Archive for the Food and Wine Lists Category


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Wine Dinners with tags , on March 22, 2011 by ballymote

 It’s that time of year again!! About 40 South Jersey Restaurants will be taking part in this week-long celebration of food known as South Jersey Restaurant Week. Each restaurant will be offering 3 and 4 course dinners ranging in price from $25.00 to $35.00. It’s a wonderful opportunity to sample some of the incredible dishes that local chefs are putting out every night. A complete list of the participating restaurants can be found at

 Reviews of many of these restaurants can be found in the column to the right of this post. Some may even extend the offerings through the entire weekend. Lots of these dining spots are BYOB so grab yourself a nice bottle of wine and take advantage of all the great food deals to be found during this special week that salutes the best of South Jersey.


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine with tags , on February 24, 2011 by ballymote


Everyone loves lists. Okay, maybe I should just state that I love lists, and since I haven’t posted a list in quite some time, it’s only right that today be the day. Here is a list of my favorite wine regions. It’s not perfect because it doesn’t account for specific regions of a state or country which may be the reason that they have been included. I will try to reflect a bit on regions in the narrative.

                          TOP TEN FAVORITE WINE REGIONS

 1. CALIFORNIA – In my estimation, no other state or country offers the quality and variety found in California. From outstanding Cabernets in all price ranges to soft, fragrant Pinot Noirs that rival the best of Burgundy, California sits at the top of my list. A visit to Napa/Sonoma, or any of the other fantastic wine-growing areas is like a pilgrimage to Mecca for any true wine-lover.

 2. FRANCE –   Many would have these first two regions reversed but to me, I have to slide France just under the Golden State. I love the wines of Bordeaux, Chateau Neuf du Pape, the Cotes du Rhone and many other smaller appellations. Quite often my wallet prevents me from truly knowing the joys of Burgundy but, overall, there is much to enjoy in the wines of France which on the nose and the palate reveal so much about the place from whence they came.

 3.  Oregon – This one made the list almost exclusively because of their Pinot Noirs. For those of you not familiar with this grape, it offers a much softer taste than most red wines. The best of these have very fragrant bouquets of lavender and soft cherries and they are a red wine that will go well with lots of different dishes including both chicken and fish.

4. SPAIN – Don’t have a lot of money but you wanna drink some good wine? No country in the world currently produces more value wines than Spain. For less than $10.00 you can find something good to drink every night for months without repeating the same wine twice. It’s fun to just experiment with these wines and the Tempranillo, Monastrell, Garnacha and combinations of each of these grapes create some tasty and food friendly wines.

 5. ARGENTINA – Don’t you dare cry for Argentina. They have taken the Malbec grape which originated in the Cahors region of France and brought it to a new level. This wine is a favorite of several of our dinner companions and it’s always a welcome addition with a wide variety of foods.

 6. AUSTRALIA – A few years ago the Land Down Under may have held even a higher spot on my Top Ten Regions List. It may have slipped a little but it’s hard not to enjoy a well made Shiraz. The wines of Oz are full of deep rich flavors and they are diversified enough so that you can find excellent cabernets and pinot noirs. My favorite wine of all time is STILL the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia.


7. ITALY – So many fine wines from so many regions of Italia. Anyone who has ever visited Italy returns with rave reviews on how good the simple wines were that accompanied each meal. Back home we can choose a simple Chianti or the more regal Barolo’s or Brunello’s. You can spend a little or you can spend a lot but the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes shine with the rich sauces and pasta dishes that seem to have been made for these wines.


   8. GERMANY – I’ve never been crazy about white wines but whenever the situation calls for a crisp white wine, Germany is my region of choice. The Reisling grape is done to perfection in a couple of the hilly regions of Germany. The sweet apple, pear, and peach flavors that shine through a quality Spatlese and blend with the ever-present minerality is the perfect accompaniment to lots of lighter foods.

 9. WASHINGTON – Sneaking into my Top Ten is the third state known for its wine production, Washington. This area is home to some top-notch producers who make some very nice cabernets and red blends. Solid, if not spectacular wineries such as Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle provide excellent choices at very reasonable prices.

 10. NEW ZEALAND – The Kiwis are known primarily for their zesty Sauvignon Blanc, a great summer sipper for those of you who enjoy white wines. Personally, I skip the whites and search for some of the Pinot Noirs and exciting red blends that hail from this area. They don’t get a lot of press but several areas of New Zealand are producing some first-class wines on a regular basis.

There you have it. My Top Ten Wine Regions, subject to change as the years go by.


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Mayo Family Wines Reserve Tasting Room, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , on October 14, 2010 by ballymote

The Mayo Family Wines Reserve Tasting Room in Kenwood offers a unique seven course wine and food pairing. Do not confuse this with their regular wine tasting room in Glen Ellen. The Mayo Family wines aren’t in the same class with our first three visits but our group was looking forward to this pairing and we arrived at the Sonoma location eager to enjoy our 1:00 P.M. appointment.

The cost for the Food and Wine pairing is $35.00 per person and the fee is waived if a certain amount of wine is purchased. Each course is prepared by Chef Max Porter-Elliott.

Max is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and his skills at matching food and wine are evident in the pairings. We started with Crab Salad, Whole Grain Mustard with Pumpkin Seed Brittle, this was matched with a  2006 Brut, Laurel Hill Vineyard, Sonoma and the match was spot on. Course #2 was Marin French Cheese Cous Cous Pearls San Andreas Gratin paired with a tangy 2007 Voignier, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley. It was scrumptious. This was followed with AllSpice Apple Butter Sweet Potato Pork Dumpling accompanied by a 2008 Grenache, Judge Family Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Many of our group chose this as their favorite pairing. The tasting proceeds at a comfortable pace and Chef Max entertains us with stories of his past life back on the East Coast. The 4th course is an O’Neil Farms Squash Truffle Ravioli Sherry Apple with a 2008 Zinfandel, Ricci Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The majority of us thought this zinfandel was the best of the wines served.

Next up we enjoyed the Smoked Pumpkin Soup, Chili Oil, Star Anise and Creme Fraiche served with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Delaney Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. The next course was the Fruit Foie Preserve Fig Honey Compote which was paired with a wine which just recently was awarded Best of Class at the 2010 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the 2007 Meritage, Los Chamizal Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. This was an excellent wine. Max shared with us that the final course was actually created by his girlfriend, so naturally, all of us declared this one to be our favorite just to see how he would handle the situation. We concluded with Cardomom Spiced Brioche Pears Pomogranate alongside a 2008 Gewurstraminer, Kunde Ranch, Sonoma Valley.

It was a nice substitute for a lunch-time burger and Max proved to be not only a very good chef but a personable guy who also gave us a great dinner recommendation in Sonoma. A very enjoyable visit and I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone planning a trip to Napa/Sonoma.


Posted in Favorite Wines, Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by ballymote

When it comes to choosing my Top Five wines of the past year a couple come quickly to mind. A few others take some thought. After giving it that needed amount of thought I have reduced a year of joyous wine consumption down to a quintet of memorable elixirs. The first three I mention were all extremely enjoyable and helped make either a dinner or get together a special event.

Coming in at #5 of my best wines was the 2007 AUTEUR, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. I had this during a great meal at Blackbird in Collingswood, NJ back in March. Here is what I wrote in my post at that time “2007 Auteur, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. Everything I had heard about Auteur wines said they needed lots of time open to reflect their true flavors. I uncorked this bottle on Friday morning and left it in the fridge until it was time to go to dinner. The wine was a dark ruby color, much darker than most Pinots and actually drank more like a cabernet. Great, intense flavors that gave a rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish. It’s the kind of wine that you wish you had a case of in reserve.”

Checking in at #4 on my best wines list was the 2005 Larkmead, Oakville Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon. This one was enjoyed up in New York at the Marriott Hotel with Jerry and JoAnne B. prior to dinner at Tribeca Grill back in November. This is what I posted at that time “The Larkmead showed much better and although Parker gave it a 92, I think all of us thought it deserved higher. I’d give this one a 94. It’s not quite as full-bodied as the O’Shaughnessy but it felt more balanced and the flavors were crisp and precise with undertones of rich spices and blackberries. 

Numero 3 was another classic that helped make dinner at Gilmore’s in West Chester a Top 5 Dining Experience. The 2000 Phelps INSIGNIA was a first glass drinking treat that evening and prompted these words in that late March post “The  Insignia seemed to me to be underrated by the experts (94 WS, 91 Parker). It displayed class and strength and loads of smooth plum and blackberry flavors that could stand up to any steak or lamb dish. I’d compare this to any other Cabernet blend in the $100 price range.”

It was a tough decision on these next two wines because both of them were true highlights. After much soul-searching, my number 2 wine was the 2006 Mollydooker, VELVET GLOVE. This wine was so special I devoted an entire post to singing it’s praises. Here is what I wrote at that time. 

The Wine Advocate scored the 2006 Mollydooker Velvet Glove 99 points and Wine Spectator bestowed it with 97. Yesterday afternoon, with my wife Kathy and our friends Jerry B. and his wife, Joann,  we popped and poured this Aussie powerhouse. They had often teased me that I had a phobia about opening my “good stuff” and that one day, when I was gone, they would be toasting me with all of the bottles that I had never opened through the years. Well, the Velvet Glove will no longer be one of those wines.

Much too intense for even the heartiest of red meats we sipped this delicious wine with some cheese and crackers prior to going to dinner. There may not be another wine anywhere that is so appropriately named. The nose virtually filled the room with a sweet bouquet of berries and lavender before it even hit the glass. The first sip grabs you like, like…ok, I’ll say it, like a velvet glove!.  We all thought it reminded us of those 2001 and 2002 Shirvingtons which were also the handiwork of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. It should be mentioned this blockbuster wine checks in at 16.5% alcohol so be prepared.

Sweet, dark berries of all types, coated in vanilla cream and spice, fill the palate  with a liquid smorgasbord of flavors. The inky purple juice entices with a rich, smooth texture that is totally in balance and devoid of tannins. The finish lingers while you swirl and again breathe in the garden of intense scents that echo from the glass.  All  too soon the last of the magic elixir flows from the bottle and a special moment comes to an end. Mollydooker makes a great variety of wines but the Velvet Glove is their crowning jewel.

It was a great start to a wonderful evening of food and wine and very fitting that when I finally did open some of my “good stuff” that it was in the company of good friends who appreciate good wine.”

My number #1 wine of the past year, edging out the Velvet Glove only because I did not have the lofty expectations on this one, and at $75.00 a bottle it is only one-third the cost of the Velvet Glove is the 2005 Lillian, White Hawk Vineyard, Syrah. Created by winemaker, Maggie Harrison, former assistant to the legendary Manfred Krankl of cult wine SINE QUE NON, this was to me the ultimate in drinkability for the past year. Purchased from the wine list at Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan, this wine made not only the dinner but the weekend. Here is what I posted at that time. ”  I had always wanted to try this wine having read so many rave reviews on the various wine boards. The fact that winemaker, Maggie Harrison, was the former assistant winemaker at Sine Que Non, which I have also never experienced, added to my excitement. The first taste was magical. Very seldom to you get a wine that delivers everything you are looking for in the beverage you are so passionate about. The Lillian Syrah delivers on so many different levels. It’s dark and brooding and packs so much flavor that you grasp for the right words. If Sarah and Sparky Marquis didn’t already capture the name “Velvet Glove” for their ultra-premium Mollydooker Wine, it would be perfect for the Lillian. It’s like getting hit with a velvet glove. The wine has smoothness down to a science and drinking it with my duck breast entree was like a meal designed in heaven. I’d give this one a 98 and place it #2 on my all-time list of wines. It was, as the sommelier mentioned when pouring at our table, “like drinking Sine Qua Non for one-third the price”.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to finding five more gems like these in the coming year and when I do, all of you will be the first to know.


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Top Restaurant Lists with tags , on July 21, 2010 by ballymote


 It’s a week to enjoy great local produce prepared by some of the best chef’s in all of South Jersey. Pick a restaurant and get out and enjoy. We will be dining at Catelli’s in Voorhees on Saturday evening. I told you I’d get back there SOON!!

Restaurant Address Phone Website
19 Bar and Grille by Vitarelli’s
3800 Haddonfield Road
Andreotti’s Viennese Cafe
1442 Route 70 E.
Cherry Hill
Anthony’s creative italian cuisine
512 Station Avenue
Haddon Heights
Bacio Italian Cuisine
2806 Rt. 130 N.
Barnsboro Inn
699 Main Street
Bistro Di Marino
492 Haddon Ave.
Blackbird Dining Establishment
619 Collings Avenue
39 South Main Street
Medford Village
Cafe Capri
745 Corkery Lane
Caffe Aldo Lamberti
2011 Rt. 70 West
Cherry Hill
Catelli Restaurant
Evesham & Kresson Rd.
Plaza 1000, Main Street
Coriander: an Indian Bistro*
910 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd.
90 Haddon Avenue
Dream Cuisine Cafe
1990 Route 70
Cherry Hill
Elements Cafe
517 Station Ave.
Haddon Heights
Filomena Lakeview
1738 Cooper Street
13 Cross Keys Road
West Berlin
La Campagne
312 Kresson Road
Cherry Hill
La Esperanza*
40 E. Gibbsboro Rd.
Los Amigos*
461 Rt. 73 North
West Berlin
Luna Rossa Biagio Lamberti
3210 Rt 42
Max’s Seafood Cafe
34 North Burlington Street
211 Haddonfield Berlin Rd
Cherry Hill
856 795-1778
841 South Route 73
Swedes Inn
1301 Kings Highway
Ted’s on Main
20 South Main Street
The Chophouse
4 South Lakeview Drive
The Little Tuna
141 Kings Highway
The Robin’s Nest
2 Washington Street
Mount Holly
Tre Famiglia Ristorante
403 N.Haddon Ave.
Villari’s Bistro, Bar & Grill*
800 Rt. 73 & Spring Garden


Posted in A La Maison, BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Dream Cuisine Cafe, Food and Wine Lists, Gilmores Restaurant, Modo Mio Restaurant, Sonata Restaurant with tags on July 15, 2010 by ballymote

It was my original intention that this list would be titled “My FIVE Best Restaurants for the Past Year”. The problem with that was that two of my selections would have only fit that title on the first visit with the second visit falling somewhat short of the first. I decided on the current title because I really did want to include those two eateries because the original visit was outstanding. Keep in mind, therefore, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of any of these restaurants but simply a reflection on MY experience while dining there. The five are in no particular order as it is tough enough to select five from a group of 60 without listing them in order. Here they are then, my TOP FIVE DINING EXPERIENCES IN THE PAST YEAR:

 A LA MAISON    53 W. Lancaster Ave. Ardmore, PA 19003

 The food and service on our visit here were outstanding. It was just a few days before Christmas with plenty of snow on the ground but the mood inside was warm and inviting. Our server, Fabien, was a guy who knew his job and did it well. Great stemware for our wines, a first class menu and great conversations including a nice chat with owner Darlene Boline-Moseng made dinner at A La Maison an easy choice for my Top Five.

GILMORE’S            133 E. Gay Street      West Chester, PA 19380

Gilmore’s is a BYOB that makes just about every “foodie’s” Top 5 List in the Delaware Valley. That’s the kind of high expectations that I had prior to our visit and fully expected it might be a letdown. It was NOT. We had the second of the two nightly servings at 8:30 on a Saturday night in March and words just don’t adequately describe the outstanding food and service. Visit my review on this website and just look at how tempting the food photos are. I don’t think any restaurant I visited in the past year did as good a job as Gilmore’s at food presentation. This one was an easy choice for my TOP FIVE.

MODO MIO        161 W. Lehigh Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19123

Located in the shadow of the Piazza at Schmidt’s in Brewerytown, Modo Mio is one of the two BYOB’s that did not perform as well on the second visit as it did on the first. In the case of both, the first was so enjoyable that they qualified for the list despite a less than stellar encore performance. Tha first visit last March, following a day at the Franklin Institute, was absolutely terrific. Our server, Maher was top-notch and Chef Peter McAndrews was on the top of his home-style Italian food game. Obviously, another visit to this popular Philly BYOB is required to clarify the culinary confusion. Still, it was so nice it qualified for my TOP FIVE.

DREAM CUISINE CAFE    1900 Marlton Pike (Rt. 70) Cherry Hill, NJ 08003

It was a dark and stormy night last October when we ducked into the somewhat difficult to find Dream Cuisine Cafe tucked into the shadows of the Tuscany Marketplace on Rt. 70 in Cherry Hill. The brightly lit room broke the gloom of the weather and Chris, our enthusiastic server helped make the setting just right. We had some great wines to go with Chef/Owner Vincent Fanari’s creative dishes  and all in all it was just a perfect evening. It was so good that we were anxious to bring other friends to share what we had found. Unfortunately, the second visit was not quite up to par but, that October meal still qualified as a bona fide entry for my TOP FIVE.

SONATA           1030 N. American St.    Philadelphia, PA  19123

This Northern Liberties gem was unknown to me until I found some reviews on it while looking for a BYOB located equidistant from 3 different areas. I am so glad I found it because although parking wasn’t easy, the food and ambiance were first class. Chef Mark Tropea does a fantastic job of creating flavorful dishes that sound good on the menu and taste even better on the plate. This is another BYOB that didn’t take a lot of thought in making my TOP FIVE for the year.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Food and Wine Lists, Top Restaurant Lists with tags , , , , , on July 5, 2010 by ballymote

It’s no easy task to reduce a year of great dishes down to the FIVE BEST. I went back through each post and mentally re-tasted each yummy morsel. There were several that stood out but most of the top five were ones I have often thought about during the year.  Interestingly, the final list is composed of one soup, two appetizers and two entrees. There were certainly other items that I hated to leave off the list but five seemed to make more sense than doing ten.

Here then, in no particular order, are the TOP FIVE BEST THINGS I HAVE EATEN IN THE PAST YEAR:

The CRAB CHOWDER at The FAYETTE STREET GRILLE.  There is nothing quite as tasty as a well done crab or lobster chowder and the one offered at the Conshohocken eatery is absolutely first class. Generous portions of crab interspersed with potato and veggies and tantalizing spices made this one an easy choice for the list. Hopefully, a return visit for more of this scrumptious soup is not too far away.

The LOBSTER RISOTTO at TISHA’S FINE DINING in Cape May, NJ. This appetizer was so good that the picture on the left is NOT that of the dish I had. I got so caught up in the taste-tempting creation that I neglected to take a photo of it. This is just a “losbster risotto” pic from the internet. For the real thing, you have to head down the shore….but not yet. Tisha’s has moved from their “on the beach” location to the Washington Street Mall and their much anticipated re-opening is scheduled for July 14th.

The LOBSTER MAC n CHEESE at RITZ SEAFOOD in Vorhees, NJ and the LOBSTER MAC n CHEESE at the BLACK LAB in Phoenixville. It may just be that it’s hard to NOT make a great lobster mac n cheese. But both of these restaurants do a fantastic job of creating an appetizer that you wish was your entree. They were both delicious and both worthy of a spot on my Top Five.

The CHICKEN INDORATI at LoBIANCO’S in Collingswood, NJ. This place is one of our favorites as it is consistently good. This dish with the truffled potatoes, baby spinach and glazed fontina atop the perfectly done and full of flavor chicken breast was a perfect example of why our friends thoroughly enjoy this star of the Collingswood culinary scene.

As I mentioned in my review, the dish pictured here may not totally stir your taste buds but it’s truly a case of looks being deceiving. The HOMEMADE POTATO GNOCCHI with CRABMEAT which is one of the signature dishes of Chef Alex Capasso, who presides over the kitchen at BLACKBIRD RESTAURANT, one of the shining stars on the Collingswood, NJ dining scene. The dish is just perfect. Light, great flavors, perfectly seasoned and available as both an appetizer and an entree. You can also chop six dollars off the price by skipping the crabmeat but you do NOT wanna do that.

There they are, the FIVE BEST, my apologies to a few others that came so close. I’m looking forward to another year of great food and great wines.


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 29, 2010 by ballymote

This will probably come as a tremendous shock to many of you but the S. Pellegrino List of the Top 100 Restaurants in the World for 2010 has just been released and there are none in the Philly/South Jersey area.  That’s a little embarrassing when you consider that there are THREE restaurants in Russia that made the list!

I have to confess I have never been to ANY of them. I guess my wallet keeps me firmly grounded in our local BYOB’s, and that’s ok with me, too. Here are a few little tidbits from the list. El Bulli, in Spain has held down the top spot for the past four years. It has now been knocked out of first place  by a restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark called NOMA which last year, finished third. Rene Redzepi is the Chef at Noma which means “Nordic food”. El Bulli is now second while The Fat Duck, in the town of Bray, outside London, holds third place.

The highest ranked American restaurant on the list is Alinea in Chicago.  The biggest climb by any restaurant on the list was made by Daniel, the New York eatery jumped from 41st  last year to 8th place in the latest rankings. The French Laundry, which many consider the USA’s top dining spot fell 20 places this year from 12th to 32nd.

It’s really hard to see how anyone could actually compile a list like this as it is all so subjective. Everyone loves a good list though, so enjoy this one for what it’s worth. Start phoning now and within the next decade you might be able to book a table at one of these culinary temples that can be found listed here.