Saturday, July 31, 2010

2007 Auteur Pinot Noir "Ophelia"

Yeah, I know, that label is actually from the Shea, but I couldn't find a picture of the Ophelia, so this will just have to do!

Popped and poured tonight, and as always, a palate pleaser!  Formal notes to come!

Carriage Trade Cheese Shoppe - Medford, NJ

What a gorgeous day to put the top down and go for a ride to Medford to grab some lunch at Carriage Trade Cheese Shoppe!  Is there really anything better than a grilled cheese panini?  I surely don't think so!  Not today at least!

More to come shortly!

Friday, July 30, 2010

2006 Schubert Pinot Noir Block B

Is this really a New Zealand pinot noir?  WoW!  This definitely gives me a new perspective on pinot noir from this region as it was absolutely fabulous!  Formal notes to come!  Cheers!

N.V. Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling Célèbre

Another great bottle of this riesling sparkler!  Formal notes to come!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2007 Tobin James Chardonnay Radiance

Paired nicely with sushi tonight, nice hints of nectar and citrus on the nose.  Mango, peach, apricot, kiwi, and lime, with a bit of lemongrass as well.  On the palate, this was crisp and refreshing with nice acidity and just a touch of oak.  More citrus on the palate with some passion fruit and pear.  Paired nicely with sushi with some nice oak, but not overly oaked.  Nothing at all old world about this wine, but it worked well with the sushi.  Crisp short finish, and just a joy to drink.  87 points.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fusion 2 - Hamilton, NJ

What is there to say other than yet another amazing dinner at Fusion 2 tonight.  More nights to come!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Fusion 2 - Hamilton, NJ

Well, I made it through what I thought would be one of the most challenging Air Force days I have ever experienced, but with the help of some of the best Logisticians in the Air Force, the day was truly a breeze, albeit a bit longer than usual.  Even so, I got home, took a nice cold shower after a hot day, and we headed over to Fusion 2 for some sushi.

We walked in and were greeted by the same gentleman that is always there and so gracious.  We were seated at the sushi bar, and the first thing I noticed was the fact that it was warm in here today.  I am sure this had everything to do with the heat index that was over 100 degrees today, and the fact that they hibachi tables that were all packed and fired up.  They were even using both tables located at the backside of the sushi bar.  So note to self for next time, don’t come here when it is super hot outside!  I was sweating!  This however is my only gripe about this place with having visited a dozen times or so.

I had a late lunch, so I wasn’t super hungry today.  Even so, we started with the Haru Maki (Japanese spring roll), and these came out quick and hot.  These are 4 small spring rolls, lightly fried and filled with vegetables.  As usual, they were the same as last time, fried to a golden brown, with a lot of crunchy crispiness.  These are always tasty, and can you really go wrong with a fried spring roll?  I don’t think so!

Zelda ordered a few different rolls, ranging from a spicy salmon roll, to a California roll, to a Denise roll.  As usual, these were tasty, especially the Denise roll.  I forget what is in here exactly, but I think it is either crab or lobster, and then topped with a sort of peanut sauce, and is delicious.  I went for a tempura shrimp roll, as there is nothing better than good fried tempura shrimp.  The last few times we’ve been in I’ve also done whatever the sushi chef’s special was, and I did again tonight.  This came with 8 pieces, in 4 different combinations.  As you can see from the picture that I will post, this is absolutely gorgeous.  There was anything from salmon, to white tuna, to tuna, and I forget what the last one was.  I think my favorite was the white tuna with the thin sliced jalapeño, however, the salmon with the torch toasted onion was really nice as well.  Even so, they all worked well together with the various sauces, and everything was delightful.

Service was good, and the chefs behind the sushi bar are always great, and entertaining as well.  All in all, another great meal at Kenji’s minus the heat, but we’ll be back again soon!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Friday, July 23, 2010

Toscano Ristorante - Bordentown, NJ

After an incredibly insane day at work, and having to work a 14-18 hour day tomorrow, we headed into Bordentown for some comfort foods at the bar at Toscano in Bordentown.  We walked in and were pleasantly surprised to find room at the bar.  We sat and the bartender immediately grabbed us some drinks.  Zelda going for a Tanqueray and tonic, and I opted for a Blue Moon from the tap.  Sometimes it is just too hot outside to drink vino, and tonight was one of those nights.
We sat at the bar perusing the menu.  Sometimes we’ll do a few apps, while other times we’ll do an app, salad, and then split an entrée.  Tonight, Zelda went for the chicken parm which is as good as anywhere.  I on the other hand was feeling some fresh seafood, and went for the linguini with fresh clams and shrimp.
It couldn’t have even been 2 minutes and our salads came out.  Nice lettuce with fresh vegetables in a nice, light house dressing.  Add some fresh cracked pepper to this, and it makes for a nice palate pleaser while we waited for dinner to come out.  Not even 15 minutes later our dinner came out, and as always, the portions were monsters.
Zelda’s chicken breast looked like it came from a small dog!  I would really love to see how big this chicken was, as it was a huge piece of chicken pounded flat, but with a nice meatiness to it, not your paper thin chicken breast to say the least. This was served over some pencil points covered in marina sauce, with the chicken parm on topped, smothered in melted mozzarella cheese and topped with some parm.  As always, this was delicious, and more than most humans can eat in one sitting.  The flavors were nice, and it was cooked perfectly with a nice crispness to it.  The sauce is always well seasoned, and this is Italian comfort food at its best.
My pasta came out in a giant bowl, and the shrimp were monsters!  4 large shrimp, deveined nicely, giving them that good curl and meatiness to them when they were cooked.  These could not have been cooked any better, and they were tender and succulent.  The clams were also very well cooked, and were plump and sweet right out of the shell.  The pasta was then covered with some chopped clams, and the sauce was a whole lot of creamy garlic goodness!  Very thinly sliced chunks of garlic topped the entire dish, and this truly gave the broth it’s great flavor.  What is there to say other than awesome about this dish, and I could eat it once a week with no problem.
In short, another good meal at the bar at Toscano, with good food and good service as always.  I look forward to our next trip back!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Thursday, July 22, 2010

2005 Tobin James Cabernet Sauvignon Silver Reserve

Popped and poured tonight with a tomato pie, and another classic Tobin James wine.  Nice nose with all kinds of jammy dark fruits.  Plenty of currants, blueberry, blackberry, black cherry and raspberry, with some creamy vanilla that I attribute to the oak.  Some subtle spice rounded out the nose, along with minor hints of cassis, pomegranate and cranberry.  There was a lot going on on the nose here, including some oak that seems to have integrated nicely with some bottle time.  On the palate, once again, another big fruit bomb from Toby and Lance.  Tons of jammy, dark fruits dominate the palate, but there really is no shining star.  The oak and alcohol were subtle, and the finish was short and to the point.  These wines are always fun to drink, but I think my palate is moving away from these big over extracted fruit bombs.  We'll see.  86 points.

Delorenzos Tomato Pies - Robbinsville, NJ

After a hellish work week, and an even more hellish weekend on the horizon having to work, what better way to usher in a “non-weekend” than by going to Delorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Route 33 in Robbinsville, located in the new Washington Towne Center.  Sure, we’ve been to Delorenzo’s a million times, but it is always worth a mention for our new readers, as they might be missing out on one of NJ’s best pizza joints!  This is their newer location, run by Sammy Amico, son of Hudson Street’s owner Gary Amico.  We waited about 5 minutes for a table and were seated.  Tony was our server, and as always, his service is stupendous.  He’s a good kid, and a heck of a great server.
We started out with the antipasto salad that we absolutely love!  Today, this came with salami, prosciutto, meat and cheese stuffed peppers, roasted red peppers, crunchy breadsticks, artichokes, cheese, fresh mozzarella, and I am sure that there is some other deliciousness that I am missing as well.  Regardless, this is always a great starter, and a really nice snack while waiting for the world famous pie to come out of the oven.
On the pie front, we went with our usual:  a large sweet pepper, with half sausage.  This came out quick, with the typical crispy crush, and delicious sauce.  You really have no idea how good this pie is until you try it.  The sweet red and green peppers are always fresh and crisp, and when you pair this with the sausage, you get heaven on a crust!  For the first time in a long time, I was starving, and even managed to finish my entire half, while Zelda left two pieces that I ate cold for breakfast the following morning.
In short, what is there to say other than awesome!  From the great service from Tony, to the best pie in New Jersey, it just doesn’t get much better than Delorenzo’s!  Cheers  -F. Scott

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2007 Lillian - Release Alert

Well, I am a litte late to the game in posting this, but better late than never.  As I have said before, and I will say again, Lillian is one of my much anticipated releases throughout the year that cannot be missed.

Lillian was started by Manfred Krankl's protege, Maggie Harrison, who workd as Manfred's assistant winemaker for many years.  It turns out that Maggie grew up in Barrington, IL, the same town that I grew up in, and those two elements have always brought great interest to me and Maggie's wines.  Needless to say, we have truly enjoyed her wines, and we still have a few of each in our cellar going back to her 2004 release.  In seeing this release, I once again placed my order, and we look forward to these in the years to come.

One thing to note is that these wines are not for the faint at heart, and they definitely benefit from aging time in the cellar.  We still have two magnums left of her 2004, and we have yet to touch our 2005's or 2006's.  I did however source a 2006 when we were home in Barrington for Christmas from my good friend Craig's wine shop in Arlington Heights, Grand Cru Wine Merchants.  the '06 was still very tight, but it opened up nicely, and showed that the structure of this wine is going to be incredible in another 3-5 years.  I guess we'l all find out when that time comes and I am writing my review for it.  I hope to open a 2005 sometime this fall.

So all of that said, below is Maggie's release letter, and it is always a joy to receive an e-mail from Maggie, especially when it is to announce one of her releases!  I ordered ours last night!  Feel free to read it below, and be sure to sign up for her mailing list!  Also be sure to check out her Willamette Valley pinot noir on the Antica Terra label!  It too is another winner!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Dear F. Scott:

I have a couple of stories to share with you. One tale of virtue, another of sin…and the unlikely way that I benefited from both.

The Virtue of Charity

Most of you are familiar with Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria, California. The vineyard traces its roots back to the year 1837 when a Spanish land grant of some two square leagues was made to the ancestors of one of the current directors of the vineyard. Today, Bien Nacido Vineyards is one of the most storied in the state. With over 600 acres under vine, the fruit from this vineyard has contributed to some of the most sought after wines in California. In 2005, the folks at Bien Nacido decided that it was finally time to consider planting the perfectly located, south-facing hillsides that overlooked the property. Instead of first planting the blocks and then, three years later, seeking buyers for the fruit; they decided to reach out to a small handful of the best winemakers on the central coast and offer to plant those blocks specifically for them. With my first, tiny vintage still in barrel, it goes without saying that I was not one of the few to whom a block was proffered. My mentors, however, were. The day that M drove out to the vineyard to take a look at the little block that had been earmarked for him, he generously invited me to tag along. For two hours in the car, we spoke excitedly about the prospects of this new planting. We debated the virtues of different clones and rootstocks, of vine densities and varietals. Once at the vineyard, I was surprised to be greeted by the director of the vineyard, who is infamous for being more elusive than the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The three of us spent the next few hours walking the hillsides, digging in the soil, drawing sketches of the aspect, taking notes on the terrain and imagining the eventual layout of the vines. Back in the parking lot, I was barely paying attention as the two of them talked. I was feeling a little melancholy because I would never have the chance to see what this block would produce as I would be leaving my job at the end of the year. I was thinking that I would have to make sure to visit the cellar in four years to see how things had turned out when I overheard M say, “this block is going to be amazing…now what do we need to do to secure this for Maggie?” I was stunned. Even as I retell this story to you, I am again astonished and humbled by the kindness and generosity that now allows me to call that 2.14-acre hillside block my own.

Planted in 2006, to my specs, I harvested the first fruit from this block last year. However, because I was so incredibly excited about the Bien Nacido fruit (and, I admit, because I’m such a relentless pest) I was able to start working with just a tiny bit of syrah from one of the oldest existing vineyard blocks starting in 2006. All of the Bien Nacido fruit I harvested in 2006 found it’s way into the 2006 Blue Label and makes up one-fifth of that year’s cuvée. The 2007 syrah is deepened and made more complex by an 11.8% addition of this beautiful fruit. I will look forward to sharing with you the result of one man’s wild generosity with the release of the 2009 syrah in a few years.

The Sin of Pride

Many of you are familiar with my winemaking wizard of a friend, Sashi Moorman. Wickedly funny, insanely talented and incredibly generous, he became one of Michael’s and my closest friends when we moved to California. With an incredible depth of knowledge about wine and a palate similar to mine, it was at Sashi’s table that I tasted some of the wines that proved so formative in my own winemaking. He is an incredibly talented cook and it was in his kitchen that I learned to roll pasta, to grill squab in the fireplace, to make my first foie gras terrine. Sashi and I have walked a similar path. Neither of us had any formal training in winemaking. He was the assistant winemaker at the Ojai Vineyard when I was the assistant at SQN. He started his own tiny syrah project a year before I started Lillian. He became the winemaker for a pinot noir project (with vineyards in Oregon) the year before I started making wine for Antica Terra. He had his first child six months before I had mine. We share many things…including, shamefully, a competitive streak a mile wide. With all of our similarities neither of us could ever definitively claim the title as the better winemaker. One of us might receive a better score from a critic or have more success selling our wines but neither of these seemed a fair measuring stick for our winemaking prowess. There were too many other variables. Finally in 2006, Sashi decided to level the playing field. He made a deal with me that I could come to his vineyard and choose any fruit that I wanted. Even if it was fruit that he had earmarked for his top cuvée, I could pull one small fermenter’s worth. He allowed me to visit the vineyard as much as I wanted, sample as many lots as I liked and change my mind as frequently as necessary. It was a deal I couldn’t refuse! The syrah at Stolpman Vineyard is some of the most beautifully raised and thoughtfully farmed fruit on the central coast. This allowed me to work with undeniably superlative fruit while at the same time allowing us to finally have a true point of comparison in our respective cellars. I guess we both thought that since we each have projects on the central coast of California and in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, we would have ample opportunity to visit one another and taste through each other’s cellars. But somehow real life intervened. With vineyards and barrels and children to care for, we somehow just haven’t found the time to settle the score. I adore working with the tiny bit of Stolpman syrah that I’m allowed to harvest (and secretly know that Sashi is the better winemaker) but I’m hoping that our lives will continue to keep us busy enough that he’ll never find out. You can let me know if our petty competition spoiled the soup when you taste either of this year’s offerings. Twenty-percent of the 2006 Blue Label owes its lofty aromatics to the addition of the Stolpman syrah and the 2007 syrah is elevated by a 9.6% addition of the same.

I am incredibly excited about both of these wines. As delighted as I’ve been with the wines I’ve made from White Hawk alone, I think the introduction of both Bien Nacido and Stolpman has helped me make wines of greater complexity, balance and charm. For those of you who don’t feel like digging back through all my blathering to work out the final blends on this years wines, it looks like this: The 2006 Blue Label syrah is born of 60% White Hawk Vineyard syrah and 20% each, Bien Nacido and Stolpman. It spent 33 months in 100% new French oak and has been resting in our chilly cellar since we bottled it in August of last year. Once again, with 69 cases and 99 magnums bottled, there is not very much of this stuff to go around…I’m sorry. If you find that you haven’t been allocated some of the Blue Label but would like to try it, please add it to your “wish list” when you place your order. I will do my best to get the wine to as many of you as I can. Made in greater, although still pathetically puny amounts, (452 cases, 118 magnums and 9 double magnums) the 2007 syrah is a blend of 78.6% White Hawk Vineyard, 9.6% Stolpman Vineyard and 11.8% Bien Nacido Vineyard syrah. It spent 21 months in 82.4% new French oak and was also bottled at the end of last summer.

You may view your allocation and, if you’re curious to see what a dollop of virtue and a splash of sin have done to the Lillian wines, place an order by clicking on the link at the top of this page. The wines allocated to you will be available until July 28th. After that time, I will offer any unclaimed wine to the next folks on the waiting list. And please, if you have any trouble with or questions about our brand-spanking new (finally!) e-commerce system, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at

Being that patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues and sloth one of the seven deadly sins, the fact that I am just now –in July- sitting down to type out this little missive makes you incredibly virtuous and me…well, nothing more than a common miscreant. Thank you once again for your patience and for your incredibly generous support of my project…a sinner like me doesn’t really deserve it.



Friday, July 16, 2010

West Side Gravy - Collingswood, NJ

Any hard core foodie who knows Collingswood, NJ has either been to Blackbird or has Blackbird on their must try list!  Now they have another new restaurant to add, from famed Blackbird chef and owner Alex Capasso.  After hearing about Chef Capasso’s new venture, West Side Gravy in Collingswood, we had to check it out for ourselves, and we are glad that we did!

West Side Gravy is Chef Capasso’s newest triumph, taking comfort foods, and making them with his special flair, and once again he has hit a home run!  We visited West Side Gravy on Friday night, and we were not disappointed in the least.

Chef Capasso opened West Side Gravy right on the main drag in Collingswood, in the old Woolworth’s location.  From the outside, it looks like a little diner, and he kept it nice and simple.  When you walk in, you notice the large dining room, with green colored two tone walls, nice woodwork, and different retro paintings on the wall to look like tattoo’s.  Each painting brings in some sort of food element, and the one that stood out to me was the heart with the big strip of bacon coming across it.  You really have to see the restaurant for yourself to appreciate it.  The tables are retro with the silver borders and retro formica tops on them, and it definitely works.

Zelda and I were seated in the window, which was probably the old Woolworth’s display window once upon a time.  We had a great seat to people watch, and check out the hustle and bustle of downtown Collingswood.  From here, we could see the people lining up at both The Pop Shop, as well as The Tortilla Press, waiting in line to get some grub.  Little did these folks know that the best food on the Main drag was right here at West Side Gravy.

Our server Adam came over and had recognized us from Blackbird.  He gave us a brief history on West Side Gravy and Chef Capasso’s vision, and we find it awesome!  I grabbed a bottle of Stefania Eaglepoint Ranch syrah and the Riedel’s from the carrying case, and went to pop it open.  Unfortunately, I thought I grabbed an ’06, but it turned out to be an ’07.  Regardless, it was still delicious, as are all of Paul and Stefania’s wines, so I wasn’t disappointed in the least…with the exception that my stockpile of this wine in dwindling.  Guess I will have to shoot Paul an e-mail to see if they still have this wine in stock!

After reading some of the other reviews online, there were a few things that I absolutely had to try.  For appetizers tonight, Zelda ordered the West Side Gravy Fries with a pinot noir sauce on the side.  These were absolutely gorgeous, thin, home cut fries with the skin on them, deep fried to golden brown perfection, covered in a nice cheese, served with the gravy on the side.  Let me say that I am not a big fan of gravy, but this was absolutely ridiculous, to the point that I could drink it!  If there is a such thing as perfect gravy in my world, I just found it, and would love to have this on a good Italian Beef sandwich back home in Chicago.  It was phenomenal gravy, and would be killer on turkey as well.  Someday, when we host Thanksgiving at our home, I will go buy a gallon of this to serve to the family.  This was the first time ever I had been blown away by gravy.

For my app, I went for the Mozzarella Sticks, which were not sticks at all.  These were nice round slices of fresh smoked mozzarella cheese, breaded and fried golden brown.  Yet another appetizer that was delicious, served with a little tomato salad on the side, consisting of very fresh grape tomatoes and thinly sliced garlic.  The tomatoes were nice and cold, and had great flavors.  There was also a roasted tomato sauce on the side which was very nice as well, but I truly enjoyed it with the fresh sliced grape tomatoes on the side.  Like the fries, we really enjoyed this appetizer.

For dinner, Zelda went old school and ordered the fried chicken from the “Big Plates” portion of the menu.  This was some of the best homemade fried chicken you will anywhere, and reminded me of the fried chicken mom used to make the few times that she made it growing up.  It wasn’t overly breaded, and kept simple.  The chicken was free range, then dipped in buttermilk, and served with potato salad and cole slaw on the side.  This is comfort food at its finest, and perfectly seasoned.  I wouldn’t change a thing here, and he hit a homerun.

After reading our good friend tom246’s review, I had to try the sliders, and these definitely were not your typical sliders.  The trip came with a beef and cheddar slider, topped with bacon and fried onions.  This was a classic, and delicious!  The next slider in the trio was of roasted pork, topped with provolone cheese, and some sort of hot green pepper.  The flavors in this were amazing, from the nicely cooked pork, to the provolone, to the pepper that had some nice heat, the flavors just worked amazingly alongside each other, and I cannot wait to have this particular one again.  This wasn’t however my favorite, and for me, the pièce de résistance was the seared Ahi tuna with a cucumber slaw and Wasabi mayo.  The tuna was prepared and seasoned perfectly, the cucumber was cold and crisp, and the wasabi mayo really brought an awesome element to the dish.  This rocked, and was amazing.  I could have easily eaten another plate of these, but I had to save room for dessert!

For dessert, Zelda ordered a butterscotch pudding of sorts.  I forget exactly what it was, and what it was called, but it was heaven.  At first, I was a bit skeptical at the $7 price tag, but once I tasted it, I had no gripes whatsoever.  This was amazing, with good texture, and rich flavor.  I wish we would have had some nice port to drink alongside this.

For my dessert, I had to take tom246’s rec, and ordered the PB and J.  This came out, and was nice, thick sliced bread, buttered and grilled, with homemade peanut and cashew butter, with a mixed berry jam.  On the side was a nice salad of fresh figs with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts.  This is definitely not your normal PB and J sammich!  The bread was amazing, and the filling in this sandwich just rocked!  It really reminded me of the fruit you would have in a nice cobbler, and was fresh, jammy, and just pure awesome!  Needless to say, I couldn’t finish the whole thing, and struggled to finish the first half.  That being said, I had it boxed up and took it home as there was no way I was going to let this go to waste.

All in all, what an awesome meal, and a lot of food.  The tab came to $52 and change, and was worth every penny.  As with Blackbird, Chef Capasso was out in the front of house talking to customers, and making sure everything was OK.  He spent a few minutes with us, and we told him how much we truly enjoyed everything.  As we left, we congratulated him on another winner, and wished him the best.

Long story short, I think we might be spending a lot more time in Collingswood in the future.  The menu here is rockin’, and there are so many things that I look forward to trying.  Some of those things include the West Side Mac N’ Cheese, cheese steak egg rolls, the chicken pot pie, and the steak frittes.  I could eat here every day for two weeks and never have the same thing twice.  And being BYO, does it get any better?  Kudos to Chef Capasso, and we look forward to our next visit!  Be sure to check out their menu below!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Menu pictures borrowed from and compliments of Michelle C. at:  Thanks Michelle.

2007 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch

I wish I could report something different on this particular wine, and I wish I could come up with something bad to say about this wine, but words just cannot describe just how good this wine is for the money.  And to think that this is just a baby from 2007 is beyond me!

To think that the 2008's aren't even released yet, and the simple fact that we have already burned through 7 of these bottles is almost sickening.  The definitely have the guts to age for 5 plus years in the cellar is not more.  These wines will definitely get better with age as well, so how can these be drinking so good right now?  I wish I knew, because I would be making wine in this region as well!

I actually grabbed this by accident tonight, wanting to grab a 2006 to bring to West Side Gravy in Collingswood, NJ.  But when we got tothe restaurant and I reached into the Riedel carrier, I noticed it was a 2007, not that I was disappointed.

Notes are similar to other bottles, with a nose of bright cherry, berries, pepper, and spice, with a bit of vanilla and smoked oak. On the palate, this was gorgeous considering it was popped and poured at room temp as this was pulled out of the cellar earlier in the day.  Awesome cherry and spice are represented here, with some nice dark berries and a bit of mint. The spice on this wine is magnificent, and the light pepper is really nice. I am not a big fan of the over the top spicy, peppery syrah’s, and this is not the case here in the least. Hints of mocha and plum round out the palate, with a bit of earthiness, and this is just pure joy. Yet another winner from Paul and Stef, and we are look to them visiting NJ on September 11th, 2010.  If you are interested in meeting Paul and Stef, and tasting through their 2008 lineup, be sure to drop me an e-mail at njfoodies at gmail dot com.

In short, another wonderful bottle that is not disappointing in the least, and I really need toset up a mouse trap on these bottles so I quit grabbing them from the cellar! 92 points! Cheers!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Philippine Fiesta America - August 14 & 15th - Meadowlands Expo Center, Secaucus, NJ

Are you Filipino?  Well, Filipino or not, you are invited to the 12th Annual Philippine Fiesta America on August 14th and 15th, at The Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, NJ!  This is the largest gathering on the East Coast, and although we have never attended this, from those I know who have attended this, they say that it is awesome!

Not only will there be Filipino entertainment there, there will also be all kinds of Filipino Cuisine available for purchase as well.  If we are able to make it to this event, it will be because of the cuisine that will be there! Some of the area's finest Filipino restaurants will be in attendance, and I am sure the food is going to be great! Tickets will be $25 at the food, but you can also get a $5 savings by ordering online HERE

For more information on this event, check out their website at:  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Backyard Bistro - by F. Scott and Zelda Fitz

As many of you know, Zelda and I love to entertain.  Not only do we enjoy sharing great wine with good friends, but we love to cook.

With Zelda and many of her creative French bistro inspired dishes, to her simple and absolutely tasty comfort foods, we just really enjoy spending time in the kitchen.  My specialties are simpleties like Maryland Crab Cakes, to shrimp scampi, but most recently things from the smoker.  Regardless of what we are making, we just love to cook.

So with that said, nothing says summer like dinner with friends on the deck, and this year we have created a new outdoor dining room in what we call the "backyard bistro."

So here are a few pics, and stay tuned as I add more pictures, as we add new elements to our outdoor dining room, and as the gorgeous gardens grow in!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Next of Kyn - We made the list!

Well, for the first time in a while, we were way ahead of the curve on what could be the next cult wine.  As many of you know, Manfred and Elaine Krankl craft some of the most sought after wines at their label, Sine Qua Non.

As I stated and posted below, Next of Kyn is their new baby, and they sent out an e-mail saying that the first 300 people to reply would be the first members of their new found mailing list. 

With that said, while having lunch today at Braddocks Tavern (see below) today, I received my offer at 1:49PM.  The offer is good for two weeks, and after that, my allocation will be given to the next in line.  For those of you waiting with baited breath to make the list, all I can say is sorry, but we're taking out allocation.

As far as the allocation goes, it comes in a wood box containing 3 regular bottles (750ml), as well as one magnum (1500 ml).  At $1100, this is nothing to bat an eye at, and shipping is another $85 per box for 2 day shipping, and they do not ship to NJ, so I will have to ship these to our offsite storage facility in Manhattan.  With that, comes another 8.875% New York City sales tax.  UGH!  Wines must be paid for in full, but they will not ship until sometime in March of 2011.

The wine itself is from the 2007 vintage, and is a cuvée of 92% Syrah, 6% Grenache and 2% Roussanne. It spent some 31 ½ months in barrels, of which only 18% were new (1 out of 5 ½ in total).  All I can tell you is that we are looking forward to it, and very thankful to have made the list!

Stay tuned, as Next of Kyn is going to create some serious buzz in the next 12 months!  You saw it here first, so sign up and get your name on the waiting list!  Or were you one of the lucky 300 out of nearly 8000 people to also make the grade?  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Braddocks Tavern - Medford, NJ

Today, Zelda and I were taking a drive to Marlton to go to Joann Fabrics to look for some fabric for outdoor curtains for our new pergola in the backyard bistro, and we figured we'd go to Carriage Trade Cheese Shop in Medford for some grilled panini's for lunch.  Unfortunately, Carriage Trade is closed on Sunday's so instead we walked across the street to Braddocks Tavern where we have had some great lunches and dinners.

We pulled up a stool at one of the high tops at the bar today, and caught the first couple innings of the Phillies game.  What was it today with fan interference?  Total craziness, but no big deal as my heart and soul is still in Chicago when it comes to baseball.  Unfortunately, my Cubbies aren't having the greatest season, but what can you do?  Hopefully I will see a Cubs World Series in my lifetime.  Gramps didn't, but I am hoping that will not be the case for me.  We came so close a few years ago, but not close enough.

We went for a simple lunch today, but we both opted for a glass of vino with lunch.  Zelda opted for a glass of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, which is always a winner.  I had a glass of riesling, and unfortunately I didn't even look to see what it was.  Weird!  I never do that, but it was the perfect wine for a hot day.

Zelda opted for a turkey burger, and as always, it was nice and juicy, and cooked perfectly.  Her fries on the side were hot and crip, and just downright tasty.  I opted for the Tavern Burger, cooked medium, with nice cheddar cheese, bacon, and Jack Daniels sauteed onions.  It was delicious, and served with Braddocks homemade chips.  The chips were warm and crispy, with what tasted like Old Bay seasoning on them.

What is there to say other than another nice lunch at Braddocks.  Two burgers and two nice glasses of wine for $50 with tip.  A bit pricey for a Sunday lunch, but well worth it given the prices of alcohol in this area.  Nice burgers, and good service.  Look forward to going back again soon.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2004 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse

It's hard to believe that it has been 2 years since we have visited this wine, but time sure does fly when you bury them in the cellar. Out of site, out of mind!

Popped and poured through the Vinturi tonight into a decanter on the bistro with Raphael and Fabiana. Gorgeous Oregon color in the glass, nice and light, with good hues too it. On the nose, this wine was much more fragrant than I had remembered it. Very nice and classic red berries with strawberry and cherry. Nothing Californian about this pinot at all, with subtle fruits, herb, earthiness, and spice.

On the palate, this wine has really come together in the last two years. The fruits have integrated with the alcohol and the tannins are totally mellowed. Dark cherry is the shining star, with some raspberry right on it's heals. Secondary nuances of cranberry, blueberry, and pomegranate come through, and the finish lingers with integrated tannins. Very happy to have a few more of these in the cellar. Drink or hold. 92 points.

2006 Baileyana Pinot Noir Grand Firepeak Cuvée Firepeak Vineyard

Raphael and Fabiano popped by tonight with a bottle of this, that they were decanting about an hour and a half prior to coming over as we walked down the street after dinner and saw them through the kitchen window. This is a winery that Raph had visited many years ago, so I was looking forward to it. I grabbed the two of them a few glasses, and Raph did the honors of pouring the rest of the bottle.

Nice rub color in the glass, and a nice subtle nose. Cherry cola was the first thing that hit my nose, with secondary hints of black cherry, spice, and a bit of raspberry. There also seemed to be a bit of alcohol prevalent, which makes me guess that this wine has many years left in it.

On the palate, this was a nice wine. There was nothing over the top about this wine at all, and it wasn’t fruit forward to say the least. It wasn’t your typical in your face pinot, and was just a nice quaffer. Some strawberry and earthiness, alongside some raspberry and herbal qualities. Nice ripe cherry shines through, but again, it isn’t in your face, and I wouldn’t have guessed it as a wine from the Edna Valley. All in all, a nice wine, and a treat for them to bring over as I had never heard of it before. 88 points! Cheers! -F. Scott.

Under the Moon - Bordentown, NJ

Full review to come after our dinner tonight!  Cheers!

Zelda - Mexican Styled Paella
F. Scott - Seafood Enchiladas

2005 Bodegas y Viñedos de Murcia Jumilla Pico Madama

There was all kind of hype about this wine a few years ago, and it was Wine Library's Wine of the Year, so I picked up a few bottles to give them a whirl.  At under $30 a bottle, I figured it was worth a shot, just to see what all that hype was about.

Tonight, I grabbed one to take to Under the Moon with us in Bordentown, NJ, and it was popped and poured into a Riedel Grapes syrah glass.

Nice light color in the glass, with all kinds of stuff happening on the nose.  Hints of pomegranate, and cherry, with subtle hints of tea and a bit of eucalyptus.  Very subtle spice and a bit of vegetalness to it as well.

On the palate, the wine seemed a bit thin to me, but I find this alot with South American wines.  I think at this point I am so used to the big over the top California wines, that that is what I expect.  OK, maybe not, but we have been drinking a lot of Cali wines the last few years, not that it is a bad thing.

More cherry and hints of chocolate on the palate, with some raspberry and plum.  Nothing complex about the palate here at all really.  The finish was medium in length, with nicely integrated tannins and alcohol.  All in all, a nice sipper, and it paired well with the menu at Under the Moon.  87 points.

SALE ALERT: HUGE Riedel sale at Williams Sonoma

Anyone who considers themselves an oenophile knows and appreciates a good wine glass.  With that said, Riedel is one of the best glasses out there, and it is our brand of choice for wine glasses.

We have a plethora of different Riedel glasses, but my favorite is the Riedel Sommeliers Bourgogne (Burgundy) Grand Cru Glass.  Sure, this glass is mainly meant for pinot noir and Burgundy, but I have been known to drink other varietals out of these glasses.  This is or go to glass when going to offline tastings, and just a gorgeous glass, albeit a bit oversized.

Today, we stopped in our local Williams Sonoma, and found these glasses being blown out at $61 a pair.  WHAT?????  This cannot be right.  We originally purchased two of these glasses, which retail for over $100 a piece, so when I saw these at $61 a pair, I jumped on 4 of them.  In all actuality, I am tempted to go back and get another 4, but we'll wait 'til next weekend to see if they get marked down again.  You just never know.

Even so, at $61 a pair, it is basically like buying one glass, and getting 3 free.  What a bargain!  So get down to your local Williams Sonoma, and see what kind of Riedel bargains they have.  This isn't the first time we have come across a Riedel sale that we couldn't pass up, and I'm sure it won't be the last!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Oliver-A Bistro - Bordentown, NJ

It's been a few weeks since we have visited Oliver-A Bistro in Bordentown, so we took a ride over on this rainy Saturday to have lunch.  We arrived around 1PM, and the restaurant had about 5 tables seated, and I am guessing that the rain drove a lot of the customers away today.

We sat at table 17, and Kevin greeted us with menus, and took our beverage order.  Bruce came over minutes later, and we placed our lunch order with him.

Zelda ordered the quiche today, and Chef Matt's quiche specials are always delicious.  Today was an asparagus quiche, with sundried tomatoes and melted cheddar cheese.  The crust was light and flakey, and the quiche was soft and delicious.  The texture was perfect, and for something that is usually pre-made and warmed up, you would have guessed that this was made to order.  It didn't have that hard, congealed texture whatsoever, and was just airy and absolutely delicious, and I am not even a big quiche fan.  Even so, I truly enjoyed it, and Zelda did as well.  the salad that it was served with was made from fresh local vegetables, and delish!  Kudos as always to Chef Matt.

I went with my usual, the Jack Mac Burger, and as always it was good.  This is a delicious burger, served with Boursin cheese and applewood smoked bacon, served on a great, crusty, yet soft bun.  The buns that Chef Matt is using now are as good as they can get.  The texture is crunchy on the outside, yet the inside is so soft.  The burger itself was cooked perfectly to the temperature of medium, and was nice and juicy.  The flavors from the cheese and the bacon make this such a gorgeous combo, and as usual, it was highly enjoyable.

All in all, what is there to say other than it was a very enjoyable lunch at Oliver-A Bistro.  The service was stupendous as usual, and the value was great.  Great job to Chef Matt and Bruce, and the rest of the Oliver-A Bistro team!  Now we just need to get back in for dinner soon!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Kistler Vineyards - Fall 2010 Release

The Fall 2010 Kistler release hit the mailbox today, and as always it is one to look forward to.  We absoluely love their chardonnay, and especially their pinot noir, as they are true pleasures to drink, with awesome nuances of Burgundy!

As always, we were allocated more than we can take, so if any of he locals are interested, drop me a line and let me know.  We'll probably take a few eachof the chardonnay, and a couple of each pinot noir.  Pricing per bottle statyed the same this year, and the chardonnay's have been allocated at $75 per bottle, and there are 5 different chards on this release.  They are all 2008's, and they are postd below along with Robert Parker's notes.

There are also 2 pinot noir this release, the 2008 Sonoma Coast at $80, as well as the Silver Belt Vineyard Cuvee Natalie Sonoma Coast at $90 per.  Notes on those listed below as well, along with the number of bottles we were allocated:

Robert Parker’s reviews for Fall 2010

2008 McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Mountain – 93-95  (16 bottle allocation)  Minerality is present in the tighter knit, but full-bodied, stunningly rich 2008 Chardonnay McCrea Vineyard. This Chablis-like offering reveals abundant orange and citrus blossom characteristics intermixed with a crushed rock/wet stone note, super texture and density, and a strong, powerful finish with both elegance and substance.

2008 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 91-93  (6 bottle allocation)  The 2008 Chardonnay Dutton Ranch offers aromas of nectarines, hazelnuts, and honeyed pineapple, a ripe, medium to full-bodied style, good acidity, a subtle smoky oak note in the background, terrific fruit, and serious levels of concentration.

2008 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 92-94  (16 bottle allocation)  Another Chablis-like effort (and a grand cru one at that) is the 2008 Chardonnay Durell Vineyard. An intense minerality is accompanied by copious aromas of lemon oil, white peach, quince, and white currant offered in a full-bodied, fresh style.

2008 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Stone Flat Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 93-95  (6 bottle allocation)  The elegant, fresh, medium to full-bodied, intense 2008 Chardonnay Parmelee Hill Stone Flat Vineyard possesses notes of white currants, orange blossoms, nectarines, and white peaches with subtle hints of smoke and oak in the background. It reveals good acidity, abundant richness, and impressive purity as well as texture. It should drink well for 7-8 years.

2008 Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros – 92-94  (6 bottle allocation)  The more open-knit, All American 2008 Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard exhibits tropical fruit and smoky hazelnuts in its distinctively California personality.

2008 Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 91-93  (12 bottle allocation)  The 2008 Pinot Noir Kistler Vineyard (made from a Calera clone) exhibits a dark ruby hue as well as notes of plums, blueberries, brioche, flowers, raspberries, and pomegranate. Medium-bodied, fresh, and lively, it should drink nicely for a decade.

2008 Silver Belt Vineyard Cuvée Natalie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 91-94  (6 bottle allocation)  Made primarily from the Swan clone, the 2008 Pinot Noir Cuvée Natalie Silver Belt reveals copious raspberry, cherry, spice box, earth, tobacco leaf, and forest floor characteristics in its seductive, velvety-textured, full-bodied personality . It possesses a feminine quality reminiscent of a Chambolle-Musigny from Burgundy. It, too, should drink well for a decade.

This will be another great release that we look forward to, and to our local friends, if you are interested in a few bottles, drop me an e-mail and let me know!  We're more than happy to share a few of the bottles we were allocated, as there is plenty of wine to go around!  Cheers!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Blue Claw Crab Eatery - Burlington, NJ

What can I say other than the fact that we took it to the hood tonight in Burlington for some crab legs!  It's been years since we have been to the Blue Claw Crab Eatery, and tonight we dedicated our dinner to Captain Phil Harris of Deadliest Catch and the Cornelia Marie.  R.I.P. Captain Phil!

We arrived at Blue Claw and were greeted by a line of people, but the line moved fast, and we were seated in the back of the restaurant on the upper level.  The decor has changed a bit from our last visit, and it looks like they got new tables and chairs.  The restaurant is covered in crab decor, from the walls, to hanging from the ceiling.  The place was packed, and the bigguns were out tonight!  Big crabs I mean!  But if you are looking for romantic ambiance, this isn't the place for you.  If you are looking for a classic crab shack, then this is your place!

We sat, I pulled out the Reidel stems, and popped open a 2004 Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc, made by our good friend Kathy Joseph.  I'll write a full review on the wine below, and as always, it did not disappoint.  Fiddlehead is one of our favorite producers of great pinot noir and sauvignon blanc!  Kudos to Kathy and her team for crafting such awesome wines for the price!

Our waitress came over to take our order, and we asked for a few more minutes as the menu is just so overwhelming, and I just couldn't decide what I wanted.  Zelda opted for the dungeness crab bowl, and I opted for the all you can eat platter with snow crab, king crab, king crab parts, and dungeness crab!

Not even 10 minutes went by, and out came our crab.  Zelda went with the mac and cheese and garlic mashed potatoes for her sides, and both were tasty.  The mac and cheese was hot and cheesy, and absolutely delicious.  Her bowl of crab was massive, sweet, and delicious!

For my first bowl, I started out with king crab with the Old Bay seasoning, and it came out steaming hot and delicious with a nice side of butter.  The Old Bay was actually a bit overwhelming and salty, but it was still good.  The crab was steamed nicely, and was sweet and succulent.  Thanks to a little fork and a pair of scissors, they were easy to crack open, and easy to put right into my stomach.

For round two, I opted for the snow crab, and this came out as two nice clusters filled with great meat.  I enjoyed these so much, that I ended up ordering one more bowl of snow crab, that I definitely could have done without.  Regardless, I got my money's worth, even though I regretted that last bowl as I was stuffed.  If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have changed a thing!  ;-)  The side of hush puppies came out hot from the fryer, and these too had some great flavor.  All in all, a great meal!

I was however a bit disappointed that they had run out of key lime pie tonight, but again, it was probably for the better as I don't know if it would have fit into my full belly!

All in all, a great night at the Blue Claw, and I am glad that we finally went back after so many years.  We also had the pleasure of meeting Lou ad Noelle, who were sitting at the table next to us.  The quarters are tight as they try to pack them in, and we had a great conversation throughout dinner with another couple of hardcore foodies!  If you guys are reading, drop us a line or leave a comment, and we'll do sushi together one night as we talked about.  It was great to meat you guys!

Again, a great night with great crab, and if you are looking forward to a good crab feast in Central Jersey, the Blue Claw Crab Eatery is your place!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Blue Claw Restaurant and Crab Eatery
4494 Route 130
Burlington Twp., NJ 08016
Tel: 609-387-3700
Fax: 609-239-0554

2004 Fiddlehead Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon

What is there to say about Fiddlehead other than awesome!  Yet another one of our favorite producers in our cellar, this wine was drinking in an absolutely awesome place!  So awesome in fact that I wish we still have some of these '04's in the cellar.  Alas, this was the last of them, and at this point, I am sure they will be hard to replace.

Full review to come!

Nose of citrus, oak, petrol, and floral notes
Palate - lemon, pear, grapefruit, and apricot. nice acidity

Full review to come by Monday!  Cheers!

Quilceda Creek - Fall 2010 Release

Today I received an e-mail from Quilceda Creek regarding their Fall 2010 release.  For me, the ordering opens on August 11th, and I am sure that we'll be picking up a few bottles of each just based on the vintage for the region.

Check out the information below about the upcoming release, and get your credit cards ready!   As always, Quilceda Creek is not a release to be missed!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

We are proud to release the Quilceda Creek 2007 Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Red Mountain A.V.A. The Galitzine Vineyard is a partnership between our family and the Holmes family of the highly acclaimed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. This high-density vineyard (2074 plants/acre) was planted in 2001 and 2002 with Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon on windblown Hezel over Warden soils. These deep, consistent, sandy loam soils are ideal for root development, vine health and vineyard uniformity. The 2007 offers intense aromas and flavors of Wild Mountain blackberries muddled with chocolate truffles, violet pastille, pencil lead, sage and minerals. Due to increasing vine age coupled with a wonderful growing season, this is the finest example of the Galitzine terroir yet. Aged in 100% new French oak for 22 months, it is a blend of 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot. All of our 2007's will have large drinking windows because of their lush textures and sensual, liqueur like personalities. Drink Now – 2040.   $98 per bottle.

The Quilceda Creek 2007 Palengat Proprietary Red Wine displays the wonderful aromatic perfume of the Horse Heaven Hills A.V.A. In order to create the best wine we can from this site, we decided to drop the previous Cabernet Sauvignon and vineyard designation , allowing us greater flexibility with the wines composition without restrictions. This vineyard was planted in 1997-2002 on deep, consistent, Sagehill series soil. It is located on an ideal south facing slope on Phinney Hill, right next to Champoux Vineyard, which is the source of most of the Cabernet Sauvignon for our flagship wine. This vineyard is managed by Paul Champoux and is 8.5 acres in size with 59% of the vines being high-density (2270 vines/acre). Having this many plants per acre fills in the mid- palate often missing from varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This source allows us to make wines with these varietals that are dense, rich, full bodied and complex. The wine showcases floral violet, plum, cassis and sun dried cherry fruit with complex layers of asphalt, smoked meat, Asian spices and vanilla bean. Aged in 100% new French oak for 22 months, it is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Drink now – 2035.   $83 per bottle.

The Quilceda Creek 2007 Columbia Valley Red Wine is a blend of declassified lots, which reflect the richness and complexity of this fabulous vintage. As with all of our wines, it represents a great quality to price ratio. This medium-bodied wine displays black cherry fruit, roasted herbs, marzipan, cocoa, smoke and minerals. Approachable now, this blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec will be best enjoyed over the next 15 years.   $35 per bottle.