Archive for Blackbird Restaurant


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 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 Blackbird Restaurant, BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2010 by ballymote

Blackbird Restaurant in Collingswood, New Jersey is one of the highest rated restaurants in South Jersey. It’s hard to believe I had never been there but prior to tonight, I had never been there. That is no longer true. My wife, Kathy and myself along with boyhood friends, Ange C. and Val S. and their lovely wives, Arlene and Patty descended on this gourmet establishment prepared to be as critical as possible while still keeping an open mind. First of all, it was nice to see everyone.  It’s always a great time to get together with these four and listen to Val’s stories from both the distant and the recent past. As usual, the Crown Prince of DooWap did not disappoint.

The six of us had some nice wines and we were all hoping our choices would compliment the food we were about to enjoy.

I had brought the 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. Val had brought the 2006 Luigi Bosca, Single Vineyard, Malbec. This was an excellent wine with a soft bouquet of ripe black fruits. One taste and you knew this was a special Malbec with smooth texture and huge flavors of fruit, leather and even some caramel notes;just a very nice wine from Mendoza, Argentina. Ange brought another outstanding wine, the 2005 Collazzi, Toscana. This Super Tuscan was rich and alluring with deep berry flavors mingled with tobacco and cedar and a nice compliment to our meal. As we drank we listened to our waitress, Noel describe the “specials” of the evening.  I started with a Frissee Salad, with baby tomatoes and topped with goat cheese and it was delicious although I found the greens somewhat difficult to swallow due to their texture. It had great flavor, though and it might have my throat’s fault so let’s say that was my problem. Patty had the Thai Chicken Spring Roll, spicy mustard and chili sauce. They looked scrumptious and had it not been a Lenten Friday I think this would have been my choice to start the meal.

When you are the Crown Prince of Doo Wop you expect someone to hand feed you your food and thru the years of their marriage Val has carefully trained Patty to provide this service for him. In the picture you can see how this training has paid off. Now if he could just find someone to hold the napkin for him he could totally concentrate on the eating portion of the act. By the way, Val DOES chew his own food without assistance, yet.

Although I don’t have a picture, two people in our party had the Prince Edward Island Mussels and described the juice as “phenomenal” and requested extra bread for dipping. Regrettably, I never acquired a taste for mussels.

When the “specials” were being recited I had focused on the “Diver Scallops”. When it came time to order it was announced that the “diver scallops” were gone, finished, outta here, consumed by hungry diners whose only claim to fame was that they had arrived at Blackbird prior to us. You would think that would be bad news as this was going to be my entree. As it turned out, this was fantastic news because this forced me to change my choice of entree.

I will admit that the Handmade Potato Gnocchi, fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil sauce topped with lump crabmeat pictured here does not look like the finest meal you have ever seen. Don’t be fooled though, it was absolutely FANTASTIC and one of the best tasting entrees I have had since I started this blog. The flavors are incredible, the sauce, sheer perfection and the crab meat sweet and tender. I am so grateful to the diners who chose the Diver Scallops before we arrived!

 Pictured above are some of the other entrees enjoyed by our party. The Sauteed Gulf Shrimp, olive and mascarpone, fregola sarda and saffron sauce. The Pan Roasted Atlantic Salmon, French green lentils with smoked bacon and Provencal sauce,  and the Coriander and Rice Encrusted Tilapia, avocado salad, sweet and sour sauce with seafood wontons. The only real comment I remember is that my wife, Kathy felt the salmon was very good but not on a par with the salmon she had last week at LoBianco’s which she had described as “the best salmon she had ever had”. It’s tough to improve on that! Val ordered what I would have probably ordered had this not been Lent.

The Wagyu Beef Burger, applewood smoked bacon, carmelized shallots, morel mushrooms, veal sauce with truffled pom frittes. It looked delicious and I did manage to steal a fry while Val was deep into another one of his stories. It’s probably Patty’s fault that she was busy with her own dinner and didn’t find the time to feed Val a bite or two when he paused from one of his tall tales. I am sure Patty paid a heavy price when she got home for her performance.

Owner/Chef Alex Capasso, pictured here with Blackbird’s Manager (apologies, her name I did not get), and our waitress for the evening, Noel (bubbly, knowledgeable and attentive all evening), is a Collingswood resident and he can be rightly proud of the acclaim that his restaurant has garnered throughout the state. The six of us enjoyed a wonderful evening and will certainly return in the near future.