Archive for 2006 Stefania Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah

ARUGULA – BYOB

Posted in Arugula Restaurant, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by ballymote

It’s always nice to discover a new BYOB in the area. It’s even nicer when the place is within walking distance. Arugula opened recently in the same location once occupied by San Miguel, a Mexican eatery which we all liked a lot prior to it moving to Voorhees and eventually closing. Six of us converged on the neighborhood’s newest dining spot last night to give it a try. First impression on entering was that the room looks nice. Bright green walls, lots of wall decor and an open, uncluttered look to the room and it’s approximately 50-60 seats. The service was friendly and Andrea, our server, was enthusiastic and helpful (I am excluding her photo because I took a picture of her that wasn’t one of my best). A first glance at the menu revealed some interesting choices in both the appetizer and entree sections. There were lots of tempting Italian dishes and even a few specials.  We had our wines with us and a lot to talk about as four of us had just returned from Napa and the other two were just back from a vacation in Germany.

Joe and Carol were drinking a 2009 Folie a Deux, Menage a Trois, a red blend that I often tell my kid’s to buy when they can’t think of anything else (knowing they are smart enough to remember a Menage a Trois). I had the 2006 Stefania, Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah and although I have enjoyed this same wine in the past I think this was the best I have seen it showing. It was delicious and my wife, Kathy, agreed. Jerry and Sue quite fittingly had a German wine, a Dornfelder, Rheinhessen, low alcohol content and much on the sweet side of the wine universe.

Let me start with the only two flaws we found in the meal, both minor, so that I can concentrate on the multitude of good points. We all ordered the Harvest Soup, a pumpkin, squash brew that sounded enticing. It must have sounded just as good to many others because we were informed that they were all out of the soup. The only other “quibble” was that Carol’s pork was too salty. Now for the good stuff.

left to right…my Crab Crusted Diver Scallops, pan blackened, sweet roasted pepper sauce, arugula, grilled corn and bacon. Scallops were perfect, the blackening added great flavor and who doesn’t like bacon? Joe’s Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella, pan seared with smoked tomato, baby arugula and a balsamic fig reduction. He loved it. Jerry and Sue split the Antipasto di Arugula, an assortment of cured meats, cheese, olives, fruits and vegetables. The plate was fresh with an interesting variety of items that they both enjoyed.

Although the picture on the left does not do it justice, Carol’s Eggplant Parmigiano, crispy white eggplant, sheep’s milk ricotta, tomato puree, basil pesto cream, freshly shaved prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano, was deemed delicious. Jerry had the Pear Salad in the middle and Kathy went with her usual Prince Edward Island Mussels, braised fennel, pancetta in a spicy tomato sauce with grilled bread. She thought the sauce had a nice tangy bite to it and the mussels were properly prepared. We were off to a good start and it was now time for our entrees.

I went back and forth on a couple of tempting items until I finally, with prompting from Andrea, chose the Capellini e Granchio, Colossal Crab Meat in a blush wine sauce with basil, garlic, and imported plum tomatoes over house made capellini. I loved the sauce, it had a slight sweetness and the dish was very good. I might point out, and I trust I am not being picky, but the dish was incorrectly named as the pasta was definitely NOT Capellini. If this was “angel hair” pasta then the angel’s have put on some weight recently.

On the left, Joe and Sue went with one of the “Specials” the Orange Roughy, pan seared served over pumpkin risotto with baby spinach and a hazelnut brown butter sauce. Jerry ordered the other “special”, the Chestnut Floured Papardelle with braised rabbit ragu, shitake mushrooms and butter nut squash.

On the left Kathy’s 14 oz. New York Strip with broccoli rabe, purple and sweet potato hash with bacon and caramelized onions in a chianti syrup. It looked good and tasted better. Carol had the Pork Tenderloin Medallions, pan-seared with a dried-cherry-red wine sauce, mushroom bacon risotto, spinach and baby carrots. She liked the dish minus the over salted pork.

When we had finished our dinner we were informed that our desserts would be comped as an apology for running out of the Harvest Soup. It’s gestures like this that separate the people who know how to run a restaurant from the pretenders. It made a great first impression and, along with the quality of the food, assured a return visit.

Carol had the Chocolate, Banana, Peanut Butter Cake, a tasty little low cal item (cough). Two of the group had the Raspberry Cheese Cake, which I snuck a bite of and give my seal of approval.

Sue topped off her meal with the inappropriately named Chocolate-Chip Cannoli which was totally devoid of chocolate chips. It could be that they are hiding somewhere in the kitchen with the capellini. I had the Pumpkin Tiramisu. It was nice and light but I think, given the choice, I’d stick with the original Tiramisu.

Overall, it was a very nice experience at Arugula. They feature a menu with so many tempting entrees it can be difficult to settle on just one. My guess would be, with the large local population here in Washington Township, it will quickly become difficult to secure weekend reservations once the word gets out. That is why I hope that Chefs Nicholas Tomasetto and Stefan Gervasi remember all the nice things I just wrote about their new venture and keep that table for six reserved with our name on it!

FAYETTE STREET GRILL – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Fayette Street Grill, Philly BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by ballymote

A spur of the moment, last-minute decision, and a little luck in obtaining a table on a Saturday night, landed six of us at the Fayette Street Grill in Conshohocken for an 8:30 reservation. My wife, Kathy, and I, along with Joe B. and his wife, Carol joined our friends JoAnn and Gerry who drove from their home in Oaks, PA, at this bustling BYOB in Philly’s western suburbs. We all arrived early and, since we had been blessed with another 72 degree day of warmth and sunshine on the first day of Spring,  strolled through the town which is home to several good BYOB’s including Blackfish. Once inside the tiny bistro we quickly acclimated ourselves to the noise level which approached that of last night’s Bonefish Grill.

Our charming waitress, Kim,  recited the evening’s specials and reminded us this was another of those “3 courses for a certain price” places. At Fayette Street Grill those three courses are a starter, and entree and a dessert, priced at $34.00.

As our wines were opened I was anxious to try my very first bottle of a Stefania wine. F Scott and Zelda, over on the NJ Foodies blog, are huge fans of these wines and I had just purchased from an online seller, six bottles of the 2006 Stefania, Eaglepoint Ranch, Syrah. I am also awaiting a case of other Stefania wines which I am splitting with Gerry B. and John G.

In addition to the Stefania Syrah we also had the 2005 Shirvington Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, the 2006 Luigi Bosca, Single Vineyard, Malbec, Argentina, and the always reliable, regardless of the vintage, 2004 Whitehall Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon. Our server delivered some additional wine glasses and we studied the menu as we taste tested all of our wines. I really liked the Stefania as it revealed itself with time in the glass. Nice, subtle flavors as the winemaker seems intent on letting the beauty of the grapes shine through without a lot of interference. Kathy thought it was too simple, Gerry and Joe thought it had a lot of complexity. The Shirvington was at the other end of the spectrum, big, bold, in your face, blackberries and dark mocha with that intensity found in Aussie wines. We all agreed it was a great wine for drinking on its own but no match for most foods. The Louigi Bosca Malbec was reviewed in-depth on the Blackbird post when Val brought it that night. Joe really likes Malbec and I had suggested he might like this one. He agreed, as we all did, that this was an excellent example of what good Malbec can be. Everyone enjoyed the reliable Whitehall Lane Cab. I think it was Kathy’s favorite.

As nine o’clock approached the restaurant began to empty a little and conversation became easier. We all ordered our starters and Joe and I chose the Crab Chowder. It was OUTSTANDING. The creamy broth was nothing short of perfect and filled with lots of crab and some potato and other good stuff that made this an incredible offering. Joe was in total agreement; this was something special.

Joann had the Baked Crab Dip with spinach, peppers and old bay served with crisp rusks. Carol had the Phyllo wrapped Baked Brie over field greens with raspberry sauce and toasted almonds. Kathy had the Mixed Field Greens with dried cranberries, blue cheese, toasted sunflower seeds and balsamic dijon vinaigrette.

Gerry had the clams which were one of the evening specials. I am not a fan of clams or mussels but I thought his choice looked great and the sauce looked inviting . It appeared that he thoroughly enjoyed them.

There were several items on the entree portion of the menu that drew my eye but, in the end, I chose the chicken. Several of the fish items sounded great but, after a night of fish on the day prior, I was craving meat.

Kathy, Carol and I all had the Grilled Supreme of Chicken with a Thai Peanut Glaze, Grilled Scallions, Roasted Asparagus and Steamed Basmati Rice. I thought the chicken was tasty and loved the Thai glaze as it mixed with the rice. Personally, there is something about the bone-in chicken that disturbs me and takes away from the total enjoyment. Carol felt the same way.

Joe selected my second choice, the Root Beer Glazed Center Cut Pork Chop, with Sauteed Green Beans and Warm Potato Salad. I had a little piece and found the pork very good but was slightly disappointed in the sauce as perhaps I was expecting a mouthful of Hires Root Beer while this was just the most subtle of hints of root beer. Good thing I am not a chef, I’d kill the taste of anything I cooked with my sauces.

 Jerry has never met a shrimp dish he hasn’t liked so it was easy for him to make his selection. He chose the Sauteed Gulf Shrimp with Julienne Bell Peppers, Caper Berries and Lemon Butter Sauce with Basmati Rice. He seemed to totally enjoy the dish and it certainly looked appealing.

Joann chose the Pan Seared Filet Mignon served over Garlic Roasted Mashed Potato, with Red Onion Jam and Bordelaise Sauce. She gave Jerry a small portion of her filet, I guess because she believes that man can not live on shrimp alone, but she really liked the larger portion that she saved for herself. The wines were all tasting good, the conversation providing lots of laughter, and we topped off our meal with some outstanding desserts.

Although each of the items above probably deserves its own picture but what you see  pictured above, going clockwise, is the Vanilla Infused Creme Brulee Bread Pudding, the Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream and Raspberry Sauce, Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with Chocolate Drizzle and The Dark Side of the Moon Chocolate Cake. I didn’t hear anyone at the table complaining about their choice and I know my Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream was the perfect ending to a very good meal.

Fayette Street Grill only seats about 40 diners so reservations on a weekend are a must. It’s an excellent BYOB in an area with quite a few good BYOB’s and you should give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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