At the Table - OwnersOn Wednesday, September 12, 2018, At the Table, 11 Louella Court, Wayne, Pennsylvania, will host a special dinner paired with the beers of the Levante Brewing Company of West Chester, PA. The 5:45 p.m. reception will be following by a six-course tasting menu.

Reception: Seared Coriander Encrusted Ahi Tuna on Fried Wonton, Wasabi Aioli… Mini Lamb Meatballs with Cucumber Raita… Stilton, Caramelized Onion & Apple Flatbread… Acadian Pearl Oyster on the ½ Shell; Brew Pairing: Birra Di Levante Pilsner & Hera’s Harvest Cider

First Course: Shrimp and Crab Ceviche, Pickled Jalapeño, Avocado, Red Onion, Fingerlime Caviar, Compressed Cucumber; Brew Pairing: Cloudy and Cumbersome New England IPA

Second Course: Pan-Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Gooseberry, Granola, Raspberry Coulis, Blackberry; Brew Pairing: Fruit Fetish Finesse, Cherry Vanilla Sour

Third Course: House-Pappardelle & Lobster, Uni Meyer Lemon Broth, Shitake; Brew Pairing: Lifestyle Blogger Brut IPA

Fourth Course: Pan-Seared Halibut, Sweet Corn & Clam Purée, Roast New Potatoes, Pearl Onions; Brew Pairing: Simple Living Hoppy Saison

Fifth Course: Pan-Seared Duck Breast, Potato Fennel Purée, Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Compressed Peach, Pickled Fennel, Red Wine Sea Salt; Brew Pairing: Green Horizon Double IPA

Sixth Course: Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting, Candied Walnuts; Brew Pairing: Le Marche Barrel Aged Belgian Quad

The price of the Levante Brewery Beer Pairing Dinner is $125.00 per person. Seating is limited. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call At the Table Restaurant at (610) 964-9700.

Bon Appétit!



Agricola Unionville Vineyards DinnerUnionville Vineyards, 9 Rocktown Road, Ringoes, New Jersey, is celebrating 25 years of New Jersey fine wines with a special edition series of Farm-to-table style dinners hosted on the winery property. These will be intimate dining experiences highlighting a hand-picked group of top New Jersey chefs and restaurants, with each chef creating a unique, multi-course family-style dinner utilizing locally grown ingredients paired with exceptional Unionville wines.

On Friday, August 31st, 2018, in conjunction with Agricola Community Eatery in Princeton, NJ, Unionville will host a special anniversary pop-up dinner with a menu created by Agricola Executive Chef Mitresh Saraiya.

Welcome Wine Reception: 6:45 p.m.

First Course: Great Road Farm Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Red Onion, Basil, Toast; Wine Pairing: 2017 Hunterdon Mistral Rosé

Dinner: Locally-Roasted Suckling Pig with Roasted Vegetables, Duck Fat, Rosemary Whipped Potatoes, Bacon, Cheddar, Braised Greens, Garlic, Pickled Shallots; Wine Pairing: 2013 “The Big O”

Dessert: Sweet Corn Panna Cotta, Tomato, Berry, Balsamic; Wine Pairing: 2017 Cool Foxy Lady

Tickets are $89.00 per person and may be purchased by clicking here.

Bon Appétit!



Crystal Springs - Robby YounesThe Wine Enthusiast “40 Under 40 Tastemakers” list recognizes the winemakers, beverage directors, brewers, grape growers, and other movers and shakers who are changing today’s beverage industry. Crystal Springs’ Robby Younes is the only tastemaker named from New Jersey for this year. The print issue of Wine Enthusiast, announcing this year’s Tastemakers will be out in October.

For more than a decade, Mr. Younes has overseen the renowned Crystal Springs’ wine program. Since 2008, his career path at Crystal Springs Resort has led from Director of Food & Beverage to Wine Director and Vice President of Hospitality and Resort C.O.O. Along the way, he has continued to build the award-winning wine program, which holds the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award and was recently inducted into the Wine Enthusiast Restaurant Hall of Fame.

Educated in France, Mr. Younes spent years working in renowned boutique hotels, as well as for Starwood and Hilton. In 2008, he joined Crystal Springs Resort as Food & Beverage Director of Grand Cascades Lodge. He worked closely with owner Gene Mulvihill to expand the Wine Cellar, building it into the foremost collection of fine wines in the country.

As Regional F&B Director and Wine Director, Mr. Younes reinvigorated the entire restaurant portfolio, personally overseeing the appointment of new chefs for the Resort and four-star Restaurant Latour, as well as opening Chef’s Garden, a unique garden to table seasonal dining experience.

As V.P. of Hospitality, he oversaw the elevation of Grand Cascades Lodge to AAA 4-Diamond status and led the renovation of Minerals Resort & Spa. He also created the state’s most prestigious annual wine event, the New Jersey Wine & Food Festival, drawing some of the world’s best chefs to Crystal Springs.

Bon Appétit!



FROM THE BOOKSHELF: Jon Bonné, The New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2017, 151 Pages)

New Wine Rules CoverJon Bonné is one of the leading American voices writing about wine today. He is the senior contributing editor at Punch, an independent online magazine, author of The New California Wine, wine consultant for JetBlue Airways, and former wine editor and chief wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle… An impressive resumé. But don’t worry, he isn’t about to overwhelm you with eonological esoterica.

“Certainly, the world doesn’t need another ‘drink this, not that’ book,” he notes in the introduction. “The New Wine Rules was born out of the idea that the most valuable thing I can share is a handy summary of the practical things I’ve learned about incorporating wine into everyday life: how to figure out what you like, how to pick out a bottle for this weekend’s barbecue, when to splurge and when to keep it low-key.”

And he does so in a delightful little book of 89 rules – each paired down for quick consumption and broad understanding – divided into eight (8) simply stated categories: The Basics… Inside the Bottle… Choosing It… How to Serve & Enjoy ItStoring It & Taking It Places… Wine with Food… Dining Out… Drinking In. There’s something for everyone in Mr. Bonné’s book, but it will be especially helpful to neophytes who may feel overwhelmed by the baggage of unfamiliar terminology (i.e., Rule 4: “Don’t be intimidated by wine jargon – most of it doesn’t mean much”; Rule 5: “Really you only need to know a few key wine terms”). From the five essential wine tools you should own, to the basics of malolactic fermentation, to starting a wine collection for under $300, the book is filled with a marvelous array of down-to-earth practical information that is concisely presented.

New Wine Rules Author Jon BonneHis rules and discussion of pairing food and wine are right on the money. Americans, he notes, seem to get especially uptight about matching food & wine because we’re basically insecure about wine in general. He gives some helpful hints regarding the importance of textures, sauces, and preparation with regard to pairing rather than just main ingredients; but then concludes: “In any case, stop worrying. There is no single perfect pairing… Don’t sweat it. We’ll all get out of this alive.” However, Rule 70: “If all else fails: bubbles.”

On the other hand, I think most readers will find the rules on Dining Out and Drinking In particularly enlightening. For instance, ever wonder whether ordering wine by the glass is a bargain or a rip-off? Rule 71: “If a glass of wine costs more than one-quarter of the bottle, skip it.” Or, how about those restaurant wine lists that are as voluminous as Tolstoy’s War and Peace? Rule 74: “Big wine lists are not better than small ones.” It’s not the size, he notes, quoting that old adage, it’s what you do with it. If it’s done right, a well-edited one-page list can be as rewarding as a fifty-page list.

Or, how about this: You’re going to a dinner party and bringing wine as a guest. Rule 81: “Don’t be the guest who brings the cheap stuff… But that doesn’t mean you have to splurge.” So, how much should you spend? The author’s rule of thumb: the approximate cost of a main course at a restaurant you’d go to with your hosts… But, he notes, expensive doesn’t equal special. A brilliant, unique $12 bottle might be just the perfect house gift. Thoughtfulness always outweighs the price tag.

And speaking of price tags… Rule 26: “A wine’s price rarely reflects its quality.” There are wines that overdeliver; from places like Chile, Australia and South Africa, for instance. And then there are wines whose prices have far outpaced whatever benefits they may offer (think outrageously expensive Bordeaux & Burgundy and certain California “cult” wines). “Obviously,” the author notes, “we all want to be on the first half of that equation… but there are times when spending dearly makes sense.”

The above paragraph calls to mind a provocative essay by Matt Kramer, Why I No Longer Buy Expensive Wine, published several years ago in the Wine Spectator. And the reason Mr. Kramer no longer buys expensive wines…? They are simply not as surprising as a variety of less expensive vintages. “The majority of the world’s most interesting wines,” he writes, “now come from ‘unknown,’ or at least unheralded, locales. Collectively their numbers far outstrip the relatively small pool of famous zones commanding high prices.”

Mr. Kramer, I believe, makes an exceedingly valid point. Expensive wines can be absolutely wonderful. Great! Fabulous! On the other hand, he goes on say: “Expensive wines rarely surprise. But modestly priced wines – the best of them, anyway – are endlessly surprising. Why is this? Largely because we have no expectations from such wines. They are either wholly new to us or they offer new levels of achievement in zones previously unrecognized for anything special.”

“My goal now,” Kramer concludes, “is to have a cellar filled with surprises. Ironically, that means selling my expensive wines so that I can ‘afford’ today’s really great cheap wines. Now that is a surprise, wouldn’t you say?”

But let’s go back to where we came in – Rule 26: “A wine’s price rarely reflects its quality.” – so, what about Matt Kramer’s great cheap wines? Mr. Bonné gives us a bit of sage advice: 1) It’s difficult to find wines under $15.00 that are “distinctive and made with care”; nearly impossible under $10.00; but relatively easy to snare good ones under $20.00… 2) Few places in the world can justify a wine over $100. “They’re only worth buying if you do your homework first (and that doesn’t mean just checking wine scores)”… 3)The best wine values often come from places that have fallen out of fashion.

New Wine Rules Illus from BookIf you’re a wine lover, I’m certain that you will find The New Wine Rules an invaluable little book to help you make sense of an all-too-confusing subject that has become shrouded in the myth of connoisseurship and guided by the fear of displaying bad taste or revealing what you don’t know. “The world of wine,” Mr. Bonné writes, “has grown so vast that it’s impossible for anyone to know it all. What matters is learning to figure out what you like… If I can share one bit of advice as you read along, it’s this: Drink wine with Joy!”

Cheers… I’ll drink to that! The New Wine Rules is available at, other sources online, and through your local Barnes & Noble.



Nicholas7On Thursday, September 13, 2018, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will host a special dinner that embodies the rich tradition of a classic American steakhouse. The lamb chop will be the cornerstone of this four-course menu; but the restaurant’s unique take on traditional chop house sides dishes and dessert ensure a memorably delicious evening.

First Course: Filet Mignon Tartare, Egg Yolk, Bread & Herbs

Second Course: French Onion Soup, Beef Jus, Melted Gruyère

Third Course: “New York Style” Flash Grilled Lamb Chop with Classic Steakhouse Sides: Kennebec Fries, Creamed Spinach, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Steak Sauce

Fourth Course: “Peach Melba”

This one-night-only ticketed event is priced at $85.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



The Last Rosé of Summer

by artfuldiner on August 22, 2018

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Opinion, Wine

Mulderbosch Cab Sauv Rose 2017Since its founding in 1989, Mulderbosch Vineyards, which is located east of Cape Town in the Stellenosch Hills, has been widely accepted as one of South Africa’s foremost wine producers.

In 2011, Mulderbosch was bought by California-based investment company Terroir Selections, which had long desired to invest in the Cape Winelands. Terroir immediately began overhauling the winemaking and management teams, bringing in Adam Mason as head winemaker (pictured below). Mr. Mason had worked with highly regarded Napa winemaker Andy Erickson, as well as stints in France, Spain and an extended tenure at South Africa’s Klein Constantia.

Although John Platter, author of Platter’s South African Wine Guide, famously referred to the Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc as “South Africa’s most celebrated Sauvignon,” the winery’s entire portfolio has consistently represented wines of the highest quality. Offerings include “Faithful Hound” Bordeaux-style blend, a barrel-fermented and lightly wooded-style Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc sourced from predominately old bush vines, and a deliciously decadent Noble Late Harvest made from Sauvignon Blanc.

Mulderbosch, Adam Mason, WinemakerThe Mulderbosch wine that you may wish to consider, however, is their distinctive 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. The wine is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives it a good deal more body and flavor than most Rosés made from lesser grape varietals. Ninety-five percent of the grapes are picked early and only spend time on the skins as they go through the press. The other five percent are picked when the grapes are riper, which adds additional sweetness to the wine. The color is a vibrant cotton candy pink; the nose rife with berry and cherry aromas. On the palate, the wine is delightfully crisp and refreshing with a lively acidity.

The 2017 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé is easily recognizable by its label, as pictured above, a long vertical strip with the name written horizontally and a wax stamp image at the bottom. This is a wine you can immediately spot on a retailer’s shelf… And it is well worth seeking out, as this charming Rosé is priced at a mere $13.99 in Pennsylvania State Stores (a few dollars less online).




Kimberton Inn

2105 Kimberton Road

Kimberton, Pennsylvania

(610) 933-8148

Kimberton Inn - Main Dining RoomMy initial review of the Kimberton Inn was posted in January of 2015. This was followed by a retrospective of their wine dinner in December of the same year… And I freely confess that I continue to be – given the restaurant’s famous (or infamous) reputation for hosting a veritable plethora of wedding receptions, banquets, and gatherings of similar ilk – extremely impressed by the outstanding quality of the cuisine served up at this cozy Colonial enclave.

And a lion’s share of the credit for the Inn’s gastronomic accomplishments must certainly go to Executive Chef Jim Trainer… So, given the fact that Mr. Trainer has been the Inn’s power-behind-the-stove since 1990 – an uncommonly lengthy tenure, it should be noted, for those in any way associated with various aspects of the decidedly fickle illustrious food service industry – I was completely astounded (along with a slew of other loyal patrons) to learn of his recent departure. (Reliable sources have it that Mr. Trainer is now cooking up a storm just a stone’s throw away at the Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery.)

The question, then, remains: After 27 years, did he jump or was he pushed? Did he leave of his own accord or was he given his walking papers? Perhaps we’ll never know the entire story… But since my father was a chef, I grew up hearing first-hand accounts of the variety of strange machinations that often take place behind that closed kitchen door… And truth is often stranger than fiction.

The new executive chef is Tom Wolter, who served as second-in-command to Mr. Trainer for nearly five years. And from what I’ve heard, read, and personally experienced of the new exec’s cookery, it would seem that owner Jeff Effgen is counting on him to add a bit more razzle-dazzle to the Inn’s American-style menu. If this is the case – and circumstances strongly suggest that it is – then Mr. Effgen is, unfortunately, attempting to fix what isn’t broken.

The thing about former Chef Trainer’s cuisine, if you’ll permit me to paraphrase a portion of my 2015 review, is that it was pleasantly contemporary without being self-consciously avant-garde; it enticed the palate without confounding the eye. His presentations found the perfect middle ground between innovation and tradition – and they fit the ambiance and the clientele like a glove… With this as background and having sampled Mr. Wolter’s cuisine on several occasions recently, I can honestly say that, at this point in time, his offerings simply haven’t demonstrated the same level of subtle sophisticated flair as those of his predecessor.

Kimberton Inn - Crab CakeTake Mr. Wolter’s Crab Cake (pictured), for instance… You have the crab cake itself, completely unadorned, a splash of herb remoulade, French green beans, and wedge of lemon. Hardly eye-catching. The presentation borders on culinary minimalism and is about as gastronomically arousing as a wilted head of iceberg lettuce.  The Filet Mignon, follows the same bland-leading-the-bland formula – filet… mashed potatoes… green beans – as does the Organic Salmon with parsnip purée, merely substituting the green of snow pea salad for the French beans.

Kimberton Inn - Seared Red SnapperThen you have his Seared Red Snapper Fillet… which is cooked beyond golden hue to a rather unattractive shade of “burnt brown.” As a result, the flesh became discolored and decidedly “mushy.” The red pepper-corn cream sauce was delicious; however, coupled with the rather careless arrangement of summer vegetable succotash, it made the snapper appear as if it had been accidentally plopped onto the plate from an as yet undetermined height.

Kimberton Inn - Salmon FiletBy way of contrast, take a gander at Chef Trainer’s Salmon Filet which I sampled several years ago… It was seared with a mixture of five spices, pillowed on a sesame-scallion crepe, and crowned with a lemon-ginger marmalade tiara.  The special finishing touch, however, proved to be artistic splashes of an irresistible citrus-soy sauce that succeeded in preparing the palate by enticing the eye. Simple… but downright seductive.

I am certainly not suggesting that every kitchen creation arriving at table must be a complete and utter work of art… However, they should be, at the very least, attractively plated; that is, capable of stimulating – rather than sabotaging – one’s appetite.

If Mr. Wolter is consciously attempting to put a bit more pizzazz into the Kimberton Inn’s menu presentations, thus far he is missing the mark. And bear in mind that prices here, while they have always been on the elevated side, are beginning to border upon the stratospheric. The above-mentioned Red Snapper Fillet will set you back a hefty $35.00; a Yellowfin Tuna Steak, $38.00. That minimally adorned Crab Cake weighs in at $31.00, the Organic Salmon at $32.00. Even the plebeian Calf’s Liver, Chicken Breast and Penne Pasta go for $32.00, $31.00 and $28.00, respectively. High-end items such as the Ribeye, Filet Mignon, Lamb Chops, and Lobster all hit the $42.00 mark. Selections from the bar menu, once a bargain, are no longer. That pedestrian Burger, for instance, will put an $18.00 hit on your wallet… several dollars more, should you decide to add on bacon and/or caramelized onions.

These are major league prices… and thus, you expect major league cuisine. The overall quality of the ingredients is certainly not in question… but their integration, preparation and presentation could, in my humble opinion, use a good, solid kick in the asparagus. I’ve always enjoyed dining at the Kimberton Inn, so I remain hopeful that this situation may soon be rectified. In the meantime, however, it is all too obvious to me that Jim Trainer’s presence is sorely missed.

Bon Appétit!



Pluckemin Inn - Wine DinnerOn Friday, August 24, 2018, 7:00 p.m., the Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, New Jersey, invites wine lovers to head “down under” for an evening of Australian wines perfectly paired with a multi-course menu created by Executive Chef Kevin Lafemina. Master of Wine Chris Cree will guide guests through the evening’s wines; and all wines tasted will be available for purchase.

Australian Wine Dinner Menu…

Amuse: Chilled Pea Soup, Local Ham, Macadamia; Wine Pairing: 2015 Dandelion Vineyards Riesling, Enchanted Garden of Eden Valley

First Course: John Dory, Eggplant, Cherry Tomato, Olive, Frisée, Basil; Wine Pairing: 2017 Woodlands Chardonnay, Wilyabrup Valley, Margaret River

Second Course: Pork Belly, Cauliflower, Swiss Chard, Hazelnuts, Apple; Wine Pairing: 2009 Geyer Brothers Grenache “Sands,” Barossa

Third Course: Niman Ranch Beef Cheek, Red Beets, Cherries, Grilled Beans, Yukon Potato; Wine Pairing: 2012 Luke Lambert Syrah, Yarra Valley; 2016 Noon Winery Eclipse, McLaren Vale

Dessert: Chocolate Lamington, Raspberry Jam, Coconut

The price of the Australian wine dinner is $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (908) 658-9292.

Bon Appétit!



Gladstone Tavern - Local Corn WeekBeginning Thursday, August 16, and continuing through Tuesday, August 21, 2018, Gladstone Tavern, 273 Main Street, Gladstone, New Jersey, will be celebrating Local Corn Week, featuring fresh picked corn from Melick’s Farm.

The corn-inspired menu is noted below…

COBBTAILS – Papi’s Corn: Corn-Infused Tequila, Ancho Reyes, Jalapeño, Agave, Lime… Cornchata: Jersey Devil Corn Moonshine, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Sweet Corn Milk

FOR THE TABLE – House CornbreadTruffled Popcorn Basket: Truffle Butter, Parmesan, Chive

FIRST COURSE – Corn & Lobster Chowder: Main Lobster, Bacon, Potato, Thyme… Corn Crab Cake: Cornflake Crust, Avocado & Chipotle Crema, Corn Shoot Salad

SECOND COURSE – Cornmeal Crusted Catfish: Simmered Corn, Tasso Ham, Tomato, Green Onion, Corn Hush Puppies… Skirt Steak Fajita: Charred Corn-Chipotle Salsa, Bell Pepper, Red Onion, Guacamole, Lime Sour Cream, Corn Tortilla

THIRD COURSE – Toasted Corn Cake: Sweet Corn Ice Cream, Local Blueberry Compote, Caramel Corn, Corn Shoots

For more information about local corn week, or to make a reservation, please call (908) 234-9055.

Bon Appétit!



Alba Vineyard Grand Reserve Pinot NoirFor the past 21 years, Alba Vineyard, New Jersey’s largest estate winery, as focused upon excellence. In its quest to produce world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Alba utilizes environmentally responsible and sustainable farming practices.

The 2014 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir and 2016 Grand Reserve Chardonnay, mark Alba’s entry into luxury wines. Focused on enduring character and timeless quality, these wines are designed to age gracefully over time.

2014 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir thrives in limestone soils and cool climates, something that Alba Vineyard has in abundance. The unique terroir melds the elegance, high acidity, and longevity of Burgundy with the fruit flavors of California and Oregon. The Grand Reserve was harvested from the vineyard’s steepest hillsides, handpicked at night to capture peak maturity, and fermented in small bins and aged in the finest French oak for thirty months. This compelling wine is carefully hand-selected from the vineyard’s finest barrels and only produced when the vintage is exceptional. Only sixty-two cases were produced.

2016 Grand Reserve Chardonnay: Each block of the 93-acre estate results in different characteristic of soils, rock structure, sun exposure, steepness of hillsides, elevation, and temperature. Selecting only a few rows of the vineyard’s oldest Dijon clone Chardonnay vines, which have the right combination of terroir, the wine was crafted representing the true individual expression of the Alba estate at its finest. Following a gentle whole cluster press, fermentation took place in the finest French oak barrels with wild yeast. The wine remained in the barrels for sixteen months, followed by another six months of bottle aging. The result is a voluptuous, creamy wine with densely packed flavors of ripe peach and fresh mango. Only ninety cases were produced.

Because of the small production, the Grand Reserve Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are only available for sale at the winery’s new tasting room.

Alba Vineyard is located in the rolling hills of Warren County, New Jersey, two miles east of the Delaware River and historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

For more information, please contact Alba Vineyard at (908) 995-7800 or email