Jermann Winery - Silvio JermannSilvio Jermann (pronounced Yer-mann) doesn’t look like a revolutionary. More like a scholarly university professor. Nothing about him is aggressive or flamboyant… And yet, in the early 1970s, this eccentric, gifted winemaker initiated a revolution in Italian winemaking. It took place in Friuli, in the extreme northeastern corner of Italy, next door to Slovenia. Mr. Jermann, educated in two of the country’s renowned wine academies, defied the practice of making dull, uninspiring wines, and was among the first to introduce stainless steel tanks in Italy. For the first time since 1881, when his great-grandfather moved from Austria to Friuli and founded the winery, the cleanliness and control afforded by stainless steel tanks allowed Silvio to make a totally different breed of white wine; to this day, considered by many the finest in Italy.

Jermann Winery - WinesJermann’s Vintage Tuinina, for example, is one of the iconic, legendary white wines of Italy. Debuting in 1975, it is often referred to as the first Italian “Super Friulian,” in the same sense that “Super Tuscan” reds broke tradition and combined multiple grape varietals into successful blends. The 2013 Vintage Tunina is an incredible combo of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, and Picolit. Ripe, intense and full-bodied, the wine still remains bright and refreshing. Its grapefruit and lime flavors weave together in a seamlessly creamy texture that seems to dance on the palate. Wine critic James Suckling bestowed 93 points (100-point scale), while 91 points were added by the Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits, respectively. Priced at around the $60.00 mark, the 2013 Vintage Tunina should enjoy a cellar life of 7 – 10 years.

The 2013 Jermann Dreams Chardonnay is even more highly rated. Critic James Suckling bestowed a whopping 95 points and raved: “This is a rockin’ chardonnay that resonates with the best of the world.” If you’re not too wild about the $80.00 price tag, take heart, as the 2014 Jermann Chardonnay is about half the price and nearly the equal of its more expensive sibling.

Low man on the totem pole, at least monetarily speaking, is the 2014 Jermann Pinot Grigio. I’ve seen it on sale for as low $14.99. But don’t let that paltry price fool you, as it’s really one of the best Italian whites around. Crisp and clean on the palate, this wine offers up racy lemon and lime, as well as a surprisingly robust complexity. A very nice wine at an even nicer price. Great for summertime quaffing – even better with your cuisine of choice.

Jermann Winery - Red Angel on the Moonlight 2012Although Jermann is known for its white wines, the winery also produces several red varietals that are certain to be of interest. The first is the highly descriptive 2012 Jermann Red Angel on the Moonlight. This is a Pinot Noir, or Pinot Nero as it is known in Italy, that has been aged for 12 months in small French oak barrels. The color is a fine ruby red; the nose a touch herbaceous. As you would expect, on the palate this Pinot Noir is quite elegant, silky and smooth. The Wine Spectator bestowed 89 points (100 point scale) and noted its ripe black cherry & red licorice flavors and fine light tannins.

But the best part about Red Angel on the Moonlight may very well be the price tag. This wine normally retails in the $35.00 – $40.00 range. Pennsylvania State Stores, however, have it listed as a “Chairman’s Selection,” which, of course, is good news for wine hounds. It is currently on sale for $15.92, and seems to be readily available at a number of outlets in our area.

Jermann Winery - Blau & Blau 2012The second red wine of note is the 2012 Jermann Blau & Blau. The name is derived from Blaufränkisch (Franconia) and Blauburgunder (Pinot Nero/Noir) grapes. Blaufränkisch is a dark-skinned grape used for red wine. A late-ripening variety, it produces red wines that are typically rich in tannin and exhibit a pronounced spicy character. It has been called the “Pinot Noir of the East” because of its spread and reputation in Eastern Europe. In America, this grape is grown in Idaho, Washington State, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Aged for 16 months in small barrels of French oak, the 2012 Blau & Blau is a blend of 95% Blaufränkisch and 5% Blauburgunder. The ruby red color is intense and the aroma heady and quite herbaceous. The wine is more full-bodied than the aforementioned Angel on the Moonlight, yet it is dry, elegant and well balanced.

The 2012 Jermann Blau & Blau will be difficult to find locally… However, it is available online (do a Google search) around the $45.00 mark. If you’re a Pinot Noir fan, as I am, this one is definitely worth tracking down.

Cheers!

TAD

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Dilworthtown Inn - Inn Keeper's KitchenOn Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at the Dilworthtown Inn, will host another in its popular Old World & New World series of “clash” type wine dinners. This installment will highlight two very prominent wine regions, France and Australia, featuring several familiar wines.

First Course: Fresh Maryland Crab Cocktail with Spring Peas, Sweet Corn, and Pea Shoots; Wine Pairing: Pouilly Fuisse, Domaine Saumaize-Michelin 2014, Macon, France

Second Course: Clam & Mussel Risotto with orange Zest, Local Tomato, and Saffron; Wine Pairing: Chardonnay, Hope Estate 2014, Hunter Valley, Australia

Third Course: Veal Medallions with Roasted Shallots, Wild Mushrooms and Madeira Jus; Wine Pairing: Crozes Hermitage, Vidal Fleury 2012, Rhone Valley, France… Shiraz “Portrait,” Peter Lehmann 2014, Barossa Valley, Australia

Dessert: Chef’s Creation

The cost of the France vs. Australia wine dinner is $67.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity).

The Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at the Dilworthtown Inn is located at 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pennsylvania. For more information, or to make reservations for this event, please call the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at (610) 399-1390.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Washington House Restaurant

55 South Finely Avenue

Basking Ridge, New Jersey

(908) 766-7610

http://washingtonhouserestaurant.com

Washington House Basking Ridge - Exterior“But never eat out on a Saturday night,” counseled Jim Quinn in his 1983 book of the same name. Saturday night is, for want of a better term, “tourist season.” If the shit is going to hit the fan – and this can happen even in the best of eating establishments – it will mostly likely do so on a free-for-all Saturday night… when the invading hordes storm the Bastille… the chef and his minions are pushed to the max… the wait staff is “in the weeds,” and the only thing management cares about is turning over tables as fast as humanly possible.

More recently, in his Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain warned us about Monday evenings as well; especially that yellowfin tuna special that sounds so appetizing. To quote Mr. Bourdain: “Chances are good that that tuna you’re thinking of ordering on Monday night has been kicking around in the restaurant’s reach-ins, already cut and held with the mise-en-place on line, commingling with the chicken and the salmon and the lamb chops for four days, the reach-in doors swinging open every few seconds as the line cooks plunge their fists in, blindly feeling around for what they need. These are not optimum refrigeration conditions… This is why you don’t see a lot of codfish or other perishable items as a Sunday or Monday night special – they’re not sturdy enough. The chef knows. He anticipates the likelihood that he might still have some fish lying around on Monday morning – and he’d like to get money for it without poisoning his customers.”

Then, of course, there are other – more publicized days – that are best avoided. Valentine’s Day, for example, is numero uno on my in absentia agenda. Quality goes down; prices go up…. Ditto New Year’s Eve. The surf n turf generally dispensed is strictly for gastronomic losers. Easter and Mother’s Day also tend to wreak havoc within restaurant precincts. I have always avoided them like the plague.

So when I was recently invited to join friends at a Mother’s Day brunch at Washington House in Basking Ridge, NJ – an offer I could not refuse – food- and service-wise, I expected the worst. However, I freely admit that I was pleasantly, very pleasantly surprised.

Washington House Basking Ridge - InteriorWhen we arrived for our 1:30 p.m. reservation, the light and airy dining rooms we’re, as you can well imagine, packed to the gills. Despite the Mother’s Day mob, however, the service remained personable, attentive, and as smooth as a Japanese railroad.

Several people at our table started things off with a Bloody Sunday. Think of it as a Bloody Mary on steroids. Tito’s Handmade Vodka, produced in Austin at Texas’ oldest legal distillery, is combined with a house-made Bloody Mary mix and topped off with a three olive tiara. And, trust me, this house-made concoction has one hell of an addictive kick; it’ll either cure your hangover or give you one. If you’re particularly sensitive of palate, however, a glass of the 2015 Acrobat Pinot Gris – a wine produced by Oregon’s King Estate from organic grapes – should go down nice and easy.

Washington House Basking Ridge - Baked Eggs & AvocadoWhen it comes to the main courses, there are eggs aplenty. Possibilities include the cheese omelet of your choice; chef’s frittata of the day; farmer’s omelet replete with spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus and cheese; spinach, tomato and goat cheese fondue omelet; and a wild mushroom and gruyère omelet, a fave of two of our tablemates… But it was the Baked Eggs & Avocado (pictured) that stole the show. The eggs were pillowed on avocado halves, topped with cheddar & jack cheeses and sprinkling of crisp bacon, and companioned by a side salad nestled in a parmesan tuile. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

But no brunch would be complete without the ubiquitous Eggs Benedict. Popular legend has it that the dish originated at Manhattan’s famous Delmonico’s at the behest of Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, who, in search of something new & exciting on the restaurant’s luncheon menu, suggested the following to the maître d’: two English muffin halves, each topped with a slice of Canadian bacon, a poached egg, a dollop of Hollandaise, and a truffle on top (the truffle is now usually omitted).

Washington House Basking Ridge - Smoked Salmon Eggs BenedictThere are numerous variations on the eggs Benedict theme, including substituting salmon or smoked salmon for the Canadian bacon. This dish is variously known as Eggs Atlantic, Eggs Hemingway, or Eggs Copenhagen (also known as Eggs Royale and Eggs Montreal in New Zealand). The Sunday of my visit, Washington House added smoked salmon to the proceedings, along with perfectly cooked asparagus spears, and the result was as eye catching as it was delicious.

Washington House Basking Ridge - ReubenFor those more in the mood for a “lunchy” type brunch, the Reuben – pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese & Thousand Island dressing grilled between slices of rye bread – should fit the bill nicely. Although, according to Hoyle, in order to be considered an authentic Reuben, the sandwich must contain corned beef rather than pastrami. But let’s not quibble, as the pastrami was lusciously lean and all the other constituents in proper proportion – I would have preferred a bit more dressing, however – and the accompanying fries delightfully crisp.

Washington House Basking Ridge - Mocha Brownie a la ModeNo question, Washington House made all the right moves… and that included a Mocha Brownie à la Mode passed around the table and potent cups of coffee and espresso to conclude our afternoon together. Any restaurant that can escape from a zooey Mother’s Day brunch unscathed must be doing something right… and I want more of it.

I’ll be back…

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Stage Left - George Hendry Wine DinnerOn Friday, June 9, 2017, master wine maker George Hendry will make a return appearance at Stage Left, 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey, to host a special dinner and wine tasting. Featured will be wines from his George Hendry Ranch in Napa, California.

Hors d’Oeuvres: Rosé 2016… Albariño 2016… Pinot Gris 2016… Unoaked Chardonnay 2015… Cabernet Sauvignon 2013… Merlot “Block 13” 2013… Pinot Noir 2013… Cabernet Sauvignon, “HRW” 2014… Red Meritage Blend 2013

First Course: Crawfish Tart with Melted Leeks and Butter; Wine Pairing: Chardonnay, “Barrel Fermented” 2014

Second Course: Fettuccine with Wild Boar Carbonara; Wine Pairing: Primitivo “Block 24” 2014

Third Course: Deconstructed Beef Wellington; Wine Pairings: Cabernet Franc 2010… Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cheese Course: Cheeses with Truffle Honey; Wine Pairings: Zinfandel, “Block28” 2014… Zinfandel, “Block 7 & 22” 2014

The cost of the George Hendry wine dinner and tasting is $149.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 828-4444.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Crystal Springs - Beer & Food Fest 2016On Father’s Day Weekend, Friday, June 16 – Sunday, June 18, 2017, for the 9th consecutive year, the New Jersey Beer & Food Festival will take over Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey.

The annual celebration of “all things beer” is perfect for Father’s Day Weekend with a Chefs & Brews Dinner; Beer Tasting, featuring 150 beers; a Gold Tournament; and the Sunday Brews Brunch in the Chef’s Garden

Crystal Springs - Beer & Food Fest 3Weekend festivities begin with the Chefs and Brews Dinner on Friday, June 16, at 7:00 p.m., featuring beer pairings from Jersey Girl Brewing Co., a local craft brewer from Mount Olive, NJ, that launched in 2014. Executive Chef Anthony Bucco’s four-course menu features Mangalitsa Charcuterie with whisky soaked cherries, stout mustard, and artisan breads; Berkshire Pork Belly with olives, pistachios and avocado; and Porcelet Porchetta with Pine Island potatoes, dandelion and romesco. For dessert, New Jersey Strawberries will hit the sweet spot with lavender, shortbread and whipped yogurt. Dinner starts with a reception of passed canapés and beer cocktails. Tickets are $125.00.

Saturday kicks off at 9:00 a.m. with the Brews & Birdies Tourney on the Resort’s award-winning Wild Turkey Course. The tournament will feature 18 holes of golf with stops for craft beer tastings on 4 different holes. Tickets are $195.00 and include admission to the Beer Festival tent. Registration for the gold tournament can be made at GolfGenius.com.

Crystal Springs - Beer & Food Fest 2Saturday’s showcase event is the Beer Festival, which takes place under a soaring tent where beer aficionados can sample over 150 beers, including many craft brews. Crystal Springs’ culinary team will grill delicious Berkshire pork, grass-fed beef, lamb, free range chickens, rabbit and more over open fire pits. Popular cover band Lima Bean Riot is a perennial favorite returning to rock the house with everyone’s favorite hits. Tickets are $75.00 for 3:00 p.m. admission ($100.00 for VIP, early 2:00 p.m. entry); $35.00 for designated drivers.

For dads who love beer and brunch, the Brews Brunch on Sunday, June 18th, in the Chef’s Garden is a unique “garden-to-table” al fresco dining experience. Guests will enjoy family style dishes like Wood-Fired Mushroom Frittata, Jerk Goffle Road Chicken, Smoked Berkshire Pork Shoulder, 7X Beef & Mangalitsa Sliders and more with growlers of beer. There will be two seatings at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Brunch is $39.00 (plus tax & gratuity). The cost is $19.00 for children 4-12; free for children 3 and under.

Tickets for Beer Festival events are available at http://www.crystalgolfresort.com/dine/beer-fest.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Wine Dinner 2This coming Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at the Dillworthtown Inn, 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pennsylvania, will host a special instructional dinner that will help guests put an end to their wine and grilling dilemmas.

First Course: Grilled Fresh Florida Shrimp Kebabs over Soba Noodles and a Soy Dipping Sauce; Wine Pairing: Simonet Blanc de Blanc (France) NV

Second Course: BBQ Chicken Thighs with Baked Mac and Cheese and Homemade Sauce; Wine Pairing: Row Eleven Rosé (California) 2015

Third Course: Dry-Rubbed Beef Brisket with Grilled Sweet Potato and Blistered Corn; Wine Pairings: Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve (Virginia) 2014… A.A. Badenhorst The Curator Red Blend 2013

Dessert Course: Chef’s Creation; Wine Pairing: Montoya Zinfandel (Lodi) 2014

The cost of the Memorial Day Wine & BBQ Basics instructional dinner is $67.00 per person. For more information, or to reserve your place, please call the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at (610) 399-1390.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Frog and Peach - Chef Owner Bruce Lefebvre and StaffOn Sunday, May 7, 2017, the Frog and the Peach in New Brunswick, New Jersey, was honored by the Garden State Culinary Arts Awards with the prize for “Best Restaurant in New Jersey.” The award ceremony brought together nominees from every aspect of the culinary world in New Jersey.

Modeled after the James Beard awards, these are the state’s first juried food awards, honoring outstanding talent in the food industry. Nominations from the public, and then the GSCAA executive committee, consisting of food writers around the state, named ten nominees in each of the 13 categories.

“We feel honored to have received this award,” notes Bruce Lefebvre, chef and owner, “and to be included among the other great people nominated in our profession is very special to us.”

Jim Mullen, general manager and wine director, added: “The Frog and the Peach has long been in the shadow of New York and Philadelphia. These awards are a real boost to dining in New Jersey.”

Founded by Betsy Alger and Jim Black, the Frog and the Peach has been in operation since 1983. Bruce Lefebvre, who had been executive chef since 2000, bought the business in 2012. Chef Lefebvre is known for his modern take on American cuisine and for staying true to the authenticity of the Garden State’s world class agriculture and fisheries. He combines his classical training from the Culinary Institute of America with an eagerness to explore and share influences and ingredients from cuisines throughout the United States and the world.

“The Frog has always been proud to highlight local ingredients,” notes Chef Lefebvre. “In fact, 30 years ago, Betsy’s first menu had an arugula salad with Hunterdon County goat cheese, walnut oil and Champagne vinegar (menu price $4.00!!).”

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Nicholas - Summer Walk-Around Wine TastingOn Friday, June 2, 2017, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas, 160 Route 35 South, Red Bank, New Jersey, will kick off the summer with a wine tasting featuring wines that are perfect for sipping by the pool, backyard, or beach club. Nicholas chose these wines specifically with summer ingredients in mind, picking varietals that pair with fresh fish, grilled meats, and seasonal vegetables.

To complement the selection of wines, the restaurant’s world class hors d’oeuvres will also be served.

TASTING WINES…

Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco Superiore

Brunori Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi San Nicolò 2015

Domaine Ricard Sauvignon Blanc Touraine Le Petiot 2016

Fabrice Gasnier Chinon Blanc Le Coteau de Sonnay 2014

Stolpman Vineyards Rousanne Ballard Canyon 2015

Domaine Francois Raquillet Mercurey Blanc Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2015

L’Oliveto Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2014

Keller Riesling Limestone 2016

Poggio al Sole Rosato Primavera 2016

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Bosco Donne 2016

Trousse Chemise Pinot Noir Hyland Vineyard 2015

Xavier Vignon Ventoux 2015

Beckman Vineyards Syrah 2014

Château Reverdi Listrac-Medoc Cuvée Robin 2008

Carl Roy Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley East Side Cuvée 2014

Sueno Profundo Cabernet Sauvignon Stages Leap District 2014

The cost of the summer walk-around wine tasting is $75.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). Fifty dollars of the $75.00 fee will be put toward the first wine purchase.

For more information, or to reserve your place at the tasting, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Dilworthtown Inn - Inn Keeper's KitchenOn Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at the Dilworthtown Inn, 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pennsylvania, will be hosting a four-course dinner paired with “Wines of Italy: Super Tuscans.” The special guest of the evening will be Michael Walsh, Wine Educator, from Majestic Wine and Spirits

First Course: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Ricotta Salata and Creamy Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette; Wine Pairing: Super Tuscan White “Dogajolo,” Carpineto 2015

Second Course: Branzino with Spring Radish, Olives, and Lemon Oregano Jam; Wine Pairing: “Sasso Regal,” Lamole di Lamole 2014

Third Course: Pork Tenderloin with cherry Peppers and Chianti Mustard; Wine Pairings: Heba,” Fattoria di Magliano 2013… “Campaccio,” Terrabianco 2012

Dessert Course: Chef’s Creation

The cost of this special wine dinner is $67.00 per person. For more information, or to make reservations, please call the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen at (610) 399-1390.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Capers & Lemons Italian Restaurant

301 Little Falls Drive

Wilmington, Delaware

(302) 256-0524

www.capersandlemons.com

Capers & Lemons - Interior 2Like the previously reviewed Eclipse Bistro (March 2017), Capers & Lemons is part of the Platinum Dining Group, a full service hospitality group based in northern Delaware. C&L also just happens to be located a mere 3.5 miles from Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library… So just about the time Winterthur is closing up shop, you should be all primed and ready to hit C&L’s “happy hour” (Monday-Friday, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.). Draft beers – Peroni, Yuengling, Dogfish Head, Miller Lite and Lagunitas – go for $3.00; house wines – Italy’s Annalisa Pinot Grigio and California’s Rockbrook Pinot Noir (both very good, by the way) – $4.00 per glass; and mixers like a blood orange screwdriver and cosmo blanco, $5.00.

Caper & Lemons - AntipastoThe real winners, though, are the generous happy hour plates that are priced at a very reasonable $5.00 per. There are familiar items, such as Woodstone Oven Flatbread – either Margherita or pepperoni – and Hummus with veggies; but, for something a bit different, be sure to try the Fried Castelvetrano Olives stuffed with gorgonzola and served up with a spicy Dijon mustard. Hailing from Castelvetrano, Sicily, these Kermit-green olives have a meaty, buttery texture and delightfully mild flavor. Au naturel, they also make a guest appearance on the first-rate Antipasto (pictured), along with soppressata, house-made mozzarella, and crispy flatbread.

Capers & Lemons - Happy Hour MeatballsIf you’d prefer to go the marinara route, you have a choice of Fried Goat Cheese or Fried Mozzarella; both are excellent and arrive swimming in a rich and flavorful rustic tomato sauce. My nod, however, would undoubtedly go to the Market Meatballs (pictured). Three large, beautifully textured, and perfectly seasoned orbs are pillowed on polenta, crowned with shaved parmesan, and splashed with more of that superlative tomato sauce. Irresistible!

Capers & Lemons - Arugula SaladOnce seated in the dining area – try to snare one of the roomy, comfortable booths – you’ll find the regular menu every bit as rewarding as the happy hour munchies… And to start things off, the kitchen turns out a tempting array of salads, all of which are pristinely fresh and contain a delightfully diverse mix of ingredients. The House Salad, for example, combines chopped romaine, arugula, tomato, red onion, celery, chickpeas, and a zesty red wine vinaigrette. The Spinach Salad contains tomato, olives, red onion, cucumber, goat cheese, and splash of sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. The Arugula Salad (pictured), however, received a unanimous vote as the table favorite. Here you find an interesting amalgam of radicchio, roasted carrots, beets, toasted almonds, pecorino, and shallot vinaigrette. The roasted carrots are especially flavorful; and the enticing shallot vinaigrette succeeds in transporting what could be just ho-hum greenery completely out of the realm of the ordinary.

Capers & Lemons - Grilled ArtichokesThe appetizers proper also hold some interesting possibilities. Of course, you have the usual suspects – Fried Calamari, Shrimp Scampi, and Bruschetta – but nothing quite measures up to the marvelous Grilled Artichokes (pictured). The grilled hearts are just the proper consistency, which means firm to the bite but not at all chewy, while grilled lemon slices, shaved parmesan, and arugula add their own unique contributions to this incredibly delicious gastronomic gestalt.

Capers & Lemons - Eggplant Lasagna AppetizerFinishing a close second in the starter department is the Eggplant “Lasagna.” This is actually a pasta-less dish comprised of thin slices of tender sautéed eggplant interspersed with creamy ricotta cheese. A sensuous sea of tomato sauce contrasts nicely with the richness of the ricotta, while a tiara of sautéed spinach contributes divergent color and texture. If you’re fond of typically homey Neapolitan appetizers, this one fills the bill with style and panache.

Capers & Lemons - Spaghetti PomodoroEntrées offer diners a variety of options… and all are worthy of consideration. If you’re in the mood for something satisfyingly straightforward, for instance, the Spaghetti Pomodoro is hard to beat. This is Italian comfort food taken to the max; a relatively simple dish but hardly simplistic. The spaghetti is properly al dente; that is, cooked just enough to retain that highly desirable firm-to-the-bite texture. The basil tomato sauce is perfectly seasoned and marvelously flavorful, maintaining the all-important delicate balance between sweetness and acidity… And there’s just enough of that sauce to gently caress rather than drown the objects of its affection. Seems like a lot of verbiage to describe a humble plate of pasta… but you would know soon enough if any (or all) of these elements happened to be conspicuous by their absence.

Capers & Lemons - CioppinoOn the other hand, if you’d prefer to go a bit more upscale, bear in mind that the kitchen fashions its own pasta di mano, hand-crafted pasta each day. You might try the Ricotta Ravioli with crumbled sausage, Lasagna with tomato sauce, béchamel, mozzarella, and shaved parmesan, or the Pappardelle with luscious braised pork ragù… And the kitchen also turns out an extraordinarily delicious Cioppino (pictured), linguine awash with clams, shrimp and calamari in an herbed tomato broth crowned with garlic toast. Highly recommended.

Capers & Lemons - Chicken PiccataSeveral other familiar dishes also deserve mention. The Veal Saltimbocca – veal topped with prosciutto and garnished with mushrooms, mozzarella, and fresh sage in a fortified veal jus – is very nicely done…. ditto the Chicken Piccata (pictured). This latter dish is merely chicken cutlets dredged in flour, browned, and served with a sauce of butter, lemon juice, capers, and either stock or white wine. Like the saltimbocca, this is a first rate effort, sublime in its simplicity… And, as an added bonus, it is also served up with some of the best garlic mashed potatoes it has ever been my pleasure to ingest.

For the incurably carnivorous, nothing quite measures up to the kitchen’s take on Braciole. Thin slices of tender beef are hand-rolled with a filling of spicy capicola. Initially pan fried, they are finished in a rustic tomato sauce and then placed on a soft and savory polenta pillow.

Capers & Lemons - Faroe Island SalmonOn the other hand, if you prefer finny fare – as I do – the Faroe Island Salmon is not to be missed. The Faroe Islands are located in the middle of the North Atlantic with a population of less than 50,000 people. Despite the island group’s small size, however, their aquaculture industry stands out as the boutique producer specializing in farmed Atlantic salmon. There is no question that farmed salmon gets a bad rap – and with good reason… But the Faroese industry is committed to maintaining the highest levels of fish welfare (they are completely free of antibiotics) and sustainability; and this is clearly reflected in in their superior quality. In fact, many fishmongers believe Faroe Island salmon is the best in the world, even preferring them over the wild caught Alaskan variety.

Well, enough techie talk. The point is, Faroe Island salmon are utterly delicious; and the difference in taste between regularly farmed salmon and those from the Faroe Islands is immediately discernable. In C&L’s kitchen, the filets are grilled, placed on a seabed of perfectly seasoned orzo & sautéed garlic spinach and then finished with a marvelous lemon-caper sauce. An excellent dish… lovingly prepared and artfully presented.

Capers & Lemons - Baked Mac & Cheese SideIf you’re looking for an appropriate side to add of bit of pizzazz to the proceedings, the Rustic Polenta with mushroom ragù and brown butter is an excellent option… ditto the Mushroom Risotto garnished with Parmigiana Reggiano. But nothing quite fills the bill like the kitchen’s bounteous helping of Baked Mac n’ Cheese (pictured). Served up in an iron skillet with crispy pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs, make no mistake about it, this is one irresistibly cheesy, cheesy, cheesy dish that is guaranteed to send your next cholesterol test right into orbit… On the other hand, it is so utterly delicious that you probably won’t give a damn.

Capers & Lemons - Peanut Butter SemifreddoBut don’t rush off without dessert. The Classic Tiramisù – espresso-soaked ladyfingers, creamy mascarpone, whipped cream and shaved chocolate – is, indeed, “classic” in every sense of the word. My absolute favorite sweet ending, however, is the downright addictive Peanut Butter Semifreddo (pictured) encased in a hard chocolate shell. As the name implies, this is a “semi” frozen dessert; a light and refreshing mousse with a slightly softened texture. The key, though, is the enticingly subtle peanut butter flavor. It tastes… well, yes, like the real McCoy, rather than some blatantly artificial imposter, which is often the case with poorly made peanut butter-infused denouements. Other inducements include grape vin cotta (thick & syrupy “cooked wine” made from unfermented grapes) and a tiara of honey-salted peanuts.

As noted at the outset, if you happen to be visiting nearby Winterthur, perhaps taking in the currently on view Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes, Capers and Lemons makes a convenient stopover for either lunch or dinner. There’s also a market on the premises, www.capersandlemons.com/the-market/, a specialty shop offering an assortment of olive oils, vinegars, artisanal cheeses, fresh pasta and sauces, baked goods, and other interesting items to stock your pantry shelves.

 Bon Appétit!

TAD

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