Sunday, March 29, 2009

2006 Tamaya Syrah Pink Goat

The second bottle of 2 on this gorgeous Spring NJ afternoon! This is such a fun rose that we always have fun drinking. Today was no exception out on the bistro. Formal notes to come, and worthy of 88 points. Cheers!

2006 Fess Parker Viognier

This might not be the best viogier out there, but it sure was tasty. Bottle number 1 of 2 after the NCAA Women's Semi Finals at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton. This was a great "bistro wine," and worthy of 86 points. Formal notes to come!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

2007 Trader Joe's (Adler Fels) Pinot Noir Grand Reserve

What can you say about this pinot for under $10 from a great region in California? Delicious for the money, and easily worth of 87 points. Brought over the party at Ricky Boy's Firehouse. Formal notes to come!

Friday, March 27, 2009

2006 Taz Pinot Noir Fiddlestix

Unfortunately, this didn't measure up to previous vintages, but it was still very drinkable. Paired nicely with sushi at Tsukasa. Formal notes to come!

Tsukasa Japanese Restaurant

What can we say other than another great dinner at Tsukasa tonight. Formal notes to come: Appetizer: shrimp tempura Rolls: Spicy Tuna Roll, Philly Roll, Spicy Salmon Roll, California Roll, and Shrimp Tempura Roll... 1 1/2 Crosswicks Street Bordentown, NJ 08505 Phone: (609)298-3838 12:00pm - 9:00pm Tuesday - Saturday 3:00pm - 8:00pm Sunday (609) 298-3838

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Far East Taste - Eatontown, NJ

Well, the pictures aren't the best in the world, but what do you want from a PDA anyway? After a morning of looking forward to my world famous enchiladas con salsa verde that I made last night, I ended up taking a walk with some of the guys from the office to the Far East Taste, right out the gate here and up the hill. Years ago, this was a great spot from what I have read in several reviews, and the old owner, Richard, had some serious talent. Upon arrival, it was a little odd to see the store front right on Main Street, but the entrance was in the read. You walk down a long, narrow hallway, and are greeted at the host stand. We were then brought down a step, and seated in the small dining room, with mirrors on the wall, with the lower wall adorned in marble looking formica. There was definitely nothing fancy about this place, but it's close to the office, so that is a plus. Upon looking at the menu, there are several lunch special listed, along with a few other specials on a hand written board. I didn't look through the entire menu as we were pressed for time, and had to get back to the office, but they have many "Pan Asian" selections that are Thai influenced. I started off with a Thai Ice Tea since I gave up the soda for Lent, and it was your classic tea. They also brought over a pot of hot tea for us to sip on. For lunch, I went with one of my staples, the shrimp in garlic sauce, also known here as the L17. This came with my choice of of wonton soup, egg drop soup, or an eggroll, so of course I went with the eggroll. The eggroll came out out, and although it was not as golden brown and fried as it could have been, it was nice and hot, and not greasy at all. I don't know if they pre-fry these, and then keep them in the oven, or if they just bake them, but there was zero grease on this. The vegetables were nice and crisp, and very fresh, and the eggroll wrapper had a nice crunch. There were also small bits of prok, along with the cabbage and other veggies. It could have about 10 degrees warmer, but it was still pleasant. Shortly afterwards, the entrees came out, and we had substituted pork fried rice for the white rice. This was nice, with small pieces of bbq pork, as well as some chunks of onion. The onion was a little much for me, which is something that I usually have no problem with, but I like to see it diced a little smaller. Regardless, there were only a few larger pieces that I ate around with no problem. The rice had a nice flavor, but it was lacking something that I cannot put my hands on. It was also almost as though it had sat up in the window a bit too long, and dried out some. It also seemed to be a bit on the greasy side, but what do you want for something that is wok fried? Out came the rest of the entrees about 30 seconds later, and for a lunch portion, mine was decent in size with 9 shrimp, and a while lot of vegetables ranging from flat cut carrots, to broccoli, to green peppers, celery, and onion. The garlic sauce was nice, had the perfect amount of spice to it, and was very pleasant...and I didn't feel as though I needed to rush back to the office to brush my teeth, although I did anyway. Overall, this was a nice dish, and I would more than likely order it again. In short, this is a nice place for the money, and a close walk from the office without having to worry about losing a good parking spot and having to park six blocks away. A shrimp special with a healthy portion of medium sized shrimp for under $9 with friend rice is a pretty good deal in my book. I would not however go out of my way to visit this restaurant, but it is good for some comfort food, and I would consider it good. Next time around, I will try something else to compare more things on their menu. Don't go there expecting ambiance, because you will definitely be disappointed, but if you're looking for a quick lunch with good spice, this is a good option. Cheers! 19 Main Street Eatontown, NJ 07724 Phone: (732) 389-9866

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Under the Moon - Bordentown, NJ

Tonight, we met with fellow Ebob and Chowhound members tom246 for another evening of fun food and vino at Under the Moon in downtown Bordentown City. Tom had made a a 7:30PM reservation, and they had our table ready and waiting for us. Thank God Tom had made a reservation, as there wasn’t an open table in the house. Always great to see this restaurant thriving! As a matter of fact, all the restaurants in town were packed tonight as we walked by, and that is always nice to see.
We were greeted and seated by Fawn at a round table that we have been seated at quite a few times in the upper ½ of the restaurant. Many great items on the menu tonight, but unfortunately they were sold out of the strip steak. Bummer as this is always one of my favorites, and such a great bargain, but never fear, there are always some other great entrees to chose from.
As usual, we both brought many options for wine. From Tom’s stash, we opted for a 2004 Copain Cerise, and from my bag we went with the 2005 Tobin James Dusi Vineyard zinfandel. I also asked Silvi to throw a 2006 Tobin James Charisma into their fridge for dessert. Feel free to read the wine reviews in previous posts, or see my notes on Fawn brought some of their signature bread out, which is small, sliced, light and fluffy bread rounds, toasted on the Panini press with a little oil and garlic. It’s always nice, and gets a little something in your belly before the salads come out. The side of chimichurri that comes with it is to die for, and one of Mama's many homemade treats.
For dinner tonight, I was torn between the Autumn Pork, which I have had on a few other occasions, as well as the French Pork, which I have never had. I ended up going with the French Pork just to try something new. Zelda ordered the seafood enchiladas tonight, while Tom ordered the Autumn Pork, and Denise opted for the crab cakes.
A few minutes after ordering, out came the house salads that are always included with the entrees. These are always nice little salads, with fresh lettuce, a couple sliced tomatoes, some red onion, dried herbs, and a nice balsamic vinaigrette. This is a nice, light salad, and yet another pleasure while we waited for our entrees to come out.
With great conversation throughout the night about wine, it seemed as though our entrees came out in no time...which they probably did. As usual, the portions were very large. I had two nice pork medallions on my plate, that were the perfect thickness. Not too thick as though they will not cook through, yet not to thin that they will dry out. It came accompanied with a nice side of rice, and the pork itself was smothered in a nice medley of apple, fig maybe, cinnamon, and some other spices. It really brought out a nice flavor in the pork. Zelda's seafood enchilladas were absolutely phenomenol. Not only were they large, but they were filled with some great shrimp, scallop, crab, and I am not sure what else quite honestly. The texture was wonderful, the filling was rich and creamy, and the sauce on top was a a perfect finisher. I look forward to ordering these for myself in the future. The other entrees at the table looked nice as well, and I have had them both in the past. As much as I love the crab cakes that I make, Santiago uses my same concept...let the flavors of the crab shine. Don't doctor them up with a bunch of vegetables or seasoning, and use as little filler as possible. This is a great philosophy! After dinner, we were all absolutely stuffed, and instead of ordering dessert, we opened the Charisma that I had brought, which actually turned out to be thin, alcohol tasting, and rather disappointing. I guess we should have brought some Tobin James Liquid Love instead, but at least we know for next time. All in all, a wonderful evening with some friends that we really enjoy chatting with about two of our favorite hobbies, food and wine. As always, the Under the Moon gang provided great service and a wonderful dinner, and we always look forward to visiting them. Hopefully we'll be back soon! Cheers!
DISCLAIMER: this review was written in a hurry, and I need to go back in, clean it up, and add some details when I get some more time.

2006 Tobin James Zinfandel Charisma

Anyone who knows Tobin James knows how much of a treat their dessert wines are. We have had their Liquid Love many times, whether it be just the normal bottling, reserve, or Late Harvest, and they have all been very enjoyable. I have head nothing but great things about the Charisma, so I figured it would be fun to enjoy one tonight with Tom and Denise. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as some of the other wines we have had, but what can you do?
Silvi put this in the fridge for us during dinner, so it stayed nice and cold. Unfortunately, when we opened this wine, the nose didn't give off a whole lot really, and the wine seemed really thing on the palate. The Liquid Love on the other hand has always been very jammy, and thick, but maybe the thin style of the Charisma is how Toby and Lance like to craft this wine. We didn't finish this bottle unfortunately, but I did put a vacuum seal on it and throw it in the fridge, so we'll be sure to check this wine out again maybe on Monday night. More to come, but currently 82 points for the high alohol taste on the palate, and lack of complexity. Cheers!

2005 Tobin James Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard

With Tom always bringing such great wines, I figured that I would try to bring something fun, and something that we would enjoy. Tobin James is all about fun, over the top fruit bombs, and with the Dusi Vineyard harvesting such great fruit, I figured why not. This seemed to be a crowd pleaser at the table, however, it left me a bit disappointed. However, as Zelda pointed out, we had a huge transition from the elegant Copain Cerise pinot noir to this huge, fruit forward monster, and I think that she is right. Had I drank this wine on it's own, I think I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. In the glass, this had a gorgeous dark ruby color. On the nose, wow! This wine was JAM CENTRAL! Huge hints of plum, blackberry jam, and raspberry there such a thing? The nose on this wine was fantastic. Moving onto the palate, I think that Tom said it best at first sip. "This wine is a mouthful of fruit." I could not have said it any better, however, it wasn't as pleasing on my palate after the pinot, and almost tasted over done to me. Regardless, nice dark berries on the palate, with more plum, currants, and strawberry. The finish however seemed a little out of balance to me, with some alcohol that seemed to go straight to your head, not your mouth. Does that makes sense? It's kind of hard to explain, but will try when I get some more time. 85 points.

2004 Copain Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard

It sure is nice having friends with a cellar that is not nearly as young as our is. Tom also has a great choice in wines that he brings to dinner, and as usual, this was no exception. This is a pinot that is drinking very nicely with a few years in the bottle. This was popped and poured tonight at Under the Moon, and was a treat. Gorgeous dark ruby color in the glass, that was very fragrant right out of the bottle. As we waited to have a toast, I could smell this as the glass sat on the table, and it had a very fragrant nose. Nice raspberry and blueberry notes on the nose, with a subtle hint of spice and oak. On the palate, more dark fruits, raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and hints of spice and clove. This was delicious, and I am glad that the others moved onto the zin as I got to finish the last of this bottle. The finish was nice and smooth, very well integrated, and left me wanting more. What a treat, and I think I know a place where I can find this vintage locally. I true treat! Thanks Tom and Denise! 90 Points! Cheers!

Friday, March 20, 2009

2006 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma County

I ordered a glass of this off the menu tonight at the Inn at the Hawke in Lambertville as I was craving a chardonnay. Nothing complex about this wine, but what do you want for $6 at a restaurant? Nice pale straw color in the glass, with some hints of pear and must on the nose. On the palate, this was a pretty basic chard, with creamy textures and citrus, with a bit of honey, and very faint hints of oak. Not your typical, over buttery chardonnay that is over oaked. Pleasant and easy to drink. 84 points. Cheers!

The Inn at the Hawke - Lambertville, NJ

Last week we had talked to our good pal and former neighbor Arounkone about getting together up in Lambertville on Friday night for dinner. It's been a while since we have gone to the Inn at the Hawke, so what better night than a Friday during lent to head up for some fish and chips. We got to Arounkone's shop, Pure Energy Cycling and Java House just after 7:30. We met one of his friends hanging out there, Jonathan, and then the 4 of us headed over to the Inn at the Hawke for dinner. The place was packed, and we were told that it would be about a 20 minute wait for a table, but it turned out to only take about 5 minutes to get a table. Woo hoo! We sat down and ordered cocktails, and gave our order shortly after. For an appetizer, Jonathan ordered the "Polenta Fries," and these came out looking like a game of Jenga, neatly stacked and drizzled with a very nice sauce. These were wonderful, and had a nice crispy skin on them, followed by a very soft polenta inside. The flavor and presentation on these was great, and I would order them again in the future. For dinner, both Zelda and I opted for the fish and chips, and I have really been craving good fish and chips since Lent began. I had these here years ago and they were wonderful, but they seemed to go downhill when I had them again a few years later. Even though I was skeptical, these came out perfectly, along with some nice chips. When I didn't care for these a few years ago, they came out mushy and greasy, but they have since corrected the problem, and they came out nice and hot, with no signs of grease. The fish was fried up perfectly, with a side of tarter and vinegar, and it was a true treat. Zelda's were fried to a perfect golden brown as well, and I couldn't have had a happier belly, and my craving has been satisfied. Arounkone opted for the Sheppard's Pie, and this was a nice portion, smothered in whipped potatoes, that were piped on top and baked. I would love to order this in the future. Jonathan had a grilled salmon sandwich which also looked very nice, garnished with a nice piece of lettuce. All in all, this was a great meal at the Inn at the Hawk, and it was nice to go back there as it has been years. With so many good restaurants in Lambertville, it's hard to visit them all throughout the year, as we only make it into town once or twice a month. Regardless, with the season of Lent upon us, I look forward to heading back there again soon for some fish and chips. A great meal with friends, both old and new. Dude! Cheers 74 S Union Street Lambertville, NJ 08530 Phone: (609) 397-9555‎

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hot Wok Cafe - Cranbury, NJ

If you are in the mood for some no frills, casual Asian Cuisine, then Hot Wok in Cranbury is the place for you. We first discovered this restaurant a few years ago while driving into Cranbury to take a look at the town. Since then, we have been back a 1/2 dozen times, and each time the food has been good, and the service has been outstanding. If only we had an Asian restaurant like this in town. Hot Wok, come to our town!!!!!

If you are looking for fancy, fine dining, then this is not the place for you. This restaurant has a very casual atmosphere, in almost an old Jersey diner sort of way, from the tables, to the glittery chairs, to the counter in the back of the restaurant. There is always something on the radio, and it is usually some top 40 music, but that is not a bad thing in this casual atmosphere. We love to come here as it is a mere 15-20 minute drive, and it's casual, and it's BYO...tonight we bought a 2006 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County on the way, as we didn't think about grabbing a bottle from the cellar on the way to see "Stan Stan the Tax Man." See the review below about this wine in the previous posting!

We arrived tonight and were greeted as usual by JC (I think). She is a sweetheart, and is there every time we come to visit. I think that she is the hardest working girl in Cranbury. ;-) JC always offers us tea, and brings over a small bowl of sweet and sour sauce, along with some hot mustard, and fried chips in the style of egg roll wrappers. This is always a nice touch, and something to keep us occupied while we wait for our food.

As usual, we started off with the spring rolls, and they came out piping hot! It couldn't have been more than 3 minutes after we had ordered, and BAM, there they were! Right out of the fryer, with steam coming off of them, and hot as hot can be. We gave them a minute to cool down, only to discover some nice fresh vegetables, to be found inside the crisp wrapper. This are always a treat here, and we really enjoy them. For entrees tonight, we went the comfort food route, and started out with some chicken fried rice. This came out nice and hot, with large, flattened pieces of chicken, with nice pieces of onion, peas, and bean sprouts. This is always good here, and they wok fry it to perfection. It is never to greasy, never to salty, and never too crispy. This is perfect fried rice, and who needs a side of white rice when you can have fried rice like this. As usual, it was great, and we seem to order it every time we visit. What can I say, as like I said, it was a comfort food sort of night.

Along with the fried rice, we had the cashew chicken, just like we did a few weeks ago. This too came out nice and hot, a mere 30 seconds after our fried rice came out. It too was cooked just as I would make it at home, and came out with a nice side of broccoli. This too is another comfort food for us, and is always nice and tasty. With the chicken were nice, whole cashews, that gave this dish some added crunch, to go along with it's good texture.

All in all, another great meal at the Hot Wok, with awesome service. We love this place, and love to pop in. They were pretty slow tonight, with just one table when we came in, but two more tables came in while we were there, so hopefully the economy is not negatively affecting them right now. I have noticed in the past that their carry out and delivery business does very well, so that is always a good thing.

So all in all, if you are looking for some laid back, comforting, Asian cuisine, take a ride out to the Hot Wok in Cranbury and give them a whirl. Their food might now get them a Michelin Star or rosette, but you will leave there with a full belly, and it won't break the bank! Where else can you get food like this for around $20? Love it! Cheers! 57 North Main Street Cranbury, NJ 08512 Phone: (609)395-8983

2006 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County

So on the way to see the tax man tonight, we didn't even think about grabbing a bottle of wine to hit a BYO after dinner. That being said, so we stopped along the way at Windsor Wine & Spirits II, found in a strip mall on the east side of Route 130, and picked up this wine for $22.99. Definitely not the cheapest I have found this wine, but all of their other pinot seemed to have a $5-$10 markup over other stores, so this wasn't all that bad.
As I have said before, I like my pinot served around cellar temp, ad letting it warm up in the glass. This wine from the get go seemed extremely warm, and it really took a while for me to get used to it. Once I did however, it was a decent wine.
On the nose, it seemed like your typical Santa Maria pinot, with hints of strawberry, cherries, and plum. There is also a bit of stale earth on the nose here as well, but it is not offensive in the least.
On the palate, at first I was overwhelmed with the tannic bit and alcohol. Once this blew off however with some swirling, it was very pleasant, with some sour black cherry, and other berry fruits. The finish mellowed out, and although not long or complex, it was pleasant. This wine got a point better once we were home and ithad been opened for about 2 hours.
Overall, I think this is a great wine in the $15 range, and a decent QPR at $20, however, at that price I would rather drink the Iris from Oregon. All in all, a decent wine worthy of 87 points. Cheers!

Monday, March 16, 2009

MAILING LIST ALERT: Maybach Materieum

For those of you anxiously awaiting the 2006 release of the Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium, your wait is over. Even though my e-mail is still not functioning properly, I logged in to Maybach's website and saw my allocation sitting there for 6 bottles. Unfortunately, I could only go in for 3 bottles, but hope to go in for the other 3 once pay day hits, but we will see. With 2006 being our anniversary year, and not being able to afford first growth Bordeaux fo the 2006, this is pretty much a no brainer. I picked up a 6 pack of the 2005's thanks to Chris, and those are still sleeping comfortably in the cellar, and will continue to sleep for some years to come. Unfortuantely, it looks as though their list is full, but you can still sign up for their waiting list at: Also, visit for more details. 2006 MAYBACH MATERIUM100% Cabernet Sauvignon 745 cases produced 80% new French oak 14.8% alc. 2006 MateriumRobert Parker Review THIRD RELEASE of Maybach Materium, from a single block of the Weitz Vineyard, which sits at 1000 feet elevation on the eastern hillside of Oakville, a bonded growing area unique in all the world. The vines here struggle to grow among boulders and stones and in shallow soil, giving deep concentration to the fruit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

2006 Iris Vineyards Pinot Noir

Hanging out on a Sunday night, with Zelda cooking a nice chicken bouillabaisse compliments of the Barefoot Contessa, what better than a nice pinot noir to go along with it...and what better than to have our friend Charnel pop in and stay for dinner, as well as my "Asian Brother from Another Mother" Arounkone pop in for a surprise visit. Sunday nights seem to be a staple for Zelda making a great well as for friends to stop by to induldge in a nice dinner and vino with us. Life is good "on the bistro!" So when guests come over, what can we do other than pop and Iris to please the masses? What can we say about this wine other than the fact that we love it, and our guests love it? Sure, you are all getting bored seeing me write about this wine over and over again, but it is officially our "house pinot" and "bistro wine." As I have said before, this is not your typical Oregon pinot. Most Oregon pinot that we drink, is very subdued, and very Burgundy-esq. As most of you know, Oregon pinot noir's are not usually fruit forward like the Santa Rita Hills styled pinot noir that we truly enjoy, but this is the Oregon exception. Pamela Frye and Richard Boyles must not be taking the classic Oregon approach to crafting this pinot, as it is very fruit forward. If tasting blind, I would have to guess that this is a wine from the Central Coast in California, but I would be way wrong. On the nose, tons of cherries that you can smell from several feet away. This wine is a cherry monster, and I love it! Hints of earth and blueberry round out the nose. Onto the palate, more and more cherry gush from the glass...dark cherry, black cherry, bing cherry, even a hint of maraschino cherry...or, maybe not maraschino, but you get the idea. Subtle hints of pepper and spice round out the palate, with a very nice, very smooth finish. As I have said previously, for the $20 you would spend on Benton Lane or Argyle's normal bottlings, your money is much better spent here on the Iris. It is light, and very refreshing, and is a sure crowd pleaser. We've already burned through a case of this great juice, and I can see burning through several more cases before years end. So if you are out and about in Princeton, stop at CoolVines and pick up a bottle. If you'r enot near Princeton, try to pick it up somewhere else, then give it a try, and let me know what you think. 90 points, drink now or cellar! This wine should drink well for another 3-5 years. Cheers!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2007 Domaine de la Buissonne Côtes du Rhône Villages Beaumes-de-Venise

Yet another great find and bargain from Mark and his "cool gang" at CoolVines. Today, we visited CoolVines for their weekly Saturday tasting, only to find yet another great value for the money. This was the second of two wines today , and let me start by saying that for $12, there are many good Côtes du Rhône out there, and this is one of them. Based on points, it might not be the best value, but with time, I think you will see my scores increase on this wine. In the glass, this has a gorgeous ruby, light purple color, but on the nose, this wine explodes with hints of raspberry and strawberry. This wine has a very vibrant nose, and it is hard to explain, but it is as though the wine almost shines. On the palate, you can tell that this is definitely still a young wine, but what do you expect being a 2007? More raspberry overwhelms the palate here, with subtle hint of strawberries and a bit of cherry. Again, this wine is young, and has a rather short finish, that still has a little bite to it. Give it some more time however, or a nice 1-2 hour splash decant, and this wine improves. We enjoyed this wine so much at the tasting today that we actually brought a bottle to a birthday party tonight, and once again, it was a delicious treat. As the bottles got air, and the wine got air in the glass, it really started to open up to show it's potential. This is currently an 84 point wine in my book, but with time in the bottle and air, this is going to 87-88 points. Cheers!

2007 Alta Vista Torrontés Premium

This was wine number 1 of 2 in the tasting today, and I am on the fence with this wine. At first, this wine did absolutely nothing for me, but a day later, I had the taste of this wine in my mouth, and I found it rather intriguing that here it is 24 hours later, and I can taste it again. That being said, I think that this wine needs to be re-visited. From my original notes: pale straw color in the glass, with a nose of apple and pear. This definitely had a nice nose, but didn't blow me away to say the least. Moving on to the palate, this is a "crisp" wine, and would be a good summer sipper. Lots of citrus on the palate, with a bit of acidity, and a bit of alcohol. I think one of the problems was that with it being at a tasting, it wasn't at the temperature that I really enjoy white wines at. I think that had this been pulled straight off the ice, I would have enjoyed it more. The finish was simple, again with hints of acidity and lemon rhine. For now, 80 points, but I think it's worth picking up a bottle to serve on a hot summer day to re-visit. The lacking complexity, bite, and bitterness of this wine are what give it the low score, but it could really change based on the serving temp. Maybe we'll see. Cheers!

Friday, March 13, 2009

2006 Belle Vallée Pinot Noir Reserve

Popped and poured this one tonight at Under the Moon in Bordentown, NJ, this wine showed a nice Oregon pinot, ruby color in the glass. On the nose, there were some hints of plum and black fruits, blackberry, and a hint of black cherry. Moving on to the palate, this was a very light wine in my opinion, with slight hints of plum and blackcherry. This wine seemed very thin to me, and definitely seemed like it was missing something. Yes, I know, it's from Oregon, and isn't your typical California fruit bomb, but I think that it lacked complexity. The finish seemed very short to me, and overall, this wine just didn't knock my socks off. Maybe it is in a weird phase like some of the other 2006's and needs more time in the bottle. 86 points. Cheers!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2006 Newhaven Sauvignon Blanc

Formal notes to come on this sauvignon blanc that we have drank many of over the past. Nothing super exciting to write home about, but it is still an enjoyable 83-85 point sauvignon blanc. Still enjoy the Kim Crawford more than this one for the money, but it is still a nice quaffer. Cheers!

Friday, March 6, 2009

2006 Melville Pinot Noir Estate

Very disappointing compared to other bottles. Lacked fruit and complexity. Hopefully this was just a case of bad storage at Canal's or bottle variation. Woudn't have paid $10 for this bottle. 83 points, and formal notes forthcoming.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chicago Style Hot Dogs? What are they? Why the hype?

So I have been asked countless times, "What is a Chicago style hot dog, and what makes it so good?" Well, being from Chicago, this is an easy question to answer, but for many, until you have had them, it is just something that you will never understand. And maybe even after you have had one, you still won't get it. But growing up on them, this is definitely one of the delicacies that I miss out here on the East Coast. The traditional Chicago-Style Hot Dog consists of a Vienna Beef hot dog. If you do not have a Vienna Beef hot dog, you will never be able to make a true "Chicago Style Dog." End of discussion, it cannot be done. But if however you do have access to Vienna Beef hot dogs, here is what you do:
  • Heat an authentic Vienna Beef Hot Dog in water to 170ºF
  • Nestle it in a steamed poppy seed bun
  • Pile on the following toppings in this order:
  1. Yellow mustard
  2. Bright green relish
  3. Fresh chopped onion
  4. Two tomato wedges
  5. Kosher pickle spear
  6. Two sport peppers
  7. A dash of celery salt

That is it, and there is not a whole lot to it! The dog itself is the most important thing in my opinion, followed by the poppy seed bun! You will also notice that we don't put any ketchup on there, however, I do order mine with ketchup. It just gives it a nice added flavor, and I really enjoy it. Notice that it also states "bright green relish." Until you see this for yourself, you will not believe it, but once you do, you'll know it when you do see it. Also notice the wedges in tomato. These are not your typical diced tomatoes, not are the pickles your normal round, sliced pickles. These are spears. And finally, the sport peppers, which are tiny little peppers, and the celery salt. Sounds simple, but these are key ingredients!

So you're in Chicago, how do you know if it's a Vienna Beef dog? Easy, look for the sign! For a while, they had these signs at Target, at the little snack bar they have when you walk in the store. Unfortunately, these are no longer there, and I never got the chance to see if they were indeed Vienna Beef dogs there. Maybe I need to double check. We were however fortunate a few years ago to find a hot dog stand on the hill in Washington DC where they were serving Vienna Beef dogs! YUM! This was such a great treat, and I was so excited!

Regardless, if there is a food that I miss from "Sweet Home Chicago" other than the original Pizzeria Uno, or beef and cheddar sandwiches from Portillo's, it is the Vienna Beef hot dog! Used to really love them from Dog Tracks in Barrington, and from Wrigleyville Dogs near Wrigley Field.

So xext time you're in Chicago, give one a try for yourself, and think of me salivating as you bite into it! In the mean time, I will keep boiling the stash I have in my freezer until they are gone. Now if only I could find some good poppy seed buns here in Jersey! Cheers!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pinot Noir - What tempertature do you like to serve yours?

So I have heard this topic come up a million times, and I am always curious to hear how you like to serve your pinot noir.
I like to pull ours out, and serve it at cellar temperature (55 degrees). By asking this question, it will not change my mind as this is what I like, but I am curious.
Others like to serve it at room temperature, whatever that might be, but say somewhere around 68 degrees.
That being said, how do you like to serve your pinot? Does it matter if it is a "new world" pinot noir from California? A Burgundy? From Oregon? Does it matter how old or young the bottle is? What factors determine at what temperature you like to serve yours? Curious to hear what you all have to say, so please feel free to comment. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Best Cheeseburger in New Jersey?

Growing up in the midwest, I grew to have an appreciation for a good cheeseburger. So far in New Jersey, I have had some darn good burgers, and I am now on a quest to find the best burger in New Jersey. With that being said, send me a note of places you think are worthy or claiming the crown, "Best Burger in New Jersey." This truly has to be somewhere that you would go out of your way to visit. Not your typical, run of the mill, "this burger is ok" sort of joint. So far, out of all the burgers I have tried in NJ, I think that the best so far is very close, between Rossi's in Trenton, as well as off the bar menu Anton's At The Swan Hotel in Lambertville. Some other places who's burgers I have enjoyed:
  • Oliver - A Bistro - Eatontown, NJ: Jack Mac burger from the lunch menu. Delish!
  • Bobby's Burger Palace - Eatontown, NJ: I prefer the Philadelphia Burger
  • Five Guys - Shrewsbury, NJ
  • Jester's Cafe - Bordentown, NJ
  • Triumph Brewing Company - Princeton, NJ: great kobe beef sliders
  • Braddock's Tavern - Medford, NJ
  • Cafe Kabul at Rat's - Hamilton, NJ: great organic burger and worth the $13 price tag
  • HOB Tavern - Bordentown, NJ: nice down and dirty burger for the price

And I could go on and on. But my challenge to you fellow foodies is: Who's burger do I absolutely need to try in New Jersey? Who's do you find to be the best? I have listed a few that I look forward to trying in the menu to the right, so feel free to comment on any of those that I have listed, and feel free to e-mail us with any of your suggestions.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you. Cheers!

Monday, March 2, 2009

2003 Château Villa Bel-Air

"Raffy Two Sleeves" brought this wine over tonight, and was the second wine following the 2006 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley. This too was popped and poured through the Vinturi and into the decanter. This wine had a great, dark ruby color in the glass, and a classic Bordeaux aroma on the nose. From the nose, I would think that this wine was predominantly merlot, but I am not sure. Hints of lush, ripe fruit on the nose, with more hints of cigar box, tobacco, mocha, and earth. Raph and Zelda also picked out a bit of cappuccino, but again, I couldn't find it because of my challenged nose. On the palate, I still could not really tell what varietal was dominant here, but it had a nice ripeness to it, with hints of cherry, mocha, and oak. A smooth finish rounded out this 2003, with very little tannin and acidity. For what Raph paid for this bottle, I wouldn't mind seeking out this chateau and vintage to revisit. A solid wine for the money, and a good QPR. 88 points. Cheers!

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

What better way to spend the day than snowed in with a bit of vino? It's amazing how 6 inches of snow can shut down New Jersey, but I'm not complaining as it got us both the day off. So after a walk into town for a sandwich, we ran into "Raffy Two Sleeves" on the way home, and invited him over for a bottle of vino. So after a short nap on the couch, Raphael stopped by with a bottle of Bordeaux, so I figured I would grab a nice pinot noir to drink as a segway into the Bordeaux. That said, I picked a 2006 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley. These have been sleeping in the cellar for just about a year now, and with the 2007 vintage already ordered, I figured why not! This was popped and decanted through the Vinturi into a decanter, and while pouring, it had that very seductive, very familiar, Kosta Browne nose. There is something about the nose on these wines that is so identifiable as Kosta Browne, and that is a beautiful thing! The cherry was overwhelming, and such a joy on the nose, with hints of raspberry, cinnamon, and spice. Zelda and Raph picked up hints of cardamom, which I could not pick out with my nose, but she definitely has a better nose than I do. On the palate, more black cherry, candied cherry, hints of cola, creamy vanilla, and a bit of spice. This wine still seems to be very young, although it does have a nice creaminess to it. Regardless, there was a bit of heat on the finish as this wine warmed up, however, while it was still at cellar temp, the heat was much less noticable. Maybe this will settle out with another year or so in the bottle, but I think this is just the way the '06's came out. Regardeless, another gorgeous offering from Kosta Browne, and one of the reasons we love pinot noir. Will revisit this wine after another year or so. 92 points. Cheers!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bobby's Burger Palace - Eatontown, NJ

Today we drove up to Eatontown to check out Bobby Flay's new "fast food" burger joint called Bobby's Burger Palace. I had originally tried Bobby's Burger Palace a few weeks after they had opened, and found it quite enjoyable. I've heard and read a lot of negative reviews both around the office, as well as on Chowhound, but I find it rather enjoyable.
Most of the complaints I heard are either about the price, or about the goofy seating, or lack of seating. In my opinion, to pay $7.50 for a certified back angus burger is absolutely worth it. But for those looking for a down and dirty, greasy burger as I like to say, Bobby's Burger Palace is not for you. Instead, go check out 5 Guys, save a few bucks, and get a good greasy burger. Yes, I enjoy 5 Guys as well, but it depends on what kind of burger I am looking for.
I consider Bobby's Burger Palace more of a gourmet burger, with good, fresh, different ingredients. Yes, you can get a good old plain, old fashioned cheeseburger here as well, or you can get a burger with fresh ingredients, different sauces, different vegetables, and different cheeses.
Zelda opted for the Palace Classic Burger made with ground turkey, topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and fresh red onion. One of the first comments she made was that the tomato was so fresh and vibrant. After lunch, she made the comment that it may have been the best turkey burger she has ever had. That is a pretty bold statement as she loves her turkey burgers.
I opted for the Philadelphia Burger, cooked medium, and topped with provolone cheese, griddled onions, and hot peppers. This is the second time I had this burger, and it was as much of a joy this time as it was the first time. The provolone is a nice touch, and the hot peppers are fresh and very tasty. It's great combination! The meat itself is lightly seasoned, so it really lets you taste the meat and the burger itself. I love making fresh burger pattie's on the grill, and I would not change a thing on these!
We both opted for a side of fries, and these were served up in a big metal tin, with a side of their signature french fry sauce. I'm not sure what is in this fry sauce, but it has a nice blend of what taste like roasted red pepper and chipotle. Needless to say it is great stuff.
We also opted for malts, and she went for the chocolate, and I went for the vanilla. For $5, I have to say that it is a darn good malt! The vanilla especially really has that nice malt taste to it. We also had a nice fresh lemonade to wash our burgers down.
A few comments about complaints I have heard:
1) Price: to me, paying $33 for 2 gourmet burgers, 2 large orders of fries, 2 malts, and a lemonade is not a big deal. If this was McDonald's or even 5 Guys, yes, I might be a little hesitant. However, you are paying for Bobby Flay's name, and he has to pay for his overhead. I've paid it twice, and I'll pay it again.
2) Seating: yes, seating is an issue, especially during the week at lunch. We got there around 1PM today, and must have just beaten the rush.
A. When you walk in, you stay in the line to the right, place your order, then they give you a number and you have to find a place to sit.
B. The tables are all large, and it is seat yourself. When it gets busy, it can be very hard to find a place to sit for 2 people, let alone if you have a large group. If you do have a large group, I do not recommend going here. It will be very difficult.
C. They also have a counter that wraps around the restaurant as well, and you can sit here.
D. The first time I was there, as well as when we were getting ready to leave, the line was out the door. That said, know that you are taking a chance, and you might end up waiting. But after being open for almost 6 month now, what does that tell you? It either tells you that one, their food is that good, or two, people are still intrigued and want to give it a whirl. I will attribute it to both of these.
The restaurant itself is nice inside. One of the first things that I noticed is the big colorful light that hangs over the counter top seating. It is adorned is nice vibrant colors, and mirror the counter itself. You will also see large, wood look subway tiles on the walls, and very neat lighting hanging from the ceiling. The inside looks nice and modern, and they did a good job on the decor.
So regardless of what others have said, and regardless of reviews I have read, we give Bobby's Burger Palace two thumbs up, and we look forward to our next dining experience there. Keep up the great work Bobby! Cheers! 188 Route 35 South at Monmouth Mall
Eatontown, NJ 07724
Phone: (732)544-0200