Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2007 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon (USA, California, Napa Valley)

Picked up on base purely because it was '07 Napa and popped and poured.  Nose of black fruits and oak, with vanilla and coconut tones.  On the palate, very dry, very tannic as expected, with lots of alcohol as expected.  Some blackberry and cassis on the palate, with slight mocha tons.  After an hour in the glass, the alcohol is starting to blow off, and it is turning into a drinkable wine.  However, at the price, I would rather buy the '07 Louis Martini Napa Valley.  Vacuumed overnight and put in the fridge.  We'll see how it is tomorrow.  So far, not worth the price tag, but would be decent at $10-$12. 82 points.

UPDATE:  on day two, this wine has really turned into a great QPR!  The alcohol has blown off, the tannins are starting to integrate and are nice and chewy, and the fruit is nice!  At around $18, this is a pretty nice QPR!  New score:  89 points, going to 90 with some time on its side in the cellar.  Cheers!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trenton Social Grand Opening Scheduled for 12 March 2011

You heard it here first, yes indeed, the grand opening of Trenton Social is scheduled for March 12th, 2011!

What is Trenton Social? Well, it is a place to eat, drink, and be social right here in New Jersey's capital! If there is one thing that Trenton needs, it is a place like Trenton Social, and being located across from the Sun National Bank Center, I don't think it could be any more convenient!

In doing some research, the executive chef is Chef Milton Lee, but I am not finding a whole lot of information on him yet. I will however try to get his bio and post it when I find more information!

From the looks of it, their website is still in the works, however, there is a lot of traffic and updates being posted on their Facebook page at:

http://www.facebook.com/trentonsocial The latest update showed that the new bar top is in, and the place is really starting to come together! From the pictures, I think this is just what Trenton needs, and it's yet another great hangout!

That said, stay tuned, and check it out for your grand opening! And be sure to tell them that we sent ya!


Trenton Social
449 South Broad Street
Trenton, NJ 08641

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tastebuds - New Hope, PA

Well, this year we agreed to celebrate Valentine's Day a few days early, so we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Under the Moon in Bordentown this past Saturday night. But with our busy schedules, and the fact that I was feeling a bit lazy today and not feeling like making lobster tails or something elaborate, I decided to test my luck to see who might still have room tonight for a nice dinner out.

First I checked Open Table, and then I got the brilliant idea that I would try calling Tastebuds in New Hope, PA, where we spent our Valentine's Day last year, just to see if by chance they had room for two. Low and behold, today was our lucky day, and they had a cancelation, and room for us at 7:30PM.

It's actually hard to believe that it's been a year to the day since we have been to Tastebuds. We loved our meal here last Valentine's Day, and I am almost embarrassed that we haven't been back in the 365 days that followed. What a shame, and we definitely need to move Tastebuds up on our list.

We arrived in New Hope about 20 minutes early, and I found parking just up the block at the top of the hill. By the time we walked down, we were about 15 minutes early, and were greeted by the gentleman who was our server last year. Funny enough he remembered us, mentioned the fact that he remembered our blog, and even mentioned the fact that he saw us featured in the NY Times. What is there to say about that other than awesome, and what a great memory.

He seated us at a great 4 top in towards the rear of the first dining room when you come into the old house. The room is rustic, and dimly lit, with gorgeous orange lights hanging from the ceiling, that is composed of old exposed beams, and the underneath of the hardwood floors from the second floor. It really is a beautiful room, and very romantic.

We sat and I grabbed the Riedel XL's from the carrying case and a 2007 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast pinot noir, which was fitting for a variety of reasons. First, what is there not to love about pinot noir on Valentine's Day? The only thing that could be more fitting would be a little Champagne. Secondly, I need to order my 2009 Kosta Browne appellation wines tomorrow, so I figured it would be fun to check in on the 2007's for the first time! Needless to say, I am glad I did, and this was in a gorgeous place.

Our server came over and filled the wine glasses on our table with some sparkling water, which we asked for when given the choice as we perused the menus. One of the things that I love about Tastebuds is the fact that there is no "gouging" on Valentine's Day, and they have their regular menu. How can you not respect a place that doesn't try to take advantage of you on Valentine's Day? Gotta love it!

The other gentleman came over and was our server tonight. I can't remember his name for the life of me, but they are both great guys, attentive, friendly, and just downright great servers. But they represent Tastebuds, so they should be! We ordered our starters, enjoyed our wine, and just had a nice romantic evening.

Zelda ordered the Baby Spinach salad with endive, wonton strips, and a honey-ginger dressing. These were gorgeous leaves of spinach, and the honey-ginger dressing was light and elegant. If I remember correctly last year, they used and sourced fresh local lavender honey for one of the dishes we have, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was the same. The wontons had a really nice crisp to them, and overall, this salad was a winner.

I started with the steamed mussels in a curry-coconut milk broth with granny smith apples, ginger, and lemongrass. The mussels were cooked perfectly, and the flavors in the broth were very nice. The apple was prominent, and it added a succulent sweetness to it, and the broth was nice and creamy. This was the perfect starter also, and didn't fill me up, yet it held me over until our entrees came.

For entrees, Zelda had the Herb-Roasted French cut chicken breast with spinach, yogurt mashed potatoes, and a lemon pulp jus. This was a gorgeous, thick cut chicken breast that was juicy, and had great flavors. All of the elements of this dish complimented each other very well, and this too was a winner.

The piece de résistance tonight hands down was my filet of beef tenderloin, with an Ancho chili rub, under a bed of peppery green beans, that was sitting on top of whipped potatoes that were surrounded by a Cuban espresso sauce. This was hands down the best filet I have had in probably the last 3-5 years. In all honesty, I can't remember the last time I had such a delicious filet, with such a great, tender cut of meat, that was cooked to absolute perfection.

The inside of the filet was cooked as perfectly to medium as possible, and from the first slice into this with my knife, it was as tender as tender could be. This was actually fork tender, but being so thick, there is no way a fork could cut through it. If I could cook a steak this well, I would be in heaven, and would have no need to ever go out to dinner. The inside was steaming hot, juicy, and perfectly cooked! All I can say is WOW!

The spice from the Ancho chili rub was very nice, but not for the faint at heart. It definitely added some heat, but was not offensive (to me) in the least! It also did not overpower the great flavors from the grill, and from the meat in general. The whipped potatoes were smooth and creamy with great flavors, and the green beans had a peppery spice and great snap to them! Finally, the espresso sauce was nice as well, and added some good smoky flavors to the dish. All in all, this was amazing, and again, the best filet I've had in years!

I actually asked our server where they got their meat from, and he told me, but of course I didn't write it down, and can no longer remember. I do remember that they were located in Newark though, so if you are reading, feel free to shoot us the name again! ;-)

After dinner we were both happily satisfied, with no room in our stomachs for dessert, but as the trends seems to be as of late, we ordered dessert anyway, and went with the crème de caramel, which was almost like a flan, but made with cream opposed to milk. Both the texture and the flavor were great, and I am glad we ordered it.

At the end of the day, we had another great experience at Tastebuds, and I truly hope that it's not another year before we make it back! But I am going to put a meeting reminder on my calendar to call and get another Valentine's Day reservation for 2012! From the great service, to the great steak, to the romantic environment, to my beautiful companion, it was the picture perfect Valentine's Day meal! I hope that yours was as well! Cheers!

49 West Ferry Street
New Hope, PA
Phone: (215)862-9722

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Elements - Princeton, NJ

Yet another restaurant that I have been dying to try for quite some time, that we have driven past a half million times, yet never visited.  When my buddy Mark asked us where they should go for brunch, I threw Elements out there, and we decided to join them.

“French style” scramble - creme fraiche, our bacon, chive

Avocado & barley salad - apple, Griggstown chicken, walnut, raisins $18

Buttermilk pancakes - Vermont maple syrup, our bacon $18

Steak & eggs - "48 hour" short ribs, fried eggs, home fries

Stay tuned as there is more to come!

I do however have to say that I think we need to apologize to the staff here as the couple we were with my have stiffed our waitress.  I tossed $80 cash into the leather case with the check, along with another $20 for tip, but unortunately, I think Mark was oblivious and tipped on the amount that was charged, which should have been about $40.  If that is the case, I truly apologize to our server.  I'll see what I can find out, and make it up to her.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

2006 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard

Carlisle Zin!  Need I say more?  This was gorgeous!  Formal notes to come!  Cheers!

Delorenzo's Tomato Pies - Robbinsville, NJ

What is there to say other than the simple fact that we had another great dinner at Delorenzo's Tomato Pies in Robbinsville?  Always a pleasure, and stay tuned for the notes.  In the mean time, enjoy the pics of our Antipasto salad and tomato pie!  Cheers!

Charcoal BYOB - Yardley, PA

After having a great dinner at Charcoal last weekend, we figured we'd step out of our norm and check them out for lunch.

Stay tuned as there is more to come, but I will say that dinner was a lot better, and to me their strong suit.  Stay tuned!  Cheers!

Friday, February 4, 2011

West Side Gravy - Collingswood, NJ

West Side Gravy has been renovated, and has re-opened!  WOo HOo!  That said, 7 of us ventured out to check out the new space, and as always, we left plenty satisfied!  Stay tuned for the latest and greatest!  Cheers!

Meat loaf sandwich with West Side Gravy fries.

2008 Stefania Chardonnay Chaine d'Or (USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains)

Charcoal BYOB - Yardley, PA

Here is a restaurant that we have driven past hundreds of times, yet we've never stopped in. We've even had drink, appetizers, and dinners right next door at the Yardley Inn, but for some reason, we've never stopped in. One of my former coworkers has even told me about this place, and how he and his wife used to visit here for prime rib on Friday or Saturday nights, but again, we've never stopped in.

Maybe it is the whole perception of an old couple going out to a dinner for all you can eat prime rib, I don't know, but for whatever reason, we have never been here. So tonight, Zelda asked what our plan was for dinner via Blackberry Messenger, and I told her that I had no idea. So I threw an option out there, and she didn't like it, so the rule is that she has to throw the next option out there. And by some grace of God, she threw out Charcoal BYO in Yardley.

Anytime I hear BYO my ears perk up! Everyone knows, our love and passion for wine, and we are truly spoiled in this area to have so many great BYO's! So I checked out the menu on the iPad, then checked out our cellar on CellarTracker(http://www.cellartracker.com/) to see what we wanted to drink, loaded up the Riedel carrying case with glasses and a bottle of 2001 La Rusina Brunello di Montalcino, and off we went!

We pulled into the parking lot and there were mounds of snow everywhere as we got pounded with another 12-18 inches of snow this last week or so. Found a parking spot close to the door, and away we went. As we walked around the side, I really wasn't sure where to go, and found the wooden stairs to go upstairs. There is also a handicap accessible elevator if need be. So from the looks of it, they were smart when they remodeled this restaurant after the floods a few years ago, and built it up onto pylons. As we walked
in, I was shocked at how nice the interior of the restaurant was. From the gorgeous dark floors, to the nice earth tones on the walls, to the dark tables and chairs, the place looks really nice.

We were seated at a table in the front of the restaurant, overlooking the Delaware, and I am sure that the view is gorgeous when the sun it out. Unfortunately, it is winter, so it is dark right now, but you still had a
nice view of the Delaware, as well as River Road. To the left side of our table, there is a half wall, and a breakfast bar of sorts on the other side of that wall. Behind that, you can see into the kitchen, where the kitchen staff looks to be working hard. On the far back left hand side of the restaurant, it looks like there are a few booths along a nicely painted, striped wall. I'm not sure that I am a fan of these booths, but it works. After all, this is not fine dining, but definitely a nice place.

I pulled out our stems and opened out wine as our server of the evening, Nicole, came over to ask us if we had been to the restaurant before, which we replied no. She then gave us a little lesson in the history of the
restaurant, and gave us time to look over the menu. What a great server though, with a great attitude, and a pleasant smile. Definitely one of the gems in this industry. She came back over, and we both decided to start with some appetizers. 

Zelda ordered the Grilled Romaine with a lemon confit and a Caesar dressing. I was kind of torn, and really wanted to try the Duck Rilletes on toasted baguette, but Nicole talked me into the Quesadilla of Duck instead, served with cherry, pepper jack, and a vegetable salsa. Meanwhile, we looked around at the restaurant enjoying the sights, with the exception of the woman at the table next to us who was wearing sweat pants. Come on people, really? I know it was a snowy and chilly night, but there is no reason to go out to dinner in what seems to be a pretty nice restaurant, in sweat pants. This was also however the same lady who was digging in her nose as she walked up to the table. Gross.

One thing that I did notice however was their stemware, which is actually similar to the Riedel O glass. These are stemless, and this is what they give to every table. Nothing wrong with this really, and one of the reasons
that we bring our own stemware everywhere.

Our appetizers came out a few minutes later, and they both looked gorgeous! Zelda's was a nice sized head of romaine, with several stalks on it. This was grilled lightly, and just a tad bit warm from hitting the grill. Not a bad thing at all really, and the lettuce had some nice grilled char marks on it. This when then drizzled with a tasty Caesar dressing, and just a nice, light salad. I would definitely order this again, and I am actually kind of curious to try making this at home sometime.

My Quesadilla of Duck came out and was not what I was picturing at all, but that is not a bad thing! I was expecting a soft, flour tortilla, however, these were mini flour tortillas, cut into small rounds, and pan or deep fried to a nice crisp. These were then stuffed with a pulled duck that was absolutely delicious! These were filled with a pepper jack cheese, and topped with a vegetable salsa of sorts. Awesome flavors in the duck though, and extremely tasty. For anyone who likes duck, this is a treated!

For entrees, Zelda ordered the lobster cake, along with a few sides so we could give them a try. The lobster cake was served with a saffron aioli that was dabbed all over the plate. Each little "dab" of aioli was then garnished with some little spouts which made for a nice presentation. The flavors in the lobster cake were nice. There were large chunks of lobster, and all different pieces from the lobster. I am sure there is some claw and body in there, and who knows if there is any tail or not. The seasoning here was very nice, and there was not an over amount of filler in my opinion to hold these together. Regardless, it was a tasty entrée, and it would be something that I would order again in the future.

As for the sides, Zelda chose the parsnip puree, which was sweet, smooth, and succulent, along with the creamed Brussels sprouts. Let me tell ya that I am not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, but I have also never had them prepared like this. WOW! These were halved, and served with a creamy, buttery gravy, and also had some thick sliced bacon as well that these were cooked in. All I can say is that the saying "everything tastes better with bacon" holds very true here! The flavors were intense and awesome!

For my entrée, I went the hangar steak route, which they like to call "Steak ad Eggs." The steak itself was seasoned for 48 hours from what Nicole had said. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium, and had some great spice and herb flavors. I could definitely taste some rosemary influence, and it was nice and tender. The "egg" portion of this dish was derived from a pastry of sorts, formed into a small egg, and when you cut into it, out spewed the hollandaise sauce. Talk about a great idea, and kind of innovative for this area. Regardless, it was super tasty, as were the fingerling potatoes on the side.

By this point where were absolutely stuffed, but how could we pass up dessert? Out came the dessert tray, and the raspberry linzer cake looked delicious, and it was! I absolutely love fruity desserts with nice crusts, and this was awesome! Almost like a shortbread crust and delicious! Zelda had a chocolate mousse of sorts that was then topped with pop rocks. Really? Pop Rocks? This made it fun, and it too was delicious!

So by the end of the meal, our belly's were stuffed, and I don't even know that I can say they were happy at this point as we ate so much that we were almost uncomfortable. LOL! But at the end of the day, we found a great new restaurant with nice ambiance, that also has an amazing breakfast and lunch from what Nichole our rockstar server told us! Does it get better than that? Stay tuned as I'm sure we'll be back! Cheers!

Charcoal BYO
11 South Delaware Avenue
Yardley, PA 19067
Phone: (215)493-6394