Sunday, August 31, 2008

Charlie Palmer Dallas

Charlie Palmer Dallas - at the Hotel Joule.

Bill, Dave, Mikey, Keith and I arrived for our 6:45 p.m. reservation on a Saturday night. the place seemed a little slow initially and the bar seemed almost as large as the dining room. We were comfortably seated at a round table. We were all wearing dark pants, but it took the host who sat us to be asked to replace the white napkins with dark ones. Next, it appeared none of the numerous staff knew what to do with our table... but once it was established who was going to approach us, things started to smooth out.

The dining room has a dark club feel, but with lots of whimsical touches. There are large propeller blades slowly spinning in the ceiling. None of us could obviously make the connection, so after asking, it was pointed out the room was designed with wind as the theme. There is a modern interpretations of the 3 little pigs who's house blew down, Mary Poppins, Pecos Bill riding a twister, wizard of oz... we got the theme..

The pictures are OK.. but the food was defiantly a star!!

The menu and wine parings are listed below. But wanted to point out a couple of stand outs -
Brandon, the wine manger did a fantastic job pairing with the food!! he came to the table to inquire if we were adventurous. The stand out was paring a foie gras with an apricot beer and a Riesling. before the foie gras were delivered to the table, we were amazed tasting the beer and wine side by side. The beer defiantly had a lot of the same stone fruit notes as the wine, but the beer had a palate cleansing quality. Amazing with the rich foie gras and caramelized sweet peach tarte tatin.

Tasting and wine paring Menu for our visit -

Iron Horse Russian Cuvee, CA

Amuse Bouche
Lobster Corn Dog
Spicy mustard / crème fraiche
Amazing 2 bite fluffy batter surrounding suculant tender lobster meat. The batter had a slight lime taste which balanced with the sweet lobster. The creme fraiche was a great addition to the grainy mustard.

sweet pea / pea shoots / aged pecorino
The creamy cheese filled tender rich pastas. three tortelini were atop a pea puree with a light mint flavor. there were fresh peas scattered around the plate with a delicious creamy cheese sauce. It was amazing...


Pyramid Apricot Ale
– Seattle, WA
Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spatlese Riesling, Germany

peach tarte tatin / chili blueberry compote / basil oil

The caramelized peaches and the rich buttery pastry deliciously paired with the perfectly seared foie gras.


Smith Haut Lafite Blanc - France

Divers Scallop
Cassis reduction / basil / wild asparagus

The scallop was perfectly cooked. Seared and crusty outside with a succulent moist center. Great paring with the French white Bordeaux.


Betts & Scholl Grenache - Barossa Valley Australia

caramelized Texas peaches

WOW... the wine was great. The wine is from a joint venture of Master Sommelier Richard Betts of the Little Nell Hotel in Aspen and Dennis Scholl, a contemporary art collector. Their wine philosophy produces great wines from all over the world. The pairing of Grenache with the perfectly cooked quail was amazing. The grilled peach also brought out the delicious fruit undertones to the red wine.


Qupe Syrah Hillside Estate - Central Coast, CA.

bone marrow flan / cabernet reduction

ketchup / béarnaise



Brandon had decanted the wine early in the dinner, and rebottled for table service. It was an amazing pairing. The steaks were perfectly cooked and sides were great too... the bone marrow flan did lack a little in flavor. Dave would have rather had the marrow as is and not made into a flan. The service of the flan was nice... it had been replaced in the bone and served with a demitasse spoon.


Brandon had poured us Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine, something we all love, but the chef, Scott Romano, had stopped by a couple times to chat with the table and was raving about Brandon's recent Orange Chocolate Milk that he paired with the Chocolate Doughnut Holes with Candied Kumquats and Malted Milk Ice Cream... But we will never turn down Inniskillin -

The desserts arrived - and WOW! what a spread.

Peach and Vanilla Cheesecake
Peanut Butter Bar - a layered peanut butter, chocolate, salty, sweet goodness
Habanero Carrot Cake
Chocolate Doughnut Holes with Candied Kumquats and Malted Milk Ice Cream
Bread Pudding with rum soaked raisins and caramel custard

ALL were spectacular -

Overall - after the slow start and tepid first impression, it turned into an incredible evening with superb food and incredible pairings. All of the wines are available at the Next Vintage wine shop in the lobby of the hotel and restaurant!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

YUM - Truman Chocolates!!!

Yes - it has been a year between blog entries, but I am going to make an effort to update the blog more regularly.

Because my birthday is right around the corner, there are a lot of things going on around the house.... the Nonna Tata, Charlie Palmer at the Joule (Dallas), No. 9 Park (Boston with Megan) and then my mom was delivering a mysterious gift that was time and heat sensitive. when it arrived today, it was 16 of the most beautiful, artfully decorated and most of all, deliciously flavored chocolates. Those of you who know me well, know that chocolate is one of my primary food groups that should be enjoyed at least once per day..

WOW, these are good. The chocolate crisp and the fillings delicious.. The signature box i received included:

1 dark chocolate, 1 white chocolate, 1 mimosa, 1 lemon, 1 honey, 1 margarita, 1 peppermint, 1 chambord, 1 coconut, 1 key lime, 1 coffee, 1 banana, 1 pistachio, 1 champagne, 1 peach and 1 cinnamon.

If you are traveling through Bryan, TX, it is worth seeking this company out. They are also on the web at

Truman Chocolates
4407 South Texas Avenue
Bryan, Texas 77802
979.846.1268 fax

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Buon Appetito!! Nonna Tata

Nonna Tata

1400 W Magnolia Ave

Fort Worth, TX 76104


(you can click on any picture for a larger version)

We recently stumbled on Nonna Tata via which has it as one of the top 100 restaurants in DFW area. Originally the biggest draw was the restaurant is BYOB and with a wine collection like ours, we are always looking for some good food to go with. On our first visit there, we learned that Donatella would do private dinners on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Knowing we have a lot of friends who enjoy good food and wine, but have complicated weekends, we settled on a Monday night.

We left the dinner that first night, blown away. Everyone was friendly, the staff was amazing, the food was good and the wine was free!!

When setting up the menu, Donatella gave me one choice between Salmon or Pork... I chose pork. Other than that the menu was set. We gathered 17 friends and a couple cases of wine, stemware and headed down. Bill, Dave, Keith and I got there and started getting the stemware on the table and opening wines.

As we gathered, we quickly realized that 17 is probably the max that would comfortably fit. The standard for the group dinners are they are served family style to the table. Any leftovers are gathered on the counter and guests are encouraged to take some home at the end of the night.

Starting – antipasti which included
  • Homemade bread sticks wrapped with mortadella
  • Crisp polenta with a creamy center topped with melted blue cheese and a toasted walnut half
  • Cured meats and Italian salami
  • Crispy fried olives with ground meat stuffing
  • Aged ricotta drizzled with lavender honey
  • Broccoli and parmesan tart
  • 3 crostinis –
  • Smoked and fresh salmon
  • Tuna with pesto
  • White beans

Wow, what a spread. 6 or so boards were scattered down the table. We nibbled as we found our seats around the long table. It was amazing… each item had a great distinct flavor. While Donatella was explaining thee collection of delights… everyone got to experience the dreamy lyrical accent that makes me dream of the Mother Country…

(What was Michaelle thinking???) hehehe! Cryssie said, “I would be happy if she talked for hours….”

Next was the pasta course – two large platters of each pasta...

Spaghetti with house made pesto and toasted pine nuts

Penne all’Arrabiata -a spicy chunky tomato sauce

with fresh parsley

The pastas were cooked to the precisely proper doneness, not over sauced and incredible.

Next was the salad course –

A mountain of fresh greens with red onion, tomatoes, carrots and corn drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

With the main courses – yes two of them…. was the best focaccia. The focaccia was perfectly seasoned, with a hit of sea salt, light rosemary

and incredibly flavorful olive oil. (it is still good the next day for lunch~!!)

The main courses were

Petti di Pollo alla Milanese (thin pan-fried chicken) with roasted dill carrots

Loin of Pork with rosemary and a side of truffled potatoes

Again, there was more food than we could have consumed, but everything again was spectacular!!! The pork was moist and tender and just the right amount of rosemary. The potatoes were perfectly cooked with just enough truffle essence to flavor but not overpower the dish.

The chicken was pounded thin and crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The carrots’ sweetness had concentrated during roasting. Wow… how nice.

Dessert - We knew what we were in for because Bill and I had these desserts on our first visit.

Apple and pear cake – this cake is more like a cross between a custard and light cake with a crumb bottom with delicate slices of apple and pear. On our first visit to Nonna Tata, I knew I wanted dessert, but Bill rarely has any. I was talking to the next table over about a red wine from Mendoza when Cindy brought the apple and pear cake out. By the time I turned back from my conversation with the other table, almost half of the dessert was gone. I was a little upset… but I knew immediately it must be great based on Bill’s reaction. And it was!

The other dessert was a crisp Panini of nutella topped with powdered sugar. We had this on our first visit because we were sharing some of our wine with another table and their offering back to us were small bites of this dessert. WOW!!

So when I talked to Donatella and she recommended these 2, I had nothing to say but GREAT!

Another addition to the plate was a generous quenelle of incredibly rich dark chocolate mousse. It was like diving into a total chocolate experience …. Not too sweet, creamy and dark. Amazing.

Just when we thought it was over, a granita of sage cello (think lemoncello with sage instead of lemon). It was a big burst of sage and slightly sweet slushy… I am not sure if was that I had too much wine already, but it was a little sagey for me… but wow what a finish.

The star of the evening…. Dave!! Dave had contributed the majority of the wine and found a half dozen matches that blew us, Donatella and Cindy away.

Thoughts on the night were:

This is way better than restaurant week options and it is private.

We need to do this on a quarterly (if not monthly basis)

We heard it was going to be good, but had no idea it was THIS GOOD!

Thanks to everyone who made the night special!!

Dave, Keith, Kevin, Dean, Jake, Bill, LB, Cryssie, Natalie, Kaki, Judy, Joye, Rebecca, Jeanne, Michaelle, and Betsy

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lightcatcher Winery gang gathering

Last weekend the winery gang gathered for my birthday!!! Turning 40 is getting better and better all of the time and it was a perfect opportunity to gather with friends. The pièce de résistance was Lauren’s Baba au Rhum.

The evening started with make your own Ultimate Grape Martinis – using my favorite vodka, Ciroc. For those not familiar with Ciroc, it was one of the first of a new trend of vodka based on grapes rather than grain or potatoes. The martini is easy…. Equal parts of Ciroc, Santa Cruz Organic White Grape juice and top with your favorite sparkling wine (we used Chandon). Garnish with a frozen grape…. It had been a while since I had these and forget how crisp and refreshing this cocktail is….

For appetizers to go with the cocktails, Kaki brought an olive salad that was YUMMY!! I also served a jar of my sweet pickled jalapeños with a block of cream cheese.

For dinner Caris grilled marinated skirt steak (memories of Argentina) and delicious portabella mushrooms and red peppers. Sides included some of Cryssie’s great baked beans, Nat’s sliced bacon roasted potaoes with scallion sour cream, Kaki’s blue cheese cole slaw and some guacamole.

Lauren’s baba au rhum was amazing (pictured at the start of this blog entry). It is a yeast based cake studded with dried fruit and baked. There is a rum syrup that the cake soaks up… it is then glazed with an apricot glaze and topped with whipped cream. WOW! She used the Ina Gartner recipe from the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa,,1977,FOOD_9936_33879,00.html. It is also in the Barefoot in Paris cookbook. Amazing job and amazing cake!!

Nat brought me a mini cigar…. Lauren wanted a little taste...Nat, Lauren and I did a little dancing to our favorite 80s. Kevin was even skipping along to the Cure at one point…

Kaki and Kevin gave me a second Anthony Bourdain book, A Cooks Tour. They gave me Kitchen Confidential last year! The rest of the gang grouped together and purchased a very nice basket of gifts. A cute little blue and black sake set, a set of cheese markers, a cool olive dish that has a place for pits, olives and toothpicks all in the same dish, and then a little cold bottle of something….

Hou Hou Shu sparkling sake is amazing…………… it is an unfiltered, unpasturized sparkling sake. This experience is best described by a fellow blogger – Ben Madeska at the following link:


There has been some discussion with my friends on how & if the blog should continue and I will be continuing the blog, randomly logging some of my food experiences… and fun adventures.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Mendoza and then HOME....

Back home – Sorry for the delay in the final Mendoza entry. But getting home is always fun. I am listening to the Beatles CD from the Birthday Dinner at Bistro 743 while blogging today. Oh the memories. I will blog in a couple of days about how the blog will continue. Thanks for the great input and we were happy to share our Argentina trip with you!

Photo of the day.... SPECIAL late harvest "Cab Franc Special".... from Pulenta Estates Winery.

Mendoza Day 7

The last day in Mendoza was nice. It was Sunday and we were planning to cook dinner at the house and take advantage of the last bottles of wine purchased for the house. There were 6 unopened bottles that were not getting packed in our overweight luggage. Because all of the food markets were closed on Sunday there, cooking was out. Purchasing groceries there is a multi-stop shopping experience. The super market does not have meat, very little cheese and no veggies. So you go to the market and then 2 doors down the veggie shop and then across the street on the next block is the meat store… but they were all closed on Sunday.

It was a lazy morning. We were all delaying the thought of leaving a newly found paradise, but the day was beautiful, sunny and warm 75 degrees. I went out wondering to see what our dining options for the day were. With no substantial groceries, we were wasting away the lunch opening of restaurants and I was thinking… what will we do for dinner???? Not hungry now, but I know I will be.

The streets around the Chacras de Coria square were blocked and a small public market selling trinkets and antiques had taken over. There were a ton of people milling about. It was nice. Noticeably there was no Starbuck’s or McDonalds anywhere near. It was a great day. I found a small place that listed their Sunday hours till midnight. We were in business. I was not looking for a 5 course meal, but only something we could all enjoy our last night together.

Dave, Bill, Liz, Rolando and I ventured out around 2 for some lunch as I showed them the market. We found Bocas del Toro Resto. We sat outside under an arbor and enjoyed lunch. At this point, we all seemed to share a bit of everyone’s food….. So I will just say what the table ordered…

We were greeted with a basket of warm bread with a tomato, eggplant, onion and pepper in olive oil for the bread.

A roasted butternut squash stuffed with sautéed carrots, zucchini, cabbage and onions (YES a meatless dish)

Spinach and Jamon lasagna with a meat tomato sauce

Linguini with a tomato cream sauce

Seafood risotto

Chicken Curry

The chef, who had come out to help answer some of our questions on them menu, sent out a huge plate of grilled vegetables with cheese and chimichurri sauce.

It was a great lunch. We decided not have wine with lunch, but have some outside on the back patio of the house. The square was VERY busy… On the way home, we passed an ice cream store. It was so tempting. Liz and Dave got ice cream.

No pictures….

We got home and Megan was in gym shorts and a Texas Tech sweatshirt and Melissa had been laying out in the back yard on a towel, enjoying some Argentine beer. When Megan heard about the market, she wanted to go, but not change clothes. So in flip-flops, shorts and her TT sweatshirt, Melissa, Megs and I went out to the market.

We arrived home and Dave, Rolando, Liz and Bill had already finished the bottle of Trapiche Torrontes and a bottle of La Flor Sauvignon Blanc (La Flor is the house brand of my favorite Pulenta Estates winery). We also had a bottle of Lopez Sparkling wine that we opened….

Final packing and then dinner at Café Flora.

We had asked the restaurant if we could bring our wines and it was OK with an AR$8 (or US$2.67) per bottle. Dinner reservations were at 9 p.m.

We arrived at dinner with 3 bottles of Pulenta Estates wine – The 2005 Malbc Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, The 2005 Gran Cabernet Franc and the small bottle of valued late harvest Cab Franc.

We started the dinner with a couple of “large” bruschettas; one tomato and olive and the other mushroom and leek. These were large thin slices of toasted bread topped with incredibly flavored toppings.

Bill had the onion soup and Dave had the pumpkin soup. Both were incredible.

Dinner came….. we had already finished both our Pulenta Estates wines and needed more for dinner. The host said her husband was a wine maker at a local winery and she offered a bottle of his wine for us to try… it was AMAZING too. I did not get a picture of the label or name of the winery….

Dinner consisted of the following –

Osso Bucco with grilled tomatoes and creamy polenta

Pumpkin Stuffed Ravioli with toasted almonds in a light cream sauce

A Smoked Trout Salad

Chicken Avocado Sandwich

Barbeque pork sandwich

The other pasta special…. (I don’t remember…)

And then it was time for the “cab franc special”. I ordered oven roasted fruit, but it was not quiet was I expected… so we just shared the wine. The beautiful thing is the wine maker had a bright pink sticky note on the bottle that labeled it “cab franc special”…. And special it was. This was the bottle from the barrel the winemaker had given us from Pulenta Estates… WOW!

We ended with 5 Café Flora Coffee drinks… A sweet creamy coffee layered with sweetened condensed milk on the bottom, next espresso, then steamed milk foam and then chocolate. YUM!!!!

We leisurely walked back to the house… looking at the moon and thinking about the 8 a.m. pick up tomorrow morning.

Mendoza Day 8 - Traveling Home…..

I woke early… got things organized and gave the groundskeeper 9 beers…

Oscar showed up on time as usual. WOW… Liz and Rolando were waiting at the house for a later flight and we had even more luggage….

Arrived at the Mendoza airport and caught the LAN flight to Santiago. There was a problem with Dave’s ticket, (he is quickly earning the name as Double Drama Dave after loosing 2 credit cards on the trip…). Everything was worked out after a call to the friendly AA desk. Our plane was FULL with 2 field hockey teams and managers and their entourage.

The flight over the Andes was BUMPY…. BUMPY…. But the view from here was incredible.

We arrived at the Santiago airport and there was our first Starbucks in 11 days…. There was talk of going into the city, but with the entry fee of $100 per person …. We opted to hang in the airport AA lounge for the day. I took my first airport shower... Melissa, Megan and I had salads at Ruby Tuesdays and Megs got a Latte from Starbucks…. Along with her mom’s local SB mugs.

The flight home from Santiago was not memorable... the food was good. I slept as long as I could. It is nice to be home… NO wine broken... !!!!