Friday, July 31, 2009

Fun Mondays -- really!

Hubby and I have been feelin' a little rebellious as of late and have actually gone out on *gasp!* Monday nights!

Two Mondays ago, we went to the four-year birthday celebration for Feast in Decatur. This has to be one of my favorite restaurants in all of Atlanta, and definitely in our little corner of it. We're on the email list and immediately jumped on the chance to help them celebrate four years of being open, especially since we'd get a special appetizer, free glass of wine, and a certain percentage off our bill. Teri Rogers, the owner, supposedly prepared the special appetizer, which was a combination of a little cheese fondue, chilled soup, and crawfish cake, and she did appear in an apron, so of course she was back in the kitchen, right? We amused ourselves with the thought of chef Melissa Fedorko bossing her around.

We enjoyed our complimentary glasses of wine, sparkling to celebrate the occasion, and ordered a bottle of the 2006 El Roy Proprietor's Blend Red Wine. Oh, yes, it made me happy. Black currant nose, black cherry and a lil pepper. Nice transition to dessert at 15.2% alcohol. My efforts to figure out what, exactly the blend is beyond a Bordeaux, have not born any fruit, fermented or otherwise.

Ohyeah, we ate, too. Hubby had the Grilled Bistro Steak on Pita, and, ever mindful of my triglycerides (really!), I got the grilled vegetable pizza. Both were good. Of course I had to get the Kahlua cake for dessert:

Yeah, it was a good night. My only complaint was that the service was a bit uneven, and the bar got backed up. I don't think that they were expecting the turnout they got.

This past Monday evening, Hubby and I went to a fund raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Agatha's - A Taste of Mystery. I was really excited because I've been wanting to go there for quite a while, being a big mystery fan and writer. They serve a five-course meal, which includes appetizers as you gather, then seated soup, salad, entree, and dessert courses. A complimentary glass of wine is served with the salad course, and all other alcohol can be obtained at a cash bar.

The appetizer course, which was a hot and cold buffet, was probably the best course with a variety of hot munchies like fried mushrooms, cheese puffs, and nicely spiced mini meat kabobs, and cold cheese, antipasta salad, and crudites and dip. The soup and salad were average, and the entrees, for which there were four courses, were good but not great. Dessert got mixed reviews as well, but overall the kitchen did well for having to serve that many people all at once.

The mystery itself was entertaining, and it was obvious that the actor and actress were enjoying themselves. They did a good job of drawing the audience in, even those of us who didn't have "speaking parts." As for the wine, the red was a Cab, and it was definitely a red for beginners.

Overall, the experience was good, and I would definitely go back for the entertainment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tasting Notes: Pacific Northwest Wines at JavaMonkey's Thursday Wine Series

I almost got my wish for Pacific Northwest weather last night. A small black cloud blew over Decatur but didn't stick around long enough to do much. Oh, well.

Thanks to all of you who checked in on Twitter to play the drinking game. I tried to make it easy for you.

The wines:

2006 Four Legged White (Columbia Valley, Washington): 100% Riesling
Yes, this one is made in a winery just outside of Walla Walla. I know this because I've been there and have even met the dog on the label. There are a group of wineries located in old hangars near the airport, and half the fun of visiting them is to see how they converted their spaces. This one actually looked like a real tasting room.

The wine itself was billed as "off-dry," but the general consensus is that it's actually way off dry with hints of honeysuckle. The nose was misleading, being mostly mineral and lemon.
Rating: Good, would be good as a component of Kir

2007 Lange Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley, Oregon):
Green apple and pineapple nose, but a good bit of mineral and lime on the palate. It gets kudos because it's a Pinot Gris that Hubby actually liked, although my preference would still be for the Big Fire, which has more fruit.
Rating: Very Good

2006 Novelty Hill Chardonnay (Columbia Valley, Washington):
Chemical cedar nose ("like licking the inside of a cabinet," one taster said). This wine is kind of like a novelty store with all sorts of odd things juxtaposed, and it's hard to tell how well they go together. The oak carries through with a vanilla butterscotch finish. I tried it with brie, a natural pairing for Chard, and found that the cheese actually killed the wine and made it watery. Confused AND wimpy? Would give it a miss.
Rating: Meh

2007 Montinore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon):
Earthy, dark cherry nose. Decent alcohol to balance out the fruit and white pepper. When originally poured, it was a little warm. The fruit really came out after it had been chilled closer to cellar temperature. Gads, I sound like a wine snob! That can't be good, but at least the wine was.
Rating: Very Good

2005 Novelty Hill Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington): 92% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
A cedar/blackberry nose was a little bit of a tease because the wine was lighter-bodied than the nose had promised. Lots of smooth fruit, cedar, and butter. I said berry, others said dark plum, but you get the idea.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

2005 Del Rio Claret (Rogue Valley, Oregon): 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 11% Malbec, and 6% Cabernet Franc
A beautiful reminder that Oregon has more than one wine-growing valley. This blend had a very alcohol-forward nose and palate, but only came in at 13.9%. Still, drinking it was like having a flaky, buttery pastry that had been covered with brandy and set alight. Yeah, I liked it. Besides, how can you not feel all classy and literary when drinking Claret?
Rating: Very Good

So that was the tasting. Hubby and I didn't remember going to any of the wineries except the first one, but we do have a picture of Montinore on our "Wineries of the World" kitchen calendar. Yeah, we're wine geeks.

Jess is always looking for new ideas and themes for tastings. If you have one, please feel free to comment. Or comment otherwise.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pre-tasting notes: Tonight at JavaMonkey

Hubby and I just came from the doctor's office, where I went to consult with my physician about some minor elective surgery. They have these great signs on the cabinets, "Stop! Only Authorized Personnel Allowed in Cabinets!" I guess they had a problem with the doctors hiding in there when clinics got too busy.

Tonight's tasting at JavaMonkey is Pacific Northwest wines. I'll be tweeting the tasting and will post more complete notes tomorrow or Saturday. If you're interested in getting the tasting notes in real time, you can find me on Twitter.

If you're so inclined, you can even grab a bottle of your favorite Pinot -- Noir, Gris, or Blanc -- and (responsibly, please!) play the Random Oenophile drinking game. Here's a list for tonight's tasting:

One small sip -- remember, we're being responsible! -- for:

1. Mention of Pinot. Bonus sip for Pinot Noir.

2. Whiny tweet about wishing that Canadians were less selfish and actually let B.C. wines out of the region.

3. Any of the following fruit flavors, which tend to pop up there: cherry, apricot, orange

4. Bonus sip for Pacific Northwest fruits that appear: apple, apple, and apple. And maybe pear.

5. Mention of tea, cola, or coffee. Hey, it's a caffeinated place!

6. Any question or statement of how rainy it is where the wines grow, which tend to be in deserts.

7. Any mention of Walla Walla, Washington, because it's fun to say.

8. Hubby whining about not getting seafood like up there. Bonus sip for specific mention of salmon.

9. Fun sounding growing regions like Horse Heaven Hills.

Okay, print out your lists to bring with you if you're coming! If not, stay tuned on Twitter. I'll keep my ears open and will likely be mentioning some of these in my tweets.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Travelin' Oenophile: More on Victoria and Vancouver

Happy Sunday! I hope that those of you here in Decatur and Atlanta are able to enjoy the weather. I'm writing this on the back patio. Even better, Hubby is making lunch, the Grilled Salmon and Spinach Salad from this month's Cooking Light.

Hubby finally went through the black hole that he calls his desk and found some of the info I was missing for the Victoria and Vancouver posts.

First, in Victoria, we did visit a tasting room in the city itself. The Artisan Wine Shop has bottles from several different British Columbia wineries. We didn't find any that really stood out, but the staff was friendly, and the tasting was complimentary.

I believe I ended the Vancouver post with us in Yaletown doing some bar-hopping and eating. After we went to George, we stopped off for some B.C. wine at the Hamilton Street Grill, where we found a nice list of B.C. wine and a very friendly bartender. I had a glass of the 2006 Hillside Estates Cabernet Franc. We'd visited Hillside Estates on our Pacific Northwest wine trip in 2007 and brought back a bottle of red, which has long since been drunk, but I'm pretty sure it was an earlier vintage Cab Franc. The wine was as good as I'd hoped it would be with dark red currant and a little oak and chocolate. Hubby had the 2007 Misconduct "The Big Take," a red blend of Merlot, Cabernet, and Cab Franc. It was a bit rougher, and we both agreed we liked my Cab Franc better.

After those glasses and a taste of something the bartender thought we'd like (didn't take notes -- was in "I'm on vacation, darnit!" mode), we were ready for some food. Hubby had the idea that he wanted oysters, so we wandered into Goldfish Pacific Kitchen. We were in casual attire due to the heat, and the first hostess looked at us askance, but the other one was warmer and brought us to a nice table for two on the back patio. Hubby had Oysters on the Half Shell, and I had the Wok Beef. We split an order of the Duck Sausage & Truffle Macaroni, and we both had salads. Yeah, I think we had wine munchies by that point. Hubby liked his oysters. I really enjoyed the Wok Beef, which tasted similar to Mongolian Beef, one of my favorite Chinese dishes. The Duck Sausage & Truffle Macaroni was as good as promised, maybe a little heavy on the truffle.

After dinner, we popped into the place next door, which advertised itself as having lots of local produce, meats, and wine on the menu in search of more B.C. wines. Nope, not a one, so we wandered down the street to the Blue Water Cafe and Raw Bar. I think we had skipped that place for dinner because I wasn't in the mood for seafood, so we had to find someplace that was more balanced. We sat at the lovely bar, which had an incredible array of Scotches. The bill says that we had two glasses of the 2005 Desert Hills Mirage (Cab Sauv/Merlot/Malbec/Cab Franc/P.Verdot), but there may have been a special that night for half-price bottles. Honestly, I don't remember, but I don't think we would've split a bottle after everything else we drank. I'm sure my palate was burned out by that point, but I remember the wine being good, if a little raisin-y.

By that point, we didn't even want to try to figure out Vancouver's near-incomprehensible bus system, so we hailed a cab back to the hotel. Hubby felt vindicated to see that the pedestrians run out in front of them, too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tasting Notes: A brief stop at Eno

Last night, Hubby and I were planning to join up with some friends at his for flamenco dancing at Ibiza (watching, not participating). We had a prior engagement for a supper club kickoff, so as we were leaving, Hubby texted the guy who had put it all together and had sent out a Facebook invite to let him know we were on our way. The reply came back: "Didn't go. Golfed for 5 hours & worn out. LOL."


So there we were, literally all dressed up and our plans pulled out from under us.

"Let's go to Midtown!" Hubby suggested, no doubt thinking we could have a repeat of our bar-hopping in Athens experience.

Here's a hint: Midtown is really quiet before about 11. We ended up at Eno Restaurant and Wine Bar, where we had eaten before and where we know there's a good wine list. We sat at one of tables that's on the sidewalk on the Peachtree side and people-watched while we did a flight tasting, whites for Hubby, reds for me. The theme of both was "Mediterranean." I told him to take notes for the blog. He upstaged me and tweeted his, so here they are, in 140 characters or less (mine to follow):

2007 Hugues Picpoul. A little mineraly. And in true Midtown fashion, a little fruity, too.

2007 J. Vidal "Fleury" Vionger. Nose was a little Muscatish. Finish... Didn't. The lights were on, but nobody was home.

2007 Scarbolo Pinot Grigio. Just enough acid that I know I'm not drinking water, but not much else. No nose at all.

2008 Las Colinas Garnacha Blanc. Nose was some sort of grape/tomato/mint mess. Finish was again nonexistent. That makes three out of four.

Here are my notes on the reds:

2005 Monpertuis "Cuvee Counoise," Languedoc: 100% Cunoise
Deep, rich fruit nose, almost to passionfruit; dark berry and green tea

2007 Luna Beberide, Bierzo, Spain: 100% Mencia
Not much of a nose, light-bodied and more fruity with mild tannins

2006 Dom de Fontsainte, Corbieres, France: Grenache-Syrah-Carignan blend
Rich fruit + cedar caramel nose (like port, Hubby said); dark fruit with a hint of chocolate, but smooth and not too heavy. I like this one as a summer red

2006 Argiolas "Perdera," Sicily: "Monica Blend" (Monica is a grape varietal, not a person)
Uncomplicated fruit nose; well-balanced between fruit and acidity, but still smooth; currant + other berries, but slightly bitter finish

My favorite was (surprise) the Grenache-Syrah-Carignan blend. Hubby wasn't bowled over by any of his.

We did eventually find the hustle & bustle, at around 11:30 on Crescent. By that point, I was exhausted, and since I'm on call this weekend anyway, we decided to just come home. So, the excursion to Midtown was not altogether successful, but I am glad I got to try some wines made from grapes that don't think I've had before, even if I did like the familiar red blend.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tasting Notes: Pink Stuff

When we were at my goddaughter's birthday party a few weeks ago, her two-year-old cousin only wanted to eat the pink parts of the birthday cake. This provided an interesting contrast to Hubby, who wanted no part of last night's rosé tasting at JavaMonkey except for the sparkling one. I don't think his masculinity was threatened by the pink wine because, let's face it, the only way to go more girly with rosé is to add bubbles to it and maybe a maraschino cherry. It's just one more example of different tastes, although we tend to agree on most others with the notable exception of Italian Pinot Grigio (I like, he hates) and oaky Chardonnay (vice versa).

As I tasted, I tried to capture the degree of pinkness in the wine, so there will be an extra line to these notes. Also notable was that this was my first attempt at tweeting a wine tasting. I'll plan to do that from now on, although I won't have space to tweet everything.

Avinyó Rosat Cava (Penedès, Spain): 100% Pinot Noir
Degree of pinkness: dark pink roses
Cranberry nose, tart with nice undertones that almost went plummy after it opened for a bit.
Rating: Very Good

Château Routas Rosé Rouvière (Provence, France): 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 30% Cinsault
Pink meter: Bubble gum
Honestly, this one was shy from the beginning and ran and hid from food.
Rating: Meh

2007 Mercedes Eguren Cabernet Rosado (Castilla, Spain): 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (duh!)
Pink? Like a Converse high top. Yeah, I had them, and the whole pink and electric blue ensemble to go with them.
Strawberry candy nose, but bitter like watermelon with the sweetness removed.
Rating: Meh

2006 Saddlerock Rosé (Central Coast, California): 100% Cabernet
This was introduced as "Barbie wine" because it comes from Malibu. I think that I had a few outfits for my dolls in this color, which was a little darker than Barbie pink and edging toward fuschia.
Cranberry juice box nose, raspberry over grape juice with a hint of butter on the finish.
Rating: Yeah, I know my description doesn't sound all that appetizing, but I gave it a Good/Very Good.

2007 Cusumano Rosato (Sicilia):
Faded pink denim color.
I swear, I got a hint of maple syrup on the nose at the first whiff, but I couldn't find it after that. This one also had a lot of berry and white grape.
Rating: Good

2008 Del Rio Vineyards Rosé Jolee (Rogue Valley, Oregon): 90% early Muscat, 10% Merlot
New ballet slipper pink
This one could pass for a fruity girly cocktail with its peachy nose and syrupy tangerine peach flavor.
Rating: Good for a sweet wine

The next tasting will be Pacific Northwest wines. I'll try to have finished my notes on Seattle by then. You can find me on Twitter @RandomOenophile if you'd like to tune in. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Oeno-Fourth of July Weekend Run-Down

Whereas the week leading up to the Fourth of July is a big week for grocery stores, out of state fireworks emporiums, and fire extinguisher providers (one can only hope), it's pretty quiet for my business. My weekend started unintentionally early on Thursday, when I only had one appointment scheduled at the office. I considered calling the person to reschedule, but Hubby bribed me out with the promise of Korean barbecue. Yeah, I'm a sucker for the stuff, so we went to Han Il Kwan (no website available) on Buford Highway just south of I-285 in Doraville.

We arrived just after 12:30 to find the place about 1/3 full, and we were seated right away and given thick menus in both English and Korean. We both opted for lunch specials, bulgogi for me and short ribs for Hubby. The waitress brought about eight little white ceramic square dishes with different things in them. We identified kimchi and bean sprouts, and while vegetables were a large part of the rest of them, I'm not sure what the names are. We weren't really sure what to do with them, so we looked around at the other diners and figured out that they were intended to be eaten with the meals. Later research revealed them to be panch'an, which are small dishes intended to be eaten with the main course, so score one for Hubby's powers of observation. The boxes were similar to those found in sushi restaurants and even had some California rolls in them along with tempura shrimp and vegetables, rice, salad, and soup on the side. Oh, and they had the meat we ordered in them as well. It was a lot of food for two people, and we ended up spending less than $20.00. I liked the bulgogi but found it to be a little oily. Hubby enjoyed the short ribs, and I thought the bite he gave me was very flavorful and tender.

For something completely different, we went to Watershed Restaurant with Hubby's parents on Friday evening. My mother-in-law is absolutely addicted to the appetizer of Prince Edward Island mussels steamed with white wine, garlic, and leeks. I can support that addiction because they are really good and fresh, and the broth left over is perfect for sopping up with the French bread served with it. Hubby had the special fish of the day, which was snapper with mixed vegetables and mint. I tried to be healthy with the okra pancakes with squash and cucumber salad, which was also served with fresh tomato slices. Both in-laws had the penne with arugula, garlic, and tomato.

While everyone had something a little different, we were able to agree on white wine over red. Hubby and I decided to be daring and ordered a bottle of the 2007 Tensley Blanc (Santa Barbara, CA), a blend of 57% Grenache Blanc, 28% Roussanne, and 15% Viognier. It's a gorgeous straw color with a honeysuckle nose, and a chewy honey palate with hints of orange. It went well with the food, and I could actually consider drinking it on its own during one of the transition seasons.

Saturday morning found us at the Morningside Farmers Market, where we stocked up on organic vegetables and pasta. Celia at Woodland Gardens had consented to hook me up with ten pounds of tomatoes, so we brought those directly home, pulled out the tomato press, and made a batch of sauce with turkey meatballs. We took a break during the cooking to have lunch, barbecue pulled pork with macaroni and cheese and apple-beet slaw. The pulled pork came from a guy who is going to open a new barbecue restaurant in the strip that houses Moya and Bhojanic near the corner of Clairmont and North Decatur Roads. After tasting that, I'm definitely game to try the restaurant, which should be open in August-September. The sides came from Sawicki's. I wasn't a big fan of the beet and apple slaw, but the mac and cheese got rave reviews all around.

Oh, and we had blueberry pie from Southern Sweets. The thing I love about their pies is that they're not too sweet, unlike most of the fruit pies you find in grocery stores. Normally I would make my own, but since the oven is still broken, we had to buy one. I'm glad we did.

I would write about Saturday evening, but I don't want to give our fireworks-watching spot away, so I'll just say that Decatur is full of great food in unexpected places. That's one of the reasons I love living here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Travelin' Oenophile: Vancouver Highlights

Want to know what the Oenophile is up to but frustrated with the lag time between posts? Follow me on Twitter @RandomOenophile. Wine, food, and random thoughts daily!

Back to business...

There's nothing like going out of town for two weeks and coming back to lots of work to catch up on and, even better, blood work results from the doctor. No, don't worry, I'm not pregnant, but my alcohol consumption has been curtailed a little -- but only a little -- by the fact that I'm screwed on both sides genetically for high triglycerides. For those who don't know what that means, triglycerides are a form of fat stored in the body as well as free-floating in the blood stream, and higher levels have been shown to be linked to coronary artery disease, which I also have a family history for. The worst part? They're elevated by consumption of sugar, alcohol, and animal fats. Blah, especially since I eat already pretty healthily and exercise 3-4 times/week.

Never fear, however, I have a plan. I've cut out all sugared soda and most juice, and I'm working on being much better about desserts and sticking to the average of 1 glass of wine/night. Aside from this holiday week, fish and chicken have become our primary sources of protein. Yeah, Hubby, whose cholesterol and triglyceride levels were insultingly low in spite of him eating a worse diet, drinking more, and having a higher BMI than I do, is hoping for some secondhand weight loss.

So, going back to a time when we were blissfully unaware of my triglycerides, our Pacific Northwest trip continued from Victoria to Vancouver. That ferry wasn't quite as early, and it was even bigger than the one we'd taken from Port Angeles to Victoria. We drove on to the boat, parked the car, went up on deck, and found that several passengers had already taken their places on the sunny side of the boat (the other side was closed off for cleaning and painting), where many of had turned a lovely shade of pink by the end of the trip. No, sunscreen awareness and use did not seem to be big concerns among our neighbors to the north.

Hubby found that driving in Vancouver was not to his liking because the pedestrians there, even more than in the rest of the Pacific Northwest, showed a surprising amount of insolence, even to the point of darting out into oncoming traffic. So we parked the car at the hotel and left it there for two days. It was nice to walk around, and after some effort and having to pay $2 (Canadian) for a bus route map, we sort of figured out the public transit system.

I'm not going to go into all the details of what we ate where, so here are the highlights:

1. The Mill, a waterfront pub with beautiful views of the bay and the mountains across from it. Hubby was intrigued by the seaplane dock, although he was disappointed that he didn't get to see one take off. We just stopped in for drinks before going to dinner, but the menu looked like a step above ordinary pub food, and I wouldn't mind giving it another visit.

2. Floata Seafood Restaurant bills itself as "Canada's largest Chinese restaurant." We went for the Dim Sum because we had enjoyed it so much on our last trip. We arrived after the lunch rush, so the carts weren't going around anymore, and we ordered our Dim Sum on sushi-type lists. The timing could've been a little better, and they did forget one of our veggies, but overall, it was still a very good experience, and the food was excellent.

3. Yaletown: a neighborhood with a great collection of restaurants and bars. We hopped around a bit, starting at George for drinks and where we sat next to a lovely young woman who was in the process of being stood up. Then we went to the Hamilton Street Bar & Grill for some B.C. wines (not sure about web site, also lost my notes, sorry!).

I hope everyone had a great 4th weekend! That will be my next post, promise!