Montclair Food & Wine Festival 2017On Saturday, January 28, 2017, 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., at Montclair, New Jersey’s historic Wellmont Theater, the Montclair Food & Wine Festival and Amanti Vino will present an evening of booze, food & music inspired by the Prohibition era.

The beautifully restored 19922 venue will be transformed into a Prohibition-era inspired club. Guests will be directed to a “secret” entrance for an evening of libations curated by Amanti Vino and culinary bites from more than 20 top-rated area restaurants.

Participating Restaurants: Ani Ramen… Applegate Farms… Ariane Kitchen & Bar… B London… Bluff City BBQ… Brick Lane… Dolce Federica… Egan & Sons… Fascino… Happy Hydroponics… Knowles Family Restaurants… Laurel & Sage… Mezoco Mexican Taqueria… Mish Mish… Miss Nicky’s Gourmet Toffee… Montclair Bread Company… Oh My Cod… Plum on Park… Raymond’s… South + Pine… Spice Thai II… Turtle + Wolf… Villalobos… Vital Dining

Libations From: Brooklyn Brewery… Captain Lawrence Brewing Company… David Bowler Pouring Wilde Farm Wines… Fedway… Filibuster Distillery… Hunterdon… Jersey Cider Works… Michael Skurnik Wines… Peerless Beverage… Polaner Selections… T. Edward Wines… Winebow

General admission is $95.00 per person, which includes access to food, wine and spirits tasting, music, raffles and silent auction. VIP Admission is $185.00 per person, which includes all of the above + entry one hour earlier, starting at 6:30 p.m., and exclusive high-end wine tasting.

The Montclair Food & Wine Festival is a recognized non-profit organization founded by Melody Kettle. Proceeds from the 2017 Festival will benefit Intensive Therapeutics, a non-profit, charitable organization that provides group and individual occupational therapy srvices to children with special needs; and the Montclair High School DIGS (District Initiative for Gardening in Schools) program, a student-tended garden used to grow vegetables and herbs and for classroom science experiments.

Tickets are now on sale at Amanti Vino, (973.509.WINE), by emailing or via Ticketmaster. For more details and up-to-date list of vendors, please go to

Bon Appétit!



Pluckemin Inn - InteriorTo help combat the post-holiday winter blues, the Pluckemin Inn & Wine Shop, Bedminster, New Jersey, has put together a busy schedule of dinners to please the palate…

Friday, January 20, 2017 – Wine Dinner: Italy – Piedmont… Chef Andrew Lattanzio will prepare a menu that captures the essence of the region, perfectly paired with a selection of wines. Master of Wine Chris Cree will guide guests through the evening, providing background on the region, the wines, and wine pairings. $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 – Robert Burns Day Scotch Pairing Dinner… A selection of single malts from various regions of Scotland will b matched with Executive Chef Andrew Lattanzio’s take on traditional Burns Day supper fare. Master of Whisky Kevin Loser will guide guests through the evening’s selection of whisky. $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity).

Thursday, February 9, 2017 – Domaine de Mourchon Rhone Winemaker Dinner… The wines of the Rhone are the perfect partner to winter’s hearty cuisine. Walter McKnlay of Domaine de Mourdchon, named best producer in Seguret and top 100 values of 2016 by the Wine Spectator, will be on hand to introduce his wines. $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity).

Friday, February 10, 2017 – Wine Dinner: Italy – Tuscany… Chef Andrew Lattanzio will create a menu inspired by Tuscan classic fare; and Master of Wine Chris Cree will guide guests through the wines and provide information and background on the region and the pairings. $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 – Valentine’s Day Dinner at the Pluckemin Inn

Friday, February 24, 2017 -0 Wine Dinner: Italy – Central & Southern Italy

Thursday, March 16, 2017 – Opus One Wine Dinner (Details to follow)

For more information, or to make reservations for any of these events, please call (908) 658-9292.

Bon Appétit!



redux-restaurant-interiorTomorrow, Sunday, January 8, 2017, Redux: The Restaurant, 3 Central Avenue, Madison, New Jersey, will be serving brunch from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Sunday Brunch Menu for Sunday, January 8th

Starters: Soup of the Day, $8… Disco Fries, Saint André, $13 (add organic cage free fried egg +$2)… Hudson Valley Foie Gras, $18… ½ Dozen Oysters on the Half Shell, $15… Beet Wrap, Bleu, Pecans, Spinach, $11… Cheese & Charcuterie Platter, $18

Entrées: Spinach Goat Cheese Omelette, Mixed Greens, Potatoes, $12… Ham Gruyère Omelette, Mixed Greens, Potatoes, $14… Two Eggs Any Style, Bacon, Potatoes, $12… Croque Madame, Jambon, Gruyère, Dijon, Fried Egg, $15… Vanilla Bean Belgian Waffle, Apple Compote, Maple Syrup, $13… Steak Frites, Red Wine Shallot Sauce, $24… Bistro Burger Sliders, Bacon, Onions, Brie, $18… Seared Sole, Truffle Creamed Spinach, Polenta, $22

Sides: Bistro Fries, Roasted Garlic Aioli, $8… Grilled Thick Cut Bacon, $7… Breakfast Sausage Patties, $6… Yogurt & Berries, $6… Country Bread, Butter, Jam, $3

Redux: The Restaurant serves their brunch menu on the second Sunday of each month.

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (973) 845-6263.

Bon Appétit!



crystal-springs-resort-wine-cellar-dinnerOn Sunday, January 22, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Crystal Springs Resort, 1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg, New Jersey, will welcome California winemakers Frank and Julie Husic to its award-winning wine cellar for a unique dinner.

Executive Chef Anthony Bucco will fashion a five-course menu of winter favorites to pair with the Husics’ extraordinary wines. Guests will join the Husics and Resort Sommelier Susanne Lerescu for a glass of Champagne and tour of the wine cellar at 6:30 p.m. before sitting down to dinner in the Resort’s Bordeaux Room.

Husic Wine Dinner Menu…

First Course: Red Snapper Crudo, Meyer Lemon, Graham Crumble; Wine Pairing: 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Second Course: Black Truffle, Chestnut, Vanilla; Wine Pairing: 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Third Course: Squab Breast, Foie Gras Ravioli, Cabbage; Wine Pairing: 2012 Palm Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon

Four Course: Venison, Sweet Potato, Coffee; Wine Pairing: 2009 Husic Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Dessert Course: Cinnamon Crème Catalana, Apple, Butterscotch; Wine Pairing: 2013 Late Harvest Semillon

The cost of the Husic dinner with wine pairings is $165.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (844) 207-3203.

Bon Appétit!



frog-and-peach-belgium-beer-dinnerOn Friday, January 13, 2017, 7:00 p.m., the Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street at Hiram Square, New Brunswick, New Jersey, will be hosting a Belgium beer dinner with special guest Jared Ruocco of the Hunterdon Brewing Co.

First Course: Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Smoked Almonds, Vinaigrette; Brew Pairing: Saison D’Erpe-Mere, KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren Brewery

Second Course: Chicken Lier Mousse, White Asparagus, Smoked Yolk, Winter Truffle; Brew Pairing: De Dolle Dulle Teve, Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers

Third Course: Mussels Two Ways (Pickled & Tempura Fried & Beer Steamed), Purple Potato Frites, Aioli; Brew Pairing: Blanche de Bruxelles, Lefebvre Brewery

Fourth Course: Rabbit en Gueuze Beer, Belgian Endive, Scallion Buttermilk Popover; Brew Pairing: Cuvée des Jacobins, Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste

Dessert Course: Belgian Beer Ice Cream, Crispy Bacon, Salted Caramel, Malted Yeast Cake; Brew Pairing: St. Feuillien Grand Cru, Brasserie St. Feuillien

The cost of the Belgium beer dinner is $80.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to purchase tickets for this event, please call the restaurant at (732) 846-3216.

Bon Appétit!



For your dining pleasure, listed below in alphabetical order are synopses of the eleven (11) restaurants reviewed in the RAP Newsletter during the year 2016.

ARUGULA RISTORANTE ITALIANO, 275 Wilmington West Chester Pike (Route 202), Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, (610) 358-0888, Tucked away in a tiny arugula-interiornondescript strip mall, Arugula doesn’t look like much from the outside (or the inside, for that matter)… but there’s magic in the kitchen. The Lubrano family serves up cuisine inspired by the traditional home cooking of central and southern Italy sprinkled with innovative specials. Be sure to try the Capellini all’Arugula, angel hair pasta in a cherry tomato arugula sauce crowned with shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese, Monkfish Filets kissed by a lovely white wine lemon sauce, or the tender Veal Medallions topped with sliced eggplant, zucchini, and mozzarella cheese. Arugula’s proximity to both Winterthur and the Brandywine River Museum make it a pleasant stopover for either lunch or dinner. BYOB.

BASILICO PIZZERIA & FAMILY RESTAURANT, 1570 Egypt Road, Oaks, Pennsylvania (610) 666-1110, NOW CLOSED: If you thought Vita Bella’s tenure in the Oaks Shopping Center was short-lived, Basilico, its successor in precisely the same space, was gone in the proverbial blinking of an eye. Given the hit-or-miss food & service, and the plethora of pizzeria/Italian eateries in the immediate vicinity, an early demise seemed inevitable. However, when Jersey Mike’s Subs moved in right next door – undoubtedly stealing a great deal of their lunch and dinner trade – the die was cast. Not greatly mourned.

DOWNTOWN BANGKOK CAFÉ, 705 Pothouse Road, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, (610) 933-4800, Situated on the second floor of Yaowapa Thailand Treasures, downtown-bangkok-cafe-interioryou practically have to organize a search party to find the restaurant’s entrance… but, trust me, it’s worth the spirited game of hide-and-seek. The four diminutive dining rooms and reception area are beautifully and tastefully appointed, and the food lovingly prepared and attractively presented. To start things off, both the Butterfly Blanket and the Thai Salad have a great deal to recommend them. The former serves up five fried dumplings stuffed with ground chicken buttressed by a tangy sweet & sour sauce; the latter is comprised of shredded Napa cabbage & carrots, fresh soy beans, and crispy noodles tossed with an addictive house-made peanut dressing. Entrée-wise, the Drunken Man, a combo of onion, bell pepper, basil, egg, carrots, broccoli & scallions is top-notch… ditto the Basil Eggplant Stir Fry, Coconut Shrimp, and Thai Salmon. BYOB.

GINO’S RISTORANTE & PIZZERIA, 2401 West Main Street (Ridge Pike), Norristown, Pennsylvania, (610) 539-0155, A family owned and operated restaurant for over 40 years, Gino’s food is uncompromisingly southern Italian. If you lust after red sauce, you’ve found your Neapolitan Nirvana. And to go along with the more-than-reasonable prices, the portion sizes are prodigious. Among the main courses, veal is a solid choice… ditto the al forno (baked) items. The Eggplant Parm served up with a side of spaghetti, for example, is perfectly prepared and nothing short of gargantuan. As an added incentive, each weekend the restaurant imports a plethora of fresh fish – Sole, Branzino, Snapper, etc. – to which the kitchen devotes all of its considerable culinary skills. The dining area borders on the utilitarian, but the room is bright & airy and the tables & chairs comfortable and nicely spaced. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, try to snare one of the booths along the interior wall. Just don’t forget to BYOB.

IL GRANAIO ITALIAN RESTAURANT, 711 Concord Road, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, (610) 459-8469, The elder sibling of Antica in nearby Chadds Ford, Il Granaio, which il-granaio-fritto-misto-di-veduremeans “granary” or “barn,” is owned by chefs Josh Friedberg & Gent Mema. The interior is dark, rustic, and candlelit. Intimate ambiance notwithstanding, the excellent authentic Italian cuisine is the chief drawing card for locals and gastronomic pilgrims alike. Among the appetizers, the Fritto Misto di Verdure – deep fried vegetables served with a caramelized shallot and sage aioli (pictured) – proved to be the table favorite. Among the entrées, the Braised Veal Ragout with Pappardelle Pasta was a winner on all counts, as was the Agnolotti Porcini, small ravioli stuffed with veal and mascarpone cheese. For dessert, don’t miss the lusciously addictive Chocolate Mousse Cake. Silky smooth on the palate, this decadent denouement goes down nice and easy… and even easier with a shot of potent espresso. BYOB.

LOCAL WINE & KITCHEN, 39 Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, (610) 896-4740, The food at Local, as the name implies, is locally sourced; it is also cosmopolitan in scope, driven by seasonality, and very, very good… with the restaurant’s unique charcuterie bar leading the way. The charcuterie offers patrons an exciting assortment of cured meats & cheeses accompanied by a variety of house-made accoutrements – with presentations as eye-catching as they are delicious. Starters include an array of luscious salads, including a personal fave, Cauliflower Salad, boasting chickpeas, tiara of fried leeks, and an incomparably seasoned dressing of whipped cumin feta. Entrées tempt the palate with a decadently rich House-Made Gnocchi, Poached Atlantic Halibut, Yorkshire Pork Tenderloin, and Pappardelle Pasta replete with coffee-braised rabbit. For dessert, be sure to try the Frozen Yogurt spruced up with sweet strawberry sauce, balsamic syrup, and fresh basil leaves.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE’S, 49 St. James Place, Suburban Square, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, (484) 708-1500, From the very moment of its February na-joes-bar2015 debut, Joe’s has been wildly popular – and with good reason. The restaurant is smack in the middle of all the Suburban Square action and is easily accessible. The interior is done up in au courant open industrial décor, but still manages to exude a certain welcoming warmth. The key to its success, however, is the food. Made from scratch, the menu presses all the right culinary buttons – sandwiches, salads, pizzas, entrées, decadent desserts, gluten-free options – and is both seasonally changing and reasonably priced. In addition, the restaurant boasts a very nice wine list, with 21 selections by the glass, and 20 brews on tap. If you’re snacking at the bar, the Nacho Average Nachos are something of a must… ditto the Bacon Blue Flatbread. In the entrée department, both the Rosemary-Skewered New Bedford Scallops and the Grilled Sirloin Tips are highly recommended.

PIZZA BY ELIZABETHS, 3801 Kennett Pike (Route 52), Wilmington (Greenville) Delaware, (302) 654-4478, One pizza-by-elizabeths-interior-1glance at the restaurant’s website and you’re bound to be impressed. Words like “sophisticated,” “intriguing,” and “casual elegance” are freely bandied about… along with photographs of the tea room-looks-like-it-was-designed-by-Martha Stewart décor lovingly bathed in soft, filtered light. But looks can be deceiving… and, in this case, they are. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Pizza by Elizabeths has the makings of a terrific eatery. The concept is first class; unfortunately, the execution is strictly economy coach. Service is erratic; and the food is hit-or-miss at best. You can luck out and be treated to a reasonably good meal here; but since the menu changes weekly, you’re never quite sure what the cooking minions will be prone to muck up. Should you be fresh from a visit to nearby Winterthur and contemplating a stopover here, my advice is to stick with the salads and the pizza and you probably won’t go wrong. A glass of wine and snack at the bar are also a good bet. Other than that and you would do well to order with the circumspection of a minnow in a shark tank.

RISTORANTE CASTELLO, 721 Skippack Pike (Route 73) Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, (215) 238-9500, Tucked away in an office complex, Ristorante Castello might easily be passed by without notice. However, as I’ve often discovered, hard-to-find restaurants are usually well worth finding – and Castello is no exception. To start things off, the Bruschetta is a benchmark rendition of a traditional Italian prelude. Other winners include the Carpaccio di Manzo, beautifully arranged raw, wafer-thin slices of filet mignon companioned by olive oil, lemon, basil leaves, and shaved parmesan cheese; and La Parmigiana, layers of Italian eggplant and fresh tomato sauce topped with fresh mozzarella and finished in the oven. Among the entrées, both the Fettuccini Bolognese and the incredibly tender, perfectly seasoned Veal Chop are highly recommended. Desserts vary daily and are well worth considering. BYOB.

TERRAIN GARDEN CAFÉ, Concordville Town Centre, 914 Baltimore Pike (Route 1/322), Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, (610) 459-6030, Housed terrian-interiorin a converted greenhouse and sporting rustic wood tables & chairs, Ball Mason Jar water glasses, a plethoric variety of assorted greenery, and ultra-romantic lighting, the Terrain Garden Café exudes atmosphere aplenty – especially when the sun goes down. But this eatery is infinitely more than ambiance. Terrain’s kitchen celebrates both the cycle of the seasons and bounty of the land by crafting menus from hand-selected produce, meats and dairy supplied by local farms. In addition, in the spring of this year (2016), Terrain began a new partnership with the Chef Mark Vetri’s family of restaurants. The kitchen’s version of House-Made Gnocchi features spring onions, wild mushroom ragù, and splash of parmesan cream. On the other hand, the rich & succulent fall-off-the-bone Lamb Shank is simply not to be missed…. ditto the Pan-Roasted Trout Filets. Perfect for sharing, either as an appetizer or side, is the kitchen’s utterly addictive Macaroni & Cheese Skillet. It’s loaded with chunks of ham, cheddar cheese, and topping of herbed breadcrumbs… Oh, yes, and cream. Lots of cream. Cast your fate – and your next cholesterol test – to the wind! BYOB.

ZACHARIAS CREEK SIDE CAFÉ, 2960 Skippack Pike, Worcester, Pennsylvania, (610) 584-5650, The restaurant’s interior is an eye-catching amalgam of Modern & Mediterranean accents replete with textured abstract walls & striking mixed medium sculptures. The restaurant also boasts a bustling open kitchen and attractive 50-seat front patio for al fresco dining. And the cuisine, which may best be described as Mediterranean & Italian fare with eclectic subtitles, is every bit as impressive as the décor. The diminutive island of Black Olive Tapenade floating in a sea of extra virgin olive oil complemented by beautifully textured house-made focaccia is the delicious harbinger of the good things to come. Appetizer-wise, be sure to try the luscious antipasto for two, the pristinely fresh Ceviche, or the perfectly seasoned Turkey Meatballs pillowed on sautéed spinach and finished with a marvelous honey-soy-ginger sauce. Entrées…? The Pan-Seared Wild Salmon, Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, House-Braised Short Rib, and Eggplant Napoleon are all excellent choices. For dessert, the fabulously rich Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing and Caramel Glaze can’t be beat. BYOB.

Bon Appétit!



I sampled a slew of excellent wines in 2016. And of the more than thirty (30) vintages noted throughout the year, the eight (8) listed below – five (5) red/three (3) white – are particularly recommended.

Please note that prices quoted are approximate, depending upon where the wines are purchased; and, of course, all are subject to change. I should also add that prices in other states can vary significantly from retailer to retailer. So it would certainly be well worth your while to spend some time surfing online for the best deals.


aubichon-cellars-2012-reserve-pinot2012 Aubichon Reserve Pinot Noir (Oregon): Aubichon wines are, in a word, artisanal… “If there is an easy way to do something, chances are we didn’t do it that way,” notes winemaker Jim Sanders on the winery’s website. And the results of this painstaking, meticulous approach are Pinots of incomparable character and depth. The 2012 Aubichon Reserve Pinot Noir is simply a fabulous vintage. In comparison to other varietals, most Pinot Noirs are rather light on their feet. The 2012 Reserve, however, has body to spare, great concentration & depth of flavor, and yet it remains enticingly elegant and supple. Retailing in the $40.00 – $45.00 range, it is infinitely better than wines costing twice the price. Garnering 92 big points from both the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast, the 2012 Aubichon Reserve is not to be missed.

2014 Domaine Lafage “Bastide” Miraflors (France): Hailing from France’s Côtes du Roussillon, the 2014 “Bastide” Miraflors is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache. Collecting an average of 92 points the past several years from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, the 2014 actually scored the same or higher than all but a dozen or so Châteauneuf-du-Papes from the same vintage. This is a marvelously deep and succulent medium bodied wine that is still soft and silky on the palate. And the best part…? I ordered the 2014 online for a mere $12.99 a bottle. To quote Parker: “This is one to buy by the case.”

marques-de-murrieta-castillo-ygay2005 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial (Spain): María Vargas, one of Spain’s highest-profile female winemakers, is acknowledged as brilliant & sensitive and extremely adept at combining the different plots of Murrieta’s 300 hectares of vineyards. And the bodega’s flagship is the Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, a Tempranillo blend that is sourced from three different vineyard plots planted in the 1960s. The 1985, 1968, and 1959 are legendary Riojas; but according to a host of wine critics and Ms. Vargas, the currently available 2005 may prove to be the greatest release ever. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate bestowed a whopping 96 points (100 point scale) and dubbed it “a classic among classics.” It garnered 95 points and an “Editors’ Choice” from the Wine Enthusiast, which called it “superb at every checkpoint” and a “World-class wine.” The Wine Spectator added 94 points and placed it at number 84 on its “Top 100 Wines of 2014.” This is a superb wine… powerful but elegant. It’s bold and rich on the palate at the present moment and has the ability to age gracefully for another two decades. A real gem… if you can find it. Goes for about $80.00.

2012 Planeta Noto Nero d’Avola (Sicily): Clearly at the cutting edge of a new generation of forward-thinking innovative wine producers, Planeta is owned by Francesca Paneta and her cousins, Alessio and Santi. Alessio is the winemaker, with Santi and Francesca handling marketing within Italy and around the world, respectively. Planeta is currently producing a prodigious number of wines, both from indigenous and international varietals, with at least ten Planeta wines being imported into the United States. The crème de la crème, in my opinion, are the wines produced from Nero d’Avola, the most important red wine grape in Sicily. Planeta’s 2012 Noto Nero d’Avola, which received 92 points and an “Editors’ Choice” designation from the Wine Enthusiast, is an exceptional vintage. Opening with intense aromas of spice & ripe red fruit, it bewitches the palate with silky smooth tannins and hints of cherry, raspberry, and cinnamon. Given its overall quality, it is something of a steal around the $33.00 mark.

tenor-wines-winemaker-aryn-morell2011 Tenor 2:2 Columbia Valley Red Wine (Washington State): Produced by Washington State’s Matthews/Tenor Winery, the 2011 Tenor 2:2 is a sumptuous red wine that is dressed to impress. And their winemaker, Aryn Morell, sports a résumé that reads like a Who’s Who of impressive Napa Valley wineries. Mr. Morell became head winemaker for Matthews in 2007; and, in 2008, he launched Tenor Wines with a focus on ultra-premium red and white Bordeaux style wines. Mr. Morell’s 2011 Tenor 2:2 Columbia Valley Red Wine, which received a 93-point score from the Wine Enthusiast, is a blend of 35% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Malbec. Typical of Bordeaux-like blends, the nose catches an initial intoxicating whiff of cordovan shoe polish followed by aromas of coffee, wood & spice. A stunning combination of power and finesse, the palate is all about dark fruits and a finish that seems to go on forever. A stunning wine… and worth every penny of its approximate $55.00 price tag.



2014 As Laxas Albariño (Spain): Albariño is a white wine grape grown predominately in northwest Spain and Portugal, where it is known as Alvarinho. As Laxas is a top-flight Albariño producer located in the Rias Baixas district of Spain; and this vintage is surely one of the winery’s finest efforts. It was awarded 92 points and an “Editors’ Choice” designation from the Wine Enthusiast. Elegant and long & stony on the finish, the 2014 As Laxas Albariño is a personal favorite. It ranges in price from $15.00 – $22.00.

hamilton-russell-chardonnay-20152015 Hamilton Russell Walker Bay Chardonnay (South Africa): The Hamilton Russell Winery specializes in producing terroir driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – “Wines from South African soil with a Burgundian soul” – that are widely regarded as the best in South Africa and among the best in the New World. Hamilton Russell Chardonnay is quite different from most New World Chardonnays. The stony, clay-rich soil, cool maritime climate, and naturally low yields produce wines with a tighter, drier, more complex mineral character and length to complement the fruit. And many wine enthusiasts – this writer included – prefer this more “classic” style to the round, viscous, vanilla and overripe fruit character of so many Chardonnays. As wine critic Stephen Tanzer notes: HR Chardonnays “convey a powerful impression of intensity without weight.” I’ve previously sampled the 2013 & 2014vintages – both highly rated by various wine gurus – but the 2015 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay tops them all. This is a ripe & rippling wine, beautifully balanced and alive with an incredible depth of flavor and refreshing minerality. The 2015 normally retails around the $30.00 mark; but do a little surfing and you’re sure to come up with several options for purchase in the low to mid 20s.

2013 Schloss Schönborn Estate (Dry) Riesling (Rheingau, Germany): This privately-owned German wine estate has been producing wine for some 650 years. During that time the Schönborn family has amassed spectacular vineyard sites and continued to pursue quality at every level of its production process. Unfortunately, American wine drinkers erroneously believe that all German wine is sweet and invariably on the nasty side. Good German wine is phenomenal; and its Rieslings are exquisite. One of the world’s most noble varietals, Rieslings are stunning in youth and age particularly well. The 2013 Scholss Schönborn Estate Riesling is an entry level Rheingau Riesling that is produced from a blend of different vineyards, all estate owned. This is a delightfully dry Riesling, as is noted on the label. It also displays all those classic Riesling characteristics: bright notes of lime and tangerine, a great acidity, hint of spritz, and that archetypal petrol nose. This superb wine makes an excellent aperitif and is also the perfect complement to various types of cuisine. The 2013 Scholss Schönborn Estate Riesling is currently on sale in Pennsylvania State Stores for $15.99.




nicholas-black-truffle-menu-2017Beginning on Tuesday, January 10, and continuing through Friday, January 20, 2017, Restaurant Nicholas, 160 Route 35 South, Red Bank, New Jersey, will be serving a special black truffle menu.

Amuse: Black Truffle Arancini, Black Garlic, Mushroom Butter

First Course: Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Black Truffle Mousse, Brioche, Honey Crisp Apple

Second Course: Hand-Rolled Orecchiette, Organic Egg Yolk, Pancetta, Black Truffle

Third Course: Dove Sole, Lemon Tarragon Butter, Watercress Salad, Black Truffle

Fourth Course: New York Strip Steak, Black Truffle Mousseline, Roasted Maitake Mushrooms

Dessert Amuse: Lemon Sherbet, Truffle Honey, Lemon Shortbread

The price of the 2017 black truffle menu is $145.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity); and will be served in the dining room only.

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977 or go to and click on Reservations.

Bon Appétit!



tortilla-press-cantinaTonight, for New Year’s Eve 2016, chef/proprietor Mark Smith of the Tortilla Press in Collingswood, NJ, and the Tortilla Press Cantina in Merchantville, NJ, has outdone himself. Both of Mr. Smith’s restaurants are offering the same three course menu priced at a mere $27.50 per person.

Appetizers (Choice of) – Chicken Taquitos Dorrados: Guajillo Chili Sauce, Queso Fresco, Mexican Crème, Guacamole… Cheesesteak Empanada: Toasted Pumpkin Seed Romesco… Fried Plantains: Coconut Dipping Sauce, Mango Salsa… Mexican Chopped Salad: Mixed Lettuce, Pico de Gallo, Avocado, Cucumbers, Bacon or Soy Chorizo, Marinated Queso Fresco… Chicken Tortilla Soup or Corn Chowder

Entrées (Choice of) – Crab Cakes Tampico: Twin Lump Crab Cakes, Lightly Fried, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis, Quinoa, Roasted Sweet Potato & Corn Salad… Fried Brussels Spouts & Bacon Taco: Crisp Bacon on Three Warm Corn tortillas with Chipotle Aioli… Pork Tenderloin Michoacan: Citrus Marinated & Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Fresh Tomatillo & Tomato-Pumpkin Seed Salsas, Chorizo Hash, Sautéed Garlic Kale… Blackened Mahi Mahi with Avocado Lime Sauce: Grilled Mahi Mahi seasoned with a Smoky, Sweet & Savory Spice Blend, Avocado-Lime Sauce, Chipotle Mash Potatoes, Sautéed Vegetable Medley… Brisket & Rajas Poblano Tacos: Three Warm Corn Tortillas filled with Chili-Braised Brisket and Grilled Rajas Poblano. Brisket Gravy, Fresh Cilantro, Pickled Red Onions.

Desserts (Choice of) – Coconut Flan… Cheesecake Chimichanga with Mixed Berry Salsa… Cherry Chocolate Bread Pudding… Toffee Brownie with Chocolate Ice Cream… Key Lime Pie

The cost of the New Year’s Eve menu is $2.50 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). Please note: the Tortilla Press is a BYOB restaurant.

For more information, or to make reservations, please call the Tortilla Press, (856) 869-3345; Tortilla Press Cantina, (856) 356-2050.

Bon Appétit!



new-year-2Today, December 31, 2016, the Pluckemin Inn, 10 Pluckemin Way, Bedminster Township, New Jersey, will be celebrating the arrival of 2017 with two seatings in the dining room and live music with John McCormack at the Plucky Tavern from 9:00 p.m.

First Seating Three-Course Prix-Fixe Dinner Menu: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

First Course (Choice of) – Chestnut Soup: Duck Confit, Wheat Berries, Apple Mostarda… Foie Gras Terrine: Almond, Brioche, Cranberry-Maple Gastrique… Miyazaki Beef Tartare: Yuzu Kosho, Sea Urchin, Barrel-Aged Soy… Root Vegetable Salad: Gorgonzola, Apple, Truffle, Hazelnut Granola… Smoked Salmon Confit: American Caviar, Seaweed, Oyster Sauce

Second Course (Choice of) – Filet Mignon: Pommes Purée, Shiitake, Cipollini, Spinach… Turbot: Savoy Cabbage, Cauliflower, Langoustine, Uni Sauce… Maine Lobster: Salsify, Yellowfoot Chanterelles, Swiss Chard… Cervena Venison: Kabocha Squash, Walnuts, Brussels Sprouts… Veal Loin & Cheeks: Parsnip Gruyère, Farro, Broccoli Rabe

Dessert Course (Choice of) – Champagne-Yuzu Semifreddo: Blood Orange, Graham Cracker Genoise… Chocolate Caramel Tart: Cocoa Nib Streusel, Champagne Truffle, Pomegranate Caramel… Cinnamon & Panko Crusted Apple Strudel: Cinnamon-Honey Ice Cream… Coconut Tapioca Pudding: Passionfruit Sorbet, Pineapple… Tasting of Seasonal Ice Creams or Sorbets: Waffle Tuile

The cost of the three course prix-fixe – appetizer, entrée, dessert – is $90.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & 20% gratuity).


Second Seating Four-Course Prix-Fixe Dinner Menu: 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

First Course (Choice of) – Foie Gras Terrine: Almond, Brioche, Cranberry-Maple Gastrique… Miyazaki Beef Tartare: Yuzu Kosho, Sea Urchin, Barrel-Aged Soy… Root Vegetable Salad: Gorgonzola, Apple, Truffle, Hazelnut Granola… Smoked Salmon Confit: American Caviar, Seaweed, Oyster Sauce

Second Course (Choice of) – Maine Lobster: Salsify, Yellowfoot Chanterelles, Swiss Chard… Bay Scallops: Potato-Leek Purée, Radish Sprouts, Perigord Truffle… Ricotta Gnocchi: Prosciutto, White Truffle, Parmigiano Reggiano… Chestnut Soup: Duck Confit, Wheat Berries, Apple Mostarda

Third Course (Choice of) – Filet Mignon: Pommes Purée, Shiitake, Cipollini, Spinach… Turbot: Savoy Cabbage, Cauliflower, Langoustine, Uni Sauce… Cervena Venison: Kabocha Squash, Walnuts, Brussels Sprouts… Veal Loin & Cheeks: Parsnip Gruyère, Farro, Broccoli Rabe

Dessert Course (Choice of) – Champagne-Yuzu Semifreddo: Blood Orange, Graham Cracker Genoise… Chocolate Caramel Tart: Cocoa Nib Streusel, Champagne Truffle, Pomegranate Caramel… Cinnamon & Panko Crusted Apple Strudel: Cinnamon-Honey Ice Cream… Coconut Tapioca Pudding: Passionfruit Sorbet, Pineapple… Tasting of Seasonal Ice Creams or Sorbets: Waffle Tuile

The cost of the four course prix-fixe – one choice per course – is $150.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & 20% gratuity).

Limited seating available. For more information, or to make reservations, please call (908) 658-9292.

Bon Appétit!