Diving Horse 3 - AvalonTomorrow, Friday, May 22, 2015, co-owners Dan Clark and Ed Hackett will reopen their popular BYOB, the Diving Horse, 2109 Dune Drive, Avalon, New Jersey, for its sixth season.

The partners will also welcome new Executive Chef Paul Carrier, a Maryland native, who has cooked at their seafood-focused restaurant in summers past. The restaurant, featuring ample outdoor seating, a modern farmhouse interior with reclaimed fixtures and bright, oversized windows, serves dinner nightly beginning at 5:00 p.m. and will remain open through Labor Day.

“We’re thrilled to have Chef Carrier taking the reins in the kitchen this summer,” notes Mr. Clark, a South Jersey native who has enjoyed many summers in Avalon. “This summer is going to be our best yet and our guests can expect the service and menu to be familiar and accessible and refined,” adds Mr. Hackett.

Chef Carrier’s menu of new American fare highlights coastal ingredients, many sourced from nearby farms and Cape May County fisherman. Menu items, which will change almost daily based upon availability, may include: The Diving Horse Wedge Salad with jumbo lump crabmeat, prosciutto, red onion, tomato, and fried herbs served with a Seven Mile Island dressing; Heirloom Tomato & Strawberry with house-made ricotta and basil; Calamari with pickled ramps and paprika; Barnegat Light Bay Scallops with farro risotto, English peas and fennel pesto. Dishes range in price from $8.00 – $36.00.

Since opening in summer 2010, the Diving Horse has taken its place as one of the most highly regarded restaurants along the Jersey coast. Last summer Philadelphia magazine named it one of the best restaurants in their annual “Summer Jersey Shore Guide.” “Easily Avalon’s best restaurant and one of the better specimens at the shore,” notes New Jersey Monthly.

For more information about the Diving Horse, or to make reservations, please call (609) 368-5000 or visit www.thedivinghorseavalon.com.

Bon Appétit!



Philly Beer Week 2015Philly Beer Week 2015 will be held from Friday, May 29 – Sunday, June 7. PBW is a 10-day celebration of “America’s Best Beer-Drinking City,” and kicks off on the first Friday in June annually.

Established in 2008, it is the largest beer celebration of its kind in the United States, featuring hundreds of festivals, dinners, tours, pub crawls, tastings and meet-the-brewer nights throughout great Philadelphia. PBW highlights the region’s diverse beer scene – its world-class breweries, neighborhood taverns, trend-setting restaurants and rich beer culture and history.

For more information about Philly Beer Week, including the ever-expanding schedule of events, both during PBW and throughout the year, as well as a list of participants and other details, please visit www.phillybeerweek.org.

Bon Appétit!



Orange SquirrelThe Orange Squirrel, 410 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, New Jersey, recently announced its new weekday – Monday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – prix fixe four course menu priced at an unbelievable $29.00 per person.

New Four Course Prix Fixe Menu…

Course 1: Mushroom Tempura, Baby Artichoke Aioli, Truffle Oil… or … Chitarra Marinara, Meatballs

Course 2: Mesclun Green Salad, Vinaigrette, Croutons, Sliced Radish

Course 3: Skate Wing, Braised Beet Greens, Meuniere Sauce… or … Chicken Pot Pie, Vegetables, Leg & Thigh Confit, Puff Pastry

Course 4: Banana Bread Pudding, Rum Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream… or … Chocolate Soufflé, Ganache

As noted above, the four course prix fixe menu is priced at an incredible $29.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity).

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (973) 337-6421.

Bon Appétit!



TRISAETUM: The “Art” of Wine

by artfuldiner on May 19, 2015

in Breaking News, Wine

Trisaetum WineryTrisaetum Winery & Vineyards – pronounced tris-say-tum – is located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In 2003, Andrea & James Frey acquired an old cattle ranch in the foothills of the Coast Range outside McMinnville. Two years later they planted 22 acres of vines; they subsequently added another 28 acres near Newberg on Ribbon Ridge.

The winery, which is named after the founders’ two children, Tristen and Tatum, is still family owned and operated and produces small lots of critically acclaimed Pinot Noir and Riesling from its three estate vineyards.

Just how critically acclaimed…? Trisaetum’s 2007, 2008, and 2009 Rieslings were each awarded Editor’s Choice designations by the Wine Enthusiast with respective scores of 93, 94, and 93 points on the magazine’s 100-point scale.

The second varietal for which Trisaetum is best known is Pinot Noir. And, recently, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate simply couldn’t find enough superlatives to describe the winery’s 2012 vintage: The 2012 Family Reserve Pinot Noir ($100) received a whopping 95 points; the 2012 Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 94 points ($69); and the 2012 Coast Range Pinot Noir ($49) and 2012 Wichmann Dundee Pinot Noir ($49) 92 points, respectively.

Trisaetum Winery - Tasting Room, GalleryIn addition to great wines, Trisaetum is also known for its great art. Not only is proprietor James Frey the winemaker, but the 1,500-square foot gallery/tasting room located within the winery features his abstract expressionist paintings, photography, and sculpture.  His paintings are also utilized on his art series wine bottle labels, many of which have become collector’s items.

As you have undoubtedly noticed, Trisaetum wines are not inexpensive. Even the 2013 Estates Reserve Dry Riesling and 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which might be considered entry level wines, are generally priced in the $35 – $40 range… Both, however, are well worth your hard-earned dollar, as they are, in many cases, infinitely superior to wines retailing at twice the price.

The 2013 Dry Riesling, for example, received an incredible 95 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine and was named one of their “Cellar Selections.” This is a wine that offers tremendous concentration and complexity, is packed with stone & citrus fruit, and boasts a bracing acidity.  “Good as it is,” Wine Enthusiast notes, “the best is yet to come.” Wonderfully accessible at the present moment, this is a wine that will be even better in the years to come.

The 2013 Pinot Noir is a combination of barrels from the winery’s three estate vineyards and offers wine lovers a beautiful balance of power and elegance. It is rife with vibrant fruit flavors, earth, and spice. Silky smooth on the palate, its soft, finely textured tannins linger on to a lush and luxurious finish. This marvelous Pinot Noir will continue to be thoroughly enjoyable for the next 5 – 8 years. A classic in every sense of the word.

WINES OF THE MONTH - June 2015Just one minor problem… both the 2013 Dry Riesling and the 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are notoriously difficult to find. Your most expedient course of action is to order online, as I did, directly from the winery, www.trisaetum.com.

By the way, if you’d like to sample the goods before making a commitment, the White Dog Café in Wayne, Pennsylvania, is currently offering Trisaetum’s 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir by the glass ($17). Give it a try; I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.




Montclair Food & Wine Festival 2015From Monday, June 8 – Saturday, June 13, 2015, the Montclair, New Jersey, Food & Wine Festival returns for its third year, with a series of fabulous events…

Monday, June 8 – Gala Dinner, 6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., The Manor, 111 Prospect Avenue, West Orange: Dinner begins with a series of amuse bouche from Francesco Palmieri (The Orange Squirrel), Zod Arifai (Blu, Next Door), Thomas Ciszak (Chakra, Blue Morel), and Meny Vaknin (Mish Mish). Courses prepared by Mitchell Althotz (Highlawn Pavilion), Michael Carrino (Pig & Prince, Ryan DePersio (Fascino, Battello, NICO), Ariane Duarte (Ariane Kitchen & Bar), and guest chef Kevin Sippel (Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen), along with special presentations from FIN Raw Bar & Kitchen and D’Artagnan. Wines/beverages coordinated by Sharon Sevrens of Amanti Vino. The cost of $175.00 per person.

Thursday, June 11 – FREE “Book Party + Bites with The Kitchen Stars, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Watchung Booksellers/Tiny Elephant, 54 Fairfield Street, Montclair: Hosted by MFWF in conjunction with BSTV Entertainment, producers of the Food Network’s The Kitchen. Stars from The KitchenSunny Anderson, Katie Lee, and Geoffrey Zakarian – will be on hand to meet fans and sign cookbooks. Guests will sample bites from each star’s cookbook prepared by the Tiny Elephant Café & Bakery, along with a Zakarian-inspired Five O’clock Somewhere cocktail crafted from jersey’s own Busted Barrel Rum and Blue J Syrups. The cost is FREE – first come, first served; pre-register at events@watchungbooksellers.com.

Friday, June 12 – Outdoor Bourbon & Biergarten, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Montclair Art Museum, 3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair: A casual evening on the law of the Montclair Art Museum, featuring the finest bourbons, craftiest brews, and food samplings from a diverse selection of New Jersey restaurants, artisans, and street food vendors. Each attendee will receive a commemorative sampling glass. All beers & bourbons curated by Amanti Vino. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will support education and exhibition programs at the Montclair Art Museum. The cost is $85.00 per person.

Saturday, June 13 – Grand Tasting, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.; VIP Lounge 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Montclair Art Museum, 3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair: Guests will enjoy an evening of extraordinary culinary offerings from the state’s finest restaurants, while Amanti Vino presents wines and spirits from across the globe. For a more exclusive experience (ahead of the crowds), the VIP Lounge opens at 6:00 p.m. in Lehman Court, featuring gallery tours, favorite wines, and exquisite bites from Restaurant Latour, Samba Montclair, Fresco da Franceo, and Escape Montclair. All attendees will receive a complimentary 2015 tasting glass. The cost is $95.00 per person; VIP: $135.00 per person.

Tickets for all paid events are available online ONLY at www.montclairfoodandwinefestival.org.

Bon Appétit!



Wine 5On Saturday, May 30, 2015, Stage Left, 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey, will host host a special walk around wine tasting, featuring wines appropriate for summer quaffing.

Twenty wines will be tasted, including a summer Rosé, German Riesling, White Burgundy, Italian country wines, red Bandols from near Provence, a remarkable Cru Beaujolais and sparkling Moscato.

The tasting will be held from 3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. The cost for the tasting is $25.00 per person, which will be credited toward your first case of wine, should you choose to purchase a case.

Reservations are required. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (732) 828-4444.

Bon Appétit!



Fiddleheads - InteriorThis coming Sunday, May 17, 2015, 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., Fiddleheads American Bistro, 27 Railroad Avenue, Jamesburg, New Jersey, will host an upbeat gallery opening and artists’ reception between brunch and dinner.

The restaurant’s most eye-catching and unusual art exhibit will feature “Woodspirits,” an extensive collection of wood carvings by Fred Linke of East Brunswick, which was inspired by “old man of the forest” lore from ancient Viking Times. Also featured will be folk art acrylic painting and mixed media with found objects by Betsy Kaplan of Plainsboro, nature photographs from Jennifer Wiessner of Maine, and handmade wooden toys from Gary Blatz of Green Mountain Toys in Vermont.

Fiddleheads will not be open for à la carte seating during the reception, but will be open for Sunday brunch until 2:00 p.m. (reservations accepted until 12:45 p.m.) and reopen for dinner at 4:30 p.m., the conclusion of the event.

No RSVP is necessary for this event. For dining reservations, please call (732) 521-0878.

Bon Appétit!



Stage Left3On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, Stage Left in New Brunswick, New Jersey, will host a special wine dinner featuring the extraordinary vintages of the Rhone Valley’s Chêne Bleu.

Will Lyons wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Like the super Tuscan producers (the Rolet family) decided to step out of the appellation system… which resulted in wines of stunning grace and freshness… one is going to be hearing a lot more about Chêne Bleu – it could be the world’s first Super Rhone.”

Le Chêne Bleu Wine Dinner Menu…

Reception: Hors d’Oeuvres; Wine Pairing: Rosé 2014

Roasted Escolar: Morels; Wine Pairings: Viognier 2013; Viognier 2012

Charcuterie Plate: Wild Boar Terrine, Rabbit Roulade, Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Hazelnut Bread & Candied Pistachios; Wine Pairing: Abelard 2009 (Grenache/Syrah)

Loin of Colorado Lamb: Spring Herbs, Roasted Vegetables; Wine Pairing: Heloise 2007 or 2009 (Syrah/Grenach/Viognier)

Lemon Cake with Curd: Toasted Meringue; Coffee

The cost of the Chêne Bleu wine dinner is $159.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 828-4444.

Bon Appétit!



Latour - InteriorOn Wednesday, May 20, 2015, Restaurant Latour, Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg, New Jersey, will host Frank Husic, co-founder of Husic Vineyards, for a special wine dinner.

Husic Vineyards is a young, up-and-coming family-owned winery in Napa Valley’s prized Stag’s Leap district. The first vintage was produced in 2001. In 2005, they added a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay; and in 2010 a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir to their portfolio. The dinner will also feature Husic’s first late harvest Semillon. Mr. Husic will be on hand to introduce his wines.

Restaurant Latour’s Chef Anthony Bucco will create a four-course menu bursting with spring ingredients to pair with the wines.

Husic Vineyards Wine Dinner at Restaurant Latour…

Passed Canapés: In the Wine Cellar; Wine Pairing: 2010 Domaine Carneros, Brut, Carneros

Blonde Morels: Ramps, Gnocchi, Meyer Lemon; Wine Pairing: 2013 Husic Chardonnay

Squab: Cherries, Pistachios, Mint; Wine Pairing: 2013 Husic Pinot Noir

Mishima Rib-Eye: Fingerling Potatoes, Blue Cheese, Bone Marrow; Wine Pairings: 2012 Husic Cabernet Sauvignon; 2012 Palm Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon

Strawberry Textures; Wine Pairing: 2012 Husic Late Harvest Semillon

The cost of the Husic wine dinner is $149.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). The evening will begin in the spectacular Wine Cellar at 6:30 p.m. with passed canapés and 2010 Domaine Carneros Brut sparking wine. It will then move to Restaurant Latour at 7:30 p.m. for the remainder of dinner.

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (855) 421-2170.

Bon Appétit!



Vita Bella Pizzeria & Restaurant

Oaks Shopping Center

1570 Egypt Road, Suite 270

Oaks, Pennsylvania

(610) 666-1110


 Vita Bella, which recently made its debut in the Oaks Shopping Center, is rather unusual for a new restaurant in these here parts. Unusual? Hell, it practically qualifies as a minor miracle. Believe it or not, Vita Bella, which means “beautiful life” in Italian, is not, I repeat, is NOT a chain eatery!

Photo Credit: Gary Puleo & Times Herald

Photo Credit: Gary Puleo & Times Herald

Vita Bella is independently owned by veteran restaurateur Alessandro Lascaro and his cousin, Damiano Parlanti, and Mr. Parlanti’s brother-in-law, Giulio Mannino.  The restaurant is, indeed, a family affair, as Mr. Parlanti & Mr. Mannino’s wives, Caterina and Vincenza, respectively, keep patrons happy with their pleasant service and gracious hospitality.

It would, of course, be an understatement to say that Italian restaurants/pizzerias are immensely popular. Ever wonder how many there are in the United States…? Well, as of March 2014 there were more than 98,000 restaurants that fell into the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Menu category; and these eateries accounted for more than $62 billion in annual retail sales. So the question arises – and it is certainly germane to the subject at hand – do we really need yet another Italian restaurant/pizzeria in our neck of the woods? After all, there are legion in the area… several within a stone’s throw of the newly opened VB.

On the other hand, should the Italian eatery in question be of the superior caliber of Vita Bella, the answer to the aforementioned question would be a resounding “Yes!” But be forewarned… if you’re looking for typically generic Italian/American fare, you would do well to dine elsewhere, as Mr. Lascaro and his associates serve up simple, authentic, made-from-scratch Italian cuisine, in many cases utilizing recipes that are more than 100 years old. The food here – pristinely fresh and alive with flavor – is the real deal; and, believe me, you can taste the difference.

Vita Bella - La Capricciosa PizzaIf you’re pressed for time, you can always stop by for a quick lunch, park yourself at the diminutive counter fronting the wood-burning stove, and dig into a personal pizza. And don’t get me wrong… the pizzas, especially the La Capricciosa – tomatoes, mozzarella, artichokes, capers, olives, mushrooms, and Italian ham – are top-notch. But if you really want to see what the kitchen can do, drop in for dinner with your spouse/significant other, tote along a good bottle of red wine (the restaurant is BYOB), and settle in at one of the comfortable tables.

Vita Balla - BruschettaTo start things off, bruschetta and crostini offer a wide variety of choices. Although these terms are often confused – and used interchangeably – the major difference is one of size. Crostini, which means “little toasts,” are slightly smaller. Both are made with crispy bread toasted with olive oil and piled high with savory trappings. Pictured is the Bruschetta Del Nonno topped with diced tomatoes, garlic, oregano, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil.

In my opinion, however, salads make the most appealing appetizers. Forget the usual bland-leading-the-bland wilted iceberg, anemic tomatoes, and gloppy store-brought dressing. The greenery here is freshly-tossed, authentically innovative, and alive with irresistible combinations of colors, tastes, and textures.

Vita Bella - Insalata Vita BellaThe Insalata Capricciosa, for example, is a fascinating amalgam of butter lettuce, radicchio, tomatoes, diced yellow peppers, and fresh orange segments tossed with an exceptionally flavorful pear balsamic vinegar. More straightforward – but just as delicious – is the Insalata Vita Bella (pictured). Here you have cherry tomato halves and fresh mozzarella taking center stage with torn basil leaves, red onion, and splashes of extra virgin olive oil in strong supporting roles.

Vita Bella - Insalata Di CeciThe Insalata Di Ceci is another personal favorite. This is basically a chickpea salad, which doesn’t sound terrible exciting… but when spruced up with diced celery, red onion, yellow & red peppers, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, grilled Italian bread, and a dynamite lemon vinaigrette, you have an incredibly tantalizing prelude to your meal.

For a number of reasons, one other bit of greenery, the Cesare Lacinato, deserves mention. This is really a Caesar salad utilizing kale rather than romaine lettuce. Although this may seem unusual, kale has become the latest darling of the restaurant circuit, popping up with faddish regularity on highbrow and lowbrow menus alike. In fact, according to one food service industry survey, there has been a 400 percent increase in kale items appearing on restaurant menus since 2008.

Part of the reason for this, course, is that kale is among the healthiest green leafy vegetables on the planet; and if you’re looking for more fiber in your diet, raw kale is roughage personified.  There is a down side, however. The continual ingestion of too much raw kale has been known to cause bouts of peristaltic indisposition, as well as wreak a bit of havoc with your thyroid… But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying its significant nutritional benefits on occasion.

Vita Bella - Caesar Salad w KaleFortunately, lacinato, or Tuscan kale, is slightly sweeter and more delicate than regular curly kale and, therefore, also easier on your delicate innards. And Vita Bella’s variation of this classic is really quite excellent. Toasted parmigiana breadcrumbs, hard-cooked egg quarters, and bacon bites all play their individual parts… but it’s an extraordinary Caesar dressing that pulls everything together into a seamlessly seductive gestalt.

Vita Bella - Penne alla NormaAs you move on to the main courses, possibilities abound. The pastas, for instance, are absolutely first-rate and offer a variety of appetizing choices. Sampled during our several visits were Ravioligiano, cheese ravioli with tomatoes, parmigiana, and basil; La Boscaiola, rigatoni paired with roasted homemade sausage, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach and eggplant; Emiliana, rigatoni with Bolognese sauce; and a personal fave, Alla Norma (pictured), a delicious combo of penne pasta, diced roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and crown of grated ricotta salata.

Vita Bella - Salmon CrostatoThe kitchen also offers up two piscatorial options: Spada Giro Tondo, swordfish stuffed with raisins and garlic, which I have not had the pleasure of sampling; and Salmone Crostato, mustard-crusted grilled salmon (pictured), which I have tried, and which is a winner in every respect and highly recommended. The fish is perfectly prepared, that is, cooked through (not translucent at the center), but still remains moist and flaky; the mustard crust adds just enough zip to tantalize the taste buds without overwhelming the natural flavor of the salmon; and the circumscription of grilled vegetables adds a feast for the eye as well as the palate.

Vita Bella - Veal PaillardBut the real test of a fine Italian restaurant is the veal… and Vita Bella passes with flying colors. The kitchen’s Paillard ai Ferri, is a veal scallop that is pounded thin, grilled, and then companioned by tender roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables. And the texture of the veal is just right: tender but with the slightest hint of chewiness; so you know it’s the real deal, not that processed Styrofoam-y/cardboard garbage often served up in many lesser establishments.

Vita Bella - Veal Chop MarsalaThe Paillard is excellent… but the kitchen’s claim to fame is most assuredly La Valdostana – its incomparable veal chop. It is stuffed with Italian Ham and Fontina cheese, sautéed in white wine sauce, and crowned with sliced mushrooms. Once again, however, the key to the veal is the texture. The chop is tender, succulent, and definitely of the melt-in-your-mouth variety. Priced at $29.00, it is the most expensive item on the menu, but it is worth every penny. I’ve paid infinitely more for a veal chop (at some highly touted eateries) and received infinitely less. La Valdostana is simply not to be missed.

Vita Bella - Ricotta CheesecakeDesserts, as you would expect, are all homemade. Choices include items like cannoli, tiramisú, pizza Nutella, panna cotta, etc. For my money, though, the Italian ricotta cheesecake has the most to offer. Unlike American versions, Italian cheesecake is made with ricotta rather than cream cheese. It is also lighter and dryer of texture, less filling and less cloying. The perfect conclusion to a perfect meal.

When Vita Bella first opened, it was rather sparsely populated by your basic pizza hounds… But word has gotten around, the restaurant’s website is now up and running, and you are seeing more and more couples and groups – bottles of wine in tow – filling the comfortable dining area and feasting on the extraordinary Italian cuisine.

Vita Bella is an exceptional restaurant and a marvelous addition to the Oaks dining scene. Hope to see you there!

Bon Appétit!