tonight where he is a paramedic, so we didn’t have the chance to see him.  But thanks Bob for all that you do for the city!

So we sat and ordered a few drinks.  Zelda went for her standard Tanqueray and Tonic,  and I went the Filipino route and ordered a San Miguel, which is a Filipino beer (  In the meantime, Caroline had put in an order for us for some appetizers.  Zelda went for the Manila Spring Rolls, while I went for the Lumpia Shanghai, which absolutely cannot be missed!  These came out a few minutes later, and were steaming hot, fresh from the fryer!  Both were magnificent, and I was in absolute lumpia heaven!  These are every bit as good as my mom's, and definitely better than the lumpia that I make at home!  WOW these are delicious!

In the meantime, we chatted with Cherrie, and she introduced us to many of their friends who were at the restaurant.  Sitting at a table in front of us were two of her friends, and at the bar was her brother and sister in law.  She just makes everyone feel at home, and it is just a cozy place to visit, with the Filipino décor all around the restaurant.  One piece of décor however that is not Filipino inspired, is a massive Phillies flag hanging on the left wall opposite the bar.  This is actually a flag that was flying over Veteran's Stadium way back when, that was taken down, signed by all the players, then sent to Bob when he was in Iraq, serving in the United States Air Force before he retired.  How awesome is that?

For dinner tonight, Zelda opted for the BBQ salmon, served with a black bean sauce, with steamed veggies and rice.  This was a gorgeous dish, and a massive helping that Zelda was definitely not going to finish.  The flavors from the grill on the salmon were absolutely amazing, and it goes to show how good a seasoned grill can make food taste!

As usual, I ordered the chicken adobo tonight, as it is one of my favorites.  Moments later, Cherrie came over and asked while I always order the adobo, so I gave her my honest answer:  "I order it because it's like sitting in my mom's kitchen and eating hers."  Nothing wrong with that at all, but she ended up talking me out of it, and I changed my order to the Pork Inihaw.  All I can say to this is WOW!  This is very thinly sliced, pork that is marinated in garlic and a bunch of different spices.  I have no idea how long this is marinated for, but the flavors here are absolutely incredible!  Again, the flavors from the gill here are what really makes this dish so good.  I have no idea how old their grill is, but Cherrie mentioned that it was old.  In my opinion, this is what gives this dish so much character.  The taste on the char is something that takes time, and the time only comes from a seasoned grill.  So Cherrie, if you are reading, do not ever get rid of this grill!  It is so good!

At this point we were stuffed, and hung out to finish our drinks, and just to talk with Cherrie and their friends.  I couldn't eat another bite, but Cherrie made it a point to bring us out a dessert.  For the life of me, I can't remember what it was, but it had a gorgeous green gelatin like product in it, with a nice creamy sauce, and it was delicious.  We split it between the two of us, and at that point, Cherrie wanted to bring out another dessert.  If only we had room, but we'll be back soon to try it, amongst other things on the menu.

One of the best things about Manila Bay is their pricing, and if this were my restaurant, the prices would be a lot higher!  Well, maybe not a lot higher, but perhaps a little higher!  The lumpia at $4 could be the bargain of the century!  The spring rolls are just $3, and my pork inihaw was just $9.  The salmon was by far the most expensive entrée at $16, but given the size of the fish, this too was a steal.  We've paid anywhere from $20-$30 for salmon dishes that didn't have 1/2 as much fish as this did.  Again, at these prices, it is such a no brainer to eat here.  You can't eat this good anywhere else for the pricing, and on average, I would guess that most of these entrees would be at least $5 more, and the appetizers $3-$4 more!  Great quality at great prices!

All in all, what a great night, with people that might as well be family, eating Filipino cuisine that is every bit as good as Mom's.  Sorry Mom, but it's true!  When Mom comes to visit, we'll be bringing her to Manila Bay so she can see for herself!  That said, if you are ever in this area, check it out for yourself, as I know you won't be disappointed!  Be sure to tell them that we sent you!  Cheers!

Manila Bay
6724 Castor Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19149
Phone:  (215)722-7877

Tuesday to Thursday - 5PM to 10PM
Friday to Saturday - Noon to 2AM
Sunday - Noon to 9PM
Monday - Closed

West Side Gravy – Collingswood, NJ

Well, last night we really wanted to go to Blackbird for dinner, which is Chef Capasso's first restaurant, however, they were booked until later in the evening when I had tried to call for a reservation.  That said, I posted a note on our Facebook Page about going to Blackbird tonight, but one of our fans who works at Blackbird said they were closed for a private even tonight.  We had to get our fix somehow, so we hit West Side Gravy for lunch today!

We walked in and were glad to see about 10 tables seated in the restaurant.  This has been a topic of conversation in a few online forums, and someone actually wrote in to the Philly Inquirer about it, and the thread can be seen HERE.  Unfortunately, I posted comments on this, but they have since been removed.  I also received comments on our blog in my last West Side Gravy post, from fans of write Craig LaBan, saying that I shouldn't mess with Craig LaBan, because he will own me, as well as shut my blog down.  WOW!  People are ultra sensitive these days!  Quite honestly, I am sure Craig LaBan has no idea who I am, nor does he care about what I have to say.  Up until that point, I didn't know who he was either.  But whatever, that is water under the bridge...nothing like censoring readers questions and comments do.  That is one thing at least we do not do here!

Noelle greeted us as we came in and told us to grab a seat anywhere.  We took a table in the back left hand corner of the restaurant near the kitchen.  No reason for this really, other than the fact that we wanted to be away from the door as there was a bit of a chill in the air.

We sat and looked at the menu, and once it again, it looked as though it had changed a bit since our last visit, which is not a bad thing in the least!  There are so many things that we both want to try on the menu here, and I really thing that we need to just move to Collingswood so we can eat here on a daily basis!  The 40 minute drive makes it a bit more difficult to frequent than we'd like to!  ;-)

A couple of soda's and we were ready to order.  As always, I cannot come here and not order the West Side Gravy fries, but today I kicked it up a notch, and went for the cheese and bacon version!  As usual, these were awesome, and the gravy once again was a reason for living!  This is just so damn good!  So yeah, these are a staple, and I can't imagine not ordering these here.  These cheese and bacon really set the tone for this dish, and there is nothing to say other than excellent!  I can't imagine not loving these!

For Zelda's starter she went for the Mac and Cheese.  This is yet another dish that I have been dying to try.  There are just so many things that I love on this menu, but it makes it hard to try them all!  But she went for it today, and this one didn't disappoint in the least.  The texture in this rocked!  It wasn't too cheesy, but there was more than enough cheese to keep you more than interested even!  The 3 different cheeses in here work very well together:  fontina, gruyere, and cheddar!  This also has a fresh herb medley of parsley, and who knows what else, but it really has a vibrant freshness to it.  Finally, it is topped with toasted breadcrumbs that are very nice and buttery!  Again, comfort food at its best!

From here, I went for the Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, and what an awesome combination this is.  I've wanted to order this too since our first visit, but haven't gotten around to it.  Who doesn't love a cheesesteak?  But now wrap it in an eggroll wrapper and deep fry it, and you have an awesome combo.  These were then topped with friend onions, and had nice long hot peppers on the side, and a horseradish sauce that was to die for.  All in all, an innovative dish that was delicious!

Zelda went for the Fish Taco's, and although they were not the friend fish tacos like we had last time, they were still good.  This was sushi grade ahi tuna, with a short sear on it, then staked on a mini tortilla shell, topped with a fresh avocado of sorts and a sweet and sour chili sauce.  Again, nice fresh flavors, and another winner.

As we sat after lunch, out came Chef Capasso from the kitchen, and we shot the bull with him for a bit.  It's always great to see him, and to hear that things are going well.  We talked about all kinds of stuff, and as always he was very gracious!  I asked him how Chef Allgood was doing, and he made that comment that she said that she was tired.  He then made the comment saying that at least he knows he is getting his money's worth from her!  I found this pretty amusing!  For those of you who do not know who Chef Siobhan Allgood is, she was on Season 7 of Hell's Kitchen, and her fan page can be found HERE.  She is a heck of a great chef, and has been a wonderful addition to Chef Capasso's empire!

All in all, well, I needed my Blackbird fix since they were booked solid both nights of the weekend to the point where we couldn't get in, so this was a heck of a worthy substitute!  Another great meal at what I think is going to turn out to be our restaurant of the year!  Time will tell, but as of right now, there is no competition anywhere close!  Stay tuned!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Friday, October 15, 2010

Toscano Ristorante- Bordentown, NJ

Sometimes you just don't feel like going far for dinner, and on chilly nights like that, a little jaunt to Bordentown seems to be just what the doctor ordered!  So we hit Bordentown and took a stroll down Farnsworth Avenue, and happened into Toscano Ristorante.  This is yet another great place with a very small, but cozy bar!  We walked in to find the bar at full capacity, but owner John said he had a 6 top at the bar that was getting ready to be seated.  That said, we waited about 5 minutes, and then we had the whole end of the bar to ourselves, with a stool to spare for our friend Charnel who was on her way up.

While we waited, Zelda enjoyed a Tanqueray and Tonic while I sipped on a Blue Moon.  They do have some decent wines on the list, but I just wasn't diggin' the vino tonight, and I really hate paying 2-3 times retail for wine in a restaurant.  Hence the reason we love going to BYO's.  But even so, this is a given anywhere, and one of those things you just have to accept.  The Blue Moon hit the spot tonight though!

Usually, we'll each do an app and split a salad and entrée, but tonight we opted to go straight for the entrees.  Zelda went with her favorite, chicken parm, and I went for the scallops over spaghetti in a carbonara sauce.  Charnel wanted to go a little lighter, and ordered the Italian egg rolls, which are one of my street fair favorites!

First out came the salads, and these are always a good little starter.  Just enough to keep you satisfied, but not enough to affect your meal.  The vinaigrette is nice and light, with good flavors, and the lettuce is crisp, paired with some cucumber and other veggies.

In the mean time they had the Yankee game on the flatscreen, and we just shot the bull and caught up on things.  Charnel's Italian egg rolls came out, and they looked delicious.  These are filled with sausage, broccoli rabe, and provolone cheese, served over a bed of white bean bruschetta.  But like I've said before, I could wrap up my shoe in egg roll wrapper and deep fry it, and probably love it!  ;-)

Our entrees came out a few minutes later, and as always, Zelda's chicken parm was massive!  I really want to see the chickens that these chicken breasts are pulled off of!  They must be the size of a dog.  This was fried up nicely to a golden brown, and smothered in their delicious red sauce.  Zelda made the comment that she thinks that Toscano's red sauce just might be the best in the area, and I might have to agree.  It is just a good, simple, no frills red sauce.  I'd love to have the recipe for this to make it myself.

I went a bit out of my Toscano norm tonight and ordered the pan seared sea scallops Carbonara.  This came out in a giant bowl of creamy goodness, and looked awesome.  This was 4 nice sized scallops, served over spaghetti with a caramelized onion cream sauce with pancetta.  This sauce was yet another I would love to know how to make.  The flavors in this sauce were perfect, with a nice cheesy creaminess to it, and just enough flavor from the pancetta to make it awesome.  In some cases, the pancetta may take over the sauce, or the entire entrée for that matter, but that was not the case here.  I was very happy with this, and by the time I finished it, a piece of bread was used to wipe the bowl dry.  I am actually surprised that I finished this all, as it is a large portion, and a medium heavy dish.

We ended up skipping dessert tonight, finished our drink, and figured we'd head to The Cool Cricket from here for some karaoke since we were in the area.  What can I say?  I'm Filipino...karaoke is in our blood!  ;-)  But in short, another great meal at Toscano, and another Bordentown staple.  Keep up the great work!  Cheers!

Toscano Ristorante
136 Farnsworth Avenue
Bordentown, NJ  08505

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2007 Carlisle Zinfandel Montafi Ranch

I really can't say for sure, but I think this must might be the first Carlisle zinfandel that we've ever opened.  Crazy to think, but I think that really is the case here, but WOW, and a great wine!

Popped and poured tonight on "le bistro" as we affectionately call it.  Very nice dark purple color in the glass and a gorgeous berry medley on the nose.  Tons of black fruit like boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, and kirsch.  There is also some nice spice and earthiness to the nose as well, and maybe some floral tones as well.  I think lavender was thrown out there as a descriptor, and this seems right on..  A bit of alcohol on the backside of the nose comes through as well, but at 15.9%, I expected a lot more alcohol.  It seems to have integrated nicely.

On the palate, the black fruits are definitely there!  Dark raspberry flavors are prevalent, with more blackberry and boysenberry.  It is just a berry pie of sorts, with a great jamminess to it, with good acidity and minerality.  Secondary nuances of dark cherry come through, along with a nice creamy vanilla tone that I am assuming is oak.  The alcohol is there a bit on the finish, with some nice tannin as well.

This wine is obviously young, but I would say that this is one of my top 3 zinfandel's of all time, which is a pretty bold statement.  We still have one more of these, and I'll let it rest for another couple of years to see how it develops.  But even so, popped and poured, this wine is drinking very nicely right now, and worth of 92 points!  Cheers!

Strawberry Hill Farm - Chesterfield, NJ

Nothing says fall like doing some apple picking, so today Zelda and I decided to check out Strawberry Hill Farm in Chesterfield, NJ. 

Not a day goes by, well, a week day at least, that I don't see the sign for Strawberry Hill Farm on my way to work.  They have the u-pick signs right on the main drag that I take to work, and I have always wondered where this place was.  Needless to say, it is pretty easy to get to, and only about a 10 minute drive from our CSA, Fernbrook Farms.  Note that they can also be found on Facebook by clicking here.

So coming down Waln Road, we immediately saw the apple orchard on both sides of the road.  You pull up to a garage like structure, and we were greeted by a very nice gentleman who gave us the low down.  We asked if he had any recommendations, and the first thing he asked was what we were doing with them.  Well, the plan was to make some homemade apple sauce, and to make some caramel apples as well.  With that said, he suggested the Fuji, Red Delicious, Gold Delicious, and the Granny Smith.

He also gave us a quick instruction on how all the rows are marked, and how our best best was to go to the end of each row as most people are picking at the beginning or in the middle of the rows.  So he gave us a plastic bucket lined with a plastic bag, and off we went!  Easy enough right?  You got it, but he also encouraged us to pull apples off the tree and give them a try to see what we liked!  And you can bet we took advantage of that.

So off we went, to the orchard behind the garage.  If I had to guess, there were 16 rows or so of trees, and like he said, each one was individually labeled with the variety.  We started in the next to last row with the Gold Delicious apples, and we both immediately started to look for an apple to sink our teeth into!

Neither of us were really sure what the perfectly ripe apple looked like, but from the apples we picked, I think we did very well.  The fruit was a gorgeous golden color, and from the first apple that I picked, there were no blemishes on it, and it just looked perfect. 

From here, we went row to row, and grabbed anything from the Golden Delicious, to Fuji, Empire, and Rome.  The one varietal however we couldn't find were the Granny Smith's, but we'll get to this momentarily.

We had filled our bucket, and headed back to the shop to pay for our apples.  When all was said and done, our grand total came to $10 at a rate of .70 cents per pound.  You really can't beat that for apples right off the tree that were absolutely delicious.

We also noticed that they had mum's for sale at 6 for $22 if I remember correctly.  These were really nice sized pots, and were large and colorful.  Inside the shop, we also noticed some local honey being advertised, and when we looked at the label, sure enough it was from "Bob's Buzzy Bee's!"  Leave it to Bob to get his honey everywhere!

As we were leaving, the gentleman mentioned that they were hoping to stay open for another month or so, which I think is great  So with that being said, we'll probably be back so long as the weather holds out!  The homemade apple sauce that Zelda made is delicious, so it's just a matter of time before we need some more apples!

All in all, it was a nice day, and a great place at affordable prices to pick apples!  That being said, check it out for yourself, and tell them that F. Scott and Zelda sent ya!  Cheers!

Strawberry Hill Farm
3 Waln Road
Chesterfield, NJ  08515
Phone:  609-298-0823

Open daily 9AM-5PM      No dogs please.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

2008 Hogue Cellars Gewürztraminer

Sometimes it is just hard to beat Hogue for those under $10 daily whites.  This one again falls into this category, and was a great pleasure.  Nice dark grassy amber color in the glass, with a nice nose of citrus, sugar cane, and honeysuckle, and pear.

On the palate, this is plenty smooth and refreshing, with more citrus notes and just a bit of pear and passion fruit.  The finish is short, and not all that complex, but at this price, what more could you ask for.  Once again, another nice summer quaffer for under $10 bones.  85 points.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

2008 Dr. Loosen Riesling Bros

This is one of these wines that you might see in your local grocery store, with a shelf tag speaking of how Wine Spectator rated it XX points and put it on their best buy list.  For me, the curiosity in this wine is that I read so often of bottle variation in these mass produced wines, so I want to try them for myself.  Actually spotted this one at the local Wegman's, and at under $10, I figured it was worth picking up a few bottles for a little afternoon sipper on a warm day.

On the nose, this really doesn't give up a whole lot.  I actually had to strain a bit to come up with some descriptors for this, and that is never a good thing.  With that said, I figured it would be a super thin wine with very little complexity.  I picked up a bit of peach and pear on the nose, with some citrus tones, as well as just a bit of apple.  You could also smell some caramel or butterscotch, or something that made this wine smell a bit sweet.

On the palate, there were no complaints here whatsoever.  Was this wine really under $9?  Nice peach nectar and honeysuckle on the palate, with some more tart citrus notes.  The sweetness is there, and for the money, this is a great quaffer.  The apple seems to come out a bit on the finish, which although short, is very pleasant.  What else could you want for the money here?  This is a great QPR, and a pleasure to drink on a hot day.  And at 8 1/2% alcohol, you can drink plenty of it!  85 points with the extra point for QPR.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Summa Vineyards Sold to Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh

As if Thomas Rivers Brown is not busy enough making wine, and being named Food and Wine's 2010 Winemaker of the Year, and his wife Genevieve Marie Welsh are now the proud owners of Summa Vineyards, which has been a staple in providing grapes to their own wine label, Rivers-Marie.

A quick story about Rivers-Marie, is the simple fact that it was started when Scott Zeller, the former owner of Summa Vineyard was talking with Thomas Rivers Brown, and out of nowhere he had asked him if he was interested in buying some fruit from the vineyard. He thought to himself that he would be insane not to take it, and Rivers-Marie was born.
One of the biggest questions now is what is going to happen with grapes sold from this vineyard now that it is going to change hands. Will less grapes be sold? Will Rivers-Marie be making more wine from these vines and from the old vines on the property? At this point, it is impossible to say, but I look forward to seeing how this all unfolds.
Since 2006, it looks as though Rivers-Marie is one of the few producers creating wine from this vineyard. In the 1980's and 1990's, Williams Selyem made wine from this vineyard, and in the late '90's and 2000 Robert Mueller also produced a pinot from this vineyard.
During the 2002 vintage, Rivers-Marie started producing wines from here, along with Littorai and Brogan Cellars. Brogan Cellars stopped sourcing grapes from here after the 2005 vintage, but Littorai has continued to source fruit from here. I will be curious to see what will happen now, and if other wineries will have the chance to source fruit from here as well. I guess there are only two people that can answer that question at the moment, so we'll just have to wait and see.

But even so, congratulations to TRB for yet another great accomplishment! Keep up the great work, and keep the amazing wines coming! Cheers! -F. Scott

Apple Festival at Kirby’s Mill – Medford, NJ 09 October 2010

Apple pies, apple cider, apple ice cream, candy apples, and the ever-popular apple cider donuts are just a few fall favorites that can only mean one thing: the annual Kirby’s Mill Apple Festival is approaching.

The festival has been a traditional autumn event in Medford for more than 30 years according to the Medford Historical Society, and is one of the longest running festivals in the area!

The festival will take place at Kirby’s Mill at 275 Church Road, will be held rain or shine on Saturday, Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking will be available on both Fostertown and Church roads.

2007 Chappellet Vineyard Chardonnay

Well, tonight I needed a white wine to cook with so, I saw this laying in the cellar, as it was leftover from the party we hosted last month for Stefania Wines.  Thankfully, the recipe only called for about a 1/3 of a cup, so that would leave plenty to enjoy with dinner.

Nice golden straw color in the glass, with a nose of green apple and pear.  Minor nuances of passion fruit, and definitely some oak here.   You can also sense the alcohol on the nose, but at almost 15%, this doesn't surprise me one bit.

On the palate, the first thing you notice here is the oak.  Definitely a ton of oak there, and it needs some time to integrate.  While some people enjoy this, it is just a bit overwhelming to me.  Even so, you get some nice citrus on the palate, with some more of the green apple.  The alcohol is there, as well as a bit of buttery-ness, but the oak stick really smacks you in the face here.  I had about two glasses, and vacuumed the remaining glass and a half for the next day.

On day 2, the oak has managed to settle out a bit, but it's still there.  Don't get me wrong, I like oaked chardonnays, but this seems just a bit intrusive to me.  Call me crazy, but as most of our readers know, we really love chardonnay from Kistler, Aubert, Rivers-Marie, Auteur, etc.

I'll refrain from rating this wine, but for those of you who have them in their cellars, who are not big fans of oak, I'd hold for another 2-5 cheers.  If you like the big oaked chards, this should be right up your alley!  Cheers!

Food and Wine Names 2010 Winemaker of the Year - Thomas Rivers Brown

What is there to say other than well deserved congratulation go to Thomas Rivers Brown! Anyone who reads our blog on a regular basis knows how much we love the wines of "TRB," and this is an absolute honor that is well deserved, as Thomas was named Food and Wine's Winemaker of the Year!
Over the years, we have been following Thomas through many different ventures, and new projects. Some of our favorite wines that Thomas has his hands in include Maybach and Rivers-Marie, which are two of our must buy wines every year! Maybach is his high end cabernet sauvignon, that is absolutely amazing, and will continue to age for 10-20 years and beyond. We started purchasing Maybach with the '05 vintage, and we have enjoyed this wine on several occasions by ourselves, and with friends as well. In my opinion, they even warrant the $100+ price tag!

Our other favorite from Thomas Rivers Brown, is Rivers-Marie. This label was started by Thomas and his wife Genevieve Marie Welsh, and they produce pinot noir, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon. They do two offerings a year, with the cabernet being offered in the fall, and the pinot noir being offered in the spring. We actually just placed our order for a half a case of the 2008 cabernet, and we've bought all that we have been offered from their Spring offering for the last 3 years. We started buying these wines with the '06 vintage, and every bottle we open reminds us why we love their wines!

Aside from these two labels, Thomas has some other amazing ventures as well. He has his hands in 15 different projects, and these include Schrader Cellars and Outpost Estate, and these labels speak for themselves. He also has his hands in Two Hands Charlie's Patch, which is another Napa Valley project from the Aussie based winery. Aside from these, he also makes the wine for Michael Chiarello of the Food Network, at Chiarello Vineyards. I can say that the zinfandel he is making there is absolutely amazing, and quite possibly one of my favorite zins, not that we drink enough of it. But Thomas definitely knows zinfandel as his first job out of college was working for zin producer Turley under the hand of Ehran Jordan.

Other labels he has his hands in include Nicholson Ranch, Seaver Vineyards (baseball great Tom Seaver), Diamond Terrace, Policy Vineyards (former 49ers general manager), Bisou Wines, and Tamber Bey. Needless to say, he has an incredible resume, and keeps himself extremely busy! But he is going to get even busier yet as from the looks in the news, he is also now a vineyard owner as well! Stay tuned for that post next! Cheers! -F. Scott

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Present Day Club - Princeton, NJ

As you may remember reading, we were invited last winter to speak at the Present Day Club in Princeton, NJ.  What made this opportunity so unique was the fact that the person who found us, Ms. D'Amico, just happened across our blog, and after a few minutes of reading, she though that we would be fun to have as presenters at their prestigious Princeton organization.  Needless to say, we were very honored, and today was an absolutely beautiful day to speak to their group.

We had stopped by last Thursday to take a look at the space that we would be presenting in.  The Present Day Club has a gorgeous facility at the corners of Stockton Street and Library Place in downtown Princeton, practically on campus.  We met with Marge and Chef Christine, and took a look at the ballroom, and figured out logistics for our presentation.  Needless to say, Ms. D'Amico and Chef Christine were fabulous, and made sure that we had everything that we needed.

We arrived today, and were greeted by a few of their members.  First we met Ms. Kathleen Fluss, and then we met Present Day Club President Barbara Purnell.  Upon walking in, we went into one of their gorgeous sitting rooms, and spent about a half hour doing a meet and greet with a few of their other members who's names I cannot remember at the moment.  We sat and enjoyed a glass of white wine, and talked about ourselves a bit, and also listened to information about them, about the Present Day Club, and about Princeton in general.  There were several different topics of discussion, and it was nice to hear some little tidbits from some of Princeton's elite.

One of my favorite topics of this conversation was talking about The RIVERLine, and how nice of a resource it is to have.  From here, one of their members started talking about the train in Princeton that runs from campus, to the Princeton Junction NJ Transit station.  This train is affectionately called, "The Dinky" because of its small size.  It's actually funny to see that someone has even created a Facebook page dedicated to saving the Princeton "Dinky!"

From here, we were rounded up, and went into their smaller formal dining room.  I say smaller and formal as I don't want to confuse this with the gorgeous ballroom that we will be speaking in after lunch.

The table was set with nice China, and had a gorgeous centerpiece of fresh cut flower.  Nice name place signs had our names hand scribed in wax pen letting us know where to sit, and it was all done very elegantly.  A server came out of the kitchen and offered us coffee or tea, and just a few minutes later our came out lunch.

Lunch came out, and it was a stuffed chicken dish, that seemed to be pounded thin, stuffed, and rolled.  This was then topped with a gorgeous sauce, and the plate was garnished with fresh carrots with a nice sweet glaze on them.

The flavors in this dish were just what the doctor ordered for an overcast and chilly fall day.  The chicken was very flavorful and tender, and the stuffing paired very nicely.  The stuffing was made from fresh bread crumb, mozzarella, and pancetta.  The flavors from the sauce and the pancetta that topped the sauce was just couldn't have gotten any better, and it was pure joy on a plate.  The sauce was a roasted plum tomato puree, with garlic, tarragon, and cream.  That being said, I would love to get this recipe from Chef Christine, and this would make a great dinner for one of our dinners that we host throughout the year at our home.

Conversation continued over lunch, and everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time.  From judging everyones plates, they also enjoyed their lunches!  This was the perfect portion, and we even had room for dessert, which came out a few minutes later.  This was a baked apple cake of sorts, with a very nice sauce, and this too was wonderful.  In short, lunch was very enjoyable, and our stomachs left the table very happy.

From here, President Barbara Purnell escorted us to the ballroom, which looked to be filled with 60-70 members.  This was definitely a diverse crowd, and we looked forward to speaking to them.  Ms. Purnell read a short introduction, and to the podium we went.

We had a PowerPoint that we had customized to this event, and they supplied us with a laptop and projector.  As always, the PowerPoint wasn't really necessary, but we know how people like to look at visual aids. 

Some agenda items from our presentation included:
  • Personal Introductions
  • The beginning of our foodie adventures
  • The F. Scott and Zelda reference
  • What is a BLOG, and what do bloggers do?
  • What is a “Foodie”
  • What is an “Oenophile"
  • Being a “food critic"
  • How do we choose restaurants
  • How we write our reviews
  • Social media to promote our blog
  • Features
  • Cooking
  • Wine
Once I can figure out how to upload files here, I will upload our PowerPoint, as well as our script.  One thing I will note, is that for the first time, I uploaded my script to the iPad via e-mail.  All I had to do was e-mail the file to myself at the address I have linked to the iPad, and there it was!  This worked wonderfully, was easy to read and scroll through, and it saved trees and paper as well!  Awesome!

From here we did a question and answer, and we were amazed at all of the questions that we received!  All in all, I thought this was yet another successful event, however, you could tell that there were some people in the audience that were not all that interested, but this was their Wednesday activity, and this is what they do every week.  That said, we were not offended in the least, and we never claimed to be that entertaining to everyone!

All in all, we have nothing but great things to say today, and we can't thank the Present Day Club enough for their hospitality!  From Ms. D'Amico for reaching out to us, to Chef Christine for such a great menu, to President Barbara Purnell, and Kathleen Fluss, we cannot thank you all enough!  We had a great day, and we were truly honored to be a part of your weekly luncheon!  Thank you!  -F. Scott and Zelda

Congratulations Roy Halladay - Philadelphia Philles

What is there to say other than WOW, and a huge congratulations to Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay for pitching a no hitter today against the Cincinnati Reds in game 1 of the National League Division Series!

This is only the second time in the post season that a pitcher has thrown a no hitter.  The first time was by Don Larsen of he New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I know what all of you who know me well are thinking, but yes, it is true that I am giving the Phillies big kudos here!  Our close friends know how much of a die hard Chicago Cubs fan I am, but this is truly and accomplishment, and worth a mention in my opinion.  This is no easy feat to say the list, so congratulations again!  Cheers!  -F. Scott