Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wine Wednesdays - Grace Winery

In between all the eating during our 36 hours in Philly, we had a chance to head out to the country to visit Grace Winery.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and just a 40 minute drive had us feeling like we had truly escaped.  

The property is home to a few acres of vineyard, a variety of livestock, a 15-room inn, and winery tasting room.  Named for Grace Kelly, who was once the owner of the property and a relative of the current owners.  We enjoyed the afternoon bopping around from one perch in the sun to another, and even took an inaugural hay ride on their new (old) tractor!  

You must be wondering, how good is wine made in PA?  I was pleasantly surprised!  With a winemaker from Bordeaux at the helm, they've actually made very nice wines despite difficult growing conditions.  I especially liked the 2013 Chardonnay and 2015 Rose.  

They have light bites and live music in the tasting room on Saturdays and Sundays.

The winery and inn are also available for private cellar dinners and weddings/events.

I'd love to check in to the Inn for a night away in the country!  Great wine at my fingertips is a bonus!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Travelogue - 36 Hours in Philly

One of my favorite things about NYC is its proximity to other destinations.  Case in point, we recently headed to Philadelphia for a 36 hour foodie tour.  Amtrak was having a sale so it was a quick and painless 1.2 hours from Penn Station and we were walking through the City of Brotherly Love.

When I say "foodie tour" I mean it, we didn't have much on the agenda besides where we wanted to eat!  We checked in to the Club Quarters Hotel in Center City, a basic hotel but the price was right and it was the perfect location in the center of it all.  

After dropping our bags we made a beeline to Elixr Coffee for nerdy pour-overs and a chocolate babka muffin.  

Then it was on to explore the Reading Terminal Market.  Holy moly this place was overwhelming!  There were lines everywhere, and while some things looked good, the crowds deterred us.  We decided to keep walking and made our way to Chinatown for dumplings and hand-drawn noodles at Nan Zhou.  I had the roast duck with shaved noodles, Jared had the pork with hand-drawn noodles.  We split an order of the pork and chive dumplings.  Overall the food was tasty and the price was right ($27 with tip!) but I wouldn't return.  


We continued our walk to Independence Hall for a quick view of the Liberty Bell and a walk through the visitors center.  

We then made our way to the Barnes Foundation.  This was the one cultural aspect of the trip that I was super excited about and it did not disappoint.  The Foundation holds the largest private collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings, collected by Mr. Albert Barnes, a Philly native.    

After our tour, we attempted to visit the "Rocky Steps" of the Philadelphia Art Museum but they were under construction, so we snapped a quick pic of Rodin's "Thinker" and then jumped in an Uber to our next eats destination!

In 2015, I earmarked Bon Appetit's article heralding the "best pizza in America" knowing one day I'd head to Philly.  The rules and regulations regarding this pizza were a bit off-putting:  Joe Beddia and his one helper make 40 pizzas a night, people start to line up as early as 3pm, they open the doors at 5:15 and start taking orders.  If you're last in line they'll tell you to come back in 4 hours to get your pizza, they're cash only.  Despite all this, we were determined!  We got in line by 3:50 and were 4th in line.  I set off to find us waters while we waited...and stumbled upon an ice cream shop with perhaps the best ice cream sandwich I've ever had!

One of my favorite SATC quotes is "sometimes life is what happens when you're waiting for a table". Or in this case, waiting in line.  We met some really friendly people who made the hour in line fly by.  They even let us cut so we could get our pie sooner (and therefore get to our real dinner reservation!).  We ordered two pies and were told to come back in 40 minutes.  We went next door and enjoyed a glass of wine with our new friends while we waited. 

This was just an appetizer "snack" - we had dinner reservations at 9:30!  So I limited myself to half a slice of each and the rest came home with us (all the way to NYC) for leftovers!
After a quick regroup back at the hotel, we met some friends for our real dinner at Vedge.  Another "best of" winner I had read about in BA.  A completely Vegan restaurant that would fool even the biggest meat eater.  Highlights were the radish tasting, rutabaga fondue with soft pretzel, eggplant braciole (both pictured below) and the salt baked beets.  I didn't get a pic of the dessert but the chocolate chunk thingy was to die for.  Service was lackluster which tarnished the overall dining experience, while good and certainly different, I probably wouldn't go back.   

Are you tired of reading about food yet??  

On to Sunday! Upon waking it was another coffee at Elixr before heading to meet our friends at South Philly Barbacoa.  Half a kilo of barbacoa and all the fixings easily fed us 4, with 2 orders of the amazing consomme.  Don't miss the fresh squeezed orange juice (a weird combo but it works).     

The fresh sauces and salsas were so delicious!
Thoroughly stuffed, we headed out to Grace Winery for an afternoon of wine tasting.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, another post to come on our wine experience!

We headed back to the city for our final meal, I wasn't sure I could possibly eat another bite but I somehow made it through.  After discovering Dizengoff in NYC, we knew we had to try Zahav, the original restaurant from Michael Solomonov.  We didn't have a reservation so we took our chances of walking in.  We got there at 5:30 and ended up waiting almost 90 minutes.  It was so worth it (and gave me time to get hungry again).  Literally one of the top 10 best meals I've had.  We opted for the Mesibah or "party time" tasting menu which allowed us to taste almost everything on the menu.  And our wonderful server shared some must try items to round out our experience.  The service was impeccable, combined with outstanding food, at fair prices, made it all the better.  

The salatim - 6 daily vegetable salads to share + that infamous hummus!
From left to right, top to bottom:  Turkish hummus with butter and garlic, lamb kibbe, grilled duck hearts, stuffed grape leaves, tuna crudo, grilled haloumi, off the menu falafel balls, branzino, the most amazing "haystack" dessert.  Not pictured:  the roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and chickpeas, it was just too dark to photograph!   

I literally took the final bites of dessert while our Uber arrived to take us to the train station.  We made our train with minutes to spare, the delicious tastes still in our mouths.  I'm already dreaming of our next visit!

Coffee custard with dark chocolate, blood orange, and almonds.
Until next time Philly!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wine Wednesdays - 2011 "Saralee's Vineyard" Wild Hog Pinot Noir

It's official, I'm a Pinot-phile!  It's hard not to be when you have such great friends supplying delicious wine (see other examples here, here, and here)!  

The same friends that introduced us to Wild Hog Vineyard over Easter, brought out the good stuff with this 2011 Wild Hog Pinot Noir from Saralee's Vineyard.  Wild Hog purchases grapes from this esteemed vineyard estate, blending 7 or 8 different clones chosen for their specific taste profile.

There was an intense smokey-ness and funk on the nose.  The palate was a mix of smokey vanilla, black pepper and dark red fruits, plum and black cherry; it was an enticing combination with incredible depth but yet didn't feel heavy or overpowering.  It was just simply delicious and elegant.

Unfortunately I don't think this vintage is readily available anymore.  If you're interested in checking out Wild Hog (and I highly suggest you do), you should contact the winery to get on their mailing list!   

Wine:  2011 "Saralee's Vineyard" Wild Hog Vineyard Pinot Noir
Purchased:  gifted by a friend
Price:  $27-$34 retail

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Restaurant Round Up - May Eats

What and where I ate in the month of May, it was a doozy!

My best foodie-friend Carolyn scored us a last minute reservation at Le CouCou the night after they won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant!  We tried all the classics:  pike quenelle with lobster sauce, asparagus with tuna sashimi, "tout le lapin" and the duck breast.  For dessert, we doubled down on the poached rhubarb tart and the pave au chocolat.  While I enjoyed our meal, in a certainly beautiful space, I have to say I didn't get what all the fuss was about.  I thought everything was "good enough" but the service was spotty at best (maybe everyone was just hungover from celebrating the win the night before) and I felt the food just didn't warrant the prices.

The restaurant is visually stunning, especially at dusk with that "golden hour" light shining in.
My favorites of the night were the tuna, the rabbit, and honestly the bread service (whipped black pepper lardo!!).

  Breakfast at Buvette is always a treat.  Actually.....any meal at Buvette really is perfection.  I started and ended my birthday with meals sitting at my favorite bar in all of NY.  The setting immediately transports me to Paris, the food is all outstanding and feels like such a better bang for your buck vs. Le CouCou.  

Is there a better way to start off a birthday?  I think not!

My Buvette menu musts:  "Pearls of Prosciutto" on toast, steak tartar, whatever vegetable is in season, and lots of wine!

The cutest little lobster pot pies!

I checked out the latest addition to the ABC empire, abcV is the all vegan restaurant located in the ABC store in Flatiron.  While everything was beautiful, the food was underwhelming.  I much prefer the original abcKitchen.  

Whole roasted cauliflower, shallot and herb labneh (my favorite dish), and beet carpaccio.
A special treat this month was dinner at the NoMad.  We splurged (both $ and calorically) for the roast chicken for two, and it was SO worth it.  One of the best dishes I've had this year (if ever).

Gorgeous and delicious cocktails!
Tableside presentation of our bird

Another highlight of dinner at NoMad were the desserts.  I chose the rhubarb crumble, my dining companions chose the coffee granita, and our wonderful server James insisted we try the milk & honey (a play on the famous milk & honey dessert at EMP).  All were winners but the milk & honey is famous for a reason, it totally blew me away!

Later that week I tried Made Nice, the new "fast casual" spot from the NoMad/EMP team.  I had the smoked salmon salad and tried their version of milk & honey - milk soft serve with honey brittle and shortbread, good but a little too sweet.

 I finally checked out the new Perla Cafe, I hadn't been since they relocated, but I was a fan of the old spot!  I'm happy to report it was just as good as before.  We shared the artichokes, chicories, cacio e pepe and the cod.  The service was outstanding, although the real highlight was the dessert.

Chocolate ganache tarte - one of the best restaurant desserts I've ever had.
 To celebrate my main man's new job, we dined with friends at Keens Steakhouse, a classic NY institution.  I had the mutton, because that's what you get there, and it was delicious!  The martini was disappointing (weird olives) but it felt celebratory! 

 And finally, to celebrate Jared's birthday, I surprised him with the large format fried chicken dinner (and a few friends to help us finish the two whole birds) at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Before / After - we did good!


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