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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Baxter’s American Grille

14 Paoli Shopping Center

Paoli, Pennsylvania

(610) 296-2699

https://www.baxtersinpaoli.com/

Baxter's - ExteriorTucked away in the Paoli Shopping Center, Baxter’s American Grille is a neighborhood happy-tappy/restaurant/sports bar serving up an eclectic mix of comfort fare, pub grub, classic sandwiches, and house specialties (entrées).

It’s pretty obvious that Baxter’s isn’t exactly the Ritz… but neither is it pretending to be. On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for a burger & brew, or just some laid back comfort fare, it’s definitely a place to consider. After all, man does not live by foie gras alone.

I’ve always been of the opinion that each restaurant should be evaluated individually – on the basis of how well it fulfills its own particular raison d’être – not en masse. It would, for example, be an exercise in futility to judge Baxter’s and, let’s say, Jean-Georges Philadelphia using exactly the same criteria. Which is one of the reasons why judging restaurants on the basis of stars, bells, or numerical designations simply doesn’t work – and can often be misleading.

Baxter's - BarBut regardless of where you’re dining – however humble or upscale – it’s always a good idea to go with what the restaurant’s kitchen does (or proports to do) best. Indeed, there’s a good deal of truth to the old adage that ordering steak in a seafood restaurant isn’t the smartest of moves. (Interestingly enough, I have found the obverse not to be true… Several years ago, for a variety of health reasons, red meat suddenly became rather unpopular with American diners. In order to survive, steakhouses had to learn the art of seafood cookery – and learn fast. A great majority of them did… and continue to prepare and present finny fare with the style and grace it so richly deserves.)

But back to the matter in hand… Based upon my years of experience as a food writer, the dishes that Baxter’s – and restaurants of similar ilk – seem to do best are those that require the least amount of fuss. Take a gander at Baxter’s globe-trotting menu… you find such diverse items as steaks & prime rib, chicken parm, Thai stir fry, all-American calf’s liver, and a variety of seafood… There’s simply too much going for the kitchen’s reach not to exceed its grasp… If I want an 8-ounce filet, I’ll go to a steakhouse; if I prefer chicken parm, I’ll pay a call at my favorite Italian restaurant. Thai stir fry? My go-to Asian eatery… And when I chow-down at Baxter’s, as I have over the years, I stick to the pub-grub or similar fare. This, of course, doesn’t guarantee success… but it certainly puts the odds solidly in my favor.

Baxter's Dining RoomThe “Classic Sandwiches,” for example, are usually a good bet. The Traditional Turkey Club is quite good…. ditto the Classic Bacon Cheeseburger. The nod as my favorite, however, would undoubtedly go to the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, a combo of grilled chicken, buffalo sauce, and bleu cheese crumbles on a country roll.

During our most recent visit, however, my permanent dining partner and I decided to take the “comfort food” route – she settling on the Fish & Chips; I opting for the Home-Style Meatloaf – both of which proved to be somewhat disappointing.

When I think about fish & chips, I can’t help but recall an incident that took place several years ago… My companion and I were visiting a New Jersey restaurant (thankfully now defunct) that I planned to review. We were seated at the bar enjoying a preprandial libation and checking out the menu. When my companion spied the fish & chips, she asked the bartender his opinion.

“What can you do to fish & chips,” he shrugged.

Well, actually you can do a lot – in this particular case, none of it good. For no matter how straightforward a dish may be, a kitchen can find any one of a number of ways to muck it up. I’ll spare you the gory details… but let me simply say that the sorry specimen we were served has remained, until just recently, numero uno as the worst representative of the genre it has ever been our displeasure to ingest.

Baxter's - Fish & ChipsFortunately, Baxter’s version, while not exactly receiving my dining partner’s enthusiastic imprimatur, at least did not incur her wrath. The haddock was at the peak of good health, she said, the batter judiciously applied & done to a golden brown, and the accompanying sweet potato fries perfectly crisp and beyond reproach… Her final word on the matter: “Acceptable.”

Baxter's - Meatloaf… And the same could be said for my meatloaf. Hardly the incredible “diner” meatloaf of childhood memory – for which I constantly search – but adequate nonetheless. On the positive side, the texture, neither too dense nor too mushy, was right on the money. And the portion size, as you’ll note from the photograph, was certainly generous. On the other hand, the meat lacked anything even approximating seasoning… And the flood of bland-leading-the-bland brown gravy did little to ameliorate the situation. The pillow of mashed potatoes was so-so at best… But, kudos to the kitchen, the side of house-made coleslaw was quite good.

Baxter's - SundaeDessert choices round up all the usual suspects… Dark Chocolate MousseApple Crumb Pie a la ModeNew York CheesecakeCarrot Cake… and Baxter’s Brownie Sundae (pictured). This latter offering is clearly the way to go. A Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownie is crowned with vanilla ice cream, splashed with caramel and chocolate sauces, and finished off with whipped cream and a cherry. Yes, very old-fashioned… but very good, very rich, and very much suitable for sharing.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Wine and the White House - CoverFrederick J. Ryan, Jr, Wine and the White House: A History (White House Historical Association, 2020, 465 Pages)

Should you be a presidential history buff, a lover of wine, or both… and regardless of your political affiliation… you are certain to find Wine and the White House: A History both informative and entertaining.

This is a unique book, a fascinating journey though the history of White House hospitality that focuses upon every president’s experience with and attitude toward wine. It is also an extensive (more than 400 pages) beautifully produced, generously illustrated & photographed, and filled with a host of interesting information. The ultimate coffee table book, it is not meant to be read from cover to cover, but rather to sample here & there and simply enjoy at your leisure. Open any page at random and you will surely find something that you are happy to look at or read.

The book begins with “The Presidents and Their Wines,” a wine-driven profile of each president. The segment on Thomas Jefferson, of course, is of great interest, as he is considered the “Founding Father” of American wine appreciation. In addition to his contributions to wine education and enjoyment, he is also credited with establishing many of the White House traditions that endure to the present day.

The beautifully illustrated pages also feature memorable presidential toasts, menus from historic White House gatherings, an examination of the White House collection of wine glasses, decanters, and other wine-related items. There are even surveys of the different wine regions – and several of the producers – that have been featured at White House events.

Of special interest are the chapters that focus on the wines that presidents served to their guests at state dinners and similar events… and how the origin of these wines has changed over the years. In the 1950s, for example, fine wine meant European wine exclusively. Today the exact opposite is true. As one reviewer has noted, it is as unusual today for an international wine to be served as it was 70 years ago to see a domestic bottle on the table.

Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, is an aficionado of both wine and White House history. He served in a senior staff position in the Ronald Reagan White House and as Reagan’s post-presidential chief of staff. Mr. Ryan currently serves as chair of the Board of Directors of the White House Historical Association, of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and of the Wine Committee of the Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C.

Wine and the White House: A History is available online through Amazon and other sources. The hardcover edition is priced at $55.00.

 

Wine Simple - Cover Aldo Sohm, with Christine Muhlke, Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier (Clarkson and Potter, 2019, 272 Pages)

 Born and raised in Austria, Aldo Sohm is one of the most respected and highly-praised sommeliers in the world. He is the James Beard Award-winning wine director of Le Bernardin, New York City’s, three-starred Michelin restaurant, and partner in the eponymous Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. He was named Best Sommelier in the World in 2008 by the World-wide Sommelier Association, Best Sommelier in America in 2007 by the American Sommelier Association, and Best Sommelier of Austria four times by the Austrian Sommelier Union.

Mr. Sohm’s credentials are impeccable… Fortunately, his philosophy and approach to wine are much more casual. Wine Simple is filled with helpful infographics and illustrations, an incredible depth of knowledge, words of encouragement, and strong opinions about wine so that readers can learn to form their own.

Most wine books out there are written by professionals, for professionals… and the language can be quite intimidating. But unlike other wine writers, Mr. Sohm is not at his desk all day, typing between tastings. As he notes: “Every working day for the last twenty-five years, I’ve been on the restaurant floor, helping diners decide what they should drink with their meals… My dedication to service and hospitality is what this book is all about making sure you end up with a glass of wine you’re happy with, whether it’s from a restaurant or the dodgy-looking liquor store you stopped at on the way to your friend’s house for dinner.”

Rather than write a textbook, Mr. Sohm has put together what he calls “hits-of-information” to acquaint readers with the basics – key varietals and winemaking regions, how to taste, etc. – as well as some interesting asides, like the proper way to open a bottle of wine, how to pour, debunking wine myths, choosing a bottle in a restaurant, tips on troubleshooting tricky wines, and a very helpful wine and food matrix.

As one reviewer noted: “This visual, user-friendly approach will inspire readers to have the confidence, curiosity, and enthusiasm to taste smarter, drink boldly, and dive headfirst fearlessly into the exciting world of wine.”

Wine Simple is available online from Amazon for $25.00. Highly recommended!

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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JG Sky High Lounge & Restaurant

1 North 19th Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(215) 419-5059

https://www.jean-georgesphiladelphia.com/jean-georges-sky-high/

As most dedicated restaurant-goers are undoubtedly aware, Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Jean-Georges Philadelphia is located on the penultimate 59th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in the Comcast Technology Center… Unfortunately, it is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

JG Sky High Lounge - ViewNo worries, though. For just a floor above, adjacent to the hotel’s reception area, the JG Sky High Lounge and Restaurant is serving breakfast, weekend brunch, and an all-day dining menu showcasing a more casual side to the chef’s innovative cuisine.

The JG Sky High menu pretty much goes its own way; although, there are a few significant crossovers from the Jean-Georges lunch and dinner offerings. The Prime Beef Tenderloin, for instance, and the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with avocado, radish, ginger dressing, and chili oil – basically a variation on the infinitely more interesting Yellowfin Tuna Noodles theme.

Jean-Georges - Parm Crusted ChickenAmong the items appearing on both restaurant menus, the Parmesan Crusted Organic Chicken strikes me as the most notable. Chicken may not sound terribly exciting, but this dish definitely has everything going for it… The beautifully seasoned parmesan crust provides a perfect textural counterpoint to the tender, succulent fowl, while artichokes and an extraordinary lemon-basil sauce are positively superb in their supporting rolls.

The inclusion of pizzas as a separate menu category certainly indicates that JG Sky High is targeting a diversified clientele, which undoubtedly would include adults with children in tow. The options begin with the somewhat basic Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil, $21.00; continue on to Sausage, Ricotta and Kale, $25.00; and top out with the avant-garde Black Truffle and Fontina, $29.00. In a similar vein, the menu also offers Rigatoni with Meatballs spruced up with a smoked chili tomato ragù and parmesan.

JG Sky High - Bacon CheeseburgerTaking the Italian route in a restaurant presided over by a famous French chef struck me as not the swiftest of gastronomic moves… On the other hand, the kitchen’s contemporary take on the all-American Cheddar Bacon Cheeseburger ($25.00), definitely offered some intriguing possibilities.  And, although my permanent dining partner was somewhat aghast by my choice, it turned out to be a winner.

For starters, it was done to a spot-on medium, precisely as ordered. Then there was the bacon… crisp and delightfully crunchy (not greasy and underdone as in lesser eateries). The cheese…?  Perfectly melted. And the yuzu pickles (cucumber slices marinated in yuzu juice, a citrus fruit of east Asian origin with a flavor that is often described as a cross between lemon and grapefruit) proved the consummate counterpoint to the richness of the liberally applied Russian dressing.

JG Sky High - RisottoThere was, of course, very little question as to what my dining partner would order. Once she laid eyes on the Shrimp and Mushroom Risotto, it was, as they say, a done deal – and a mighty good one, at that. Golden brown seared shrimp were arranged around a modest orb of perfectly cooked risotto crowned with sauteed mushrooms. Lemon, pepper, and a sprinkling of fresh dill added to the festivities. The thing she particularly enjoyed was the fact that the presentation was so nicely proportioned. There was just enough risotto to complement rather than overwhelm the other important elements of the dish.

To start things off, you may choose from “Appetizers” or a catch-all grouping of “Caviar, Crudos and Salads.” In this latter category, should you be feeling particularly flush, you can drop $120.00 on One Ounce Osetra Caviar served with warm blinis, and chive crème fraiche, or a mere $48.00 on Egg Toast and Caviar with Herbs.

JG Sky High - BurrataOn the other hand, more reasonably priced – and, I dare say, infinitely more comforting on a cold winter’s day – was my partner’s study-in-sublime-simplicity Creamy Tomato Soup ($13.00). And my Burrata (pictured, $22.00) is also highly recommended. I’ve sampled variations on this theme in numerous restaurants; but the presentation here is in a class by itself. The black bread adds a nice contrasting textural touch; but it is the smattering of tangy Meyer lemon jam that succeeds in bringing new life to what could be a rather dull combo of mozzarella and cream in less accomplished culinary hands.

The list of desserts is short and (if you’ll pardon the pun) sweet. Possibilities range from a Citrus Pavlova – a meringue-based dessert named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova – ($15.00) to a delicious Cookie Plate of chocolate chip, shortbread, almond, and fudge ($8.00).

JG Sky High - SundaeBut the sleeper among the sweet endings is undoubtedly the Salted Caramel Sundae ($14.00). It sounded a bit over-the-top to me; but my dining partner, who is something of a dessert maven, zeroed in right away – and it turned out to be a great call… creamy salted caramel ice cream embellished with candied peanuts & popcorn, rich hot fudge and, of course, whipped cream. The overall result was utterly irresistible. We shared the sundae and also ordered the above- mentioned Cookie Plate… A fabulous combo.

JG Sky High also offers an intriguing collection of cocktails – Cucumber Martini: Bluecoat Gin, Cucumber, Mint, Lemon, $19.00; Kumquat Mojito: Plantation “Three Star” Rum, Kumquat, Mint, Citrus, $18.00; Ginger Margarita: El Destilador Reposado Tequila, Contreau, Ginger and Lime, $18.00; just to name a few – as well as an eclectic selection of wines by the glass. The 2018 Eugen Müller “vom Basalt” Riesling Kabinett, $15.00, for example, is a very nice off-dry white from the Pfalz region of Germany. On the other hand, if you prefer red, the 2017 Gramercy Cellars “Lower East” Cabernet, $25.00, from Washington State’s Columbia Valley, is definitely worth a try.

The view, of course, is spectacular… Nothing quite stimulates the appetite like gazing down upon the City of Brotherly Love from Mt. Olympus. And the excellent service adds a great deal to your dining experience as well. As I mentioned in my review of Jean-Georges Philadelphia, it’s not as formal as the Jean-Georges New York flagship, but it is just as professional and also benefits from a decidedly personal touch.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Allegrini WineryuAllegrini is the most acclaimed winery in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. The family has been involved in winemaking for over six generations, playing a major role in the Valpolicella Classico area since the 16th century.

However, it was Giovanni Allegrini, patriarch of the modern estate, who developed and perfected major innovations in the art of wine. He was among the first to question local viticultural techniques, revolutionize accepted practices, and emphasize quality. His vision was to demonstrate that Valpolicella – particularly Amarone – could be a great wine. He was able to combine the science of enology with strict grape selection and, between 1960 and 1970, produce some of the Valpolicella’s best wines. Today his grown children, Franco (winemaker), Walter, and Marilisa (marketing director pictured above on the cover of Wine Spectator) who run the company and have taken it to even greater heights of success.

The district of Valpolicella is situated between Bardolino and Soave, just north of Verona. The name is thought to come from the Greek, meaning valley of many cellars. Valpolicella is second only to Chianti for Italy’s total DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) red-wine production. The wines are made primarily from Corvina Veronese (Corvina), Rondinella, and Molinara grapes, although four other varieties can comprise up to 15 percent of the blend.

As noted above, Allegrini is Veneto’s most acclaimed winery. And many wine writers feel that their Amarone is the gold standard by which all others are judged. Grapes destined to become Amarone are harvested from the estate’s older, more mature vines. Grapes are picked later in the season – usually in mid-October – to ensure ripeness… Then they are left all winter to dry into raisins. During this period, the grapes lose 30-40% of their weight. The result is intense concentration and a very high sugar content, which, in turn, translates into 15% or higher alcohol levels.

Allegrini Valpolicella 2015All of this, of course, also translates into a premium price. Just take a moment to do the math… Twice as many grapes go into a bottle of Amarone than a bottle of regular wine. The drying process demands an investment of time and space on the part of the winery, as do the 45-plus days of slow fermentations and the long-term aging (similar to that of a Rioja).  If you’re a lover of full-bodied, super-concentrated wines with plenty of alcoholic punch, the 2015 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, which recently received a whopping 94 points from wine critic James Suckling, should fill the bill quite nicely… Just prepared to shell out about eighty bucks for the privilege. Total Wine in Claymont, DE, for example, is offering the 2015 at $79.99. It is somewhat less expensive from various sources online… but don’t forget you’ll also have to pay for shipping.

 Fortunately, Allegrini also produces several other vintages that are a good deal less expensive. The 2019 Allegrini Valpolicella is simply a lovely wine that’s received 91 points from James Suckling and an “Editors’ Choice” designation from Wine Enthusiast magazine. Displaying a beautiful ruby red color with the pleasant scent of wild berries, it’s velvety and light as a feather on the palate, perfect for everyday quaffing, by itself or paired a wide variety of foods… And it’s light on your pocketbook as well. Retailing around the $23.00 mark, I picked it up online from the Wine Chateau in New Jersey for $16.95 per bottle (plus shipping).

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2016There are also several other options that are worthy of consideration. The 2016 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre, for example, is a blend of 40% Corvina Veronese, 30% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Sangiovese. I’ve sampled this wine on numerous occasions, and it is remarkably consistent year after year. Elegant and well-balanced, it possesses a long velvety finish and silky tannins. Readily available through Pennsylvania State Stores, this highly-rated beauty is a bargain at $19.99.

Allegrini La Grola 2016The 2016 Allegrini La Grola is another excellent possibility. As the winemaker notes, La Grola is the extraordinary result of the meeting of two great personalities: the hill of La Grola, which enjoys the sun’s warmth and the cool breezes from Lake Garda, and the indigenous grapes of Valpolicella. A blend of 90% Corvina Veronese and 10% Oseleta, the 2016 La Grola recently received a 93-point rating from wine critic James Suckling and 92 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine. No question, this is a wine of great elegance, harmony, and finesse that will continue to evolve for over a decade.

Unfortunately, I have never seen this in Pennsylvania State Stores. However, it might be available through special order. If not, it is available from several sources online, ranging in price from $24.00 – $30.00. This is an excellent wine and definitely worth seeking out.

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Silverspoon - InteriorBeginning Wednesday, March 10, through Friday, March 12, 2021, the Silverspoon BYOB, 503 West Lancaster Avenue, Eagle Village Shops, Wayne, Pennsylvania, will be offering a special four-course Mexican Riviera Tasting Menu…

Chips & Salsa Trio: Salsa Roja… Salsa Verde… Salsa Amarillo

Rock Shrimp Tostada: “Ceviche-Style,” Avocado, Charred Corn, Red Onion, Jalapeños, Radish, Cilantro, Queso Fresco, Crispy Corn Tortilla

Spiced Pork Carnitas: Lard-Braised Crispy Pork, Grilled Corn Tortillas, Pineapple Salsa, Shaved Radish, Slow-Cooked Pinto Beans, Spanish Rice served on the side

“Drunken” Tres Leches Cake: Vanilla Cake soaked in Sweetened Milk & Dark Mexican Rum

The price of the Mexican Riviera Tasting Menu is $55.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). The à la carte menu will also be available. For reservations and take-out, please call Silverspoon, (610) 688-7646.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Valentiine's Day DiningOn Sunday, February 14, 2021, Estia Taverna, 222 North Radnor Road, Wayne, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special Valentine’s Day menu for couples…

APPETIZER TO SHARE (Choose One) – Octopodi: Charcoal grilled Mediterranean Octopus over fava purée with pickled red onion, capers, Holland peppers, extra virgin olive oil… Crispy Feta: Sesame encrusted feta cheese baked with Greek Honey… Oysters: Six Oysters on the half shell served with cocktail and mignonette sauces

SALAD TO SHARE – Greek: Vine-Ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, olives, red onions, imported feta, red wine vinaigrette

ENTRÉE (Choose One) – Lamb Chops: Three lamb chops marinated in extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon, served with Greek fried potatoes and tzatziki… Lavraki: European sea bass grilled with ladolemono, capers and oregano, served with spanakorizo

 DESSERT TO SHARE – Chocolate Molten Cake: Candied almonds, Ouzo whipped cream

EROS ELIXIR ($13.00) – Stoli Vanilla, Godiva White Chocolate Liquor, Fresh Raspberry

The price of the Valentine’s Day menu is $120.00 per couple (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make a reservation, please Call Estia Taverna (484) 581-7124. Estia also has locations in Philadelphia, PA, and Marlton, New Jersey.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Valentiine's Day DiningOn Friday, February 12th, through Sunday, February 14th, Vickers Restaurant, 192 Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special three-course Valentine’s menu…

APPETIZER SELECTION (choose one) – Escargot de Bourgogne: Garlic, Champagne Herbes de’ Provence… Shrimp Cocktail: Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce… Smoked Salmon: Traditional Accoutrements… Cream of Mushroom Soup: Local Chester County Mushrooms… Lobster Bisque: Touch of Fine Champagne… Farmhouse Salad: Blue Cheese, Roasted Beets, Candied Walnuts… Caesar Salad: Vickers Homemade Dressing

ENTRÉE SELECTION (choose one) – Seared Salmon: Wilted Greens, Orange Vermouth Infusion… Vickers Crab Cakes: Jumbo Lump Crab, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce… Roasted Rack of Lamb: Rosemary, Thyme, Mustard, Port Wine Reduction… Filet Mignon Béarnaise: Truffled Pommes Croquette (Sauce au Poivre will be substituted for curbside pick up)… Beef Wellington: Puff Pastry, Truffle Pâté, Sauce Chasseur… Lobster Ravioli: Champagne Poached Lobster Tail, Sauce Aurora

DESSERT SELECTION (choose one) – Apple StrudelChocolate Decadence Cake**Hand-Whipped Chocolate Mousse**Crème BrûléeNew York-Style Cheesecake (**denotes that an item will not be available for curbside pick-up)

The price of the Valentine’s menu is $75.00 per person dine-in; $65.00 per person curbside pick-up. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call Vickers Restaurant, (610) 363-7998.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Valentine's Dy DiningOn Valentine’s weekend, Saturday, February 13 & Sunday, February 14, Silverspoon Restaurant, 503 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special menu for couples. Indoor and outdoor dining and take-out options will all be available.

Starter – Seared Diver Scallops: Lobster Beurre Blanc, Micro Shiso, Celeriac & Parsnip Purée

Main Course – Veal Tenderloin Madeira: Black Truffle Potato Gratin, Madeira Jus, Sautéed Asparagus

Dessert – Spiced Chocolate Crème Brûlée Cardamom, Star Anise, Vanilla Bean, Burnt Sugar, Cookie Heart

The price is $175.00 per couple (plus tax & gratuity). The regular à la carte menu will also be available.

Please call (610) 688-7646 for indoor, outdoor, and takeout reservations. Note that reservations are limited. Call before 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 11th, to reserve your time. Silverspoon is a BYOB restaurant.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Excerpts of the Top 100 Wines

by artfuldiner on February 5, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Wine

Wine Spec Top 100 2020Yes… it’s that time again. Time for the Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the year. The hoopla began with an online countdown of their top ten wines and then the full top 100, both online and in print as the magazine’s cover story of its December 31, 2020 – January 15, 2021 issue.

The top 100 list is a big deal… and it gets bigger every year. The Spectator just loves the top 100… it sells more magazines; retailers sell more wine; and wine lovers are sold a bill of goods – they think they’re getting the best of the best.

But not everyone is so high on “best” lists. In an article as far back as June 1980, former Village Voice restaurant critic Jeff Weinstein was already making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms. “A list is a fundamentally lazy way for a newspaper or magazine to fill space and woo as many advertisers as possible,” he wrote. He was, of course, speaking specifically of restaurants. But his remarks apply equally to oenological utterances like the Wine Spectator annual top 100 wines of the year and ex cathedra pronouncements of similar ilk.  “Lists have a deep, structural connection to fads; lists help create them; they are subject to them,” he goes on. “The same editors lick their chops at both.”

“Rating,” Mr. Weinstein notes, “is usually a search for the best. The best is unattainable, a lie. The best hot dog doesn’t exist, and if it did, you wouldn’t get to it in time, before it was ruined by all the attention.” True enough… But the best is also a matter of opinion. Which is precisely why, when the Wine Enthusiast magazine publishes its own Top 100 Wines of 2020, I guarantee that their list will differ significantly from that of the Wine Spectator. The point being, I believe, that there are numerous wines out there that are just as good – if not a great deal better – than those mentioned in either “best list” just waiting to be discovered.

Be that as it may… noted below (in ascending order) are just a few personal favorites from the Wine Spectator top 100 that are highly recommended and well worth seeking out. Please note that the prices listed are suggested retail and will certainly be less costly from certain sources online or when on sale.

Ridge 2017 Monte BelloRidge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains 2017 (California): Listed at number 77, rated at 96 points, priced at $230… Ridge Monte Bello is one of California’s most iconic Cabernet blends. Expensive to be sure, but a simply fabulous wine that will age exceedingly well. If you’re a Cabernet fan and feeling particularly flush, this wine will make you very, very happy. Save it for that special occasion. If the price is too steep, try Ridge Geyserville, an excellent Zinfandel blend. Three Valleys, their entry-level wine, is a consistent bargain from year to year.

 Jermann Pinot Grigio Friuli 2017 (Italy): Listed as number 74, rated at 91 points, priced at $30… I’ve tasted Jermann Pinot Grigio on numerous occasions, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Consistently complex and elegant on the palate, it is aged for six months in stainless steel tanks before release. I’ve seen the 2017 on sale online for as low as $18.99.

Starl-Conde Cab 2017Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 2017 (South Africa): Listed as number 71, rated 91 points, priced at $27… Hailing from Stellenbosch, the most famous – and most beautiful – wine producing region in South Africa. Petit Verdot, Petite Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc make up 15% of the blend. Matured in a mix of new and used French oak barrels for 20 months. Available online for as low as $17.95.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc Walker Bay 2019 (South Africa): Listed as number 59, rated at 90 points, priced at $16… Founded in 1994 by Anthony Hamilton Russell, who produces world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Southern Right is named after the Southern Right whales that can be seen in Walker Bay, less than two miles away from the vineyards. The wine is barrel-fermented and aged in neutral oak. Available through Pennsylvania State Stores at $15.19 and various other sources. An excellent wine at a bargain price point.

Travaglini Gattinara 2015Travaglini Gattinara 2015 (Italy): Listed as number 54, rated at 92 points, $32… I have sampled this wine many times over the years, and it never fails to impress. The product of a cooler than average spring and exceptional summer; following fermentation, it was aged three years in Slovenian oak casks. The result is a rich, plump wine packed with plum and cherry. A benchmark Nebbiolo… but notoriously difficult to find. Currently available through Solano Cellars in California, which ships directly to Pennsylvania. This is an excellent wine that is well worth the chase.

Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2017 (France): Listed as number 35, rated at 91 points, $25… The Trimbach family has been making wine in France’s Alsace region for 13 generations. This is a concentrated wine, filled with bright zesty citrus that leads to marvelously fresh, dry finish. I originally purchased the wine through Marketview Liquor in Rochester, New York. Unfortunately, I was later informed that they were out of the 2017 but would substitute the 2018. And this is just fine, as the 2018 is actually rated slightly higher than the 2017. A steal at $16.99 per bottle.

Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2013 (Spain): Listed as number 25, rated at 92 points, $18… Produced by one of the oldest wineries in Rioja, I have sampled previous vintages of this wine and have found them to be exceptional in every respect. The 2013 Reserva is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 7% Mazuelo, and 3% Garnacha. It was aged in French and American oak barrels for 24 months, then bottle-aged for 24 additional months before release. Available online from Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey for $15.99 per bottle.

Tolaini Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Legit 2016 (Italy): Listed as number 13, rated at 95 points, $45… If you think this wine sounds familiar, you’re absolutely right. This is the second release of Legit, a collaboration between jazz great Theolonius Monk’s family and Tolaini. I mentioned the first, the 2013, last year. This, as you will notice is the 2016 vintage. Rated even high than its predecessor, the 2016 Legit is aged three years in 70% new and 30% one-year-old French barriques. This is a stunning wine; absolutely stunning… so don’t expect too many bargains. The lowest price I’ve seen online is $39.99… and worth every penny.

Kistler Chardonnay Russian River Valley Vine Hill Vineyard 2017 (California): Listed as number 6, rated 96 points, $90… I’ve enjoyed Kistler wines for years… when I can afford them! The estate makes 11 vineyard-designated Chardonnays from various sites; and winemaker Jason Kesner admits the Vine Hill Vineyard is his favorite. Intense and complex, the wine was barrel-fermented with native yeast and then aged on the lees for a year before being bottled unfined and ufiltered. A perennial favorite of Chardonnay lovers.

Marques de Murrieta Gran Reserva 2010Bodegas Marquès de Marrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2010 (Spain): Listed as number 1, rated 96 points, $139… The Marquès de Marrieta winery was established in 1852. In 1983 it was acquired by the Cebrián-Sagarriga family that is founded on a tradition of excellence and innovation. Only the finest vintages from the 741-acre Ygay Estate are used to produce Castillo Ygay. This Gran Reserva Especial is made from a blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo that has been aged two years in oak, one in concrete and three or four in the bottle. Critics across the board are singing its praises, calling it a wine of fantastic depth and power. I have yet to sample this vintage, but I have tasted 2005 and I can tell you that incredible is the only word to describe it… and I have every reason to believe that the 2010 is every bit its equal. Once again, no bargains to be had, but you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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