Archive for the Uncategorized Category

A WEAK EXCUSE FOR MY LACK OF BLOGATIVITY

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 27, 2011 by ballymote

It’s been over a month since I posted my full review of Luke Palladino’sNorthfield,NJ restaurant. Somehow, only one-third of my review was published while the final two-thirds disappeared into the nether world of lost blogs

It should not have been the end of the world, or the reason for my recent disappearance from the blogasphere. Yes, it did mean that a few hours of work had been negated and I certainly had a reason for a momentary lapse of productivity. Instead, it has turned into a month of literary surrender.

In all honesty, I thought seriously that after two years and well over 100 reviews it was the right time to end South Jersey Wine and Dine. Yes, there were a few days during this spell when I had a slight urge to return to the keyboard but it wasn’t difficult to find reasons to resist that temptation. Through an entire postless month, my readership never decreased. I felt bad that they would venture on to my blog day after day and find nothing new. It was enough to have now inspired me to try my best to get back to regular posts. I hope to have some new reviews in the next few days.

My sincere thanks for staying with me.

YIKES, MY COMPUTER CRASHED !!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 13, 2011 by ballymote

My reviews will continue as soon as I can get my computer up and running again. I have two very good restaurants to tell you about, Luke Palladino in Northfield, NJ and Manna on the Ventnor/Margate border.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the over 100 existing reviews of fine dining choices in the comprehensive list in the right hand column.

Hoping to be in touch with all of you soon.

Frank

MY THIRTEEN FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM LAST MONTH’S CRUISE ON THE ALLURE OF THE SEAS

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2011 by ballymote

                    DREAMWORKS CHARACTER PARADE ON THE PROMENADE

                                                SUNRISE OVER LABADEE, HAITI

                                         HAITIAN BOAT CHECKING US OUT

                          HOME TO 8,000 PEOPLE (6000 GUESTS) (2000 CREW)

                                IT’S THE COLORFUL KAYAKS (HONEST, I SWEAR)

                                                             HAITIAN COUPLE

                                                PEOPLE ARE TALL IN JAMAICA

                                       ELEVATOR ART ONBOARD THE ALLURE

                                    THE SILVER HOMBRE, COZUMEL, MEXICO

                                        THE BLUE CARIBBEAN FROM COZUMEL

                   OUR “FREE” MARGARITA AT JIMMY BUFFETT’S IN COZUMEL

                          WE HAVE COMPANY DEPARTING MEXICO AT SUNSET

FROM THE ONBOARD PRODUCTION OF “BLUE PLANET” (20 PEOPLE IN TREE)

 

APRIL VACATION VOYAGE

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2011 by ballymote

 Eight of us will be joining 6,000 of our closest friends on a week-long cruise to the Western Caribbean on the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. On my last cruise in 2005, I was able to smuggle 8 bottles of nice wine on board to enjoy with dinner each evening but, I won’t be attempting that on this trip. It appears the Royal Caribbean baggage checks are considerably more extensive and you could be denied boarding if discovered. That certainly does not mean a week without wine as the Allure has many specialty restaurants including Vintages, a wine and tapas spot. Just as with our California trip last year I will be reporting on the wine and food we enjoy during our week at sea.

Meanwhile, during the week we are away there are still lots of reasons to visit the blog. Primarily, over 100 restaurant reviews throughout South Jersey and Philadelphia. Remember too, you can click on “SUBSCRIBE” at the bottom of the right hand columns and be notified by e-mail each time there is a new posting. As always, your comments are encouraged and your visits are much appreciated.

PORK & SAUERKRAUT….AND A WINE THAT WORKS WITH THEM

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Dinners with tags , , on February 2, 2011 by ballymote

 Matching wine with food isn’t always the mass confusion that many declare it to be. There are some combinations that almost everyone knows. For instance, a nice filet, T-Bone or sirloin steak certainly deserves a big California cabernet by its side for maximum enjoyment. All out of cab at the moment?  Not to worry, simply substitute a nice Malbec, a syrah or a hearty zinfandel and you have hardly lost a beat with your beefy meal. On the other hand, some foods do offer much more of a challenge in finding the right wine to highlight their flavors.

One such meal was our dinner on Sunday evening, Pork and Sauerkraut slow cooked overnight in a crock pot and accompanied by some buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes. Of course, it’s not really the pork or the potatoes that cry for something special, it’s clearly the acidic, tongue-curling flavors of the sauerkraut that cries out for something special. The wine we chose to match with this dish worked perfectly.

 The 2007 St. Urbans – Hof, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Spatlese proved to be an excellent match for this entree. Crisp and silky smooth with just the right minerality and soft hints of pear and melon, grapefruit and lemon oil. It was right on target in helping to negate the stringent flavors of the dish. In the German hierarchy, spatleses are just a bit sweeter that the kabinetts and you may personally find that the kabinetts provide an even better match with this type of food. It’s not surprising that this wine received a 92 from the Wine Advocate and a 91 from Wine Spectator and is available locally for about $25.00.  It’s the type of white wine that makes a red wine aficionado like myself admit that there is room for both in the world of vino.

HAPPY NEW YEAR – APOLOGIES AND EXCUSES

Posted in Uncategorized, wine blogs with tags , on January 7, 2011 by ballymote

When I first started this blog I was determined it would not become like so many others where prolific posting would soon be replaced by sporadic efforts. For the first 18 months at South Jersey Wine and Dine I was able to consistently turn out  what I felt was a commendable effort and I was rewarded with the only currency that matters in the blog world, increased readership. The last two months I have slipped up with too much time between reviews and constantly falling behind in posting. If I were going to make excuses I would be blaming my computer and the multitude of “glitches” that have occurred in the last 60 days; primarily, my loss of Picasa  ( the Google photo storage app),where I stored thousands of my photos, and my inability to have it restored.

As we begin 2011 I resolve to overcome all of the day-to-day posting difficulties and get back to consistently offering new material. Thanks to all of you for hanging in there and continuing to visit. Have a Happy, Safe and Productive New Year!

A LA MAISON – BYOB (2ND REVIEW)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by ballymote

 We must save visits to A la Maison in Ardmore for particularly cold evenings. Our last dinner there was in frigid weather and last Wednesday evening was almost as cold. Despite the chill outside it’s always warm inside this charming French bistro-styled dining spot on Lancaster Avenue. My friends Gerry B. and John G. and myself were in a good pre-Christmas mood and ready for a repeat of good food and wine.

We had a nice line-up of vino for the evening starting with my 2000 Whitehall Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon. This 10 yr old Napa cab had been resting comfortably in my rack for years and after a short time in the class it awoke and presented us with a bouquet of soft flavors. It may just have been surpassed though by John G’s delicious 2006 Conn Valley, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon which was outstanding and full of great floral smells and tons of the rich, dark berry fruit only found in the very best cabs. Gerry’s 2004 Oliviere, Chateauneuf du Pape could have been a star on most other nights but it’s muted flavors took a backstage to the two cabs. A 2004 Byron IO, Ryan Road, Syrah which was a recent Chairman’s Selection in the PA State Stores, delivered the smooth, peppery notes one would expect and proved an excellent value buy.

 As our competent and enthusiastic server, Minnie, would attest, the real star of A La Maison is the food. As she recited the specials and opened our wine she told us what her favorite menu choices were and having been there previously, we knew that it was hard to choose something that wouldn’t please.

We each started with an appetizer.

I had a bowl of the cheesy, gooey, oh so tasty, French Onion Soup. This one is really well made with lots of onion flavor and served at the perfect temperature. One could make an entire meal when this is paired with the house bread.

 Gerry was quite enamored with his starter of Garlic Clams, natural jus, olive oil and parsley. Three large portions which quickly disappeared amongst little gutteral noises indicating joy.

                                    John had little trouble selecting the Escargot, with garlic and parsley in a rich butter sauce. Six of the delicate snails were nicely presented and slowly devoured and we were ready for our main courses.

I might add that A La Maison is one of those BYOB’s that understands the importance of good stemware. They knowingly brought each of us separate glasses for each of our four wines. It may have made for a crowded tabletop but it means a lot to all of us who enjoy the difference that good wine can make with a meal.

 Gerry had the lamb. I almost said, Gerry had a little lamb but I forget how the rest of the song goes. Anyway, he thought it was fantastic and I sampled a portion and even though I’d probably never order lamb, this one was really tasty.

 Meanwhile, I was perfectly content with my Steak Frittes, NY Strip, Pommes Frittes and sauce maison. The steak was done just as I requested, the fries ok, although not exceptional, and overall a very good choice.

John ordered what I had the last time we were here, the Boeuf Bourguignone, short rib beef braised in Burgundy wine, pommes puree and vegetables. Just as on our previous visit the meat literally fell off the bone with plenty of flavor and he thought the potatoes were just perfect.

We had some nice conversation with a couple at another table who were very much involved in the Main Line art scene while we made quick work of our scrumptious desserts.

 Profiteroles for me; A Creme Brulee for John and an apple tart with vanilla ice cream for Gerry made for a good ending to a fine meal.

As MacArthur said in Manila Bay…..”I shall return.”

25,000th VISITOR, THANK YOU !

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 5, 2010 by ballymote

During this past week, South Jersey Wine & Dine reached the 25,000 mark in visits. Thanks to all who have made that possible, even the one who left the following comment “A nice camera, does NOT a photographer make. This is what I have learned from your blog.” I didn’t reply because I wasn’t sure what would be appropriate. I might have mentioned that this was not a photography blog or that I wish I knew how he knew I had a nice camera, or perhaps, that I was simply glad he learned SOMETHING from my blog as that is encouraging. At any rate, I hope my poor photography and restaurant and wine reviews continue to draw another 25,000. Your visits have made it all worthwhile.

Thank you all.

FIENI RISTORANTE – BYOB

Posted in Fieni's Ristorante, Uncategorized, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by ballymote

 Fieni’s is located on Burnt Mill Rd. just a block or two from the Echelon Mall. It’s not a name that I hear often but we had been there on at least one other occasion and on this Friday evening, Joe and Carol B., and Sue and Jerry C. joined my wife, Kathy, and I at this local BYOB. We managed to squeeze into the last parking spot available out back and were shown to a nice round table in the back corner of the restaurant.

We looked at the menu as our wines were opened and Marco, our server, related the evening “specials”. Fieni’s has a pretty extensive menu with lots of pasta, chicken and veal offerings and there were also several interesting “specials” . We enjoyed the bread and oil and after careful deliberation it appeared as if all of us were able to settle on something that we would enjoy.

 Our wines on this November evening were as follows: I had a 2001 Ferrari-Carano “Siena”, Sonoma County, CA, more recent bottlings of this red blend feature a Sangiovese/Malbec blend but this older version is Sangiovese, Cabernet and a dash of Merlot. The cork was very dry and did not pull easily forcing us to push it back into the bottle. The wine took some time to come around and although very smooth the flavors were quite subdued and overall, a bit disappointing.  Jerry C. had the always dependable, 2009 Folie a Deux, Menage a Trois. This tasty red blend sells over one million cases a year and is one of the most popular red wines sold in America. Joe B., henceforth known as “Mr. Malbec”, arrived with a 2006 Punta Final, “Riserva” Malbec. I didn’t get to taste this one but Joe thought it was very good.

 I started off my meal with a cup of Crab and Carrot soup. It was served piping hot but lacked a lot of flavor. There was little in the way of crab visible and the base stock seemed like something off of a store shelf. It just sounded better than it actually tasted. Others began their meal with a Caesar’s Salad.

I fared much better with my entree, one of the evening “specials”. The Chicken Franchi consisted of two perfectly cooked chicken filets, tender and tasty and topped with crabmeat, tomato, fontina cheese and champagne sauce. It was accompanied by two lobster ravioli in a pesto cream sauce. The pasta portion of the dish was bit bland but that was forgivable because the chicken was excellent.

Jerry and Joe both zeroed in on the fish with Jerry choosing the Salmon while Joe went with the Tilapia. Both entrees were topped with shrimp and served with a veggie and mashed potato. When I checked Jerry’s plate there wasn’t a speck remaining, always a good sign that he liked what used to be on the plate.

Carol and Sue selected another chicken dish. This one was the Chicken Cremolate, twin chicken breasts, sauteed with shallots and mushrooms and topped with a cognac and cream sauce. This one was served with green beans and potatoes. They both seemed to enjoy their choice.

 Kathy was not in a very adventurous mood and went with the Pollo Parmagiana, lightly breaded chicken breasts topped with tomato and parmesan cheese.  Green beans and potatoes completed the dish. She thought about taking one of the chicken breasts  home for later but remembered we had a lot of food in the fridge already and finished her meal.

 We had pretty much decided we were going to skip dessert when we foolishly allowed Marco to show us the dessert tray. His tempting descriptions and offer to supply spoons for sharing allowed us to choose two concoctions from the tray. I can’t even remember what went into the dish on the left but we kept passing it around and enjoying it.

The item on the right was a cheesecake which was light and flavorful and a very nice sized portion so that 6 people were quite content with the two desserts.

Ristorante Fieni is a well run restaurant with good food and friendly servers and is certainly worthy of a visit.

MY THIRTEEN FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM OUR CALIFORNIA TRIP

Posted in California Trip Photos, Uncategorized with tags , on October 25, 2010 by ballymote

Among its many virtues, San Francisco is a very photogenic city. We took tons of pictures during our week in the area. Here are just a few of my favorites:

   DRY CREEK VALLEY FROM THE TOP OF BELLA WINERY IN HEALDSBURG

                                   THE STEEPEST HILL IN A CITY OF HILLS             

                                 SAN FRANCISCO BAY FROM ALCATRAZ

                                  BLUE ANGELS IN THE WILD BLUE YONDER

                      BLUE ANGELS PERFORM IN SAN FRANCISCO BAY

                         VICTORIAN “SISTERS” FROM ALAMO PARK

                            SUNDAY SCENE ON FISHERMAN’S WHARF

                               READY FOR THE HARVEST – NAPA

              SUNDAY MORNING STREET SCENE IN SAN FRANCISCO

              THOMAS KELLER’S BOUCHON BAKERY – YOUNTVILLE, CA

                        THE PACIFIC COAST NORTH OF JENNER, CA

                              COIT TOWER FROM SAN FRANCISCO BAY

          LOU KAPCSANDY WITH A PREVIEW OF HIS 2010 MERLOT

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