Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Domaine Saint-Damien La Louisiane Gigondas

Sorry for the lack of posts recently! I went on a cruise after Christmas where I really should have photographed the food and taken better notes, but I didn't. Since we've been back home, I've been adjusting back to "real" life and haven't made enough time for my blog. Regardless, I am back now and ready to share a new wine I was able to try tonight!

The boys opened a bottle of 2005 Domaine Saint-Damien La Louisiane Gigondas tonight, to pair with their cigars (which I passed on this evening). I intended to only try a sip, as Kirk really enjoyed it, but I had to pour myself a small glass after my sip! The smell was very warm - perfect for the cold night - with a rich berry bouquet . The taste was very smooth, although dry, with the taste of dark berries. The finish was surprisingly short, and I do generally prefer a long finish, but it worked well with the wine.

Although I didn't purchase the wine, a quick google search shows prices in the $20 - a great deal for the quality of this wine. I would certainly pick up a bottle or two if I found it on the store shelves, although it's not quite to the point I would seek it out.

This is a nice way to cap off the evening, though!
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Caviar & Christmas

An evening worthy of a new tradition! Kirk and I enjoyed my birthday presents (from him) tonight while adding the ornaments to our Christmas tree - what a way to spend a Saturday night! As if I don't have enough expensive hobbies, I decided after our trip to Sonoma that I wanted to learn more about caviar, a treat that we enjoy in very small quantities and very infrequently. I added a small sampling of American Osetra from Tsar Nicoulai to my birthday wish list and my wonderful husband got it for me (plus three bottles of the amazing Schramsberg Rose that I reviewed last month!). We finally found an "occassion" to sample it tonight with a bottle of the Rose and was surprised with how quickly we devoured it while decorating! The roe was medium-sized, compared with the other caviar varieties we have tasted in the past, and a light black coloring. The flavor was surprising to both of us - mildly salty and slightly creamy in texture. We sampled the caviar alone on a mother-of-pearl spoon (also part of the gift) and on a wafer cracker with a few drops of fresh lemon juice with either sour cream or creme fraiche - both a lovely complement to the caviar without overpowering the flavors.

In summary - I am officially a caviar enthusiast, I can't wait to find an opportunity to purchase another sampling. I can't believe we finished the entire jar so quickly - it was a perfect evening in!

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Old Rasputin Imperial Stout

While I don't like the taste of coffee (unless filled with sugar and milk that cover the taste), I love the smell of coffee! A nosefull of dark coffee, with a hint of cocoa, is exactly what I smell when taking a whiff of the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout (North Coast Brewing). A smooth and thick feel in your mouth, which is perfect for this time of year - or any time of the year if you love dark beers as I do. Slightly bitter and chocolately taste, with a hint of cocoa in the finish.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

MF Sushibar

Wow! That's a great description of our experience at MF Sushibar, one of the highest rated sushi restaurants in the Atlanta area (and deservingly so!). We joined our friends at the restaurant on Tuesday night for a pre-Thanksgiving sushi fest, one of our better restaurant selections in recent memory.

Arriving at the restaurant, I actually noticed a strong smell of cleaning products, which originally worried me. Uh-oh, maybe this won't be as nice as I had expected. The smell disappeared rather quickly, though, maybe they had just cleaned the dining area before we arrived? I saw one of my favorite Sake's listed on the menu (Bishonen) and asked for a similar selection. The recommendation of Mutsu-Otooyama was perfect, Kirk and I shared a large carafe - which turned out to be the perfect amount for the evening.

The specials offered looked excellent, from which we selected the Toro TarTar immediately. After reviewing the menu, we asked a waiter about the variety on the Sushi Combination for 2. We were really hoping to try some of the more unusual nigiri and sashimi selections on the menu, but their standard combo was a fairly tame. The waiter immediately offered to customize a plate for us, which we immediately agreed to, asking the chef to select what he preferred. We asked if the restaurant served real Wasabi, one of our learnings from the Japanese Tapas and Sushi tasting in New York, and were pleasantly surprised to hear they did. Prior to the food service, a waitress came to the table with an actual Wasabi root and sharkskin grater, from which she proceed to grind fresh wasabi for our sushi - very impressive. The wasabi was slightly milder than the fresh selection we were served in New York, but was still delicious (and far superior to imitation wasabi).

The Toro TarTar was served first, piled into a narrow cylindrical form and topped with tobiko. The texture was amazing, as there were pine nuts mixed with the Toro for a nice crunch, and very tender. A great start to the meal! Our chef's selection of nigiri and sashimi was served next, 12 pieces nigiri, 2 rolls, and 8 pieces of sashimi. The nigiri selections included Claim and Tai (Japanese Red Snapper), plus two other nigiri selctions . The two rolls were Uni with Quail Egg, which both Kirk and I were nervous about trying again, but had been discussing recently. Surpringly, this was amazing - completely different than the last time we tried this previously. It was so soft and creamy, absoluetly delicious! The sashimi was 4 pieces each of Otoro (Fatty Tuna Belly) and Saba (Mackeral). We finished the meal with a Hurricane Roll (Salmon, masago roll topped with tuna, yellowtail, salmon & snapper).

The service was very attentive, without being overwhelming, and the food was delicious. Overall, the best sushi I have had in years - on par with my visit to Japan. This is one restaurant that deserves its reputation!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pano's and Paul's - Appetite Stimulus Plan

Friday began an exciting week of dinners, we have several of my favorites and a few new locations planned through next Friday. The camera didn't join us for dinner on Friday or Saturday nights, but I will try to remember for the next two!

Pano's and Paul's is a restaurant that has been on my list for years, but we never made reservations. With the Open Table's Appetite Stimulus Plan last week, it seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a try. The plan included a long list of restaurants in the Atlanta area, each one offering a three course tasting dinner for $35. The restaurant is "hidden" in a strip shopping center, an odd location for an upscale restaurant, but you quickly forgot that as you entered the restaurant. We were seated relatively quickly and reviewed the menu, pleasantly surprised to see a wine pairing option added to the dinner for a total of $55.

The dinner actually was 4 courses, including an amuse bouche, another nice touch. The Amuse Bouche was a shrimp with an avocado puree. A tasty bite, nice start to the dinner. Unfortunately, the wines were really only paired with the main 3 courses, so the Pinot Noir I was brought did nothing to enhance the flavor. Kirk was given a Savignon Blanc, which I stole a sip of!

I chose a lamb appetizer to start the meal, which paired much better with my Pinot Noir . It was a tasty dish, although a little more salt that I would have chosen, although the tomato-based sauce that was served with it balanced out the salt a bit. My entree was a duck with swiss chard and potatoes, paired with a Merlot. This was the best course of the meal, the flavors of the duck and potatoes were perfectly balanced and it almost melted in your mouth. Dessert was an apple tart, which was a little dry for my taste, but it was served with a spiced ice cream topped with a crisp banana slice - heaven! Ice cream is generally something I will leave mostly untouched, but this one was excellent. The dessert was paired with a slightly sweet Muscato, which was also delightful.

Overall, I would rate Pano's and Paul's as average. The prices for the main menu were lower than I expected, with most entrees in the $20-$30 range. It would be worth visiting again to try their regular menu, but it's not one that will be on my frequently visited list.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2005 Schramsberg Brut Rose

I'm currently enjoying a nicely paired dinner at home and decided I have to post about the amazing sparkling wine that we are enjoying. The light fragrance of strawberry on the nose, followed by medium effervescence and strawberry/pink grapefruit on the palate. At around $35 per bottle, it's not an every night drinking bottle, but also not something we need to save for a special occasion. Now to convince the hubby that we need to buy a half case!

Sushi and Japanese Tapas in NYC

Two weeks ago, we attended a fantastic "food tour" while in New York for the weekend. This particular tour was unique, as we dined in just one restaurant (rather than visiting multiple locations). This is a newer offering of Foods of New York - a highly rated food tour company we researched prior to our trip. The guide walked us through 18 courses (included Japanese beer and two types of Sake) over a few hours, allowing us sample Japanese Tapas (Izakaya), sashimi, and sushi. It was delicious and surprisingly educational! What did we learn? We make so make so many mistakes when eating sushi!
  • Sushi is all about the rice (rice flavored with vinegar). You can tell a good sushi restuarant by sampling their rice - it shouldn't need any soy sauce, as the flavor of the rice will be slightly sweet and very flavorful on its own. Sashimi is not sushi, as there is no rice.
  • Traditionally, Nigiri is eaten with your hands (no chopsticks). It should be dipped into soy sauce, fish side down (soy sauce should not touch the rice), and then placed into your mouth, fish side down.
  • Wasabi should not be mixed into your soy sauce. In fact, if it's really wasabi, it won't mix into your soy sauce! In most cases, the soy sauce served in sushi restaurants is basically green horseradish. Wasabi is fairly expensive and most people don't recognize the difference. How should you enjoy wasabi? Many chefs will add an amount between the fish and rice on nigiri. You can also add some to the top of your fish, for additional flavor.

This experience enhanced our appreciation for sushi and noticed we apprecate our sushi meals more since the dinner.