Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nomad Pizza - Hopewell, NJ

I’ve been reading about all the hype at Nomad pizza for years now, and tonight seemed as good as any to go check it out!  That said we loaded up the wine bag with stems and wine, and trekked on over to Hopewell to see for ourselves.
From everything that I have read on Chowhound, Nomad turns their tables very fast, but there can be waits to up to an hour.  Fortunately for us, we found a parking spot right in front on the street, and we walked in and grabbed the last 2 top that was open.  We had arrived around 6:45PM, and the rest of the restaurant was jam packed.  They definitely pack them in!
As you walk in the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the giant brick oven in the back left hand corner of the restaurant.  Prior to that, they have their prep line, where there were 4-6 people working, and this overlooks the dining room.  Right in front of this is a giant, long table, where it seems that they seat people, one next to another.  We were seated on the right hand side of the restaurant, where it looks as though the doors open during the nice weather months to the outside.  I can only imagine this being very nice on an evening with gorgeous weather.  There were also a couple tables at either end of the restaurant. 
Another element that I think adds to the interior is the tongue and groove, white ceiling in the restaurant.  This looks nice, and gives the place a clean, finished look.  But at the end of the day, what is important here is the large brick oven!  ;-)  After all, this is what continues to make Nomad a thriving success!
I grabbed our wine glasses, as well as a ½ bottle that I had poured last night’s remnants of a 2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen vineyard into before I put it in the fridge over night.  If you’re wondering why I pour it into a half bottle, it is because this takes away the air space, and in my opinion, keeps the wine better overnight.  I also grabbed a bottle of 2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Cabernet Sauvignon “Educated Guess.”  There is a lot of debate on this wine right now on Wine Berserkers at:  , so I really wanted to see for ourselves.  Check out the review below in the next day or so!
Our server came over, and I think his name was Bill.  He ran through the 3 additions to the menu tonight, and also let us know that there was no clam pie on the menu tonight.  Meanwhile, one of the bus girls came over and brought us a chilled bottle of water and two glasses.  This was actually a very nice tough, as it is a blue/aqua colored bottle, and kind of that old school bottle with the plastic cap that you can snap shut.  I am assuming that afterwards, they wash these and refill them, but it adds a nice little element of sophistication, and also places some nice color on the table around the restaurant.  Our server also asked if we had been here before, and we said that we had not.
He then explained that the pies were 12 inches, and what a lot of people do is order a salad to split, and then a pie to split.  He did however tell us that eating an entire pie by yourself is very possible.  Come on, 12 inches?  Seems like I could polish that off with no problem right?  Well, we’ll see!  So he took our order, and I kid you not, it couldn’t have been more than 4 minutes and our pies came to the table bubbling hot out of the brick oven.  How is this possible?
Well, it is entirely possible as Nomad keeps their brick oven at temperatures from 750 to 1000 degrees, letting each pizza cook to perfection in less than 2 minutes.  The oven is fueled by wood, and they use only cherry or apple.  As you can see from the pictures, these pies are gorgeous.  The bubbly crust is cooked very nicely, and has a good airiness to it.  In just a few places, the heat has given it a nice char, but overall it is a great crust!  This is definitely different from your normal pie, and this is some of the best brick oven crust around.  Much better than any of the chains that boast their brick oven.
Both our pies were cooked nicely, with a good crunchy crust, yet the inner crust was soft and chewy.  Nomad definitely has taken the time to perfect their crust over the years, and it shows.  They make their dough in small batches, and let it rise overnight for a full 24 hours before serving.
The toppings were also nice, and the sauce was flavorful, while not overpowering the nice flavors of the crust.  Zelda’s ordered the Margherita, which had the San Marzano tomato inspired sauce, fresh mozzarella, aged parmesan cheese, fresh organic basil, organic olive oil, and salt.  She said that the flavors were nice, and I am sure that they were similar to mine.

I opted for the spicy sausage, which had the same San Marzano sauce, fresh mozz, and parm!  It was then kicked up a notch topped with “Simply Grazin’ Sausage, caramelized onion, and then the same organic basil and olive oil, and sea salt.  The sausage had some great spice and flavor, and not in a hot way by any means.  It was just good and flavorful, and the caramelized onions added to the deliciousness!  All in all, great brick oven pies!
Nomad also boasts their truck, and this is what made Nomad famous from what I understand!  The truck, a restored ’49 REO Speedwagon,  is the full operation in one.  It has the wood fired brick oven, refrigerator, sinks, hot water heater, generator, awning, lights, tables, etc all in one, and you can actually rent this to come to your events.  This truck can also be found in Princeton on weekend nights, sometimes parked in front of your local bar or establishment!  Needless to say, it is gorgeous!  The attached picture was actually taken from Nomad’s website, and we do not claim that this picture belongs to us or our website.  It was purely borrowed for dramatic effect! ;-)

So at the end of the day, Nomad makes a heck of a great pie, and we’ll be back in the future!  Cheese!  I mean, CHEERS!
Nomad Pizza
10 East Broad Street
Hopewell, NJ 
Phone:  (609)466-6623

2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Educated Guess (USA, California, Napa Valley)

Popped and poured this at Nomad Pizza tonight, after finishing off the last of a third of a bottle of ’06 Kosta Browne pinot noir Koplen Vineyard.  Popped and poured, full knowing that this was not going be finished, also knowing that I could throw a vacuum on it overnight, and put it back into the cellar to get some air.  This had a nice ruby/purple color in the glass.

I did a quick rinse on my glass with some table water and dumped it out, and then proceeded to swirl and aerate this in the glass for about 5 minutes while I gave it a few sniffs here and there.  Sweet creamy vanilla nose, with hints of jammy red fruits.  Raspberry, currants, black cherry, and blackberry dominate the nose, but there is a bit of alcohol on the nose as well.  Obviously, this wine is young and will continue to integrate with time.  Secondary nuances of cedar, mocha, and spice round out the nose.

On the palate, this definitely is definitely young, and definitely tight.  This wine could easily use 4-6 hours in a decanter.  Even so, I didn’t have the time, so it is what it is.  Nice blackberry and currants on the palate, with that creamy sweet vanilla from the oak that sort of dominates at this point.  Again, air will help this mellow out, and I will be curious to see how this is tomorrow.  Definitely a new world fruit forward cab, and there is nothing wrong with that at all.  The fruit is ripe, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is over extracted.  The finish has some alcohol and tannins, again suggesting that this needs tome sideways time in the cellar, or at a minimum a few hours of air. 

Day 2:  I put a vacuum on the bottle over night and put it in the refrigerator, just so I could taste this on day 2.  Today the nose was showing much of the same as it warmed up in my glass.  On the palate, the wine seemed to lose quite a bit of structure, so it might be possible that the vacuum was bad.  Even so however, the alcohol has settled out, and the creamy sweetness has settled out some as well.  The flavors are nice, and the tannins are chewy, but it is just missing something.  All in all, I’d rate this wine around 84-85 points, and it makes for a decent QPR.

The funniest thing about this wine is the fact that it is getting a lot of buzz on Wine Berserkers right now.  Check out the thread at:  I had no idea we even had this wine until I was going through the 6 cases or so in the corner of our cellar, where we have boxes of wines that need to be entered into CellarTracker.  A lot of these wines are cheap ’07 Napa cabs that we have bought based on the vintage.  Unfortunately with these, there wasn’t a receipt in the box, so I have no idea where they came from.  In all honesty, I have no idea if I picked these up, or if Zelda picked these up.

At the end of the day, this makes for a decent QPR, and I am sure we’ll be opening plenty more of these in time.  Even so, I will decant the next one for a good 4 hours before we plan on drinking it!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Blackbird - Collingswood, NJ

Well, unfortunately it is a work weekend for me, so that means no late nights, and also means limiting the wine sipping to a bottle or so tonight!  ;-)
That said, we took a drive over to Collingswood tonight, thinking that we wouldn’t be able to get into Blackbird, and assuming that we would be dining at West Side Gravy instead.  We pulled up however around 7:15PM, and were pleasantly surprised to see a few open tables.  I am not complaining in the least, and this worked out good for us. 
We were greeted by the hostess and immediately seated at the first two top you see when you enter the restaurant.  There is a wooden partition behind the seat on the right that actually blocks off this table from the host stand so you do not feel that you are out in the open.
Adam came over and greeted us, letting us know that he was going to be our server tonight.  We have actually had Adam as a server a few times, and his service is always good.  Meanwhile, I grabbed our Riedel glasses from the carrying case, and popped and poured a 2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard.  Feel free to read the review for this gorgeous wine below.
Adam came back and read off the specials.  There were quite a few fresh pasta specials tonight, and they all sounded magnificent.  But before we got there, we ordered the chilled antipasto appetizer.  This came out a few minutes later, and was a nice plate with fresh, locally grown, think sliced tomato, with a few large pieces of prosciutto laid out next to it.  Next to that was some thinly sliced cheese, along with some fresh roasted red peppers that had a few balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Next to that was some marinated artichoke, and in the center were some nice olives.  The flavors here were great, and there really isn’t much else to say about this dish.  It was delicious.
Next, Adam came to our table and said that the Chef would like to send out some salads, and we said, “Sure, why not!”  A few minutes later, a gorgeous romaine salad came out, and this was dressed with a lemon parmesan dressing that had some serious zing to it.  We are usually not big citrus fans, but this was a pleasure.  There was the perfect amount of dressing on the crisp lettuce, and this was topped by a gorgeous, baked cheese “cracker.”  The so called “cracker” is just shaved cheese (I am assuming parm) that is baked, and served on top of the salad.  Very nice with some fresh ground pepper, and a heck of a great salad.

For entrees tonight, Zelda ordered the homemade in house linguine served with wild mushrooms, porcini sauce, and finished with truffle oil.  This was then lightly sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  What is there to say other than who doesn’t love fresh pasta?  I absolutely love it, and even love to make it.  Unfortunately, we don’t make fresh pasta at home nearly enough, but this rocked!  The portion was huge, and this made for a great lunch for me on Saturday.  I don’t think Zelda ate even half of this dish.
I am the first person to admit that I am not a huge fan of mushrooms, but these were gorgeous, thinly sliced, and browned very nicely!  The truffle oil finished this dish off nicely, and again, who doesn’t like a little truffle flavor?  This was a winner, and every bit as good as Chef Capasso’s signature gnocchi, with the red sauce that we absolutely love.  I really wanted to order that as an app, but it would have been way too much pasta.
For my entrée tonight, I ordered the homemade 3 cheese ravioli with the parmesan cream sauce.  I did however do a little modification to this, and ordered it with the fresh lump crab meat that was featured on one of the other pasta specials.  This came out as 4 large ravioli smothered in a gorgeous cream sauce and topped with jumbo lump crab meat.  In all honesty, I didn’t think this looked like a large portion, but I then figured it would leave room for dessert!  =)
First bite revealed some great flavors.  Again, fresh pasta is always a winner in my book, and this was no exception.  The 3 cheese filling had great texture, and the parmesan cream sauce paired perfectly.  The jumbo lump crab was sweet and succulent, and the entire dish was very rich.  By the time I finished the second ravioli, the richness of this dish was setting in, and I was getting very full.  After my 3rd ravioli, I was ready to wave the white flag, but then Zelda wanted a bite, so this one had to go as well.  She took another bite or two, and at this point, we were both stuffed.  Regardless, I muscled through, and couldn’t have been any happier.
Adam came back a few minutes later and offered us dessert, but we were both too stuffed, so we shot the bull for a few minutes.  One of their other servers, Amy also came over and said hello and chatted with us for a few minutes.  After that, we got our check, and headed out.  Surprisingly, there was no sign of Chef Capasso tonight, and I am guessing that he either took a well deserved night off, or perhaps he was working up the street at West Side Gravy tonight.  Regardless, you would never know he wasn’t there, and everything was wonderful like always!  The restaurant probably had 10-12 tables or so while we were there, and it things were moving along nicely and at a good pace! 
In short, another great meal, and great service from the Blackbird gang, and hopefully we’ll get back there sometime around the first of the year!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Friday, November 19, 2010

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard

Grabbed from the Avanti, thrown in the Riedel carrying case along with two glasses, and popped and poured at Blackbird in Collingswood, NJ.  I always forget that Blackbird has good stems, and we really didn’t even need to bring our own, but I forgot.  This has always been one of my favorite Kosta Browne’s, especially this vineyard designate from the 2005 vintage!

Gorgeous ruby color in the glass, and that creamy Kosta Browne nose that I love.  Bright red fruits dominate the plate with some black cherry and strawberry, with nice hints of cola and sweet spice!  On the backside of the nose however, there is still quite a bit of heat there, and I think this just needs a decent decant as it seems to settle out the longer the bottle is open.  Just a bit of blueberry rounds out the backside of the palate as well.

On the palate, this fits the bill tonight.  I was looking for a big bold pinot noir with flavor.  I wasn’t looking for classic Burgundy tonight, I wanted an in your face, high octane wine that filled my mouth, and this was it!  More cherry and cola on the palate, with a very nice creaminess to it.  As high octane and fruit forward as this wine is, I really do not feel that it was terribly over-extracted in the least.

The finish however shows a bit of heat, and this makes me think that this wine just might need some more time.  Yes, I know all about the 2006 vintage, and know that this wasn’t a great vintage in the least, but I still think that this wine will improve.

All in all, another pleasure from Kosta Browne, but again, the ‘06’s aren’t getting the praise that the 04’s and ‘05’s got….from me at least.  Still have 2 more of these in the cellar, and we’ll give it another 18 months before we pop another one.  Still a delicious wine, and the heat just needs to settle out a bit so the alcohol can integrate.  92 points!  Cheers!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Houseki Asian Fusion - Hamilton, NJ

How many times do you go out on a Thursday night and have a 10 course dinner? Well, for us, my answer is never, and this was a first! But we had an absolutely amazing dinner tonight at Houseki Asian Fusion in Hamilton. The new owner/host Patrick did a great job introducing us to his new restaurant, and our server Patrick was awesome! What a night! We will be back soon for certain!

I will try to get this entry completed tomorrow, but for a step by step, course by course break down, check out our Facebook pictures at:   These pictures are public, and you do not need a Facebook account to view these.

Well, tonight was originally going to be a Delorenzos Tomato Pie night in Robbinsville, but then we both got a craving for Asian, and figured we’d hit the original Delorenzos on Hudson Street in Trenton on Saturday.  So instead, we hit Houseki Fusion in Hamilton, after visiting them last Monday for their grand opening.

Tonight we walked in to a pretty slow restaurant, but for a Thursday night, and early in the evening, that is not surprising.  The place ended up filling up some by the time we left, with customers at the sushi bar, as well as at the hibachi tables, and at the other tables.

We sat at a table along the right hand side of the restaurant, and the new owner came over to say hello.  We had met him previously at the grand opening, and he asked if he could show of his chef’s talent a little bit and do a tasting menu for us, of which we agreed to.  One of his biggest things that he changed from the old restaurant is that he has added more Chinese and Japanese dishes, as well as a few Thai dishes.  He is very proud of his chefs talents, and for good reason!

First course out was our own choice, and this was the harumaki, which are vegetable spring rolls.  As usual, these are stuffed with fresh vegetables, and fried to a gorgeous golden brown color and served with a sweet and sour/duck sauce.  I love spring rolls, and what is there to say other than awesome?  These are always good, and like I have said before, you could stuff these with anything and I would probably enjoy them.

Next out was the pizza.  Now this is an awesome concept, and something that I really enjoyed.  The crust was firm like a homemade tortilla that you would have at a Mexican restaurant and fried, and it even tasted like a corn chip a little bit.  It was then layered with a thinly sliced tuna, topped with a seaweed salad, and a creamy sauce that was to act like the cheese.  This is a great concept, and the flavors here were delicious.  I really like the crunch from the “crust,” and all of these elements just melded together nicely.  This was also topped with some roe (fish eggs).

Next out was the rock shrimp tempura, and again, breaded and fried anything make for a winner in my book!  Well, not really, but I do like some fried stuff on occasion!  Who doesn’t?  These were pieces of shrimp cut into bite sized morsels, then breaded in a light and fluffy tempura batter and fried to perfection.  These were cooked absolutely perfectly, and had amazing flavor.

What I really liked here was the presentation.  These was served in a martini glass, but inside the martini glass was a clear blocked that was about the size of a large ice cube.  Inside this block was a color changing light that added dramatic effect.  This was then covered in rice noodle to help camouflage it so it could not be seen.  Sure, this is a bit over the top, but I dig it!

Next out was the Houseki Christmas salad, and I don’t think that this appears on the menu.  This is a salad of romaine lettuce and mixed greens, tossed with a sweet ginger dressing, and topped with thinly sliced peppered ahi tuna!  A don’t know that it is possible for a salad to get any better than this.  On top there was a small mound of Panko bread crumbs which added a very nice crunch, and on top of that was some good salmon (I think) roe.  This is the king of Asian salads in my opinion, and absolutely delicious!  The flavors of the peppered tuna were incredible, and this was another dish that had so many flavors that worked well together.  This was served in a giant glass bowl shaped like a martini glass, and again had the lighted cube in the bottom for presentation purposes.  All in all, this was a solid dish and a heck of a great starter!

Next out was a staple, and one of Zelda’s favorites, the General Tso chicken served with white rice.  This is a good as anywhere, which large chicken pieces cooked to a nice crisp, then rolled in their house made General Tso sauce, served with  broccoli.  This is a classic dish, and as good as anywhere.  The flavors were nice, and the chicken and broccoli were cooked very nicely.  I could eat this every time I come here, as this is one of my favorite comfort foods.

From here came what I would consider the piese de resitance!  First out was a gorgeous martini glass filled with a plethora of thinly sliced Kobe beef.  The marbling on this beef is gave me no doubt in my mind that this was high grade Kobe, and my mouth was watering.  I had actually had this as an old appetizer back when this restaurant used to be Fusion 2, but back then, they would just hit it with the torch for a few seconds to give it a little char on the outside.  This is no longer how this is served.

To accompany my martini glass loaded with Kobe was a fire pot of sorts, topped with a metal mesh grill plate, where you actually cook the Kobe tableside.  This is what I am talking about, and this is awesome!  The beauty of this is that you get to cook it yourself, to whatever temperature you want.  I used to love this next to raw at the old restaurant, so I gave these maybe 15 seconds of char if that per side.  Upon first bite I was in absolute heaven.  Not only are these grill pots tasty, they are also seasoned with great flavors.  I really didn’t look all that closely, but I am assuming there was a Sterno or something similar inside the pot.  Regardless, there were no chemical or gassy flavors whatsoever.

The beef came off the grill very tender, and the flavors were amazing. The fatty marble does create a just a bit of grease, but this is not bad grease by any means.  This is flavorful and delicious.  This was also served with a sauce of sorts, but in all honestly, it didn’t need it, and I can’t even remember what the sauce was.  It was a brown sauce, probably soy based, but in the two bites I tried, I would have rather have tasted just the Kobe so I did not use it.  In short, this is as good as it gets, and this was heaven on a plate for me!  WOW, what a dish!

From here we were brought a chicken curry dish that comes from the new Thai portion of the menu.  We love curries, and this did not disappoint in the least.  This was served with a sort of homemade bread, that was almost like an airy flower tortilla.  This was puffed up and filled with air, and very soft, hot, and chewy.  The flavors of this alone were hot, and it really would make a nice flour tortilla.  The curry sauce was seasoned nicely and flavorful, and in the sauce were some potatoes, as well as some nicely cooked chicken.  If you are into curries, this was very delicious, and I would order this again in a heartbeat!

By this point, were we both stuffed, and it would really be hard to eat another bite, but in all reality, the new owner, whose name is Patrick we have come to find, is nowhere near finished sending us food.  Ugh, I cannot eat anymore!  But thus far, everything has been wonderful, and they really are doing a great job in the kitchen.  But next out was a whole Peking Duck.  Oh my goodness, at this point I am accepting of the fact that I am going to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.   As you know, we had our semi-annual wine tasting at the Peking Duck House in Manhattan not even a week ago, but I so love my Peking Duck!

The duck looked gorgeous with a great color on the crispy skin!  At this point, one of his employees came out to slice it tableside, and he had it down to a science.  First he scored the bird with his razor sharp nice, and then he sliced it into bit sized pieces and placed it on a plate.  Out next was some homemade bread to serve this over, along with sliced cucumber, scallion, and homemade duck sauce.  You almost make this into something sandwich like, where at Peking Duck House, it is more burrito like.  Regardless, this was the best Peking Duck I have had hands down in New Jersey.  Never has anywhere in this area served Peking Duck as good as this!

The flavors on and seasoning on the skin were spot on, and the skin hard that crispy texture that I absolutely love!  On to the meat, it was cooked perfectly, and very tender.  It was not greasy in the least for duck, and I could not have been any happier with this.  All in all, this was an absolute A+, and the excitement factor I had from this rivaled that of the Kobe beef!

So by this point, I figured we were done.  Oh no, not the case at all, and next out was the grilled trio called the Triple Delight.  This was fresh scallops, shrimp, and sea bass, cooked nicely and served with a  house special sauce and asparagus.  The flavors of the fresh seafood were awesome!  The scallops were tender and not rubbery in the least.  The shrimp were also cooked perfectly and not tough in the least, and the sea bass was awesome.  I don’t know how anything could still taste good to me at this point as I am so full, but somehow, everything continued to wow me!  This was also served with asparagus spears, and then topped with the creamy sauce.  What is there to say other than delicious?  I would definitely order this off of the menu!

So at this point we are once again ready for the check, but oh no, we’re not done yet.  Final item out was a dessert.  If you know me well, you know my love for Banana’s Foster!  But this is Banana’s Foster on steroids!  Just when you thought that this couldn’t get any better, someone comes up with the bright idea to roll this in rice paper that is used to make spring rolls, then deep fried, and garnished with vanilla ice cream!  WOW!  Another winner, and another crowd pleaser, and believe it or not, we both finished it.

By this point however, we are both stuffed, and looking to open up some chambers in our stomachs, but thankfully, the food has all been served, and there will be no more dishes coming out!  Thank God!

At the end of the day, I am scared to see the check for this dinner, but regardless of what it was, it was worth every penny!  The service from our waiter Keith was second to none, and the care taken from the new owner was very nice.  Unfortunately, some of these items are not yet on the menu, so If you go, you have to be patient.  Some of the items might be feature now as specials which will be nice.  Even so, we were very pleased that he took the time with his chef to create some of these dishes for us!

When all was said and done, we were leaving with a bag of leftovers worthy of another entire meal, and sure enough, this smorgasbord was shared with many others for lunch the following day.  Even reheated, this was crowd pleasing to the 6 others who this was shared with, and I know that Houseki now has some new fans!  I am sure we will be back next week!  Great job to Houseki, and we look forward to frequenting this restaurant for our Asian cravings from here on out!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

2007 Auteur Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge (USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino Ridge)

Popped and poured tonight at Houseki Asian Fusion in Hamilton, NJ, and consumed over the course of an hour and 45 minutes.

This was gorgeous from the get go, with an amazing red color in the glass. I decanted this in the glass for about 10 minutes, and as I swirled this in the glass, I could smell it a good 4 feet away.

Gorgeous cherry dominate the nose, with hints of strawberry, black cherry, and bramble berries on the nose. The nose is then rounded out by hints of spice and just a hint of oak. There is also just a bit of earth and vegetalness as well.

On the palate, this was gorgeous from the get go, and continued to evolve throughout our dinner. This stood up to tonights Asian cuisine, and the palate was dominated by cherry and jammy raspberry! Secondary nuances include some strawberry, and subtle hints of blueberry, with just a bit of earthiness. There is a bit of creaminess as well, and the palate is rounded out by just a bit of earth, with smooth tannins that are almost entirely integrated. In short, this is drinking well now, but could benefit for a 2-4 hour decant. Ideally, this needs another 2 years in the bottle to be perfect, and I am guessing this will evolve for another 5 years plus. Awesome wine and worthy of 92 points! Cheers!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Barnacle Bill's - Rumson, NJ

Well, 've been reading about Barnacle Bill's burger for years, and on this gorgeous Sunday, it was time to take a drive to Rumson just to give it a try for myself.

So we took a drive down 195, and took the scenic route down Route 537, then took a ride through Red Bank, and arrived at Barnacle Bill's.  The lot was jam packed, but somehow we managed to get some rockstar parking.  We walked in, and Barnacle Bill's was exactly what I expected.  It was rustic, and had nautical decor all over the place!  The bar was packed, and the famous grill was located behind the bar. 

We were immediately sat, and had a good view of the flatscreens so we could stay in touch with today's games.  Our service came over, and we both ordered a couple of beers.  As we perused the menu, I knew what I was having, so we placed our order!

Meanwhile, we enjoyed our beers, and I headed over to the peanut bucked to get some shelled peanuts, that we ate and tossed right onto the floor.  It was during this time that I noticed that they were indeed cooking the burgers behind the bar, and then bringing them to the kitchen to meet up with the rest of the orders for the respective tables.  I guess we'll see just how famous, and seasoned this grill really is!

Meanwhile, the food seemed to be pouring out of the kitchen.  There was definitely a good crowd here, and there were a lot of burgers being cooked.  The beers were flowing at the bar, and the servers and bartenders seemed to be busy and humping.

First out was Zelda's baked flounder with fries, and as simple as the dish was, the flavors were nice.  This was a good sized piece of fish, and seemed fresh.  There really wasn't anything crazy complex about this dish, but there also was nothing at all wrong with it. 

Next out was my burger and onion rings, an it looked big and gorgeous!  This was cooked to a perfect medium, and piled with bacon and sauteed onion.

The first bite was magnificent, and this is made how a burger should be made.  I am guessing there wasn't much seasoning used in the burger patties at all, other than salt and pepper.  The onion however had a bit of a taste of Worcestershire sauce, and it makes me wonder if this is what they are sauteed in.  I didn't taste this on the burger, so the next trip we just may have to sit at the bar so I can see.

The onion rings came out steaming hot, and were lightly hand breaded and delicious.  The super thin onions seemed the tastiest to me, but the thicker ones were delicious too!

All in all, this was a great burger, but I still think that Rossi's would edge it out in a side by side taste test.  To me, the deciding factor was both the ground beef used, as well as the bun.  The bun here didn't seem as fresh as it could be.

The only downside to Barnacle Bill's that I saw was when I ran to the bathroom to wash my hands after lunch, only to be almost run over by a guy who flung the door open, and ran into the stall to vomit.  I guess this happens as the bar seems to be the majority of their business, but you would think that in an area like Rumson, people might show a bit of class.  Regardless, you can't hold this against Barnacle Bill's, and it was worth the trip for a delicious burger, and a possible contender for the best burger in New Jersey!

Friday, November 12, 2010

2001 Château Lafite Rothschild (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac)

All I can say about this wine is thank you very much to fellow Wine Berserker Mont Stern for bringing this tonight to Berserkerfest 5 at Peking Duck House. Never was there a mention of anyone bringing any first growth Bordeaux, and had I know, I probably would have stepped it up a bit with some Haut Brion so we could do a little side by side comparison.

When I first saw this wine, I told Mont that he was insane, and told him to bring this home and save it for another time. We had plenty of amazing wines on the table, but he wanted to open this. This ended up sitting on the table for quite a while unopened, and I really didn’t think it was going to get popped. Then I saw Jay grab it and open it, so it was pretty much popped and poured.

Gorgeous deep purple/violet color in the glass, but not as dark as I would have expected. Classic Pauillac nose with some pencil lead and cigar box, along with some nice red currants, blackberry, black cherry, and just a hint of plum. The nose is rounded out by some creamy vanilla, oak, and spice, and just a touch of alcohol showing its youth.

Definitely showing some youth as it thins towards the rim in the glass, and from first sip, you can detect a well made wine that just needs more time in the bottle. This wine was very young, with a nice minerality to it, along with more currants and cassis. The fruit here is definitely ripe, but not over ripe. Some blackberry and raspberry round out the palate, with a little stew of red fruits. The tannins were chewy and grippy at first, but as this wine opened, it developed more and more complexity. I detected just a touch alcohol at first, but as this wine opened up over the next two hours, it showed less and less, and the tannins subsided as well.

This was hands down Zelda’s wine of the night, and when she saw ½ the bottle sitting there towards the end of the night, she couldn’t help but revisiting it a for a few more tastes! Do you blame her? Heck no! For me however, this came in second place behind the Ghost Horse. With time, I think that this wine will be amazing, regardless of what people want to say about this vintage. So far we’ve enjoyed all of the ’01 first growths we’ve had, and this was the best ’01 Lafite showing to date for me. 93 points, and thanks again Mont for your generosity! Cheers!

2006 Ghost Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Shadow (USA, California, Napa Valley)

I opened this wine the minute we got to Peking Duck House so it would have some time to breathe on the table before it was poured. I have no idea how long it had been opened when the first pour hit the glass, but I would guess it was at about the 90 minute mark.
Deep dark color in the glass, and the first thing that hits you is the nose. Tons of creamy coconut/vanilla dominate the nose here. To quote the Widespread Panic song “Coconuts,” this “smelled like ladies lying in the sun!” It was crazy, and I have never smelled anything like that. Aside from this, you had some rich red fruits as well, with creamy currants and crème de cassis. Some raspberry and blackberry rounded out the nose, along with some blueberry and a bit of mocha. I didn’t get much oak on the nose at all, and I am guessing that this is where the coconut and vanilla came from. We have had literally tens of thousands of wines over the years, and I have to say that this is one of the most memorable noses I have ever smelled. I really can’t get over it, and we have drank some amazing wines, but this is one that will not be forgotten. The concentration of the fruit on the nose here was just insane!

On the palate, this wine was pretty damn big, and stood up all the wines at the table, and we had some nice, big wines at the table. The palate was silky smooth with some raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, currants, and strawberry, with just enough spice to notice, and some hints of mocha. To my palate, the alcohol was nicely integrated, along with the tannins, and the finish lingered for nearly a minute.

It’s funny to think back to the first time I had read about Ghost Horse wines on the old Parker Board (back when it was free), and seeing how much flack “The Todd” got about his over the top website, and his huge personality. I can’t say that I have ever met “The Todd,” but in the last couple years, he seems to have gained a lot of respect from board members at Wine Berserkers and elsewhere, and is truly a generous person. After having this wine, I am really looking forward to revisiting some of his wines from his other label, Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. As a matter of fact, I just picked up some more of his ’07 cabernet reserve.

This was hands down my wine of the night, and 94 point worthy, narrowly beating out a 2001 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, as well as a 1997 Insignia. You can tell that Todd puts some heart into this wine, and he is truly a remarkable winemaker. This was a superb wine, and I look forward to drinking this a few more times! Kudos to “The Todd,” and I will be contacting Carrie to pick up more of this. This very well could be the best $100 wine I have ever had, and it truly is worth the price of admission. Cheers!

Joseph Phelps Insignia (USA, California, Napa Valley)

Popped and poured tonight, and I have no doubt in my mind that this would be better with a 1-4 hour decant.  In the bottle however, this did continue to evolve as the evening went on.

Another gorgeous '97 Insignia in the glass, with a gorgeous nose of cassis, blackberry, currants, plum, and some mocha and spice.  There was a bit of oak rounding out the nose, and just a bit of creamy vanilla.

On the palate, this is drinking as well as any '97 we've tried to date.  I can't say for sure that this is peaking right now, but after this was opened for about 2 hours, it was about as gorgeous as I can see it get, yet it will easily age another 5 to 10+ years with proper storage!

Dark berries and currants on the palate, with nice subtle hints of mocha, black cherry, blueberry, and blackberry!  Finally, a bite of licorice, and spice on the long supple finish.  The alcohol and tannins were integrated nicely, and all in all, this is drinking absolutely gorgeously.  I really do not see this wine getting a whole lot better, but there is just a bit of room for improvement I suppose.  This is definitely drinking better than the 2002 at this point.

Another contender for my wine of the night, but this was edged out by the Ghost Horse, and 93 point worthy.  Cheers!

2007 Quilceda Creek Red Wine Palengat Vineyard (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills)

Stay tuned!

2000 Sine Qua Non The Boot (USA, California) from Magnum 1.5L

Here is one of those wines that you never want to see leaving your cellar, but at 10 years old, I figured it was worth checking in on, and what better place to do it than with other generous friends at Berserkerfest 5 at Peking Duck House in Manhattan! I pulled this from the cellar and stood it up in the fridge overnight to get a good chill on it. From here, I placed it in our wine travel bag along with a freezer tube to help it stay cool since we had an hour long ride on the train, and then another 45 minutes or so before Berserkerfest.
Needless to say, it was still nice and cool when we got there.
Popped and poured, and there was no sediment or anything in this bottle. This bottle has obviously been well stored for as long as I’ve had it, and it was a gorgeous yellow color in the glass. This wine was 49% chardonnay, rounded out by an even mix of Roussanne and Viognier from both Alban and Stolpman Vineyards respectively. Need I say more? This is some great fruit! The last bottle of this we had seemed to be drinking very well, so I was really looking forward to this tonight. The fact that this was being poured from a magnum had me thinking this would should ridiculously well.

On the nose, the first thing I noticed was some buttery popcorn, but not in the way you are thinking. Don’t think buttery, over-oaked chardonnay here at all. This is not what I mean at all, and I mean buttery popcorn in the best way possible, maybe even caramel corn. Lots of butterscotch on the nose with a ton of tropical fruits like pineapple, peach nectar, pear, and lemon.
On the palate, this was heaven, and definitely in contention for my white wine of the year. Nothing old and lazy about this at all, and I think that the magnum format definitely helped in slowing down the aging process. This was magnificent. Nice lemon/lime citrus, with a thick sweet buttery-ness to it. Secondary nuances of apple and pear, with hints of apricot nectar, pineapple, mango, kiwi, and toffee. There was just a tad of alcohol on the finish, but this blew off after about an hour. This wine continued to develop as it warmed up, and I revisited this wine at least a dozen times over the course of the evening, and took many many notes.
All in all, this was a gorgeous wine worthy of 93 points. If only I had a few more mags of this in the cellar. This was an absolute treat! Cheers!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Houseki Asian Fusion - Hamilton, NJ

Stay tuned for an awesome recap of the grand re-opening at Houseki!  I haven't been this full in years!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rick's - Lambertville, NJ

Well, it was a long day working today, so I came home, took a quick cat nap, and then Zelda and I were trying to figure out what we should do for dinner tonight. I asked her what she was in the mood for, and she asked if I wanted to go somewhere new. It was at that point that I suggested Rick’s in Lambertville, as it has come highly recommended from a plethora of friends and acquaintances. Our good friend Arounkone of Pure Energy Cycling and Java House ( has been recommending Rick’s for years, and they even sponsor one of his cycling teams.

So I grabbed a 2006 Holdredge Pinot Noir Wren Hop, packed up the Riedel carrying case, and off to Lambertville we went. Upon first drive around, I saw a line in the lobby, so when we didn’t find a parking spot at first, I dropped Zelda off to put our name in. After that, I drove around the block two more times and found nothing, so figured I would drive down to Pure Energy and park in Arounkone’s lot, but even his lot was full. One more drive around the block and still nothing, so I drove all the way down to where the Elk’s is, before I found a spot. That was a bit too far though, so I drove back through one more time, and found a spot across from the old Acme there, about 2 blocks away.

Nobody said parking was easy in Lambertville, and that is the chance you take when coming into town for dinner. Regardless, it didn’t bother me, and hopefully it was worth the hassle. I grabbed the wine bag and walked up to the restaurant, and Zelda was waiting in the lobby with about a dozen other people. I asked if she had put our name in, and how long the wait was, when she explained that there was just a clipboard that you put your name on. This in my opinion is a novel idea, and absolutely genius! No hostess to get harassed, to be bothered by patrons asking “how much longer until we are seated.” I truly liked this!

The waiting area was small. You could fit 10 people or so in the lobby, and we were standing in a narrow hallway that leads to the rear dining room. This was very narrow, and a bit of a squish when patrons from the back dining room were leaving. As we waited, the restaurant smelled gorgeous, filled with aroma’s of good red sauce, and plenty of garlic. This smelled heavenly to me!

A woman emerged from the dining room looking for a reservation who was 5 minutes late, and nobody answered. She said she would give them a few more minutes, and if they didn’t show up, she would give there table away. 5-10 minutes later, she seated a 4 top, and then took us. That said, if you make a reservation, be there on time. She’ll give you maybe 15 minutes of grace, and then she’ll give your table away. Again, bonus points here, and I like it. Good restaurant etiquette tells you that if you are running late, you need to call and tell the restaurant you are running a few minutes late. Especially in a small, busy gem in Lambertville. So their tardiness worked out good for us, and we ended up getting their table in the front window of the restaurant, overlooking Main Street.

Before I even sat, our server asked for our wine, and she opened it for us as we sat. I grabbed two Riedel glasses from the bag, and she took their glasses back to the kitchen. For the wine snobs out there, I would recommend bringing your own stems here. The dining room was definitely cozy, and definitely tight. Zelda had her back up against the wall, and my back was to an empty chair at the table behind us. If there was someone seated directly behind me, it may be very tight, but again, this is Lambertville, and we understand this. The walls were covered in paneling, reminiscent of that at Delorenzos on Hudson Street in Trenton. I think this is pine, but who knows for sure. The tables are covered in the red and white checkered table cloths, reminiscent of many Italian restaurants. Needless to say, it all worked, and looked very cozy.

As I looked into the mirror over Zelda’s shoulder, I could see a board with specials on the wall, in addition to their regular menu items. Special tonight included anything from a pork dish, to Crab Cake Parmesan, to Pumpkin Ravioli in a Brown Butter, to Lobster Fra Diablo.

We looked at the menu, and decided to start with an appetizer, and went with the Antipasto Platter. For entrees tonight, Zelda ordered one of her favorite Italian staples, chicken parm. I was torn a bit between the Lobster Fra Diablo, as well as the Crab Cake Parmesan, but ended up going with my gut, and ordered the lobster at our servers recommendation. I really love crab cakes, but 8 out of 10 times I am disappointed when I order them while we are out. I much prefer buying good jumbo lump crab from Wegman’s, and making them myself…which I think I will have to do one night next week.

While waiting for our antipasto to come out, we noticed just how crowded the restaurant was. This place was buzzing, and it was loud. I actually had a hard time hearing Zelda a few times, but again, this really isn’t a bad thing. It’s nice to see a place packed to the gills like this, compared to some of our favorite restaurants that seem to be dead with the current economy. One thing however I found to be a bit annoying was the people who were waiting for tables. You could see the resentment on their faces as they stared directly at me, as if they were upset that we were seated and they were not. Do people have no manners these days? Is there really a reason to be flashing me dirty looks, and for me to have to look at your wife complaining to you that she is hungry? What is there to say other than rudeness? It’s too bad there isn’t a way to block this from the seated patrons so they don’t have to see it. But that said, that doesn’t reflect on the restaurant itself, it reflects on rude dining patrons.

A few minutes later the Antipasto came out, and unfortunately, this picture doesn’t do it justice as this was after I had already dug through it. This came with nice salami, a slice of Bologna, sweet peppers, onion, olive, roasted red peppers, lettuce, and a green and red pepper tapenade of sorts, and a large piece of artichoke. All of the elements worked well together, and complimented each other. There was also some fresh Mozzarella, all of this was drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic, I think! Pair this with the bread and spread that came with the bread, and it was a delicious appetizer! We were about ¾’s of the way finished with this and our dinner came out.

This picture doesn’t really do Zelda’s chicken parm justice, as it was two nice sized chicken breasts that she would never be able to finish. I really enjoyed the buttery flavors from this when frying, although, the breading seemed to be thin in places. The chicken however was pounded nicely, and not overly thin. The chicken was cooked well, tender, and buttery with nice flavors and seasoning. The sauce on the other hand to both of us was average. There was nothing really that set this off from other sauces, and it was lacking in the wow factor. To me, it reminded me of many red sauces at many restaurants, and we still think that Toscano Ristorante has the best red sauce in the area. This was served with a bowl of pasta as well.

My Lobster Fra Diablo came out with a nice rotini styled pasta, with two lobster claws, as well as a small tail that was cut in half. The pasta was cooked perfect and smothered in a nice, spicy sauce. This sauce was much more inspiring than the sauce on Zelda’s pasta, although there were a few places you could see grease sitting. I’m not sure if this was finished with an oil of sorts, but that was a possibility. My first bite of the first lobster claw showed that it was just a bit over cooked, but really, in a restaurant that is packed to the gills with people, overcooking something by 30 seconds is going to happen unless you have a large kitchen staff. The tail was cooked nicely, was succulent, and tender. This sauce had a good spice to it, with just the right amount of heat.

About ½ way through dinner, I hear my name called from across the restaurant, and up walks a wine friend of mine Peter, who happens to live over in New Hope. Pretty funny in all actuality as I could have sworn I saw his car when I was looking for a parking spot. Small world. He came over for a minute or two, and I offered him our bottle of pinot to bring back to his table for a taste, but they were getting ready to leave. This Holdredge was gorgeous by the way, so look for that review to come as well.

After that, we were finishing up our dinner, and still getting the uncomfortable stares from those waiting for a table. I think I was in the worst possible seat for this in the restaurant, but what is there to do about it? I didn’t feel bad in the least, and they should have made a reservation or gotten there earlier. One gentleman was giving me the “hairy eyeball” as my buddy “Hoff” likes to say, and his wife was downright miserable. Meanwhile, an extremely rude woman walks into the dining room, and interrupts our server, who was taking an order at another table, and tells her that she is there to meet another table under the name Stephanie. The server tells her that she’ll be with her in a few minutes. Again, rude people! What is the story here.

So from here we threw Zelda’s chicken parm on top of my pasta, had it wrapped up, and skipped dessert so that at least another table could be seated as there were a good 15 people waiting in line as we walked out the door. In short, the food was good, the pricing was great, the service was attentive and great, the place was buzzing, and it put off a good vibe. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here, but it is another place to add to our list of go to’s in Lambertville. I wouldn't come her eon a weekend for a meeting as it is loud, but the food is nice.  Cheers!

19 S Main St
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Phone: (609) 397-0051

2006 Holdredge Pinot Noir Wren Hop

Was craving a pinot noir tonight, even though we were going out for Italian.  Probably should have grabbed a nice Italian blend, or even a good cabernet blend, but a pinot was really on my mind, so I grabbed this one from wine board acquaintance and friend John Holdredge.
I actually picked this bottle up during a special that John ran on the Wine Berserker ( one year birthday.  He had a 6 pack of pinot noir ranging from 2006’s to 2008’s for a ridiculous price under $100 if I remember correctly.  Regardless, it was a great deal that could not be passed up.
Popped and poured this tonight at Rick’s in Lambertville.  This showed a very light strawberry color in the glass, and I gave it a nice long swirl before first sip, and even first smell.  I really wanted to decant this, alas, I didn’t have the time today as our plans were last minute.  At first, the nose was a little closed down, and really wasn’t putting off a whole lot.  This had some nice floral notes of strawberry and a medley of other red berries.  There were secondary hints of spice and oak.
On the palate, at first this seemed a little thin, but as the wine warmed up, it really started to gain some body. A bit of sour black cherry, crushed red cherry, plum, and strawberry.  This wine was straight forward and classic pinot noir, and there was nothing at all over extracted in my opinion.  This wasn’t fruit forward in the least, and I didn’t find it to have a bunch of cola either.  Call me crazy, but this actually reminded me of some good Burgundy we’ve had in the $50-$100 range.  It seemed refined, and it seem to be a bit aged.  The fruit was subdued, and it was tasty.
The finish was smooth, although there was a bit of alcohol, that I am assuming would blow off with a decant or more time in the bottle.  All in all, I thought this was a very nice pinot noir, and I am looking forward to more of John’s wines in the future. 
I saved about a glass to try the following day, and the alcohol is still there a bit, but the wine has really smoothed out, and the fruit is showing nicely.  I sure wish I had some more of these to hold onto for a few more years to see how they develop.  92 points.  Cheers!

Congratulations Coach Joe Paterno

What is there to say other than a big congratulations to Penn State Coach Joe Paterno today for being the first major college coach with 400 victories?  Needless to say, he did it in dramatic fashion today in the big come from behind victory against Northwestern, with a final score of 35-21.  Congrats on achieving excellence coach!  Cheers!

Friday, November 5, 2010

2005 Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild

In seeing some notes, I was really curious to see how this wine was developing as we have not had one yet.  I thought I had seen a bunch of great notes on this, so figured it would go nicely with pizza at Delorenzos Tomato Pies tonight in Robbinsville.  Unfortunately, Delorenzos was packed, and we ended up going out for Thai, so this was not an optimal pairing by any means, but we figured we had it, so why not drink it.
Chateau Malmaison is your typical $20-ish Bordeaux.  It is mass produced, and in some vintages it has been outstanding.  The 2000 is still the best that we’ve had to date, and it had amazing fruit to it.  Was had the 2000 on multiple occasions, and I have yet to have a vintage that compared to it.  When I saw the 2005 in the stores, I figured I would pick up a few bottles to cellar.
Dark ruby in the glass with a super tight nose.  You could smell some cassis and currants, as well as some strawberry and raspberry.  Definitely some oak and alcohol on the nose as well, and you could pick out a bit of vanilla tones.
On the palate, this seemed like a thin alcoholic cluster to me.  The alcohol was overwhelming at first, but it did begin to soften in the glass.  More red and black fruits, but the fruits were definitely subdued, and the alcohol was the star, which obviously was not a good thing.  The finish of course had some alcohol and some tannins, and this wine just needs more time in the bottle.  I do not however think that this is going to develop like the 2000.
In short, hold onto these for 3-5 before you open one.  Not sure the blend here, but you could definitely taste the merlot influence here, and the cabernet took a second seat along with the rest of the blend.  83 points.

Ploy Siam - Robbinsville, NJ (Dine at your own risk)

It’s Friday night, and we went home and did the usual Friday ritual of cleaning, then taking a shower before heading out. Unfortunately, it is a work weekend for me, so we figured it would be an early night, and opted for something quick and easy. That said, we headed over to Delorenzos Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, only to see that there was a long wait. So from there, we headed down Route 33, to see what else we could find.

Moments later we remembered that we had heard of a Thai Restaurant from someone, somewhere, right down the road in the next shopping center, so we figured we’d give it a try. I think this actually came from someone that we met at the Farnsworth House in Bordentown, so we figured we’d give her recommendation a try.

As soon as we walked in, all I could think to myself is WOW! They dropped some serious money into the interior of this place, or should we say palace? From the gorgeous stone work around the waterfall and pond, to the tile work around the restaurant, to the huge wooden apron coming down from the ceiling on the left side of the restaurant. The décor really was gorgeous! We were sat along the long, narrow water feature, and I sat on the bench side, which went the entire length of the water feature. This was adorned with nice Asian inspired pillows. The tables looked nice with their dark stain, and even the silver wear was meaty and expensive looking. All these touches were done with class.

Ploy Siam is BYOB, so I opened up the wine bag, pulled our glasses, and popped and poured a 2005 Chateau Malmaison Bordeaux. This would have been perfect with a tomato pie at Delorenzos, but definitely not my choice for Thai. No worries though as we are not big believers in food pairings.

We looked around the restaurant as we perused the menu, and there were about 14 tables seated. Not bad at all for a Friday night, and this place could seat quite a few more. The couple next to us had the most well behaved kids we have ever seen, and they were just so proper. It was actually quite refreshing to see…

Our server came back to the table to take our order, and we started tonight with the Thai Spring Rolls. These came out a few minutes later, fried up golden brown, and nice and hot. The vegetables tasted good and fresh, and you really can’t go wrong with these. Unless of course your ingredients aren’t fresh. That said, these were very nice.

On the entrée front, Zelda went with the Pad Cashew Nut with chicken, which was stir fried with green bell peppers, pineapple, scallions, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, baby corn, onion, etc. These had nice flavors too it, and the chicken was tender. This wasn’t a knock your socks off kind of dish, but it was as good as anywhere else around here.

For my entrée, I ordered the Pad Thai, and it looked very nice, with a giant mound of noodle, shrimp, scallion, bean sprout, egg, crushed peanut, and tofu. I went to take my first bite, and as I raised it to my mouth, I got a horrible smell. As brought my nose closer to my plate, and I hate to say this, but the smell was almost a cross between smelly feet (I know, this is a terrible descriptor, but it is honest), as well as dry cat food. For those of you with pets, imagine a double bowl, where the food and water are right next to each other, and the water has been spilled into the food, making it swell and crumble. This is exactly what it smelled like, and I just could not get past it!

I put the smell aside (the best I could), and took a small bite of the pasta, and it tasted off. I also took a small bite of the shrimp, and it too tasted off to me. The colors on it seemed very dark, and it was very fishy. Yes, I understand that shrimp is seafood, and it is supposed to be fishy tasting, but these just did not seem right to me. It was actually a bit scary, as in Thai cuisine, shrimp is served by the ton, and I hope this was an isolated incident. Even so, my stomach turned, and I just couldn’t eat, and really lost my appetite.

So my question is, where did this dirty smell come from? Was it something in the sauce? Was the oil bad that this was cooked in? We thought maybe it was the tofu, but I don’t think that that was it. It just smelled dirty and sour. There was zero freshness here whatsoever, and all I can think is that one of the ingredients was spoiled. But what ingredient could it have been?

At this point, we were a bit disgusted, and asked for our check. Our server and the staff could tell that there was something wrong, and I really didn’t want to make a scene. I could have complained, but what really is the use? It’s not like these were expensive entrees, so we’ll take it as a lesson learned. Had the restaurant not had a lot of tables within ear shot, I probably would have said something, but again, we didn’t want to cause a scene.

That said, we hopped in the car, and took a drive down the road. I knew that we needed to eat something, and laugh as you will, but we stopped at Pizza Hut to get our annual Pizza Hut craving taken care of. Once or twice a year, we crave some good old fashion down and dirty Pizza Hut. Is there anything wrong with that? Oh heck no, and I do love me some stuffed crust! That said, Zelda opted for green pepper on her half, and I went with sausage, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Maybe we should have come here in the first place. Either way, we won’t be back to Ploy Siam.

Ploy Siam
Foxmoor Shopping Center
1041 Washington Blvd
Trenton, NJ 08691
Phone: (609) 371-9600

Pizza Hut
630 New Jersey 33
Trenton, NJ 08619
Phone(609) 587-8342

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Received an e-mail from my buddy Brandon today at te Joe Canal's on Route 1 in Lawrenceville, letting me know that they were tasting the 2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia. Being just a few minutes away, I got home from work, changed, and headed on over to see who the fruit was showing, and just how much oak and alcohol were covering this ine.

Walked in and was greeted by the woman hosting the tasting.  I hadn't seen her before, and when I did see her, she made the comment as to whether or not I wanted to taste the two other wines, or just the Insignia.  At first, I was a bit offended thinking she thought I was just some random customer who wanted to try an expensive wine, but after seeing the other customers behavior, I didn't blame her a bit.  Many people were there just to taste the Insignia, which is kind of sad.  But these are also people who probably wouldn't drop $150 on a bottle of wine, so to each their own.

Regardless, I first tasted the 2008 Cakebread sauvignon blanc which is a solid wine year in, year out.  Next we tasted a Plumpjack chardonnay, but I didn't get the vintage.  I can only assume it was a 2008, but may have been a 2007.

On to the Insignia I had asked how long it had been open, and instead of just spitting out a random BS number, she asked me what time it was.  I like this woman!  Needless to say, she said it was opened for just over an hour, and about 1/4 of the bottle was gone.

Poured into your typical thick rimmed, small tasting glass, this showed a nice dark purple-ish color in the glass.  I swirled it around in my glass for a minute or two, and during this timeframe I was amazed at how many people came up, and just wanted to get right to the Insignia. They could careless about the Cakebread or the Plumpjack, and in my opinion these are both good wines. They just wanted to get to the big dog, and it was funny to see them suck it down, and then see them walk away, not even thinking of buying. One of the guys asked me what I thought, and I told him that it needed 5-10 years. He looked at me as though I was crazy and said it was the best wine he's ever had. But he also had a bunch of bottles of Ruffino chianti in his basket....

On the nose, first thing I noticed were the sweet vanilla tones.  This immediately tells me that I could be flossing out some oak splinters, but we'll see!

The fruit profile was there, with nice dark fruits, but again, the fruit took second seat to the sweet, creamy vanilla.  Black currants and cassis, along with blueberry and blackberry dominate the nose.  Some mellow spice, mocha, and oak round out the nose.

On the palate, I was prepared to be tasting an over-oaked wine here, and ready to get slapped in the face.  But even so, that was not the case.  But don't get me wrong, there was plenty of oak here.

For once, the palate really seemed to meet the same profile as the nose.  Again nice currants and cassis with dark fruits.  Secondary tones of plum and blackberry, with some sweetness, vanilla, and spice. 

Plenty of backbone on the mid-palate, and the finish definitely has some gripping, chewy tannins, and just a bit of alcohol.  Long and short of it, this wine has all the potential, but is far to young.  No score today, but 92-95 points possible with time on the rack.  I'd hold 7-10 years to give the oak time to integrate, but that is just me.  This will be fabulous with age!

Cheers, and kudos to Brandon and Toni at Joe Canal's Lawrenceville for the heads up!  -F. Scott.

Joe Canal's Discount Liquor Outlet
3375 US RT 1 South
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Phone:  (609)520-0008