Sunday, January 31, 2010

2007 Auteur Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard

Ever since I visited Chicago and having an Aubert chardonnay at Craig's shop, Grand Cru Wine Merchants in Arlington Heights, IL, I have been craving a good glass of chardonnay. Thankfully, tonight was the night as Zelda was making a pasta recipe that called for a 1/2 glass of white wine. What a perfect excuse to pop one of these bad boys open. From what I remember, this very well may be our first Auteur white, but I cannot confirm that at the moment. This was pulled from the cellar and put into the refrigerator for about an hour before it was ready to serve to give it a good chill, which I really don't think it needed. Zelda however commented, and I can totally agree, that while this wine was cold, it had a lot of sauvignon blanc characteristics. As it warmed up however, it seemed to gain body and get heavier, and the chardonnay qualities began to shine. Once it warmed up in the glass, it had a great nose of lemon and lime, as well as hints of peach, honey, and some pineapple. There also seems to be a bit of alcohol on the nose, but it definitely didn't overpower the fruit. I am guessing that this will settle out with another year in the bottle. I am very surprised that we didn't notice more butter and oak on the nose, but that wasn't the case at all. The nose was very nice, which was bit surprising to me as I still consider this wine young. I also picked up a bit of nuttiness on the nose, reminiscent of a similar experience we have had with some sparkling wines and Champagnes. On the palate, this wine opened up very nicely, but what do you expect from a wine with Hyde Vineyard fruit? Tons of citrus on the palate, as well as another fruit that I cannot put my tongue on. There seems to be so much going on with the palate of this wine, and every time you swirl the glass, it is almost as though a new flavor is coming out. It is going to drive me crazy trying to think of the fruit that this reminds me of, but for the life of me, I cannot pull the name out of the air. Finally, on the finish, some lemon shines through, as well as a subtle hint of herb and a bit of spice. The finish has integrated nicely at this point, with some nice acidity. This will make a great summer sipper, but I think we'll try to hold off this summer and save the remaining bottles to get a bit of age on them. With time, this can be some classic California chardonnay, and a true treat. I don't think that at this point I would put it in the same class as a Kistler or Aubert, but I think it is just a matter of time that this wine could definitely achieve this potential. For now, it is just a step behind. All in all, a nice wine on a winter night in front of the fire. This is a perfect example of a chardonnay that I enjoy drinking, and this is made exactly how chardonnay should be made. 91 points now, with at least another point or two possible with some cellar time. Cheers!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yokohama - Maple Shade, NJ

Tonight we decided to meet up with some friends at Yokohama in Maple Shade, and this is a new restaurant we have never visited. We've seen write ups for Yokohama, and they have all been very favorable, so it was a good opportunity to check it out.
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We arrived a few minutes early and had a drink at the bar. The bar is small, but very nice and modern. To the right of the bar is the sushi side of the restaurant, and to the left is the hibachi side of the restaurant, situated behind a nice water wall.
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Zelda opted for her usual, Tanqueray, with some tonic. I on the other hand went out of my norm, and had a Tanqueray martini. Just under $15 for the round, which is about average for this area.
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The gang opted to sit on the sushi side of the house tonight, and as we were at, we walked past the sushi bar, with the sushi chefs working hard. The fish itself in the glass case looked nice and fresh, and they seemed to be pumping out quite a few plates full of this raw fish that we have come to love.
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Both Zelda and I were in the mood for something hot tonight. It was a cold, snowy night, and as much as we both love sushi, we needed some warmth tonight. We did however both start with a few rolls to get our sushi fix!
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Zelda had the Spicy Salmon and Avocado roll, and I opted for the Shrimp Tempura Maki roll. For dinner, we both ordered the chicken teppanyake box. First out were the miso soups that came wit our dinner that neither of us were interested in, so those were given to our friends that we were out with. Nothing at all against miso soup, but it is just not my thing. Next out were the salads that came with our boxes, with the typical Asian styled dressing. The lettuce was nice, and the dressing was typical. This made for a nice little appetizer, although, with all the food we ordered, I probably should have refrained from eating it.
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Next out were the rolls, and Zelda's Spicy Salmon and Avocado roll was typical. It came out looking a bit sloppy, and it was similar to other rolls that we've had elsewhere. Nothing really differentiated it from anywhere else we have gone, but it wasn't offensive in the least, but again, it was just your typical roll. My roll came out filled with shrimp tempura, cucumber, and crab stick. This is a large roll, but into 2 large end pieces, and 3 middle pieces that were thick, and filled with goodies. The flavors went well together, and I found it to be a nice combination. Had I had this roll elsewhere, I don't know how I would rate it, but this is the first time that I have seen this combo.
. Next out came a plate of sushi that the girls were splitting. Everything looked great, and they ordered a few different rolls. Unfortunately, I don't remember all of the names of the rolls that they ordered, but the one that sticks out was the Halloween Roll. Regardless, the presentation on all of them looked nice, as you can see at above. .
Next out were our boxes, and this came with a lot of food, ranging from seafood shumai, to shrimp and vegetable tempura, to the chicken, with white rice, and a California roll. First up was the chicken, and I really wasn't all that impressed. It was almost as though the chicken were just boiled, and then topped with some teriyaki sauce that was a bit bland. The California roll as again average, and the shumai really didn't do a lot for me as it was cold. The tempura on the other hand was tasty, and it was friend up nicely and light. The tempura crust was light and airy, and I did indeed enjoy it.
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The rest of the table seemed to enjoy their sushi dishes, and it was a nice night out with some good laughs and good conversation. For dessert, I opted for the green tea ice cream, which was good, although the chocolate sauce that came on it overpowered the taste that I love of the green tea. At least now I know to request it with no chocolate sauce. Zelda opted for coffee mochi ice cream, which was a strange skin like substance filled with ice cream. Regardless, I enjoyed it, even though the texture of the "skin" was a bit strange. This was a treat.
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In short, I think it was a decent meal, but it really didn't do anything for me to separate it from other places we have visited for sushi. The ambiance was nice, and the service was great, but there was nothing raising the bar as far as the cuisine is concerned in my humble opinion, but that doesn't say that I wouldn't go back there. I will say that I wouldn't go out of my way to go there, but I'm sure we'll visit again in the future, but will probably be more likely to stick with just sushi.
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Yokohama
300 South Lenola Road
Maple Shade, NJ
Phone 856.608.8812

Oliver - A Bistro - Bordentown, NJ

At this point, it is almost pointless to post something about Oliver, as we have yet to ever have a bad experience there, but I figure it is worth giving Matt and his crew some kudos for yet another great meal and great service. Today Zelda and I popped in for lunch, and as usual the lunch crowd was hoppin' by 1PM. As usual, Bruce gave us some great service, and the bus boy, who's name I can never remember is just the nicest kid. For lunch, Zelda opted for a bowl of the "Old Faithful," which is a nice potato souped topped with cheddar cheese. She went for the bacon-less version as she usually does, and as always, the soup was good. We really need to get this recipe! For lunch, she opted for a crock of the mac and cheese, and this is always a pleaser, and great comfort food. It comes in a nice large crock, and could easily make for 2 meals. The top had a nice crust on it from the boiler, and topped with nice bread crumbs. I went out of my norm today and went for the crab cake sandwich. If there is one thing I am very picky about, it is crab cakes, but this was very nice. It was served on a nice croissant with some nice slaw, and the croissant had a really nice buttery flavor it it. he crab cake itself was almost as good as mine, and had great flavors. From the first time I had Matt's crab cakes until now, I have to say that Matt has them almost perfected. Unlike most places, he doesn't add a bunch of crazy colored vegetables as filler, and he used just the right amount of bread crumbs. Like my recipe, Matt wants you to taste the crab, and I think he is just a step away from the perfect crab cake. Unfortunately though, I can't quite pick out what will get him to 100%, but right now, he is at 99%! That said, keep up the great work Matt. After lunch we id a little shopping around Bordentown, as it such a cute little town before moving on and running some other errands. In short, yet another great meal at Oliver-A Bistro. Kudos to Matt and his crew, and to Bruce for the great service as always. Oliver is definitely worth the trip, and I highly recommend it for both lunch and dinner. Just don't forget that they are BYOB! Cheers!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BERSERKERDAY!!! One Year Anniversary! January 27th, 2010

WineBerserkers celebrates their FIRST anniversary on January 27th! Retailers and winemakers have stepped up with some CRAZY great offers and giveaways - we've got games, quizzes, voting on new names, a whole bunch of prizes and fun and craziness! Invite your wine friends to the forum and see the threads for BerserkerDay, as that's the ONLY way to get in on the action. Congratulations, Berserkers! Nearly 2000 members strong in less than a year, over 200,000 posts, and a whole lotta fun! Big thanks to Todd French for being such a great inspiration on getting this site going, and turning it into one of the best online wine resources on the world wide web! Be sure to check out all the great offers and festivities here: http://wineberserkers.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15790 Cheers!

Online Wine Retailer Rant

It’s been a while since I have had a rant, but today feels like one of those days that feel the need to vent a little bit about wine retailers. That said, if you don’t feel like listening, I won’t be offended in the least, so feel free to stop reading here. Many of us use different sites to “source” specific bottles of wine. A few of the most commonly used are Wine Access, along with my favorite, Wine-Searcher.com. I find that we use Wine-Searcher a ton, and I can even justify paying the $30 a year for the Pro Version. What is the difference between the free version and the Pro Version you might ask? The answer is simple. With the free version, you do not get all of the stores that may carry the specific bottle that you are looking for, where the Pro Version gives you all of the results. Sometimes this is beneficial as a result you do not come up with may end up being the cheapest price, or a retailer that you may have done business with in the past. In some cases, I can think of times when the savings from just one purchase have been more than enough to cover the cost of the subscription. With that being said, I highly recommend this site. So, on to my rant. One thing that I have been finding, which I find extremely annoying, is the fact that online retailers will register with Wine-Searcher.com, and they will list particular wines that may have been small in production, or are just all around hard to find. There is nothing wrong with that….unless of course they are just doing this to attract people to their site, in hopes of getting them to browse their store an purchase other bottles. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me, and I really wish Wine-Searcher would do something about these retailers. A perfect example was today, as I was searching for a 2004 Sine Qua Non “Covert Fingers.” This is a beautiful pinot noir, and happened to be my personal 2009 Wine of the Year. This is an amazing wine, and happens to be in the top 5 wines I have had during my lifetime. Today was no special occasion, and I actually search for deals on this wine quite often. Today however, a hit came up for this wine from a company located in Los Angeles, who's name I will not call out, as I do not want to give them business that they do not deserve. As soon as I saw the search result come in with a price of $125, I knew this was a hoax. Regardless, I clicked the link to see if they did actually have the wine, and sure enough, they did not. However, they achieved what they were trying to achieve, and they got me to browse their site because they were advertising a product that people are interested, yet they do not carry it. This is a perfect example of retailers using the old bait and switch, trying to get you to come to their site, in hope that you will look for something else when they do not have the wine that you are looking for. Unfortunately, this seems to be a very common practice. I even had a similar thing happen a few years ago, while looking for magnums of Foxen pinot noir “Sea Smoke.” Many of you know the awesome mystique of Sea Smoke Cellars, and their vineyard where Foxen sources these grapes from. Foxen happens to be the only other winery producing pinot noir from this vineyard, with the exception of Sea Smoke. These are incredible wines, and not exactly easy to get, especially in the magnum format. So I finally found the wines from a now defunct retailer (this was karma at its best) called Cellar Brokers. They had magnums of the 2004, 2006, and 2006, so I purchased one of each. My card was charged, and a week went by and I never received an order confirmation. So I called them, and never had a phone call returned. I e-mailed them, and still nothing. After several weeks, I was refunded my money, because they finally decided to tell the truth in the fact that they could not acquire these wines. With all of that said, how many of you have run into situations similar to this one with online retailers? What do you think should be done to keep this from happening? I think that this is a very poor practice, and these sites like Wine-Searcher and Wine Access really need to crack down and initiate some kind of fraud policy on this. If one good thing has come out of this however, it is the simple fact that now I am weary to purchase from a retailer that I have never purchased from before. If I do come up with a retailer that I have never heard of and find questionable, I use my online resources on the different wine boards to research them, to get feedback from other board members. I will encourage you to do the same. Long story short, be very careful of placing orders with stores you have never purchased from before, and do the leg work to ensure that they are a respectable retailer. I will say that I am grateful for sites like Wine-Searcher and Wine Access, and it would be hard to obtain such good wines at great pricing without these resources. I'm a huge fan, and will continue to be!
Off my soap box….for now! Stay tuned for more rants in the future! Cheers! -F. Scott

The Proper Way to Hold a Wine Glass: A Demonstration (By David's 3 year old Son)

I have to say that it is not often I post something like this on our BLOG, but this is just one that I couldn't pass up, and is absolutely adorable...and wine related too. .
Thanks to David from the CellarTracker Forum for posting this and giving me a good laugh, and giving me his permission to post this. Too cute!
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As demonstrated last night by my 3 year old son.
1) Always hold the glass by the stem, not the bowl. Keeps the glass clean and the wine stays the proper temperature (be it red or whire or apple juice ;))
2) Swirl slightly to aerate the liquid
3) Bring the glass up straight to your lips
4) Tilt the head back along with the glass, keeping the same angle
5) Enjoy how the proper etiquette can make the wine drinking experience all the better :P
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Sorry the pics are blurry. He did this quite randomly on his own and I only had my cellphone to capture it. I think he may have been watching his Father even more closely than I thought...
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This is adorable, and absolutely worth passing on. I hope you got as much of a laugh out of it as I did. Kids can be so funny! Cheers! -F. Scott

Turley Release ALERT!

It is definitely that time of year! MAILER SEASON IS HERE!
Here is the latest offer from Turley. For more information, please visit: http://www.turleywine.com/
2008 Dragon Vineyard Zinfandel Howell Mountain 2008 Duarte Zinfandel Contra Costa County 2008 Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel Paso Robles 2008 Grist Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley
2008 Juvenile Zinfandel California 2008 Mead Ranch Zinfandel Atlas Peak 2008 Old Vines Zinfandel California 2008 Rattlesnake Ridge Zinfandel Howell Mountain 2008 Turley Estate ZinfandelNapa Valley 2008 Vineyard 101 ZinfandelAlexander Valley 2008 Tofanelli Vineyard Charbono Napa Valley 2008 Rattlesnake Ridge Petite Syrah Howell 2008 Turley Estate Petite Syrah Napa Valley

Monday, January 25, 2010

Princeton Present Day Club - Wednesday October 6th, 2010

 I am very excited to share that I recently received and e-mail from the Program Co-Chair of the Present Day Club of Princeton, asking us to come and give a lunchtime meeting at their October 6th, 2010 meeting.

She would like us to come and meeting with their President over a glass of wine and a few of their members, then give a 1/2 hour presentation to 80-100 of their members on "Being a foodie," as well as writing restaurant reviews. From there, we will do a question and answer with their membership.

I can say that we are very excited, and all of our hardwork and dedication to visiting as many restaurants in the area, as well as maintaining this blog, and posting our reviews on Chowhound, Yelp, and many of the wine communities has paid off.

Zelda and I are truly humbled, and we hope that this is just the start of many new adventures to come. Stay tuned for the latest and greatest for this awesome opportunity! Cheers!

Rhys-Alesia Release ALERT - January 26th 2010

Email just landed a few days ago, and ordering opens tomorrow, January 26th. The email indicated quantities are quite limited. The wines: 2007 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir $49 2007 Rhys Alpine Hillside Pinot Noir $59 2007 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir $69 2007 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir $59 2007 Alesia Green Valley Pinot Noir $44 2006 Alesia Fairview ranch Syrah $25 Make sure you log in tomorrow to see what you were allocated! For those of you not signed up for their mailing list, this is one that I highly recommend. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though I have the funds, so my allocation will be up for grabs if any of you locals would like to get in on this offer. Cheers!

Loring Wine Company Release ALERT - 2008 pinot noir

As you can see, it is that time of the year, and the mailers are coming in faster than the e-mail server can deliver one. For those of you who like us, are big fans of Loring, here is the latest and greatest from their release. These are great wines, so check out Brian's website at: http://www.loringwinecompany.com/ Cheers!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aubert Winter Release 2010 ALERT

The latest and greatest offering from Aubert just hit, and is cut and pasted below. For those of you who have not tried their wines, I can tell you that they are well made, and absoluely amazing with some age on them. Unfortunately, this mailer hits the day after Kosta Browne, so with cutbacks in wine spending this year, I do not see taking this allocation. For anyone who might be interested, drop me a line, and you are more than welcome to my allocation at cost, and I can have it shipped to you directly. Cheers! -F. Scott Dear Friends of Aubert, Our Spring 2010 wine allocations will be sent to you via e-mail and in the form of a mailed card on Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Both notifications will include your User ID and Password needed for ordering on our secure website. You may access all allocations, tasting notes and ordering information on our website. This release is exclusively for our 2008 Chardonnays--Ritchie Vineyard Sonoma Coast, Hyde & Sons Vineyard Carneros (inaugural release), Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast, and Aubert Estate Lauren Vineyard Sonoma Coast. All allocations are reserved on a first come, first served basis. We appreciate and thank you for your interest in our wines. Happy New Year! Warmest regards, Mark & Teresa Aubert

2003 Antica Terra Pinot Noir

I have to say, that this is a little piece if Willamette Valley heaven. If you happen to love aged Oregon pinot, this is a classic example, and if you have more than one in your cellar, I would encourage you to open it now. If you're down to your last one, I'd still tell you to go ahead and pop that cork as I really don't see this wine improving much more with time! . The 2003 was the second to last vintage for the old owners of Antica Terra, before Maggie Harrison bought the winery. Maggie took over at the reigns in 2005, and ended up declassifying all of the fruit from 2005, and I a not sure if they sold it off, or what they did with it. . We actually had this wine, the 2003 before we had every tried one of the wines that Maggie is making at Antica Terra. Based on how these 2003's showed, it really gave me inspiration that Maggie would craft some amazing wines from this vineyard. Te vineyard is definitely producing fruit to create incredible wines, and you can see that I was indeed correct from reading my posts about the 2007's that we enjoyed over the 2009 holiday season. . Great dark color in the glass, with a nice nose of strawberry and cherry, with subtle hints of spice and anise. Some swirling in the glass shows some blueberry tones, with a faint hint of blackberry. A bit of menthol rounds out the nose. . On the palate, as expected, this isn't your typical fruit forward California pinot noir, although, for Oregon, I think that this is showing more fruit on the palate than most, but I think that is from the time it has spent in the bottle, and the maturity that this wine now has. A nice medium acidity round out the mid palate, with hints of oak and spice, creating nice vanilla tones. The tannin is this wine is showing just a tad, and adds a really nice element. The pleasant finish lingers on for abut 25 seconds making this wine yet another Oregon winner. . This paired well with Zelda's mustard chicken tonight, a Colt's win, and hopefully what turns into a Viking's win as they just tied it up at 21 in the 3rd. All in all, another great Antica Terra offering, even pre-Maggie, and worthy of 92 points. It's been a great weekend for pinot! 92 points, and I don't se this wine getting any better with time. Cheers!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kosta Browne Spring 2010 Release ALERT!

Yes, mailer season is in full swing, so for those of you on the Kosta Browne list, keep an eye out on February 1st for the 2008 appelation wines: Sonoma Coast, as well as the Russian River.
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Early reports on these wines souds very promising, and it will be interesting to see how these compare with the 2007's, which for the record, we still have not tried.
Regardless, this is one of the few mailers that I am looking forward to this year, and I'll be sure to pick up a few of each! Cheers! -F. Scott

Friday, January 22, 2010

Manon - Lambertville, NJ

Manon is yet another restaurant that we have been meaning to visit in Lambertville, and once again, I was much impressed.

I called and made us a reservation yesterday for 7:30PM tonight, and on the phone I was reminded that they are cash or check only, and BYOB. This is a nice reminder for someone who is unaware. Had the gentleman not said anything to me, chances are I would not have gotten cash, and would have had to take a quick walk to the ATM. Thankfully that was not the case.

We actually arrived in Lambertville a half hour early, and they were able to seat us before out 7:30 reservation. At the time, there were just two other tables at Manon dining, and this was a bit surprising based on all the positive reviews I have seen and heard. But we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. We were greeted and seated by our server who's name I don't think we were ever told, but she was very pleasant. I immediately moved their stemware aside, and pulled two Riedel glasses out of our carrying bag, along with a 2003 Fiddlehead pinot noir 728. Talk about a great, mature pinot noir at it's peak, but with many years left. Be sure to read my review on this wine soon. After a few minutes looking at the menu, we decided to start with an appetizer, and have the Prince Edward Island mussels in a lobster sauce, with cellar root and a nice broth. The mussels came out, and for $13, this was a heck of a deal. They came out in a large bowl, and if I had to guess, there were 3 dozen there, maybe even 4 dozen. They came out steaming hot, and had a great fresh nose. You could see the celery root garnished all over the mussels, and the brown translucent broth. I will say that the broth itself was not super flavorful, and didn’t add a very dynamic element to the mussels. It was a bit bland, and could have used something to give it a little flavor. I will however say that these were some of the plumpest, most sweet and succulent mussels we have had in the area, and were a real treat. The quality of these mussels definitely made up for the lack of complexity in the broth, but I would order them again just based on the quality and freshness displayed. The portion size made this a bargain as well, and this would make for a great lunch. Some time passed in between finishing our appetizer and our dinner, and we just enjoyed some great conversation and talked about the ambiance. By this point, all but 2 tables in the restaurant were full, and it was amazing to overhear and observe how many people were speaking French in the restaurant. For a French-esq restaurant, I think that it speaks for itself that they are coming here and enjoying their cuisine. We also enjoyed the nice warm colors on the walls, along with the nice décor. From the giant candle hurricanes on the tables, to the huge vase with lilies sitting on a table behind Zelda, to the Van Gogh “Starry Night” theme inspired ceiling. The lighting was dark, the feelings was warm and cozy, and this is just a romantic place to take your sweetie out on a date. I know that I really enjoyed it, and I would go back again just for the warm feeling I got from the dining room. On to dinner, Zelda’s scallops came out, topped with a perfectly cooked piece of puffed pastry. I will try to get her comments on her thought, but my thoughts were that the scallops were perfectly cleaned and cooked. There was no grittiness to them, the rubber like texture, and they were just perfect. One comment that she made was that she wishes they had a bit of caramelization on them from the pan, and as usual she was spot on. The sauce added a nice element, and it was very pleasurable. The size of beans, carrots, and au gratin potatoes were nice as well. My rack of lamb came out steaming hot, and looked gorgeous. There are not many places that I will go for the first time and order rack of lamb. Oliver-A Bistro in Bordentown is usually my go to place for rack of lamb, but the mustard and thyme crust sounded really nice, and I was really in the mood for lamb tonight. Had I know that originally, I would have brought along an ’05 Maybach cabernet sauvignon, but live and learn. They came out perfectly medium rare, with a nice redness to them that almost looked as though it were painted (I mean this is a good way). The outside had a very nice sear on them, but the inside was hot, pink, and juicy! Man were these heaven, and I couldn’t have cooked them better myself. The mustard and thyme added a very nice crusty quality to them, with a little tang, and a little spice, and the crust was not burnt in the least, with some nice color. This paired nicely with the red sauce, which I am assuming was wine based, however I might be incorrect. Regardless, the 6 “lollipops” were the perfect portion, and I could not have been any happier. The quality of the meat was very nice, and they took the time to trim them nicely, so there was next to no fat. Like Zelda’s dish, mine was paired with a nice, cheesy potato gratin, long cut green beans, and carrots with a nice sweet caramelization to them. Needless to say, neither of us saved room for dessert, so we finished the last of the Fiddlehead pinot noir, before heading out. In short, this was a great, romantic evening, filled with pleasurable ambiance, good service, and great cuisine. Total bill came in just under $80, and it was worth every penny. I look forward to our next visit, and I am sure we will be back sometime in the Spring when the weather gets nice. After dinner we ended up spending some time with our good friend, and old neighbor Arounkone, who is lucky enough to now reside in Lambertville. Be sure to check out his venture, Pure Energy Cycling and Java House, and have a cup of coffee while you enjoy browsing the “Ferrari of Bicycles” in his shop! Cheers!

2003 Fiddlehead Cellars Pinot Noir Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix

There is something about Santa Rita Hills pinot noir that we are so fond of, and Fiddlehead brings out an even bigger fondness. Kathy and her team are creating outstanding wines year in, year out, and this was a classic Fiddlehead example of a great, mature wine! WOW!
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Popped and poured tonight at Manon in Lambertville, this showed well from the first swirl and sniff. This wine was full throttle from the get go, with amazing fruit! Great Santa Rita Hills dark ruby color in the glass, still showing a little thinning near the rim of the Riedel.
Gorgeous of red fruits on the nose, black cherry, raspberry, plum, and tons of berry! Subtle hints of cola round out the nose with some nice spice and a hint of vanilla/butterscotch.
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On the palate, the fruit is definitely there, and has some great age to it. I really have a hard time seeing the fruit showing any better on this wine, but I won’t be surprised if it does. More black cherry on the palate, with a bit of cola and raspberry. This is an absolute joy in the mouth. The alcohol has integrated nicely, and the acidity is absolutely perfect. There is just enough there to make you appreciate it, and is not overpowering in the least. This wine is absolutely magnificent, and it is BIG! The finish lingers on for a good 30 seconds, and couldn’t be any more pleasant!
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Only downside I can report about this wine is the fact that we are down to our last one now. Have a couple of the ’02, and might have to give one of them a try tonight for comparison sake. Another incredible effort by Kathy and her Fiddlehead crew. We’re huge fans! 93 points! Cheers!

Haiti Wine Silent Auction/Donation - F. Scott and Zelda Give Back!

22 JAN 2010: UPDATE: 12PM: Big thanks, and big congratulations to Chowhound reader John F. of Asheville, NC who stumbled across our BLOG on Chowhound, and put in the winning bid of $550. I am waiting for the e-mail confirmation from him, as well as the confirmations from The Salvation Army and Doctors Without Borders, confirming that donations of $275 are made to each of them. Once I receive those, I will send him his bottle of the 2006 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel, as well as a bottle of Stefania cabernet sauvignon from our cellar as a thank you. We could not be any happier with the response that we received, and I received a total of 122 bids which I find awesome! The compassion and caring that everyone showed is great, and I did not receive a single bid under $100. Thanks to each and every one of you for your support on what I feel is a worthy cause. We are glad that we could do something to make a different, and we are absolutely flattered at the responses received. It’s such a great feeling knowing that we did something to help, so thank you again John F. Thank you all again, and keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers! 20 JAN 2010: UPDATE: Special thanks for all the bids so far, and remember that the silent auction closes at Noon Eastern Time on Friday 22 JAN. We have had over 100 bids thus far, and your generosity will not go unappreciated. The outpouring we have received from all of you, as well as the kind words just prove that this is the least that we can do. Special thanks to all of you for supporting such a wonderful cause! 15 JAN 2010: It is with much sadness and a heavy heart that Zelda and I send out or sincere prayers to all of the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti this past week. The stories that we have seen on the television, as well as the pictures I am seeing online are heartbreaking, and we want to help. As Zelda and I talked about the devastation and what our organizations are doing to help the victims, I think that it is only right that we try to raise a few dollars on our own to donate to an organization who can help those people in Haiti. We went through our cellar to see if there was a bottle of wine that we could donate, and hold a silent auction with, where we will donate 100% of the funds raised to either The Salvation Army, or Doctors Without Borders, who will then forward the funds on to the victims in Haiti. This is the least that we can do, and we are truly honored to be able to help these organizations, and the people of Haiti. Our cellar may not contain a lot of "cult wines" so to say, but we all know how much people love the wines crafted with love from Dan Kosta and Michael Browne of Kosta Browne. With that being said, we have selected a bottle of the 2006 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel, and whomever offers the largest donation will receive this bottle. As many of you know, this is a very rare wine, and it is next to impossible to get allocated one of these rare gems! . We think that this is the least we can do, so we are calling on all of you oenophiles to help us. Note that this bottle was purchased on release, and stored in our climate controlled wine cellar at 55 degrees since it arrived on 12 DEC 2008. . To make a bid, please send me an e-mail at markjahnke@gmail.com with "Haiti 4-Barrel" in the subject. The silent auction will close one week from today, on Friday January 22nd, 2010, at 1200 hours Eastern time. . We know that funds are tight in our struggling economy right now, but please reach deep into your pockets, and let's do whatever we can to help these victims. We can figure out logistics on this once the auction closes as far as payment goes, but we can probably do it right online through the Salvation Army or Doctors Without Borders websites so that you know that 100% of the funds raised will go directly to the Haiti relief efforts. Note that there will be no privacy issues, and I will not have access to any of your personal/billing information other than the address that you want me to ship the wine to. Once your donation has been made and verified, I will ship your wine, and we'll even pick up the tab for the shipping so that your entire donation goes to help these victims. Note that the highest bidder will also receive another treat from our cellar as a thank you. The wine that you will be surprised with is one of our favorite California cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Clara Valley, and has a retail value of just under $40. . In short, thank you all in advance, and I truly hope that we get a good response for this generous offer. In short, open your hearts, and let's do our part to help, and while you are at it, say a few prayers for the people of Haiti! As always, kudos to the United States for stepping up and helping out a country in desperate need! God Bless America! Cheers! . NOTE: This was originally posted at 1400 hours on 15 January 2010, however, I have been changing the date and time of this to get it to appear at the top of our page. Please be sure to look at the articles below this, as there may be some new items posted since you last visited.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kenmore Elite Model #77563 - The Two Month Update

So many have commented wanting to hear thoughts about the new Kenmore now that we have had it for a while. What can I say other than AWESOME, and how I wish we would have done this years ago. I cannot say enough good things about this appliance, and I could not be any happier...and I am sure that Zelda will agree. Unfortunately, I do not have a valid gripe at all. If I had to pick out one thing to complain about, it would have to be cleaning the stainless top. However, this really isn't a valid gripe as the stainless top was a want, not a necessity. We could have gone for a black top, but this looked more appealing to us, and I am happy we made the choice. Regardless, nothing a little stainless steel cleaner cannot take take of! As for what I really like about this appliance is the following, in no specific order whatsoever: 1) Looks: this thing looks awesome, and is now the show piece of our kitchen. It may not be a Viking, but it suits our kitchen well. Regardless if it looks like a restaurant grade appliance or not, I think that we made a great decision, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 2) The cook top: I am really happy in the fact that the grates on the cook top are level all the way across. This actually created another work surface for us, and makes it easy to work with a cutting board on top, or a baking sheet. This is a bonus that I never would have thought of. 3) Burner output: I couldn't be any happier here! The dual ring burner boils water in a hurry, and this is a bonus. This burner also serves well as a simmer burner, although there is a simmer burner right behind it. The large center burner hasn't gotten much use yet, however, I think it will when the griddle plate comes, that I ordered from the coupon that came with the stove. The coupon I am referring to is an offer that was enclosed from Kenmore, and included a free griddle plate, broiler pan, broiler grill, broiler rack, and one other piece. In total, 5 accessories, and all you pay is $19.95 shipping and handling. This is supposed to arrive in 6-8 weeks, so it should be here any day now. I will post information about it when I receive it. 4) Convection: what can I say other than WOW! As far as I can remember, this is my first convection oven, and I find things to cook nicely, evenly, and quickly! How we got by without convection for so long is beyond me! 5) Baking: even when not in convection mode, and just using the standard baking mode, everything seems to cook nicely and evenly. This has been tested quite a bit to make dishes in the Le Crueset pots. So far, they have all been fantastic. The temperature seems to run pretty true based on the alternate thermometer we have been using in the oven as well. 6) Self cleaning mode: this works like a champ! Even after having pizza spit all over the bottom of the oven, as well as the juice from the short ribs, after a few (4 to be exact) hours in the self cleaning mode, it essentially turned anything stuck on to ash, and wiped up nicely. This is a awesome feature and I gotta tell you that it gets hot. The only downside is the burning smell, as well as the heat it creates, but this was nothing that an open window with a fan blowing out of it couldn't take care of. It wasn't terrible, but it was noticeable. 7) Touchscreen Display: I couldn't be any happier with the display on here. It's easy to use, it looks nice, and is easy to wipe clean. What else could you ask for. So that is a few positives. One thing however that I have not yet put to the test is the temperature probe. This is something that I look forward to trying in the future, and I think I got just the thing to try it with, the world famous "Flannery Midwestern Rib Cap." But that is another post all together, and stay tuned for my raving about Bryan and his company, Bryan's Fine Foods. So all in all, we could not be any happier with this investment, and if I had to do it all over again, for the money, I'd do it in a heartbeat. This is a great piece, and I look forward to many more years putting it to the test. More to come soon! Cheers!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Braised Short Rib Recipe by Tom Colicchio from Food & Wine Magazine

Yesterday, Zelda mentioned the fact that she really wanted to make braised short ribs for the first time, and let me say that I was not only shocked, but I was also very excited. You may think, braised short ribs, big deal! But coming from the mouth of my beautiful bride who is not a red meat eater, I was very excited! Zelda found the recipe earlier in the week on the Food & Wine Magazine's website, and the recipe is from fame restaurateur and famed chef Tom Colicchio, who is known for co-founding The Grammercy Tavern in Manhattan, as well as his restaurants Craft. His latest claim to fame is as a judge on Bravo's television series Top Chef, and he also appears on Food Network's new show, "Chopped." Yesterday, we visited the Whole Foods Market on Route 1 in Princeton to pick up ingredients, so that the short ribs could marinate over night in the fridge. Before I get to in depth about this recipe, let me share the actual recipe with you. The recipe itself can be found at: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/braised-short-ribs ACTIVE: 1 HR TOTAL TIME: 3 HRS PLUS OVERNIGHT MARINATING SERVINGS: 6 Make-Ahead Ingredients 2 tablespoons canola oil 6 flanken-style short ribs with bones, cut 2 inches thick (about 4 pounds); see Note Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1 large onion, finely chopped 2 carrots, sliced 3 celery ribs, sliced 3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon 4 thyme sprigs 3 cups chicken stock Directions: In a large skillet, heat the oil. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Add them to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned and crusty, about 18 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Add the wine and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour the hot marinade over the ribs and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning the ribs once. Preheat the oven to 350°. Transfer the ribs and marinade to a large, enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook in the lower third of the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart. Uncover and braise for 45 minutes longer, turning the ribs once or twice, until the sauce is reduced by about half and the meat is very tender. Transfer the meat to a clean shallow baking dish, discarding the bones as they fall off. Strain the sauce into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off as much fat as possible. Pour the sauce over the meat; there should be about 2 cups. Preheat the broiler. Broil the meat, turning once or twice, until glazed and sizzling, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to plates, spoon the sauce on top and serve. Make Ahead: The braised short ribs can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve With Mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or crusty bread. Notes: Flanken-style short ribs (short ribs cut across the bones instead of parallel to them) can be ordered at butcher shops. Zelda did not deviate from the recipe in the least, and let me tell you, there really is no reason to. Obviously Chef Colicchio did his research here, and the recipe is awesome just as written. She also prepared some nice garlic mashed potatoes, and these really paired nicely with the short ribs. Some of you are probably wondering what wine we used with this. The recipe calls for a dry red wine, and she went with a cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, specifically, from Yountville, and it definitely worked nicely. Of course we both tried the wine before it went into the pot, and the wine was very nice on it's own. Back to the recipe, I think that marinating the short ribs over night in the fridge is key. This really picked up a ton of flavors, infusing the meat, and making it so tender. In the oven, the aroma's that filled our home were absolutely amazing, and I could not wait to eat this. Finally, the last 10 minutes or so in the broiler give this such a nice crust, and depending on how crispy you want them, you could vary how many times you rotate them. I myself didn't want them all that crispy, so rotated them many times. When they finally came out of the oven, I put them on my plate and you could tell how tender they were. These could easily be picked apart with a fork, with the exception of the pieces that were a bit fatty, and had a bit of skin to them. The meat was a gorgeous color, still having a bit of pinkness to to it, and perfectly cooked. I attribute this to the care that Zelda took n cooking them, as well as our new oven. These would not have come out this good in our old oven, and that is for certain. The first bite was absolute heaven! This is the kind of meal that you never liked as a kid, but now as a thirty something, this is the kind of meal that I crave. Everything was perfectly seasoned, the texture was perfect, and there isn't a thing that I would change. The recipe is perfect as is, and if I were to attempt to cook this, I don't think that I would change a thing. All in all, this was an absolutely perfect meal, and just what the doctor ordered for a rainy Sunday filled with NFL playoff games! In short, I couldn't be any more thankful for having a beautiful bride who cooked an absolutely amazing dinner tonight. Nothing says love like some darn good beef! Special thanks to Zelda for taking the time to research this recipe! What a a treat, and I look forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow! Cheers!

The Secret To Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

Everyone has their secret to making "the best mashed potatoes," but here is a simple hint that I feel that many people do not take advantage of. In my opinion, once you make your mashed potatoes this way, you will never go back!
Many people will swear by using a hand mixer, or a Kitchen Aid mixer to get the best texture in their mashed potatoes, but there is really nothing easier, that gives you such a rich, airy, velvety texture than a ricer.
I got Zelda a ricer for Christmas two years ago, and we have never made mashed potatoes any other way since. This particular ricer came from Williams Sonoma, and can be seen HERE. Needless to say, it works like a champ as it proved tonight, and there is nothing like them. Check it out, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised! Cheers!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Riedel Stemware SALES ALERT at Williams Sonoma

After spending a gorgeous January day on campus in Princeton, we stopped in The Market Fair on Route 1 to visit some of the stores that we enjoy to browse: Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, and Restoration Hardware. After a quick stop in Pottery Barn, we headed over to Williams Sonoma where we ran into some great sales! Williams Sonoma always has a table in the back where they have many of their sale items, and they just happen to be blowing out some of their Riedel crystal. Today, we were lucky enough to stumble across 5 of the Riedel Sommeliers Rosé Glass, regularly priced at $74 per glass, on sale for $9.99. The Sommelier Series contains their top of the line glasses, and these truly are a work of art. Note that there is no sales price online on Williams Sonoma's website (linked above), so you have to find these in a store.

There has also been some banter on the different wine boards of foks finding other bargains from Riedel, such as decanters, glass sets, and other Riedel items. So if you get a chance, stop by your local Williams Sonoma and see what they have. If they have anything interesting, feel free to leave a comment here to give our readers a heads up of as to what you found, and where you found it! Thanks, and as always, cheers!

Kaliente Mexican Grill - Princeton, NJ

It was a gorgeous January day in in New Jersey today, and nice to see the hustle an bustle of people taking advantage of the gorgeous weather in Princeton. It was a beautiful day for a drive, so Zelda and I decided to check out Kaliente Mexican Grill, located in the what used to be a sushi inspired restaurant on Nassau Street.
Upon first walking in, you'll notice the still Asian inspired decor on the ceiling, with what looks like an Asian sort of canopy on one wall, and the Asian inspired grid like structure hanging from the ceiling. To the back left is a counter, and forward of that are abut 8 or so small tables. To say that the place is a little tight is an understatement, but if it works for them, then so be it.
We were a little confused as to how the ordering works. There is a big menu hanging on the wall in the back. It gives you a choice of burritos, ensalata de burrito, taco's, quesadillas, and Enchiladas. In the column next to that, you then pick your protein, and the column next to hat you pick your salsa. It took a few minutes, but we figured it out.
We placed our order with the gentleman behind the counter, who definitely could have been friendlier. Service with a smile really isn't that hard. Zelda opted for a chicken burrito, and I opted for a steak burrito. We also got a side of chips and salsa.
From here, I figured that we would tell them what we wanted from their burrito bar that is behind the counter. It has a wide array of two different types off beans, two kinds of rice, chicken, steak, beef, lettuce, tomato an onion, cheese, guacamole, salsa, etc.
After a few minutes, Zelda grabbed us a table, and I waited to pay. After waiting a few minutes with no instruction, I too went and sat down, and we enjoyed the chips and salsa, along with some bottles Coke's from their cooler.
A few minutes later a Spanish woman called out "Burrito," and Zelda and I went up to the counter. She picked out here rice, beans, chicken, and other items to go into her burrito. The woman shoveled everything in, rolled it up, and that was all she wrote. I did the same thing, and opted for steak, orange rice, cheese, tomato and onion, cilantro, sour cream, and a medium salsa.
As we sat down to eat, these burritos are absolutely massive, and for under $7, the prices really are not bad at all. Unfortunately, there really was nothing to differentiate this burrito from a typical chain. The steak was OK, but it didn't wow. The items seemed fresh, but it was just your typical burrito. No wow factor whatsoever, but also not offensive in the least. It was very palatable, but there really was nothing to make it special.
One thing that the place could truly use is a bit of decor, and a good scrub. There was a table st up with silverware, water pitches, napkins, etc, to the left of the counter on the way to the bathroom. It had cheap vinyl table clothes on it, and it definitely did not help with the ambiance. The tables could use some updating, and the napkins tucked under the legs of the tables to keep them level could use some changing. They look as though they have been there for weeks. Other than that, a good sweep, mop, and scrub and the place would look better. Finally, add a bit of friendliness to the service, and it would make for a more enjoyable experience.
Note that they also have some specialty items that seem to have some Indian influences to them as well. These items included Samosas, Khatti Rolls, Somosa Chatt, Bhel Puri, and Aloo Chatt.
I went back to the counter to pay, and the bill came to $21 and change for the two burritos, chips and salsa, guacamole, and the two soda's. All in all an average meal, and I wouldn't go out of my way to go back. As Zelda said, and to which I agree, I would rather go to A Little Taste of Mexico in the Princeton Shopping Center off of Harrison Street.
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Katiente Mexican Grill
235B Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: (609)688-8916
Mon-Sat 11AM-3PM and 5PM-10PM
Sun 12AM-3PM and 5PM-9PM
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They also have a website listed as http://www.kalientemexicangrill.com/ however, the link is not active.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Blackbird Dining Establishment - Collingswood, NJ

There are a lot of restaurants in NJ that we have been looking forward to trying, and Blackbird definitely ranks in the Top. Our good Wine and Chowhound friends tom246 and DW have had nothing but great things to say about Blackbird, so let me tell you how excited I was to finally get the chance to visit Blackbird tonight. . Blackbird is a BYO located in Collingswood, NJ, which has quite a few other restaurants that we have tried, and others that we look forward to trying in the future. Chef/Owner Alex Capasso is a Chambersberg (Trenton), NJ native, and has given this restaurant a Franco-Italian flair, with a bit of Asian influence. He makes all of his pasta fresh, and has a menu of items ranging from Atlantic Salmon, to a Wagyu Beef Burger with Foie Gras, to Spring Rolls! The options are plenty, and they all have a very nice flair to them. . Tonight, we arrived and were greeted by Chef Capasso. We arrived a few minutes early as our table was being set up. Needless to say, his staff accommodated us promptly, and they were able to seat us at a nice banquette with a nice high leather back. The leather had a nice pattern to it, and was a gorgeous tannish/brown color that worked well with warm colored walls. . There was a very nice buzz throughout the restaurant tonight, and you could see almost all of the tables taking advantage of the BYO aspect. I thought that the restaurant was very well done, and was very comfortable and cozy, from the copper colored table tops, to the Wedgewood silverware. This too was a very nice touch, and you can tell that Chef Capasso likes to pay attention to the little details. Tonight, it paid off, and didn't go unnoticed. As always, being a BYO is something that we look for in a restaurant, as you all know we like to enjoy the wonderful wines from our cellar. Tonight we chose a 2006 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast, and it did not disappoint. Feel free to read my notes on this wine HERE. As always, kudos to Dan Kosta and Michael Browne for crafting such great, high octane fruit forward pinot noir. These wines can be a real treat! Despite 2006 being an "off vintage" so to say, these wines are still showing nicely, and continue to be a treat. We still however have not tried any of the single vineyard designates from the 2006 Kosta Browne lineup, although we did go 3 deep on them. . Our server tonight was Edward, and the service that he provided us was world class. He came over with menu's, and returned shortly after with nice Rona stemware for our wine. As always, we travel with our Riedel carry bag and two glasses that we selected that night for the wine we have chosen, but tonight, the Riedel's stayed in their case. It is definitely a bonus, and a very nice touch to find a restaurant that takes pride in their stemware. These glasses had a nice bowl(not in the Chianti sort of way), and I wish that more restaurants would furnish stems like these. . Edward then read us the nightly specials, and gave us a few minutes to peruse the menu. In the meantime, one of the staff came over with some delicious bread, served with a very light, and wonderful tasting olive oil. I really wish that I knew what kind of olive oil they used, because it was next to perfect. After looking at the menu, and reading about the homemade pasta's that Chef Capasso takes pride in, we figured we had to try at least one of them, so we opted for the half order of the handmade potato gnocchi with fresh mozzarella in a tomato basil sauce. This was an absolute treat, with the gnocchi being nice and light, with a very nice texture to them. These are by far the best gnocchi I have ever had since moving to NJ. If we could make the perfect sauce at home, this would be it. The sauce had a very nice texture, with a creamy, buttery influence to it. It almost had hints of a vodka sauce to it, and was a pleasure to taste. Zelda really appreciated the basil chiffonade, while I appreciated the small cubes of fresh mozzarella. There was a bit of a nutmeg taste in the sauce, which Zelda thinks can be attributed to the basil. I would have to agree. We actually asked Edward if the chef used nutmeg in his sauce, and Edward stated that he would send Chef Capasso over to our table when he got a chance. Needless to say, he did make the time to come over, however, he didn't give up his secret. Can you really blame him? Not a bit. He did however have a bit of an aura to him. I wouldn't call it cockiness or arrogance, but I would call it confidence. Regardless, we both appreciated that about him, and both found it warranted based on the quality of our appetizer. The only gripe that we have about this dish is that it did seem to be just a tad salty for our tastes. Regardless, it wasn't overwhelming in the least, and I did not find it offensive. For dinner, Zelda opted for the Coriander and Rice Crusted Tilapia, served over an avocado salad, with a sweet and sour sauce. She also opted for the seafood wonton add on. I will let her add her comments on this dish in the morning, but here are my thoughts: The fish was absolutely perfect, and the crust on it added a really nice flair. It couldn't have been cooked more perfectly, and it had just the right amount of crispness to it. The rice gave it a very nice crunch, but it is not rice in the way that you are picturing. It is almost as though the rice has been ground with the coriander, giving it a great texture. The tilapia paired very well with the avocado salad, however, Zelda first pointed out that the sweet and sour sauce overwhelmed the fish. It truly gave the dish a different dynamic, and I couldn't have agreed with her more. I would rather seen the sweet and sour Served on the side to go with the seafood wontons. To both of us, the sweet and sour overwhelmed the tilapia, and from the tastes that I had, I preferred the tilapia by itself, or with the avocado salad. Regardless, the main element of the dish was an A+. I on the other hand had a very hard time tonight choosing what I wanted to have as my entree. There were many choices, but it was the Wagyu Beef Burger with applewood smoked bacon, Gorgonzola, caramelized shallot, morel mushrooms and veal sauce with truffled pomme frittes on the side. I know what you are thinking! I too cannot believe that I am visiting an establishment like this and ordering a burger, but this was not to disappoint. The burger came out on a gorgeous bun, and after cutting it in half, it could not have been cooked any better to the temperature of medium. Why so many places struggle with burger temperature is beyond me, but they hit the nail on the head! A lot of people talk about how wagyu and kobe are overrated, but I will be the first to disagree. The flavor that the meat alone had was delicious, and I have never had a basic ground beef that was so flavorful. If anything, the bacon and mushrooms really masked how good the flavors of the wagyu were, but that was nothing that a little scraping couldn't take care of, just so I could get a good flavor for the burger. But the element that the mushroom, shallot, and applewood smoked bacon added to the burger was absolutely brilliant. I cannot think of a better combination for a high end burger. These flavors all melded together so nicely, and the different ingredients added such great flavor to the burger along with the Gorgonzola. I would be hard pressed to come up with a better combination, so kudos to the chef. After dinner, we had zero room for dessert, however, I found it necessary to give something a whirl. When Edward talked about this dish, the Chocolate 3-Ways, I had to try it. I think Zelda gave me a look as though I was crazy when I said we would try that, as we were both stuffed. Regardless, our dessert came out and contained 3 different elements: Chocolate Profiterole, Milk Chocolate Pot De Crème, and Warm Chocolate Cake. I will be the first to say that I am not a chocolate lover, and unlike Zelda, I would rather have something fruity or dessert. This however is a no brainer, and I could eat this over and over. It really gave me a new appreciation for chocolate based desserts! The profiterole was easily my favorite, and had such a great, velvety texture to it. My second favorite was the Pot De Creme, with it's great rich flavors, yet it was light and airy. The creme on top was absolute heaven. Finally, the warm chocolate cake was just that. I could eat these by the handful, and would love to have this again! In short, this is a great restaurant, with a great chef and owner, nice ambiance, outstanding service, and amazing cuisine. I have to say that it has been years since I have left a restaurant so stuffed, and my belly was as happy as could be. There is nothing at all I would change about this restaurant, and I think that they have earned the reputation that they have established. Kudos to Chef Capasso and his staff for giving us such a unique experience! It was one of the best "dates" we have had in a long time, and we look forward to our next trip back to Blackbird soon! Saluti! Blackbird Dining Establishment 619 Collings Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08107 Phone: (856)854-3444 http://www.blackbirdnj.com/com/

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

I know I said that I would wait another 2 years before we opened up another one of these, but after thinking about the Kosta Browne 4-Barrel we are auctioning off for the relief efforts in Haiti, what nicer opportunity to open one of these tonight? Needless to say, I grabbed one of these from the cellar to enjoy at Blackbird Dining Establishment in Collingswood, NJ.
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This was popped and poured, and served in a Rona glass at the restaurant, and let me say that this was by far one of the nicest restaurant stems that we have seen in quite a while. So much that we even left the Riedel's in their carrying case, so this saved me a bit of hand washing! Great touch in my opinion, so kudos to Blackbird!
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In the glass, a gorgeous color, ruby color, and as the glass sat on the table, I could already smell that seductive Kosta Browne nose that is so identifiable as Kosta Browne. I don't know what it is about these wines, but they are so easy to pick out, and that is a beautiful thing.
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The nose was dominated by an intense sweet black cherry, with nice hints of cola, spice, a touch of vanilla, and a subtle earthiness. The nose on this wine is huge, and I absolutely love it. As the wine warmed up and was allowed to breath, there were also secondary hints of jammy red berries, hints of plum, and raspberry. I also picked up a bit of alcohol, which Zelda did not pick up, but I will be the first to admit that she has a better nose than I do, and I am also a bit stuffed up today. That said, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it were just me.
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On the palate, what can you say other than the fact that this wine is HUGE! Once again, the dark cherry dominates, and it is a bit on the candied side, which is not a bad thing at all. The cherries explode in your mouth, along with some jammy, sweet red berries. As the wine mellowed in the glass, secondary nuances of raspberry, strawberry, and plum come through, with a nice bit of earthiness and spice. On the mid palate, the acidity has settled quite a bit, and the wine has rounded out nicely since the last time we had this. There is still a bit of heat on the finish, but it does not dominate, and it is not offensive in the least. This just proves my theory that with another year in the bottle, this is going to integrate nicely.
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All in all, another great Kosta Browne! There seems to be a very defiant love hate relationship with these wines, but we just happen to be part of the crowd that loves them. I really look forward to trying this wine side by side with an '07 in the future, and I am sure that we will get a chance.
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This wine picked up another 2 points since we last had it, and is worthy of 92 points. Another point is definitely possible as this wine continues to come together! Stay tuned, and keep up the good work Kosta Browne! Cheers!

CoolVines - Princeton, NJ Tasting - Saturday 16 January 2010

Cut and pasted from CoolVines website:
When: Saturday January 16, 02:00-05:00PM Where: 344 Nassau Street, Princeton NJ Princeton, (609) 924-0039
Join us this Saturday at your local CoolVines for a tasting of red wines which pair perfectly with hearty Beef Stew, and pick up a special recipe from our culinary staff! .
I cannot say enough great things about Mark and his crew at CoolVines, so if you are in the Princeton area on Saturday, stop by, try a few wines, and tell them that F.Scott and Zelda said hello! Maybe we'll even see you there! Cheers!

Wine Library Tasting Saturday 16 January 2010 - Springfield, NJ

Below is information on a tasting that my good wine buddy Michel Abood is hosting tomorrow, Saturday, 16 JAN 2010 at Wine Library in Springfield. Stop by and tell him I sent ya! Cheers! Host: Vinotas Selections Date: Saturday, January 16, 2010 Time: 12:00pm - 4:00pm Location: The Wine Library Street: 586 Morris Avenue City/Town: Springfield, NJ INFORMATION: It's that time of year, when nothing but a well-priced artisanal wine can keep you warm. So come down to the Wine Library on Saturday January 16th from 12-4pm to try some great stuff. This will be one of our biggest tastings ever: we're pouring four, count'em, FOUR great family producers that offer fantastic values. You'll get a chance to try Domaine Catherine et Didier Tripoz' Macon les Charnay Clos des Tournons (Chardonnay from a very old, steep and enclosed vineyard), Clos Bagatelle's St Chinian Tradition (a great blend of Southern French grapes), Chateau Gigognan's Cotes du Rhone Villages Bois des Moines (a powerful blend of classical varieties) and Chateau La Bouscade's Minervois Les Septs Vents (a beautiful rendition of Syrah). Best of all, none of these retails for over $19. It'll be fun, informative, and delicious. Hope to see you there, Cheers!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rivers-Marie Spring 2010 Allocation! 2008 Vintage Wines to be Released

To all of you Rivers-Marie fans out there, today marks the one week countdown to the 2010 Spring Release of the 2008 vintage chardonnay, as well as the 2008 pinot noir. As usual, this is a release that I am really looking forward to, and even with cutting back on purchases in 2010, this is definitely one that I will jump on. I am a HUGE fan of Thomas Rivers Brown, and he is one of my favorite winemakers out there these days. His work and triumphs are many, and the wines he is crafting are outstanding. That being said, here are the notes from the Rivers-Marie Website: The 2008 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay release letter will go out Wednesday January 20th. The offering will consist of 3 bottles each of the Sonoma Coast, Occidental Ridge, Summa and Summa Old Vines and 2 bottles of the B. Thieriot Chardonnay. The prices will remain the same as last year and everyone who received a Cabernet offering in the fall will receive this offer. Winter 2010 We feel pretty fortunate to be releasing 2008 Sonoma Coast wines. After avoiding a wicked spring frost and the worst smoke taint in recent memory in the fall, making the wine was the easy part. We did deal with some pretty intense heat at the tail end of the growing season but the closer the vineyard was to the coast, the better it handled it. We began harvesting September 5th (the earliest since 2004) and finished with Summa Old Vines end of September. The mention of the 2004 vintage is apt here both as a comment on the weather and the characteristics of the wines. The verve and nervosity that existed in those wines early is present in the 2008s. They are certainly tightly wound now but the textbook sappy mid palate is present. There’s not much talk about this vintage right now. It seems to be lost in the afterglow of 2007. Whereas those wines were approachable young with all of their structure underneath the baby fat, the 2008s begin with their backbone and will take some time to round out, not dissimilar to the 2004s. For us, it’s definitely a more red/orange fruit focused year and acidities across the board are a bit higher than 2006 and 2007. We are still in a wait and see mode for the 2009s. About half the lots are finished with ML, racked and sulfured with the other half dry and in various stages of ML completion. We can say as usual the Summa Old Vines lot looks strong with its usual kaleidoscopic aromatics and very broad palate. The other early front runner is a new vineyard for us, Silver Eagle, which comes courtesy of Ulises Valdez. The bad news is that the quantity of potential vineyard designate lots is off by at least 50% in all cases. We’ll know more as the wines develop but it’s looking like it could be a Sonoma Coast heavy allocation next year. For this release we’ve gone back to charging for shipping though at a heavily discounted rate. To make things simple, we’ve scaled it down to $2 a bottle ground for CA and OR and $3 a bottle ground for everywhere else we can ship. 2 day air will be $4 a bottle mainland-wide and $5 a bottle to HI and AK. Unfortunately there’s not enough margin on $25 Pinot to offer free shipping but we will return to that with the 2008 Cabernet offer in early fall. This offer will be open through February 19th but we do have some concern about how long the wines will last once released, especially the Chardonnay. Everything should stick around for at least a week but with allocations being an inexact science it’s hard to say for sure. We anticipate shipping beginning February 22nd weather permitting. As in the past, if you have a magnum request please forward it in a separate e mail at riversmarie@sbcglobal.net. Now for the wines: 2008 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 225 cases, 13.8% alcohol, 25% new French oak This is the $25 Pinot we first set out to make. Combining all the Willow Creek, the two youngest blocks of Summa and two barrels from Occidental Ridge, the 2008 Sonoma Coast captures everything we love about the fruit from Occidental. It’s already the most aromatically complete of the bunch jumping out of the glass with sassafras, pine needles, orange peel and a light floral note. Whereas the 2007 version was the drinker of the vintage, the 2008 may take a little time to unwind unless it’s given ample air. It’s always a snapshot into what the vintage holds and this shows the higher toned nature of the year perfectly. 2008 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 225 cases, 14.4% alcohol, 40% new French oak Our one offering from the east side of Occidental, this wine is always a study in contrast. It’s the warmest site but it has the highest acid. It has the longest growing season but the lowest pH. The fruit here gets riper than any other site but the wine features the greatest quantity of fruit tannin. These are the things now four years into it that make this site special. The wine has a seamlessness to it right now that the other three Pinots in this offering don’t have. It’s the most mouth coating of the bunch as well with a bigness that is buffered nicely by its 3.5 pH. Being on the border of Sonoma Coast and Russian River it features qualities of both retaining a sour cherry coastal flavor while flirting with blacker fruits of a more plummy nature. 2008 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 200 cases, 14.1% alcohol, 60% new French oak We continue to be impressed by the evolution of this block within Summa Vineyard. You can always taste the kinship between this wine and its old vine sibling but now there’s a firm identity present here. The regular Summa bottling shows mineral notes, pomegranate, red/orange fruit peel, forest floor like the Old Vines but this wine is deeper, denser and rounder. It has a mid-palate sappiness to it that we shoot for in all our wines, a trait we’ve come to love in great Burgundies. There’s more generosity in this wine right now and like the Occidental Ridge bottling might be the wine to open first in 2008. 2008 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 175 cases, 13.0% alcohol, 100% new French oak The most focused wine of the 2008 vintage, the Summa Old Vines tastes like a wine that has been fully realized. As we said above, there is similarity between the two Summa bottlings but the Old Vines has a broader palate due, we assume, to vine age. This is always a wine to contemplate and the 2008 is no different. Beginning with notes of white and red flowers, orange peel, licorice and kirsch, the nose has an ethereal quality that makes Pinot Noir so seductive. There’s a big mid palate acid blast that more than balances the brooding nature of the wine. The acidity helps to flesh out the finish and give the wine its verve. We like the tautness of the wine right now but there’s no doubt it will age gracefully and add some sweetness as it develops. 2008 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 126 cases, 13.5% alcohol, 70% new French oak Without talking overall quality, we simply did a better job of making this wine in 2008. The raw material and potential quality of the two vintages was very similar. Though instead of treating the 2008 as one lot, we monitored every barrel as individual wines to make sure we could track fermentation completion as it happened. In hindsight I believe our lack of this approach for the 2007 allowed too much of that wine to sit unsulfured for way too long. The 2008 has a strong acid spine and features a more green-gold color and a freshness to the palate that the 2007 is missing. Otherwise the notes are very similar between the two vintages: lime blossoms, Meyer lemon, wet stones, lightly toasted hazelnuts and a hint of white chocolate at the end. There is more persistence to the finish of this wine than any other wine we’ve ever made. The 2007 seemed like a wine that would require patience, the 2008 definitely will. Thank you once again for all the support and for making what we love to do possible. Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh Once again, this is a release that I am really looking forward to, and from the sounds of it, the wines will once again be killer! They may take a little longer in the bottle to come around, but once they do, I am willing to bet they will magnificent. That being said, gie them a try and let me know what you think! Cheers!