Wednesday, July 23, 2014

coming back to Cooperstown (NY)-the BLUE MINGO always makes for a magnificent feast (7-20-14)

We've been here at the Glimmerglass Festival for several days, but this year we enjoyed the superb Glimmerglass Patron events in the house catered by the excellent Horned Dorset Primavera.
Last night was our first night "out" and we returned to the casual, yet excellent, Blue Mingo right on the lake, where Samuel immediately befriended a mother duck and her six ducklings, whom he later managed to sneak some oyster crackers to!
The Cosmos here are yummy and even with the tiniest martini glasses ever, but at least you get a small carafe with multiple refills.
The Chateau Routoas Rose was dry and crisp and excellent with the may starters we decided to share.
Golden Potstickers with chicken, lemongrass & soy broth were crispy and tasty and Sam insisted on having his own whole bowl of six, not to mention stealing one from the other order!
Moody Blues are the best sliced and baked potatoes slathered with blue cheese, green onion and the most yummy balsamic reduction.
Pork Belly Lollipops are divine --crispy and tasty skewered on a slab of fresh pineapple with golden pineapple salsa, magnificent mango sambal (not too spicy) and  roasted red pepper jam. These new creations win the starter prize for sure.
Coconut Shrimp are also tasty and crisp.

Sam ordered the 14 oz. NY strip steak but was already full, so this is going home for eating later as it was a tasty piece with a five cheese sauce, potato lunette (a huge duchesse style slab of layered potato, cream and crispy top), stewed zucchini and chimichurri drizzle.
We moved on to a wonderful Laboure-Roi Vallon d'Or Pouilly Fuisse which was perfect with the excellent Soft Shell Crabs that 3 of us had. There were three smallish but tasty crabs from Maryland with a pesto sauce and a large fontina cheese tuile filled with a cold lemon and parsley pasta salad with balsamic syrup. I've missed these treats.

The chef here is Asian and offers up a super Penang Curry with chicken, shrimp, meat or vegetarian and one of our guests loved the latter. The Osso Buco had to be the size of a trailer truck and left plenty to take home was well.

Desserts were okay and nice, but no major home runs:
Coconut Pound Cake (with or without raspberry sauce)
Carrot Cake
Peanut Butter Fudge Chocolate Cake
Key Lime Custard and
my Mango Mud Pie with Oreo Crust and Toffee Ice Cream seemed to be missing much of the toffee crunch.

Our server Nathan seemed to be new and wasn't there to pour the wine as often as we would have liked, but he was super sweet with Sam as he teaches 6th grade, which is where Sam heads in just over a month.
A wonderful night of fun and food with friends is always a treat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The last night in Oregon:NATIVE FLORA Wine dinner in the Dundee Hills does an awesome job (7-13-14)

For our last night we had planned to return to a restaurant we ate at 14 years ago on our previous visit to the Willamette Valley, but our hosts at the B&B quickly convinced us otherwise, and graciously asked us to join them at a relatively new winery atop the Dundee Hills just minutes away. Native Flora is owned and run by a wild and crazy, but oh so fun couple, and the food was provided by Chef Jody Kropf of Red Hills Market where we had gotten some amazing sandwiches for lunch earlier that day.
We arrived to the gorgeous home at the top of the hills with magnificent views and later a spectacular sunset over the coastal mountains. It was a night to be remembered.
To drink we started with an amazing Jolly Rancher Rose that is made from a rare blend of Pinot Blanc & Pinot Noir and apparently smells like the candy of the same name during the fermentation! To eat we had Endive with Briar Rose Chevre/Walnut/Scallion and Watermelon Radish.
It was, however, the Wood-fired Diver Scallops win a Pinot Blanc/Orange sauce that made us all wild. It was served with the Native Flora Pinot Blanc which was the same wine used to cook them as well. Chef Jody has a "food truck" that he can drive around with his own wood-fired oven that is awesome for catering and we enjoyed every bite.
 Next came a wondrous Preserved lemon, shaved fennel, toasted hazelnuts, summer greens salad with Wood fired crostinis with local olive oil and sea salt, which was nice but the amazing Wood fired sweet onion tart & herbed heirloom tomatoes was another true treat from this roving oven and chef. we had moved on to 2010 First Time Pinot  which was I  I chose  the wood-fired roasted wild Chinook salmon  w/corn suckatash, although chicken was an option and we enjoyed more Pinots, this time called JAGUAR 2010 and later I recall, the unreleased 2012. We even had a Riesling that had not yet even been named and could not be sold!
Dessert was a wonderful Chocolate, hazelnut, red wine and chevre torte - warmed in the oven and served with crushed hazelnuts and local honey and while I am not a chocoholic, the goat cheese truly made this dish sublime.
We had more wine, more fun and only left after we made a purchase from this fabulous ne

Monday, July 14, 2014

Newburg's (Oregon) The Painted Lady loads on lovely luscious cuisine (7/12/14)

By now you know we can't resist a tasting menu, and if you hit Oregon's wine country you can not miss the tasting menu only place about , The Painted Lady (www.thepaintedladyrestaurant.com), located in cute old two-storey Victorian home in downtown Newburg.
We liked the simplicity and superb service from everyone from ever, although Ty was our awesome lead server. Within minutes of being served we ordered cocktails and they were fun here with Will having a Blood Orange Cosmo and me trying the tasty refreshing (after another full day of wine tasting in the 90+ heat) Sake One made with Sake One, Domaine Canton, cucumber & Peychaud bitters.
A selection  of treats arrived with fried  chickpeas in tamarind (Will's favorite), Edamame Hummus on a tasty crunchy herby Papadam,  and Potato Samosas with Cucumber Raita there were described as spicy, but not so. I asked if the chef had Indian leanings, and was told it was a worldly menu....
Here the tasting menu at $85 is the only choice, and we even took the Foie Gras add-on as well as the wines accompanying for an additional $65. It was a wonderful journey.
 
The Amuse was a simple Hamachi Crudo wrapped around Watercress Salad with tiny melon spheres, cucumber mint puree, a slice of grapefruit and puffed rice along with locally grown on the coast wasabi (which was much more like fresh horseradish). The flavors were wondrous and the rice crunch was nice. Chartogne-Taillet, Cuvee Ste. Anne Champagne was a yeasty one with lots of bubbles made from both chardonnay and pinot noir and getting 3 years in the bottle.
 
My favorite dish of the evening was the Miso Custard with Dungeness Crab, Enoki & Beech Mushrooms, Nori, Edamame, and Pickled Beet in Dashi Broth. It is an ingenious creation, that could only be improved upon with Maryland crab; but more on that later. The 2013 Trisaetum Ribbon Ridge Dry Riesling was fine for me, but slightly off dry for Will and replaced with a drier German version. I am loving these wines even more having driven over Ribbon Ridge that morning and seeing all the grapes I know and love.
 
Chevre filled Spinach Agnolotti were next with English Peas & Coulis, Tendrils, Pamesan Reggino and generous shavings of Italian black truffle. The 2010 Evening Land "Mad Hatter" Chardonnay gets one year in new and old oak barrels, but has overtones of grapefruit for Will and limestone for me. The winery is from South Willamette near Salem, but Sonoma-based....
 
Foie Gras was a torchon with sea salt and gooseberries in a bacon balsamic reduction along with a seared version in maple demi-glace on brioche with roasted fig, blueberry and chervil. WOW. The Willakenzie Late Harvest Pinot Gris 2009 that I wanted to try from Yamhill-Carlton didn't even compare with the awesome 1986 Chateau Laferey-Perugeuy (I can never spell this amazing Sauternes)!
 
The next two courses had choices, so we each ordered one and split them making even more courses for our journey. The Heirloom Tomatoes came with house made curds, Polenta Fries, Black Garlic, Pine Nuts and Basil Seeds & Coulis. The 2020 De Ponte Dundee Hills Pinot Noir had balanced acidity and plenty of fruit for both of the dishes. The winner here was the Golden Oregon Halibut on butternut squash puree with hazelnut crumble, roasted cauliflower and carrots, Pinot Gastrique and house made bacon. my oh my.
This came with pretzel bread-my oh my.
 
The main course of Slow Roasted Wild Chinook Salmon with Romesco Puree, Braised Leeks, Cauliflower CousCous, Golden Raisins & Mostarda explains why we shun salmon in the east and gobble it up in the Pacific NW. It was paired with a superb Burgundy Pinot 2011 Catherine and Claude Marechal Savigny Les Baunes, Vieilles Vignes which was nice, but I was just wishing for more Oregon Pinot. More on that later, too. Halfway through the main course, Will & I switched plates and wines to the Beef Two Ways:Dry Aged pan seared NY Steak & Braised & Glazed Short Ribs on potato puree with caramelized onion and sunchoke puree. There was also a small tiny sous vide potato sphere (which honestly tasted boiled to me) and a pretty crisp ferris wheel like giant round potato crisp. It was paired perfectly with a slightly too young, but well decanted 2009 Renato Ratti Marcensasco Barolo which I would love to revisit in 5 years!
The Artisan Cheese dish was Belgian Sainte Savoie raw cow with Dijon Mustard & Crouton, Red Pepper Marmalade and Cucumber Julienne which was nice and again, I yearned for the local superb cheeses in multiples :-))
Oregon Blueberry Sorbet (or was it Granita as on the menu) was a super palate cleanser with Lemongrass Tapioca!
Again there was a choice for desserts, but before this the chef was making the rounds and in chatting with Chef/Owner Allen Routt we indeed discovered many single degrees of separation. Before coming to Oregon he hailed from Virginia and had a stint at The Inn at Little Washington, but even closer to home opened Jean-Louis Palladin's Pesce in Dupont Circle decades ago, where I must have met him for sure! He explained to us that his mantra was to use international cuisine with true ingredients from that place, hence the truffles form Italy for the pasta, cheese from France and wines from all over to give a true international flavor to the menu. I asked why then did he not use Maryland Crab in his amazing Miso Custard, and he said that he would be burned for heresy in Oregon if he did that :-)).
He's a fine chef and runs a top notch establishment, so I'll indulge him the Dungeness.
Will chose the Graham Cracker Hot Donut Holes with Milk Chocolate Semifreddo, Latte Jelly, Milk Granita and grated Espresso which were yummy, but I was glad I went with the much lighter and totally Local Cherries(I think they were Ranier-which were pitted yet still on their stem!), Cherry Ice Cream, Almond Cake, Almond Brittle and Candied Rose Hips and Rose Hip Puree.
The wine was a Bodegas Cesar Florido Moscatel Pasas which was cloyingly sweet sherry and while a wonderful after-dinner drink perhaps a bit too sweet along with the desserts. Just my opinion.
Mignardises arrived in the form of Salted Caramels, Chocolate/Peanut Butter/Pretzel Squares, Earl Grey Macaroons with Chocolate filling and Pinot Gelees. They were all superb and sent us home oh so happy...

The Joel Palmer House gets high marks espeically for mushrooms in Dayton, Oregon (7-11-14)

We arrived the next evening at our amazing B&B in the Willamette Valley and fell in love all over again, as we had not been here in almost 14 years. Two wine tastings and a long drive from the south filled our day of discovery, but we had no clue what was in store for us in one of Oregon's newest and most highly acclaimed dining spots.
We keep saying how nice the people are in Oregon and it's really an understatement; they are downright warm and loving.
Our arrival at this historic house (built in 1857 by pioneer Joel Palmer) turned restaurant in 1996 was odd as the place was heaving and we could not seem to find anyone running the desk. It was short-lived, although their approach to multi-server serving (is that the term) often leaves a wine glass unfilled or something lacking. While the service is attentive and friendly, we just wanted to have our glass filled or something simple like that. That said, we chose the blow your mind Mushroom Madness Tasting Menu for $80 (when you read on you will think, how can they do this for $80?)
We ordered from Paul, who seemed to disappear halfway through the meal, but Andrea the sommelier was always at hand to help. They don't do wine pairings but she suggested two local Pinot Noirs which she felt would truly complete the mushrooms and flavors of the menu:
Joel Palmer House 2008 Cuvee is made by Mark Huff and comes from his Stag Hollow Vineyard in the nearby Yamhill-Carlton AVA. I love the fact that everyone in the Valley (and virtually every tasting room) uses quality Riedel Pinot Noir glasses as well. The wine was superb and paired perfectly with the first courses. The second Pinot was Ken Wright, one of our favorite winemakers, and here we had the 2012 Abbott Claim Vineyard also from Yamhill-Carlton. Andrea decanted the wine for over an hour, which was a smart move, as it is so young and quite big.
The meal began with an amuse trio of Carrot tartare with pickled black trumpet mushroom, Beet Tartare with Truffle Oil (made in house from Oregon truffles, which we purchased to bring back home) & Rosemary, and a divine orgasmic Mushroom Risotto called Jack's (named for the chef's father who opened the restaurant) Wild Mushroom Risotto and truly memorable due the foraged by hand mushrooms (the chef and family and friends do this for all their mushrooms) with Oregon White Truffle Oil and Romano style goat cheese. What a change from the previous night's mediocre block of rice.
The first course on the menu was Joe's (named for the chef's ancestor who opened the first of a long line of dining spots in Reading, PA in 1916!). Today the soup was a duo, with a mushroom blend soup with creme fraiche that was truly awesome as well as a Matsutake Chowder that was cream based with toasted sesame. Keep in mind the earthy dishes are being enjoyed with the earthy Pinots!
 
Foie Gras  was a poached version with Quince Glaze, Candy Cap Caramelized Onions...we were very happy and a glass of Arbor Brook 2011 Late Harvest Semillon (made with Washington grapes in Oregon) was a nice foil.
 
Heidi's (named for the chef's mother) Three Mushroom tart is a superb creation with porcini, portabella and suillus mushrooms with a sprinkling of white truffle powder on the plate for flavor; I may never be able to eat another mushroom quiche again after this revelation.
 
The restaurant was emptying, we were slowing down, and the super moon was rising outside our window; it was a perfect meal and evening.
 
We were treated to an extra course of DUO of GAZPACHO with one being Cucumber Lemon Balm  and the other Tomato Pickled Ginger, which came in the same bowl and after enjoying severally, we could swirl them together for a third version! YUM.
 
Sturgeon here is treated with great care and lots of flavor with a Cayenne Aioli, Quinoa and Wild Mushroom Duxelles. My notes are unclear, but there seems to have been broccoli, bread crumbs and poppyseeds as well.
 
The main meat course was a Filet Mignon with Porcini, demi-glace, pureed Rusett potatoes, asparagus and more of that oh so wild Oregon white truffle oil (I can't wait to try my bottle at home this week).
The filet can come with extra foie gras for a supplement, but we were nearing full as Chef Christopher Czarnecki made the rounds and we told him how spectacular the entire meal had been.
We were now left with servers Gretchen & Jill who delivered "Into the Woods" a forest inspired tasting of desserts:
Blackberry Tapioca
5 Spice Vanilla Bread Pudding
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Muddles Sorrel & hazelnut Crisp
Candied Rhubarb
Frozen Grand Marnier Souffle with Candy Cap Mushroom Whipped Cream
Warm Honey Apple Clafoutis with Brandy Caramel
 
I loved it all and we were thrilled when Chef Christopher returned to close the place down as we were the only ones left. But before this he took us on a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar really making our day and making feel right back at home in the Willamette Valley wine country, even after being gone for 14 years.
 
 

Ashland Orgeon's Alchemy deserves attention(7-10-14)

From Crater Lake we headed east over the mountains and down into Oregon's most exciting new wine country in the south of the state along the I-5 corridor in Ashland/Medford and points north. As we were staying at the Winchester Inn while attending the wonderful Oregon Shakespeare Festival, we decided to try their highly rated restaurant Alchemy (www.alchemyashland.com) which was a total treat.
 
Our server Hallie spoke to us about her love of wine and had hopes to own a vineyard one day and was most kind in offering tastes from the wine list. We loved many of the areas Viogniers, so we tried the 2013 Trium Viognier which just didn't do much for us. We returned to our favorite local winery (which we had discovered the first night in Oregon at Andina in Portland) and adored the Quady North 2012 Steelhead Run Viognier from the Applegate Valley. We visited the winery earlier that day in adorable Jacksonville and fell in love with their tasting room manager Davis, who poured everything he could find for us (we left with two cases and a new wine club membership---as I write this 4 days later, we have just shipped back close to 20 cases we purchased and I can't even add up the new wine club memberships we have!). The wine was awesome, the plain French bread with a nice salted herb butter was unremarkable.
The day we had just completed included three wineries, a farmer's market and the most awesome of cheesemakers in all of Oregon and perhaps the entire US of A, Rogue Creamery. As soon as I saw the menu starter of Stuffed Endive with Pickled Garlic Beets, Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue, Honey Tarragon & Shallot Vinaigrette, which also had sunflower seeds and micro greens, I was in love. Will, forsaking our hometown, ordered the Dungeness Crab Salad with Baby Arugula, Orange Supreme, Garlic Lemon Aioli, Sunchoke Chips and Hazelnut Oil which was a wonderful treatment of so many local Oregon ingredients. We love the fact that there is so much amazing local farm fresh stuff here that appears on every menu. The crab was actually quite wonderful,  but we still prefer Maryland Blues.
We moved onto another wonderful Oregon wine on Hallie's recommendation, which we have not had for some time, 2010 Cristom Vineyards "Mt Jefferson Cuvee" from the Willamette Valley (where we were heading the next day). This wine's name was also important in that our main reason for coming to Oregon was for my cousin's wedding the previous weekend, which was indeed held at the foot of Mt. Jefferson!
The wine is rich and creamy and truly an ideal Pinot Noir from Oregon and went magnificently with both varied main courses:
Will had the Trio of Diver Scallops which were seared and given various treatments.
Anaheim Chili Corn Relish, Heirloom Tomato, Sherry Bacon Vinaigrette, Corn Puree, Grilled Leeks and a Kaffir Lime Risotto. It was a superb dish marred only by the fact that the risotto was like a crunchy block of rice; perhaps the chef needs to start with some basic pasta training.
They got my Stuffed Quail perfect with a light stuffing of rabbit sausage with Italian black plums and a superb Purple Haze Goat Cheese Polenta along with Fig Marsala reduction, Grilled Asparagus and Pea Tendrils. I was one happy camper.
 
We decided to be adventurous with our dessert wine choice and went for a local 2009 Abacela Port, which really needs work. We had tasted several Petite Sirah local ports and we felt they just were not quite right in general; this was okay, but no prize.
Layered Chocolate Cake of chocolate sponge, chocolate mousse all wrapped in a Chocolate Ganache shell with pecan brittle, salted Caramel sauce, Orange marmalade gelee and whipped cream was okay, but just a bit too much for my palate.
We need to learn to stick to the amazing fresh local Oregon berry desserts.
 
We climbed the two flights back to our room, packed and headed off to bed, knowing that this is a region we must return to..and sooner than later.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crater Lake Lodge is looking good for great dining in the wilderness of Oregon(7-7,8-14)

Our next two nights were spent at the only half decent hotel within the Crater Lake National Parks boundary. We had an awesome view of the lake from our room, but the highlight of the Crater Lake Lodge was the fantastic food we had both nights in the dining room. The first night our server Jeff explained this job was a prelude to his moving to the Arctic shores of Alaska this fall to live with natives. We listened to his suggestions and started with an Eola Hills Pinot Gris which was nice and dry with a hint of effervescence which is bottled for the lodge as Crater Lake Estate Private Label. Will had the Duck Spring Rolls with Oregon mushrooms, vegetables and citrus/chili vinaigrette which he declared nice, but a bit to doughy on the roll. My Cruz Bay Mussels Meuniere with white wine, shallots, garlic and sourdough garlic bread toast slices to dip were a welcome treat so far from the ocean as was my main course of Roasted Pacific Halibut with Steamed Kale, Oregon wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes and veggies. Will went the way of the elk for the second night and had Elk Chops with huckleberry walnut glaze, wild rice and veggies. Our wine was a Spangler Cabernet Franc 2010 from Roseburg which got us even more excited about our upcoming stay in the southern Oregon wine country, one of the newest wine regions around.
For dessert Will went for the Wild Oregon Blueberry Bread Pudding with Bourbon Crème Anglaise (OMG) and I enjoyed the cheese plate with 3 cheeses and apples, strawberries, grapes and watermelon. I liked the Tillamook Cheddar, loved the Renypoint Brie and again fell in love with my Rogue Creamery Blue.

The next day on a boat in the deepest lake in the USA we met two guys from DC who joined us for dinner that night; we are now new friends, and what a great way to make friends than over drinks and dinner, especially overlooking one of the most magnificent sights on earth.

I started with CRABCake that night fearing the Dungeness, but actually loving the dish with red and yellow pepper sauces. Our server Eduardo was not as attentive as Jeff the night before, but did a good job; you must remember this is peak season and the dining rooms goes full steam from 5-10pm every night.
We had started with martinis on the terrace over the lake (yes Crater Lake Vodka with Olives--I had brought some blue cheese stuffed ones from a day before in the market!) and then enjoyed the rest of our red wine from the night before with our main courses.For a white we enjoyed, but won't rave about the Crater Lake Estate Private Label Chardonny also from Eola Hills. It was fine with the crab and Will adored my mussels from the night before.
The main course for three of us was the amazingly huge 1/2 Northwest Style Citrus Duck which was oven baked to perfection and basted with citrus-chili glaze and served with wild rice & veggies.
One of our new found friends opted for the Halibut on my recommendation and loved it as well.
For dessert we split a Cheesecake with Caramel Drizzle four ways and rolled off to bed as the skies darkened and that super moon started to appear over the lake.

Bend Oregon offers up some superb cuisine at Chanterelle in Auberge at Pronghorn (7-6-14)

After my cousin's wedding in the Oregon high desert we headed even further south into the heart of the desert to the wonderful city of Bend. Recently the Pronghorn golf resort was purchased by Auberge Resorts which will be opening a luxury hotel there in 2015. For now they have several restaurants for dinner, but all have the same menu. We were not aware of this but happy we chose Chanterelle for fine dining as the views over the desert sunset were spectacular, and the temperature inside was 70, while outside it hovered at 97.
Chef Kevin Linde was off that night, but his team was superb. I have sadly misplaced my dining notes so must rely on memory and their website. I did have an awesome Crater Lake Vodka Martini with olives stuffed with blue cheese from the famous Rogue Creamery (which we visited later on the trip and fell in love with). Deviled Eggs came in a trio of Oregon Truffle, Traditional with Caviar, and Peppered Bacon. They were all great but the truffle was quite mild for our mushroom loving taste.
For our main course we both had the Porcini Dusted Elk Tenderloin with Confit Fingerling potatoes, Creamed Swiss Chard, Black Truffle and Foraged Mushroom Demi-Glace...it was amazing and the wine they suggested was an intense red blend called Tyrus Evan Ciel du Cheval 2007 Claret made from 52% Cab/31%Merlot/10%Cab Franc and 7% Petit Verdot from Red Mountain in SE Washington State, but bottled in Oregon.
Sadly our recollection ends there, but we adored dinner much more than the resort as the internet was not working and we were quite frazzled being in the desert with no connections!

2nd posting on same
 
Okay-I found my notes and must apologize....
We actually started with a white wine which manager Ben also suggested, Harper-Voit "Sur Lie" Pinot Blanc 2013 from the Chehalem Mountains of the Willamette Valley which was a huge winner with us both.
Sammie & Shelby gave superb service all evening which was a blessing after our frazzled nerves from the lack of internet!
There was unexciting plain bread and focaccia that was awesome with a dipping oil with Malden sea salt, lemon zest and rosemary.
The knives for the Elk were Laguiole and the crystal was Riedel all the better for a good impression.
My starter was the Scallop Ceviche with a creamy Tarragon-Lemon Mignonette, Serrano chili, salted watermelon and tortilla crisps that was so refreshing in the intense heat.
Will opted for the Marionberry Tart with Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert  and I tasted. It was a memorable event, but I couldn't remember everything a week later!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Portland's BEAST is perfect for a feast (7-3-14)

Our final night in Portland was at a place we had heard raves about, and they were not exaggerated! BEAST (www.beastpdx.com) is about 10-15 minutes from downtown in a quiet neighborhood with some other cool dining places nearby. The restaurant is unassuming with slab floors and two large communal tables, but Will would have none of that, so he asked if we could have our own table; the promptly seated us at a large prep table next to the open kitchen, the whole place is one giant room with total seating for about 25 folks. We had fab views of the whole prep and met Chef Alix (Alex) who with her all-female team explained a lot to us and chatted as well about all the foods and more. Owner/Chef Naomi Pomeroy who has earned accolades across the USA had the night off!
The walls have some sayings such as "unlesh the beast" and a sketch of a pig as well as quotes from the likes of Julia Child. It's not a comfy place for sure, but then every night from Wednesday thru Saturday they fit in two seatings at 6pm and 830pm at a fix price menu of $75 ($35 extra for wine pairings-half glass pours per course) so  you really don't have a ton of time to settle in. The music was soft, but digital and did not complement the food or the mood.

White Bean and Summer Vegetable Soup with Cherry Tomato Puree, Crispy Bread Crumbs, Basil Mousse, Alium Blossoms and Micro Thai Basil was an amazing start. The chilled soup was refreshing and loaded with tons of different flavors in each bite. The crispy bread and alium blossoms were crunchy for fun. The Riedel crystal held a perfectly paired Schloss Gobelsburg 2013 Rose from Kamptal, Austria(of Zweigelt & Sankt Laurent) that we begged for more of.

Next came a Charcuterie Plate that was so diverse and awesome, it was impossible to decide where to start and end:
Steak Tartare with Quail Egg on Toast
Crispy Fried Tails & Trotters(that's the purveyor) Pork Rillettes was deep fried and sat atop a sublime aioli
Chicken Liver Mousse was on a tasty Leaf Lard Cracker and could be one of the best chicken livers ever.
Smoked Salmon Rillettes was the only non-meat entry and a Smoked Pork Sausage was great with a grain mustard and cornichon.
Pickled Romescu Cauliflower and Beet were there as was a light herb salad of parsley, fennel, shaved radish and more to cleanse the palate between the various options.
We were told to save the Foie Grad BonBon on Peanut Shortbread with Sauternes Gelee for last and it was an amazing pop in the mouth for sure.
The Malat Pinot Blanc 2012 from Wachau, Austria was our least favorite wine since it had a slight effervescence.

A palate cleanser of Cucumber-Elderberry Sorbet was one of the best ever.

Rack of Cattail Creek Lamb (about 2 hours away) was cooked just past rare and came with Whipped Potatoes, Summer Chanterelles (I wanted more) and a blow-your-mind Sour Cherry Confiture with mustard seed and garlic that I want to try and re-create. Garlic-Chive Oil finished the dish as well as some Agretti, a succulent frond similar to fennel, but not with much flavor. A wonderful K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah 2012 came from just across the river in Columbia Valley, Washington.

The most inventive dish was the Fava Bean & English Pea Crème Fraiche Tartelette from pastry Chef Ellen who served this over a creamy Nigella Seed Vinaigrette with Spicy Cress(I never heard of Nigella before). Surrounding the tart were roasted and pickled onions as well as Batchelor Buttons for some blue color. Eric Chevalier Fie Gris (a clone of Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire was a novel and perfect pairing yet again.

Cheese from Steve at Cheese Bar was awesome and came with Mesquite Grilled Apricot, Candied Hazelnuts, Local Honey and amazing Rosemary (salted) crackers that Chef Ellen gave us a small container of as we left (we told her she should sell them!). Brie du Pommier from Normandy was creamy, but we fell in love with the Neal's Yard Durrus(cow) from the UK as it was a powerful and fragrant creamy cheese.
La Gruta del Sol Tres Leches is a Spanish mix of cow/goat/sheep(hence tres leches) which is hard and akin to parmesan
Beecher's FlagSheep is a nice local mild raw cow/sheep but the winner was the creamy
Monte Enebro Spanish goat rimmed with ash.
The wine was a Hexamer Riesling Quarzit 2011 which had a slight fizz and did indeed reek of the quartz rock it is grown in.

Buckwheat Crepe came with a divine Frozen Lemon Curd, Tayberries and Tayberry Puree, Candied Orange Zest and Vanilla Bean rich intense Crème Fraiche. Boy did we adore this treat served with a Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2011 Sauternes which had lots of acidity and will definitely be worth coming back to in 5 or 10 years..

The only thing we did not like all night were the Passionfruit-Vanilla Macarons as they had a nit too much crunch for our palate.
We left happy and satisfied for sure and adored this special experience at Beast, for a superb feast on our last night in the city...onto the countryside...



 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Portland's CABEZON is cute and the cuisine is cooking (7-2-14)

For our second night in Portland, we chose a place that has gotten rave reviews for its superb seafood, and we asked a friend of ours, who owns one of Oregon's top wineries to join us. It was a very memorable evening. for the four of us from start to finish.
CABEZON (www.cabezonrestaurant.com) is about 10 minutes from downtown with no traffic in the Hollywood neighborhood; it is unassuming and would probably go unnoticed by most. We were greeted by owner Jackie upon arrival and then had the tough decisions to make when we saw the menus. Drinks here are fun and I loved my Crater Lake Oregon-made vodka martini with Shaft's Bleu cheese stuffed olives that were divine.
Our starters were tasty Chive BLINIS with TROUT Caviar & Crème Fraiche, a huge ROMAINE & Radicchio CAESAR Salad with Garlic Croutons & GRan Padano and the easy winner
SAVORY CLAMS with Borlotti BEANS, Spanish CHORIZO, fries and Rouille. This is a huge dish and must be shared or could be a main course. The sauce at the bottom is thick and rich from the beans and the fries and rouille that top the dish are the icing on the tasty little clams. It's a brilliant creation.

Main courses were all excellent from the Local LING COD with fava bean succotash, cauliflower, Walla Walla Onion Rings and creamy Dill Sauce. The fish was tender, the veggies local and the amazing sweet and salty onion rings have to be the best on earth.
Cioppino with white gulf Shrimp, local fish, Dungeness crab, clams, mussels and calamari has everything for everyone
and my Pan roasted troll KING SALMON with grilled Chicories, beets, snow peas and pea-pistachio sauce was an amazingly flavorful local Oregon salmon and the sauce was a gorgeous treat with local fresh peas.

Maker's Mark whiskey Ice Cream Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce & Candied Hazelnuts is a great dessert for whiskey/profiterole lovers and the crunchy nuts are a treat. Callebaut Belgian Chocolate Pot de Crème is properly chocolatey and creamy and rich.
A bottle of Elio Perrone Moscato d'Asti "Sourgal" 2012 was a nice palate cleanser before we headed home from a wonderful evening with old friends and superb food.
Janessa our server was also great; sweet, considerate, and always there with anything we needed....
I have to mention the adorable glass jellyfish light fixtures at the bar (very Chihouly) and the sink in the WC which is hammered metal with cool fish design.
Cabezon, by the way, is a Pacific coastal predatory Scorpion fish-or-Spanish for "stubborn & bullheaded," which this place definitely is NOT!

when you're off to Oregon,always partake in ANDINA in Portland (7-1-14)

We started our 2 week tour of Oregon here in Portland and ANDINA was an excellent choice (www.andinarestaurant.com) which specializes in Nuevo Peruvian cuisine.
We hiked the mile to the restaurant in the 99 degree heat and welcomed lots of cold water on arrival as well as a bottle of amazing QUADY NORTH Viognier 2011 "Steel Ox" named for the two vineyards Steelhead Run and Ox Blocks the grapes come from in southern Oregon. We adored this stone fruit aroma, dry peach flavor and acidity and added the winery to our upcoming stops! Our server Robert guided us thru the large menu and we chose one ceviche and 5 small plates. The tapas plates all come in small, medium and large so you can adjust for larger groups which is great.
Bread arrived with three salsas:
De mani-made of peanuts, recoto chilis and a bit of cream cheese which was slightly rich, but also spicy
Maracuja-passion fruit with yellow Peruvian chilis which was sweet and spicy
Verde-garlic and jalapenos which was very spicy.
We liked them all and started to mix them together to create new ones!
Our ceviche was the DE PESCADO "5 Elementos" with Blue Marlin from Hawaii, lime, cilantro, onion and chili (the 5 elements) in leche de tigre a white ginger,garlic, cilantro infused sauce that was superb.
PIMENTO PIQUILLO RELLENO were sweet piquillo peppers stuffed with quinoa, cheese and Serrano ham and quite nice
ANTICUCHO de CORAZON were marinated beef heart kebobs where the meat was flattened and grilled with a spicy salsa de recoto (that super chili) that were novel, tasty and creative
PICADILLO ACEBICHADO is a Filet mignon tartare with capers, olive, cilantro and quail egg. It comes with crunch corn nuts or canchas and a slab of sweet potato; it was nice, but wins no prize for Peruvian inventiveness.
One of our favorites was the MUSCIAME de ATUN-thin cured tuna loin with chimichurri and an avocado-tomato majado which is like a mousse salad. The tuna was awesome and this was the prize winner.
We had moved on to a superb BELLE PENTE 2011 Estate Vineyard from Yamhill-Carlton where we will spend much of our time visiting wineries and this is on the list if we have time.
Robert brought out a complimentary dish of SCALLOP SASHIMI (not on the menu) with Dragonfruit/Papaya/Mango salsa with Peruvian chilis, ricoto chili and tamarind that was a fine treat as well.
We were stuffed and tired from the long trip so we split two scoops of LUCUMA Ice Cream which is a Peruvian fruit but tastes more like butterscotch with an earthy chalkiness to it. It was refreshing and ideal as we headed home after our first way too hot day, but cool dinner in Portland.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

do try TASTE Gastropub in Olney, MD. if you happen to be out that way (6-28-14)

lney, MD about 20 miles north of DC is not a destination in itself, but it is indeed a nice suburban community with one of the best local theaters. Last night prior to attending a brilliant
performance of the musical AVENUE Q we chose to dine at TASTE GASTROPUB near the Olney Theater(http://www.tastegastropub.com/). It's a simple place with unremarkable décor, but
the service we received from Tatiana was superb and much of the food was quite good.
Malpeque and Cape Cod Oysters were on the half shell, so we gobbled a 1/2 dozen of those and enjoyed a basic OYSTER BAY 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a great wine for most of the excellent fish dishes they offer.
Will headed for the AHI TUNA TARTARE with Ginger, Chili, White Soy and sadly it was a very small portion with SIX, yes SIX huge slices of focaccia; I guess they were trying to make up for the extremely small portion. On the other hand my
Shaved American KOBE (Beef) SALAD was huge and while not overdosed with the tender beef it packed a punch from jalapenos and was loaded with greens, scallions, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, some peanuts a fabulous fennel slaw, carrots, and tasty dressing with some fried onions; it was a superb combo and quite filling.
I ordered the special of Pan Seared HALIBUT with Foie Gras (although I tasted it, there was no apparent meat in the dish). Oyster/Horseradish Emulsion, a super crunchy crust and Zucchini, Carrots and Arugula underneath. It was an superb dish and I felt awful when Will's fish arrived as it was the whole BRANZINO with Roasted Potatoes, and Arugula & Orange Gremolata. He looked at the head and begged Tatiana to fillet it, which she graciously did; they really need to say it's a whole fish on the menu. It was tasty, but still had some bones, and while a mayo dip was on the side, a simple squeeze of fresh lemon was all the superb fish needed. BRUSSELS SPROUTS are a great side here which come with bacon and are beautifully cooked as well.
Will & I were both looking at the RHUBARB PIE with Strawberry Salad and Violet Sorbet, so we decided to split that telling Tatiana we had not had rhubarb in ages. She recommended the peach cobbler, but we did not listen-DUMB US!
The pie had very little fruit filling and the strawberry salad was barely one forkful, while the sorbet was nice, it was the dud dessert for sure. The French Press coffee however is sublime and woke us up for a superb performance at the nearby theater.
I wouldn't rush back to Taste, especially since it's almost 40 minutes from our fome, but I would go again pre or post-Olney Theater!


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