Tiefenbrunner Winery - ExteriorFounded in 1848, the Tiefenbrunner Castel Turmhof Winery owes its name to the ancient castle that today is known as the home of the Tiefenbrunner family. The winery is located in the South Tyrolean province of Bozen in the Alto Adige region of Italy.

Wine grapes have been cultivated at Castel Turmhof for over 300 years; the designation “Turmhof” becoming official under the ownership of winemaker Karl Pardatscher in 1848. In 1968, Hilde and Herbert Tiefenbrunner became the owners and immediately set the winery off in a new direction, gradually developing new markets and increasing bottled wine production.

Tiefenbrunner’s vineyards are located along the Wine Route of South Tyrol, one of the most beautiful wine-growing areas in Alto Adige. The vines are grown mainly on the mountain slopes around the Turmhof Castle, with other vines located in the flatter areas of the valley. The Mediterranean climate – moderate rainfall and cooling evening winds – allows for a substantial difference between day and night temperatures, providing ideal conditions for the perfect ripening of the grapes.

Tiefenbrunner Winery - Owners Christof & SabineHilde & Herbert’s son, Christof (pictured with wife, Sabine), was born in Bolzano in 1965. Christof attended the Commercial School in the Alto Adige region at Ora, followed by the Laimburg School of Agriculture Horticulture, and Viticulture. His winemaking training also included three months at the Castello di Volpaia in Tuscany in 1985, and three months at a winery at Augsburg, Germany, in 1983.

Today, Christof maintains complete control over all winery operations, from harvest through the transformation of the grapes into world-renowned wines. Each year, Tiefenbrunner produces a diverse portfolio of 29 wines resulting in 700 thousand plus bottles in four different lines: Selection Vigna, Selection Linticlarus, Selection Turmhof, and Classic Merus. Selection Vigna represents the winery’s Grand Cru offerings.

Tiefenbrunner Muller ThurgauTiefenbrunner’s flagship white wine – and the shining star of the Selection Vigna – is undoubtedly their incomparable Feldmarschall von Fenner Müller-Thurgau. Dr. Hermann Müller, who created the Müller-Thurgau variety in the late 1800s, indicated that this grape was a Riesling-Sylvaner hybrid; and, for many decades, this was thought to be the case. Most recent DNA analysis, however, indicates that while Riesling is one parent, the other is not Sylvaner but Chasselas.

Regardless of its beginnings, this white-wine grape is now one of the most widely cultivated varietals in Germany. Although not extensively grown in the United States, this prolific vine is planted in Austria, Switzerland, England, New Zealand, Hungary, and Italy’s northern mountain regions. Müller-Thurgau grapes produce smooth, low-acidity medium sweet wines with a hint of Muscat character. Unfortunately, because of high yields, these wines generally lack flavor, and most don’t age very well. The best wines come from Germany’s Mosel region and Italy’s Alto Adige, which are made from grapes grown in yield-restricted vineyards, hence producing vintages with highly concentrated flavor.

 The Müller-Thurgau produced by Tiefenbrunner is named after Franz Philipp Freiherr von Fenner, an Austrian field marshall who founded the Tyrolean Imperial Rifles, a regiment serving the Austrian emperor in the 1800s. The grapes composing this legend grow at an elevation of nearly 3,300 feet above sea level on the Fennberg mountain plateau next to the historic summer estate of the Feldmarschall, the highest Müller-Thurgau vineyard in Europe.

I first tasted the 2018 Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall von Fenner Müller-Thurgau while dining at Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia; and, as I mentioned in the review, was immediately impressed. So impressed, in fact, that the moment I returned home I began an online search to see where it might be available for purchase… Unfortunately, the 2018 was nowhere to be found. I was, however, able to secure four bottles of the 2017, which was even more highly rated – 96 whopping points from the Wine Enthusiast and listed as #14 in their Top 100 Wines of 2019 – and, as one wine writer noted, it was “a stunner from swirl to finish.” In addition, wine critic James Suckling referred to it as possibly the “best Müller-Thurgau in the world”; and the renowned Gambero Rosso Wine Guide awarded it with its coveted Three Glasses prize… This is simply a fabulous wine – elegant and delicious – and well worth seeking out.

The wine’s retail list price is $45.00; but I’ve seen it priced as high as $60.00 per bottle. The best deal I’ve thus far discovered online is $43.98 from Central Wine Merchants in Flemington, New Jersey, which is where I purchased my above-mentioned four bottles.

The other members of Selection Vigna line are similarly priced… The Rachtl Sauvignon Blanc Riserva, for example, begins around $59.00… ditto the AU Chardonnay Riserva; while the limited production Toren Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva is a bit more expensive, starting around the $69.00 mark.

But Tiefenbrunner produces a number of excellent more modestly priced wines as well. Wines that are not only highly rated but also readily available from a variety of sources…

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 20192019 Tiefenbrunner Merus Weissburgunder Pinot Bianco: Received 92 points from James Sucking; 90 points from the Wine Enthusiast, plus an Editors’ Choice designation. The Suckling has described this pinot blanc as “steely,” an adjective that, according to the dictionary, refers to a certain “hardness” and/or “harshness” of character, which, in my opinion, is completely off-base. He then compounds the faux pas by throwing in the word “flinty,” which is generally used to describe extremely dry white wines, such as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  Well, if there is one thing this wine is not, it is “hard” or “harsh.” Light as a feather on the palate, it is fresh and elegant, wafting gently to a soft, creamy finish. The perfect wine for sipping on a warm summer’s evening.  Normally listing at $19.99, the Saratoga Wine Exchange is currently offering it online for $14.94.

2019 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio: The recipient of 91 points from the Wine Enthusiast, the 2019 Tiefenbrunner is pale yellow in color with a subtle fruity bouquet… On the palate, it is both harmonious and full-bodied with a nice round finish. And while there are numerous Italian pinot grigios that may only be described as “underwhelming,” this little beauty has its own unique charms… The mouth-feel is irresistibly juicy and the tangy acidity lifts its rich flavors right into orbit. And this is definitely a food friendly wine, pairing exceptionally well with items like light appetizers and a variety of fish dishes. The price isn’t bad either… Listing at $15.99, there are numerous bargains online: Wine Buyer, $11.99; Empire Wine, $12.99; Gary’s Wine, $12.95. Do a little shopping around, and you’re sure to save a bundle.

2019 Tiefenbrunner Chardonnay: This charming vintage received a whopping 93 points from wine critic James Suckling. The wine is pale lemon in color; and while citrusy aromas dominate on the nose, they eventually give way to subtle herb and almond notes. Those citrus notes carry over to the palate, which also displays a crisp, clean acidity and long lingering finish. And while many chardonnays – particularly California chards – suffer the deleterious effects of over oaking, the 2019 Tiefenbrunner is incredibly light on its feet. There’s just a touch of toasty oak here… just enough to hold your interest without overwhelming those fresh fruit flavors. A superior wine at a superior price point: $19.99 online from wine.com. If you’re a chardonnay lover, you can’t afford to miss this one!

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Descendants Brewing CompanyOn Thursday, June 17, 2021, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Descendants Brewing Company (formerly the Ship Inn), 61 Bridge Street, Milford, New Jersey, will host a Kentucky Whiskey dinner featuring Barrell Craft Spirits world class, award-winning whiskey.

 Special guest speakers will include Lindsay Gulics, Brand Development Manager for Barrell Craft Spirits; Bill Brown, Sales Representative for Skurnik Wine; and Janet Brennan of The Whiskey Wench.

Welcome Dram

Barrell Bourbon Batch #27: A blend of 5- to 15-year-old straight bourbon whiskey aged in new American oak. Cask strength at 115.7 proof. A perfect introduction to Barrell whiskey. This incredible bourbon won 2X Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year.

First Course

BH36 Private Release: Kentucky whiskey finished in a Hermann J. Wiemer Nobel Select Josef Vineyard Riesling barrel. Cast Strength at 114.1 proof. Only 160 bottles were produced… Lomilomi Salmon: Hawaiian-Style Salmon Ceviche

Second Course

Seagrass: Barrell’s core Rye… finished in Martinique rum, Madeira, and apricot brandy barrels. Cask strength at 118.4 proof. This rye recently won 2X Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition… Spinach & Stone Fruit Salad: Spinach, Fennel, Apricot, Plum, Golden Raisins, and Currants, shredded Irish Cheddar and Malted Sherry Vinaigrette

Third Course

Dovetail: Barrell’s core bourbon finished in rum, port, and Dunn Vineyards cabernet barrels. Cask strength at 122.9 proof. Gold at the NY International Spirits Competition… Seared Scallops: Sloe Gin and Orange Reduction, Pink Peppercorn

Fourth Course

Barrell Bourbon Batch #28: A selection of 10- and 11-year-old straight bourbon whiskey aged in new American oak. Cask strength at 108.86 proof… Grilled Hangar Steak: Braised Radicchio, Buttermilk Mashed Yukon and Brown Butter

Fifth Course

DHAS Private Release: A blend of Kentucky whiskeys, the largest component being 18 years, finished in a St. Agrestis Brooklyn Amaro ask. Only 160 bottles were produced… Butterscotch Pudding: Sarsaparilla Whipped Cream, Crushed Candied Pecans

The price of the Kentucky Whiskey Dinner is $75.00 per guest (plus tax & gratuity). Seating is very limited and reservations are required at: (908) 995-0188.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Vetri Cucina

1312 Spruce Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(215) 732-3478

https://vetricucina.com/

“Vexed out at Vetri”

Tucked away in a stately Spruce Street townhouse – the former home of Georges Perrier’s late, great Le Bec Fin before it moved to its Walnut Street location – Vetri Cucina, which opened its doors in 1998, remains the distinguished flagship of chef/restaurateur Marc Vetri’s somewhat diminished restaurant empire (he sold the great majority of his holdings to Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters in 2015, though he still maintains outposts in Las Vegas and Kyoto, Japan).

Vetri Cucina - InteriorThe interior is sedate and sophisticated; the intimate ambiance especially cozy during our recent visit, as tables were properly spaced to maintain social distancing. And the service is another plus… While servers are young and personable, they are also extremely knowledgeable with regard to both menu and wine list.  They set the tone for your evening at table; and you sense from the moment you’re seated that your experience will be a pleasant one.

At the moment, the only  dining offering available is the four-course Menu Degustazione, priced at $125.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). There are, however, a number of freebies along the way, which add immensely to your enjoyment. My permanent dining partner and I began, for example, with complimentary glasses of prosecco spiked with bitters, a delightful concoction that immediately energized our appetites for the good things to come. This was followed by an intriguing amuse-bouche of mini toasts adorned with silky chicken liver mousse topped with mascarpone and pistachio.

Vetri Cucina - Squab en CrouteTo begin the meal proper, my dining partner couldn’t resist the Squab en Croûte, the moist tender meat of a young pigeon encased in a light, flaky pastry crust. The thing that really attracted her to the dish, however, was its accompaniment, the rhubarb agrodolce. This is a condiment that is made by reducing sugar or honey, vinegar, and sometimes fruit and/or vegetables; in this case, rhubarb. The result was a slightly sticky, marvelously tangy sweet-tart sauce that succeeded in propelling the appetizer into orbit.

Vetri Cucina - Sweet Onion Crepe 2And my Sweet Onion Crepe (pictured) was every bit its equal and even more addictive. Prepared to caramelized perfection, the sweet onion flavor was simply irresistible. But the pièce de résistance was the pool of truffle-infused parmesan fondue, the perfect complement to the decadently delicious starter… This is one wow of a dish that is simply not to be missed.

Vetri Cucina - Ramp RavioliThe pasta course also had a great deal going for it. My dining partner quickly settled on the Spinach Gnocchi, which was an excellent choice… And the ethereal dumplings found the perfect traveling companions in shaved ricotta salata and splash of brown butter. (Ricotta Salata is a Sicilian cheese made from the whey part of sheep’s milk, pressed, salted, and aged for at least 90 days. It is milky white in color with a firm texture and salty taste.) But even better, in my opinion, was the Ramp Ravioli (pictured) revved up with a ricotta cheese filling and dash of lemon. An absolute winner!

As an added bonus, the kitchen sent out a complimentary plate of their Tagliolini with Morel Mushroom Ragu for us to share. Tagliolini is a type of ribbon pasta, long like spaghetti, similar to tagliatelle, but thin like capellini. It is a traditional recipe in the Molise and Piedmont regions of Italy. Although not as photogenic as either the Spinach Gnocchi or Ramp Ravioli, the Tagliolini was, in its own unique way, exceedingly comforting as well as soul-satisfyingly delicious.

Since my dining partner and I both love Dover sole, when the Dover Sole for Two was announced as an entrée special, it was, as they say, a done deal – especially since our server noted that it would be prepared à la meunière. The word itself means “miller’s wife” in French. The fish is first dredged in flour and then sautéed. The meunière sauce, as the name implies, is a simple, rustic presentation consisting of brown butter, chopped parsley, and lemon.

Vetri Cucina - Dover SoleWhat arrived at our table, however, was strictly a bastardized version… filets drowned in a surprisingly viscous sauce overwhelmed with radish slices and a salty flavor derived from a surfeit of capers… And, as if to add insult to injury, the texture of the fish was decidedly rubbery, a sure sign of overcooking. Not the kitchen’s finest hour.

I have always been of the opinion that matters piscatorial – specifically delicate denizens of the deep like Dover sole – are best served by those accoutrements that intrude the least. Sauces, in other words, should gently caress rather than smother the objects of their affection.

Up until this point, I freely confess, everything had been absolutely spot-on… But if there is one lesson I’ve learned during my years as a restaurant reviewer – or “hired belly,” as the late Jay Jacobs was fond of referring to those in his profession – marvelous appetizers notwithstanding, if a restaurant is going to let you down, disappointment is most likely to rear its ugly head with the appearance of the entrées… And, unfortunately, that was the case here.

Vetri Cucina - Choc Polenta SouffleDesserts, however, were right back on track. My dining partner, who is particularly fond of rhubarb, went right for the Rhubarb Crumb Cake, a scrumptious affair companioned by dabs of pureed fennel and tiara of lemon swirl gelato. My Citrus Pavlova – a meringue-based dessert named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova – a delightfully crisp crust filled with whipped cheesecake topped with blood orange granita and whipped cream, was equally commendable. Since we were celebrating a special occasion, the kitchen also treated us to a complimentary Chocolate Polenta Souffle with vanilla gelato (pictured), an enticing treat.

Tiefenbrunner Muller ThurgauOne very important additional item needs to be mentioned… namely, the wines. Two white wines being offered by the glass were particularly noteworthy. The first was the Tiefenbrunner Müller Thurgau 2018 “Feldmarschall von Fenner” from the Alto Adige region of Italy; the second, Domaine Thomas St. Aubin 1er Cru 2018 “Murgers des Dents de Chien,” a chardonnay from Burgundy, France. Both wines were extremely impressive… And the restaurant’s price tag was pretty impressive as well… $35.00 per glass. $35.00!!!!!

Both these wines were very nice, indeed… but charging $35.00 per glass is more than just a little outrageous. Especially when you realize that the Tiefenbrunner may be purchased online for $43.99 per bottle ($48.99 through PA State Stores); and the Domaine Thomas is available from Total Wine for $59.99 per bottle.

Couple this with the disappointing Dover sole, and the fact that the check for the evening, including tax and tip, came to over $400.00, and you begin to understand why our visit to Vetri Cucina prompted such a host of mixed emotions.

 Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Chad AlexanderWinemaker Chad Alexander’s name is probably not terribly familiar to most readers… However, for the past ten years, the customers at Princeton’s Corkscrew wine shop have come to recognize anything from Chad Alexander as an amazing deal. “Whether it is his Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays or Cabernets, anytime you see the Chad label you know that you are getting a wine that punches above its weight. The cuvées and sources change almost every year, but that’s what makes Chad special: He has a nose for the deals, no matter if the fruit is from Sonoma, Napa, Santa Barbara or the Willamette.”

Chad’s negociant label was launched during the economic crisis in 2009 to take advantage of inventory that had backed up at prestigious wineries and to protect the brand of the maker. According to Nicholas Harary of Nicholas Wines, Chad’s plan calls for wineries to bottle their new wines in ‘shiners,’ that is, wine bottles without label or branded cork. For many wineries with bloated inventories, this gives them an out when current markets aren’t providing one. Chad offers a price on the entire lot that is substantially higher than the depressed bulk market but still dramatically less the intended retail. These ‘shiners’ are then bottled under Chad’s own label. He talks up the vineyard sources, and how the wine is made, but doesn’t mentioned the winery’s name.

Nicholas concludes: “The Chad label is all about opportunity; the opportunity for wineries to get out of stuck products without cheapening their brand and the opportunity of a lifetime for consumers to buy fantastic American wine at everyday prices…” Wines of this quality are generally found in bottles that are twice the price… That’s because what’s in the bottles IS twice the price! And the fact that these wines have shown up in upscale restaurants like The Odeon and Bar Boulud in New York City is a testimony to their superior quality.

Chad Pinot Noir 2019During the past month or so, I’ve had opportunity to sample three of Chad’s red wines – and each one was absolutely superb and a steal pricewise… The first wine tasted was the 2019 Chad Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, which proved to be the very essence of Oregon Pinot. Aromatically, black cherry predominates, along with a beguiling touch of spice. The palate is pure Pinot, vibrant & complex, with an abundance of berry fruit flavors and soft, silky tannins. The finish is smooth, long, and elegant. An outstanding wine… at an equally outstanding price point. The lowest listing I’ve seen online is $19.99 per bottle (plus shipping) at Central Wine Merchants of Flemington, New Jersey.

Chad Sonoma Mountain Reserve 2019The 2019 Chad Sonoma Mountain Reserve is a Bordeaux blend that comes from what is widely considered to be the best old-patch, old-vine vineyard for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in California’s Mayacamas Mountains. The range acts as a divider between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. According to Mr. Alexander, this is a truly special wine from the most rarefied of air; and I’m afraid that’s all he is allowed to divulge – but that’s really all we need to know.

This is a beautiful wine… Vibrant purple in color, offering up fabulous aromas of blueberry, sage, and mint. On the palate, it is full-bodied with hints of ripe plum and a touch of dark chocolate. No question, this is a classy wine with fine tannins and a long, lush finish.

The price is pretty lush as well. Normally retailing around the $45.00 mark, Nicholas Wines in Red Bank, New Jersey, is letting it go for $21.00 per bottle (plus shipping).

The 2018 growing season in Washington State saw hot temperatures and practically no rain for the most of summer. This was followed by a quick rainstorm and cooler temperatures for the remainder of the season… Winemakers described it as a “particularly good year for Cabernet Sauvignon.” But if there was one problem for Washington winemakers, it was that the harvest was so even and so perfect that yields were huge.

An overabundance of super high-quality Cabernet? Yes, and Chad Alexander was right there to snatch up the surplus. How did he know to be in Walla Walla in 2018? As Nicholas Harary put it: “Most winemakers are constantly chasing trends. Chad is always ahead of them.”

Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2018The 2018 Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley is something of an anomaly. For his latest enological coup, Chad goes back to his Cabernet Sauvignon roots; however, this time, instead of his usual connections in Napa, he has reaped the benefits of the basalt-cobblestone gravel soils of eastern Washington State. In a vintage that winemakers up and down the valley are applauding for both quality and quantity, Chad’s 2018 Cabernet is an incredible wine at an unbelievable value.

A stunning purple with ruby highlights in the glass, the emanating aromas have been described as a lovely mix of “kirsch, blackberry liqueur, vanilla, pepper and baked black cherries.” And all this carries over to a full-bodied palate that is rich with mouth-filling tannins and lush dark fruit flavors leading to a long and decadent finish. As one writer put it: “A beautiful example of Walla Walls Cabernet and a treat for all those who love ripe, expressive, full-bodied wines…” A great combo, he suggests, “with a burger smothered in blue cheese and caramelized onions with spiced tomato ketchup.” Yum.

Chad’s 2018 Cab is available from several sources online. The lowest price I’ve seen listed is $18.99 per bottle (plus shipping). Your best bet is to Google it and see what options come up. The difference in price between retailers will only be a dollar or two, although shipping prices may vary significantly. For example, many retailers will offer free shipping if you purchase X number of bottles… so it pays to shop around.

 Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Seasons 52 Fresh Grill & Wine Bar

160 North Gulph Road, Suite 101

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

(610) 992-1152

www.seasons52.com

Seasons 52 - ExteriorAlthough it hardly seems possible, eight years have passed since I penned by initial review of Seasons 52, which made its debut in King of Prussia in March 2010. And as I mentioned in that original critique, I try to avoid reviewing chain restaurants, as I feel that locally-owned eateries usually have infinitely more to offer and are more deserving of our support. The only exception to this rule, however, is that the chain in question must be either so good or so bad that I simply can’t resist the opportunity to wax eloquent, pro or con. Fortunately, Seasons 52 is in the former category.

Part of the Darden Specialty Restaurant Group – which also includes Capital Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Bahama Breeze, and Yard House – there are currently 42 Seasons 52 locations in the United States. But don’t sweat the corporate convolutions. Good things are happening here. The menu changes four times per year, with the seasons – as reflected in the name – and the kitchen strives to feature healthy and flavorful ingredients at their seasonal peak. In addition, the emphasis is on simple food preparation – wood-fire grilling and brick-oven cooking – which inevitably results in presentations that are naturally lower in fat and calories (calories are also listed on the menu).

Seasons 52 - Pepperoni FlatbreadAs I mentioned in my initial review, if Seasons 52 has a signature dish, it is undoubtedly their irresistible flatbreads… And nothing has transpired to change my opinion. Current options range from the simplicity of Roasted Tomato with mozzarella, parmesan & basil, through All-Natural Pepperoni (pictured) and Buffalo Cauliflower drizzled with blue cheese, to the extravagance of Lobster & Fresh Mozzarella with grilled red peppers, scallions, and lobster sour cream.

Seaons 52 - Spinach & Strawberry SaladThe kitchen does a good job with soups and salads as well. Most recently sampled, for example, was their delicious take on Potato Leek Soup. Rich, creamy, and perfectly seasoned, a cup of this extravagant potage was more than sufficient to make an absolutely fabulous starter… Equally up to the mark was my dining partner’s Spinach and Strawberry Salad (pictured). In addition to the spinach and sliced strawberries, accompaniments also included toasted almonds, crumbles of Gorgonzola cheese, and splashes of white balsamic vinaigrette. An excellent presentation. The only minor quibble… despite the interesting array of ingredients, the salad was surprisingly bland.

Seasons 52 - 6 Ounce FiletAs Seasons 52’s culinary strengths remain the same, so also do its weaknesses – namely, its entrées. And, once again, I would clarify… It’s not that the main courses aren’t good, for the most part, they are. They simply are not as good as a number of the restaurant’s other presentations. Take my 6-Ounce Wood-Grilled Filet Mignon (pictured), for example, which was positively superb. Prepared to a tender & succulent “medium,” precisely as ordered, it arrived at table pillowed on a luscious mound of Yukon gold mashed potatoes. The accompaniments were simplicity itself: roasted shiitake mushrooms and a savory red wine sauce…But then the kitchen had to muck up their good work by throwing in a load of roasted asparagus that was both under-cooked and downright stringy.

Seasons 52 - Scallops… And my dining partner’s Caramelized Grilled Sea Scallops were similarly victimized. The bivalves themselves were beautifully seared to a sensuous golden brown while their interior retained an irresistibly meaty texture… And the creamy mascarpone risotto proved to be a fabulous match. All would have been perfect, if the asparagus had been properly prepared. In truth, it never should have been allowed to leave the kitchen. Someone should have had a clue. When we boxed up the leftovers, the asparagus remained on our plates, virtually untouched. Yes, it was that bad.

A side order of Mac ‘N’ Cheese proved to be another disappointment. The menu description sounded good… parmesan panko breadcrumbs and aged cheddar cheese sauce. And it certainly looked the part. But as Cervantes wisely noted, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” And this dish just never delivered. The bland leading the bland… Anything approximately flavor was purely coincidental.

Seasons 52 - Peanut Butter Torte, Key Lime PieDesserts, however – or Mini Indulgences, as they are called here – are right back on track. There are eight from which to choose – Peanut Butter Torte, Belgian Chocolate S’Mores, Key Lime Pie, Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli, Coconut Cream Pie, Cookies ‘N’ Cream, Turtle Cheesecake, and Pecan Pie – all priced at $4.00 per. You may also order a flight of six for $24.00.

When you’re not in the mood for a big dessert or a major addition to the evening’s check, the Mini Indulgence is just the right size and fills the bill quite nicely. My favorites…? No contest… the Peanut Butter Torte and Key Lime Pie (pictured).

The restaurant’s top drawer wine list – a recipient of the Wine Spectator 2020 Award of Excellence – is another high point. The selection by the bottle is most impressive; and many wines are also available in six- or nine-ounce pours. Some favorites include the 2019 Prüm “Essence” Riesling from Mosel, Germany; 2019 La Crema Chardonnay from Monterey, California; and 2018/2019 Jam Jar “Sweet White” Moscato from South Africa.

Among the reds, the 2017 Chateau Ste Michelle “Indian Wells” Merlot from Washington State’s Columbia Valley is a definite winner… ditto the 2018/2019 Loveblock Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s Central Otago region. The 2018 Franciscan is an extremely reliable California Cab; and you also can’t go wrong with the 2018/2019 Antinori “Santa Cristina,” a delicious, moderately-priced Tuscan Sangiovese.

Seasons 52 - Blackened Mahi Mahi TacosJust one or two concluding thoughts… Since, in my opinion, the restaurant’s entrées are the weakest link in their gastronomic chain, I would suggest stopping by for lunch – or an afternoon snack & libation – rather than dinner. This would give you opportunity to sample a number of possibilities that are infinitely superior to main courses served up in the evening… Like the tacos, for example – either the Blackened Mahi Mahi (pictured) or the Wood-Grilled Steak – both of which come embellished with pico de gallo, avocado-lime crema, and rice & beans; and both of which run a close second to the above-mentioned incomparable flatbreads. Other luncheon selections include the Naked Cheddar Burger, Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwich, and Lump Crab Cake Sandwich. All worthy of consideration.

Finally… If you’re in the company of a large party, you have no choice but the bustling dining room. However, should you be dining à deux, one of the cozy booths in the bar area would be infinitely more preferable.

 Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Seasons 52 - ExteriorOn Sunday, May 9, 2021, Seasons 52, 160 North Gulph Road, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special Mother’s Day brunch in their dining room from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

STARTERS: AVOCADO TOAST, $9.00… STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD, $9.50… Field Greens Salad, $7.50

SOUPS: LOBSTER BISQUE, $7.50… ASPARAGUS, $6.50… POTATO LEEK, $6.50

ENTRÉES: CRAB & CHEDDAR QUICHE: Lump Crab, Aged Cheddar, Roasted Asparagus, Marble Potatoes, Hollandaise, $21.00… UPRIGHT FRENCH TOAST: Fresh Blueberry Compote, Maple-Vanilla Cream, Applewood Smoked Bacon, $16.00… APRICOT-GLAZED SPIRAL HAM: French Green Beans, Sweet Potato Mash with Maple-Pecan Streusel, $24.00… WOOD-GRILLED SHRIMP & GRITS: Chorizo, Bacon, Tomatoes, Stone-Ground Grits, $20.00

BRUNCH ADDITIONS: CRAB POLENTA, $8.00… APPLEWOOD SMOKED BACON, $3.00… SWEET POTATO MASH WITH MAPLE-PECAN STREUSEL, $7.50

BRUNCH COCKTAILS: MIMOSA, $9.50… SANGRIA, $7.50… BLOODY MARY, $8.00… ROSÉ LEMONADE, $10.50

If you would prefer to dine at home, Seasons 52 is also offering a Mother’s Day Green Box to go. The Green Box will feature apricot-glazed spiral ham, whole side of cedar plank-roasted salmon, or wood-grilled beef tenderloin with choice of salad, two sides, and the six mini- indulgences of your choice. Everything will be packaged, chilled, and read to warm at home.

The Green Box serves 2 or 4-6 people. Prices vary. Orders must be made at least one day in advance with pick up on Friday, 5/7, or Saturday 5/8.

Brunch reservations and preorders to go may be made on the restaurant’s website or by calling (610) 992-1152.

 Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Washington House Basking Ridge - InteriorDuring this entire week, Washington House Restaurant, 55 South Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, will be celebrating Mother’s Day with a selection of dinner specials…

Shrimp Bisque: Brioche Croutons, Micro Greens, Cup $7.00/Bowl $10.00

Strawberry & Fennel Salad: Organic Baby Arugula, Candied Pecans, Goat Cheese, Champagne Maple Vinaigrette, $18.00

Beef Carpaccio: Organic Micro Green Salad, Shaved Parmesan, Horseradish Cream, Garlic Toast, $19.00

Chicken Roulade: Fontina Cheese & Spinach Truffle Whipped Potatoes, Pan Au Jus, $28.00

Pan-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass: Potato Galette, Sautéed Spinach, Meuniere Sauce, $34.00

House Surf & Turf: Scallops & Beef Tenderloin, Saffron Risotto, Asparagus Pencils, Bordelaise Sauce, $41.00

Oreo Chocolate Mousse Cake: Strawberry Sauce, $12.00

For more information, or to make reservations, please call Washington House Restaurant, (908) 766-7610.

 Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Davio's King of Prussia, PAOn Sunday May 9th, 2021,  200 Main Street, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, will be celebrating Mother’s Day with both brunch and dinner…

SPECIAL BRUNCH FEATURES (Served 10:00 a.m. Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse,– 1:00 p.m., in addition to the regular dinner menu)…

 Scrambled Eggs: Bacon, Swiss Cheese, Brunch Potatoes, Popover, $15.00… Butterscotch Pancakes: Blackberries, Orange Crème Anglaise, $16.00… Banana Foster Belgian Waffles: Banana Rum Compote, Cinnamon Crème Fraiche, $17.00… Buffalo Mozzarella Pizza: Campari Tomatoes, Basil, Balsamic, $18.00… Lump Crab Cake Benedict: Poached Eggs, Brunch Potatoes, Popover, Cajun Hollandaise, $26.00

SPECIAL DINNER FEATURES (Served 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., in addition to the regular dinner menu)…

Long Island Pekin Duck: Roasted Beets, Charred Broccolini, Figs, $12.00

30-Ounce Aged Tomahawk for Two: Potato Au Gratin, Root Vegetables, Brandy Peppercorn, $79

For more information, or to make reservations, please call Davio’s, (610) 337-4810.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Chop House Grille Hosts Mother’s Day Brunch

Mother's DayOn Saturday, May 8th & Sunday May 9th, the Chop House Grille, 301 Pottstown Pike, Exton, Pennsylvania, will host a special Mother’s Day brunch from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 pm.

Filet Eggs Benedict: English Muffin, Béarnaise, Heirloom Baby Potato Hash, $20.00… Smoked Salmon Plate: Red Onion, Dill Cream Cheese, Capers, Egg, Toasted Everything Bagel, Heirloom Baby Potato Has, $18.00… BEIC: Spiced Brown Sugar Slab Bacon, Egg & Irish Cheddar Croissant, Hei5loom Baby Potato Hash, $14.00… Brioche French Toast: Caramelized Apple Foster, Maple Bourbon Syrup, Heirloom Baby Potato Hash, $14.00… Farm Fresh Eggs: Done Your Way, Served with Heirloom Baby Potato Hash, Spiced Brown Sugar Slab Bacon, $12.00

Peach Bellini: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, White Peach Purée, Prosecco, $10.00… Grapefruit Paloma: Espolòn Tequila, Grapefruit Juice, Fresh Lemon & Lime Juice, Club Soda, $12.00… Cucumber Cosmo: Svedka Citron, Cointreau, Fresh Lime Juice, Cranberry Juice, $10.00… Spicy Mango Margarita: Espolòn Tequila, Fresh Muddle Jalapeños, Mango Nectar, Fresh Lemon & Lime Juice, Chipotle Sugared Rim, $12.00

For more information, or to make reservations, please call the Chop House Grille, (484) 875-6700.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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The Judgment of Paris

by artfuldiner on April 16, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Opinion, Wine

Spurrier, StevenIn 1976, the late Steven Spurrier*, an English wine expert who owned a wine shop in Paris, decided pretty much on a whim to organize a blind tasting to coincide with America’s Bicentennial celebrations. For the tasting, he chose the best French judges, the finest of French wines and, just for the fun of it, included a few wines from little-known California winemakers. Spurrier hoped that the tasting would bring favorable attention to his wine shop… But he had absolutely no idea that the tasting, which became known as the “Judgment of Paris,” would have such an impact on the world of wine.

Judgement of ParisThe blind tasting was held at the InterContinental Hotel in the center of Paris. The morning competition was devoted to white wines, the afternoon to reds. For the white wine tasting, Spurrier brought together the very best white wines of Burgundy: a 1973 Meursault-Charmes, 1973 Beaune Clos des Mouches, 1973 Bâtard-Montrachet, and a 1972 Puligny-Montrachet. Also included were several California Chardonnays that the French judges had never heard of. As one writer put it, “The judges expected to sniff and gag when they tasted the California wines.”

… But things just didn’t turn out that way… The nine French judges blind tasted the white wines and graded each of them. When the dust cleared, the clear winner was California’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay with 132 points, the highest total scored by any of the wines, white or red.

In the afternoon tasting of red wines, the judges gave their top ranking to the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, which outscored the best wines of Bordeaux, among them a 1970 Château Mouton-Rothschild, 1970 Château Haut Brion, 1970 Château Montrose from Saint-Estèphe, and 1971 Château Lèoville-La Cases from Saint-Julien.

Judgement of Paris, George TaborSteven Spurrier was positively stunned. The Napa Valley wines had won both categories, against the best wines that France had to offer. The French judges were… well, yes… speechless. And a few tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress the results. A week later, journalist George Tabor, the only member of the press present, announced the story of the American triumph in Time magazine (a more detailed account of the event may be found in his book, published in 2005), sending shock waves throughout the wine world, clearly establishing California’s Napa Valley as a world-class wine region. Breaking the myth of French superiority, the American victory also gave new hope and energy to winemakers in countries such as South Africa, Italy, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.

Interestingly enough, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a native of Croatia, the winemaker at Chateau Montelena, only learned that his wine had won via a congratulatory telegram from a friend in Paris. In fact, this was the first he learned that his wine had even been in the competition. Even the details of the telegram were sketchy; he still wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but he knew that it was something significant.

Grgich, MikeThe success of his wine at the “Judgment of Paris” convinced Mike Grgich that he was ready to move on and start his own winery. In July of 1977, he and Austin Hills, of the Hills Brothers Coffee Company, broke ground to start Grgich Hills Cellar, which, from the very beginning, sold wines that were in high demand because of his success in Paris. Over time, the winery purchased 366 acres spread over five vineyards within the Napa Valley, allowing all Grgich Hills wines to be produced solely from estate-grown grapes. In recognition of this significant achievement, the winery changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. On March 7, 2008, Mike Grgich was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame.

Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2017You may not be able to sample the original 1973 Chateau Montelena, a bottle of which, now resides in the Smithsonian, but you can still discover why Mike Grgich has come to be known as the “King of Chardonnay.” His 2017 Grgich Hills Estate Grown Chardonnay, which is available from various sources online, just received its highest ever rating from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, a whopping 93 points (100-point scale).

This is a wine that is easy to love. It is medium-bodied, rich & sumptuous, but not overdone. It is decidedly elegant on the palate; yet it possesses a beautifully balanced acidity that carries through to a zesty and vibrant finish. Reminiscent of a fine white Burgundy… at a fraction of the price. Retailing in the $35.00 – $45.00 range, the lowest price I’ve seen online is $34.00 per bottle (plus shipping) from Nicholas Wines, https://www.nicholaswines.com/, in Red Bank, New Jersey, which is where I purchased my six bottles. If you’re a Chardonnay lover, you’re in for a real treat.

*Steven Spurrier passed away on March 9th at the age of 79. His obituary, as well as an informative article of remembrance, may be found in the New York Times. Both were written by Eric Asimov, the Times’s wine critic.

Cheers!

TAD

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