Archive for NJ


Posted in Bella Sera, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by ballymote

 Bella Sera in Williamstown was formerly Cafe Capri. It shares its name with a brand of low price wines so I was interested to see if the food there was a cut above the Bella Sera wines. Six of us converged on this almost local eatery last Friday evening. The place looks nice with an almost elegant decor and the menus matching the signage. I thought that was a nice touch. We had a round table which is always better for conversing and making everyone feel like we are dining together.

 My wine for the evening was the 2007 Fabre Montmayou, Patagonia, Barrel Select, Malbec. I’ve had this one a few times and it’s a very nice wine from the lowest region of Argentina. Priced at $16 it’s an excellent food wine with rich cherry flavors and hints of pepper and spice.

 Our waitress had a strong Spanish accent which made it difficult to fully understand everything she was saying when it came to announcing the specials for the evening. I was able to make out that they had a Gorgonzola Salad with a balsamic dressing and I ended up choosing that. It was pretty good but I was surprised to see that it was $13.00 which seemed way out of line for where we were dining. We all have to take the blame for the items we chose because each time we would inquire of our server as to the price of one of the “specials” she answered with “I don’t know”. It would seem to me since she had all of the specials listed in great detail on her pad which she read from, they could have added the price in case she was asked. Again, none of us forced the issue so we share the blame.

 For my entree selection I went with the Cappellini Garda, cappalleni pasta served with jumbo lump crab meat, fresh diced tomatoes and arugula in a garlic white wine sauce. The dish was first-class with lots of crab meat swimming in a tangy cause. The portion was large enough that I ate plenty and took the remainder home for another dinner.

 Three in our party of six all chose the Fettucine with Shrimp and Scallops in a Pesto sauce. Lots of rave reviews on this one with my wife insinuating the next night while enjoying what she brought home, that it may have been one of her best meals ever. No faint praise there.

 Sue had the Salmon topped with salsa served with green beans and carrots and a side of garlic mashed potatoes. She liked her fish but her potatoes were not hot at all. She sent them back and moments later received a new order of potatoes no warmer than what she had sent back, although the new dish was quite hot; leading her to say ” a hot plate does not a hot potato make”.  It is just for these brilliant philosophical little gems that we bring her with us. 🙂

                                                                                                                               I had a little room left for dessert and went with a simple peach sherbet served in, naturally, a peach. It was simply peachy. Bella Sera had some hits and a few misses  ( a tad pricey at $100 per couple with tax and tip, and Sue’s potatoes) but it’s a nice place that certainly warrants another visit.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2009 by ballymote

blog pics 013Our Friday night dining group ventured to Mullica Hill, NJ last week to dine at one of my favorite South Jersey BYOB’s, Toscana Grill. It’s a place we have been to often and it never disappoints. This week was no exception. Toscana does have a liquor license but permits patrons to bring their own bottles without a corkage charge. They feature wines from the local Heritage Vineyard. My wine for the evening was the Kaiken Ultra Malbec. I picked up several bottle of this surprisingly tasty wine at a “blowout” sale at Canal’s on the Black Horse Pike across from the Hamilton Mall for $9.09. BLOG PICS 016The wine usually sells for anywhere from 15 to 20 dollars depending on where you find it. I had purchased previous bottles for $15.99. It has a wonderful nose and the dark fruit flavors are well balanced with a long finish for a wine of so little pretensions. Do not confuse this wine with the regular Kaiken Malbec as there is a world of difference in the “ultra”.

One of my favorite items on the Toscana menu is a simple wedge salad. It’s always fresh and loaded with blue cheese, tomatoes and bacon. It’s the perfect start to a meal. I had the crab cake encrusted tilapia and it was tender and flavorful. It was accompanied by asparagus and a risotto cake.

Joe had brought with him a home made wine that some guy he works with makes every year. Normally, I decline offers to even taste these home creations but he had coaxed me into trying it on a previous occasion and I have to admit that this guy does a nice job. It’s the third time I have had this wine and although the first time stands out as the best effort, they are always interesting.

The bill for each couple came to $52.00 so you can see that Toscana Grill is not a place that will kill the family budget.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Casona Restaurant, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2009 by ballymote

Armed with a nice bottle of  2007 Tres Picos Garnache, my wife, Kathy, and our friends Carol and Joe set off for one my favorite South Jersey BYOB’s, Casona located on Haddon Ave. in Collingswood, NJ. The temperature last night was in the high 70’s and the outdoor seating on the porch provided the perfect summer location for good food, friends and wine. blog pics 011Casona is a Cuban/Latin restaurant so it seemed appropriate to start with a

Cuban Pizza
Chicken, Creole tomato sauce,
chorizo & cheese on a flour tortilla 6.95
as an appetizer. We also chose

a Pico de Gallo

Mango – Celery, red onion, cilantro, roasted jalapeno, tomato, lime juice & olive oil 5.95

Both were very good but we quickly ran out of the tortilla chips provided and when we requested additional chips were told there would be a $1.00 charge. Despite the fact that it was only $1.00 we felt that charging for additional chips did not reflect the type of customer service we would have expected and declined the offer.

The menu is interesting and offers a wide array of Cuban type dishes in both beef, chicken, pork and seafood. I chose the

New! Chicken Moluteno  *
Grilled chicken breast marinated in
mole sauce with chilaquiles queso fresco topping with cilantro, cherry tomato
& red onion sauce 19.95

The portions were huge and the dish was flavorful.

Carol had the

Lechon Asado *
Citrus-marinated pork, slow
roasted Cuban-style with white rice
& maduros 15.95

while Kathy and Joe opted for the evening’s special, a steak dish served with Latin sides. All of us enjoyed our dishes and the evening flew by with good conversation and warm breezes on the relaxing porch. The bill per couple, without dessert came to $61.00 per couple with gratuity.

The Tres Picos was as good as ever. It’s a great representation of how good Spanish wines can be for well under $20 BLOG PICS 015

Casona is just one of many excellent BYOB’s in Collingswood, NJ.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Oceanos Restaurant, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on July 5, 2009 by ballymote

Our Friday night dining group met at Oceanos Restaurant at 222 Haddon Ave. in West Berlin. blog pics 012Let me say at the beginning that I enjoyed the food here. Having said that, I do not think our group will be returning anytime soon. One word that was not mentioned anywhere on their web site, but which was prominent on the property signage was “Diner”. It did not have the typical look of a South Jersey diner but it most certainly DID have the infamous “diner type” menu. As an example, someone mentioned a “spinach pie” appetizer and was asked what page that was on and someone else in the group replied, “I believe that would be on Page 93”. An exaggeration, yes, but, there were a LOT of pages to the menu. I think some of our group were prejudiced before even ordering because they felt they were in a diner (as Jerry Seinfeld would say “not that there’s anything wrong with that”).

I felt there were tons of great selections and I totally enjoyed my 10 oz. filet accompanied by four small crab cakes and a baked potato. My meal, which included lobster bisque and a rice pudding for dessert came to $20.95 and the portions were such that I ate half and took half home. The  total bill for each couple “with tip” was an extremely reasonable $50.00. My wife found fault with the overly sweet sauce on her mussels and another diner felt the spinach pie was “too salty”. I’d go back and so would another male (Jerry, the Bruchetta King)  of our group. The problem is we’d probably have to go alone. My wine for the evening was a 2004 Hook and Ladder Zinfandel. BLOG PICS 017It went well with my meal as the soft pepper spices complimented the filet without overpowering the crab cakes.