2005 Blackstone Sonoma County Reserve Merlot

Posted on February 24, 2009

From the Blackstone tasting notes on their website:

The Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Merlot 2005 offers pleasing aromas of fresh raspberry, black currant, clove and vanilla with a hint of earthiness. The wine is full-bodied with layers of bright red fruit, coffee and clove, finished with nice, well-integrated structure and a velvety mouthfeel. Try serving this soft and silky wine with beef or pork tenderloin, cassoulet, sausage, pizza or beef ravioli.

The breakdown of the varietals present are: 76% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Syrah, 3% Teroldego. While some of those are prettty small percentages, I think they add to the overall balance of the bottle. Overall I found the taste to be very appealing,  I though much better than the “regular” Blacksone Merlot, which I found to be a bit harsh. At a price point of $13.99, it’s not a bad first bottle at a cozy byob. :)

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2009 South Jersey Restaurant Week is right around the corner

Posted on February 3, 2009

Have you ever written a post a forgot to actually post it? That is exactly what I’ve been doing lately.   For instance this one, the 2009 South Jersey Restaurant Week is right around the corner.  There is plenty of time to grab some friends and check out some of the best BYOB’s in South Jersey between March 22nd and 27th.  I know I’ll be hitting at least a few of them, so get your reservations in early!

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Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine -closed

Posted on January 26, 2009

Upon arriving at Sweet Basil Thai, we were greeted by the owner as well as a pleasing hostess. Sweet Basil is easy to get to, and there is plenty of parking. My first impressions of the restaurant was that it was clean, modern, and well cared for. After being seated, we were promptly delivered water, as well as buckets for our wine. Which for the evening happened to be a 2006 Domaine Tariquet Ugni Blanc/ Colombard (review to follow).
We happened to be there for the Sunday “Happy Hour” which we were told ran from 5-7 weekly. There was a full menu available, but they also had a fixed menu for $15.99 which included quite a few choices from the regular menu. I decided to give it a try.

  • Appetizer: Fried Tofu – (Tofu with a sweet and sour ground peanut dipping sauce)
  • Main Course: Panang Curry – (Chicken in panang curry peanut sauce drizzled with coconut milk and kaffir lime leaf)
  • Desert: New York style cheesecake with peach and chocolate drizzle.

Now not being a Thai food expert, I just ordered the my food in the “normal” spice, and I was a bit nervous about the amount of peanuts used in the sauces. Upon being promptly served, and our glasses refilled, I was very pleased with all of my choices. The Fried Tofu had a great consistency, with just the right sauce. My Panang Curry had a bit of flavorful spice, but not too much that a sip of the wine was not able to compliment. I failed to save a little bit for lunch the next day, and to keep on my “diet”. Thankfully though, the food wasn’t high in fat. :)

A few pics I found on Yahoo


Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine 275 Wilmington W Chester Pike Chadds Ford, PA 19317 for reservations call: (610) 358-4015

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Kunkel’s Seafood & Steakhouse – Haddon Heights NJ

Posted on July 31, 2008

To kick off Farm to Fork week for Summer 2008, our first stop was Kunkles Seafood & Steakhouse in Haddon Heights, NJ.  If you are not familiar with Farm to Fork week, the idea is very simple.  It is just like Restaurant Week, but a summer version with a focus on fresh produce supplied by our local farmers.

Upon first arriving at the restaurant, it was nice to see a parking lot available, as we know from the past that sometimes Kings Highway can be tough! The exterior/interior of the building were both clean and welcoming, as were the staff which extended their greetings. Our lucky/unlucky server was named Maureen, and she was very pleasant throughout the meal.

Again being a special menu, our choices were limited but not restricted. I decided to on:

  • Crab & Corn Chowder Soup ~ (garnished with an old bay fleuron)
  • Jersey Tomato & Watermelon Salad ~ (dressed in a sweet red wine vinaigrette and garnished with mint)
  • Grilled Pork Chop ~ with peach chutney served over chipotle roasted sweet Jersey corn and green beans
  • Fresh Jersey Peach Strudel (topped with vanilla Gelato)

I was really impressed with everything they brought out, from the still warm bread with the dipping sauce to the ultra fresh and juicy Jersey Tomato & Watermelon Salad.  The Crab & Corn Chowder Soup had a little nice and tasty spice to it,  and went very well with the 2004 Yellowtail Reserve Shiraz. (What can I say, it is a tested, tried and true bottle. :))  My grilled pork chop was cooked properly and had a pleasing flavor, and went very well with the fresh corn. Now my Peach Strudel was good,  however others at the table had the Blueberry Bread Pudding (topped with vanilla Gelato and chocolate sauce) and it was better!

Overall we had a great experience at Kunkel’s, and I would be happy to goto Kunkel’s again. We were told that they have a pretty good jazz night on Thursdays, perhaps that will be our next review. :)

Kunkels Seafood & Steakhouse is located at 920 East Kings Highway Haddon Heights NJ 08035, for reservations call 856-547-1225.

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Joe Palombo’s Mirabella Cafe – Reasturant Week – Cherry Hill NJ

Posted on June 21, 2008

This is a very late review, but I’ve been *SUPER* busy with a few other project’s I’ve been working on. Regardless of any of my excuses, our very late review… On the Thursday of the Restaurant Week in March 2008, we decided to go out with some good friends to Joe Palombo’s Mirabella Cafe. Overall, we had a decent time, but I think the company and the wines were the strongest points. :)

First Course – Truffled Crab Risotto With Shiitake mushrooms,drizzled Basil oil & a roasted pepper coulis

Second Course – Handmade Jumbo Spinach Ravioli with Baby Shrimp in a Lobster Sauce with kale & mushrooms. Jersey Butternut Squash & Crab Bisque

Third Course – Petit Filet Mignon Gorgonzola (2)- Barolo wine Reduction,demi-glace, Sautéed escarole, roasted butternut squash, top with Gorgonzola

Fourth Course Homemade Pumpkin Cheese Cake, Chocolate Mousse Torte, and Artisan Cinnamon Gelato.

Overall the food was rather tasty, the Fliet Mignon was a bit over crispy on the outside but the place was packed full to the gills. We were actually sitting on a folding table that was cleverly disguised by a table cloth. Had I not needed to reach for something under the table, I would have never known. I was most impressed with the Butternut Squash Crab Bisque, two flavors I never would have thought to put together on my own really left me wanting more.. The owner was visible in the restaurant sitting with is family during the rush, but I don’t think he noticed us at that time. All in all, the atmosphere seemed much like the Olive Garden, quite clean, but very noisy. I would like to visit this establishment again someday when it is not quite so busy, as I think the experience would be better.

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2004 Cline Red Truck

Posted on March 20, 2008

I was wandering the isle of my local retailer and noticed a bottle of 2004 Cline “Red Truck“.  Having had some great Cline port wine in the past, I was intrigued and with the price being less than $10, I was sold.  As it turns out, this is a vinted blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah and Cabernet Franc, with a bit of Merlot from Sonoma Valley California.

This wine went very well with dinner, which was cheese tortellini from Trader Joe’s and a red mushroom sauce. I could see grabbing this wine as an inexpensive bottle to take out to dinner where you may not know the menu,  or if you are looking for a safe bottle.    I tasted a pleasing flavor of berries and something dark,  which I could not quite place.  Overall I would give this a strong B+ rating,  scoring well on it’s nice bouquet, clarity, and smoothness.  I believe I will pickup a bottle or two of this wine and let it sit in the cellar for a bit of time, it could be interesting to see how this one does with some age.

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2004 Yellowtail Reserve Shiraz

Posted on March 13, 2008

2004 Yellowtail Reserve Shiraz. I was quite surprised by this bottle. As the lighting was low for dinner, I really can’t tell you much about the clarity of the wine, the color appeared to be a nice ruby. I tasted some fruity berries with a bit of oak and a nice smooth finish. All in all, I was very impressed by this bottle for the price, and I would recommend this bottle as a great wine under $15.00.

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Elements Cafe – Haddon Heights NJ

Posted on March 13, 2008

It is that time of year again here in New Jersey, SJ Hot Chefs Restaurant week. While tough on my liver and waistline, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year. First up we went to Elements Café who from their website claim:

Tapas style dining, or the ability to eat smaller portions of a variety of different foods, is a traditionally Spanish way of eating in a casual way. Because of this small plate approach to dining, tapas are adaptable to all cuisines and cultures. Blending a variety of flavors from French, Asian, Mediterranean and other influences into a New American tapas allows you to build a dining experience to suit your palate and allows everyone at the table to sample a variety of different choices.

I thought the description was fairly accurate, as we pretty much had the same experience. While the starter portions where small, we had a total of five courses which left no one at the table hungry. Our group arrived more or less on time, some early, some “late”, all were greeted warmly by the hostess. No one even turned their nose up when they saw my brother carry in his six pack! We were then greeted by our server for the evening, Madison, who I’m sure now regrets waiting on our party. I did mention I went with family right? :)

We started off with our first bottle of white, a very nice bottle of White Oak Sauvignon Blanc. I only had one quick glass, but it was a pretty damn good one. Since I only had one “half”, it is hard for me to give you an actual review. I’d drink it again to try though. :) Some of us have started to switch over to red, the first red was a tasty 2004 Yellowtail Reserve Shiraz.

On to the food, I was pleased with my starter, three fried green tomato’s over a tomato potato hash. The trio of soups were again, small but very tasty. The shellfish bisque with grilled corn relish was the favorite of the table, followed by the butternut squash, sausage and white bean soup, and getting mixed reviews was the 5 onion soup with Gruyere crouton. About this point, the third bottle started to pour around the table and the next course arrived. I had an straightforward and enjoyable heart of romaine salad with a pepper parmesan dressing w/ roasted garlic crustini (crouton).

For my main course, as much as I tried to stray from a meat dish, I ordered the coffee marinated NY strip with corn and red pepper posole. Again very enjoyable taste, it was slightly undercooked for my usual preference, but I did enjoy it very much. The corn and red pepper posole was delicious and went very nicely with the wine. As we finished our main courses and the good strong coffee started to arrive we began our assault on the final course, desert. Again a trio with no choice, we seemed to enjoy the cappuccino pot de creme, the mini apple pie and the ice cream sandwich in that order.

We had a great BYOB experience at Elements Cafe in Haddon Heights, great company, food and service. For having a full table, and being in a full restaurant the packed restaurant, the staff seemed really on the ball. The staff was friendly, and courteous. We did not seem to wait much between the courses, nor did I feel rushed into leaving. I’m quite pleased to recommend Elements Cafe, as a matter of fact I might try to get there one day for their sunset menu.

Elements Cafe is located at 517 Station Avenue Haddon Heights, NJ 08035. Feel free to call them for a reservation at (856) 546-8840

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Pascal Chatelus, Beaujolais Nouveau 2007

Posted on March 6, 2008

It’s March, so I’m about 3 months late on a review of Pascal Chatelus, Beaujolais Nouveau 2007 ($11.99).  For the wine that makes up the Beaujolais Nouveau experience, this was a very enjoyable bottle.  I found it to be very bright in color, with a high clarity.   We sampled this wine with a reduced set of cheeses than we would have usually knowing that we should expect a very light red.  As a result, we used only the soft mozzarella and the marbled Colby-jack.  Both were great with this wine, the crackers could have been giving me a bit of the smoke aroma/flavor as I was the only one in the group getting that feeling.

This was drinkable all by itself,  I have another bottle I’m looking forward to drinking Memorial Day weekend with some friends.  If you want to pair it with something, I could see this being very good with chicken or pork.  Pretty much anything that a pinot noir would pair well with.   For the price it was not a bad French bottle, but I think there are better priced wines with less adieu. Of course,  if you are going for the experience and not 3 months late,  then rock out with this one. :)

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The weekend in review

Posted on January 28, 2008

It was an quite an eventful weekend inside of the house, which means in short that we didn’t get much “done”, but we did do a lot. Friday we went out to a catered dinner with friends and listened to an enjoyable brass quintet. Following the entertainment, it was off to a bar to have a few glasses of libation then home.

Saturday we were off to a wine tasting in the afternoon, followed by a trip to the supermarket for ingredients to fondue. Which we prepared upon our return home, and watched a wine movie. We managed to sample three wines this night, and had some surprising results. Those reviews will be coming later, just as soon as we can decide upon a layout for them, and make better sense of our scratchings.

Sunday was indeed a lazy day, we did not make it to the art gallery opening as planned. It was however a nice day, as I believe we are both coming down with colds. We did manage to make a new recipe, Scallops in White Wine which of course was sampled with one new wine.

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