Friday, August 14, 2009

California Dreamin'

Since arriving home late Wednesday night, I've been suffering from a California hangover. Don't get me wrong, I love Connecticut, I love being close to my family, I love my dogs, I love that I can buy a house for under $500,000. But boy do I miss Northern California.

The weather: In and around Sausalito, the weather was somewhat constant. Wake up to a cool mid 60's temperature with a nice breeze and some fog rolling into the Golden Gate. By afternoon maybe you top out in the 70's. Hot days hit the high 80's. No rain, maybe some mist if the fog reached far enough. Beautiful.

The food: Here we have Dev's, the casinos, Singapore Grill, 2wives, all good food, but nothing on par with what Northern California has. As you'll see in future posts, the food at The Village Pub and Murray Circle were simply mind-blowingly good. One night we had dim sum at a place called Harmony, knocked my socks off. Add to that In and Out Burger and Chipotle Mexican Grill, and I'm as happy as Randy Moss now that Tom Brady is back. Even Mollie Stone's, the local grocery store, has an expansive fresh seafood, beef, and poultry counter, that makes Stop and Shop look like a Seven-Eleven.

The wine: You knew I'd go there. T o have the ability to jump in your car and drive to countless good wineries must be a blessing. You're 45 minutes to an hour from some of the best wine in the world. Once again, I'll be writing a future post on the wine we tasted and brought back.

Now what about the things I don't miss about California: the driving, HAL the Prius, a $6 bridge toll, and walking in San Francisco. More to come this weekend!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time for a Fresh Start...and Steak

Clearly I haven't been writing all that much, seeing as my last post was from our anniversary dinner in January. But with the rebirth of my Patriots' Blog over on just a week or so away, I realized I need to make myself post here, or else it will never get done. So here's hoping Saturday mornings become coffee and blog time. A chance to wake up and catch up on the week that was.

Last night Amanda and I made plans to taste some wine then head out to dinner in New London. We also invited our friend Greg along to "be classy" for an evening. Obviously I underestimated the classiness of the night when I arrived in jeans, a polo, and converse, because there was Amanda in a classy black dress, and Greg looking just as classy in black slacks and a black dress shirt. I have failed you two, and for that I am still sorry.

So after tasting wine at Thames River Wine & Spirits (where I managed to keep the credit card in my wallet) we headed down Bank Street to Dev's. Most of you know just how much I love Dev's, and I was planning on ordering just from their delicious Tapas side of the menu. Things changed when the waitress shared the night's entree special. An 8oz Beef Tenderloin with a Bacon and Sun-dried Tomato Demi topped with Crispy Fried Onions. You had me at Bacon. Of course I had to start the night with a couple Tapas. First up was Captain Tom's Fish and Chips, a solid sized portion of Tilapia wrapped around spicy remoulade with some fresh homemade chips. Pretty delicious. I followed that up with Katie's favorite, the vegetable dumplings. Greg ordered the new Basque Ribs to start. I liked the old Korean BBQ Ribs, but they were so rich they left you unable to eat thing else as they stuck unmercifully to your chest. The dry-rubbed Basque ones were tasty and much more enjoyable, due to the fact you could continue your meal. Amanda went for a full Tapas dinner, unlike Greg and I who went for the steak. Her meal had some of the usual suspects, Toasted Goat Cheese and Crispy Meatballs. She also tried the Fish and Chips, and commented how nothing is like the fish and chips in England (which I am dying to try). But her real winner looked to be the Miss Saigon. A puff pastry filled with pork goodness. Amanda graciously allowed me a bite, and it was epic.

When the steaks arrived, Greg and I were a little giddy. They looked so tantalizingly tasty. First off, they were no 8oz. I've had 8oz of steak and this was more, quite a bit more. They were at least 10oz maybe 12oz of juicy beef (that's what she said). The demi was a perfect partner for the steak. I know there are steak purist out there who feel the steak should be untouched and left to shine on its own, but some ideas are too good to ignore, like Bacon and Sun-dried Tomato Demi. Just taking a bite of the soaked bacon was an adventure for the taste buds. It was a fabulous entree, the steak cooked just as I liked it, the onions adding an extra bit of texture, and the demi holding it all together like glue. Three cheers for the person at Dev's who dreamt this up!

If all goes according to plan I'll be back next week with some more comments on food, wine, and life in general. Till next time..."You stay classy San Diego."

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Craft-y Meal

For our anniversary, Katie and I decided to splurge and dine at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak at MGM Grand at Foxwoods. Quite the mouthful. And splurge we did, with the total bill being second only behind the lavish Victoria & Albert's at the Grand Floridian on the list of most expensive meals in my life. Looking back though, it was well worth it.

We began the night by perusing the wine list and choosing our selections for the evening. Since we were clearly having steak, it was safe to look ahead and choose a red without glancing at the menu. I had my heart set on the scallops to start with, and while Katie was thinking sweeter whites, I just couldn't handle it. We ended up zeroing in on Chards and Sauvignon Blancs. None of the Chardonnay really excited me (the big X factor in wine, does it thrill you just to see it on the wine list) so I focused on Sauvignon Blancs. While the New Zealands are bright and crisp, I wanted a more subtle flair to go with the scallops. That left two Sancerres staring me in the face. Sancerre is a region in the Loire Valley of France. While some wine regions around the globe are better known for multiple grapes and blends, Sancerre is world renowned for their Sauvignon Blanc. Some even refer to it as the "spiritual home" of the varietal. The major difference between the New Zealand (or even American) Sauvignon Blanc and it's French counterpart is a greater abundance of mineral tones and a more approachable fruit flavors. When I say more approachable, I really mean less of that kick you in the teeth fruit. Why waste all this time discussing Sancerre? Because this wine, the 2006 Domaine de Rome Sancerre, may single handily be the best white I've ever had. The only thing close that pops into my mind was a bottle of Chateau Villa Bel Air (a white Bordeaux) from a few years back. The wine had a beautiful texture with flavors of honey, minerals, herbal tone, and a touch of lime. The finish was bountiful and slipped away like an elegant kiss. I would kill for another bottle of this wine, so if you spot it send a message my way.

As for red, we immediately knew we wanted Pinot Noir. It almost always pairs better with a tasty steak than Cabernet for us. And while the list was loaded with Oregon Pinot Noir, it was difficult because we had already had many of them, or had some sitting in the cellar waiting for the right moment. We narrowed the field to a 2006 Shea Wine Cellars Estate from Yamhill-Carlton, or a 2005 Stoller Vineyard from Dundee Hills. While Shea has been a name I had been dying to try, the Stoller stood out because the 2005 vintage was so fantastic and beginning to become quite scarce. It was hard enough to find good '05 Oregon wine last year, now it's down right painful to locate. After conferring with our waiter, who told us both were excellent, before trying to sell me on something he knew more about, I just broke down and went for the Stoller. Needless to say, it didn't disappoint. The nose lacked the full frontal earth tones that I love about Willamette Valley, but was lush with bright red fruits. On the palate it was dark cherries with hints of spice and a lingering finish that matched well with our steak. The wines of the evening were a clear success.

So while the food was fantastic, I won't dwell on it for too long. This is wine blog and that's where I prefer to focus. My scallops and pomegranate were delectable. Katie's Parsnip and Pear soup was so unique and rich, simply divine. Our steaks, mine a 22oz. bone-in corn-fed ribeye was perhaps the best piece of meat I've ever had. Katie's grass-fed ribeye was much leaner and seemed to better manage it's flavor. For sides we had an order of mixed mushrooms (because what else goes better with steak and Oregon Pinot?) and the surprise hit of the night, polenta with bleu cheese and bacon. For dessert the restaurant bestowed upon us a free order of homemade ice cream, cookie dough, peppermint brownie, and cookies and cream. Once again fantastically good.

Lord knows I have slacked off with the wine blogging recently, but the Patriots are into the off-season and the holidays have passed. This means I'll make my yearly commitment to try and blog at least once a week. We have a wine fridge stocked with goodies and a cellar full of aging bottles to enjoy (and write about). We'll also be hosting another Wine from A to Zin night in the near future to show off our almost complete cellar. Till next time: "Just cause people wanna eat the burger doesn't mean they wanna meet the cow."--???

Friday, November 21, 2008

Going Up River

For the first time in months I actually had a Wednesday night off. I decided to maximize this opportunity and milk it for all it was worth. That meant a night at the Up River Cafe for half-off wine night. Amanda and Kevin joined myself and Katie as we wined and dined on the finest Westerly has to offer.

While we awaited Katie's arrival, a bottle of white was to be ordered. Instead of trying something new Amanda and I settled on a wine we both had before and both loved, the 2006 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch in South Africa. This is truly a tremendous wine. It's just sweet enoguh to be flavorful, without going over the top towards sweet Riesling territory. The citrus notes really round it into form. We then decided to order appetizers while waiting for Katie. I stuck with my usual, the Asian Fried Calamari. Calamari and Banana Peppers with those styrofoam like rice noodles covered in a sweet Thai chili sauce with a wasabi dressing on the side. Can you say b-rilliant? Amanda had the special, which was special indeed. Oxtail with goat cheese gnocci. It was done in some type of sauce that was too delicious to care what was in it. Kevin however, may have found the real winner just because it was so simple it was good. He had the French Fries. What's the catch you ask? They were fried in duck fat. Downright amazing!

We set aside some of the fries and oxtail, as well as glass of Mulderbosch for Katie as we waited for her (noticing a theme here) and began browsing the reds. While the Sequoia Grove Cab always sucks me in, I stayed diligent and looked away from the Cabs. Amanda narrowed it down to two Syrahs and we decided upon the 2005 Qupe "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Syrah from Santa Maria Valley in California. It was a rich, smooth wine, with berry aromas and cocoa on the palate. Think chocolate covered fruit and you're on the right track. Eventually Katie I arrived and we ordered entrees. Kevin and I had the Up River Burger, a delicious burger topped with Taleggio cheese, Pancetta, and Roasted Mushroom Chutney. Amanda had the regular burger with swiss, and Katie dove into the Tapenade-Marinated Loin of Lamb. Almost forgot, I started with the soup, butternut squash with bacon and shallots folded in. All the food was fantastic and filling, as it always is there.

It was wonderful time full of food, fun, laughter, and dance biscuits. Hopefully I'll be able to get another Wednesday night off in January to do it again. Till next time..." We're teachers on a sabbatical and have won the lottery."--???

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wineaux and Boozehound

Those are my ever affectionate new nicknames for our two dogs. Yes, you read that right, TWO dogs. The newest edition to the Felty house is a spry little year and a half old pup named Stella. So while Sonoma's namesake is a Valley known for it's bright and bombastic Zinfandels, character driven Cabernets, and enticing Pinot Noirs, we simply couldn't find the right wine themed name for our little Greyhound (or possibly whippet) blend. I had asked my students for some name suggestions on Friday, and one student said Stella would be a nice name. My intentions to name her that were only reaffirmed when paired with the fact that Stella Artois is quite simply one of my favorite beers. As soon as we where in the car with our newest adopted canine, I asked Katie, "What do you think of the name Stella?" She immediately responded, "I was thinking the same thing, like Stella Artois!" After that there was no debating any longer. Sonoma the wineaux and Stella the boozehound. How about you, what are some of your favorite alcohol related names for pets?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Band on the Run

This morning I decided to take a break from wine here on the blog. Something too magical in my life has happened to go left ignored. And where else to discuss it but here on my blog. Yesterday I used my birthday money to go out and purchase "Guitar Hero: World Tour." For the uninitiated, "Guitar Hero" itself is basically a video game that allows you to be the lead guitarist on some of your favorite songs of all time. "World Tour" adds the drums and a microphone to the mix, allowing you to truly rock. And rock I did last night.

In all aspects of the game, "World Tour" is a significant upgrade from previous editions of "Hero." Let's start with the guitar itself. While our older guitars are compatible with the game, I bought the bundle with the drums and mic, and therefore had to get the new guitar. It's heavier than the others and quite a bit larger. It just feels better in your hands. The strum bar is larger and requires a bit more force to flick. There is also a star power button if you don't feel the urge to throw the guitar in the air and jam like White Snake.

The drum kit is a totally new experience for me. While practice, practice, and practice helped me master the guitar, I may need some divine intervention to be a good drummer. I simply don't have the rhythm and timing needed to perform well, yet. The drums consist of three basic pads, two cymbal pads, and a bass drum pedal. It's extremely fun to try and drum, but I just don't have the talent for it, hopefully someone in our group friends will step up to the plate and become our star drummer.

The microphone, that's where the fun is it. Katie, who was extremely sick on the couch, wanted some cheering up and kept begging me to put down the guitar and belt out a few tunes. For those of you who don't know me that well, I am extremely self-conscious, and the idea of singing in front of other people freaks me out (even my wife). So after a beer or two I was ready to pick up the mic and go for it. I started on Easy, which requires you to sing the words at the right time in the right pitch. Well, after surviving a few songs, I realized I could switch it to Beginner, where all that matters is the timing. After that, I kept singing (with the help of a few more beers) well into the night. There is something truly fantastic about getting to sing "Rebel Yell" with Billy Idol. Which incidentally, I plan on being Billy Idol next year for Halloween.

The track list for the game is also a huge plus. If you don't buy the whole kit, at least get the disc. Here's a sample of how great: "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins, "Livin' On a Prayer" by Bon Jovi, "Dammit" by Blink-182, "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World, and "Up Around the Bend" by CCR. Did I mention you can create your own character instead of just using the stock ones? Just a fabulous game, and we can't wait to have everyone over to have the true experience. Till next time..."And the county judge, who held a grudge, Will search for evermore, For the band on the run."--Paul McCartney

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Others Wait in Casablanca....and Wait...and Wait...

This is why my wife is the best woman in the world and simply perfect for me. She came to me awhile back to plan my birthday party. She gave me two choices, Casablanca Night or 50's Cocktail Party. How awesome is that? Well, you can guess by the title of this post that I picked Casablanca. It turned out to be the best birthday party yet.

While Rock's Cafe Americain was a notorious gin joint, we ended up serving more wine than anything else. We started off with a 2005 Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla. Ever since I tried the Finca Casa Castillo at Tastings, I have been in love with Monastrell. It's typically used for blending with other reds, but much like Malbec, it's finding it's own little niche as a straight varietal. Next up was a 2005 Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel from Sonoma County. My favorite aspect of Ridge's Zins is how they'll use a bout three-quarters Zin and blend in other grapes like Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Grenache. Adding these other varietal adds a lot of complexity to the wine but also takes some of that edge off the Zinfandel. I picked this bottle up in California last August, and that extra year in our cellar really paid off. Finally I opened a 2005 Patricia Green Estate Etzel Block Pinot Noir from Ribbon Ridge in Oregon. 2005 was one of the first years Oregon wineries started labeling with the new AVAs inside of the Willamette Valley. While Katie found this wine a bit tomato-ey, and Amanda thought it was fuzzy, Amy and I adored it. It was so earthy yet light, and felt like a Burgundy.

Of course my friends always make the party special. Almost all my gifts were wine or beer. The list of wine that I received is simply fantastic, Segehesio Zinfandel, David Bruce Pinot Noir, Cristom Pinot Noir, Bryce Vineyards Pinot Noir, and the '06 Jonathan Edwards Merlot. I recently talked to an employee at Jonathan Edwards and he gave me the insider tip that the '06 is going to be dynamite, so needless to say I'm thrilled to have a bottle. Of course the beer I got was fantastic as well, Magic Hats "Participation/Get Out the Vote" twelve pack, 2 22s of Berkshire Brewing Company, and a sixer of Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale. And I can't leave out that Rob and his new dog, Astird...I mean Kylar, got me two science fiction novels. My friends know me too well, wine, beer, and science fiction make for a happy birthday boy.

Did I mention some of us dressed the part for Casablanca night? I had the honor of trying to be as suave as Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart's character for those of you not in the know). Katie had a beautiful dress from her grandmother she was going to wear, but of course the dry cleaner didn't have it ready on time (I yelled at them). Instead she pulled out an older dressed and looked gorgeous as always. Amanda and Amy went the Elsa route and both look fabulous. My sister did her hair up with flowers and a new dress that fit perfectly with the period. Kevin matched a fedora and suit jacket in a creative attempt to fit in. While Phil rolled in with an Indiana Jones fedora. In the end, a terrific evening! Till next time..."I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue."--Rick Blaine

Check out Amy's blog for some more photos.