Archive for 2005 Franciscan Magnificat


Posted in Francisco's on the River with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2012 by ballymote

 A Sunday visit to the Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA provided an opportunity for four couples and a lovely, unattached lady to dine at Francisco’s On The River in Washington Crossing. It’s not an area that my wife and I get to very often as it’s quite a drive from where we live in South Jersey. Nonetheless, having weathered a brief summer downpour and watching the sunshine return to the Pennsylvania countryside, Francisco’s location on the Delaware River provided the perfect setting to end what had been a fun day.

 As usual, we had some nice wines to go with our meals. Among them were the (left to right) 2009, Alexander Valley/Dry Creek Valley, Redemption, Zinfandel, the 2008 Henry’s Drive, Dead Letter Office, Shiraz, the 2009 Thumprint, Dry Creek Valley “Climax”, the 2005 Fransiscan, Maginificat and the 2008 Finca Flinchman, Tupungato. All of the wines were excellent and all of them were wines we had enjoyed on previous occasions.

I didn’t get pictures of everyone’s food but some of us started our meal with salads, mine was the Blueberry and Pear Salad topped with Goat Cheese, another was the Crabmeat Salad over spinach and arugula and topped with a raspberry vinaigrette and the other was a Caprese Salad with pesto. All of the salads were fresh and flavorful.

For my entree, I selected from the page of “specials”. This one was called “Bob’s Plate”. It was nice of Bob to share his plate with me and I was happy to see that his plate consisted of scallops, shrimp, salmon and crabmeat (yaaaaaaay, no mussels or clams) served over capellini in a vodka pink sauce. The dish was delicious and the portion large enough that it provided a nice meal on the following night.

 I did not get a picture of the Eggplant Parmegian that two of the wives ordered and raved about, not only the taste and quality but the huge portion. I did get a picture of the Lobster Ravioli, black ravioli stuffed and served in a light lobster sauce.

 One of the guys went with Francisco’s Lasagna, layers of pasta, ricotta cheese and bolognese flavored with porcini mushrooms and smoked bacon and topped with mozzaerella cheese in a red sauce. It appears Francisco knows what he is doing when it comes to turning out a great lasagna dish.

Everyone appeared to enjoy their meal and the long trip was certainly worth it.

I finished off my meal with a dish of Vanilla gelato and chatted with the ladies while my male compatriots moved across the street to partake of their filthy habit of ending a great meal with an obnoxious cigar.

 They make every effort to entice me to join them in their evil ways but I have thus far been able to resist. (as is eveident by the empty chair).

Francisco’s On The River is a fine place for a great meal.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Cafe Loren, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by ballymote

By Sunday evening our group of ten had been reduced to six as Val and Patty S. and Ange and Arlene C. had previous commitments. Fortunately, the remaining sextet were more than capable of combining fine food and good wine at another nice BYOB at the Jersey shore.

Tonight’s choice was Cafe Loren in the heart of Avalon 23rd Street and Dune Ave. The place has been an Avalon institution for 33 years but this was my first visit. The two room dining spot is decorated in calming shades of blue and it’s a perfect beach decor.

We had three nice wines for the evening and our server, Brad, opened them for us as he recited the evening “specials”. Joe B., our Malbec fan, brought with him a 2008 Gascon, Malbec, Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina. This is another in a long line of deep, dark, fruit-driven wines from South America. I went with a 2006 Phillips Hill, Touluse Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, CA. A great wine with fish, the subtle fruits and soft tannins helped me greatly in choosing my entree and appetizer. Jerry B. brought one of the always dependable 2005 Franciscan, Magnificat, Napa Valley. Bright berry flavors, hints of chocolate and licorice and a long, smooth finish  make this a great wine for any setting. As the bread was being passed around the six of us focused on our appetizers.

Carol B. chose the Caesar Salad, and although I thought the presentation looked very nice she found the salad to be bland. So much so that she asked for more dressing which did little to improve the offering. She termed it “disappointing”.

Equally disappointed was her husband, Joe, whose selection of the Jersey Tomato Salad was far from “special”. He pointed out that the tomatoes were very cold and that Jersey tomatoes should never see the inside of a refrigerator. A lifetime of experience in the produce business certainly gives him the credentials to recognize the shortcomings of a tomato salad. Jerry B. had the same salad and also felt it was lacking.

My wife, Kathy and I, fared considerably better with our choices. Our pan-seared scallops with smoked bacon, potato and apple hash, silky cauliflower puree and sherry shallot gastrique was excellent. The scallops were large, perhaps mine slightly larger than hers as she was quick to point out, cooked perfectly and full of flavor. My meal was off to a good start.

JoAnn B. ordered the Wild Mushroom Soup and although I would not have picked that even on a double dare, she thought it was tasty. I’m not sure where I got this mushroom phobia but it seems to be pretty deeply engrained in my head.

When it came time to select our entrees, Kathy, Jerry and Joe were all on the same page with the Sauteed Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, on a bed of sauteed arugula, roasted peppers, shitake mushrooms, grilled asparagus and lemon-caper aioli. The presentation was lovely and the crab cakes nicely done. I heard no complaints from any of the trio of crab lovers.

Carol B. must have not had her fill of steak last night because once again she chose the Grilled Filet Mignon, carmelized onions vegetable and manchego cheese stuffed zucchini, roasted garlic Yukon mashed potatoes and red wine reduction. This was another beautifully presented dish and Carol thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Joann’s entree was the Veal Larousse, medallions of veal in garlic cream sauce, sauteed jumbo lump crab, asparagus tips and olive oil poached potatoes. Another classic looking presentation. Obviously someone in the Cafe Loren kitchen knows something about what a finished dish should look like. Joann emphasized that her sauce was good, the crab was VERY good, but the veal itself was distinctly lacking in flavor. This one came under the heading of “looks can be deceiving”.

I hit a bullseye with my selection of the Black Pepper & Coriander Crusted Wild Scottish Salmon, chick pes & hummus salad and cumin yogurt sauce. It looked so pretty on the dish that I wasn’t sure if I should eat it or have it matted and framed. Fortunately, I decided to eat it and it was delicious. I was very happy with both by appetizer and my entree. I know some of the others were a little disappointed and the prices are a bit on the high side, even allowing for “seashore dining inflation”. Brad, our server for the evening, did a good job, he was attentive and charming. We decided to skip dessert, said goodbye to Joe and Carol who had to head back home, and went to Springer’s in Stone Harbor for ice cream.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Philly BYOB Reviews, Tratorria Milano, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2010 by ballymote

In a recent post on Chowhound, someone asked if there were any good BYOB’s on the “northern fringes” of Philadelphia.  My wine drinking friends, Gerry and John, led me on an excursion tonight to Telford, PA which is an area that has to be regarded as the “northern fringes” of somewhere, if not Philadelphia, then maybe it’s the “northern fringes” of Montana. Geographically, I have no idea where we were but I do know this, Trattoria Milano is worth the search and the drive. From the moment we entered  and were greeted with the aroma of sweet Italian sauces we all knew our appetites were about to be rewarded.

We had brought some great wines with us and usually, by the end of the evening, one or two stand out as clearly the WOTN (wine of the night). This was not the case this evening as all five had qualities that made them favorites. First up, we had the Clark-Claudon 2005 3 Stones, Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s well-balanced and chock full of those great Howell Mountain Cab grapes with a touch of Merlot and Cab Franc to give it that rich texture and smooth finish. Next, was the 2006 Bacio Divino Cellars “Vagabond”. This one is a blend of 67% Syrah and 30 % Cabernet that garnered 91 points from Mr. Parker. It wasn’t bashful and was a fine partner with the rich sauces we were devouring.  John G. made sure that France was represented with a delicious 2003 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape. You can never go wrong with anything from E. Guigal, excellent wines that are true representatives of their appellation without breaking your wine budget. This one had a gorgeous floral bouquet and licorice notes, an enticing old-world blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The 2005 Franciscan “Magnificat” is a strong 92 point meritage blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Lots of plums and cherries folded in dark chocolate and smooth as a baby’s butt. I searched through my growing wine stash and found a 2001 Byron “IO”, Santa Barbara County (thats the letters I and O, not the number 10). This was a wine that Gerry and John raved about several years ago and one of the first Rhone-style wines to come out of Santa Barbara County. It is still considered one of the best PA State Store Chairman’s Selections as it was a $50.00 wine selling at the time for $14.99! And now for the food.

Triana and Diana are two sisters from Ecuador. Triana, a first class server whose welcoming demeanor puts diners at ease and Diana, who is married to the Chef/Owner, Francesco, both do a terrific job. Triana brought us some warm bread and a yummy garlic and oil blend that was a delicious starter. We ordered 3 appetizers for our table and all of them were enjoyable. We had the Mozzarella Fritta, the Caprese and some Bruschetta.

Each of these items was tangy and flavorful and did nothing to spoil our appetite for the enticing entrees we were contemplating. The menu includes pasta, chicken, veal and fish dishes that all sound inviting and it was no small feat to settle on just one.

John decided on the Pasta Ai Frutti di Mare, a tempting dish of clams, mussels, shrimps, scallops and calamari. The dish came with a side salad and John disappeared from the conversation for about 20 minutes as he savored his fruits of the seas between sips of the nectar of the Gods.

Gerry, who had been here on other occasions chose the Vitello Ripieno Alla Valdostana, veal stuffed with ham and fontina cheese in a white wine sauce with artichokes and mushrooms. He was nowhere near as quiet as John as he voiced effusive praise after each forkful of this tasty entree. His veal came with a side of pasta.

I finally decided on the Pollo Alla Fiorentina, chicken breast in a creamy sauce topped with spinach and provolone cheese. The chicken was cooked perfectly, the spinach was excellent and the sauce was the highlight of a great dish. Each bite was a wonderful taste treat. The pasta was really good as well, and all three of us were very impressed with just about everything at Trattoria Milano.

We topped off our meal with some desserts which proved the perfect finishing touch.

Left to right, the temptations pictured above are the Homemade Tiramisu, the Chocolate Truffle Torte and the Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake. All of them were delicious although, my choice of the chocolate tort was a bit too heavy and I think the Tiramisu or cheesecake would have been a better choice

Chef Francesco, a native of Milan, Italy deserves recognition for the great meals he turns out of his kitchen here in the hinterlands of Philly’s northern burbs. This was Gerry’s choice and he certainly picked a great spot. I can’t tell you I will be here often as it is a long way from South Jersey but I would say that if you are anywhere within reasonable distance of 4 North Allentown Rd in Tylersport, PA, and have a sudden craving for exceptionally good Italian food, a visit to Trattoria Milano may be just what will work for you.