Archive for the ‘ Restaurant reviews ’ Category

Wilshire Grand Events in New Jersey- Palmaz Vineyard Tasting

I am often invited to wine tastings or am even hunting down a good bottle for my own self indulgence, and then of course to pass on the education, and this time a local media friend, Hillary Morris did not fail us when she sent out an invitation to PIWC for a tasting and tour event- Palmaz Vineyards and The Wilshire Grand Hotel at New Jersey.

The hotel is located in West Orange (north) New Jersey, and I do not get up to those areas as often as I might like. There are still so many parts of New Jersey for me to explore as a transplant from Texas. Great restaurants to taste as well. Why not make it a wine and food experience I say!

My partner and I found the hotel nestled right off of the Garden State Turnpike, so points for not getting lost and easy access. After parking you see the hotel is on the right, so we headed left for the catering hall aka entertaining banquet section of the building. Upon entrance you have gorgeous visuals for any event need. I am wondering if it is not too late to repeat my own vows just to have a party here. The in-laws in New York would like the access.

As a caterer myself, I felt this was definitely a grand and beautiful place to hold an event- I could linger in the main foyer in my best rags with a dirty martini extra blue cheese stuffed olives, and only hope someone with Baby Grand Piano skills will show before I start banging out a Frank Sinatra song and drive everyone away…

We were directed to one of the banquet rooms in which Palmaz Vineyard and Hillary Morris was about to begin the ‘sip and twit’ style education. We were all being treated to a grand luncheon put on by the hotel ,  and I was ready, well hungry! The vintner’s family- mom, son, and daughter, along with Alan Greenberg their eastern regional manager (at our table) were on hand to explain when, why, and how the vineyard began its journey into wine making.

It was fascinating to learn from the son, Christian the wine makers took a former vineyard and converted it into an underground natural filtering (220 feet/3 sub-levels), or gravity flow system winery. Fifteen hours of hand separating the grapes from stems and wood, and much more labor intensive work was going on, and so much more care taken to ensure this once ‘darling of Napa’ vineyard produced a good product. I would have to make sure we had a tour when we returned to California! The visuals on the screen did have me fascinated, but what about the taste? Proof in the pudding, as I will borrow a cliche.

~ MENU ~

Appetizer

Baby Field Green Salad paired with Palmaz Vineyard Chardonnay 08
My first taste of the wine was not a good impression. The salad was gorgeous, flavors of all the toppings were great, but I prefer more oak in my Chardonnay, and less fruit, but I felt the stem ware did not do the wine justice. No room to open it up with air, but after a few more taste it grew on me. The wine is cold fermented in French oak for seven months, so it is a subtle flavor on the palate. I would serve it up against some other similar Chardonnay’s with a similar dish.

Entree
Hoisan Glazed French Cut Chicken Breast
Cedar Knoll Cabernet 06
Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet 06

Some complained the Hoisan was not a good pairing with the weight of the Cabernet, but I felt it did not overwhelm the dish and was well balanced- the key is too not have one out do the other, and in the case the Hoisan was thick and as the chicken was dipped and tasted with the wine, well it worked!

My favorite- The decanted Palmaz Vineyard Cabernet 06, was outstanding!

Dessert
Goblet with Duet of Sorbet and Assorted Berries

No wine was served, and I passed on the dessert; it was beautiful, but not one of my favorites. My philosophy is if I am watching calories, not to waste them on any dessert served. I have a sweet tooth, so I simply had another helping of the Cabernet!

The price range of the wines are $50 to 100 a bottle, but the vineyard is low yield and puts a lot of time and care into keeping with old style wine making and aging art on the property, as well as the extensive water conservation practices in place. I plan on purchasing one of the 06 Cabernet’s for my own cellar!

PIWC is hoping to colaberate with Palmaz via Alan Greenberg one day after the first of the year for our own tasting, so we will bring you more news of how well the wines pair with some of our own choice foods!

Cheers to all the wonderfully nice people  Hillary Morris Public Relations invited to this event! (Thanks to Palmaz, The Wilshire Grand and the people at The HIP Event PR company too!)

Chef Elizabeth Stelling

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Eating Weeds
Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

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Pays Basque Wines of Xareta

Hotel Restaurant Lastiry, Sare/Fr

Most recently a trip was taken by my family to Espaina and the southern region of France- Xareta, which means “Wooded Valley”. We visited one of the villages, Sare (Sara) in the Basque region.

This charming town is part of the winding roadways off the major Autovia, or highway once you cross the French border. There we had two wines of the area with our meal, before setting off to San Sebastian, the other side of the Basque border.

A white and red wine, both AOC Irouleguy- Andere D’Ansa (white, 09) and Gorri D’Ansa (red, 07). Soft and light, but well matched for the regional dishes of seafood (squid and scallops, of which are mostly small) and le boeuf (veal).

A plus in this region and Spain were the offerings of small bottles, and no competitive pricing. Spain has no taxing on alcohol, because the believe that ‘Wine Is Food’, so I suspect France may be the same. Finding a bottle for as little as 1 Euro is not uncommon. Maybe not as good, but easy on the Euros with meals. I would suggest if you are ever near this region, which just above and to the left is Bordeaux- do not pass this experience up.

Our hotel and restaurant are connected- service, food and wine were excellent. If you do not speak French (a bit different in Basque), the hotel receptionist if on duty speaks English, and helped us with the menu since the wait staff had no patience with my son’s Spanish or our unused French from college and about. Spanish is also spoken, but a bit choppy with the French mixed in. I would suggest a Berlitz course, or lessons before you go.

Food- Basque, but French in many ways. Scallop pie, Le Boeuf Kidney Pie, and a beautiful Squid Casserole.

Also, one last suggestion- For breakfast, skip the lobby breads, and head down to the left, around the corner, and down the alley like street to the local bakery- Pan/Pain for some chocolate crescents. The memory of them lingers…some red wine would go well!

The food, wine and scenery is beautiful!

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

HISTORY: Xareta is an association law 1901 of French right dating from September 2004, gathering 4 villages on the two side of the border: Ainhoa, Sare, Urdazubi-Urdax and Zugarramurdi.

The country of Xareta, zone of a few square kilometres, forms a common basin of life on the two side of the border, around the villages Urdazubi-Urdax, Zugarramurdi, Ainhoa and Sare. The territory is located near mountains and sea. Moreover, Xareta has a strong cultural identity, thanks to the bonds of its inhabitants, who exceed the borders.

Sare/Sara, Fr Village View

Cup Cakes and Wine Pairing

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Reeses Iron Cup Cake #3

Do not always reach for the ‘Dessert’ Wine when you are paring wine with a full course, or even just a light snack to guests that include sweets; it will overwhelm the end, and might ruin the party’s great momentum. Desserts and Dessert wines can leave a bad taste in your mouth, so try a dry or different pairing!

Iron Cup Cake Challenge, South Jersey

What more could you ask for having a cup cake contest in one of the most colorful eateries in Collingswood, New Jersey? Set after a 1950’s diner- serving up the usual burgers, fries, onion rings, malts, grilled cheese and more; it was a perfect setting for one of the hottest buzzes in the blogging community, or actually the world has gone cup cake crazy! Hosted by Katies Kupcakes of Moorestown, New Jersey- she had a vision to turn this popular food into a charity event.

The newest recipient of the challenge was the Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation. In fact, there was a special judge, Miss Kelly Rouba who is a JRA spokesperson/advocate, a journalist, public speaker and young woman with a strong passion to help others who, like herself, have lived with the disease. They raised one thousand dollars on July 7th, 2010 at the Pop Shop.

Unanimously four judges picked the winners and announced to them to the crowd. Cheers rang out for each person as they came to the front to claim their prizes. What a great group of bakers and attendees, I was proud to help be a part of this event as a judge. In all honesty and in the name of fun- there were no losers that night. Each person that took their time to creatively, lovingly bake and decorate each small cake, packed them up, and haul them down to the Pop Shop for charity- screams first place winner!

The only thing missing- WINE! I took a few home and enjoyed a glass…of course I did!

Wine & Cup Cake Winner Pairings

Adult Division:

1st Place-Deanna Gordon (Campfire Pb Smores)

Graham Cracker, Cinnamon and creamy Marshmallow- Sparkling White, Beaujolais, or even a Pinot Noir
2nd Place-Molly Rowland (Molly’s Monsters- was my first pick)
Vanilla, Sweet and Sour candy- Sauternes with the sour, and of course a slightly oaked Chardonnay for the vanilla!
3rd Place-Rich Potosky (Reese’s Cupcakes- the young man who created them explained their size)
Chocolate and Peanut Butter- A big Cabernet would offset the overly sweet, but chocolate flavors, and Bava “Libera” Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont Italy- a Pinot Noir could work, but I would have to say Old World, the new world Barn Yard’iness might not work so well with the peanut butter!

Junior Division:

1st Place-Annabelle Jiaconetti (Mini Me Mint Cupcakes)
Peppermint- Not so sure about this, I would have to say a sweet wine like a Muscato, or a light table white, like Elara from Amalthea Cellars in New Jersey!
2nd Place -Gwen Godisil (Gummi Worm Cupcakes)
Fruity- New World Pinot Noir, like one from Oregon or Russian River Valley region of California!
3rd Place-Kayla West (Cotton Candy Cupcakes)
Now there is a new one, Cotton Candy, just plain sugar- well I would say the Asti from Peidmont, Italy again, or even just a dry wine like a Shiraz/Syrah!

Pairing wine with desserts can be daunting, a sure challenge, but if you find the main component of the flavor profile, then it should make it easier. Dry wines are almost a sure bet with pure sugar, but you will never know until you give it a try!

Monster Madness- How I felt after 31!

See what Dr Vino says about pairing wine with cup cakes…

Cheers and Sweets on this one!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Destination Ironbound translates Little Portugal

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Ironbound District/Ferry Street

Many neighborhoods have their history, but few have their history re-written in such a strong way as the Ironbound District of Newark. Typically in Central Jersey (depending on where you really live), the area is full of Asian culture cuisine. You want your pick of Indian food and markets? You will find eateries all along Route 1, Princeton to Edison. Of course New York City has wall to wall ethnic food choices that over flow into the bordering state of New Jersey.

As it does today, the Ironbound had inhabitants of many ethnic groups in the 19th century, with Germans, Lithuanians, Italians, and Poles being prominent. As well as during the mid-twentieth century it was also home to a large African-American population, so I am sure the restaurant scene was a cultural variance before now. With its streets dotted with Portuguese eateries and the greater influx dominating the area in the 1950’s; its well worth the drive from any section of New Jersey for an early dinner on Saturday and Sunday.

The Ironbound is a large working-class neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. This close-knit, multi-ethnic community covers approximately four square miles. Historically, the area was called “Dutch Neck,” “Down Neck,” or simply “the Neck,” because of the way the Passaic River curved to form what looked like a neck. Today, the neighborhood is sometimes referred to as “Little Portugal” or “New Jersey’s Portugal” owing to its large Portuguese community. The Ironbound is part of Newark’s East Ward and is directly east of Penn Station and Downtown Newark, and south and west of the river.

The name “Ironbound” was once said to have originated from the many forges and foundries that were found in this area during the latter half of the 19th century, however, the name probably came from the rail tracks that surrounded the area when the railroads were constructed during the 1830s.

Want to get a taste of the foods and culture of Portugal? Visit the Ironbound District now. Since 1910, the area has deep roots and is home to many Portuguese Social Clubs. This past weekend a Portuguese music festival was taking up the block of Independence Park off . Taste of Portugal was the site for our Women For Winesense Tasting, and did they do a great job serving up healthy portions of various well know dishes. The largest selection of restaurants are found off Ferry and Market Street, north Ironbound area.

Check back Wednesday when I share the ‘Best Of’ wines and food we all enjoyed!

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Taste Of Portugal Paella- Yummy!

Wineing The Jersey Shore

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Iron Horse Pinot Noir & Cheese Platter

Want a sexy hot spot to take summer guest and people watch, or an out-of-town client to wine and dine? Before or after summer is in full swing The Wine Loft is your destination. Who doesn’t like beach combing? A good eatery and wine bar has grown in popularity and part of this activity. After April you may be at risk of sudden squalls, but no worries, just run for the cover of The Wine Loft, Long Beach in Pier Village.

Pier Village is one of the areas upscale draws for a ‘hip foodie’ crowd on the shore. TWL offers wines by the glass, specialty cocktails, wine flights, and great prices on bottles are a draw. The menu reads like a tapas bar (small plates), but no worries, prices match the wine list, and normal for portion size. Wine tastings are offered during weeknights- a great way to work your way around any wine list.

Want to nosh, try the many appetizer choices- their cheese platter with an Irish Porter Stout is meaty (all are good), a good pairing with their Pinot Noir (New World) flight, or Iron Horse Chardonnay (hints of oak). They will enthusiastically bring more baby gherkins, bread or other additions if you ask. The wild mushroom bruschetta was absolutely incredible and easy to share. We also got crab/shrimp and blue cheese in puff pastry with sweet chili sauce. Need more; order salads or a larger entrée portion- .

The bartenders/staff are friendly, knowledgeable about the food, as well as the drinks they pour. This is a great end to a day at the beach, or before eating at one of the restaurants around the corner. Skip dessert and take a walk around the pier as you gaze out into the ocean’s sunset, or your partner’s eyes.

32 Laird Street
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-7770
http://www.thewineloftnjpier.com

Taste Of The Nation- Tuesday

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If you want to attend an event where fine dining and wine tasting is more than just a chance for Chef’s in the Princeton, New Jersey at The Westin, Forrestal Village area to shine- then you missed it last night. Share Our Strength, and Taste Of The Nation have been going strong for twenty years plus raising money for local charities that give 100 % back to make sure kids do not go hungry.They are synonymous for bringing together area restaurants to feed the local food enthusiasts something special, or not. This event shows the strength and dedication of both the charity organizations, and the culinary back up!

Share Our Strength has raised over $73 Million dollars to help keep feed local kids in neighborhood programs, and organizations around the country.

Lots of food was flowing around the large banquet room on the hotel’s downstairs side entrance. Along with a fun bottle toss. Yes, you got the chance to throw a white ring over a bottle of wine and walk out the door. Wine was donated by local wine retailers as well as New Jersey Wineries.

A few wines tasted:

Bonterra Merlot, CA
Ferrari-Carono, CA Chardonnay
Geyser Peak Cabernet, and a few good Rioja Spanish wines

We would buy them for our own cellar-

New Jersey wines were served as well, but I am partial to Amalthea Winery in south Jersey, but Louis was not there.

Just to name a few restaurants:

Elements, Princeton
The Blue Rooster, Cranbury
Eno Terra, Kingston
Rocky Hill Inn Eatery & Tavern, Rocky Hill
McCaffery’s Market, Princeton
Tre Piani
The Brother Moon
Alchemist & Barrister
Bon Appetit
Princeton School Garden Cooperative
Triumph Brewing Company
Nassau Inn Yankee Doodle Tap Room

If you want to know more come over to Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! and see a few more dishes, but otherwise next year- Buy A Ticket!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling, Chef/Owner- CookAppeal LLC

Wine Down Wednesday-Momofuku-gasmic

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PIWC/Urban Food Dictionary– ‘Momofuk-gasmic’- food + porn + mouth sex/ or·gasm·ed, and more… food-gasmic, absolutely orgasmic on the taste buds, and the best damn pork buns you have ever lipped in your life.

One thing PIWC has noticed in the past month of traveling to and fro NYC via our home state New Jersey is how much we miss the great opportunities for Food, Wine, and Life, or should I say lots of interesting things to do and people to talk with!

Chef E- “In and out of New York City in the past week has allowed me to eat at a few really good restaurants. Momofuku, and Gina la Fornarina really made an impression on me! Lets just say one was ‘Momofuku-gasmic’“!

Evidently this is one place (David Chang’s main place- Momofuku),  that has been open for the past year; it is very hard to get reservations for if you do not made them the Tuesday before, 10 AM on the dot, for that following Saturday, if you are lucky. Milkbar is very approachable, with stand up eating, but food goes fast! Various cool bread, sweets, and even a Kimchi butter was available for my experimental cooking pleasures.

Momofuku (means ‘lucky peach’) has an alternative, and pretty much the same menu (if you want the ‘Fried Chicken Dinner’ you call ahead, lol, if you know me you understand). Momofuku Noodle House and Milkbar right next door, 207 2nd Avenue, East Village.

You just have to be at their door at 5 PM on the dot, because the line is long, and it stays packed. After a year? That must be good. We were first this past Saturday. As soon as the book fair was over we hopped on the subway and headed there.

The ‘open stadium’ seating gives you a chance to see the action going on in the kitchen as well as the modern wood artisan seating- people watching going on in the small packed place. New Yorkers know their food, and after a year, they must still feel like Momofuku still has it going on.

The one attraction to the place, Steamed ‘Pork Buns’. Something I have wanted to try for a while. I have seen food blogs write about the delicacy, and honestly they look tasty! I am all about some good pig and beef when it comes to BBQ. Smoked, grilled, or oven roasted- its all about the flavor and sauce.

Menu
Raw Bar- Shigoku Oysters (WA) /w kimchi
Steamed ‘Pork’ Buns- pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions (2)
Small Dishes- BBQ Rib Sandwich(es) (Newman’s Farm, MO) /w red onion slaw
Santa Barbara Uni- whipped tofu, black pearl tapioca, shrimp crackers
Seasonal- Fried Baby Artichokes /w pistachio, sunchokes, bottarga
(a hint of spiciness to all of this, but not overwhelming, just builds slowly, and a good thing for my taste buds!)
Offal- (Disclaimer- Hubby’s meal, I did not touch this!) Cavatelli- pigs head
Dessert- Queen Anne Stilton- pear sorbet, pickled pears, pumpkin ganache (to die for!)
Birch Beer- by the can

As long as Chef David Chang likes cooking great dishes like Steamed Pork Buns, then we will continue to have tasty meals coming from his three locations of Momofuku, Noodle Bar, and Millkbar in New York City, hopefully more.

Wine Pairing:
(white)
domaine barmés buecher, riesling tradition ‘07 (alsace, fr)
viña godeval, godello ‘08 (valdeorras, spain)
red hook winery, chardonnay ‘08 (long island, ny)
(red)
domaine guillot-broux, gamay ‘07 (mâcon-cruzille, fr)
les baux de provence, mas de gourgonnier ‘07 (provence, fr)
domaine st. pierre, syrah ‘07 (côtes du rhône villages, fr)
latitude 50, pinot noir, ‘07 (rheingau, ger)

The selection of wines are chosen to fit the menu, and menu changes if necessary. The Riesling goes well with the subtle spiciness of the kimchi sauce on the oysters and uni. The Gamay was a good pairing for the crispness of the artichokes and the pistachio sauce. Syrah and Pinot Noir work well for the pork buns and the rib sandwiches, but again a subtle tone of spiciness might over power your own taste buds. Definitely went well with the Cavatelli and its adornments.

Over all this meal was excellent- Service excellent- Wine selection, and tasting excellent!

Chef E Stelling– eats, wines, and writes her way around New Jersey, as well as writes about her tasting travels; if she gets a chance to make it into NYC…she will share those unique eating opportunities as well! Read more about her food and wine adventures at her Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! blog at http://cookappeal.blogspot.com/