Friday, August 31, 2012

News bulletin:Chef Cesare Lanfranconi lands at LIA's in Chevy Chase, MD (8-30-12)

The other day some friends rang us up and asked if we would like to meet them at LIA's in Chevy Chase ( just outside the DC line off Wisconsin Ave. We agreed, as it's been some time since our last visit there and we also wanted to see our friends!

It was quite busy outside on the patio, but inside it was quieter and more akin to my style of dining. I am well aware that Lia's has always produced good pasta, but our friend's son, the same age as Samuel, would not stop raving about their Spaghetti & Meatballs from the second we arrived. He gobbled up his order with no restrain, as Samuel did his hamburger (we had had pasta the night before at home, so he was not allowed to indulge again!).

The kid's menu pasta is a deal and comes with two side dishes amongst a large choice of veggies, fruits and more.

I ordered the Red Pepper Soup with Crab cake Special to start and Will chose the Burratta with Focaccia and Lemon Truffle Arugula. We sipped a very intense grapefruit/citrus FIRE ROAD Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand and settled in. Will's starter arrived and I was surprised that the "focaccia" was a huge pizza-like piece with the salad and Burratta inside it. It's a carb-intense dish and if you seek the cheese, you might wish to choose the other option from the Cheese Menu of Burratta alone.

All of a sudden Chef Geoff Tracy himself popped out and we said a friendly hello and introduced our friends. He was busy, but we chatted a bit and discovered he is opening in Rockville soon (I probably knew this, but my mind can't retain everything!)

We waited some time, and before I knew it the main courses had arrived. No sign of my soup? I asked the guy who delivered the entrees (he was not our waiter Joshua) and he sent the manager over who apologized profusely. At this point, I simply told them to forget it and please send a bottle of MONFERATTO ROSSO, "Mompertone" 2007 from Prunotto in Piemonte as quickly as possible to enjoy with our main courses, which were ALL superb:

Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Salad was piled high with greens and sported a twist with an eggplant tapenade.

Branzino Balsamico came with sauteed spinach, pine nuts, raisins and a tasty reduced balsamic glaze.

My superb Bacon Wrapped QUAIL was accompanied by a super Saffron Risotto Cake, more of that yummy sauteed Baby Spinach and Crispy Shallots.

Our wine finally arrived as I was 80% done with my food and even the delay on the refills for the boys' lemonade was odd. We thought that the outside may have been so busy, things were getting a bit delayed.

Since I missed my starter, I decided some cheese was in order and Will wanted dessert. He chose the excellent NUTELLA Chocolate Tart with macadamia Nuts, Roasted White Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream and Fried Banana (Plantain). I asked Joshua if there was a cheese plate and was told only each cheese by itself. There is a wide selection of cheeses, and I wanted 3 or 4, but the price point and size of a single order made this silly and overindulgent. I chose two which came with some crisp bread and fig puree:

GRAYSON from Meadow Creek in Virginia which was nice, but not as exciting as some of the other Graysons I have had from other producers; it lacked taste and excitement and pungency.

On the other hand the TRUFFLE TREMOR that Joshua suggested was a California Goat that oozed flavor and was aging beautifully as the edges were soft and slightly runny under the light rind-YUM YUM.

It was perfect with the remains of the amazing Prunotto, a superb well known winemaker, but this is the first time I have ever had the Mompertone!

Seconds later we were surprised to have a plate "sent from the kitchen with the chef's compliments" placed before us. It was an odd choice at the end of the meal being crispy sublime Deep Fried Zucchini Flowers. We tried them to our delight, but were full by now. Within a minute a figure well known to us for decades popped out and I was shocked to see Chef Cesare Lanfranconi who is oh so well known in the Italian cucina circuit here in DC. He had left town, apparently for the Bahamas for a year or so, and I thought he had never returned. Well, he is back, and what a pleasure to have him back in DC; now we have to return to Lia's, though I hope they will get my whole order filled next time and maybe they will come up with a multi-cheese platter option for those of use who like tastes :-)).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Georgetown's BANDOLERO boasts tasty tapas and too much noise! (8-28-12)

We had planned to visit Mike Isabella's new Georgetown hotspot just 2 miles from our house several weeks ago and I was quite shocked to see Tom Sietsema's scathing review in Sunday's Washington Post!

He was kind to most of the food but called the place a black dungeon sounding like a power mower.

Well, he was truly unkind in the decor description. The bar is kind of cute with Georgia O'Keefe cow skulls and matching skull storage bottles for some of the liquor, but isn't the black hole he describes. The tables are dark wood and the decor is indeed dark, but the lighting is fine and reading is not a pain, as it can be in some places.

On the other hand, as Mr. Sietsema says, talking is nary impossible. We arrived for an early dinner at 6:30pm and the place was reasonably quiet, so we could easily hear our delightful server, Holly's, spiel. Within an hour the place was heaving and we declared, "The Georgetown crowd has taken over the city!" There are too many noisy places these days, and this might be the worst. Add the cackling ladies at the next table with high voices and we were unable to converse after 830pm.

That said, we did listen to Mr. Sietsema's suggestions and even more to Holly, who is truly a food fanatic and knows her dining 'round the world quite well!

The drinks here are fun and I started with the CASA EN FUEGO Margarita made from habanero infused tequila, Patron Citronage, strawberry and lime; cool, but very hot & spicy. Will said he had never had a PISCO SOUR, and declared he really does not like them, although it was very well made with a superb egg white foam and lime.

We moved on and Will tried the ZAMBADA GARCIA Margarita of Cabo Wabo Silver, Patron Citronage, Lime & Fidencio Mezcal Float which was nice, but pricey at $13.00. I loved my EL CAPO with Fidenzio Mezcal, Campari, Carpano Antica and 2 dashes Laphroig, but again at $14.00 it's gone fast and a bit overpriced.

We enjoyed these as we munched the roasted corn nuts (no bread here) and ordered the first salsa called SIKIL PAK. This is a must signature dish here made from pumpkin seed, jalapeno and orange; call it a pumpkin orange tapenade with a twist. It is served with tasty corn chips (you can actually taste the corn!), but last night the chicharones that are supposed to come with it were missing and Holly declared the chef felt they were not up to par that night- a true shame. I asked the guy who brought the dish what "sikil pak" meant and he said it's an ancient Mayan pumpkin seed dip; I pressed for more asking for a literal translation, but he came back empty handed from the kitchen. Smart phones are great as mine told me that "sikil" is pumpkin and " pak" is orange in Mayan, so he was pretty correct, but now all the staff knew the literal translation. Whatever, you do, ORDER THIS!

We ordered each set of dishes as the evening progressed, trying not to overindulge and also not wanting everything to come out fast, so often an issue in these "tapas" type places. First was the TAQUITOS, one of tuna, toasted sesame seeds & sweet potato (which was negligible in the overall taste) and the sublime BLUE CRAB with coconut, red chili & purple potato. These were both imbued with Indonesian sambal, a very spicy condiment that I happen to adore. In the crab taquito it allowed the crab to come through with a huge explosion followed by a nice spice--divine!

We finished our drinks and moved on to a bottle of MALBEC 2009 Vista Alba Blend B from Argentina that is 75% Malbec and 25% Cab; it works very well with the spices. We had a quick taste of the wimpy TANNAT (Cata Mayor 2010) from Uruguay and moved on to what Holly suggested; good idea.

We split the TOMATILLO & AVOCADO GAZPACHO which had Mezcal marinated watermelon and orange with an overal salty, sweet and tart taste that vied at our mouths and really was a pleasure.

The soft tortilla type TACOS are also great here and come with many fillings. The Roasted ASPARAGUS with Spinach & Beet Salsa is a nice veggie option but needs something more to bind it like an aioli or spicy mayo; just a tad would have done the trick. The SKIRT STEAK with refried beans, avocado, salsa (with a kick) & crsipy onions was a juicy treat and full of all the flavors we expected.

The EMPANADA here is another veggie treat made with corn, potato, jack cheese & poblano escabche. The cheese gives it a slight richness and the marinated peppers are in a sauce on the plate to dip and fork up. The crust is the hit here and the dough is flaky and tender; lots of love in this batter!

SOPES are topped with Lamb picadillo, chipotle goat cheese and a slice each of jalapeno and fresco chili. They have a bite, but not intense, only the sopes was a bit hard and very difficult should you decide to split the dish between two people (there are three sopes per portion).

There are several side veggies and we chose the CRAZY CORN which is indeed CRAZY. The Roasted Corn cob (there are three portion about 3 inches long each) is on a stick and encrusted with Corn Nuts and Chile Cheese. Holly suggested we squeeze the lime provided on each cob to (a) keep the crust on and (b) give it a bit more flavor. She was oh so right and the dish was fun, but next time I might try something else.

Two shot glasses of complimentary Corralejo Anejo Tequila followed and sipped the warm smooth and flavorful liquor. We could not even think of dessert, and headed home more than time we order less for sure. Will there be a next time. I am sure, but perhaps we will wait until a snowstorm hits DC and we know the place will be quieter!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PRINT is proof that's in The INK (NY's newest Hell's Kitchen hot spot-8/24/12)

Our second night in the city was at pre-theater dinner with Samuel and friends, so we tried PRINT in the new INK Hotel ( at 653 11th Avenue @48th St. It's a fun spot with nice decor and lots of windows looking onto 48th Street. It's also only a 10 minute walk from Times Square theaters.

There was corn bread, focaccia, and sourdough as we ordered and sipped on a dry tasty Cesani 2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Appetizers were all quite large and satisfying from a monstrous Quail stuffed Prosciutto (it should read the other way) with Sage, Leek, Potato, Mushroom & Truffle Jus to the smaller Red Snapper Ceviche with Hot Peppers which were not that hot. Shallots, Radish, Olive Oil and Lime-Orange rounded out the sauce, but it was odd to find cooked potatoes in a ceviche as it just seemed like filler and took taste away from the fish.

Grilled Octopus with Potato (they like them here), Olives, Chorizo, Herb Puree & Lemon was one of the big hits for sure and the Local Heirloom Tomato Salad boasted gorgeous fruit with Opal Basil, Feta & Champagne Vinaigrette.

Samuel loved his Grilled Sirloin Steak but thought the Corn Flan was weird. I have to admit it was a bit too sweet and mealy for my taste. Spring Onion, Roasted Carrots these were amazing-purple and orange both), Pea Shoots (spelled Pas shoots on the menu!) and a yummy Bordelaise.

Our mains were all large and tasty from Grilled Red Snapper for me with Choice Littleneck Clams, cranberry Beans, Chanterelles, Basil, Tomato and Coriander in a brothy sauce that was just right and light for me, after the previous night, I needed a rest!

Seared Swordfish came with Smashed Potatoes (present in all dishes but mine--oh yes, Sam got the flan, but would have gladly traded for potatoes), Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes in a Lemon-Caper Sauce.

The chicken breast entree was also huge with more potatoes and the Braised Grass Fed Beef was tender prime meats with mashed potatoes, those great roasted carrots, radish, green beans and a Horseradish Gremolata.

We could not resist our handsome server Joshua (from Memphis, though the accent was lost) who is a tall aspiring actor (well, aren't most servers in NY?) when it came to dessert. He suggested the Roasted Plum in Cognac with Yogurt Parfait, Shortcake, Candied Pistachios, Oatmeal Ice Cream and Butter Maple Snap Crumble; well who could not resist that. Samuel loved his Chocolate Brownie and one of us popped for the Tri-Star Strawberries with Creme Fraiche Chantilly, Shortcake and Tarragon Granita, an interesting combo.

I opted for the cheeses which came with Aronia Berry Compote, a nice hunk (no, not Joshua) of Dark Chocolate Cake and Black Walnut Galettes with Chocolate. The three cheeses were Dante's Sheep from Wisconsin, Cumin Cow from Wisconsin and the winner, Thin Red Line Goat from Vermont.

We left quite full and ready for a night with Samuel at Mamma Mia!

Eleven Madison Park is elegance, magnificence and perfection in delicious dining in NYC (8-23-12)

As if we had not eaten enough during our trip to upstate NY, we had to run up to NY for an event last weekend and I arranged for our third Relais et Chateaux experience

last week at the uber-gourmet ELEVEN MADISON PARK ( where Will and I agree, we had the best meal we have ever eaten in NYC.

We entered the huge high ceilinged hall and at first I worried about noise levels, but we settled in and stared at the interesting menu with 20 words (each a main ingredient) on it.

We had no one real server, here the three Michelin star team work as a whole guaranteeing flawless and seamless service; nothing was missed.

Eleven Madison Park may not get a "29" for food from Zagat, but it does rate 28/28/28 making the decor and service combine to create a level of fine dining one can rarely experience

as a whole elsewhere!

We pondered the menu with its four leaves at the top (one looking a bit like a rearend with an serrate edge!) and were told these are the four leaves that appear in the trees in the park across

the street. There is an option for 4 courses for $125 or a tasting menu of 8 courses for $195. Accompanying wine pairings for all courses are $95 and $125 respectively). well that was a no brainer and

we ordered a glass of champagne each:

Will chose the Ledru Cuvee du Goutte Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru 2007 with huge yeast tones from its aging and vintage and I went with the more brut Bereche et Fils Brut Resevre N/V.

The water is filtered in house and the sparkling was soft and subtle-great for digestion.

Each course shall be noted with an all-CAPS heading which is the ingredient name from the menu.

Amuse #1 -arrived as Nicole brought us a box tied with a ribbon and explained it was a savory take on the traditional Black & White Iced cookie of the past, but here the cookies were more biscuit like with a parmesan

cream filling. The black and white icings being truffle flavored. OK, we were in heaven and from here it just got even better!

Amuse #2 -TOMATO-was a Parmesan Lavosh that came in its own vertical holder. Poured at table from an elaborate pot was Tomato Tea over Lemon Thyme with a "bouquet garni" style tied twig of Raffia (sp?), some type of hay.

The tea was a tasty, salty consomme with lots of tomato flavor that got our palates in a tingly tizz.

Amuse #3 -MACKEREL & SCALLOP-was a paired arrangement wtih Mackerel on Horseradish Chip with Lemon Gel, Mustard Citrus Vinaigrette, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Grated Horseredish and leaves of Lamb's Quarter (a local herb from Brooklyn!) AND

Scallop Chip (think shrimp chip from Chinese restaurant) with Sesame Puree, Sashimi Scallop, Lemon Yuzu Gel, Pickled Daikon and Maki Rainbow Sorrel. This was probably my favorite amuse as the textures were

all so different and melded into one mouthful of flavor explosion.

Amuse #4 -YOGURT & CHICKPEA-(you might wonder when these would end?)-Again a pair of items : Chickpea Panisse which was deep fried (like a kibbe) with yogurt dill and orange AND

a Frozen Greek Yogurt Lollipop with fried lentils and curry. The pops stood upright in a vase filled with lentils to keep them from falling over--INGENIOUS. The yogurt tasted like frozen salted butter

as the curry invaded the yogurt.

Amuse #5 -TROUT ROE-was a Marinated Trout Roe with Dashi, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, pickled Zucchini with Zucchini Bavaroise (think mousse made from heavy cream and gelatin), Watermelon Snow and Yogurt-Yuzu Snow which were

in dried powder form atop.

You might wonder what we were drinking through all these "amuse"-ments, and the fact is that Cedric, the super sommelier, kept filling our champagne glasses; never did we have an empty wine glass, making the experience even better.

For the first course of the tasting menu Cedric asked if we liked beer, so Will volunteered to have the Ithaca "ALPHALPHA" Ale from upstate NY which he said was super yeasty in taste but intensely fruity in the nose. I adored the Patrick Piuze Vaucoupin Chablis Premier Cru

2009 from Burgundy. I should note that each wine was carefully poured in the Riedel Crystal in advance of each course, so we could taste and savor it a bit prior to combining it with the food. Of course, if our glass neared empty, an extra pour was always

seconds away.

#1-CLAM- was an homage to the clambake and a major presentation in itself. A large ironclad bowl full of hot stones came with an hibachi-like grill in the center, an iron teapot atop this. A bowl of Clam Succotash with Seabeans, Corn, Chorizo and Tomato Snow

was presented first along with a piece of Zucchini Bread wrapped in a corn husk "tamale" style. Hot sea water and kelp was poured on the stones which steamed and sizzled and heated the pot atop which contained a divine Corn & Tomato chowder which followed.

We knew if the presentations continued like this we might be here until 3am, but it was FUN with great care and love for the ingredients as well as the show.

Swirl buns (looking like a cinnamon roll) made from Cayuga (where we had just been in Upstate NY) flour were flaky and tasty-think Pillsbury flaky biscuits improved 1000% were served with Goat's milk OR Cow's butter and a small dish of Long Island Seas Salt which was really tasty but not needed.

#2-COUSCOUS-came with smoked tomato, Various leaf herbs(basil, dill, etc), Compressed Watermelon, Greek Yogurt in a mozarella-form ball (Labneh) with dehydrated olive. Again flavors reigned supreme and we marveled nonstop.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2011 from Provence made from Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault was a perfect foil to the acidity from the tomato and watermelon!

#3-FOIE GRAS-I asked Cedric why he chose a Pichler-Kreutzler Gruner Veltliner Loibner Klostersatz from Wachau in Austria for this dish. We have enjoyed sweet wines and even heavy reds with Foie Gras, sometimes a semi-sweet Riesling. He said the blackberry compote

needed something dry, but this was the only place on the entire menu where I disagreed with him. The Foie Gras was superb and marinated in Nepitella (an Italian "mint-oregano" herb) with a blackberry compote, Nepitella Mousse & Blackberry Meringue. Yes, lots going on here and the dish was sublime indeed. Lately many folks have gone off Foie Gras; this would bring anyone back!

We laughed as one of the guys cleared the crumbs from our table and he affectionately called himself the "crumber." Everyone here has a purpose and does their job well, everyone is friendly and indeed we always felt welcome.

#4-CORN-Here was where the wine was a dream come true. We told Cedric that we like Rieslings bone dry and he came through with the Trimbach, Cuvee Frederic Emile 2005 Alsace. Will is not a Riesling lover, although our recent Finger Lakes/Niagara foray has

opened up his taste buds. Well, we both asked for big seconds on this fantastic 7 year old white that drinks like creamy (yet dry) nectar. Roasted & Smoked Corn compromised this plate with roasted Chanterelles, Pickled Chanterelles, Chanterelle Puree a Greek Lime Yogurt with Dried Lime Zest. The menu we have says blueberries (but I don't recall those) and a broth of Lapsong Souchang Tea to bind the dish. As you can imagine this bone dry Reisling was indeed perfect with this miraculous dish.

#5-LOBSTER-I adore lobster and the tail poached in butter was cooked just to rare in a with grilled Avocado, a crust of Amaranth and a hint of mint, but finished with a Lemon Verbena Emulsion. It was one of the best lobster dishes I can remember in decades.

Add to this the Maison Deux Montille, Vireuil MERSAULT 2008 and you have perfection. Indeed, if there were not more, I would have asked for a second portion!

#6-VEAL-came in many forms: Roasted with Summer Beans Violet Mustard & Savory, Sous-Vide Tongue was sublime with the mustard. Sweetbreads were caramlezied and almost candied textured and t was all finished with a Bordelaise & Bone Marrow Sauce.

This dish used so many different aspects of the name, that it could have been five or six dishes! Paired with an earthy (needed the food for sure) Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino 2005 from Tuscany that begged for the heavy ingredients.

Our "crumber" returned this time with an antique iron travel iron that had been heated and proceeded to iron out the creases in our tablecloth; OK, I was impressed, but could not suppress a giggle.

#7-CHEVRE-a tart Domaine aux Moines Roche aux Moines Savennieres 2010 from the Loire was a tart Chenin Blanc that worked with the Meridian Chevre Rainbow Ridge from Bedford Hills, NY just north of NYC.

The soft goat has an ash rind and is aged only several weeks. It was served with green garlic puree, wild Tri-Cities Strawberries, (some of which were pickled) and a Pistachio & Summer Greens Salad. This was a cheese course

to remember, and all from within miles of NYC.

The end was nearing but a pre-dessert was in order as a team approached with a large cart to prepare their version of the EGG CREAM, one of NY's historic drinks. This was an orange version with cocoa nibs & Bronx Seltzer

#8-CHEESECAKE was made from Goat's Milk Cheese with Chamomile & Raspberry with Dehydrated Coconut....need you ask more?

#9-CHOCOLATE...yes they added extras (SURPRISE!) and the Milk Chocolate (we had specifically said we prefer milk to dark chocolate!) & Caramel Ganache came with Apricot Srobet & Foam as well as a crunchy cinnamon-y granola-like

topping with an adorable marshmallow and more of those cocoa nibs. The 1998 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes was 14 years old and should have retained less acidity, but perhaps it was not the best of vintages. It's beautiful rust color

made me yearn for a bit more sweet and less acid, but we still enjoyed our last "wine" as all the mignardises arrived:

First a box of Black & White cookies as a frame for the evening in the same box as the savory ones arrived in the start. They were QUITE sweet and I liked the Raspberry Filling, but they were not a touch on the Truffle ones from the start :-))

Chocolate BonBons, Popcorn & Peanut Brittle were more to my taste showing off the all-American flavors to their best.

We were then invited to see the kitchen, and I was quite shocked (I guess we owe you a big THANK YOU, Brenda?) as they took us in and showed us around. We were placed behind a small raised table and a sous chef approached with a huge vat of liquid nitrogen

and many ingredients only to explain that she would now prepare their take on the "Colony" a gin drink from the early 20th century made popular at the Colony in NYC. It was comprised of gin & cherries, but the twist here was the egg white was infused with gin and frozen into mergingue with the nitrogen. Pop rocks served as the sugar in the drink and the explosion of cold, sweet, gin and cherries in the mouth was a wonderful end to the evening, which in itself was a true explosion of local ingredients, great wines, super service and indeed the very best meal NYC surely has to offer anyone!

Quynn's Attic is quaint and fine for Frederick, MD (8-20-12)

On our way home from the north, we decided to stop in Frederick for

dinner. As we were in shorts and t-shirts, we chose the informal

QUYNN's ATTIC (10 E Patrick in historic


It's an odd old upstairs place with bar, wooden floors and a very

"colonial" feel for sure. The place was empty save for two other

tables, one server and that was it. I assume there was a chef in the

kitchen, and our sweet server, Kelsey, insisted she liked to work

alone on off nights, but sometimes suffered when the table next to us

submitted all kinds of coupons and discounts that were restricted!

Samuel asked for the Chicken Quesadilla and I ordered the starter of

Steamed Mussels which were not so plump P.E.I. mussels with chorizo

and a tasty garlic, white wine cilantro sauce that Samuel adored (he

loved the mussels as well) and mopped up after finishing his

Quesadilla. Will started with the Shredded Duck Tostada that comprised

3 mini-tostadas with black beans, romaine, fire roasted tomato salsa,

duck and a light lemon creme fraiche dab on top. Crunchy, meaty and

delightful for sure.

A bottle of FRENZY Sauvignon Blanc 2011 was a crisp and tasty New

Zealand with citrus, though not too much.

For my main course I had the Confit of DUCK Salad made from Long

Island duck leg, mixed greens, dried cranberries, Gorgonzola and

cranberry vinaigrette. The candied pecans in the description did not

appear. Will chose the Crab Encrusted Filet of ROCKFISH with applewood

bacon, veggie rice pilaf and ginger lime cream that was a tasty and

huge portion. All the entrees here are quite large.

Will could not resist the Cajun BREAD PUDDING and it was superb with

great flavor as Kelsey promised and we rolled home to DC after a 1500

road trip full of fun and flavors.

Monday, August 27, 2012

GLENDORN goes all the way for Relais in Bradford, PA (8-19-12)

If you should happen to be en route from Niagara Falls back to DC, or find yourself about 2+ hours south of Buffalo on the NY/PA line, then STOP at Glendorn, one of the most magnificent, secluded and idyllic spots in the USA.

It is a member of the prestigious Relais et Chateaux collection and earns that accolade with great flair, flavor and friendliness.

From the moment we arrived, we felt at home in the vast acreage of 1920's lodges. As is expected with Relais, the dinner was one of the highlights of our stay at Glendorn ( We headed down to the billiards rooms for martinis and Shirley Temples and enjoyed a small bit of fresh poached lobster, then headed into the beautiful dining room for a superb dinner.

Samuel's every wish was satisfied, from a request for a simple Garden Salad heavy on Romaine, Tomato & Cucumber dressed with a Creamy Buttermilk dressing (it's close enough to Ceasar dressing and he seems to be big on the creamy ones these days!) to his Veal Tenderloin without the braised Swiss Chard, but he did munch on the Gnocchi. The dish came in a Foie Gras sauce that he could not stop raving about!

We were no longer in wine country so we had a Yangerra 207 Viognier from McLaren Vale in Australia to start. It was nice, but we did miss the wines from the "back yard." I started wit the Scallops with Corn Puree, Tomato Confit and Basil, while Will went lighter with the Tuna seared and served en croute, Taggiasche Olive, Quail egg, and garden beans with tomato gelee and peeled tomato.

Kale Ravioli with Garden vegetable Mushroom Broth & Garrotxa Cheese was the perfect second course, although I had to ask several times what some ingredients were as our sweet server Natalya was from the Ukraine and had quite an accent!

The only thing that was not perfect was the slightly chilled red, a superb Dutton Goldfield Syrah, Cherry Ridge Vineyard 2009 from the Russian River. It did warm up and was supreme with my veal...yes, the same dish Samuel ordered, but I had mine with the Braised Swiss Chard that was pickled sweet and sour and fun. Oh and I asked for mine with EXTRA chanterelles, as opposed to none like Sam.

Will had the FILET with Mashed Potatoes, Blue Cheese and Asparagus and it was cooked perfectly, though, as you know I am not a big steak out guy.

For dessert we both enjoyed the Frozen Lemon Mousse, Blueberry, Lavender & White Chocolate.

We skipped dessert wines as we knew the glass election would be a downer after all our fab icewine, but they do have a great selection.

The next morning we had breakfast here as well and it was also an amazing preparation; the Corned Beef Hash with Poached Egg reigning supreme. We got out and did some skeet shooting and fly fishing before heading back to DC at the end of another wonderful journey. It was great to save the best for last!

AG at The Sterling is all go for us in Niagara Falls, Ontario (8-18-12)

Our last night in Niagara Falls was one of the few "fine dining" spots in the town itself, as it is indeed a real "tourist trap" with lots of beef and low quality food. AG Restaurant ( at the Sterling Hotel (Silver is "AG" on the element chart, and the hotel is the "Sterling"--get it?) is the home of Chef Cory Linkson who treats local ingredients with great love as the other chefs we dined with the previous nights.

The restaurant is downstairs, so no "views" of the falls, or even the street here. It's a cozy place and as it was Saturday, we had some fine entertainment by a guy playing the keyboards.

There are small crystal chandeliers and the room has many silver accents hints of red and very comfy silver leather chairs.

We sat down to a bottle of LAILEY Vineyard 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay from Niagara and fell in love; it was the best chardonnay on the trip and we were leaving the next day! Oh well. Crisp & dry with slight hint of citrus. It was great with an amuse of Venison Carpaccio, watermelon & balsamic. Sam loved the carpaccio, but didn't care for the melon. The olive and sourdough breads were nice as well. Only the bizarrely shaped (think upside down lampshade, curved in at the top) C & S Crystal glasses for the wine were a bit weird. We had to get red ones as the whites would not fit our noses!

Samuel begged for the Hand Rolled Fettuccini with Beef tenderloin which came with Garlic Scapes, Wild Mushrooms (which he asked to have removed) and fire roasted peppers. Our server Darren, was a gem and immediately said it would be no problem to replace the wild porcini mushroom sauce with an Alfredo (that's super service!).

Will's Abbate Farms Rabbit Gnocchi were dreamy and came with caramelized onion, "Veggin" ( a local farm) radish salad, fine herbs and spring onion pesto. My Whitty Farms Sweet Corn Bisque came with Black Pepper Popcorn, Smoked Bacon, Salsa & Cilantro Essence; I was in love.

We split the Summer Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon salad with Red Onion, Farm Basil served in a Gnger Melon Consomme with Citrus Sorrel Salad. The melon & ginger created a triple acidity with the tomato and watermelon that somehow worked out just right.

Our main courses were Lakeland Game Farm Duck Duo with Juniper Roasted Breast and Confit Leg, Potato Tart, Quiet Acres Boysenberry Jus. Delicate veggies on the side included baby squash, green & yellow beans and zucchini. Will had the excellent Cracked Pepper Rubbed Canadian lamb Loin with Coq au Vin & Goat Gouda "arancini" with the same farm veggies and St. David's hot house sweet pepper bisque. These mains were truly as superb as they sound and paired brilliantly by Darren with a Creekside Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec (60%/40%) 2007 which had an amazing nose and tasted even better in the mouth with super rich intensity and smokey & berry flavors.

Caramelized Summer Melon Martini was cantaloupe, watermelon & honeydew "bruleed" with Icewine jelly, melon water and watermelon ice. It sounded light and was, but very flavorful as well.

Will had the yummy Quiet Acres Cherry Almond Tort with cherry, butterscotch, house made nougatine.

In tasting ice wine the previous days, we learned the "seven second rule: "Don't swallow the wine until you've held it in your mouth and swirled it for seven seconds." The wine changes and blows up in your mouth as it did with out Between the Lines 2009 Cabernet Franc Icewine and the Stoney Ridge 007 Vidal Icewine.

Cheeses followed with Niagara Fruit Compote, Crusty breads and Beamsville Bee Pollen:

Blue Hermite from Ontario

Chevre Noir again from Quebec which was very cheddary

and Comfort Cream (?)

It was an amazing three days of food and wine as well as tourism in Niagara, Ontario!

PELLER ESTATES is a pure pleasure in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (8-17-12)

Our second night in the Niagara Falls area brought us about 15 minutes

north of the falls to the highly esteemed and the 25/27/26 Zagat rated

PELLER Estates Winery Restaurant (, which is worth the

trip from hours away for sure!

We had a superb tour of the winery with Samuel and then a private

tasting with the sommelier, Gillian Evans. Everyone here went out of

their way to treat us so nicely. Indeed, we had discovered this warm

welcome at every winery in the Finger Lakes and Niagara region (save

for one-REIF, which we departed quickly with no purchases!).

The dining room is as clean and elegant as one can get, although the

weather was so divine the doors to the terrace were open and the fruit

flies were abundant as the grapes are near harvest just outside the


They use an in-house filter system called GAIA which produces a soft

sparkling water. Samuel got a special treat with an OJ, cranberry

drink mixed with Sparkling local white grape juice.

The amuse was Prosciutto, goat feta, fig & baby greens, a nice homage

to many local farms, which we enjoyed with Peller Riesling Private

Reserve 2010.

We chose the tasting menu of seven courses(a 5 course option is avail

for $89) for $109 and included the wines ($154 total) and Samuel

ordered up the Niagara HEIRLOOM TOMATO Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella,

Basil Ice Cream, Popcorn Shoots & Pristine Soya Bean Oil followed by

the Willow Grove Hill Pork dish composed of Braised Pig's Trotters

Croquettes, Icewine Glazed Belly and Apple Smoked Loin. These came

with baby squash and green beans. He adored the croquettes, was

unfazed about the plainish loin and did not care much for the belly,

but overall it was a nice presentation and he gobbled up the veggies


Apricot, whole wheat and sourdough breads arrived with Icewine butter

(Peller is one of the top Icewine producers) and we proceeded with our

first courses.

Next came Grapeseed Oil Sous Vide Pickerel (walleye) with Fingerling

Potatoes, Fried Capers, Smoked Mayo, Pickled Quail Egg, Roasted Fennel

& Green Beans paired with a superb oak aged 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Signature Series.

Icewine Lobster, Black Truffle, & Basil Ravioli comprised of double

smoked bacon, Brebis (sheep) Parmesan & Chardonnay "sur Lie" Cream

Sauce. The Truffle Roasted Diver Scallops, Morel Mushrooms, Rigatoni,

Black Truffle Cheddar was in Pine Nut Sorell Sauce and served with

Seared Foie Gras. These two decadent and divine dishes were paired to

perfection with Peller Chardonnay "sur Lie" Signature Series 2009.

Our server Darryl brought out a Blackberry-star anise-Merlot ice that

was novel for sure.

Crouqail Farms Duck Salad with Arugula, Poached Duck Egg & Flaked

Confit had crisp potato, and Mustard Dressing and used the best of

local ingredients. I was curious again about the room temp

(66.7degrees F to be exact) duck egg which apparently is cooked for

hours at this temp and hence never warm. It worked much better than

the previous night. A Gamay Noir Private Reserve 2010 had depth and

pepper flavors more than I would ever expect from a light red and went

nicely with the duck and beech mushrooms in the salad as well.

Prosciutto wrapped Rabbit Saddle was served with Grilled Strawberries,

Green Beans, Chive Oil, Mustard Fennel Puree and shaved fennel, none

of which was too licorice-y at all! A 2009 Pinot Noir Private Reserve

was sublime.

The cheeses were 5 Canadian artisanal with blackberry compote, ice

wine infused raisins & guava jelly.

Cumin Gouda, Five Year Cheddar & Blue Mountain smoked blue all came

from Ontario with

Chevre Noir & St Henri hailing from Quebec. A Late Harvest Vidal (from

Peller of course) was paired.

Blueberry Cheesecake came with Goat Cheese Custard Blueberry Sorbet,

Graham Cracker Crumble and was served with a Cabernet France 2010 Ice of Peller's best wines and best years! We bought lots home

and would go back tomorrow if it was closer.

Niagara on the Lake's ESCABECHE in Ontario is an essay in tradition (8-16-12)

We headed northwest from the Finger Lakes to Niagara Falls (Ontario) which does not have many quality dining spots, so we chose ESCABECHE (

at the grand Victorian-style Prince of Wales Hotel just 25 minutes north in quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake. We were tired again from a long day, but readied ourselves for a treat.

I ordered the novel sounding starter of BACON & EGGS which was quite fatty Wild Boar Bacon, a soft poached Duck Egg that came lukewarm (we were told it was supposed to be that wasy), beet powder, toasted Pain au Lait and BeetRoot

ketchup. It was a good try, but not quite right. Will did much better with the refreshing and tasty Great Lakes White Fish Ceviche with Pickled Radishes and Victory Farms Greens, Charred Lime Juice, Fresh Horseradish, Avocado Oil & Tara Root Frites

The Niagara region is another excellent wine area and we stayed true and local: Lailey Vineyards Chardonnay 2001 Unoaked was full of apple notes and minerality that we adored; alas no time to add it to our itinerary.

The breads were nice (ciabatta and whole grain) but our server poured regular water into our Pellegrino (he brought a new bottle at no charge).

Will went on to the Pan Roast Ontario (pepper & salt crusted) Pork Tenderloin with Charred Peach Marmalade, Warm tender skin Potatoes & Rosemary Salad.

Sam had the Grilled 8 ounce NY Strip loin with Fries substituted for Potato Puree, Summer Veggies including beans, carrots and tomatoes and a Caramelized Onion Jus.

My Sage & Fennel Roast Guinea Hen with Chorizo, Caper Berry Stuffing, Beetroot stained Cous Cous, Buttery Spaghetti Squash, Pinot Noir Jus & Coriander Crust.

We all loved our meats and a "Solstice" 2007 of Merlot, Syrah & cab from Marynissen Estates was a super red that woculd not be beat from jsut about a mile away!

Will had the Peach Carpaccio Cheesecake with Quiet Acres Peaches, Creamy Cheesecake & Lemon Curd Pudding while I

tried to Canadian Cheeses:

Tiger Blue from BC

Oka from Quebec

3 Brie and C'est Bon Goat(a super creamy whipped type) from Ontario

The plum compote was divine and also blueberries, raspberries and blackberries came along.

We had our first Ontario Ice Wines of this trip with Will not going for the Reif Estate Vidal 2008 but me falling in love with Jackson-Triggs 2007 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine...we bought tons of this the next day!

I have still not caught up, so please stay tuned for more food and fun on this trip!

RED NEWT Bistro on Seneca Lake (Hector,NY) takes the cake for local dining in the Finger Lakes (8-15-12)

At the southeast corner of Seneca Lake just north of Watkins Glen, lies the tiny town of Hector laden with vineyards and many dining options.

We had been steered to the RED NEWT BISTRO at Red Newt Winery ( and it as super hit.

The dining room is unassuming with lots of local art for sale and an outside area that overlooks the lake from the heights. We sat inside as we arrived too late for an outdoor table,

so we enjoyed the bluegrass quartet that played until we left. There was a beautiful sunset as well and my only complaint was that the paper tablecloths get all mushy from the sweat

from the water glasses.

We had a long day of touring and wine tasting so we decided to enjoy an extra glass of wine to start. Will had the 2011 Billsboro Sauvignon Blanc which was too intense on the citrus side and I had the unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc

2010 from Damiani that was divine. Caraway seed wheat bread came with Finger Lakes Canola Oil.

The tasting menu began(and priced at $65/$20 more with WINES!!!!):

100% Local Egg Pasta Ravioli with farmer ground flour, eggs, kuyahoora cream cheese, garlic, Lively Run Cayuga Blue Cheese, Blueberry Compote sounds way too sweet but it was not. the sauce was made from light white wine cream and had Colby jack on top as well!

We all loved this pasta dish and Samuel got it in a similar mode but with TOMATO SAUCE instead (they were so amenable to his requests!). He had it with LOCAL RED GRAPE JUICE while we enjoyed

Lakewood Vineyards 2009 Lemberger, a local red grape that has some body and flavor (think Pinot Noir).

FLX (Finger Lakes) Caesar Salad was sadly not a Caesar as Samuel has discovered he loves Romaine and Caesar Dressing. So we all had this and he would not eat much. It was superb salad of local greens, eggs, sunflower oil, verjooz, Muranda Colby Jack Cheese, Garden Herbs, Croutons, (a shred of)Grilled Chicken, Summer Veggies-Heirloom Tomatoes,Corn, Squash & Shoots. This came with Red Newt's own 2008 Pinot Gris Curry Creek Vineyard...we have fallen in love with many of the Finger Lakes Rieslings and had many cases shipped back!

This pinot gris had an intense floral nose yet a creaminess that went with the dressing.

Pan Seared Local (Hudson Valley Sustainably Farmed) Ocean Bronzino was next with Basil Pesto, Tomatoes, Pickled Shiitakes and a rustic crusty bean Polenta. It was a big fish and the BIG Red Newt Cellars 2010 Riesling Sawmill Creek Vineyard

was accordingly as big as the fish.

FLX RIESLING ICE was a true palate cleanser made from Circle Riesling, Sugar Verjooz (which is a Cabernet franc green press jus), & Lemon Thyme

Autumn's Harvest Grilled BEEF TENDERLOIN was as local as the beef gets with flash-grilled tenderloin medallion from just up the road in Romulus, local smashed potatoes, garlic scape butter. Also on the plate

were pickled onion and pea shoots. The Red Newt Cellars 2010 Viridescens is a Merlot based blend that is rich and full bodied and works with any hefty piece of meat.

Blueberry Cheesecake was made with local blueberries, kuyahoora cream cheese and lavender shortbread crust.

We still can't believe we got all this with the wines for $85.00. I would go back any day!

Geneva-on-the Lake's Lancellotti Dining Room is a world away from upstate NY and tastes totally terrific (8-14-12)

We spent two nights in Geneva, NY at our hotel Geneva-on-the-Lake ( on Seneca Lake and our first night we dined in the hotel which is an historic building with the dining room oozing old world charm

(in nice weather you can also sit outside overlooking the gardens and lake). The cieling is wood corbelled, the piano player plays (he should avoid the trumpet interludes) and there is an old world elegant charm to the Lancellotti Dining Room.

Hummus came to the table with carrots, cucumber, olives and peppers. There was a pesto for the warm herbed rolls which was thinned tableside with local grapeseed oil (from local Riesling grapes); Samuel was in heaven.

He ordered the Grilled Frenched RACK OF LAMB with Mint & Basil Pesto that I also had and it was superb.....but I failed to tell what comes first:

Will enjoyed the Cauliflower Thyme Puree while I chose the traditional yet tasty Jumbo SHRIMP Cocktail with Dill Cocktail Sauce, I then continued with the Baby SPINACH SALAD with Sliced Crimini Mushrooms and Sun dried Tomato,

Lively Run Goat Cheese Petit Four(a phyllo cup with wonderful local goat cheese) and Warm bacon Dressing.

An interlude of Strawberries with Sauvignon Blanc/Mascarpone Cheese was next and I went on to the divine Lamb cooked to perfection that came with local buttery sweet corn, snap peas and garlic mashed potatoes.

Will had the Pan Roasted DUCK Breast with Sweet Dark Cherry Port Wine Sauce and Corn Shoots--all the entrees came with the same local fresh side veggies & potatoes.

We started with a bottle of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2009 which was rich and fruit forward and moved on to a superb 2005 Fox Run Meritage (38%Cab57%merlot/5%Cab Franc) that had

cherry notes and slight tannins with a hint of licorice yet raspberry/cherry overtones....great with both lamb & duck!!

My dessert was the Fresh BERRIES in Fulkerson Vidal Blanc Ice Wine and Will had the NY Style Cheesecake with berries.

It was great to start off our tour with more local wine and food as this was what we enjoyed so much about the Finger Lakes!

don't nap at KNAPP Vineyard Restaurant cause you will miss the meal! (8-14-12)

As we entered the heart of the Finger Lakes for several days we

stopped at KNAPP VINEYARD(

located in Romulus, NY just off Seneca Lake) Restaurant for a quick

lunch and wine tasting; it was a great choice as they have a $12 lunch

special daily which includes salad and a choice of main courses. I

started with the 1/2 CRAB CAKE SALAD and this was indeed ONE appetizer

size cake on a salad with a spicy CHIPOTLE DRESSING. I had asked for

the pepper mill, and oddly they did not have one, perhaps as the

dressing is so spicy! My main course was a juicy divine WATER BUFFALO

BERGER on Telira Roll (think Ciabatta) with melted Gruyere Cheese,

Onion, Leaf Lettuce and a tasty Moroccan Red Pepper Aioli.

Samuel loved his Pasta Rags (pieces of lasagna pasta) with Asiago

Cheese & Butter Sauce, while Will chose the Chicken & Bacon Sandwich.

We were able to enjoy the meal even more by sitting outside next to

the vines and also because of the flight tasting options. Will had a

glass of KNAPP Chardonnay which was tasty and refreshing and I chose

the BETWEEN THE LAKES RED Flight which offers 3 tastes:

Knapp Sangiovese--very light, but with flavor

Glenora Syrah-their sister vineyard on Seneca Lake

and the divine ZUGIBE 4 Fred's Red---we headed to this vineyard

afterwards and bought some for sure!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The DINING ROOM does it all so well at MIRBEAU INN, seek it out in Skaneateles, NY (8-13-12)

We sat down in the almost empty DINING ROOM at the intimate MIRBEAU
INN ( and it was a slow start, but Nasya (a Hebrew
name for "miracle of G-d") said she would help us with our server
Ben. The team worked well and we challenged Ben to find Samuel a new
drink and he came up with Passion fruit Lemonade Soda; who wouldn't
love that? Nasya offered us cucumber water (Sam wanted plain) and
brought us some decent parker house style round rolls.
Samuel decided immediately on the Cotelette de PORC au Lait which was
an 8 ounce boneless pork ribeye in a whole milk reduction with
shallots, carrots, guanciale and a NY apple brunoise with leeks. On
the side he insisted for Bistro FRIES with Herbs & Garlic.

We ordered a bottle of RAVINES 2009 Pinot Noir of course from the
FINGER LAKES as this was the reason for our trip. It was a gem and
knew the wines to come would be special, as was our second red, a
STANDING STONE "Pinnacle" 2007 Meritage of Cabernet, Merlot and
Cabernet Franc.
We loved the elegant DINING ROOM with crisp linens and good crystal;
sheer drapes separated the seating areas and painted walls of trees
gave a classic feel. It was a bit cold and with the doors shut, I kept
saying "cut the air,open the doors and save the money and ecology."

I started with what was called CHOUCROUTE which was not quite that
Alsatian dish. It was a COFFEE JERKY and a TERIYAKI JERKY (too much
jerky on one plate) along with superb SMOKED DUCK BREAST. Three
dipping sauces were Teriyaki Glaze, Paprika Oil and Bordelaise Sauce
that were fun and varied. Pickled Radish & Aspargus were a brilliant

Will chose the DUCK CONFIT SPRING ROLLS with Hudson Valley Duck, Napa
Cabbage, Housemade Duck Sauce and Hot Mustard with a bit of Fried Duck
He continued with the FILET de BOEUF from Birdsall Farm that is
marinated in cold pressed EVOO with herbs, telicherry peppercorns and
truffle oil and sea salt. He chose two sauces and use the POIVRE for
the most part as opposed to the BORDELAISE.
I had the 10 ounce BLACK & BLUE Kansas City VEAL STRIP with cracked
pepper & se salt and crumbled blue cheese.On top were crispy yummy
buttermilk onion "frittes" (they don't spell well)..
Dessert was a 3-way split of LE CARNIVAL: Frozen Raspberry Yoghurt
"balloons" which came in a cup as opposed to the menu's tuile cookie
(they ran out), with divine lemon stuffed macaroons, raspberry Coulis,
and spun sugar "cotton candy" which was a glop that was not needed.

We loved 95% of the meal and only the dessert had some dud points, so
we would love to return here to eat again for sure......but we are now
moving deeper into the FINGER LAKES Region and its wine and foods!

Monday, August 13, 2012

BLUE MINGO even better than before (8-12-12)

Our second visit to the BLUE MINGO in Cooperstown was even better as the weather was perfect and the lake calm as we enjoyed
CAPE INDABA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 with huge hints of melon and stone fruits; no grassiness here.
Starters were Vegetable SPRING ROLLS, DUCK CONFIT Salad with mixed greens in White Balsamic and Sam loved his POTSTICKERS
in Ginger Soy Broth which were gone before I could ask for a taste.
My MUSSELS with CHORIZO didn't have any pieces of chorizo, but the spiciness was just right,
The mains varied (we had guests) from super GROUPER crusted with Macadamia & Panko, SHRIMP Grilled with Mango, Apricot & BBQ sauce over rice,
Samuel's Flatbread Caprese, and the two perfect dishes that Will & I split:
PENANG CURY with Chicken, Red Curry, Coconut Milk & Mixed Vegetables & RIce
THAI STIR FRY with SHRIMP, Vegetables and Mushrooms.
The chef here is Thai so these dishes were made with love from the heart, they come with chicken, pork or shrimp and can be "mixed and matched"
It was great. I had the same cheese plate again for dessert and the others tried the STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING which was good, but needed a bit more gooeyness.
YUM YUM--on to the Finger Lakes.


Cooperstown's ALEX & IKA, still an interesting choice (8-11-12)

For our second night in Cooperstown, NY we returned to ALEX & IKA
located downtown on Main Street. The menu has been simplified, and
sadly the wine list is no longer as exciting as it used to be, but the
food remains enjoyable, if the service was a bit here and there. I
also widh they would dump the paper napkins for linen ones!
Samuel started with a superb CEASAR Salad with Garlic Lime Dressing,
but it had all kinds of greens instead of just Romaine, so he was not
too happy about that, He went on to the BBQ Pork Sliders which had
Chipotle Roast Pulled Pork with BBQ Aioli which was way too spicy.
I started as I always do with Ika's Swedish Martini of Svedka Vodka,
Aquavit & Lingonberry Saft with Lime--I adore it. Will had Luka's
Monster Margarita with Cuervo Gold, Cointreau, Lime & OJ. Samuel did
the Shirley Temple.
Will chose the FISH TACOS starter which was clearly a main course of
two HUGE FRIED COD tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa, Lettuce, Tomato,
Avocado, Chipotle Aioli & Lime Wedges that was superb. My SESAME
NOODLES with Arugula, Cucumber, Toasted Peanuts, Carrot-Ginger
Kimchee, Sweet Tamarind and Ginger Oil was a perfect starter so I
could go on to the ROAST DUCK ANTIPASTO SALAD of Garlic Roasted
Mushrooms, Green Lentils, Marinated Artichokes, Sweet & Spicy Peppers,
Roasted Tomato and 1/4 crispy duck.
Will had the TUNA NICOISE as a main with roasted tomatoes, fingerling
potatoes, egg, green beans, capers, arugula, wild oregano, lemon and
CONCANNON Petite Sirah 2010 Central Coast was an okay red, but served
in a WARM wine glass! Will took an order of Cheesecake to go, but I
never did find out how it was as I headed to the opera!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

back to the BLUE MINGO-Cooperstown cool cuisine (8-10-12)

After a year we have returned to Cooperstown, NY for the Glimmerglass Festival and we enjoyed the BLUE MINGO Restaurant & Grill so much that we chose it for two of our three dinners here this weekend.
Friday, we arrived after a long delay in the drive, and since I had a 730pm curtain, dinner was a bit hectic. But our patient and soft spoken server Patrick handled it with aplomb.
We all noticed the abundance of flies on the terrace, but figured this was better than mosquitoes; perhaps we were wrong. We had to admit by meals' end, that shooing these little buggers away was near exhausting.
Will started with the crisp and tasty LOBSTER SPRING ROLLS (there were three large ones) with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. We thought that Samuel might try these (with his new found interest in shrimp), but he would have none of it. My TUNA NACHOS could have easily fed two people as the huge oval plate (which did not sit well in the large round table plates that The Blue Mingo uses (it wobbled all over) was loaded with piles of crispy fried wontons covered with seared tuna drizzled with wasabi cream. There were scallions, pieces of pickled ginger and yummy gobs of seaweed salad as well as small dipping bowls of wasabi cream and ponzu sauce. Each bite could contain different ingredients and hence the dish changed; it was lots of fun, if a bit too large for one.
Will ordered up a glass of Raymond Chardonnay to go with his Jumbo Lump CRAB CAKES Entree which came with shoestring fries, spinach and Chipotle ketchup, which he promptly declared as too spicy and asked for tartar sauce. The cakes were nice and moist and huge and loaded with crab, but it's so hard for us to appreciate a simple crabcake when coming from DC.
Samuel's FILLET FRITES was a gorgeous huge filet cooked medium rare with a light Bordelaise sauce over hand cut truffle steak fries; who wouldn't like that. He promptly devoured all the fries and 80% of the steak, leaving only some wilted greens on the side.
My Seared DUCK BREAST also included a leg and while I asked for it between rare and medium came quite rare, meaning a bit difficult to cut, although quite tasty; I learned my lesson. The accompanying Leek Cherry Corn Bread Pudding was a superb side, if the spinach was a bit bland (I used freshly ground salt and pepper at the table to dash it up).
We were so ahead of time, we decided to grab dessert and Will chose the Key Lime Graham Whipped Cream thingie in a glass, which was way too much cream for my taste. He said it was good, but that he had to use the single lime and ask for extras to give it a bit more lime flavor.
I, as always, chose the local cheese plate made of a light but tangy goat, Softy Farm Leonardsville semi-soft and a Young Tam rinded but mild blue.
These were all just right and the presentation gets 4 stars with superb poached figs, apple splices, candied pecans, bread, frizzled onions and the most heavenly candied jalapenos.
We all look forward to returning Sunday with our opera client, but hope the flies abate.