Thursday, May 28, 2015

208 Talbot Is A Treat (2nd report from Will in St. Michael's, MD-5-27-15)

For my second and last night in St Michael's I went for dinner across the street from my hotel at a restaurant called 208 Talbot (the street address). This place had a more casual feel to it, but there were people in there with shorts and flip flops on. Come on folks !!!! Yes it's warm but it's dinner time and this is not McDonalds. I do not need to see your nasty feet while I am eating. 
      Anyhooooo, my server, Holly was great !! I decided that as I am on the bay I should only eat seafood that night. She threw some great ideas at me. I decided on a bottle of Barnard Griffin Sangiovese Rose to go with my meal. There were lovely hints of mixed berries in the wine and it also had a bit more body than your average Rose.
       When the bread was brought to the table I was very happy as it was warm ciabatta bread, one of my favorites and the slightly salty butter melted on it perfectly. Far better bread than the night before. For my appetizer, I had the Crab Spring Rolls with jumbo lump crab, julienne carrots, cabbage and shiitake mushrooms inside. The rolls were served over a bed of seaweed. While tasty, I think there may have been about 3 flakes of crab in the whole thing. A bit disappointing, but the best was yet to come.
       For my main course I ordered the Soft Shells (yes again), which were slightly dusted with something or other, but who cared !! They were HUGE and juicy. The best soft shells I have had in a long time. They were served over fingerling potatoes, diced petite green beans and a sweetcorn butter sauce. To me it was heaven on a plate. So glad I decided to double dip on the soft shells for this trip :-)
        The dessert menu was a bit boring, but in the end I ordered Mixed Berries with a Pomegranate cream. It was a perfect ending, but then Holly brought me over some of their home made Roasted Pecan Ice Cream. WOW !!! It was sooooo good. 
         While this wasn't the cheapest place either, it was much more reasonable than the night before. This has been a couple of great nights here in St Michael's but now it's time to get back home to DC. I miss my boys. 


DUKES Family Winery wins me over deliciously at the Blue Duck Tavern in DC (5-27-15)

Over a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie & Pat Dukes at a wine tasting here in DC and fell in love with them both as well as their awesome wines.

Last summer, while in Oregon's Willamette Valley, Will & I visited their gorgeous home which is where they make magic with grapes, and once again fell in love with the view, the wine and the family--even the dogs.

This week, the Dukes are in DC and last night they hosted a spectacular wine dinner at BLUE DUCK Tavern at the Park Hyatt in the private dining room overlooking the open kitchen, where only 19 people (including the Dukes and their distributor) assembled. It was a momentous evening of great wines and food from start to finish.

Speaking of starting, Pat had reached into the recesses of his cellars and started us off with his own stash of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2004 which was a superb year and truly a gorgeous taste on the palate as we all assembled and sat down. With this tasty treat a selection of shaved meats from the Berkel were served and it was a perfect companion and display:

Bresaola, American Prosciutto and Chorizo were the three shaved meats accompanied by housemade pickles, housemade pickled mustard. The meat was superb as was the mustard and the pickles, but the star was the Chicken Liver/Bone Marrow Pate that sent me to heaven and back for more several times as I shmeared it on the thick tasty bread.

The Dukes made their first Rose in 2014, eleven years after they first started producing only Pinot Noir, and we were treated to the Blushing Kate 2014 Pinot Noir Rose that was superb, refreshing and crisp. All their wines are Willamette Valley/Eola-Amity Hills designated (so I won't write that each time), but this location is south of the larger wine producing area and offers a new variety of Pinot that really is fabulous. Only 50 cases were made of this wine; a real treat. It was served with King Mackerel Tartare(from Beaufort, SC) with a Cilantro Puree, Charred Avocado Puree, Crispy Fried Watercress and Cucumber as well as Coriander Blossoms & Champagne Vinaigrette. It was a superb tartare and beautifully presented (photo on my Facebook page).

The next course was Pan Seared Scallops(from Viking Village, NJ) cooked beautifully to perfection and indeed bigger than I have ever seen with Glazed Pork Belly Confit that had virtually no fat and was crispy to perfection, White Asparagus charred with Fish Sauce, Chili Flakes and Fermented Green Garlic. I adored everything in this dish, but especially the subtle spice from the fish sauce, chili and garlic that was beyond imagination. It was served with two sides:

Creamy Stone-Ground Grits (Anson Mills, SC) with red Eye Gravy and Smoked Gouda-ooooooooooooooh yum and

Roasted Wild mushrooms (Kennett Square, PA) Soubise with Warm Herbs that reminded me again how superb Pinot goes with almost any mushroom.

All the Dukes Pinots were poured from double magnums (etched) and the first was a 2009 Charlotte that was divine and a truly brilliant pairing as they all were. I know our cellar has a good selection of Dukes Pinots, but just not sure which years (have to check). The legs on this wine were thick and unctuous; as they should be.

Oven-Roasted Duck Breast with Crispy Leg Confit (Grimaud Farms CA) had a Spiced Honey Glaze that was a revelation and again virtually no fat on the breast (foto also on my FB page). On the side was Potato Puree(Path Valley, PA) with Soft Garlic that was nice, but just a yummy mashed potato to me. The Charred Asparagus (Path Valley, PA) was awesome with Soft Egg broken on top, Pine Nut Gremolata and Parmesan Cheese.

These dishes came with the 2009 Nipple Hill Pinot Noir which is a newer area on the Dukes Vineyards that sits down the hill a bit from the others. Only 50 cases were made in 2009 and this wine is more acidic with less of a bold fruit in it and is clearly a food driven wine not to be drunk alone (as the more elegant sisters are) I know we just received the 2012 last year in our shipment! Pat explained that the fermentation process is different in that they use larger 60 gallon barrels and do an extended fermentation process giving it a "layered complexity" perfect for this kind of food!

The last two wines were poured side by side and are so elegant and both drink alone that I could have them on any day. Alyssa 2008 was more complex for me and darker, but the 2009 Alyssa was more fruit forward and also excellent. These were served with array of exciting farmstead local cheeses presented by Chef Sophie Slesinger in a true presentation:

Cabra La Mancha is a  brined MD goat that has 6 months aging and I love (it is sold at the Bethesda farmer's market I go to on Sundays from time to time)

Great Hill Blue is from Massachusetts

& Elsa Mae (the name of the cow) from Calkin's Creamery (Penna) is a brie style cheese that oozed all over the plate just the way I like it.

These came with strawberry rhubard jam, Marcona almonds, sliced apple and small fig chunks (that I could have lived without) making a superb overall effect and sending us home more than sated after a wonderful evening with truly spectacular food, wines, service and great conversation!

The stars are very expensive at Stars restaurant at the Inn At Perry Cabin in St. Michael's, MD (5-26-15)by Will Stevenson

This is Alan's husband, Will. I have been lucky enough to spend a couple of days in St Michael's in Maryland and have been eating up a storm. I will be reviewing 2 restaurants for you during this time. Here is the first one.

When I first arrived at the restaurant I was sat at a window table which is what I had requested in my reservation. The view of the bay is lovely and very calming. Sadly the prices on the menu were not so calming. I opted for the 5 course tasting menu (with accompanying wines) which looked delicious. I am not a big fan of scallops, which was one of the courses but I figured I would give it a go. My server, Terry was superb. He told me that they had a special of soft shell crabs. I explained to him that I loved soft shells but I really wanted the tasting menu. As if reading my mind, he asked if I would still like to do the tasting menu, but substitute that scallop for the soft shells. Hooooray. I noticed that he always called me by my name, not sir, which I liked a lot. "Sir" was my father, lol. 
     First thing to come was a refreshing vodka and tonic and some cheese bread. The bread was rather dry, but I opted out of adding butter to it. The amuse was roasted cantaloupe and cashews in a balsamic vinaigrette. It was served on a deep spoon that was very awkward to use. I felt like a dog trying to lap it up with my tongue. In the end I gave in and used my fork. It was a tasty little morsel and a good start. 
       Next came Fried Green Tomato And Crab Salad. This was very refreshing except for the fact that both the salad (in a mayonnaise) and the remoulade were very creamy, so were a little greasy on the tongue. The great thing was that the Sparkling Rose, Jansz from Tasmania washed it down beautifully with it's fresh but tart dried strawberry taste.
       Next up was the Soft Shell Crab in a mustard sauce, with grits and french beans. The crab was small, juicy and perfectly tasty as were the french beans. The cheddar grits were a bit heavy, so I only ate half of them. This came with a Kerner, Abbaziadi Novacella from Italy. It was my least favorite wine of the evening. I have very strange taste descriptions when it comes to wine. To me it tasted like a very basic table white with that wet cardboard taste. 
         Course number 3 was, Goat Cheese Canelloni, with wilted spinach, toasted almonds and brown butter. This yummy dish made you crave for the Fall. So warm and cozy tasting (if there is such a thing). The brown butter was melt in your mouth. As a treat, Terry brought me an extra wine to try with the listed wine, but the second I saw it was Semillion I said, thanks but no thanks. The wine with this course was a Vincent Delaporte, Sancerre. It was heavy on the citrus but worked very well with the dish. Probably my favorite pairing of the night.
    Next was the Steak Diane with smashed truffled mashed potatoes, and braised kalettes. The steak itself was perfect tasting size (it looked like a Salisbury Steak, lol). It was tender and perfectly cooked. Potatoes were to die for as were the kalettes (still not sure what they were, but who cares). The gravy was so delicious that I mopped it up with my last bit of cheese bread. It all came with a Chateau Montelena Cab...all I can say about that is, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. 
       Last up was the Chocolate Decadence with a bijou coulis. It was certainly decadent and thank heavens it was small. Very rich, but very yummy. It was paired with Graham's Six Grapes dessert wine, which worked nicely with it. Afterward I was given a few chocolate treats and then I was on my way to bed. Very full !! 
        The cost of the meal was $130. I would expect this price from a Michelin starred restaurant, but not here. I did give Terry a hefty tip as he had been awesome. Next up tomorrow (now tonight) is 208 Talbot. Don't think I will eat as much there, lol.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

eat your heart out at EATALY in NYC...or opt for oysters at PJ CLARKE's (5-5-15)

I'm in NYC for a couple of days and not really eating, but stopped at Mario Batali's EATALY (200 5th Ave at 23rd St) emporia. You have to choose if you want meat, cheese, fish or what and I went for pizza.pasta at Le Cucine d'Eataly and wolfed down an awesome cooked Prosciutto Cotto & Ramp "salad" and then a Pizza Capricciosa laden with mozzarella, tomato, olives, artichokes and mushrooms. A glass of Morello di Scansano "I Perizzi" 2013 from La Mozza which was full bodied and tasty.

I wanted cappuccino and found it in another are and it was supreme...

After the opera we stopped across the street in the Empire Hotel's PJ Clarkes where I enjoyed a Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita and a dozen superb oysters:

Naked Cowboy from NY..smallish but yummy

plump Saddle Rocks from Conn.

super salty Fanny Bay from BC

Neptune's Choice from Wash state

and the elegant Shabumi from Wash and awesome Kusshi from BC


Ft. Worth's REATA ropes you in and fills you up (5-3-15)

After the opera in Ft. Worth on Sunday, four of us headed to REATA, which I have always adored, but the food is so big and so heavy, that it is not a great pre-opera dining spot. Luckily there was only a Sunday matinee and we all some free evening time to be with friends.
We gobbled up the amazing homemade biscuits with pecans and shmeared them with the pop in your mouth spicy chili butter.....
We shared two appetizers which were enough to feed five people:
Tenderloin Tamales with Pecan Mash and a superb salsa
and Jalapeno & Cheese Elk Sausages which came with grits.
A creamy rich Becker Vineyards 2013 Viognier from Texas was quite impressive for all of us, even the Texans. I told our server Jodi that if it was bad, I was not going to drink it, but she seemed quite confident, and rightly so. For the red we were considering a huge Spanish Priotat, but the sommelier came over and suggested an awesome 1999 Faustino I Gran Reserva Rioja which totally blew us all away and fits so well with these huge dishes:
Carne Asada & Enchilada--probably the best anywhere.
A simple lettuce wedge for one of us that was bigger than my head and my
Chili Dusted Smoked Texas Quail with Chimichurri Drizzle, Jalapeno Cheddar Grits and Flash Fried Spinach which was bit too greasy..the only fault all night.
We couldn't even think of dessert, but I ordered a Cherry Vodka Limeade that was so sour it was really vile...we all tasted it and giggled before we rolled home.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

bring me back for BIRD CAFE in fantastic Ft. Worth (5-2-15)

I am back in Ft. Worth, Texas again for my almost annual jaunt here for the superb Ft. Worth Opera Festival (this year Dog Days, Hamlet, Traviata and workshops on 8 new short operas) and since I loved the new Bird CafĂ© so much last year I returned again to the adorable spot just across the street from Bass Hall (opera house).  This time I was escorted upstairs on arrival to the quieter 2nd floor, called the Rookery, where I was the only person at 540pm, but it filled up within an hour. I had not noticed the bird pictures and paintings on the walls last year and now had a huge one over my table of an adorable scarecrow, with a dead crow hanging from it. The Indian music was nice and later it turned to a Caribbean lilt (with bird sounds). The floor had several Eastern carpets as well as a large fireplace at one end and long narrow windows giving a very airy and light feel.
I perused the menu of small plates, none of which is small, and decided on 3 choices. My server Nick guided me first to the Bird Green Salad which is a wondrous mix of greens, avocado, broccoli, pistachios, sunflower seed and sprouts and feta cheese with a superb Balsamic Tarragon dressing. I enjoyed a split of Le Grande Courtage Brut Rose sparkling from Nuit St. Georges in Burgundy which was dry and refreshing and lasted through my next course, the awesome Texas Vintage Steak Tartare. I'm not sure what vintage it was, but the delicious meat mixed with mustard, capers, shallots and seasonings sat on several pieces of slightly toasted pumpernickel bread (with raisins, which I did not care for with the meat) and had a gorgeous raw quail egg on top just cracked open at the very top, so the egg oozed out when you turned it over onto the meat. Fried Crispy Shallots were a superb crispy touch on top as well.
I have only one thing (other than the raisins in the bread) that I dislike here and it is the large white paper sheets on the table instead of cloths; I would rather just have the table top.
For my main course I ordered a superb glass of Aviary Chardonnay 2012 from Napa that had gorgeous legs in the large Spiegelau crystal glass, but was served way too cold to enjoy all the flavors. I warmed it up in my hands and it was the ideal temperature when my Crisp Sweetbreads arrived with Tennessee Sorghum and Fire Glazed Cider. These  two sauces were most novel and the antithesis of each other on opposite sides of the row of crunchy crispy perfectly battered and fried sweetbreads. The glaze was slightly sweet and honey-like while the sorghum was spicy and really just the right touch to the awesome little glands tender as could be and lightly sprinkled with some sea salt (which is used well in most of the dishes here, witness the tartare).
I skipped dessert as I remembered it was not too good the year before, and enjoyed a huge pot of their superb French press coffee before heading across the street to the opera. I love coming to Ft. Worth for the opera, to eat and always to bump into so many friends.