Sunday, December 14, 2008

Remembering better times...when it was actually warm outside!

People who live outside the Southeast are often surprised at how cold it can get in the winter. We've also been pretty dismayed at this year's turn of temperatures. My personal indicators of "when it gets cold" -- wearing my long wool/cashmere coat, having to bring the potted plants inside at night, putting flannel sheets on the bed -- have all come earlier than in the past.

I'm not complaining about the sheets or the coat, but I wonder if my poor plants are going to make it, especially since the basil got one whiff of the below-40 temperatures and promptly died in spite of having been moved into the warmer garage. I'd bring it inside the house, but I have gourmet felines, including one who will eat aromatic vegetables and herbs. I know that basil can successfully over-winter in a sunny spot inside because a former employer did just that with a plant I gave him. It even appeared dressed up as a Christmas tree in their family holiday photo!

Hubby, who is sitting behind me at his desk and checking his email, just told me, "Hilton wants us to visit Madison, Wisconsin!" My response was a prompt, "Hell, no!" I also don't want to hear about how we're wimps from people in the northern Midwest, who are already dealing with several feet of snow. As for the Northeast, well, they now see why everything shuts down at the mention of snow or ice; you just can't drive on ice, and it makes a huge mess.

With all this talk of cold temperatures and places, I think I'll turn my mind to a warmer time: November 1 and the Decatur Wine Festival. I promised Decatur Package Store's Herb that I would write about it; sorry it took so long! The Wine Fest wasn't so warm for him and the others who had to set up and tear down because it was a clear day, cold in the morning, and then up to the mid-seventies in the afternoon. Once the sun set, the temperature fell again.

Here's a quick description for those who aren't familiar with the Wine Fest. The event takes over the Decatur Square from the area behind the Old Courthouse (where the Bandstand is) to the part of the square on top of the MARTA station. This year there were fifty tables, each from a different winery or distributor, lined up around the edges of the designated area. Some distributors bring a lot of wines and have more than one table. Several Decatur restaurants also have tables where you can try items from their menus. Often they bring signature dishes; for example, Feast is usually out there with a big pot of their famous white chocolate bread pudding.

Of course it's impossible to taste every single wine. First, the festival is only three hours long. Second, a lot of tables start to run out toward the end of the day. Third, even if you have phenomenal tolerance, you've got to pace yourself. Hubby and I have a "two sip, three strike" rule: If the wine isn't good after two sips (two to allow for the interference of previous tastes), it gets poured. If you try three wines at a table and they all suck, move on.

I thought I got a good sampling, but I'm sure I missed some good ones. Also, I also only have names since vintages were not provided for most of the wines, and things moved too fast for me to get them. For the same reasons, my notes are briefer than usual. Wines listed without any comments were checked off, which means we drank them, but they were neither horrible nor fabulous, and they're likely worth another try without so many other things having crowded our palates.

Table 10: Firestone Vineyards
Firestone Select Chardonnay: drinks like a Verdejo.
Firestone Select Cabernet: light Cab
Firestone Select Riesling: sweet, but not too sweet

Tables 11-12: Banfi
Trivento Select Malbec: Ok
Casillero del Diablo Carmenere
Banfi Sauv Blanc/Chardonnay
Principessa Gavia Gavi: like water (no, I'm not sure what this means)
Banfi Rosa Regale: a great sparkling sweet wine; Hubby and I ran to the Feast table to pair it with the bread pudding, which went well with it

Table 14: Trinchero Family Estates
The Show Cabernet
Angoves Nine Vines Rose

Table 15: Old Bridge Cellars
D'Arry's Original: Shiraz/Grenache
Innocent Bystander Shiraz Viognier

Table 16: Prestige Wholesale:
Mark West Pinot Noir: Ok
Avalon Napa Cabernet
Van Ruiten Cab-Shiraz: Light & smooth
Van Ruiten Old Vine Zin: Got a star, which means we really liked it

Tables 17-19: Quality Wine & Spirits
Sawbuck Malbec
Ercavio White: Ok
Castano Rose: Ok
Oyster Bay Sauv. Blanc
Ciacci Piccolomini IGT: Got a smiley, so we really liked it
Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz: Bleh, smoky
D'Andezon Rhone

Table 20: Unique World Wines
Zolo Malbec
Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonnay: Wants food
Nell Pinot Noir

Tables 21-22: Grapefields
El Coto Rioja
Astica Sauvignon Blanc
Campante Vina Reboreda

Tables 23-24: Catamarca Imports
Printhie Shiraz-Viognier
Reinares Tempranillo
Mercedes Eguren Shiraz-Tempranillo
Santos Beck Torrontes
Santos Beck Malbec
Santos Beck Gran Malbec

Table 25: New World Wines
Vinas de Balbo Rose

By the time we hit tables 26 and above, a lot of them were out, and the wines had been sitting out, so we tasted fewer of them.

Table 27: Pacific Southern
Kenwood Sonoma Cabernet
NO Sauvignon Blanc: um, No
Lake Sonoma Cabernet

Table 29: Diageo
B&G Bistro Pinot Noir
Archetype Shiraz

Table 30: Centera
Monkey Bay Rose

Table 36: Sherlock's
I have to give Warner and Darryl credit here. They were aware of the potentially deleterious effects of direct sunlight on red wine and made efforts to keep it at a drinkable temperature. Still, since I'd tried many of the wines before, I limited my time there.
Nicolis Amarone Classico: unsweet raisin

Table 37: Hemispheres
Centennial Bong Bong Shiraz
Icaria Creek Alexander Valley Cab

Table 47: Treana
Liberty School Cabernet
Westside Red, Rhone Blend
Treana Red Cabernet-Syrah

Here are some survival tips for the Wine Fest. I'll post them again when it's time for the next one.

First, start with the tables over the MARTA station. The wines, especially the reds, got hot by the end of the afternoon because the area is in full sun.

Second, bring a bottle of water and/or avail yourself of the ones there, if offered. Even though there are jugs with water at the table, it's not going to be enough to stay hydrated while drinking wine, especially if it's hot and dry outside.

I'll probably think of more between now and next November.

And the best news -- the weather forecast for Decatur has us going up to 70 on Wednesday! Just ignore the rain.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sustainable Poetry?

Last night's JavaMonkey tasting was advertised as "Sustainable Wines." It turned out to be "Sustainable Wines from one particular winery in Chile." However, considering it was brought to us by the same distributor who gave Jess the 2006 cask of Nouveau for the Beaujolais release party a couple of weeks ago, I'm not going to quibble over the details. By the way, I was at JavaMonkey when the rep brought a replacement cask, yet I don't know what happened to that one. Hmmm...

We had almost a full cast of characters for this one, which made it all the more enjoyable. I'll attribute quotes where applicable. Dan suggested that those of us who had them should wear our berets from the previous tasting. Three of us did. Maybe that's why things got so silly toward the end.

2007 Natura Sauvignon Blanc Valle Casablanca, Chile:
Rating: Very Good
Funky, smoky nose with a hint of petrol, but the flavor was a citrus-grapefruit explosion on the palate. Here's how the rest of the discussion went:

Dan: "It's a little effervescent."
TheLaw (his preference, not mine): "Speak f*ckin' English, dude!"
Dan: "I can't, I'm wearing a beret."

2007 Novas Chardonnay Valle Casablanca, Chile:
Rating: Good
Metallic vanilla nose with a smoky, oaky taste. Others at the table described it as "olive juice," and "everything I hate about Chardonnay."

2007 Natura Merlot Valle Rapel, Chile:
Rating: Meh/Moo*
The wine rep described this one as having "surprising boldness." My first reaction was, "It's a bit rough." Others at the table described it as "cough drop," "could be vinegar -- it would be good with some olive oil," and "ah, the elusive eucalyptus!" (guess who that was?) It had an odd, salty finish.

2005 Novas Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Valle Central, Chile:
Rating: Very Good
70% Cab, 30% Merlot
Nice dark fruit nose and dark berry/jammy on the palate.

2007 Natura Carmenere Valle Colchagua, Chile:
Rating: Very Good
Mostly Carmenere with 1% Malbec, 4% Tempranillo, 4% Syrah, and 4% Petit Verdot
With that blend, I shouldn't have been so surprised at how dark and almost inky this was coming out of the bottle. The texture was buttery with lots and lots of dark fruit, almost like blackberry pie, but not too sweet. Dan described it as "meaty" and "unctuous." This earned him another big word reprimand from TheLaw.

2005 Novas Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon Valle Colchagua, Chile:
Rating: Good
This one had a stinky nose. After that, it was fine with nice berry notes in the middle, but it disappeared on the end and left a disappointing finish.

After Dan spouted impressive adjectives all night, his brain put them and other interesting words together under the beret, and he started writing out wine haiku. I responded with:

Black beret, so flat
Gives you delusions of great
Profound artistry

It devolved -- yes, there was room for things to spiral downward -- into limericks. I won't burden you with mine. Maybe Dan will post some of his at his blog.

Oh, and for those who are curious about what I look like, here's another picture:

I didn't say I'd make it easy for you!

*Wine Ratings go from Moo (very bad) to Meh to Okay to Good to Very Good to Excellent.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nouveau Riche?

Now that I've recovered from my travels to Europe and have decided to drop NaNoWriMo, I can get back to blogging. Yay!

Just in case you missed it, the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau was released last Thursday. We and several other oenophiles celebrated with a release party at JavaMonkey. In spite of some slight snags like a cask that was 2 years old (hint: this is not a wine that ages well, especially not in a cask that's not designed to keep it for that long), the party was a lot of fun, and there were even berets for all who wanted them.

Oh, and the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is actually drinkable this year! That's always a plus. However, I'm still mystified by the $15.79 price tag I saw on it at Publix yesterday. Sherlock's had it much more reasonably, and Decatur Package Store will have it at $10.99 starting tomorrow (Monday, November 24). I know this because Herb told me so. He'll also have the others that were poured at the praty.

Some of the very drinkable wines from the evening included the 2007 Regnie Flower Label, which I had when I arrived just after spending two hours in traffic, so I have no notes, and the Morgon Jean Descombes, which everyone agreed was all raspberry and delicious. I didn't get to try the white Jess was pouring, the 2006 Macon-Villages, Domaine Lenoir, but all those who had it said it was excellent.

Since I have a lot of catching up to do over the past month, I'll give you the highlights.

First, here are some wines from the Sherlock's tasting on November 8, "Staff Picks." I like the "Staff Picks" tastings because they often give insight into the people who picked them.

2006 L&L Pinot Noir:
Oooooh, smooooooth... This wine said "strawberries," and I said, "hell, yeah!" Paul seems like a quiet guy, but I now see him in a whole new light.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Quattro Mani Montepulciano:
Michael is from California, but he betrays his Southern roots here with this blackberry pie in a glass. "Yummy and fruity" were my comments.
Rating: Excellent

2005 Bogle Phantom:
I think that Daryl was playing "secret agent man" here with this spicy wine with dark fruit that was easy-going but also bold.
Rating: Very Good

I do have a couple of complaints. First, one person picked the same wine for this "staff picks" tasting as the last one. Uh huh. I won't mention who, but seriously, that's cheating, especially since the wine isn't that great. Also, Ann's pick, the 2005 Niner Sangiovese ran out before I could taste it. Admittedly, I arrived toward the latter part of the tasting, but still... I think someone may have made sure it was okay for public consumption. A few times.

Well, folks, it's past midnight, and I do have to work tomorrow even though I work for myself now. I will return later this week to give you a run-down of the interesting discoveries Hubby and I made in Orlando. Here's a hint: there's more down there than just the Mouse.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Oenophile has returned!

Greetings, fellow Oenophiles!

Hubby and I just returned from our trip to Belgium. The reason was ostensibly so we could attend my mother's family reunion and he could meet the Belgian side of the family. However, we had our own agendas. He planned to drink his way across the country by sampling as many Belgian beers as possible, and I planned to take advantage of access to a greater variety of European, specifically French, wines.

I've only given one restaurant website because it's the only one that had a version in English.

We spent the first couple of days in Brussels, and, I found out later from my cousins, managed to eat at somewhat touristy restaurants while we were there. The first night, we had moules frites (mussels steamed with white wine served with Belgian -- not French -- fries) at Restaurant Vincent. The tour guides had advertised this as a meat place, but the menu was half seafood, and about three fourths of the other people in the restaurant were eating mussels as well. We shared a bottle of the 2007 de La Chapelle Sauvignon (no type of Sauvignon given, I assume Blanc). It was very light and mineral with a floral nose, kind of like a Pinot Gris, but a little fruitier like an Oregon Pinot Gris.

The next night, we took advantage of the Prix Fixe menu at Aux Armes de Bruxelles to have some of our favorite Belgian foods. These included Belgian endives steamed, wrapped in ham, and baked in a Gruyere sauce with a hint of nutmeg, and Flemish Stew, which is beef stew made with beer (of course). We had the 2004 La Bastide Dauzac (Margaux appellation), made by Andre Lurton. It had a fruity nose with a hint of green-ness and was medium-bodied with soft tannins. The web site gave the following blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 58%, Merlot 37%, Cabernet Franc 5%. Yes, it played well with the food.

We did make a very nice wine discovery in Blankenberge, a small coastal town where the Belgians like to take holidays. We got very lucky in that the weather was good all weekend. Odette, the proprietor of the Belle Epoque Hotel, served an excellent red wine the night of the reunion as well as the following night for after-dinner drinks. It was the 2007 La Sartan from the Cotes du Ventoux region of France. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, it was full-bodied, fruity with enough oak and butter to make it silky, and nicely balanced, as it went well with food and on its own. I had never heard of the Cotes du Ventoux region of France, which is essentially between Rhone and Provence, but I will definitely be looking for more reds from this area!

On Monday, it was off to Brugge, a town that is known for its medieval architecture, canals, and lots of tourists.


Another canal with swans:

Main square with tourists:

Beer at the Halve Moon Brewery in Brugge:

We heard more English spoken there than Dutch, but I wanted to go with Hubby because it's where my parents honeymooned, so they brought me and my sister there many years later, and I remembered it as being really pretty. We ate dinner at Bistro Arti's, which is known for its modern take on Belgian food. We drank the 2006 Monfil Tinto (Carinera, Spain), a blend of 70% Grenacha, 30% Tempranillo. The nose is smoky currant, and the wine itself had nice dark fruit and good acidity. It went very well with the mushrooms that came with my duck and the peppercorn sauce with Hubby's steak.

Tuesday found us in Ghent, which is also famous for medieval architecture and canals, but not quite so many, and, honestly, it was a bit of a letdown after Brugge. It was also under construction with cranes mixed in with the historic towers:

We may have felt differently had we actually been staying in the historic part, where we found a cafe that resonated with our math geekiness:

Being in the 'burbs allowed us to discover the Restaurant Patyntje, which is in a mansion in a residential area on the river. Once we had walked and walked and walked to get there, we felt we had earned our dinner. We had the house wine, a 2007 Louis de Jolimont Cabernet Sauvignon (Vin de Pays d'Oc). Nice nose with a hint of butter/oak, black currant, and a spicy finish. We found it to be nicely full-bodied for a French wine.

Antwerp was the next stop. By that time, our feet were worn out from walking on cobblestones, and we'd seen a bunch of historic stuff, so we kept the educational part to a minimum with the Cathedral and the Reubens House. I got to go shopping, not for diamonds, but for clothes because the European clothes actually fit me. We stumbled into the Cafe/Restaurant De Kaai our second night there while looking for one mentioned in the guidebooks that had closed, but we didn't mind. Restaurant De Kaai is on the river, and we sat on the heated patio and enjoyed watching the boats go in and out of the harbor. There, Hubby was able to eat pheasant, which was only allowed to be served after October 15, and we shared a bottle of 2006 Martino Biscardo Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Veneto, Italy). This was the best Valpolicella I've ever tasted. A blend of Corvino and Rondinella, the nose is incredibly fruity, and there is a little spice, chocolate, and vanilla on the palate. (Note: when I did a search on this wine, I found it available here in the 'States. It's worth a taste if you find it!)

In Antwerp, there's a bar called the Eleventh Commandment that salvaged statues from old churches. I think that they all look quite happy in their current home, although the large statue of St. Therese of Lisieux in the women's W.C. (not pictured) was a little creepy:

Our final day took us back to Brussels in anticipation of flying out the following day. Hubby had been looking forward to fish in the Place Saint Catherine area, where the fish markets used to be when Brussels had a river and port. We ate at La Belle Maraichere, where we finished off the trip with a 5-course dinner and a bottle of 2006 Chateau de la Roulerie Chenin Sec (Loire Valley). This could qualify as a Big Ass White, all floral with some lychee and lime. My note is that it's great with fish.

One thing we really enjoyed about European restaurants was that the pace of dining isn't as all rushed. In other words, the focus is on the experience for the diner, not on turning tables. When we reserved a table, we came in to see a little "Reserve" sign on the table, and dinner frequently took two to three hours. Although we liked it, I wonder how many American diners would enjoy that.

I have to give one beer comment. Thanks to Mike from the Brick Store for the recommendation to seek out the Bierhuis Kulminator in Antwerp. We've all heard of cellaring wine, but they cellar and age beer as well as keep a large amount of beer on hand. The menu is huge, so I asked for a recommendation from Leen Boudewijn, one of the owners. I had and loved the Malheur 12, and then Hubby and I had an Orval, a Trappist beer, from the year we got married (2004). It's kind of depressing to think that we're now going to have to pay $10 for beers we were paying 3-4 Euros for over there.

Here's a picture of the bar at the Bierhaus Kulminator:

Their beer fridge is way better than your beer fridge (Brick Who?):

Finally, a couple of Belgian sommeliers followed us home:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tasting Notes: Que Syrah Shiraz? JavaMonkey Thursday Wine Series 10/2/08

I apologize in advance for any typos in this post. I'm writing with a 15-lb cat sitting on my right hand. It's kind of like in the old Anglican "Book of Common Prayer," wherein someone gets to "sitteth upon the right hand. And purreth at the notion of yummy red wine." Okay, maybe that last bit wasn't in there, but Jess did pour some good reds at last Thursday's tasting. The theme was Shiraz/Syrah, so that meant lots of dark fruit and purple teeth for all!

2006 Rojo Mojo Shiraz (La Mancha, Spain):
Completely aged in stainless steel, this wine had a fruit peel nose, light berry and dark plum flavors on the palate, and a raspberry finish
Rating: Good

2005 Abundance Syrah (Lodi, California):
This winery is definitely going on the itinerary for our spring trip to Lodi. It's a family operation, and they monitor every aspect of production. It had that rich, deep flavor associated with Lodi wines (hence why we're going there). Light caramel or licorice overtone, medium fruit middle, and spicy finish.
Rating: Very Good

2004 Bradgate Syrah (Stellenbosch, South Africa):
Astringent, antiseptic nose. Smooth, but with eucalyptus flavors on the palate crowding out any fruit that might have been there. Other comments heard as people tasted this wine included, "plastic" and "Band-Aid."
Rating: Moo (for those reading for the first time, this is my rating for wines I really don't like, taken from one hideous North Carolina wine that was named for a show cow)

2004 Niner Syrah (Paso Robles, California):
Dark fruit nose, nicely balanced with good acidity, smooth and fruity
Rating: Very Good

2007 Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone (Cotes-du-Rhone, France):
Earthy/loamy nose with fruit around the edges. Almost too smooth in that it slides right off the palate. I could tell I'd drunk it, but it was a very quick, "Bonjour! Voulez vous buvez moi? Au revoir!" (Practicing French for upcoming trip to Europe) It did improve with the lovely cheese and salami wine munchies, which brought out some of the dark fruit.
Rating: Bien

2005 Boarding Pass Shiraz (South Australia):
We've had this one before and actually gave a bottle of it to my father, who travels a lot with his consulting work. It got my parents tipsy pretty quickly when we drank it with them over the summer, but 15.7% alcohol content will do that to those who are not accustomed to drinking wine regularly, I guess. It had a slight green nose, but was another very fruity, almost jammy, wine with some acidity and a smooth finish.
Rating: Very Good

Thanks, Jess, for another good tasting and for reading my mind. I had just commented to Hubby on Thursday morning that it would be a good day for "Medium-Ass Reds" with the cool weather and all.

Speaking of cool weather, we're having an oenophile friend over for dinner, so here's our summer to fall transitional menu:

Roasted butternut squash dip with crostini
Tomato and buffalo mozzarella kebabs (because we still have lots of little tomatoes that are ripening in our veggie garden)

First course:
Butternut squash ravioli with pancetta and sage
Mixed greens with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and dried cranberries
Homemade tarragon vinaigrette

Main course:
Zinfandel braised beef brisket with onions & potatoes
Good bread/rolls

Apple pie w/ ice cream

Wine: Medium- to full-bodied reds

Frequency of blog posts may go down over the next couple of weeks as we travel to Belgium. I'm bringing my computer, but I'm not sure how accessible -- or expensive -- internet access will be. I'll try to blog highlights as I go. Meanwhile, drink good wine, enjoy the cool weather, and eat lots of squash.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wine Dinners, aka, Pairing for Dummies: Room at 12 and Feast

As an oenophile who also happens to really like food, I love wine dinners, especially ones where someone else does all the pairing work for me. As luck would have it, I have two to report on this week. They actually took place last week, but I'm still playing catch up.

On September 21, Hubby and I took advantage of Concentrics Restaurants' Wine Week Atlanta and went to Room at Twelve. The menu of this self-described "modern American steakhouse" has a range of meat-centric entrees as well as fish and, surprisingly, sushi. We went with the prix fixe menu for the Wine Week dinner.

The fun thing about wine dinners is that you get to see how food changes the taste and feeling of a wine, hopefully for the better. At this wine dinner, we got two wines per course. The general manager told us that they had featured a different winery every night, and this evening, they were all from the E&J Gallo Winery. I admit to being a little shocked -- a classy restaurant with Gallo wine? I remembered Gallo as being the stuff in jugs that my parents would make wine coolers with, and when we visited the Healdsburg tasting room, we weren't really impressed with the offerings that weren't in jugs. Plus, they were one of the few that made us pay for a tasting. The wines we got for the wine dinner were generally good, and I realized while writing this that they're different international wineries under the Gallo umbrella. They were as follows (I apologize for the lack of vintages; that information was not supplied):

Appetizer Course:
McWilliams Riesling (Southeastern Australia): Oak/citrus nose with minerality and subtle tropical fruit. My reaction was, "This is a Riesling?" I've had several dry Rieslings, but this is more like a Sauvignon Blanc.
Martin Codax Albarino (Rias Baixas, Spain): Lychee and soft fruit nose, very herbal along the back and sides of the palate. Interesting herbal finish.

The first course, an excellent wild American shrimp and miso soup, had savory light orange broth with slices of mushroom and green onion. The shrimp itself tasted like it had been marinated in garlic and herbs before being put in the soup. It smoothed and brought out the fruit in the Riesling, whereas the Albarino became more mineral and acid.

Salad Course:
The second course, an arugula salad with walnuts, goat cheese, raisins, cranberries, apricots, and red onion, was also served with white wine.

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand): The nose was herbal and reminded us of how our tomato vines smell when we pick the tomatoes. The wine itself was fairly mineral with a little citrus. The salad calmed the green qualities of the wine and brought out floral notes.

MacMurray Pinot Gris (Russian River Valley, California): Subtle nose with citrus and vanilla notes and some acidity. The finish was lingering. The food highlighted the floral qualities and coaxed a hint of vanilla from it.

Third Course:
With this course, I felt I was in a "modern American steakhouse." The New Zealand rack of lamb with panzanella and zucchini mint sauce was served rare and turned out to be quite garlicky, especially when heated for leftovers later in the week. All the flavors of the dish worked well together.

Don Miguel Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina): Dark fruit/berry nose that leads to a smooth red and a nice, buttery finish. Hubby and I agreed we liked this one better on its own. The food went well with it but gave it a little bite at the end.
Louis Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa, California -- did you really need me to tell you that?): I can see why they paired this with the lamb. It has mint and spice on the nose, and is definitely a big, spicy Cabernet. The food smoothed it out and brought out nice dark fruit.

The GM brought the McWilliams Shiraz out for us to try with the lamb. It was supposed to go with dessert, a rich chocolate layer cake. It actually went really well with the lamb and with the cake, which gave it a little smoke and brought out more dark fruit. The other wine to go with dessert, the Gallo Family Cabernet Sauvignon, was very smooth on its own with a little caramel to it. The dessert washed it out. The GM also let us try some Plunger Head Zinfandel (Dry Creek, California), which was like drinking spice cake and earned a "Zin-gasm" comment. However it, too, was killed by the cake.

In spite of our vows not to eat again for a week after that dinner, Hubby and I found ourselves at Feast the following Tuesday evening for their Summer Harvest Australian Wine Dinner. It ended up being a beautiful night to sit outside, and we even got to hear famous violinist (at least in Decatur) Kirsten Browning play. Oh, the food and wine were good, too.

The appetizers included beet and goat cheese crostini, chicken satay, and cucumber slices with salmon, dill, cream, and capers. It was served with the 2005 Chrismont Riesling (King Valley, Victoria), which had a pineapple/citrus nose, tropical fruit taste, and dry finish.

The Massoni Sauvignon Blanc (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria) smelled like seashells to me and tasted of lime, mint, and stone. It made sense to pair it with the ceviche-like citrus marinated shrimp, scallops, and squid wrapped in bibb leaves and served over a passionfruit puree. We couldn't find the "spicy chile sauce" mentioned on the food list.

One of the fun things about wine and beer dinners at Feast is that I get to try foods I would otherwise not eat. The second course was pan-seared Ostrich medallions with bacon and summer beans. It was served with the Austins Shiraz from Geelong, Victoria. Dark plum and ripe fruit aroma, tannic and acidic with spice and more plums, it took on a nice overtone with the food. The chef later came out and confessed that it was her first time to cook Ostrich (I don't know why I feel the need to capitalize that; I just do). She did an excellent job. It was tough to cut, but very tender to chew. The applewood smoked bacon wrapped around the medallions kept it from being dry.

The third course consisted of smoked pheasant, peppers stuffed with Israeli cous cous, and chocolate hazelnut vinaigrette. The Six Foot Six Shiraz/Viognier (Geelong, Victoria) was my favorite wine of the evening. Blackberry aromas promise and deliver lots of blackberry fruit with pepper and a hint of chocolate. It's very smooth to drink with and without food.

Finally, dessert sounded strange but tasted very good. Olive oil and thyme cake was topped with sweet cream and served with macerated figs. One table member liked it so much he told the owner and chef he'd like to see it on the regular menu. The Chrismont La Zona Rosato Mezzanotte (King Valley, Victoria) is a rose wine comprised of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Barbera, and 25% Marzemino. It has lots of berry characteristics, specifically cranberry and strawberry. Overall, I thought it was nicely balanced. Hubby drank it, which is as much of a compliment as a pink wine will get from him.

Those were our wine dinner adventures. I'm glad it made for a low effort week on my part, especially since Hubby and I had been up in the mountains with some of his work colleagues, and I may have been up playing Rock Band 2 until 5:30 one morning after having helped to polish off a huge bottle of Bogle Petite Sirah. One of said work buddies is a former chef, so we ate well up there, too. What have I been doing since the hedonistic weekend and the decadent wine dinners? Going to the gym and taking advantage of the lovely weather we've been having to go walking/jogging outside. A lot. I'm probably still a few thousand calories behind.

JavaMonkey wine tasting tomorrow! I have no clue what it is. We stopped by today on the way home from the Decatur Farmers' Market, but Jess hadn't put out new lists. Maybe she doesn't know what it will be, either.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tasting Notes: Del Rio Vineyards, Rogue Valley, Oregon (JM Thursday Wine Series 9/18/08)

Normally I'm wary of tastings limited to just one winery because as we've discovered on our wine trips, sometimes you just don't like anything from a particular place. Luckily the featured vineyard, Del Rio Vineyards and Winery, located in Rogue Valley, Oregon, had a good range of wines, several of which were very nice.

2007 Chardonnay:
Flowery nose with mild citrus on the palate and a mineral finish.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Pinot Gris:
Peach nose, lots of mineral on the palate, but a somewhat harsh alcohol finish.
Rating: Good

2006 Viognier: 96% Viognier, 4% Chardonnay
In spite of the blending, this one was a rather basic Viognier. It didn't have much on the nose and was a little bitter on the finish.
Rating: Okay

2007 Rose Jolee:
Slightly sparkling. The nose is very sweet with notes of summer flowers. It was floral with strawberry on the palate. The tasters generally rated this as being slightly more sophisticated than Cold Duck. I thought it was a fun pink wine and hit that sweet spot between too dry and too sweet.
Rating: Good/Very Good

2005 Syrah:
The nose is a subtle blend of grape and dark fruit. It's smooth with dark fruit and butter. The final finish at the back of the palate was a little bitter. It probably wants food.
Rating: Good

2005 Claret: 41% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Malbec
This was the favorite of the evening, at least for me and Hubby. It has a nice nose that promises a lot, and then delivers with dark berry, cedar, and butter. Plus, who doesn't feel sophisticated when drinking a wine called Claret, even if it turns your teeth purple?

A Note of Apology to My Wonderful and Faithful Readers (the rest of you can skip ahead)

Gentle readers,

The Random Oenophile apologizes to all of you for being so slack about updating the blog lately. This is a time of great turmoil and transition, and I humbly beg your forgiveness. I shan't insult you with excuses except to say that managed care companies are a sadistic lot that have kept me running in circles for the past week. The good news is that although I have not been writing as much, I have been imbibing, and thus have much to say about my recent adventures.


Cecilia Dominic
Miss Random Oenophile
Who thinks that Miss Manners is actually kind of scary-looking. Still, I do believe that manners are important when drinking wine...and purchasing fuel. So if you have half a tank, go on your merry way and stop contributing to the crisis.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oenophile At Large: Dining OTP

Yep, I've gotten behind again, but this week's post is a nice long one.

Starting one's own small business takes a lot of time. And paperwork, let's not forget the paperwork. The irony is that one of the reasons I went into business for myself is that I was tired of having to depend on others for a large part of my job. No, I'm not a control freak. Now some stranger at the zoning board in Sandy Springs has my business license application, and I'll be submitting managed care apps soon.

One of the benefits to doing this is that business-related stuff as well as my new god-daughter are taking me into the wilds Outside the Perimeter, or OTP, as we ITP people like to call it. There are some good restaurants up there. Here are a few we've tried in the past couple of weeks:

We went to Relish for dinner one weekend recently with a large group. I'm typically wary of gourmet Southern, but they seem to focus on keeping it simple, so there's nothing weird on the menu. The table shared the Pimiento Cheese Fritters and Hot Potato Chips with blue cheese sauce for appetizers. They didn't last long. I'm not normally a fan of pimiento cheese, but I do like fried cheese, and the fritters were quite tasty, especially with the pepper jelly. The hot potato chips were fantastic. I chose the Fried Green Tomato Salad for my entree, and although I can't really say it was healthy and couldn't finish it, I liked it. The tomatoes were cooked perfectly and not greasy, and the fresh mozzarella and tomato jam gave it sort of a fried caprese feel. So yeah, gourmet Southern, but done well. Hubby had the hamburger and noted that he liked the spices in it. We shared a side of mac and cheese. It was mac and cheese, good comfort food. One of our dining companions ordered the signature dessert, Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, which is essentially donuts chopped up, baked, and served over espresso cream, and I had to have a bit, for the sake of the blog, of course. See the sacrifices I make for y'all? It seemed to be a very efficient way to have coffee and donuts. Hubby, who is somewhat of a donut purist, wasn't as enthused.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Casual and open; the patio is probably very nice right now; a little noisy inside
Food: Very good
Wine list: Not bad; wines not listed online, but there is a good variety
Wait staff: Good; they handled our large group well
Desserts: Very Good
Vegetarian friendly? Not unless they want to stick to sides
Kid friendly? Somewhat; there were kids in there
Would I go back? Yes

The accountant my colleagues recommended is waaaay north in Alpharetta. On the way back from our last appointment, Hubby and I stopped at Ray's Killer Creek, which is the Ray's restaurant specializing in steak, to celebrate my incorporation going through. We both started with a House Salad, which has cranberries, blue cheese, and candied pecans. I liked the roasted balsamic dressing. I had the Prime Rib Dip, which was served with French Fries. Hubby had the Kobe burger, and no, this isn't a theme with him. I promise, he trusts that the chefs OTP can make things besides hamburgers. The meat on the Prime Rib Dip is shaved, so it was easy to eat and tender. The fries were cooked perfectly and nicely seasoned. I had a glass of the Casa Silva, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley, Chile), which was too acidic on its own, but was really good with the food, which demonstrates the principle of pairing fatty food with acidic wine. The acid cuts the fat, and vice versa. The wine ended up with nice dark fruit and leather.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Business at lunch, probably elegant at dinner
Food: Very good to Excellent
Wine list: Has a good variety of reds and whites
Wait staff: Very good, attentive
Desserts: They looked really good, but I was too stuffed to try one that trip
Vegetarian friendly? It's a steak place. That would be no.
Kid friendly? Ummmm, no.
Would I go back? Yes

The Oak Street Cafe is a new addition to Roswell. I ate there on a combination business license/see the god-daughter trip because I'd gotten a flat tire, and, well, it's a long, complicated story. I just have to say I'm very grateful for good friends. The lunch menu is sandwich- and salad-focused with a choice of soup, salad, or fries on the side. I had the Lafayette sandwich, which is chicken with bacon, Emmenthaler (a mild swiss), grilled onions, "smoky mayo," and lettuce on baguette. I got salad for the side. My friend got the special, which was essentially a gourmet roast beef sandwich, with salad. We were pleased at the size of the salads; usually lunch places throw on a few leaves of lettuce with a little dressing. This was a lot of leaves with blue cheese, toasted pecans, and a little vinaigrette dressing. They seem to like that blue cheese/pecan combo on their salads OTP. I didn't have dessert or wine, but in spite of my not having partaken of alcohol and sugar, I thought it was a really good lunch. The food was fresh and made to order, and my friend and I agreed that we'd go back.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Casual
Food: Very good; I would have preferred the salad dressing on the side
Wine list: Short
Wait staff: Good for the format (order at counter); they magically know who ordered what and bring it to you
Desserts: Don't know; seemed to have limited choices
Vegetarian friendly? There are a couple of options, but generally not.
Kid friendly? Yes, there is a kids' menu. However, there is no changing table.

Just a reminder: Wine tasting at JavaMonkey this Thursday!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tasting Notes: ABC's at JavaMonkey, European Reds and Whites at Sherlock's

When someone mentions the "ABC's of wine," sometimes they mean the basics, and sometimes they're referring to "Anything But [that boring] Cabernet and Chardonnay, please!!!" The JavaMonkey tasting this week was the latter. Here are the wines in the order that they were poured (numbers one and two on the tasting list were switched):

2007 Falanghina dei Feudo San Gregorio (Sannio, Italy): 100% Falanghina grapes
Hard to say, but easy to drink, this one was probably the favorite of the evening. It's dry and mineral with a nice citrus finish.
Rating: Very Good

Trivento Torrontes (Mendoza, Argentina): 100% Torrontes
Has a peach/apricot nose with floral and honey flavors over a mineral base. Apparently it was very good with the garlicky bruschetta tasting munchie.
Rating: Good

2004 Rubrato Aglianico dei Feudi di San Gregorio (Aglianico, Italy): 100% Aglianico grapes (yes, they're serious about this anything but... business)
This light-bodied red had a lingering buttery finish. I liked.
Rating: Very Good

2005 Nobul Red Tempranillo (Madrid, Spain): 100% Tempranillo
Generally unremarkable until it opened a bit, then was a nice, smooth red wine with mild fruit.
Rating: Good

2007 Alamos Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina):
This one was all about the smoke and dark fruit. It wanted barbecue, and it wanted it right then.
Rating: Good, would be excellent with food

2004 Kunde Estate Syrah (Sonoma, California): 90% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon (is that cheating?), 3% Viognier, and 1% Zinfandel
I'll just skip to the rating, which I noted as being berry good. Yep, it's a berry bomb, and I liked it.

Hubby and I poured at Sherlock's yesterday before our Grange adventures (see previous post). The theme was European Reds and Whites with one wine snuck in from that strange European country of California (that's a joke -- yes, I am smarter than a 5th grader!).

We requested that Warner send us the wine list ahead of time so we could prepare ourselves for questions and tell stories about the wine. Those of you who know us irl should not be surprised by this. The problem is that every time I do research for Sherlock's wine tastings, the wine rep actually comes, so I don't get to talk. Yep, the wine rep showed up, and I sulked at first, but we ended up being busy enough that we both got to do a fair bit of talking and maybe even show off a little. The extra stuff is below the ratings.

NV Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana (Spain):
This one was interesting because it was a dry sherry, which is totally unfamiliar to most American palates.
Rating: Meh (or should I go with my recent idea of designating wines I didn't like at all with moo?)

A family winery in Andalusia (Southern coastal region) since 1792, the Hidalgos were originally in the salt business. It showed in the wine, which had a salty overtone to it. It was a little better with olives and almonds, but still not to my liking. I don't think any of our tasters liked it, either.

2007 Xarmont Txakolina (Spain):
This effervescent (see: slightly bubbly) white is all citrus and mineral and would be perfect for an afternoon by the pool or on the back patio with tapas. This was one of the more popular wines of the afternoon, maybe because it followed the dry sherry and was thus really good by comparison.
Rating: Very Good

From the Basque region, this wine is usually served from a great height into a small tumbler and allowed to settle. I did not allow Hubby to climb the shelves and try this.

2004 Roshambo Rock, Paper, and Scissors Chardonnay (Sonoma County, California): Peach-pear nose and hazelnut and peach on the palate, this Chardonnay was actually good. It's still slightly oaked, so I was surprised that I liked it so much, although I shouldn't be because Hubby and I went to the old Roshambo tasting room in 2004 and loved their wines. We're hoping that they'll ship to Georgia now that the laws have loosened up a bit. If not, we'll just have to visit them at their new tasting room in Sonoma.
Rating: Very Good

2005 C.H. Berres Riesling "Impulse" (Mosel River Valley, Germany):
This is a mostly dry Riesling with a little bit of residual sugar and peach-citrus flavors over mineral. Hubby liked it, which was his surprise for the afternoon because he's usually anti-Riesling.
Rating: Very Good

The "Impulse" in the wine's name comes from the new energy infused by the winemaker, Marcus Berres, who took over his family's winery with the 2004 vintage while still in his late 20's. Would go well with Asian cuisine.

2006 Vina Gormaz Ribera del Duero (Ribero del Duero, Spain): 100% Tempranillo
Seriously, two disappointing Tempranillos in a week? What is the world coming to? This one was all earth and leather with the berries sneaking out as it opened, but it was still too much terroir, not enough fruit for my palate. Others loved it, though.
Rating: Okay-Good

2005 Barco Negro Douro (Douro, Portugal): 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Touriga Franca, 40% Touriga Nacional -- all Portugese varietals, the second one is related to Tempranillo
Dark fruit nose with cherry and plum flavors with just the barest finish of mint, this red was definitely drinkable.
Rating: Very Good

The name comes from one of the Barco Rabelos, or boats used to transport Port on the Douro River from where it was made to Vila Nova de Gaia, where it was sold and stored. The Barco Negro ran at night and had a black hull. The Port barrels were also black, as supposedly were their contents, which was a dark, dense, and rich Port wine.

2004 Guelbenzu EVO Ribera del Quieles (Spain): Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tempranillo (exact percentages apparently a trade secret)
Medium-bodied red with slight toasted bread and lots of currant flavors. The flavors dwindled disappointingly as it opened.
Rating: Good to Very Good

The town of Cascante in the Navarra region of Spain has been making wine since Roman times. The Guelbenzu winery has been selling commercially since the early 1800's. The EVO is not a Rachael Ray reference, as one taster guessed, but rather a Spanish word meaning eternity that was supposedly derived from the cry of the priestesses of Bacchus (god of wine and partying), who would shout, "Evohe! Evohe!" or, in modern parlance, "Party on forever!" in the course of their Bacchanalia.

Bottom line: A Chardonnay that I liked and a Riesling that he liked? They definitely had to come home with us.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Oenophile at Large: The Grange

I have a lot to catch up on, but I wanted to go ahead and post my review of The Grange.

Hubby and I arrived at Decatur's new Irish pub at about 6:45 and found it to be pretty crowded with only one table available outside and a couple of empty ones inside. We chose seats at the bar and took stock of what had changed since it was the Angel. The first thing we noticed was how much brighter it is inside. The formerly dark walls are painted white, and the carpets have been replaced by wooden floors. Or have they always been wooden? It's been so long since the Angel closed that we couldn't remember. Either way, it's now brighter, although the inside layout is the same with the bar in the center, booths and tables to either side, and the fireplace in the back. It looks a lot more open, but it should still be nice and cozy in the winter.

The Grange is run by four siblings who actually are Irish, and they're hands-on in the running of the restaurant. Colin, behind the bar, took care of us, and we saw the others around throughout the evening. The entire bar, all four sides, seemed a bit much for him to handle, and he and his sister noted that they'll be better prepared next weekend with a bar back. In general, they had only a few of the problems that one might expect for an opening night, for example, the kitchen getting behind and overwhelmed.

Hubby and I started with the Risotto Balls, which are Parmesan risotto with bits of bacon that are breaded and fried and served with marinara sauce. They're an original take on cheese sticks. The house salad is a small plate of lettuce, sliced cucumber, and tomato with a savory oil, vinegar, and tarragon dressing. Hubby got the burger, which was cooked medium and served with "chips" (fries), and he reported that the seasonings in the burger were very good. I had to wait a bit for my Guinness Braised Brisket, which was served with fr, er, chips and a side of peas and carrots. It was flavorful and tender, although I would have liked for some sort of sauce with the meat, perhaps some of the cooking liquid. One thing I appreciated about the brisket is that it wasn't a bit greasy. We made the acquaintance of a nice couple at the end of the bar, and they gave us reviews of their food. The Meat Pie was "a little dry," and the mashed potatoes could have used some gravy, but the Shepherd's Pie was very good. For the sake of completeness, I made a sacrifice for the blog and had the dessert "The Dubliners," which are profiteroles with Guinness ice cream and dark chocolate honey sauce, even though I was already full. They were excellent.

As for libations, yes, it's a pub, so the beer list is over twice as long as the wine list, but both have an interesting variety. I started the evening with a Chouffe pale ale and then went on to sample the house wines, which are from Twisted Winery just south of Lodi, California. I had the Merlot, which is a fairly straightforward berry bomb, the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is still fruity but has a little more complexity and a hint of caramel on the finish, and the Zinfandel, which is everything one might want in a Zin, especially after it breathes a bit, as one would expect from that region. All three wines were very smooth and went well with food. Hubby stuck with beer. Our new friends sampled the beer as well as wine and deemed the 2007 Astica Malbec to be "so-so," but the El Coto Crianza was good.

The bottom line is that once they make the necessary tweaks like putting an extra person behind the bar and getting the kitchen flow worked out, this should be a really fun place to hang out, eat, and drink. I really like that they chose an interesting label for the house wines and that the noise level, even at the bar, allowed for easy conversation. I think that the Irish sibs are well on their way toward making The Grange a true community pub.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Open, light, friendly, good noise level
Food: Very good
Wine list: Nice range for a pub; they don't have the Brick Store's beer list but should have enough variety to make most people happy
Wait staff: Very Good at the bar; seemed to have adequate numbers out in the restaurant
Desserts: Very Good; only two choices, both chocolate-centered (which is fine with me)
Vegetarian friendly? Yes, if they want to mostly stick to starters and salads; only one vegetarian entree
Kid friendly? Surprisingly so with a kids' menu
Would I go back? Yes, regularly

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oenophile at Large: Grownups' Night Out in Decatur

I am now officially done with my former job except for some contract work I’m doing for them. The problem is now that whenever I’m connected to their system, the rest of my internet applications don’t work, like it’s greedily sucking up all my bandwidth and probably a few other things, too. Oh, and the final "stuff from my desk" count: 5 boxes, one very full bag, another plastic shopping bag, and some journals carried out by hand along with my lower back support. That was really interesting when people tried to hug me on the way out.

In my last post, I wrote about pouring at Sherlock’s with Hubby on August 23. The adventures didn’t stop when we put the bottles away. Okay, we did take a quick breather for Mass.

Tangent: Three things I love about being Catholic (don’t worry, I’ll keep this brief and leave the heavy spiritual thinking to Dan):
1. Drinking alcohol is allowed, even in Church, although Communion wine is not very good.
2. They have Saturday evening services so you can sleep in on Sunday.
3. The pope says we can believe in aliens!

We just happened to go by Tastings afterward, which was already getting busy. We shared the “Tuscan Picnic” meat and cheese plate, which has Asiago, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Peppered Salami, Sopressata, Roasted Red Peppers, and Toasted Pine Nuts, all served with crostini.

I got a taste of each of the following. Please note that all were tasted with food:

Inama Vin Soave, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy): 100% Garganega
This medium-bodied white had a nice apricot/pear nose. It tasted mineral with almond and honey.
Rating: Good

Coltibuono “Selezione R.S.” (Chianti, Italy): 100% Sangiovese
A nice red with berries on the nose and a buttery finish.
Rating: Very Good

Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago (Toro, Spain): 100% Tempranillo
Ripe, dark fruit nose with a caramel/pepper finish
Rating: Okay

I confirmed that I still like the Fife Redhead Red Zinfandel and other stuff, and Hubby got to have some this time, too. For some reason, I didn’t get vintages – sorry! I do have two things that I don't like about Tastings: it's over air-conditioned (see: freezing!), and the layout is such that it's hard to maneuver around inside, especially when it's busy.

I’m not sure why we decided we were hungry for dinner after that huge snack, but that’s what we did. Deciding what to have for dinner typically takes some negotiating. Maybe it’s because we’re both Pisces and can’t make up our minds about anything. Café Lilly? No, he would feel under-dressed in shorts. The same went for Cakes & Ale, and it was really crowded, anyway. I didn’t really feel like ethnic, and as for getting into the Brick Store, forget it. So we ended up at Sage.

The last time I reviewed Sage, I complained that they hadn’t updated their menu in a long time. They do have a few items that looked unfamiliar (and aren’t on the online menu, which is still the November 2007 one), so it looks like they’re keeping their favorites and changing some things seasonally. I can’t complain about that; it's a formula that works for a lot of places. Hubby had the “Mafia Steak,” which was essentially steak and mashed potatoes. I combined the Crisp Duck Confit and Baby Greens Salad for my entrée. Overall, it was a good experience, and they were very accommodating when we were chased inside by the rain.

After dinner, we hung out at Twain’s and watched the Olympics. Their wine list is limited, but I was still able to find something to keep me occupied for a while in addition to the male singles’ diving finals. I had a glass or three of the Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon, which I knew would be good because we’ve been to their winery. I had never been inside Twain’s, and I was surprised at how big it is. I was also pleased to discover that their kitchen doesn’t close til late, so my midnight jonesin’ for onion rings (wine munchies?) was satisfied. They might take the billiards thing a little far by designating their bathrooms as "Balls" and "Racks." Speaking of going too far, later in the evening, I was treated to a play-by-play analysis of what was going on in the "Racks" room by a drunk co-ed as she wiggled and waited. She'd probably been watching too much Olympic coverage.

I have a confession: we ended up at the Waffle House at 1 a.m. Yes, we decided to relive some of our college days. Nothing much to report there. I’m all about a pecan waffle in the wee hours of the morning.

As much fun as we had, we were sure to enjoy responsibly. I'll also add that we walked to, around, and from Decatur. It was grown-up fun and exercise, too!

Next weekend, we get to have a new adventure! Last Fall, we’d started in the (probably bad) habit of stopping by the Angel after Saturday evening Mass for a glass of wine and a snack. I called it bribing my non-Catholic husband to go to church with me; he called it keeping in line with his Scottish heritage to stop for alcohol after church. Either way, we were disappointed when the Angel closed and we couldn’t do that anymore. We’re thrilled that it’s reopening as The Grange this coming weekend, September 6. We’ll be there!

This week on the blog: Still catching up – Late Summer Beer Dinner and Breast Cancer Benefit at Feast; Midtown Restaurant Week at One Midtown Kitchen; going OTP for dinner in Roswell

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tasting Notes: South American Reds and Whites at Sherlock's, 8/23/08

I apologize for the dearth of posting this week. It was my last week at my job, and I was a bit busy and, honestly, somewhat emotionally overwhelmed. Plus, I had to clear out my desk and space. Who knew it was possible to accumulate so much stuff in three years?

I got ready for the week by pouring at the Sherlock's wine tasting last Saturday. The wines:

2006 Dona Paula Chardonnay Estate (Argentina): It's a Chardonnay, but I liked it, especially the tropical fruit flavors. It was a bit smoky/oaky when first opened, with more burnt toast than the promised "pleasant toast bread notes," but it got better once it opened with more floral notes coming through the nose.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Nieto Chardonnay (Argentina): This one got more toasted oak after opening, with light fruit and vanilla. I liked it better at first.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2007 La Puerta Chardonnay (Argentina): Peachy! I liked this one the best of the three.
Rating: Very Good

2006 Veramonte Pinot Noir (Chile): The bottle we poured last week wasn't nearly as good as the one we'd brought home in the month's wine club and had finished the night before. There was something weird about it, although it wasn't corked. Others who had tasted the wine before agreed

2005 Dona Paula Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina): Okay, I've got to quote the tasting notes we were given for this one:
"Sexy, smoky, high-toned aromas of cassis, black plum, spice cake, loam, and espresso..."
The nose got a wow, and the wine is very good with lots of ripe fruit and a nice finish with "very broad, supple tannins and lovely persistence."
"Very broad" + "sexy" = wine that loves its curves, with good reason.
Rating: Very good/excellent

2005 Veramonte Primus (Chile): A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenere, this wine has a somewhat herbal nose and is all black cherry and spice. It loves steak.
Rating: Very Good

It wouldn't be a Sherlock's tasting without a couple of surprise wines at the end (no beer this week, thank goodness!). No ice wine this time, but Warner did sneak a Spanish blend in there, thus transforming the tasting into "Wines that speak Spanish."

Bonus wines:

2004 Casa de la Ermita Crianza (Spain): Oh, this wine had the potential to be so good with its blend of 40% Monastrell, 25% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Petit Verdot! Alas, I was disappointed, at least after it opened up. At first, it had a nose with a bit of cherry tea and smoke, and it tasted with cherries, herbs, and a lingering butter finish. After it had been open a while, all it had left was cherry tea. Maybe it just couldn't stand up to the big reds we were pouring it with. Admittedly, I did engage in quality control throughout the afternoon, so perhaps the problem was with me, not the wine.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2007 Layer Cake Malbec (Mendoza): Women, me included, are drawn to this wine because of the lovely chocolate cake on the label. It definitely rounded out the tasting nicely with its dark fruit nose and smooth, lingering finish. We may have to pull this one out to finish up our Labor Day barbecue meal.

I had other adventures last weekend and throughout the week and will work on catching up and having even more fun during my two-week break between jobs. Have a great Labor Day weekend, and drink responsibly!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Famous Drunk Guys (Belated)

Yesterday was the birthday of a few drink-worthy individuals.

The first August 22 birthday of note belongs to Claude Debussy, one of my favorite composers. He falls in the late Romantic to early 20th century period, and his music has an incredible, ethereal quality that has been described as Impressionistic, although he didn't see it that way. It's also really fun to play, although I wouldn't try it after having been imbibing. That would probably go as well as my attempted yoga "Moon Salutations" on the beach a couple of weeks ago (half a bottle of wine + soft sand + yoga = thank God the sand is soft!). If I had a piano, I would have pulled out "Clair de Lune" and stumbled through it. I don't know if he was a "drunk guy," but he was French, so he must've liked wine, right?

To drink to Debussy: We need something that evokes calm and sweet memories of lazy summer afternoons or languid evening walks holding hands under the stars. The 2006 Big Fire Pinot Gris from Oregon is a favorite and would fit the bill nicely. If you want to go with the French theme, the Perrin et Fils Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne, would also be a good choice with its silky mouthfeel and nectarine and honeysuckle flavors.

Yesterday was also the birthday of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. His Martian Chronicles was one of the books that kicked off my interest in speculative fiction. Again, I don't know if he qualifies as a "drunk guy," but he's 88, so it wouldn't surprise me if he avails himself of wine's health benefits. Plus, most sci-fi authors I know do drink. If anyone has information to the contrary, please let me know.

I like to drink red wine while I write my own sci fi, so I shall have to choose a red to go with Ray and his Martian Chronicles. The rust-colored planet says Pinot Noir, which often has a pretty ruby hue, so I'm going to go with a favorite here: Foris Pinot Noir from Oregon. I can't pick a vintage because I've liked all the ones I've tasted.

Finally, yesterday was the birthday of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, the wife of Edgar Allan Poe. The first cousins married when he was 27 and she was 13. That last sentence highlights how things have changed in the past century and a half. Back then, Edgar was not arrested, and no one assumed they were from the South. When she died of tuberculosis in 1847, he turned to drink, so the "famous drunk" connection is actually tangential to her husband. This highlights another difference between then and now: dark, gothic writing = cool; emo, OMG my life sux = not cool.

My recommendation for Ms. Clemm: To raise a glass to this young woman married to one of the greatest writers of all time, we need something delicate, but also stronger than expected. How about a Chilean pinot noir? The 2006 Veramonte Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley) is actually a berry bomb for a Pinot, and surprisingly full-bodied with nice oak to keep it from being too Zin-like.

References/Disclaimer: I have to thank Garrison Keillor and his Writer's Almanac for calling these birthdays to my attention. If you're a writer, are interested in historical tidbits about writing, or like poetry, it's worth a listen. Each segment is about 5-6 minutes long and includes writing history, famous birthdays, and a poem.

All opinions expressed about the above individuals are my own. Facts are from Wikipedia.

FYI, I'm pouring wine at Sherlock's this afternoon with Hubby. Come and say hi and mention you read my blog!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tasting Notes: "Unexpected Regions," JavaMonkey Thursday Wine Series

First, Kudos to Jess on having put together a somewhat daring tasting. It takes courage to go beyond the West Coast when it comes to wine in the U.S. As I mentioned in my posts about going through Virginia, there is some good stuff to be found. There's also a lot of bad stuff. This tasting was a good mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've added others' comments with their permission so you're not just getting my opinions.

The wines:

1. 2007 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, New York): After we got through our jokes about this being by "Dr. Frankenwine," and made at Finger Lakes (body part reference, courtesy of The Scot), I had to admit that this is a good representative of the grape. The nose is fragrant and floral, and the wine itself is well-balanced with acid and residual sugar. It had a somewhat metallic finish.
My rating: Good
The Scot sez, "Rooty Tooty Sweet & Fruity."

2. 2005 Salmon Run Chardonnay (Finger Lakes, New York): Hubby liked this one because the name mentions two of his favorite things, salmon and Chardonnay. My thought is that with the way it coats the tongue, it's gotta have some omega-3's in there somewhere. It's overall fairly light and somewhat bitter on the finish. There's really not much there to comment on.
My rating: Okay

3. RagApple Lassie Kaleidoscope Gold (Yadkin Valley, North Carolina): There wasn't much info to be had on this odd white wine that's named after a show cow (yes, a show cow, seriously!). It's made from mystery grapes grown on former tobacco land. The nose is peach with a hint of eucalyptus and lavendar, and the taste is medicinal and bitter. The Scot said that the nose reminded him of burning plastic.
My rating: Moo, er, boo

4. 2005 Gruet "Cuvee Gilbert Gruet" Pinot Noir (Albuquerque, New Mexico): This one has a nice nose with a lot of fruit. It's fairly light bodied with good acidity and a lingering finish. It's a west-coast style Pinot with a lot of good earth notes.
My rating: Very Good

5. RagApple Lassie Cabernet Sauvignon (Yadkin Valley, North Carolina): Chemical beyond even cough syrup.
My rating: Another Moo (this is going to be my new rating for wines I don't like)
Dan sez: "Flaccid."
The two wines from this particular winery were the two I dumped.

6. Tomasello Pomegranate Wine (Hammonton, New Jersey): This one reminded me of the muscadine wines we've tasted. While not bad, it's not something I'd actively seek out. I'll let the comments of others speak to the precise character of this wine:
Anonymous Nick sez, "Grenadine."
The Law sez, "Has a nose of lizard lard." (I had to include that one because it's so bizarre)
Dan sez, "Would be great on vanilla ice cream." His wife added, "Or a snow cone."
So yeah, it was sweet.
My rating: Good

By the way, Anonymous Nick and The Law, I have your notes.

While it's fun and interesting that states outside of Oregon, California, and Washington are making wines, it's also good to know which ones to avoid. Tonight's winner was, hands down, the Gruet Pinot. I love the Gruet sparkling wines, especially the Blanc de Noir, so this comes as no surprise. I definitely want to explore wines from New York further.

Coming this weekend: back to Tastings, this time for dinner!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random Thoughts: What I cooked this weekend and what I'm drinking tonight

I poured at the Sherlock's wine tasting in Decatur yesterday. It was wines from Burgundy. I accidentally left my list there, so I can't blog on the wines, but they weren't that interesting.

Yes, this would definitely be a case of: too much going on, too little mental space for it. I have ten working days left in my current employment situation. Not that I'm counting down, of course. This weekend I sublimated the range of emotions I'm feeling about the transition into cooking. There's nothing like a little stress to bring out creativity in the kitchen.

Last night, I pan-sauteed the flounder we got in Destin (thank you, Sexton's!) and put it with a nice lemon caper sauce. We went to the Morningside Farmer's Market yesterday and got veggies to turn into side dishes with it: sweet turnips, summer spinach, and Japanese eggplant. I braised the turnips in some vegetable broth and butter, sauteed the spinach with garlic and olive oil, and grilled the eggplant. The only glitch in the meal is that the flounder was "cleaned," not filleted. So, last night, I got to fillet flounder and figured out it's time to get my knives sharpened again. One web site (yes, Hubby looked up the "right way" to do it) said that a sharp knife should cut through the fish like butter. I wasn't so lucky, although I did not hurt myself, which is better than I can say for the Pork Loin Incident of Autumn 2007 (I won't go into details, but let's just say it's a good thing that neither Hubby nor I faint at the sight of blood).

We had the 2004 J. Saunders Meursault (Burgundy), which is 100% Chardonnay, with it, and it paired really well with the sweet, flaky fish and sauce. It's fruity and buttery with a hint of honey, and not oaky, although it's wood-aged.

Tomatoes are in season, and yesterday, we came away with 5 pounds and then some for sauce from the Woodland Gardens booth at Morningside. The lady who rung us up asked what we planned to do with them. Tomato sauce, of course! We've been having fun with the tomato press we got 4 years ago when we got married and hadn't played with until this year. The 5 pounds of tomatoes gave us 7 cups of sauce, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it will be enough, with turkey breast meatballs or on its own, for the next few weeks, anyway. I also made a summer vegetable soup with onion, carrots, celery, okra, corn, zucchini, and tomatoes. That will go into lunches this week. Soup during the summer may sound odd, but I usually end up freezing at work because the air-conditioning controls are in the hands of some hot-blooded people.

What do you have with spaghetti and meatballs? A Cab, if you don't have anything Italian handy, and we didn't. We got into the 2005 Wall Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa), which Hubby had poured at a wine tasting a few weeks ago. Although it's not the most complex Cab, it's smooth and fruity with currant and black cherry and didn't overpower the sauce. In fact, it balanced out the acidity of the sauce quite nicely. That bottle didn't make it through the evening.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reviews: Tastings, Argentinian wines at Java Monkey, and a truly random tasting

According to Blogger, this is my 50th post! w00t! Thanks to all my loyal readers. You may be quiet, but I know you're out there; I've got software that tells me so. Don't worry, you don't have to go put your aluminum foil hats on, it only tells me numbers, no personal information. And maybe what you're drinking. Hey, you over there! Put down the white zin and slowly walk away. Refer to my notes on pink wines if you really wanna go there.

I'm a little dopey tonight because Hubby and I returned from the beach yesterday, and then today we talked to an accountant, who put the process in motion for me to start my own small business. No, it's not anything to do with wine, but it should make my other life and the job I get paid for more interesting. Hopefully it will also give me more time to blog once I get everything set up.

Between my travels and real-life craziness, I have some catching up to do, so here we go...

As I mentioned in my last post, Hubby and I ended up at Tastings a couple of Saturdays ago with our friends the Vegetarians. It's part of a chain with an interesting concept. You get a glass and load up a card with money, then stick it in machines that have tubes stuck into bottles of wine and attached to dispensing nozzles. It looks like a trendy mad (drunk?) scientist layout, down to the "Enomatic wine serving systems" labels. You can choose a taste, a half glass, or a full glass, and the prices cover a wide range. I did a DIY tasting of some random reds. Here's what I had:

2004 Fife "Redhead Red" Zinfandel (Mendocino): My little sister has a t-shirt that says, "Not only am I perfect, I'm a redhead, too!" This wine needs that t-shirt. It's a fruit bomb, full-bodied and smooth. I think that non-redheads would like it, too.

2005 Antis Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza, Argentina): Dark fruit on the nose and palate with cola. I noted that it's "chewy."

2006 Hahn Estates Meritage (Central Coast, California): A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, this wine has hints of leather, plum, and currant. It had a rough nose that got better as it opened.

2006 "Artezin" (Mendocino): This wine, a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, has aromas of ginger and berry. The notes described "sweet tannins." I got Splenda (TM) aftertaste. Hubby thought it tasted like cough syrup.

Overall, we found Tastings to be fun, maybe a little noisy and crowded. We didn't eat, but the menu looks promising. I think I may sneak over there for lunch one day after I make my job change and am no longer working in an office on Fridays.

Last Thursday's tasting at JavaMonkey took us to Argentina.

The 2007 J.F. Lurton Pinot Gris (Uco Valley) was the favorite of the evening. It has a "steel magnolia" nose (sorry, apparently I was feeling a bit creative that evening with my notes), nice body with lots of fruit and melon, and a floral finish.
Rating: Very Good

The J.F. stands for Jacques and Francois, who are the two sons of the winery owner, I think. The details are a little fuzzy. They also made the second wine, the 2007 J. F. Lurton Torrontes. The Torrontes grape is part of the Muscat family, and it's definitely apparent in the wine with its sweet, floral nose of honeysuckle and jasmine and honeyed taste. Hubby and I found it to be a little bitter on the finish.
Rating: Good
Note: This one, or something similar, has appeared in a blind tasting, courtesy of a devious wine rep from Grapefields. Nobody guessed it correctly.

The third white of the evening was the 2007 Maipe Chardonnay (Mendoza). It is 85% Chardonnay, 15% Viognier, and "slightly oaked." It's mineral at the beginning, then citrus and vanilla, and grapefruit on the finish. If someone had put the first one and this one in front of me without telling me what they were, I would have guessed this to be the Pinot Gris, it was so light.
Rating: Good

Finally, some reds! This next one was the first red we'd had in a JavaMonkey tasting in 6 weeks. Jess, please don't deprive us like that again! Okay, we're far from wine-deprived, but still... Here are the Argentinian reds we tried:

2007 Maipe Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza): This is a beautiful cab with dark fruit, smoke, and leather on the nose. It's smooth with licorice and caramel on the finish. When I asked Hubby what he got for this one, meaning the flavors, he merely replied, "Happy!"
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

2006 Punto Final Malbec (Mendoza): Pepper and cloves at first, opening up to berry, especially blueberry.
Rating: Good

2005 Cueva de las Manos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza): This one is very smooth with dark fruit and chocolate. It made me happy.
Rating: Very Good

And now for something truly random...

Hubby and I joined my parents in Destin this past weekend. We were to meet up with them for a dinner cruise on Saturday but got to the area a little early. Hmmm... How to kill time at the beach? We remembered seeing the Emerald Coast Wine Cellars tasting room before but had never made it when they're open. We stopped in and found that in addition to muscadine, they import grapes from New York and California and make some "real wines" as well. Lorraine was very happy to help us with the free tasting. We didn't try everything on the long list but did have the following:

The Chardonnay is made from grapes sourced from Sonoma County, California. It is steel fermented, but still buttery.
Rating: Good

The Merlot, also from Sonoma grapes, has a super fruity nose but didn't follow up on it. It was light and had an acid bite to it with a little chocolate on the finish.
Rating: Okay

The Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma grapes) has a "relaxed Cab nose" (at the beach, the Cab is perhaps too relaxed to jump out of the glass and smack you), and is more medium-bodied with that strange acid bite in the middle, but with a nice finish.
Rating: Good

Our curiosity satisfied about the dry wines, we moved on to the sweeter wines:

Noble Muscadine: smelled like grape juice and had the "funky muscadine" finish
Rating: Okay

Sugar Sands White (Niagara grapes): smelled like muscadine skins, but had flavors of honey and peach
Rating: Good

Sunset Red (Concord grapes from New York): Smelled and tasted like grown-up Welch's juice without the syrupy texture. Supposedly very good in Sangria, it would be one of those sneaky ones that makes you tipsy before you realize it.
Rating: Very Good

And then it was time for dessert:

Sherry (Carlos grapes, fortified with Brandy, aged in whiskey barrels): Teriyaki sauce nose, but good. Hubby noted that it "tasted like Sherry" but wasn't too sweet.
Rating: Very Good

Chocolate Port (Noble grapes fortified and aged in oak barrel, then bottled with cocoa beans): This is liquer-filled chocolates in a bottle.
Rating: Very Good

Spumante (grapes from Niagara region of New York): Mild and creamy, off-dry.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

We came home with bottles of the Chocolate Port and the Spumante and the knowledge that we are one state closer to our goal of tasting wine in all of the states that make it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Oenophile at Large: Restaurant Reviews of Food 101 and Cottage Ethiopian Cuisine

Yes, that's right, two restaurants in the past week. Well, three, but I'm only up for talking about two this evening. Hubby has been super busy with work stuff, and I've been stressing over a major career change, so we've been feeling very low-effort in the kitchen. We made Baby Bam Burgers tonight (recipe no longer available online), and that was probably the most complex thing we've done in the past week. We had them with salads, and I was unable to get the motivation up to even make oven fries.

Okay, I can hear you grumbling. I'll quit whining and get to the restaurants.

Hubby and I went for date night on Thursday to the Food 101 in Virginia Highlands. We'd been to the space when it was Aurora, but it was long enough ago that I really don't remember what it looked like before. The dining room is open and airy, and the menu is definitely Southern, but with a gourmet flair. The menu shown online is not up to date.

We started with the fried green tomatoes, which were topped with fresh mozzarella and arugula pesto. The serving was 4 slices. The tomatoes were crispy on the outside and tender but not mushy on the inside, and the whole dish worked together well. We then moved on to the special salad, which included mixed greens, goat cheese, apple slices, dried cranberries, and chopped hard-boiled egg. Hubby got it tossed with the buttermilk ranch, and I had it with balsamic vinaigrette. Both worked well, and I was very impressed with the dressing. For my entree, I went for comfort food with the Thursday night "Blue Plate Special," Turkey Meatloaf (told you I'm stressed!). It's made with sun-dried tomatoes, topped with gravy, and served with sweet onions, roasted asparagus, and fingerling potatoes. Hubby had the Pan-Roasted Halibut. I'm not a fish person, but I had a bite, and I liked it. Although I was full, I had to try the "signature dessert," the Chocolate Bread Pudding. I don't usually go for bread pudding, but this one was really good. The texture falls somewhere between a chocolate souffle and a flourless cake. I couldn't finish it, but it definitely falls in the "dessert so good you need a cigarette afterward" category.

Hubby and I split a bottle of 2006 La Crema Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, California). It's jammy for a Pinot with lots of cherry and goes down very smoothly. It paired well with my meal, not so well with Hubby's, but as he said with a shrug, "I like the wine, so that's all that matters."

Score card:
Atmosphere: Nice, romantic. The art is interesting. I didn't really like the painting of the two pigs staring at me as I tried to decide between what I got and the pork ravioli
Food: Very good
Wine list: Very good, nice range
Wait staff: Excellent
Desserts: Excellent
Vegetarian friendly? Hmmm, probably not
Kid friendly? No
Would I go back? Yes

Last night we met up with our vegetarian friends at Cottage Ethiopian Cuisine, which is located in a former Burger King on Piedmont. Once inside, it's easy to forget that the building had humble fast food beginnings with its stage in one corner for live music and bar with a television screen showing Ethiopian music videos, which are different but seem to focus on much of the same themes that American ones do, at least visually. We started with Sambusas, which are good and crisp if a little oily, and Timatim Fit-Fit, which is kind of like panzanella with tomato, peppers, onion, oil and vinegar tossed with little pieces of injera, the bread that everything is served on and with which you're supposed to eat. We were told by our waiter at Moya (see post from April 24 that Ethiopian food does not exist until it comes into contact with the bread, so we did have a semi-philosophical discussion as to whether that was a self-actualizing dish. We shared a very large Vegetarian Sampler for our entree with an additional order of Shiro, which are split peas cooked with onion, garlic, and spices. I did try the Honey Wine and found that although it's like a slightly syrupy off-dry Riesling, it pairs perfectly with the food.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Good for the space they've got
Food: Excellent
Wine list: Limited
Wait staff: Good
Desserts: Are you kidding? How can you eat dessert after having Ethiopian food?
Vegetarian friendly? Very
Kid friendly? If your kids are adventurous.
Would I go back? Yes

After dinner, we went to Tastings, which we've been meaning to visit since they opened earlier this summer. However, I have a library book to finish, so I shall have to write on that a little later in the week.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Random Thoughts: Summer Desserts and a Bad Service Warning

T.S. Eliot started his poem "The Waste Land," with "April is the cruellest month..." I would like to differ and argue that the cruelest months are June through August. Why? Because it's peak season for peaches and berries, fruits that just beg to be put in pies!

Although we live less than two miles from myriad potential dessert suppliers such as that warehouse of temptation, also known as Southern Sweets, I like to make my own pies. Yes, I even make my own crusts. The problem with pies is that they heat up the kitchen because they have to bake for an hour or more. As I've mentioned before, I live in an older house, and our oven likes to bake whatever is in it as well as whoever is standing nearby.

So here's my strategy (I've done this twice with good results): start pie around lunchtime on Saturday. Take pie out to cool around 2:30. Go to Sherlock's wine tasting and give the kitchen time to cool off while drinking wine. It's a brilliant solution, if I do say so myself. I just need to remember not to attempt to make ice cream while the pie is in the oven. I did that last Saturday and wanted to jump in the ice cream maker.

I normally don't say anything about chain restaurants in the blog because they tend to be pretty generic with regard to food and experience, but I do want to pass along a "Bad Customer Service" warning. Perhaps I should turn it into something like the infamous Golden Shovel Award. I could call it the "Fork You!" award. We could even give them a bent fork from these guys (once again proving that you can find a web site for just about everything).

The first "Fork You!" award goes to Quizno's at Northside Crossing at the corner of Hwy 20 and Sigman Road in Conyers. It's one of the limited lunch options near where I work on Mondays and Tuesdays. I've been going there for about a year, but recently things have changed.

I should have realized that something was amiss earlier this year, when a friend and I went there for lunch, and it took us half an hour to order and receive our food. It wasn't particularly crowded; we were second in line behind a group of three. Granted, the cashier comped my meal because we'd had to wait so long, but the wait pretty much killed our lunch break.

Today's trip (July 29) was even worse. There appeared to be a trainee working without adequate training and minimal supervision, (e.g., she would ask what to do next, and the other two women working there would yell the ingredients or procedure at her). She was even left alone at the counter at one point. The store was out of tomatoes, large salad containers, and forks. Large salad containers and tomatoes, okay, but forks? We had both ordered salads and had gotten our meals to eat in. This was a problem. My friend asked how she was supposed to eat her salad without a fork, and the cashier, who had very long nails and was not in a Quizno's uniform, responded with something like, "How should I know?" She did apologize, but it seemed that they weren't really interested in making it a pleasant experience. We ended up getting our meals "to go" and rushing to eat back at the office.

I know that in a fast-paced industry, stores run out of items, and things don't always go perfectly, but after these two experiences, we will never return to that particular Quizno's. We'll also be sure to mention it to our colleagues, and I wrote an email, which immediately bounced back to me, to the franchise group.

I realize that this warning about an "OTP" fast-food place will likely not apply to most of you, but I like to think of myself as being non-prejudiced when it comes to restaurants. I've eaten at other Quizno's, and they've been fine.

Time for some peach pie... If you have any favorites summer desserts, I'd love to hear/read about them!