Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Metapost: Blogger's Delights

I was in Ponte Vedra Beach this past weekend for a "consensus conference" in my area of work. This meant that there were lectures for Continuing Education credit on Friday, but then the schedule on Saturday afternoon had the dreaded words, "Breakout Sessions" and "Discussion Groups." Yeah, I blew those off and went to the beach. There wasn't really much to report with regard to food or wine down there, though.

The reason I'm posting is because there will be a "Best of the Oenophile" tasting this Thursday (7:00 to 9:00) as part of JavaMonkey's Thursday wine series. All the wines will be ones that were rated highly on the blog in the past year. I'm really excited because I know I'll like everything, and now that I've seen the proposed lineup, I think others will, too.

So, come on out to JavaMonkey on Thursday and actually taste some of the things I've talked about.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Restaurant Reviews: Leon's Full Service, Parker's On Ponce

Good progress this week on the writing front. I submitted a short story that I've gotten favorable critiques on to the Writer's Digest Annual Contest. Yes, this is in spite of Ed(itor)'s insistence that "writers are paid to write, they don't pay to write!" But hey, if I didn't spend any money, I wouldn't have anything to say on my blog, would I? I'm also sending in a short short story to Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine tomorrow. Yep, aiming for the stars -- no pun intended.

Hubby and I have been doing our part to keep the Decatur economy afloat even without expectation of government assistance, although starting my own company last year meant that Hubby was over-withheld, so we'll be getting a refund. Of course, the parents and Restaurants.com (see end of post) also helped to make dining out more affordable.

Two weekends ago, my parents came into town for a brief visit to hang out with us and go see the King Tut exhibit at the Civic Center, somewhat misnamed because he's not actually there. Nor are the sarcophogi, but the Egyptians did have some impressive bling and stuff, and my cats always like me to be reminded that at a high point in human civilization, they were regarded as gods.

On Saturday night, we went to the Brick Store guys' new restaurant Leon's Full Service. Going on a Saturday evening was probably not the smartest thing to do. We got there at about 6:50 and were told that the wait would be an hour and a half. It was nice outside, so we found a place inside at the bar and had beers and shared Pub Frites with mayonnaise and sauce verte. I didn't try the mayo, but the frites and sauce verte were very good. All of it earned high marks from my mother, who is from Belgium, where frites were either invented or perfected depending on who you ask. We were pleasantly surprised to be seated at 7:30. Hubby got the burger, I had the Bistro Steak sandwich, Mom had the veggie sandwich, and Dad got the entree trout. I think Dad and Hubby liked theirs the best. Mom's and my sandwiches were good, but we were disappointed that the cheese didn't come melted, and the veggie sandwich wasn't served warm, which may have been intentional. Hubby got the Mesclun Greens for a side, which was excellent. Mom and I each got the sauteed spinach with egg and sherry vinegar, which was very good, but I liked Hubby's greens better. The salad wasn't at all spicy, as I feared it would be.

We'd had beer before dinner but shared a bottle of wine with the meal and got the 2002 "Siskiou Terrace" Foris Claret. For Pinot lovers, Foris is one of those labels that you know is going to give you a great bottle, so we were curious to see what a blend would be like. It was a little green on the nose at first, but it had nice round, dark fruit and was very food-friendly.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Casual and open, maybe a little noisy at the bar; I liked the bocce courts outside but hope they'll turn one of them into patio seating
Food: Very good
Wine list: Good variety, as one would expect from this crew
Wait staff: Very Good
Desserts: Limited but looked good (didn't try)
Vegetarian friendly? Somewhat, but very limited selection with only one sandwich and no entrees
Kid friendly? There were kids in there, but this is Decatur
Would I go back? Yes

Last weekend took us to Parker's On Ponce, where we celebrated Hubby's birthday with BabySis and her boyfriend. The timing ended up being a little complicated with us moving our reservations back to 8:30 so BabySis could pick up Boyfriend, which left a couple of hours for Hubby and me to kill after church. The weather was cold and rainy, so we hunted down parking and snuggled up to the bar, where he had a Scotch and I had a fruity Cosmo-like cocktail called "The Confession." No, I didn't reveal anything interesting.

The rain caused people to linger, so we ended up being seated a good 20 minutes after our reservation, and I have to admit that I wasn't too pleased at being seated right near the door, which provided a draft each time someone went in or out. We quickly ordered appetizers, fried green tomatoes with basil pesto, goat cheese, and toasted pecans, and the special, mussels with garlic and tomatoes, which they may add to the menu. The appetizers were very good, although the tomatoes were maybe a little tough. BabySis and I got the baby spinach salad, a good balance of sweet, salty, and savory with goat cheese, strawberries, pancetta, almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette. Hubby and Boyfriend got the house salad, which came with bacon, toasted pecans, dried cherries, and a gorgonzola vinaigrette that wasn't at all the creamy dressing I had expected it to be. The pancetta with he spinach salad came in a couple of whole fried pieces rather than crumbled.

Then came the steaks. BabySis, Boyfriend, and I each got a 6 oz. filet, and Hubby got the Ribeye. We traded around sides, all of which were excellent, Merlot Mushrooms for me and Babysis, Black Truffle Mac & Cheese for Boyfriend, and Steak Fries for Hubby. All of the steaks were very good and cooked perfectly. BabySis described her filet as "meat butter," it was so tender. Hubby's ribeye was also really good and big enough for leftovers.

We did order dessert. BabySis and I got the special, a flourless chocolate espresso cake that could have used a bit more chocolate. Hubby similarly found the Grand Marnier chocolate mousse to be too heavy on the orange peel. Boyfriend liked his Bananas Foster cheesecake.

Hungry yet? Let's talk wine. We knew that steaks would want a big ass red, so we ordered a Cab. The 2006 Clayhouse Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles) had nice caramel/toffee overtones on the nose and good, smooth dark fruit with a little berry. Overall, it was well-balanced with enough acidity to handle the food.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Modern with lots of black and metal; look for the painting on the back wall by Decatur's own J.D. Isaacs, owner of Rose Squared Custom Framing; can be a little noisy, and as I mentioned, seats by the door are drafty
Food: Excellent
Wine list: Adequate
Wait staff: Very Good
Desserts: Need a little work on allowing the chocolate to shine through
Vegetarian friendly? Uh, it's a steakhouse
Kid friendly? Probably not
Would I go back? Yes

Helpful hint: We made our meal at Parker's more affordable with a gift certificate from Restaurants.com. They always offer discounted gift certificates (e.g., $25 gift certificate for $10), but sometimes they have ridiculous specials that allow you to get $25 for $2. Parker's is on there. Leon's isn't.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Metapost: Where I've Been

Greetings, fellow oenophiles!

If you've been wondering where I've been the past couple of weeks, the answer is absolutely nowhere interesting. Okay, that's not technically true. I haven't traveled, but we did eat at Leon's Full Service last weekend and Parker's on Ponce last night, and I promise that reviews will be forthcoming, as will more about our recent journeys in California. But, for once, we weren't eating alone. My parents were in town last weekend, and BabySis and her boyfriend visited this weekend, so the blogging time has been scarce to nil. Or it has been taken up by watching dumb YouTube videos (is there any other kind?) with Hubby and BabySis. I'm not going to confirm or deny that, but do you think there will ever be Stick Figures on Wine, and did the Conan O'Brien Superbowl Commercial reference Swedish pop star Gunther?

Okay, obviously it's time for bed. Or another glass of wine, but I have to work tomorrow. So, good night fellow oenophiles! I promise to check back in soon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Famous Drunk Guys: Vivaldi

I had lunch today with one of my friends and faithful readers, and she mentioned that she can't wait to hear all about the wine and chocolate festival in Lodi. However, I wanted to be sure to acknowledge a very important person in the classical music world.

Today is the three hundred and thirty-first birthday of Antonio Vivaldi. While he may not have technically been drunk, he was Italian in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, so it's highly likely that he drank wine. Caricatures show that he had a big nose, all the better to get that important first sensory smell impression, so -- this is pure speculation -- he could have even been an oenophile, or wine lover.

Vivaldi's best known work is, of course, The Four Seasons, four violin concertos that have been used as background music for everything from commercials to movies to the Italy Pavilion at EPCOT when I was there in 2002. He composed many many other pieces of music including operas and sacred works.

What should you drink while listening to Vivaldi? It depends on your mood. Some describe his work as playful, so perhaps a fun red like the 2007 Quattro Mani Montepulciano, which is smooth and fruity, like a blackberry pie in a glass, would be appropriate. Also, I believe that "Quattro Mani" means "four hands," and The Four Seasons has been transcribed for piano in a four-hands arrangement. I wouldn't recommend it after having drunk a lot of wine, but it may be fun to try after a glass or two as long as your playing partner is someone you know fairly well.

If you're in a more effervescent mood, try a Prosecco. These can be a little rough, but I do like the Zefiro Prosecco (Veneto), which has a lovely cream soda nose and is mellow on the palate.

Okay, now that I've given a nod to culture, I have to admit that I don't really have any Vivaldi playing in the background. The CD that is currently living in my stereo system is U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon. However, Vivaldi influenced everyone after him including the great J.S. Bach.

So, happy birthday, Vivaldi! Your music will always make me think about cute Italian guys, gelato, and, of course, wine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Opening That Bottle: Pinot Noir, anyone?

So here's the bottle of wine we opened tonight:

2005 Lange Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir

For those who don't know, Open That Bottle Night is an occasion to open that special bottle of wine you've been saving. It happens toward the end of February, and we were technically a day late, but Hubby went to a hockey game last night, so we were a little delayed.

We bought this bottle in October, 2007 on our trip to the Pacific Northwest. Although Lange has pretty wide distribution, the stuff at the tasting room was really good, and we fell in love with this Pinot Noir. We've been saving it because it's a bit beyond our typical price point. The nose is of currant, dark cherry, and eucalyptus, and the palate has a bit of smoke with smooth tannin, dark fruit, and a little pepper on the very end of the finish. It's an incredibly elegant wine, and I'm glad we drank it tonight.