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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.


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by ballymote

Anyone who has ever visited my blog more than once will know my answer to that question. The purpose of this post, though, is to report on an interesting exchange on this topic that took place some time ago on a website called “Chowhound”. Incidently, Chowhound is a great source of information on restaurants in every geographical local in the world. If you are not already familiar with it, I would strongly urge you to check it out and even become a contributor.

Here is the post from Chowhound that inspired this topic. Below it are responses to the original post. It’s something to think about.

Sommelier snobbery – why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel?

Last week, I was at a highly rated restaurant in San Francisco. An elderly woman asked the wine steward if they had white zinfandel.

In a snobbish tone, he said no, they don’t have it on the list, but there were French and German whites that he could suggest. He then brought her tastes of a reisling and a chenin blanc, which she refused, and then ordered a mixed drink. Then she said to her husband quietly: “I just want a smooth, simple, fruity glass of wine…that riesling tasted a bit like oil!”

When I got up to go the restroom later that night, I ran into the wine steward. I asked him about the white zin incident, to which he responded: “No doubt, white zin would sell well here, but I would rather be caught dead than to walk through my dining room and seeing Beringer White Zin all over the place. I don’t want to work in that kind of restaurant. To which I said:

“So you want to work in a restaurant where there is a possibility that your guests aren’t getting what they want because of YOUR preferences?”

He replied: “It’s not just my preferences. It’s my reputation. The wine industry is really close. Word will get out if I put white zin on my list. That is seen as a negative when I look for my next job.”

To that response, I let out a painful laugh. Because I realized that this “Sommelier Snobbery” is the standard. And that there are probably tons of guests at the nicest restaurants around the world who are doing the same thing.

Aren’t restaurants in the hospitality industry, after all?

and the replies:

“Lots of people started their wine odyssey with White Zin or, if you’re older, Mateus Rose. Nothing wrong with it, but IS kind of like ordering a Ballpark Frank at Le Bernardin. I think the issue is that restaurants can’t, and shouldn’t be all things to all people.”

“I was going to say something similar. I don’t expect Gary Danko to put fried chicken on the menu just because a few customers might prefer it.

This restaurant has a finite amount of space in their cellar. If they put a white Zin on the wine list, they would have to take off a vintage BdB, say.

Some Italian restaurants use a 100% Italian list. Would they sell CA Cabs if they were on the list? Sure. But lists reflect the restaurant.”

“No problem with what the restaurant or sommelier did here. The restaurant’s food, wine, ambience, price, etc, are all targeting a specific market or customer profile. That is their choice. Our choice as consumers is to decide whether a particular place is for us.

The sommelier acted professionally trying to find a substitute. And gave a plausible reason for not carrying white zin.”

“Just a heads up to anyone who might be taking Grandma to The French Laundry. I really thought this might be possible (given their extreme service level), so I checked. According to their head sommelier they DO NOT offer White Zin, even on request. They have had Bandol and Sancerre Rosé by-the-glass, and other sweeter wines on their bottle list. He’s not there 100% of the time, but he said he didn’t recall any requests for it either.

I personally think that White Zin is certainly a legitimate wine choice for someone who enjoys it. I also think that it would be out of context for a high-end restaurant (where dinner is $240 a person) to carry a wine that retails for $8, which is about the top end for White Zin. I don’t think they serve Bud Light either.”

One of the things I learned from the replies on Chowhound is that White Zin drinkers, in tests by many marketing firms, have been found to be the most loyal to a brand people of any product on the market. Defenders of the white zin fanatics have often said that they will soon discover other wines and white zin will be the reason they got started. Apparently, and understandably, this isn’t true. White zin is manipulated in such a way to create a sweetness that can’t be duplicated in other wines. Once they develop this need for “sweetness” in wine there is virtually nothing to take its place. The wine world offers Sauternes and certain Rieslings and other dessert wines but they just don’t have that “sugar” component that White Zin lovers desire.

Personally, I think White Zinfandel should be removed from the world of wine and redefined under a category called “other beverages made from grapes”. Then, anyone who wanted to order it could do so as long as they understood they had not ordered wine. Anyway, it makes for good controversy