Stir Restaurant, Philly MuseumOn Tuesday, October 9, 2018, the dining facilities at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be the first component of the Frank Gehry-led redesign of the museum’s interior to open to the public.

The 76-seat restaurant, Stir, will be run by Starr Catering with Mark Tropea, a former chef for residents of 15 Central Park West, an apartment tower in Manhattan, presiding over the open kitchen. Mr. Tropea plans to offer seasonal fare emphasizing strong local sourcing with such offerings as Kennett Square mushrooms, Barnegat scallops, and a burger topped with Lancaster cheddar.

At the same time, the museum will also be opening the Café, a new, enlarged cafeteria, also run by Starr Catering, that will feature stations with artisanal sandwiches, seasonal salads, and brick-oven pizza.

The new dining options will not have an outside entrance, so museum admission will be required for entry. Stir will be serving just lunch and brunch; the Café will be open from morning until late afternoon.

Photo Above: An artist’s rendering of Stir, a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant. While Stir’s interior promises to be visually stunning, and the Starr Catering Group enjoys an excellent reputation, “The proof of the pudding,” as Cervantes so wisely noted, “is in the eating.”

Bon Appétit!



Crystal Springs - Wine CellarRestaurant Latour’s incomparable Wine Cellar at Crystal Springs Resort added another new honor to the many accolades and awards it has already received. It was recently inducted into the Wine Enthusiast America’s Best Wine Restaurant Hall of Fame.

A perennial entrant on Wine Enthusiast’s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants list, this year, Restaurant Latour was elevated to the newly created Restaurant Hall of Fame. Restaurant Latour joins such industry luminaries as The French Laundry, Per Se, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, and Eleven Madison Park. Over 30 restaurants were enshrined in the Hall of Fame… Restaurant Latour was the only one from New Jersey to be so honored.

Also, this month, the Wine Spectator once again awarded Restaurant Latour its highest honor, the Grand Award. Only 91 restaurants worldwide hold this distinction; and Restaurant Latour has received this honor every year since 2006.

Overseen by Crystal Springs Resort’s COO Robby Younes and Wine Director Susanne Wagner, the Wine Cellar at Crystal Springs is considered one of the finest collections of wine in the country with more than 105,000 bottles. Restaurant Latour and the Wine Cellar are located at Crystal Springs Resort, 1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg, New Jersey.

Bon Appétit!



Soul of SakeOn Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Miss Sake USA will host a special event at Ani Ramen House, 218 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey.

The special event will feature Soul of Sake collaborating with Coco’s Spirit to introduce sake and Suntory Whisky flight and the art of blending sake and whisky.

Tickets include 2 featured sakes by Sake Discoveries and 2 featured Suntory whiskies. Three (3) appetizers will be served family style; and each guest will receive their choice of a bowl of ramen.

The ticket price for this event is $42.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity); and space is limited. To purchase tickets, please email

Bon Appétit!



Stage Left - Gary Lipp Wine DinnerOn Thursday, July 19, 2018, 7:00 p.m., Stage Left Steak in New Brunswick, New Jersey, will host a special dinner paired with selections from Gary Lipp’s COHO Wines.

Hors d’Oeuvres: Americano & Negroni Sbagliato

Jamon & Cheese Croque Señor: Cabernet Sauvignon “Headwaters” 2013, Napa

Seared Tuna with Amish Bacon: Pinot Noir “Stanly Ranch” 2014, Carneros

Wagyu Flatiron Steak with Truffled Smashed Fingerlings & Jersey Corn: Merlot “Michael Black” 2013, Napa… Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa… Merlot “Michael Black” 2013, Napa… Cabernet Sauvignon “Summitvine Ranch” 2007, Diamond Mountain

Peach Cobbler with Cheesecake & Peach Ice Cream: Coffee or Tea

The cost of this special wine dinner is $139.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 828-4444.

Bon Appétit!



Key West Lobsterfest 2018Seafood lovers, take note! Time for a road trip. The famous annual Key West Lobsterfest will take place from Thursday – Sunday, August 9-12, 2018. Now in its 22nd year, the festival celebrates the bounty of the Florida Keys lobster season that opens on August 6th.  Famous for its sweet and tender meat, the Keys’ spiny lobster is often served steamed with drawn butter, paired with seasoned stuffing, or in innovative dishes conceived by local chefs.

Festival events begin at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 9th, when lobster aficionadas will gather for a traditional lobster boil at The Roof, 201 William Street at the Waterfront Brewery. As well as lobster, plates will be piled high with shrimp, andouille sausage, crawfish, corn on the co, and new potatoes. Other attractions include live entertainment and libation specials. Reservations are strongly suggested.

Friday’s schedule features a “Reef & Ritas” catamaran sail and snorkel trip, beginning at 1:00 p.m. There will also be a lively nighttime Duval Crawl with stops at establishments in Key West’s popular downtown and harbor areas.

The festival’s anticipated highlight is the Key West Lobsterfest Street Fair in the 100 through 500 blocks of Duval Street. From 12:00 noon to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 11th, seafood fans can sample local chefs’ and restaurants’ lobster specialties from tempting appetizers to full dinners. Offerings feature fresh crustaceans caught by Florida Keys fishermen.

A free outdoor concert is slated for 1:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with Alphonse, Cool Breeze and the DurtBags performing from a stage at the intersection of Duval and Greene Streets.

Lobsterfest will conclude on Sunday, August 12th, with a lobster brunch buffet at First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery, 301 Whitehead Street. Reservations are suggested.

For more information, or to make reservations or purchase tickets, please click on

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - Exterior 3On Thursday, July 19, 2018, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas, 160 Route 35 South, Red Bank, New Jersey, will host an intimate dinner with a five-course menu and four tequila pairings.

Participating diners will learn the history of Herradura Tequila, sip neat pours and enjoy handcrafted cocktails.

First Course: Mexican Pink Shrimp, Avocado Purée, Crispy Tostada

Second Course: Crispy Octopus, Mint Chimichurri, Chili Peppers

Third Course: Roasted Monkfish, Chorizo Broth, Razor Clam, Smoked Potato Purée

Fourth Course: Veal Chop Taco, Lime, Cilantro, Hot Sauce

Dessert Course: Coconut & Pineapple Cake, Coconut Jam, Tequila Lime Ice Cream

The cost of the Herradura Tequila dinner is $95.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). This is a ticketed event and offered for one night only. For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Foy, DennisChef Dennis Foy is a culinary legend among New Jersey diners. With his early utilization of local ingredients, he planted the seeds of the current farm-to-fine dining movement. I’ve reviewed a number of his restaurant endeavors over the years, and have yet to be disappointed.

For those out there who have been waiting patiently for the next Dennis Foy restaurant venture… the wait is nearly at an end. This July (2018), he and his partner, Estella Quinones-Foy, will present the pinnacle of his 40+ year career: Café Loret, a modern brasserie to be located at 128 Broad Street in Red Bank, NJ.

Diners can expect a plethora of new culinary creations blending French, American, and Mediterranean influences, as well as several of Chef Foy’s famous signature dishes.

The sleek, warm space will integrate private dining, a secluded patio, and an adjoining patisserie. Those familiar with Chef Foy’s artistic talents will be happy to hear that the walls of the new restaurant will be adorned with his own paintings.

Keep your eyes peeled for the July opening.

Bon Appétit!



Vickers - ExteriorOn Thursday, July 19, 2018, 7:00 p.m., Vickers Restaurant, 192 East Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, will host “Bonne Bastille”: A French Wine Dinner.

Vickers’ Sommelier Hudson Austin will take guests through each wine, its region, producer and flavor profile. This is an intimate event that will be held in one of Vickers’ private rooms. It is an event for wine lovers and gastronomes alike.

French Wine Dinner Menu:

Hors d’Oeuvres: Trio de Spécialités Françaises: Escargot en Croute, Country Pâté, Smoked Salmon

Salade: Frisée-Lardon Salad: Champagne Vinaigrette, Smoked Bacon

Entrée: Steak Frites: Seared Hanger Steak, Truffle Pommes Frites, Sauce au Poivre

Dessert: Chocolate Éclair, Mocha Crème

Wines: Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon

The price of the French wine dinner is $65.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). This is an intimate event with limited seating. Only phone reservations will be taken for this event. Prepayment at the time of reservations is required.  For more information, or to make a reservation, please call Vickers Restaurant at (610) 363-7998.

Bon Appétit!



Wines of South Africa

by artfuldiner on June 21, 2018

in Breaking News, Wine

According to an article by James Molesworth in the June 15, 2018, issue of the Wine Spectator, it’s something of a mystery as to why South African wines have yet to capture the attention of American wine lovers. This is rather puzzling as the Cape continues to produce distinctive and exciting wines from a diverse range of grape varieties at modest prices. And, interestingly enough, while the United States is the leading wine-consuming nation in the world, it is only the fourth largest export market for South African wines.

Hopefully, this is about to change, as the South African wines I’ve sampled over the years, have been benchmark efforts just waiting to be discovered. Listed below are just a few of the SA producers whose wines are well worth trying…

Hamilton Russell VineyardsHamilton Russell Vineyards: Located in the cool maritime Walker Bay wine appellation in the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Valley behind the old fishing village of Hermnus, the winery specializes in producing terroir-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These “Wines from South African soil with a Burgundian soul” are widely regarded as the best in South Africa and among the best in the world. Hamilton Russell produces approximately 15,000 cases of Pinot Noir and 20,000 cases of Chardonnay each year. Small yields and intense worldwide demand keep these elegant, highly individual estate grown wines in very short supply – but they are well worth seeking out.

I have two bottles each of the 2014 and 2015 Chardonnay remaining in my cellar and they are both fabulous. These are like fine white Burgundies… but at a fraction of the price. Mr. Molesworth recently reviewed both the 2016 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ($39.00) and the 2016 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ($53.00), bestowing 93 points (100-point scale) upon each.

Forrester, Ken, WinemakerKen Forrester Vineyards: In 1977, Ken Forrester, who is affectionately known as “Mr. Chenin Blanc,” began a career in the hotel industry after a three-year course in Hotel Management at the Johannesburg Hotel School. Then, in 1993, with a young family, he and his wife, Teresa, purchased an historic vineyard in Stellenbosch, a university town located 31 miles east of Cape Town. This beautiful farm, complete with a circa 1694 Cape Dutch homestead, had stood vacant and derelict when the couple acquired it at auction.

After extensive renovations, most of the vineyard was planted to Chenin Blanc. This grape’s spiritual home is the Loire Valley, France. Today, however, 50% of the Chenin Blanc produced in the world is from South Africa. It is a versatile varietal and produces everything from fresh and fruity wines and sparkling tipples to seriously rich and luscious desert wines with several decades of aging potential.

Mr. Forrester’s most accessible wine would undoubtedly be his Chenin Blanc Western Cape Petit, which retails for a paltry $12.00. The 2017 vintage recently received 89 points from the Wine Spectator; but the 2016 is equally enjoyable. In the red wine department, I recently sampled his 2012 Merlot Reserve. This was an interesting wine, weighing in at 14% alcohol, exhibiting hints of cherry and subtle smoky undertones. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and then blended with a small amount (6%) of Cabernet Franc prior to bottling. This is a softly rounded accessible wine that is nicely balanced for early drinking. Available at $14.39 through Pennsylvania State Stores.

DeMorgenzon Winery - OwnersDeMorgenzon Winery: DeMorgenzon is a beautifully situated wine estate in Stellenbosch, with vineyards ranging from 200-400 meters on the slopes of the Ribbokkop Mountain. DeMorgenzon, which means “the morning sun,” takes its name from the first Afrikaans settlers, who aptly named this part of the Stellenbosch because it basks in the first rays of sunshine over the valley.

Vines were planted here in the early 18th century. Yet, despite the historic lineage of vine growing in this section of Stellenbosch, DeMorgenzon is very much the new kid on the block, having been purchased by Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum in 2003. Equipment has been replaced and upgraded, vines have been replanted, and an incredible amount of time and resources have been invested into propelling DeMorgenzon into one of the world’s premier wine estates.

DeMorgenzon Winery - Winemaker Carl van der MerweToday, the winery is not only celebrated for its majestic beauty, but also, because of winemaker Carl van der Merwe’s skill, for crafting some of South Africa’s most exciting and original wines. By the way, this is the winery that pipes Baroque music through the vineyard 24 hours a day, claiming that it aids the ripening process. Be that as it may, it is the DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc that has captured the attention of wine lovers and wine critics alike. The 2016 vintage, which was released in the summer of 2017, received a whopping 93 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and is available online in the $39.00 range.

The 2016 DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay is also very highly rated – 94 points from the Wine Advocate – and retails around the $31.00 mark. My favorite, however, would undoubtedly be the intriguing 2014 DeMorgenzon “Maestro,” a blend of 26% Roussanne, 25% Chardonnay, 19% Grenache Blanc, 17% Chenin Blanc, and 13% Viognier. This was originally purchased through the Pennsylvania State Stores for $24.99 and also goes for about the same price online. I mentioned this wine in a previous review; but it is still available and definitely worth seeking out.

If red wine is more to your liking, be sure to try the 2015 DeMorgenzon DMZ Syrah, which received 89 points from the Wine Enthusiast and retails in the $18.00 range.




Harvest Moon Inn

1039 Old York Road

Ringoes, New Jersey

(908) 806-6020

Harvest Moon Inn - ExteriorAs I’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions, it is always with somewhat mixed emotions that a food writer returns to a restaurant he/she has previously reviewed. Will it have improved… slipped a notch or two… maintained its status quo? And since my initial critique of the Harvest Moon Inn had been posted over 15 years ago, I wasn’t quite sure what the story would be.

Checking out my old review, apart from two minor faux pas – occasionally convoluted presentations and a penchant for teaming up a majority of entrées with whipped potatoes –  Harvest Moon had been a most satisfying dining experience. After all, chef/proprietor Stanley Novak, a CIA grad, had held culinary court at such esteemed Garden State kitchens as Fromagerie and the Frog and the Peach. So, my dining partner and I had high hopes that the restaurant would be as good as we both remembered.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rocky start – our server had significant difficulty locating the bottle of wine I’d ordered, coming back several times to apologize for the delay – and then proceeded to go downhill from there. Once finally located, the server had equal difficulty extracting the cork; thus, the bottle had to be handed over to the bartender for oenological surgery… which failed, sending the cork, and various bits and pieces thereof, into the body of the bottle. Which meant, of course, that even though this was a white wine (and a rather expensive one at that, I might add), it had to be carefully decanted into a carafe in order to eliminate the debris.

But wait – and I do mean wait – there’s more… The wine, for some unknown reason, was at room temperature, not properly chilled; and, therefore, it had to be chilled at table before it could be thoroughly enjoyed… And the server had yet to take our order!

When we finally did get around to the food, it was something of a mixed bag. Appetizers measured up; but the entrées, in my opinion, fell far short of the mark. The Arugula Salad, for example, had a great deal to offer. Toasted pistachios, feta cheese, and red onion crisps all had strong supporting roles; but it was the sweet Vidalia onion-ginger vinaigrette that really sealed the deal.

Harvest Moon Inn - Veg Spring RollsEven better, though, were the Crisp Vegetable Spring Rolls. Set on a bed of sautéed spinach and Napa cabbage, the rolls were, as advertised, quite crisp and crunchy. The pool of sweet chili sauce added a nice splash of color as well as flavor. The dish makes a first-rate starter… or a great preprandial snack if you happen to stop in at the bar.

Harvest Moon Inn - Duck BreastThe entrées, unfortunately, don’t fare nearly as well. The Sautéed Long Island Duck Breast was hardly exceptional, harkening back to the ill-conceived convolutions of the past. Mr. Novak teamed the thick, overly fatty slices with snow peas, wild rice, orange confit… and cilantro and Napa cabbage… and sweet Vidalia onion & ginger vinaigrette… and tiara of crisp wontons… and whipped potatoes. There were simply too many ingredients here; all fighting with each other like riled up strangers… and the potatoes were totally superfluous.

Harvest Moon Inn - Pork MedallionsAnd those very same spuds also put in a guest appearance with several other dishes, including my Grilled Pork Medallions. In this presentation, however – companioned by braised red cabbage, bacon & caramelized onions, and black currant demi-glace – they were somewhat more essential. The pork medallions themselves, though, were the real problem: Obviously overcooked, they were as tough as Clint Eastwood’s Rawhide saddle. To the restaurant’s credit, however, a hefty percentage was removed from the check.

Harvest Moon Inn - Peanut Butter BrownieDessert – a luscious peanut butter brownie – hit a high note… but it still wasn’t enough to salvage the evening. Portions, especially the entrées, were as prodigious as I remembered; but I would gladly have sacrificed portion size for a touch more subtlety with regard to both ingredients and presentation.

Sad to say, Mr. Novak’s cuisine, which seemed “both creative and contemporary” when I penned my initial review in 2002, now feels ponderously out of date. The au courant dining scene has witnessed a host of exciting developments in the past sixteen years; and, in my opinion, the Harvest Moon Inn has failed to keep pace.

Bon Appétit!