Archive for the Wine Dinners Category

TRATTORIA GIUSEPPE – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Trattoria Giuseppe, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2010 by ballymote

 The sign looks big but it wasn’t easy finding Trattoria Giuseppe which sits back behind a shopping center off of West Chester Pike (Rt. 3) in Edgemont, PA. Judging by the crowd on this chilly Tuesday evening, I may have been one of the few who was challenged by the task of locating this very popular Delaware County eatery. I was having dinner with some childhood friends (Frank, Steve & Tom) and they are familiar with the area and had told me how popular this Italian Restaurant was and that we were lucky, even on a Tuesday, to not have to wait for a table despite having reservations. All of this made me curious as to why the place was such a local favorite.

 I had brought with me an unfinished bottle of the 2005 Cameron Hughes, Lot 125, Pinot Noir, Napa/Carneros. This is a really great Pinot for the money with a great nose and lots of strawberry and raspberry flavors and just delivers terrific value for the money. My other bottle was something I picked up at the PA State Store some time back. The 2007 Borra Vineyards, Field Blend, Lodi, California is a very different wine, made from a blend of grapes you seldom see. 48% Barbera, 23% Carignane, 16% Alicante Bouschet, 13% Petite Sirah. It’s a dark ruby red in the glass with a full mouthfeel. This is one you are going to either love or hate. I take that back because, come to think of it, I can’t quite decide.

Our server, Jeremiah, was poised and polished and also impressed that Frank was able to name Three Dog Night as the group that made the 60’s song featuring his name. He opened our wine, outlined the specials and brought us some complimentary bruschetta.

 Nice fresh tomatoes atop a crisp piece of Italian bread made this a great way to start off our evening. We spent some time conversing and reviewing the massive menu before the four of us had zeroed in on our selections. For appetizers, Frank and Steve split some more bruchetta; an order  which was large enough to end famine in a third world country. I would have a picture of it but I couldn’t get the entire plate in the frame of the lens.

 I ordered the Mozzarella Caprese, fresh mozzarella, sliced red tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and basil. This was another huge offering of which I ate about 40% and took the rest home. I was beginning to see why families were filling the tables here as dinners appeared to be such that each meal was enough to serve the family for the rest of the week.

 Entrees were more of the same as Tommy’s dish of Tagliatelle Giuseppe was chock full of seafood, featuring mussels, shrimp, scallops some chopped tomatoes and broccoli rabe.

Steve’s order of Ravioli Quattro Formaggio, fresh made ravioli filled with blue cheese, goat cheese, mozzarella and parmesan in a rich cream sauce looked like an artery clogging delight. I knew he would have a tough time finishing this one and although he totally enjoyed it there was quite a bit to bring back home.

 Frank’s Tilapia topped with shrimp and artichokes was, I believe, one of the “specials” and was the only dish that appeared to offer a chance of being totally consumed in one sitting. The fish was nicely baked and had a an appealing white wine sauce.

As for myself, I figured if I was in a true, Italian restaurant why not give the spaghetti and meatballs a try. When I order this dish I am always keeping my fingers crossed that I will have at least two nice sized meatballs to compliment the pasta. The bowl that arrived at my table, steaming hot, contained FOUR mammoth meatballs. I gave it a worthy attempt but still was unable to make much of a dent in the meal before I gave up and had it boxed. It provided not only another great dinner but TWO more dinners, which, to be honest, tasted better on each subsequent day.

We passed on dessert as we were all stuffed and settled for more wine and laughs. It’s always great to get together with these guys and tonight was no exception.

 Trattoria Giuseppe does not need me to give it a “thumbs up”. It’s apparent that enough people have done that. Weekends are virtually impossible to avoid waiting lines. It’s very good food, tremendous portions, we found Jeremiah to be a first class server and just an overall nice spot for a meal that will not break your budget.

A LITTLE CAFE – BYOB (2ND REVIEW)

Posted in A Little Cafe (2nd review), South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by ballymote

 This is probably the longest I have ever gone between the actual date of our meal and my report. We revisited A Little Cafe in Voorhees, NJ on Saturday evening, November 27th. Joe and Carol B. and my wife, Kathy and I returned to this cozy little BYOB after a 14 month hiatus. The picture to the left is fittingly dark because the surrounding area WAS very dark on this late fall weekend.

 I may not remember everything we ate but I do know what wines we had with us. Joe and carol shared a 2004 Sasso al Poggo, Toscana. This “super Tuscan” offered ripe red fruit, hints of earth and licorice with smooth tannins and an overall softness on the palate. I had the bolder 2005 Green Lion, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa. This one is another creation from Aussie winemaker, Chris Ringland except this time he brings his skills to California. This one is a really nice value that delivers REAL cab quality with fruit sourced from prime Napa growing sites (Pritchard Hill and Diamond Mountain) at an extremely affordable price.

 Along with the standard bread and oil for dipping we were presented with an attractive dish of fried green tomatoes in a tasty pesto sauce. There were two for each of us and we asked for, and received a second dish and I think we all agreed we could have made a complete meal out of this beautifully done starter. The breading was perfect and the tomatoes were first-class.

We each chose the Three Course Prix Fixe dinner and Joe and I started with the soup of the day which, in this instance, was a Potato Soup. Joe remembers it as having something spicy added to it. I, on the other hand, with senility setting in quickly, remember nothing but the potatoes. I am pretty sure we both enjoyed it, though. The ladies both had salads and I didn’t take a picture of them.

 For my appetizer I went with the Crab Cigarettes, a Little Cafe Signature Dish – Jumbo lump crabmeat rolled in paper-thin crepes and served with a spicy red chili dipping sauce. I’d say that even the non-smokers of the world would enjoy these “cigarettes” so feel free to “light up” your meal with this appetizer.

Joe went with the Spicy Calamari, lightly breaded and fried calamari topped with a hot and spicy red pepper relish and served atop a bed of crisp lettuce, Carol had a mushroom dish that I couldn’t find mentioned on the menu. Both of them liked their choices.

 For his entree Joe opted for one of the evening “specials”. A baked pork chop topped with King Oyster Mushrooms and a plum wine sauce served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and Julienne-style vegetables.

 Kathy and Carol both seemed to be in a non-adventurous mood as they selected the Chicken Parmesan. Carol traded the traditional pasta accompaniment for mashed potatoes and veggies while Kathy stayed with the linguine.

I debated between the Marianne’s Meatloaf and the Chicken and Crab with the latter winning out in the end and I was not disappointed in my choice. Sauteed boneless chicken breast layered with jumbo lump crabmeat, sauteed spinach, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese and topped with a pesto sauce. This tasty dish came with mashed potatoes and the Julienne veggies. I’m not a big fan of the Julienne veggies but the overall dish was very good and the portion large enough to provide lunch for the next day.

A Little Cafe is one of those places you can always count on for a good meal at reasonable prices and even though Chef/Owner Marianne Powell was not present on this Saturday evening, it was obvious she had left the place in good hands.

SOLA – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Sola, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by ballymote

 It had been way too long since my wine loving buddies, Gerry B. and John G., and myself got together for one of our wine dinners. Last night we met up for a six P.M. reservation at Sola on Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr, PA.  The parking was a little tricky but once we found some spots we were at a table in the fashionable, upscale dining spot. Some nice piano music, just a decibel or two louder than it should have been, provided a nice backdrop for our meal.

Our server, Marina, was both personable and efficient. She opened our wines. There were no specials to recite so she told us a few of her favorites. Sola offers a tempting Prix Fixe Dinner at $40.00 which features a salad,  appetizer, entree and dessert. The regular menu has more than a few items that caught our interest and it was apparent from the start that choosing just one was not going to be an easy task.

 As usual, we had a wonderful array of good wines with us. Sola charges a minimal $2.00 corkage charge, which, I believe, is donated to a charity. In return they offer excellent stemware and we had separate glasses for each of our four wines. It was hard to pick a wine of the night from this group which included, a 2005 EMH/Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps the sole survivor of several Black Cat cabs we purchased while visiting Merrill Lindquist during our October Napa trip. This one was dark ruby in the glass and drinking only slightly less well than the fabulous 2007. We also had another souvenir from our trip, a 2008 Bella Vineyards, Lily Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Zinfandel, chock full of pepper and spice and plenty of dark cherries and plums. Gerry B. had also bought his last 1999 Chappallet Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, which we had all raved about on a prior wine dinner. It was still great but not performing quite as well as we had remembered. Our final wine was one that none of us was familiar with but one which certainly held its own even in this group. It was a 2008 Mad Hatter, Napa Valley Red Wine. It’s tough to find much info on this wine although it appears to be made by the folks at Dancing Hares wines (where Andy Erikson, winemaker for Screaming Eagle, presides and may be responsible for the Mad Hatter) and sells for about $55.00 which is well above its current $29.99 price at PA State Stores. The wines were great and I am happy to report, so was the food served at Sola.

Gerry and John each had the Pan Seared Fois Gras, house cured duck prosciutto, poached Seckel Pear, toasted pistachio and port reduction. Gerry thought it tasted great while not quite being as stellar as Gilmores.

I wanted to try the Lobster and Pumpkin Bisque but made a last-minute switch to the Carmelized Onion and Gruyere Tart, baby frissee, pancetta lardons, aged Jerz-hazelnut vinnegrette. This was an unusual item that had a unique flavor. I had sworn off all food items containing the word “frissee” but I totally enjoyed the taste of this appetizer. Ya just never know.

For his entree, John G. selected the Herb Marinated Veal Tenderloin, kabocha squash tart (does one EVER tire of kabocha squash tarts?), crispy sweetbreads, truffle oil, red wine braised purple cabbage and sherry jus. The veal was done to medium perfection and John thought the dish was excellent.

Gerry ordered the Australian Lamb Two Ways, braised shoulder, hand-made gnocchi with English peas, ricotta grilled loin, ratatouille and mango chutney. Gerry loved this dish and insisted I try the stew like portion and although I am not a big lamb fan, this really was outstanding.

 I certainly had no complaints about my entree. I chose the Seared Diver Sea Scallops, carmelized salsify golden raisins, Meyer lemon and Israeli cous cous, with a smoked tomato butter, pine nuts and shaved botarga. The presentation was picture perfect and the scallops with the sauce created a mouth-watering taste sensation. The entree was light and full of flavor. If I had any regret at all it was that I did not have a Pinot Noir to drink with the scallops.

The three of us were enjoying great conversation and sampling the quartet of excellent wines so it only made sense to extend the meal by ordering from the dessert menu.

The trio of goodies above are from left to right, my Espresso-Brown Sugar Gelato. Like Gerry mentioned, “what’s not to like about Espresso and brown sugar”. This was light and yummy. John was no less pleased with his Roasted Banana Creme Brulee with orange-ginger biscotti. Gerry may have made the best choice as he went with the dessert offered on the Prix Fixe menu and the one that Marina declared her “absolute favorite”, the White Chocolate, Golden Raisin & Coconut Bread Pudding with caramel sauce and macerated strawberries. This one was just a plate-full of gooey goodness.

With our tummies full and the wines nearly gone it was time to end this wonderful dinner. Sola is a bit on the pricey side but it certainly delivers value for the money. As I headed home and Gerry and John finished their post-dinner cigar it was evident that a return to Sola would definitely be in our future plans.

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.

WEST SIDE GRAVY – (BYOB)

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, West Side Gravy, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by ballymote

 We finally made it. After reading F Scott and Zelda’s reviews and spending countless hours drooling about the menu, our group of eight hungry diners converged on the Collingswood eatery, the second “label” for renown Chef Alex Capasso of Blackbird fame.

It may be difficult to secure reservations at Blackbird on a Friday or Saturday evening. It will not be difficult to get a table at West Side Gravy on those same nights. In a way, that’s a shame. Let’s begin by explaining what West Side Gravy is NOT. It is not a full service, fine dining restaurant. That’s what Blackbird, Nunzio’s, Il Fiore, Casona and a host of other Collingswood restaurants are. West Side Gravy is a fun place for some interesting and well-prepared comfort food, served by some very nice people at reasonable prices.

 Our server, Allie, was one of those very nice people and she made us feel comfortable from the very beginning. She was attentive and charming and after opening our wines and puzzling over why we open four bottles and none of us share with each other (a story for another day), she recited the evening “specials” from every category on the menu. We pointed out to Allie, that first time diners at West Side Gravy should not be entitled to evening “specials” as there is plenty to choose from on the regular menu.

 My wine for the evening was something that was recommended by Charlie Beatty at Canals BottleStop in Marlton. The 2007 Fidelity, Alexander Valley, Crazy Creek Estate, Red Wine was a nice blend of 81% Merlot and 19% Cab Franc. Both my wife, Kathy, and I thought it was excellent with the cab franc giving a little bite to the softer merlot. It’s not a fruit bomb it’s just filled with nice cherry and chocolate flavors and at about $15.00 this one drinks like a wine at 3 times it’s cost. Tom and Barbara T. had just returned from a vacation in WIlliamsburg, VA and they had with them a wine they wanted me to try. I agreed and was prepared to try and find nice words to express my dislike for virtually any U. S. wines from outside of  California, Oregon or Washington State. However, this one, 2008 Williamsburg Winery Susan Constant Red Wine wasn’t bad. It wasn’t very complex but the taste was pretty good with some nice fruit flavors and a soft mouthfeel. Unlike other local wineries who charge big bucks for their wines, this one is under $10.00.

We all had a hard time making our selections but the guys decided to split a couple of appetizers.

We split the West Side Fries with Pinot Noir gravy and the Cheesesteak Eggrolls. The fries were nicely done with a portion size that would be fine for two people. The gravy was great but I should have poured it on my fries instead of dipping each one. The cheesesteak eggrolls were really good. There were four nice sized pieces so we each had one for ourselves. Four of them would almost make a meal and they came with a tasty horseradish sauce for dipping..

A couple of folks ordered the Sweet Potato Soup which they voted OK…but nothing special. The Fried Green Tomatoes were also seen as having too much breading.

 Gerry B. and my wife both went for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, potato salad with smoked bacon dressing and house-made cole slaw. Kathy asked them if she could have all white meat and they complied with her request. Both thought the chicken was tasty and the potato salad and cole slaw were good.

Joe and Carol both had one of the “specials”, the braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and baby spinach. The dish was topped with crispy onion rings and a nice gravy and both enjoyed it.

 I always have a hard time staying away from any meatloaf dish I see on a menu and this time was no exception. This one came served over creamy mashed potatoes and I had them replace the peas with the baby spinach. Three generous slices of excellent house recipe meat loaf was topped with the delicious West Side Gravy. I was happy with my choice.

Barbara had the West Side Club, house-roasted turkey breast, smoked bacon, lettuce, marinated tomato, herb mayo on cranberry-pecan bread and served with house-made waffle chips. Barb liked her sandwich but she loved her waffle chips, We all sampled them and agreed they were very good.

 Sue C. had the Mushroom Sandwich, grilled portabello with baby arugula, grilled onions, marinated tomato served on a multi-grain bun with a side of macaroni salad

We had pretty much eaten as much as we could when Allie began to tempt us with offerings from the dessert menu. We gave in and decided we would split two items between the eight of us when all of a sudden, a bevy of desserts appears, many compliments of Alex and Siobhan, the two talented chefs who both stopped by to say “hi”. This was a very nice gesture and we all got to try several of their creations.

I don’t have a copy of the dessert menu so I can only accurately describe the one I spent the most time getting totally familiar with and that would be the “Snickers” dish above which was sinfully delicious. Allie’s favorite, the butterscotch pudding with caramelized bananas also drew a lot of compliments from our group.

In writing this review, and even prior to our first visit, I had read a lot about West Side Gravy. Almost every article and blog post I have seen mentions the same bewildering fact. There is a distinct lack of patronage on most nights. I am at a total loss as to why that is. A few theories I might offer would be, having dined at Blackfish patrons are expecting a similar meal. It’s not that kind of place. It could be that the place is a little too big for what they are doing. Most of the restaurants in Collingswood are fairly small and tables are crammed together. West Side Gravy is in the old Woolworths 5 & 10 Building and it is cavernous. If  they were just opening I could understand the sparse crowds but it’s been a few months now and the reviews are good and they certainly deserve a better fate. Personally, I think this type of dining has a place in a town with so many eating choices. At the very least, you should give it a try. The food is good and the prices are even better.

TRE FAMIGLIA – BYOB (2nd Review)

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Tre Famiglia (2nd Review), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by ballymote

 A surprise call from our friend’s Gerry and JoAnn B. led to the four of us gathering last Saturday evening at Tre Famiglia in Haddonfield, NJ to celebrate my wife, Kathy’s birthday. We hadn’t seen them since our return from Napa as they were an integral part of our wine country sextet. We had some of the wines that Gerry had bought in Napa with us and I dug up something from my cellar.

Gerry had two bottles from Mayo Family. This was one of the places we visited during our week in Napa/Sonoma. The first bottle was the one that was awarded the “Best in Class” Award at this years Sonoma County Harvest Fair. We actually tasted this wine during a visit to that fair back on October 3rd. This was the 2007 Mayo Family, Sonoma Valley, Los Chamizal Vineyard, Meritage. This one is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc and is a very nice wine at its $30 price tag. It was not Gerry’s favorite, however, that award went to his other wine, the 2008 Mayo Family, Russian River Valley, Ricci Vineyard, Zinfandel. My wife, Kathy, now has company as prior to this, she was our only true, blue zinfandel lover. I have to admit, this one is very tasty and worth the $50.00 price tag. My contribution, which I thought finished third on this evening, although I think Gerry preferred it to the “Meritage”, was the 2000 Simi Reserve, Alexander Valley, Canernet Sauvignon. This 10 year old cab took some time to open up but when it did it had a nice array of black fruits with smooth tannins and some chocolate notes on the finish.

Kathy and I have been to Tre Famiglia a few times and I reviewed it very favorably on our last visit in May. At that time we had a nice round table in the side room. Gerry and Joann are from the western suburbs of Philly and this was their first visit to this classy Italian bistro (can a bistro be Italian?). Tonight we were seated in tight quarters. It was a Saturday night and the restaurant was packed.

 Our server, Joseph, recited a laundry list of specials that may have included more items than the actual menu. I have to confess that in the beginning I felt rushed. We had a lot to talk about. I had pictures to show them from the trip and it just seemed we were hurried to place our order. The feeling went away as the night progressed and it may have just been an unwarranted notion on my part.

With so many choices I chose the Mozzarella Fritti, Panko breaded wedge of mozzarella, pan seared on a bed of pomadoro sauce. One word….DELISH! Great texture and lots of flavor. This was not your usual fried mozzarella sticks.

Kathy had the Mussells Possilippo, steamed in a white garlic sauce. I don’t think Kathy has ever met a mussell she didn’t like and these were pretty good.

Gerry ordered something from the “special appetizer” list and it appeared to be a charcuterie type of dish with some tomatoes, olives, red peppers, mozzarella, and prosciutto on a bed of arugula. This looked like a nice presentation and a great way to start off his meal.

I believe Joann’s starter was also one of the “specials”. It appeared to be fresh greens with scallops and olives with a topping of shaved pecorino romano. We discussed our trip, sipped our wines and looked forward to our entrees which were soon to appear. Once again, I believe all four of us made our selection from the many evening “specials”

Gerry had the Shrimp and Pasta Fra Diavolo. This was a perfect match for his zinfandel with nice big pieces of shrimp in a tangy sauce.

Joann had the veal chop Porterhouse topped with shrimp and crabmeat and served over black truffled red bliss mashed potatoes and veggies.

Kathy also had a big veal chop. Hers was char-broiled and served over a bed of polenta with a side of broccoli rabe. She finished as much as she could and, lucky for me, there was enough left over that I was able to combine my leftovers with hers for another meal on Monday evening.

I had the Braised Short Ribs which was also served over polenta with a side of veggies. The meat was very tender. Perhaps, not quite as flavorful as I would have hoped, but still very good. The fact that we saved half our meal left us room for dessert.

 Kathy had the Apple Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. Looked good. Tasted good.

    Gerry had the Chocolate Chip Cannoli and, unlike the last one we had, this one had plenty of chocolate chips.

 Joann had the Chocolate Tartufo, the familiar hard shell chocolate with vanilla/chocolate gelato and a cherry in the middle. It’s one of those desserts that is impossible to screw up because ALL the parts are great.

       I had a simple dish of banana gelato with crisp sugar cookies. It was good but it was too much banana. I should have ordered the Tartufo!

Overall, it was a nice dinner experience and Joseph was kind enough to write out the specials so that I wouldn’t draw a complete blank without menu support to help me when I wrote this review.

Tre Famiglia has a nice following and it’s one of those places where you can always count on a good meal.

   
 

CALIFORNIA DINNERS #8 – IZZY’S STEAKS AND CHOPS (SAN FRANCISCO)

Posted in Izzy's Steaks and Chops (San Francisco), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2010 by ballymote

 Our last evening on the West Coast and we are following the recommendation of our absent friend, John G., and heading to Izzy’s for some steaks prior to our “red eye” flight back to Philly. We had just concluded a spectacular day in the city by the bay with a tour of Alcatraz and an awe-inspiring performance by the U. S. Navy’s Blue Angels as they performed their feats of fearless flying over the bay which was jammed packed with hundreds of boats.

We had certainly worked up an appetite and when our taxi driver dropped us off on Steiner Street we entered Izzy’s and were escorted to our upstairs table for a round of drinks while we waited for Gerry and Joann to arrive separately.

Legend has it that Izzy was a very generous saloon keeper in this area at the turn of the century (19th) and his place was always known to be a place where strangers were welcomed and they could find a hearty meal at reasonable prices. The current prices at Izzy’s still seem to be reasonable.

We still weren’t sure if we were going to be happy with our meal but we knew from the very beginning that our wives’ were happy with our server, Nate. It’s so embarrassing to us as males to be viewed by the opposite sex as simply “eye candy”. Anyway, Nate did a good job of keeping them entertained and seeing that our dinner service was first-class.

Gerry and Joann arrived with one the bottles that we had purchased as a group from Del Dotto following our tour of the caves. The story behind this 2007 Del Dotto, Vineyard 887, St. Helena, Cabernet Sauvignon is that Steven Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul, tasted this wine from the barrel and wanted two barrels for a private party. It turned out there was only one barrel available so he had it blended with another barrel he liked so that all of the guests would be drinking the same wine. Our bottles were from a small lot that remained after the Wynn purchase. Is it true? Who knows, but the story is good and the wine is even better!

Most of us started our meal with the old reliable wedge with bacon and Maytag Blue Cheese. This salad, in my opinion, is a little bit like chocolate chip cookies, it’s very hard to make a bad one and there are simply varying degrees of goodness to them. This one was pretty good but not the absolute best.

I am going to have to venture a guess that it was Joe B. who did not join the rest of us in choosing the Maytag Salad. He had created a week-long history of ordering the local tomatoes and I think his final dinner included one last order of the local produce. Once again, they looked nice and fresh and had that just-picked appearance.

Appetizers out of the way, it was now time to eat some meat. I think we all went for a filet mignon of some type.

 Most had the filet with a side of baked potatoes and carrots and onions. Everyone seemed pleased with their filets.

I had my filet “blackened” and ordered it with Izzy’s Own Potatoes and Creamed Spinach. I love great sides with a steak and these were very good. I had ordered my filet done “medium” which was a first for me as I ALWAYS ask for medium-well. We agreed that my steak arrived medium-rare and I ate it anyway and thought it was good. I don’t think I am ready to make this a permanent change but I can certainly now stay with medium. The blackening added an extra flavor touch to my entree.

 Gerry isn’t a filet fan so he ordered the Bone-in Ribeye.  He was a little disappointed in the quality of the meat as there was quite a bit of “gristle” throughout.  He still managed to consume most of the dish which may have simply meant that, like the rest of us, he was hungry, Overall, we enjoyed our final West Coast dinner at Izzy’s. Our trip was coming to an end and we headed to the airport for our flight home. Gerry and Joann were staying on for a couple more days, including attending the Eagles – 49er’s game the next day at Candlestick.

We all felt it was a wonderful trip and if any of you are out in the San Francisco area and happen to run across six hearts lying somewhere near the Bay….they are probably ours!

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