Archive for Avalon NJ


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 Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Uncategorized, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by ballymote

This past weekend was our 2nd Annual Avalon Winter Weekend. Nine of us gathered at my brother’s beach house for 48 hours of good food, good wines and great conversation. The participants are the women that my wife has known since her high school days and their husbands. If nine people sounds like it doesn’t divide quite right into an equal number of husbands give yourself bonus points for being a math whiz. One of the women, Kathie M. is not burdened with a member of the brighter sex . The coupled group in  attendance for the decadent weekend included, Gerry and JoAnn B, John and Caryl G. John and Cathy B. and my wife, Kathy and I.

I began with a wine from France and slowly made my way through Napa and Sonoma in California, New Zealand, Spain, Australia and almost the Niagara Peninsula in Canada (a dessert wine that ended up coming back home with me). Instead of notes on each of the wines I will, in the interest of brevity, simply mention a few that stood out for me on their own and as accompaniment to the two BYOB meals we enjoyed on successive nights.

Most of the guests had already arrived when I pulled up to the Avalon house. They were well into the wine and quickly poured me a glass of 2007 Domaine de Soleiades, Vacqueyras. This is a nice, inexpensive Cote du Rhone wine that has a wonderful nose and a pleasant texture that would be very food-friendly. It is an 89-90 point wine.

 There was just time enough to sample Kathie M’s 2006 Annabella Cabernet. It was far from my favorite wine of the week but it was certainly drinkable.I’d give this a respectable 87 points. Just to show you how taste buds differ. Here are two different notes on this same wine.

 Perfect California Cabernet

By Umansky11382490, October 28, 2008
A great midpriced California Cabernet that is both complex and smooth. Loved it!

And on the other hand…

Absolutely Terrible

By bloom2022, March 29, 2008
Extremely vegetal and pretty acidic. So bad not even the new oak can cover it up. Really awful stuff. If you oaked the water from the flower-vase, this is what it would taste like.

 At dinner we went with a line-up of wines that included the 2006 Tudor, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. This was a very nice Pinot that went well with my chicken entrée. I’d give it 91 points. We also had the very drinkable 2004 Whitehall Lane Napa Cabernet. The one thing I have found with Whitehall Lane cabs from any vintage is that they are dependable. They may not be the absolute best but for the price they always deliver true cab flavors and in some years prove themselves to be excellent wines. This one deserved a 91. My personal contribution was the 2004 Elderton, “Ashmeade Single Vineyard “ Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa, Australia. Quite honestly, I didn’t realize this was $65.00 cab as I chose it from a table of wines when my brother offered me to “go pick what you want” over the Christmas holidays. I don’t often think of Australia when I think of cabernet so I was, as were others, pleasantly surprised. This one hit all the right notes from a powerful bouquet of ripe dark fruits to a smooth and lingering finish. I’d have to give it a solid 93. Also present at the Friday evening dinner was a 2004 Capafons – Osso, Sirsell, Priorat a blend of Garnache, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Carinane from Spain. It was deserving of more attention and although I know I tried it I can not accurately reflect on it’s drinkability. Later that evening, as the cigar smokers bundled themselves against the bitter cold and ocean winds to smoke their cigars on the back deck, a 2006 Hesketh, McLaren Vale, “The Usual Suspects”, Shiraz was popped. This was a typical fruit-driven Aussie shiraz and I mean that in a good way as McLaren vale is a shiraz region that we have come to depend on for yummy flavors. It’s a wine you could proudly serve to Kaiser Soze!! Score this one 91 points. I don’t smoke cigars and it was way too cold to join them so I relaxed and read some before bed.

We went to the Avalon Liquor Store on Saturday while the women enjoyed a movie in Wildwood. Gerry B. bought a couple of bottles of Napa cab and we had a nice lunch at Harbor’s Bizarre (don’t ask me why, but I LOVE that name) in Stone Harbor.

At dinner on Saturday evening we had some really nice wines.  John G brought a 2006 Wither Hills, Pinot Noir from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I enjoyed this with my chicken entree and feel it’s worth a solid 90 points. . Gerry B. had a 2004 Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain Cabernet which we had enjoyed at a previous BYOB dinner during the summer. I know Gerry will score this higher but I’d say it checks in at a 91. Another wine that I seem to enjoy more than some others and that is not immune from being maligned (unfairly, I would say) is the 2003 Chateau St. Jean, “Cinq Cepages” which is one of the few wines that seems to be dropping in price every year since claiming the Wine of the Year Award by Wine Spectator Magazine back around the turn of the century. I’m gonna give this a solid 93. We also sipped a wine we all like the 2005 Thumbprint Cellars “Climax” from Sonoma County. The description of this meritage wine on the back label borders on pornographic! I’d have to say 92 for this “Climax”.

There were other wines present that never got opened. Hey, we only had about 38 hours! We did our best. Actually, there were a few sipping wines floating around that I neglected to note. I think one was a Hogue Cabernet. At any rate, it was a lot of fun to enjoy so many wines in the company of good friends. We are all looking forward to a continued downward spiral in the South Jersey real estate market which might make a Third Annual Avalon Winter Weekend a possibility next year!


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 6, 2010 by ballymote

This is a one time only venture away from the field of food and wine to bring you the annual Darwin Awards. For those who don’t know what they are, these are awards given to stupid people who commit crimes that give away their total lack of brains. They are always good for a laugh or two so I am sharing them with you.

This weekend is our annual “WINTER WEEKEND IN AVALON”, this means lots of great wines, great food and two great BYOB reviews coming next week so stay tuned. Until then, amuse yourself with the antics of these would-be criminals and their inability in the crime arena.

The Darwin ‘s are out!!!!
Yes, it’s that magical time of year again when the Darwin Awards are bestowed, honouring the least evolved among us.

Here is the glorious winner:

1. When his 38 calibre revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in  Long Beach , California  would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.

And now, the honourable mentions:

2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef’s claim was approved.

3. A man who shovelled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn’t discovered for 3 days.

5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.

6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer… $15. [If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?]

7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly.. He decided that he’d just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape.

8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, “Yes, officer, that’s her. That’s the lady I stole the purse from.”

9. The Ann Arbour News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast… The man, frustrated, walked away. [*A 5-STAR STUPIDITY AWARD WINNER]

10. When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got much more than he bargained for.. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline, but he plugged his siphon hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever had.

HAPPY NEW YEAR !! a look back, and ahead

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 30, 2009 by ballymote

One of the really nice features of WordPress is that it allows you, as a blogger, to keep track of how many people visit your site, where they come from and what they are reading. It keeps tabs on total visits per day, week and month. It has been very satisfying to me to watch as readership has steadily increased since the first post on the SOUTH JERSEY WINE BLOG  back in early July of this year. As we close out 2009 over 1000 people are reading this blog each month. It is very satisfying to know that so many people find this site worth reading. The article read most this year was my post on September 11th on the victims of 9/11 who lost their lives in the restaurant at the top of the Trade Centers, Windows on the World.

I hope some of my reviews have been helpful to you and have perhaps introduced you to a new favorite BYOB. There is much to be happy about as this year comes to a close.

There is also much to look forward to as well. In 2010 we might see a name change for the blog as I am seriously thinking of renaming it SOUTH JERSEY FOOD AND WINE BLOG to more accurately reflect what is posted here. We will have more great reviews of area restaurants. In fact, coming up very shortly will be a couple of nice places we visit during our Avalon Winter Weekend. Also, there is a trip to Napa/Sonoma scheduled for later in the year and I hope to chronicle my planned visits to some great wineries as the year proceeds.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone, friends, family and strangers who stop by regularly, please remember to leave a comment if something in a post inspires you, to sign up for e-mail notifications by inserting your e-mail address at the bottom of the column on the right. You will then receive notification when new entries are made here.

Wishing all of you a very happy and healthy 2010! Remember, RED WINE PROMOTES GOOD HEALTH !