Stage Left Steak - InteriorOn Thursday evening, September 5, 2019, Stage Left Steak in New Brunswick, New Jersey, will host a walk-around wine tasting and wine dinner featuring the extraordinary Cabernets and Chardonnays of White Rock Vineyards of Napa, California.

Hors d’Oeuvres & Tasting: Chardonnay “Reserve” 2016… Cabernet Sauvignon “Laureate” 2014… Cabernet Sauvignon “Laureate” 2009

Lobster & Black Truffle Manicotti: Chardonnay 2016

Duck Pastrami on Rye Toast: White Rock “Claret” 2016

Wagyu Beef Tasting – Flatiron Steak, Cheese Steak, Beef Tartare: Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

A Tasting of the Honeys of Mario Bianco (the best Flora-Specific, Vintage Honey in Europe): Acacia Blossom 2017… Chestnut Blossom 2017… Cherry Blossom 2018… Eucalyptus 2016… Dandelion 2016; Served with Goat Cheese, Nuts, Apples, and Vanilla Ice Cream

Walk-Around Tasting 6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.; Dinner at 7:00 p.m.

The price of the White Rock Vineyards Tasting and Wine Dinner is $199.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 828-4444.

Bon Appétit!



Estia Radnor - Interior 1From Thursday, August 22 – Thursday, September 5, 2019, Estia Philadelphia and Estia Taverna in Radnor, PA, and Marlton, NJ, will be celebrating the end of summer with a special three-course prix-fixe menu priced at $35.00 per person.

 Appetizer (Choice of) – Tuna Carpaccio: Diced Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Crispy Capers, Shallots, Arugula, Extra Virgin Olive Oil… Santorini Salata: Mixed Spring Greens, Cherry Tomatoes, Grapes, Fennel, Toasted Almonds, Crispy Kefalograviera, Honey Lime Vinaigrette… Chilean Sea Bass Souvlaki: Charcoal Grilled with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

 Entrée (Choice of) – Lobster Linguini: Fresh Main Lobster sautéed with Cherry Tomatoes and Linguini in a Brandy Infused Tomato Sauced topped with Grated Feta and Fresh Basil… Lamb Chops: Marinated in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon and Herbs, Charcoal Grilled, Roasted Potatoes, Tzatziki… Pan-Seared Halibut: “Spetsiota” with Red, Yellow and Green Peppers, Vidalia Onions, Capers, Roasted Vine Ripened Tomato Sauce… Organic Chicken: Roasted Leg and Breast, Caramelized Onion and Yogurt Orzo Lemon Thyme Jus

 Dessert (Choice of) – Baklava Rolls: Walnuts and Pistachios rolled in House-Made Phyllo, Caramel Drizzle, Vanilla Gelato… Poached Peach: Champagne Reduction, Greek Yogurt, Candied Almonds

As noted above, the cost of the end of summer menu is $35.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call your preferred Estia Restaurant.

 Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - Jersey Tomato Tasting MenuFrom Tuesday, August 27 – Saturday, August 31, 2019, Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will be serving a special menu featuring fabulous Jersey tomatoes in every course.

Amuse: Charred Tomato Bisque, Basil Oil

First Course: Heirloom Tomato Salad, Hand-Pulled Mozzarella, Aged White Balsamic Vinegar

Second Course: Goat Cheese Ricotta Raviolini, Beefsteak Tomato Jam, Basil Blossoms

Third Course: Pan Seared Barnegat Light Scallops, Spirit of New Jersey Bloody Mary

Fourth Course: Grilled Pink Shrimp, Chilled Jersey Tomato Gazpacho, Avocado Lime Purée

Dessert Amuse: Brandywine Tomato Sorbet

Dessert Course: Olive Oil Quesos Cerron, Tomato Preserve

The price of the special Jersey tomato tasting menu, which will be served in the dining room only, is $85.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar - Glen MillsOn Thursday evening, August 15, 2019, the various locations of Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar will be serving a special four course dinner paired with rosé wines from around the world.

 First Course: Grilled Sea Scallops, Sweet & Sour Cucumber Gel, Cucamelon, Jalapeño, Lemon Oil, Deep Sea Foam, White Chocolate; Wine Pairing: Rosé, Vinho Verde, Escudo Real Minho, Portugal

 Second Course: Crab & Avocado Toast, Jumbo Lump Crab, Rustic Toast, Poblano Pepper, Latin Spice, Corn Fritters, Cilantro; Wine Pairing: Rosé, Corvina/Trebbiano/Syrah/Carmenere, Pasqua, “11 Minutes,” Veneto, Italy

 Third Course: Sous Vide Free Bird Chicken Breast, Sweet Corn Succotash, Chili-Lime Aioli, Heirloom tomato Salad; Wine Pairing: Rosé, Grenache/Syrah, M. Chapoutier, “Belleruche,” Rhône, France

 Dessert Course: Late Summer Pound Cake, Grilled Rosé-Poached Peach, Blueberry, Granola, Vanilla Whipped Cream; Wine Pairing: Brut Rosé, Segura Viudas, Cava, Spain

The cost of the rosé wine dinner is $69.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call a specific Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar.

Harvest has locations in Glen Mills, North Wales, Radnor, Moosic, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Newtown, Pa; Moorestown, NJ.; and Delray Beach, FL

Bon Appétit!




Nicholas in Main Dining RoomOn Thursday, August 22, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will host a special dinner paired with the beers of Carton Brewery of nearby Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Special guest of the evening will be owner Augie Carton.

First Course: Crispy Pork Belly, Peach Butter; Brew Pairing: Carton Boat Session Ale

Second Course: Crispy Octopus, Peruvian Salsa Verde, Charred Eggplant Purée

Third Course: Spiced Carton Beer Cheese Soup, Young Rapini, Broccoli Chips; Brew Pairing: Carton “Blossom” Saison O.W.C.

Fourth Course: Crispy Red Snapper, Summer Corn Pudding, Carnaroli Rice, Parmigiano Crème; Brew Pairing: Carton “Planning Jersey” Barn Beer O.W.C.

Fifth Course: Carton UnJunct Stout Beer Braised Beef Short Rib, Espresso Pommes Mousseline; Brew Pairing: Carton “Sundae” O.W.C.

Dessert Course: Kelly’s Brownie, Bacon Caramel, Nicholas Creamery Carton Stout Ice Cream

The price of the Carton Brewery dinner is $95.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Alba - Interior 2On Monday, August 19, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Alba, 7 West King Street, Malvern, Pennsylvania, will be hosting a special dinner featuring “Coastal Villages of the Mediterranean” Wine & Tasting Menu.

La Spezia, Liguria, Italy: Fried Rock Shrimp, Pesto, Lemon Aioli; Wine Pairing: 2011 Tenuta La Ghiaia, “Ithaa” Vermentino (orange)

Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, Italy: Raw Ahi Tuna, Potatoes, Olive & Caper Tapenade; Wine Pairing: 2015 Assuli, “Astolfo” Grillo

Jumilla, Valencia, Spain: Valencia Style Paella, Chicken, Chorizo, Calamari, Saffron, Peas; Wine Pairing: 2016 Hammeken Cellars Gran Pasas Monastrell

Naples, Campania, Italy: Wood Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Poached Fennel, extra Virgin Olive Oil; Wine Pairing: 2008 Rocca del Principe Taurasi

Rivesaltes, Languedoc, France: Roquefort Bleu Cheese, Amaretti Stuffed & Baked Apricots; Wine Pairing: Terrassous Rivesaltes 6-Year

The price of the Coastal Villages of the Mediterranean wine and tasting menu is $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call Restaurant Alba at (610) 644-4009.

Bon Appétit!



Francisco’s on the River

1251 River Road

Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania

(215) 321-8789

Francisco's on the River - ExteriorFirst reviewed in December 2017, Francisco’s remains a local (and personal) favorite. Chef/proprietor Francisco Argueta, a native of El Salvador, has stated that something like ninety percent of his customers are regulars; and I certainly have no reason to doubt his word. So, if you happen to be cruising by on a journey to or from the New Hope/Lambertville area, this charming little BYOB makes the perfect stopover for a casual dinner.

During my most recent visit, on a warm & inviting Saturday evening, my dining partner and I lucked out and managed to snare one of the coveted tables on the outdoor patio. Which, as it turned out, was quite fortuitous, as the interior dining areas were packed to the gills, and the noise level (when the door was left ajar), even from our vantage point, was nothing less than lethal.

Not a great deal has changed here since my initial review… From the moment you’re seated, servers still hawk the establishment’s famous whole wheat garlic bread. It isn’t complimentary, but $3.00 is a paltry sum to shell out for something so utterly delicious. In point of fact, it’s downright sensual and guaranteed to get those gastric juices flowing for the good things to come.

Francisco's - Arugula Salad with Shrimp Citrus VinaigretteThe first thing you’ll undoubtedly notice when you check out the appetizers is that salads make up a lion’s share of the possibilities (and are also noted as daily specials). So, in case you missed the not-so-subtle hint, let me spell it out for you (as I did in my initial review)… when it comes to starters, greenery is clearly the way to go here. I’ve been treated, for example, to such delicacies as a Blueberry and Pear Salad with goat cheese & white balsamic vinaigrette, as well as an incomparable Caprese Salad spruced up with a fabulously flavorful basil pesto. Most recently, however, a special Arugula Salad adorned with shrimp, chunks of tomato & orange segments tossed in a lemon/olive oil vinaigrette (pictured) filled the bill quite nicely.

Francisco's - Herb-Crusted HalibutAlthough Francisco’s is best known for its hearty, old-fashioned Italian cuisine, on this particular occasion both my dining partner and I settled on the slightly more innovative seafood specials… she with the Tilapia topped with Crabmeat; I with the Herb-Crusted Halibut (pictured) adorned with an excellent fennel citrus sauce. The accompanying vegetable medley, while adding a welcome splash of color to the proceedings, was strictly generic on the palate. The red-skinned mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were decadently rich & creamy, beautifully seasoned… and worth the price of admission.

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If Francisco’s has a house specialty, it is undoubtedly Chef Argueta’s brilliant take on the two ultimate paradigms of Neapolitan comfort cuisine. His Eggplant Parmigiano, which usually suffers from plebian overtones, is deliciously picturesque and decidedly upscale. Fourteen (14) layers of wafer-thin sliced eggplant are bathed in the restaurant’s red sauce and enhanced with a sprinkling of parmesan and basil. Equally pleasing to both eye and palate is his Lasagna (pictured). Luscious layers of perfectly cooked pasta are interspersed with ricotta cheese & Bolognese supplemented by porcini mushrooms, smoked bacon, mozzarella cheese, and more of that irresistible red sauce.

Francisco's on the River - Coconut Cake, House FavoriteDesserts include such first-rate items as Crème Brûlée, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Coconut Cake, Chocolate Torte and Lemon Tart. The Coconut Cake (pictured) is the house favorite; and, in my estimation, deserving of that accolade. The cake itself is marvelously moist; the icing appropriately sweet… but not cloyingly so. On the other hand, after a hearty Italian dinner, a light, citrusy, palate-cleansing dessert might be just the ticket… And, when it is available, the aforementioned Lemon Tart is just what the doctor ordered.

As noted above, Francisco’s is a BYOB restaurant… and a good bottle of Italian vino is certainly called for. However, if you also happen to be in search of an enjoyable preprandial libation, allow me to suggest the cozy, comfortable, and extremely casual Bowman’s Tavern, just up the road toward New Hope.

Bon Appétit!



The Wines of EnRoute

by artfuldiner on July 24, 2019

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

EnRoute - VineyardsEnRoute was established in California’s Russian River Valley in 2007 by the partners of Napa Valley’s Far Niente Winery. Devoted exclusively to producing Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, EnRoute introduced its first wine, “Les Pommiers,” in May 2009. Les Pommiers is named for the apple orchards that once flourished in the region, and reflects a blend of vineyards primarily from Green Valley and the upper Middle Reach area of the Russian River Valley AVA.

The name, EnRoute is a reference to the journey the partners – including Beth Nickel, Erik Nickel, Jeremy Nickel, Dirk Hampson, and Larry Maguire – have taken on their way to producing Pinot Noir, which began in Burgundy in the 1980s. While Far Niente’s vision is exclusively focused on Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the partners still enjoyed traveling and tasting the great Pinot Noirs of the world. Eventually, sister winery Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard program provided opportunity to venture into the Russian River Valley. After several years of producing wines here, the partners decided to make a serious commitment to the region by acquiring two remarkable vineyards and establishing EnRoute, devoted completely to Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

In search of vineyards to comprise their “Les Pommiers” Pinot blend, the partners also discovered several lots that stood out for their particular character: Some vineyards produced intensely structured wines with bold aromas, while others were more delicate with silkier tannins and subtle notes of fruit and earth. Thus, with the 2013 vintage, EnRoute debuted their single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, featuring wines from their Amber Ridge and Northern Spy Vineyards.

In 2013, EnRoute also expanded its portfolio to include “Brumaire,” a Chardonnay named for the famous fog that every morning envelops the Russian River Valley. The EnRoute Chardonnay is a blend derived from vineyards carefully planted on a soil type known as Goldridge, a fine sandy loam that produces wines with vibrant citrus and mineral notes and the textures that are the trademarks of the region’s best Chardonnays.

EnRoute - Andrew Delos WinemakerAndrew Delos has been making Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County for most of his winemaking career. Following graduation from the Viticulture and Enology program at University of California, Davis, he served as enologist with MacRostie Winery in Carneros. He was then appointed assistant winemaker at Pellegrini Family Vineyards in the Russian River Valley where he worked with Olivet Lane Vineyard. Eventually, Mr. Delos became assistant winemaker at single-vineyard specialist Nickel & Nickel in Napa Valley, where he made wines from Napa Valley, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast. When the winery partners created EnRoute in 2007, given his background in Russian River Pinot Noir, Mr. Delos was the obvious choice for winemaker.

EnRoute - 2015 Chardonnay2015 EnRoute Brumaire Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): My introduction to EnRoute came by way of this extraordinary Chardonnay. Recently garnering a whopping 95 points (100-point scale) from the Wine Enthusiast, the 2015 is voluptuously rich yet lithe and velvety on the palate. There’s plenty of oak here, but it’s so beautifully balanced with nuances of fresh citrus that you only sense succulence and complexity rather than heaviness. To quote Wilfred Wong of, “This winery seems to be aiming to make the most traditional style Chardonnay with a decidedly Burgundian accent.” For my money, it is certainly succeeding. And speaking of money… This wine normally retails around the $40.00 mark. However, as a Chairman’s Selection, it is currently on sale in Pennsylvania State Stores for a mere $24.99. Since there still appears to be plenty of it around, my advice is to catch it while you can.

EnRoute - 2016 Pinot Noir2016 EnRoute Pinot Noir Russian River Valley “Les Pommiers”: This charming wine possesses all that oenophiles love about Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley: namely, luxurious aroma and ultra-rich texture. Generous red fruit flavors dance across the palate softened by elegant, silky tannins, while a mouthwatering acidity leads to a long and focused finish. And you won’t have to wait years or even months for this little beauty to come around… it’s irresistibly approachable at the present moment. Just pop the cork and have a go. However, given the wine’s superb structure and intensity, setting a few bottles aside in the cellar for five to ten years will also have its rewards. Available through Pennsylvania State Stores at $59.99, the high end of the retail scale, this wine is hardly a bargain. On the other, I’ve seen it offered online for as low as $29.99. So, this is one instance in which a little comparison shopping could save you a bundle. Definitely worth seeking out.




Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar - Glen MillsFrom Sunday, July 21 – Friday, August 2, 2019, the various locations of Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar will be celebrating Restaurant Week with specially priced three-course lunches and four-course dinners.

Restaurant Week Lunch Menu…

First Course (Choice of) – Cup of Soup… Small Nutty Watermelon Salad… Small Modern Greek Salad

Second Course (Choice of) – Harvest Grilled Chicken Club… Knife & Fork Organic Egg Salad… Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos… Taco Quinoa Bowl

Third Course (Choice of) – Any Seasonally-Inspired Dessert

The cost of the special lunch menu is $20.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity).


Restaurant Week Dinner Menu…

 First Course (Choice of) – BBQ Pulled Pork Flatbread… Pesto Caprese Flatbread… Organic Pork Pot Stickers… Avocado Artichoke Dip

Second Course (Choice of) – Small Nutty Watermelon Salad… Small Modern Greek Salad… Cup of Soup

Third Course (Choice of) – Sesame Chicken… Cedar Roasted Salmon… Sweet Corn Ravioli… Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($8 Upcharge)… Churrasco Wagyu Sirloin ($8 Upcharge)

The cost of the special dinner menu is $35.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity).

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar locations are in Glen Mills, North Wales, Harrisburg, Radnor, Moosic, Newtown, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Moorestown, New Jersey; and Delray Beach, Florida. Please call individual locations to make reservations.

Bon Appétit!



Vickers - ExteriorOn Thursday, August 22, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Vickers Restaurant & Bar, 192 East Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, will host a special “Romancing the Renaissance” Wine Dinner, which invites diners to enjoy the pleasures of Toscana. Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Pappardelle: Porcini Mushrooms, Cream; Wine Pairing: Cantina Bruni Vermentino 2016

Pesce alla Griglia: Turbot, Grilled Radicchio, Toasted Fregola, Pistachio; Wine Pairing: Teruzzi and Puthod Vernaccia 2017

Insalata: Arugula Salad, Shaved Parmesan, Prosciutto

Porchetta Toscana: Pancetta, Fines Herbes, Roasted Grapes, Parsley Gremolata; Wine Pairing: Col d’Orcia Rosso di Montalcino 2016

Dolce: Tiramisu; Wine Pairing: San Felice Vin Santo Belcaro 2009

The cost of the “Romancing the Renaissance” wine dinner is $85.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call Vickers, (610) 363-7998.

Bon Appétit!