NUNZIO RISTORANTE RUSTICO

Posted in Nunzio's Ristorante Rustico with tags , , , , on April 28, 2012 by ballymote

 It’s hard to believe that in all of our many trips for dinner in Collingswood, NJ that Nunzio’s has never been a destination. I know I have been there more than once but not in the almost three years I have had my blog. Two Saturday evenings ago, with my wife off on a trip to New York City for a show and dinner with some girlfriends, I played the odd man out and joined three other couples for what we hoped would be some nice Italian food. There was a little confusion to start as they had the table set for six despite an afternoon call changing the reservation to seven. The matter was corrected in a short time and we had a nice round table near the windows.

 My wine was a 2009 Summers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Napa Valley. I picked this one up on the recommendation of my wine guy at Wine Works in Marlton, Charlie Beatty. It’s a nice cab, the first effort from the Summers winery and garnered 91 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. I’d score it a point less than that. It has some nice blackberry and currant notes and drinks smoothly but I prefer a little more fruit forward wine. It’s priced just under $20.00 so it’s still a nice value wine and went well with my food.

    Our group seemed equally divided in their dinner choices between fish and meat with some opting for the Lamp Chop on the left and the Bronzino and Tilapia pictured below. All entrees in both the fish and meat category were served with some nice looking mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I decided to go with the ultimate Italian meal, Spaghetti and Nunzio’s Homemade Meatballs. There were four decent sized meatballs (it’s important to me that there is enough meatball to match the amount of pasta). I need not have worried this evening because the portion of spaghetti served was nowhere near what I have seen in most restaurants. The meatballs were very good. It has almost become the norm that there is enough to take home. I did not leave hungry but there was never hope that this would make two meals. It was good so I guess we could say they served quality over quantity.

 

 

 

  Since none of us had an appetizer or salad we all had room for dessert and I chose the Tartufo Affogato, chocolate& vanilla  ice cream encased in a ball of espresso and sambuca with strawberries and pineapple surrounding it. It was also drizzled with chocolate and made for a nice ending to the meal.

 

 

 

 

 All of the others selected the Blueberry Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream. I am not a huge blueberry fan but all of my dining companions were raving about this dessert. They thought the tart, which they described as being like a pancake or waffle in texture, was absolutely delicious. I even heard Joe B. say “this one is special”. Lots of contented sounds surrounding this dish.

 

 

 

 

 Chef Nunzio Patruno stopped by the table to see if we were enjoying our meal. I think that’s always a nice touch when the Chef/Owner comes out to greet his customers.

 Nunzio’s certainly holds it’s own with the many other fine dining spots in Collingswood.

GLASSBORO VINTAGE SOUTH JERSEY WINE FESTIVAL

Posted in Glassboro Vintage South Jersey Wine Festival, Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 24, 2012 by ballymote

   As I may have mentioned a time or two in the past, I am not a huge fan of New Jersey wines. They can protest all they want that the soil and climate in our area is “Bordeaux like” but, I’m not buying it. So many of the local wines contain blueberries and peaches and strawberries and the ones that don’t probablywould be enhanced by adding some. Certainly, there are exceptions to this generalization (A Sharrott Winery Cab Franc comes to mind), but not many. Still, there are many who do enjoy sampling the local wines and for those I would suggest next month’s GLASSBORO VINTAGE SOUTH JERSEY WINE FESTIVAL which takes place from Noon till 5:00 PM on both Saturday and Sunday May 19th and 20th.

 The festival will be held on Rowan Boulevard (Main Street between US RT 322 and High Street next to the Barnes & Noble). Tickets are $19.00 inadvance at www.glassboromarketplace.com or $25.00 at the gate. Your admission includes wine samples from 13 local wineries, all members of the Garden State Wine Growers Association, a souvenir glass, gourmet food, live music and the opportunity to purchase wines from all of the participating vintners.

 Yes, I am thinking about attending because you should always keep an open mind and one never knows when something could happen to totally change long-held perceptions.

WILD GINGER (BYOB)

Posted in Wild Ginger with tags , , on April 16, 2012 by ballymote

 

We don’t do Chinese very often but six of us converged on Wild Ginger, an Asian themed restaurant tucked away in one of the many new strip malls on Berlin-Crosskeys Rd in Sicklerville or Washington Twp. as it probably straddles the border. Being a Friday evening in the middle of Lent, I wasn’t going to have my choice of the entire menu but there were certainly enough fish choices to provide the possibilities of a good meal.

 

 

 

 

 I don’t often go with a white wine as both my wife and I greatly prefer reds with just about any type of food. It did seem that if ever there was going to be a time for a white wine it might be tonight when we were certain our choice of Asian cuisine would certainly be a fish entree.

The wine was the 2010 Caymus Conundrum, California White Wine. Reviews on this wine are somewhat less than stellar but I thought it matched well with our food and my wife found it surprisingly good. It’s a blend of several different white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillion, Muscat and others and the “conundrum” is deciding which tropical flavors one notes on the palate.

 

 

 

 

 

 While searching online for the menu for Wild Ginger it is apparent they do not have a website nor has anyone captured the menu and posted it online. Therefore, this lobster in a pastry shell must remain unnamed. That might be just as well since there wasn’t anything about it that made it standout. It was bland. Some of the other assorted appetizers that we shared were a little bit better.

 

 

 

 The “Chinese Pizza” or scallion cakes were tasty when slathered with the hot mustard and duck sauce, the fried rice was less than average and Joe’s General Tso Chicken looked really good and made me wish this was not a Friday in lent.

 

 My “meatless” entree choice was the Scallops in Mango Sauce. The fish was good, the sauce, not bad, but I have never been a fan of Chinese veggies and picked around what were possibly bamboo shoots. The dish was served with some very tasteless white rice that congealed together and fought valiantly whenever you attempted to untangle some of it.

 

 

 

 

 Wild Ginger closes out the meal with a plate of oranges and fortune cookies. It’s tough to screw up an orange slice so no complaints on that score. It’s really not fair for me to rate our dinner as meat was excluded from the choices. If all I could ever have was my lobster pastry puffs and the mango scallops, I would not be rushing back to Wild Ginger. The little slip of paper that contained my “fortune” did not indicate a return visit. As always, your mileage may vary.

 

 

 

 

MY WINE BOTTLES LOVE THEIR NEW HOME !!

Posted in My Wine Rack, Uncategorized with tags , , on April 6, 2012 by ballymote

 

 I don’t have a huge wine collection. For the past many years what I did have rested comfortably on a variety of store-bought racks holding 18, 24 or 36 bottles plus a wine  refrigerator that held another 32 bottles. Many of the bottles would stay in their original cases which often prompted my wife to threaten to throw them out if I didn’t get them out of their boxes. The problem has now been solved with the recent addition of hand crafted wine racks made by the fine folks at Arch General Contractors. We were having some renovations done to our Rec Room, mainly, the removal of a large pillar that served as a supporting column for the house. We replaced it with an overhead beam which opened the room and gave greater depth. It seemed like the perfect occasion to add some racks and get all of those bottles a proper home.

 I am delighted at the way the finished racks look and the bottles have told me they love their new home. My new problem is that I have some empty slots which need to be filled with vino and that can only mean additional purchases. As you can gather from all this, wine collecting is a dirty job but someone has to do it.

COTARDO’S RISTORANTE (BYOB)

Posted in Cotardo's with tags , , on March 20, 2012 by ballymote

 

 My wife and I had just attended a Sunday afternoon event in Chestnut Hill, PA. We decided on an early dinner and almost chose Mica’s in Chestnut Hill, a place we have long wanted to try. We passed on it and decided to visit a place closer to our home. Cotardo’s in Blackwood, NJ is a dining spot we have been to many times but, for some unknown reason, we had not been back there in a few years.

 It wasn’t quite five o’clock when we arrived so there were plenty of tables available. We were seated and our server, Tara, introduced herself and opened the bottle of wine I had brought with me.

 

 

 My wine was the 2006 Pitch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington. Like most local Italian restaurants, the stems at Cotardo’s leave something to be desired but since so few local eateries seem to offer great wine glasses, I’m not going to kill them for that. This isn’t a cab that is going to blow you away but with a $15.00 price tag and enough bright fruit flavors to marry well with most pasta dishes it was fine for the occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Cotardo’s has a nice menu with lots of entrees that sound tempting. Almost all of the choices come with soup and salad and hefty portions of their very tasty garlic bread. Kathy and I quickly went through the first four pieces with our Pasta Fagioli. Tara was nice enough to bring us another basket that appeared to have twice as many pieces as the first one. We refrained from stuffing ourselves with the bread and finished our soup. As I mentioned to my wife at the time, Pasta Fagioli is probably not a soup I would order very often but when served as part of the meal it was a perfect starter. The salad was also quite acceptable. Nothing spectacular, but the house salad featured crisp lettuce, radicchio and tomatoes and my ranch dressing blended well with the greens. So far, so good. Soup hot and flavorful, salad fresh and tangy. Great hope for the entree coming soon.

 

 

 As I mentioned, lots of tempting choices but you can only choose one so after much deliberation I went with the

Chicken Allessandro

$18.95

Breast of chicken with crabmeat and melted provolone cheese, topped with a light blush sauce. Ahhhh, good choice! Three nicely done pieces of tender chicken breast swimming in a delicious blush sauce and lots of gooey cheese crowning the meat. I finished about half of it and took the rest home for a Monday evening dinner. The meal was accompanied by a dish of cappelini which was the right compliment for the chicken.

 

 Kathy selected the combination of Chicken Parmagiana and Lasagna. Another massive portion which provided plenty for the present and another great meal for Monday evening.

 The entire bill with tax and tip was only $48.00. It reminded us of why we used to enjoy coming to Cotardo’s in the past and mystified us as to why it had been off our radar screen for so long. There are many nights when we dine out and spend twice as much for meals that were not as enjoyable.

 In fact, we returned to Cotardo’s last Saturday evening with friends and although I didn’t have my camera with me to show you all off the delicious entrees we shared (I had the Pasta Bersani, chicken and angel hair pasta, sauteed with garlic and oil, sun-dried tomatoes and a touch of marinara sauce). Another delicious dish this time the total per couple was $46.00. Hard to beat the prices and the food is first-rate. They don’t take reservations so grab your wine and head over to Blackwood early and if you do have to wait, it’s worth it.

 

BELLA SERA (BYOB)

Posted in Bella Sera, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by ballymote

 Bella Sera in Williamstown was formerly Cafe Capri. It shares its name with a brand of low price wines so I was interested to see if the food there was a cut above the Bella Sera wines. Six of us converged on this almost local eatery last Friday evening. The place looks nice with an almost elegant decor and the menus matching the signage. I thought that was a nice touch. We had a round table which is always better for conversing and making everyone feel like we are dining together.

 My wine for the evening was the 2007 Fabre Montmayou, Patagonia, Barrel Select, Malbec. I’ve had this one a few times and it’s a very nice wine from the lowest region of Argentina. Priced at $16 it’s an excellent food wine with rich cherry flavors and hints of pepper and spice.

 Our waitress had a strong Spanish accent which made it difficult to fully understand everything she was saying when it came to announcing the specials for the evening. I was able to make out that they had a Gorgonzola Salad with a balsamic dressing and I ended up choosing that. It was pretty good but I was surprised to see that it was $13.00 which seemed way out of line for where we were dining. We all have to take the blame for the items we chose because each time we would inquire of our server as to the price of one of the “specials” she answered with “I don’t know”. It would seem to me since she had all of the specials listed in great detail on her pad which she read from, they could have added the price in case she was asked. Again, none of us forced the issue so we share the blame.

 For my entree selection I went with the Cappellini Garda, cappalleni pasta served with jumbo lump crab meat, fresh diced tomatoes and arugula in a garlic white wine sauce. The dish was first-class with lots of crab meat swimming in a tangy cause. The portion was large enough that I ate plenty and took the remainder home for another dinner.

 Three in our party of six all chose the Fettucine with Shrimp and Scallops in a Pesto sauce. Lots of rave reviews on this one with my wife insinuating the next night while enjoying what she brought home, that it may have been one of her best meals ever. No faint praise there.

 Sue had the Salmon topped with salsa served with green beans and carrots and a side of garlic mashed potatoes. She liked her fish but her potatoes were not hot at all. She sent them back and moments later received a new order of potatoes no warmer than what she had sent back, although the new dish was quite hot; leading her to say ” a hot plate does not a hot potato make”.  It is just for these brilliant philosophical little gems that we bring her with us. :)

                                                                                                                               I had a little room left for dessert and went with a simple peach sherbet served in, naturally, a peach. It was simply peachy. Bella Sera had some hits and a few misses  ( a tad pricey at $100 per couple with tax and tip, and Sue’s potatoes) but it’s a nice place that certainly warrants another visit.

LA VIOLA

Posted in La Viola with tags , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2012 by ballymote

  Center City Philly on a Sunday evening as Gerry and Joann continue their quest for a suitable location for a Rehearsal Dinner for the December wedding of their son, Keith. Since my wife, Kathy, and I need little excuse to join good friends for wine and food, we were only too eager to attend.

 Early 5:00 PM reservation makes us one of the first parties to be seated and what appeared to be an all male staff of servers showed immediate and attentive service. Our wines were opened and I was happy to see that Gerry had brought with him, not only his lovely wife, but a bottle of the wonderful, 2007 Merus, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It would appear to me that my 2009, Educated Guess, Napa Valley, Cabernet looked just a tad weak next to the big, brawny Merus. Even my second bottle (which never got opened…what a shock, huh Gerry?) the 2004 Sebastiani, Cherryblock, Sonoma Valley, Cabernet would have had to take a back-seat to the Merus. Lots of black cherry fruit, scents of leather and licorice with a mouth filling texture would make this the wine of many nights.

 

 

 As we looked over the extensive menu at La Viola, our server announced the many interesting and varied specials that were being offered this evening. So many of them sounded so good that we put down our menus and each of us chose both appetizers and entrees from the “specials”. My wife started with the Puree of Leek Soup which was chock full of flavor and served at just the right temperature.

 

 

 

 I had the Insalada Capricciosa partly because it sounded good and partly because I LOVED saying it! Apples, arugula, gorgonzola cheese, roasted peppers, tomatoes and fresh basil in a tangy dressing. It was an excellent salad.

 

 

 

 

 We all decided that Gerry had taken top honors with the appetizers with his selection of the roasted broccoli rabe with sausage and fontina cheese. This one would have made a nice entree. All of the ingredients forming the perfect marriage of meat, veggie and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 The ladies had no trouble making their choice as both of them chose the heart-shaped pink ravioli filled with fresh lobster meat and topped with some nicely cooked shrimp in a lemon garlic butter sauce. Fortunately my wife shared a small portion with me and that helped to explain the satisfied sounds they were making with each bite of this colorful and flavorful dish.

 

 

 

 

 Gerry found the perfect piece of meat to really bring out the flavors of the wine when he decided on the Stuffed Pork Chop. A huge piece of the “other white meat” filled with prosciutta and cheese served with carrots and green beans and covered in a wonderful raisin and zinfandel sauce. I also got a small sample of this one and it was delicious as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 I certainly had no complaints about my entree. It was a wonderful piece of red snapper in a white wine and peach sauce served with shrimp and resting comfortably on the bed of carrots and green beans. The flavors were excellent with the thinly sliced peaches proving to go perfectly with the tender white fish.

 Throughout the meal, the service was attentive without being overbearing and the restaurant seemed to fill very well for an early Sunday evening.

 

 

 Although the portions were enough that all of us were contentedly happy to pass on dessert, we had to reconsider when Gerry revealed that he had also brought with him a bottle of the 2008 Kapcsandy, Vino del Sol, State Lane Vineyard, Dessert Wine. This one was purchased during our visit with Lou Kapcsandy last year in Napa. This is a Port-style dessert wine made from merlot, cabernet, cab franc and petite verdot and has the aroma of baked figs, plums, warm bread and sweet spices. In the mouth it explodes with peaches, cherries, plums and apricots with a dash of honey. It went perfectly with our desserts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Once again the girls chose the same item, Tartufo, sweet Italian ice cream housed in a chocolate ball and coated with nuts.

 

 Gerry and I shared a Dark Side of the Moon, which was not a Pink Floyd CD, but rather a sumptuous piece of chocolate cake with alternating layers of dark chocolate and creamy chocolate mousse. Both dishes were perfectly complimented by the great dessert wine we shared.

 

 

La Viola had passed the test and Gerry and Joann have found the spot for their son’s Rehearsal Dinner in december. It’s quite possible that a return visit to La Viola may well be in the cards prior to the end of the year. It was that good!

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