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Barnacle Bills - Sarasota, FL (Tamiami Trail location)

Date: Mon, Mar 15, 2010 Wine Tasting



Saturday, Allison and I had run down to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and had planned on grabbing a bite to eat at New Pass Grill but being a beautiful, sunny Saturday it was absolutely packed. So, knowing that the farmer's market was just winding up in downtown Sarasota we elected to try Barnacle Bill's Seafood.

Barnacle Bill's actually has two locations, and we had previously been to the one in downtown Sarasota so were expecting a pretty good lunch. Boy, were we ever wrong! It is like two completely different restaurants that happen to share the same name and menus (the menus appear to be very similar based on a quick glance at the website).

The location on Tamiami Trail (or US 41 if you prefer) mostly faces away from the highway, so that driving north it would be very easy to miss it. We actually thought it was vacant as we first approached the building; it was only after pulling even with it that we saw cars in the parking lot. The building is very reminiscent of a Red Lobster look from the outside.

Once we entered we were in for yet another shock. Apparently on a Saturday afternoon this location caters to the senior crowd. We easily could have been the youngest couple there. The decor also reflects a more senior oriented environment, somewhat typical of a buffet restaurant.

It was quickly apparent that they were not prepared for service at 1:30 in the afternoon. We waited several minutes before even being acknowledged and another couple of minutes to be seated. The menus are paper and the placemats are fish-shaped paper as well. Definitely not white tablecloth.

After being given considerable time (tongue-in-cheek!) to peruse the menu, the waitress finally came by to take our order. While she was pleasant enough, she was obviously only there as an order taker.

We both had a cup of seafood gumbo for an appetizer. Allison said she liked hers a lot. I thought that the flavor was okay, but a bit smoky... as if the roux had started to burn and they decided to go with it anyway. Mine was mostly roux and okra. There were some small bits of crab but no shrimp or sausage to be found. Even more amazingly to me is that it was served sans rice! Have you ever been served gumbo without rice? Wow.

Allison went with a warm seafood salad for her entre. Shrimp, scallops and fresh fish over fields greens tossed with light soy vinaigrette according to the menu. Yep, there was definitely some field greens... actually, there was a lot of field greens. Easily enough for a small family. 5 shrimp, which actually were pretty tasty per Allison, a smallish piece of fish... and where were the scallops? It must have been their day off. The vinaigrette was also served on the side as opposed to the salad being "tossed".

I had chosen the shrimp and lobster sandwich which was supposed to be shrimp and lobster lightly tossed with celery, dill and seasoned mayonnaise. Note to chef: which part of lightly tossed was not clear on Saturday? I would have had less dill if I would have eaten a sprig of it straight. Had there not been so much dill in the dish, it probably would have been a decent salad. You can have it served on a croissant or a roll. I presumed that a roll would be a hoagie roll, as is typical with this type of sandwich. Nope, nothing but a fancy hamburger roll... at least it did not appear to be store bought. A small bit of lettuce and a very thin slice of tomato were included, however they decided to top those with a pickle that appeared to be half the cucumber so I skipped all of that. The french fries came out cold, like they had been cooked early that morning and then put aside for unsuspecting customers like me.

We would have complained about our meals except for the fact that once our orders were delivered we never saw our waitress again. That's right... not once after she delivered our food. Our check was dropped off by a different waitress, the busboy picked it up and the bartender brought it back to us. We did not leave a very good tip.

Barnacle Bill's gets a lot of great reviews and has been voted tops in Sarasota magazine as well as other awards. Hopefully it is because of the downtown location. The restaurant in downtown Sarasota has been very good the couple of times we've dined there. We will return to that one. We will not return to this location.

Cheers!

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Barnacle Bills - Sarasota, FL (Tamiami Trail location)

Date: Mon, Mar 15, 2010 Wine Tasting



Saturday, Allison and I had run down to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and had planned on grabbing a bite to eat at New Pass Grill but being a beautiful, sunny Saturday it was absolutely packed. So, knowing that the farmer's market was just winding up in downtown Sarasota we elected to try Barnacle Bill's Seafood.

Barnacle Bill's actually has two locations, and we had previously been to the one in downtown Sarasota so were expecting a pretty good lunch. Boy, were we ever wrong! It is like two completely different restaurants that happen to share the same name and menus (the menus appear to be very similar based on a quick glance at the website).

The location on Tamiami Trail (or US 41 if you prefer) mostly faces away from the highway, so that driving north it would be very easy to miss it. We actually thought it was vacant as we first approached the building; it was only after pulling even with it that we saw cars in the parking lot. The building is very reminiscent of a Red Lobster look from the outside.

Once we entered we were in for yet another shock. Apparently on a Saturday afternoon this location caters to the senior crowd. We easily could have been the youngest couple there. The decor also reflects a more senior oriented environment, somewhat typical of a buffet restaurant.

It was quickly apparent that they were not prepared for service at 1:30 in the afternoon. We waited several minutes before even being acknowledged and another couple of minutes to be seated. The menus are paper and the placemats are fish-shaped paper as well. Definitely not white tablecloth.

After being given considerable time (tongue-in-cheek!) to peruse the menu, the waitress finally came by to take our order. While she was pleasant enough, she was obviously only there as an order taker.

We both had a cup of seafood gumbo for an appetizer. Allison said she liked hers a lot. I thought that the flavor was okay, but a bit smoky... as if the roux had started to burn and they decided to go with it anyway. Mine was mostly roux and okra. There were some small bits of crab but no shrimp or sausage to be found. Even more amazingly to me is that it was served sans rice! Have you ever been served gumbo without rice? Wow.

Allison went with a warm seafood salad for her entre. Shrimp, scallops and fresh fish over fields greens tossed with light soy vinaigrette according to the menu. Yep, there was definitely some field greens... actually, there was a lot of field greens. Easily enough for a small family. 5 shrimp, which actually were pretty tasty per Allison, a smallish piece of fish... and where were the scallops? It must have been their day off. The vinaigrette was also served on the side as opposed to the salad being "tossed".

I had chosen the shrimp and lobster sandwich which was supposed to be shrimp and lobster lightly tossed with celery, dill and seasoned mayonnaise. Note to chef: which part of lightly tossed was not clear on Saturday? I would have had less dill if I would have eaten a sprig of it straight. Had there not been so much dill in the dish, it probably would have been a decent salad. You can have it served on a croissant or a roll. I presumed that a roll would be a hoagie roll, as is typical with this type of sandwich. Nope, nothing but a fancy hamburger roll... at least it did not appear to be store bought. A small bit of lettuce and a very thin slice of tomato were included, however they decided to top those with a pickle that appeared to be half the cucumber so I skipped all of that. The french fries came out cold, like they had been cooked early that morning and then put aside for unsuspecting customers like me.

We would have complained about our meals except for the fact that once our orders were delivered we never saw our waitress again. That's right... not once after she delivered our food. Our check was dropped off by a different waitress, the busboy picked it up and the bartender brought it back to us. We did not leave a very good tip.

Barnacle Bill's gets a lot of great reviews and has been voted tops in Sarasota magazine as well as other awards. Hopefully it is because of the downtown location. The restaurant in downtown Sarasota has been very good the couple of times we've dined there. We will return to that one. We will not return to this location.

Cheers!

Barnacle Bill's Seafood on Urbanspoon


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2005 Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel

Date: Sat, Mar 13, 2010 Wine Tasting



It has been a good while since we've last tasted anything from Renwood. The last time was at a wine tasting, where I remember that they were good but did not really stand out. I wonder if that might not have been a fluke...

I picked up this bottle of 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel the other night on a whim - the $1 off instant coupon did not hurt either :) At Publix it was $16.99 a bottle.

The inital nose blew us away. Lots of black cherry fruit and tons of peppercorn spice. The inital palate was full-bodied. The palate showed a lot of the cherry fruit but also revealed touches of leather, some smoky oak and firm, yet somewhat gritty, tannins. There was a lot of spice to this one, which is just the way we like it! The finish reminded me of the energizer bunny... it keep going and going and going.

This was a fantastic bottle of zinfandel. The price is just a bit on the high side to consider it an everyday wine, but it is still very reasonably priced considering the quality.

Cheers!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

2005 Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel

Date: Sat, Mar 13, 2010 Wine Tasting



It has been a good while since we've last tasted anything from Renwood. The last time was at a wine tasting, where I remember that they were good but did not really stand out. I wonder if that might not have been a fluke...

I picked up this bottle of 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel the other night on a whim - the $1 off instant coupon did not hurt either :) At Publix it was $16.99 a bottle.

The inital nose blew us away. Lots of black cherry fruit and tons of peppercorn spice. The inital palate was full-bodied. The palate showed a lot of the cherry fruit but also revealed touches of leather, some smoky oak and firm, yet somewhat gritty, tannins. There was a lot of spice to this one, which is just the way we like it! The finish reminded me of the energizer bunny... it keep going and going and going.

This was a fantastic bottle of zinfandel. The price is just a bit on the high side to consider it an everyday wine, but it is still very reasonably priced considering the quality.

Cheers!


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2005 Clos La Chance "Crimson Topaz" Meritage

Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting


This was a simple yet pleasant blend of the 5 Bordeaux grapes which were grown in the Central Coast region of California. An easy-to-drink wine with or without food, you could certainly do worse than to open a bottle of this one.

The nose was full of black fruit, with hints of oak. On the palate, blackberry and some red cherry intermingled with hints of dusty tannins. Medium-bodied, with a slightly acidic finish.

I found it on sale on the producer's website for $7.00 a bottle! Not sure how much of it is available, but at that price it is a very good buy.

Cheers!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

2005 Clos La Chance "Crimson Topaz" Meritage

Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting


This was a simple yet pleasant blend of the 5 Bordeaux grapes which were grown in the Central Coast region of California. An easy-to-drink wine with or without food, you could certainly do worse than to open a bottle of this one.

The nose was full of black fruit, with hints of oak. On the palate, blackberry and some red cherry intermingled with hints of dusty tannins. Medium-bodied, with a slightly acidic finish.

I found it on sale on the producer's website for $7.00 a bottle! Not sure how much of it is available, but at that price it is a very good buy.

Cheers!


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2006 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting




A lot of French Burgundy sold here in the US, and presumably worldwide, is produced by negociants. These are wine merchants which actually buy up grapes from small growers in a region and then produces a wine under its own label. Louis Jadot is definitely one of the largest negociants and produces a lot of quality wines.

This Pouilly-Fuisse had very little on the nose but opened up nicely on the palate. The initial impression was of ripe melon, with traces of chalk and limestone along the edges. The finish was sharp, full of white flowers and ending with a fair bit of oak but not overpowering like a lot of new world chardonnay.

This was a good wine, unfortunately it was not a great wine. There was a distinct lack of depth and complexity to this one. At $20.99 I feel like it was priced more on the name of the producer and less on the quality of the contents. I have drank a lot of Louis Jadot wines and generally think that they represent good value but I cannot recommend this one at this price.

Cheers!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

2006 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting




A lot of French Burgundy sold here in the US, and presumably worldwide, is produced by negociants. These are wine merchants which actually buy up grapes from small growers in a region and then produces a wine under its own label. Louis Jadot is definitely one of the largest negociants and produces a lot of quality wines.

This Pouilly-Fuisse had very little on the nose but opened up nicely on the palate. The initial impression was of ripe melon, with traces of chalk and limestone along the edges. The finish was sharp, full of white flowers and ending with a fair bit of oak but not overpowering like a lot of new world chardonnay.

This was a good wine, unfortunately it was not a great wine. There was a distinct lack of depth and complexity to this one. At $20.99 I feel like it was priced more on the name of the producer and less on the quality of the contents. I have drank a lot of Louis Jadot wines and generally think that they represent good value but I cannot recommend this one at this price.

Cheers!


Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Tasting at The Butcher's Block - Sarasota, FL

Date: Tue, Mar 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

So, I have previously mentioned our recent discovery of The Butcher's Block and tonight was my first experience with their monthly tasting. I was expecting more, but still had a great time and enjoyed one of the best tastings since leaving Birmingham.

There were 4 tables of wine and several tables with various food and cheese from the store. There was a decent sized crowd, but not so many as to make it difficult to get to the tables for tastings. The caliber of the wines was definitely a notch up from what we have been seeing, perhaps in part due to the $10 cover or perhaps just a different approach to what a tasting should be.

I managed to hit all of the wine tables, although in a couple of cases I did not taste everything. All but one of the tables had some sort of tasting sheet, some with more detail than others. If the tasting sheet included comments/notes about the wine, those are included in quotes and blue text. All of my comments are in red text.

These tastings are the 2nd Tuesday of each month, from 7 PM to 9 PM. Hope to see you there next time.

Cheers!


Table 1 (Transatlantic Fine Wines)
I did not realize until I got home that there were no vintages on the tasting notes.

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire Valley ($19.99) – We recently reviewed the 2007 here and I think that those notes accurately reflect this tasting.

Saddle Rock Chardonnay, Santa Monica ($10.99) – This was a touch on the oaky side but not overwhelmingly so. There was good melon and floral notes throughout.

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc Rose, Mendocino ($24.99) – Ripe strawberry nose, with hints of earthiness on the back palate. A decent, albeit not great, Rose.

Saddle Rock Merlot, Santa Monica ($13.99) – This was definitely a fruit forward styled merlot.

Saddle Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Monica ($13.99) – No tasting notes, and it did not stand out in my recollection.

D’Arenberg Love Grass Shiraz, Australia ($18.99) – You generally can not go wrong with D’Arenberg and this is no exception, although it was much more subdued that I would have expected. The spiciness on the finish was mostly outweighed by cherry fruit early on.


Table 2
There was not a tasting sheet for this table, and I only wrote down what I tried... there were several other bottles on this table that I did not try.

2006 Vierlas, Spain ($13.99) – A blend of 48% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, 9% Graciano, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Garnacha this was… different. Not spicy, not fruit, not bold, not mellow… it just sort of was. I am glad that I tasted it here rather than buying a bottle of it.

2006 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre, Veneto, Italy ($15.99) – 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese this is always one of my favorites… full-bodied, but lighter than in past vintages, with lots of mocha, dark fruit and a hint of leather on the palate. 30% of the fruit was also dried Amarone style and this gives some subtle hints of raisin. Very, very smooth wine.

2007 Lyeth Meritage, Sonoma County ($15.99) – 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. I was hoping for a lot more from this generally good producer but instead found a wine that was rough edged, with gritty tannins and grapey fruit. Maybe it just needs some age but right now this was not good at all.


Table 3

2005 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander Merlot, Colchagua Valley ($23.99) – "Powerful and deep structure that surprises. Soft and chewy palate that evolves towards a long and pleasant finish with a very well achieved balance." Fruity, but with some firm tannins.

2006 Chalone Monteray Pinot Noir, Monteray County ($13.99) – "Entices the palate with silky layers of dark cherry and raspberry woven with nuances of floral and spice. These bright, expressive aromas and flavors come from grapes grown in Monteray County, in California’s Central Coast AVA." I pretty much agreed with this description.

2006 Chalone Monteray Cabernet Sauvignon, Monteray County ($9.99) – “Opens with dark fruit aromas, cassis, fragrant oak and a touch of black licorice. On the entry, the full-bodied fruit glides across the palate, layering rich blackberry and red stone fruit stitched with vanilla, oak and spice. The flavors linger through the finish, where they are met by fleshy tannins and good acidity.Overall I agreed with the description but found it to be a bit astringent and showing green pepper on the finish. Lighter style that I would have preferred.

2003 Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford County ($19.99) – “Captures the true essence of Rutherford… With opulent dark berry, black cherry, cocoa, anise, forest loam and mineral notes, the wine has well-integrated oak spices that heighten alongside fruity aromas for a long, lingering finish.Really? Seriously? All of that? Yeah, this is a very good cabernet but I think there was a bit of stretch in trying to sell this. How about nice, solid black fruit with notes of cocoa and mineral that is extremely smooth? That’s my take on it anyway.


Table 4 (Rob the wine guy)

2007 Gordon Brothers Chadonnay, Washington ($15.99) – “Notes of pear, golden delicious apple and English toffee initially greet the nose followed by subtle floral notes – lush, satin mouth-feel with flavors of honey, tangerine and pineapple. A lingering finish accentuated by bright acids.You definitely could taste the toffee in this one, which was pretty interesting. This was not a bad chardonnay but since we are not big chardonnay fans…

2007 Mac Rostie Chardonnay, Carneros-Napa ($19.99) – “Inviting aromatics reminiscent of baked custard and lemon oil with balanced layers of apple and tropical fruit, the finish is clean, crisp and refreshing, inviting another sip.I have tasted this in the past without caring for it so went ahead and passed this time.

2008 Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir, California ($14.99) – “100% Pinot Noir… enjoy aromas of cherry cider, plum jam and spice cake – notes of cherry cobbler, fresh plum and toffee.This was definitely a lighter styled pinot noir with a lot of bright fruit. Not my favorite of the evening.

2006 Coltibuono Chianti Classico Reserve, Tuscany ($15.99) – “Made from selected sangiovese vineyards located in the best Chianti Classico microzones. Enjoy fruit forward aromas and flavors of forest berries, spices, lether, moist earth and dried plum, ready for drinking immediately.Tasty, inexpensive Chianti that definitely showed some earthiness and plum. Would certainly work well with a lot of dishes.

2005 Luzon Altos de Luzon, Spain ($16.99) – “50% old-vine Monastrell, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Tempranillo – enjoy enticing perfume of mineral, garrigue, blueberry and blackberry layered fruit flavors fermented in French and American oak for 12 months, enjoy over the next 8-10 years.Enjoy that is if you like it. Not a big fan (ok, I actually do not like it at all!) of Monastrell I was hoping the cabernet and tempranillo would help it out. Nope.

2006 Marietta Cellars Petite Sirah, Sonoma ($20.99) – “…seriously intense notes of blueberries, blackberries, camphor and flowers are accompanied by a boatload of tannins, but they are relatively civilized in this big, full-bodied wine. It should soften over the next decade, hold steady for another 10-15 years and still be alive at age 30.Reading the description almost makes me wish that I had actually tasted it (I know, I know!) but I have never met a petite sirah that I liked and I have actually had this one in the past. And I personally do not believe that it will make it to age 30 either.

2006 Torbreck “The Steading”, Barossa ($34.99) – “…an alluring perfume of garrigue, damp earth, clove, kirsch and black raspberry…This is another one of those producers that just can not seem to make a bad wine. This was seriously good stuff and a great finish to the evening. Full-bodied, with gobs of black fruit and a solid core of silky tannins.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Tasting at The Butcher's Block - Sarasota, FL

Date: Tue, Mar 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

So, I have previously mentioned our recent discovery of The Butcher's Block and tonight was my first experience with their monthly tasting. I was expecting more, but still had a great time and enjoyed one of the best tastings since leaving Birmingham.

There were 4 tables of wine and several tables with various food and cheese from the store. There was a decent sized crowd, but not so many as to make it difficult to get to the tables for tastings. The caliber of the wines was definitely a notch up from what we have been seeing, perhaps in part due to the $10 cover or perhaps just a different approach to what a tasting should be.

I managed to hit all of the wine tables, although in a couple of cases I did not taste everything. All but one of the tables had some sort of tasting sheet, some with more detail than others. If the tasting sheet included comments/notes about the wine, those are included in quotes and blue text. All of my comments are in red text.

These tastings are the 2nd Tuesday of each month, from 7 PM to 9 PM. Hope to see you there next time.

Cheers!


Table 1 (Transatlantic Fine Wines)
I did not realize until I got home that there were no vintages on the tasting notes.

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire Valley ($19.99) – We recently reviewed the 2007 here and I think that those notes accurately reflect this tasting.

Saddle Rock Chardonnay, Santa Monica ($10.99) – This was a touch on the oaky side but not overwhelmingly so. There was good melon and floral notes throughout.

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc Rose, Mendocino ($24.99) – Ripe strawberry nose, with hints of earthiness on the back palate. A decent, albeit not great, Rose.

Saddle Rock Merlot, Santa Monica ($13.99) – This was definitely a fruit forward styled merlot.

Saddle Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Monica ($13.99) – No tasting notes, and it did not stand out in my recollection.

D’Arenberg Love Grass Shiraz, Australia ($18.99) – You generally can not go wrong with D’Arenberg and this is no exception, although it was much more subdued that I would have expected. The spiciness on the finish was mostly outweighed by cherry fruit early on.


Table 2
There was not a tasting sheet for this table, and I only wrote down what I tried... there were several other bottles on this table that I did not try.

2006 Vierlas, Spain ($13.99) – A blend of 48% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, 9% Graciano, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Garnacha this was… different. Not spicy, not fruit, not bold, not mellow… it just sort of was. I am glad that I tasted it here rather than buying a bottle of it.

2006 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre, Veneto, Italy ($15.99) – 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese this is always one of my favorites… full-bodied, but lighter than in past vintages, with lots of mocha, dark fruit and a hint of leather on the palate. 30% of the fruit was also dried Amarone style and this gives some subtle hints of raisin. Very, very smooth wine.

2007 Lyeth Meritage, Sonoma County ($15.99) – 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. I was hoping for a lot more from this generally good producer but instead found a wine that was rough edged, with gritty tannins and grapey fruit. Maybe it just needs some age but right now this was not good at all.


Table 3

2005 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander Merlot, Colchagua Valley ($23.99) – "Powerful and deep structure that surprises. Soft and chewy palate that evolves towards a long and pleasant finish with a very well achieved balance." Fruity, but with some firm tannins.

2006 Chalone Monteray Pinot Noir, Monteray County ($13.99) – "Entices the palate with silky layers of dark cherry and raspberry woven with nuances of floral and spice. These bright, expressive aromas and flavors come from grapes grown in Monteray County, in California’s Central Coast AVA." I pretty much agreed with this description.

2006 Chalone Monteray Cabernet Sauvignon, Monteray County ($9.99) – “Opens with dark fruit aromas, cassis, fragrant oak and a touch of black licorice. On the entry, the full-bodied fruit glides across the palate, layering rich blackberry and red stone fruit stitched with vanilla, oak and spice. The flavors linger through the finish, where they are met by fleshy tannins and good acidity.Overall I agreed with the description but found it to be a bit astringent and showing green pepper on the finish. Lighter style that I would have preferred.

2003 Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford County ($19.99) – “Captures the true essence of Rutherford… With opulent dark berry, black cherry, cocoa, anise, forest loam and mineral notes, the wine has well-integrated oak spices that heighten alongside fruity aromas for a long, lingering finish.Really? Seriously? All of that? Yeah, this is a very good cabernet but I think there was a bit of stretch in trying to sell this. How about nice, solid black fruit with notes of cocoa and mineral that is extremely smooth? That’s my take on it anyway.


Table 4 (Rob the wine guy)

2007 Gordon Brothers Chadonnay, Washington ($15.99) – “Notes of pear, golden delicious apple and English toffee initially greet the nose followed by subtle floral notes – lush, satin mouth-feel with flavors of honey, tangerine and pineapple. A lingering finish accentuated by bright acids.You definitely could taste the toffee in this one, which was pretty interesting. This was not a bad chardonnay but since we are not big chardonnay fans…

2007 Mac Rostie Chardonnay, Carneros-Napa ($19.99) – “Inviting aromatics reminiscent of baked custard and lemon oil with balanced layers of apple and tropical fruit, the finish is clean, crisp and refreshing, inviting another sip.I have tasted this in the past without caring for it so went ahead and passed this time.

2008 Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir, California ($14.99) – “100% Pinot Noir… enjoy aromas of cherry cider, plum jam and spice cake – notes of cherry cobbler, fresh plum and toffee.This was definitely a lighter styled pinot noir with a lot of bright fruit. Not my favorite of the evening.

2006 Coltibuono Chianti Classico Reserve, Tuscany ($15.99) – “Made from selected sangiovese vineyards located in the best Chianti Classico microzones. Enjoy fruit forward aromas and flavors of forest berries, spices, lether, moist earth and dried plum, ready for drinking immediately.Tasty, inexpensive Chianti that definitely showed some earthiness and plum. Would certainly work well with a lot of dishes.

2005 Luzon Altos de Luzon, Spain ($16.99) – “50% old-vine Monastrell, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Tempranillo – enjoy enticing perfume of mineral, garrigue, blueberry and blackberry layered fruit flavors fermented in French and American oak for 12 months, enjoy over the next 8-10 years.Enjoy that is if you like it. Not a big fan (ok, I actually do not like it at all!) of Monastrell I was hoping the cabernet and tempranillo would help it out. Nope.

2006 Marietta Cellars Petite Sirah, Sonoma ($20.99) – “…seriously intense notes of blueberries, blackberries, camphor and flowers are accompanied by a boatload of tannins, but they are relatively civilized in this big, full-bodied wine. It should soften over the next decade, hold steady for another 10-15 years and still be alive at age 30.Reading the description almost makes me wish that I had actually tasted it (I know, I know!) but I have never met a petite sirah that I liked and I have actually had this one in the past. And I personally do not believe that it will make it to age 30 either.

2006 Torbreck “The Steading”, Barossa ($34.99) – “…an alluring perfume of garrigue, damp earth, clove, kirsch and black raspberry…This is another one of those producers that just can not seem to make a bad wine. This was seriously good stuff and a great finish to the evening. Full-bodied, with gobs of black fruit and a solid core of silky tannins.


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Boston Lobster Feast - Orlando, FL

Date: Sun, Mar 7, 2010 Wine Tasting


Do you like lobster? Do you like all-you-can-eat lobster? Do you also like over 60 different seafood choices for one low price? If you don't, then you can quit reading now. Otherwise...

Allison is a member of the Sarasota Bay Parrothead Club. One of their members actually lives in Orlando and invited some folks up this past Saturday to head over to the Boston Lobster Feast for some lobsters. This is actually a restaurant, and not an event! We went back and forth about whether we were going to make the drive, but in the end decided to give it a go and boy are we ever glad that we did.

A couple of things that you should know about this. 1) Get there early. Before 6 PM the buffet is $32.95, although the prices does move up periodically. After 6 PM it goes up to $37.95. While the price difference is not huge, it is worth going early to beat the crowd which seems to line up before they open. 2) While there is a menu, the only reason to go is for the buffet. Check their website and you can print a coupon which is good for including drinks (non-alcoholic) or a discount on alcoholic drinks. 3) Go with a crowd. Yes, they have some two and four top tables but the fun is having a large group of people. There were 8 of us and we had a blast!

Now, this is a buffet but in terms of quality this was pretty darn good. Yes, some of the lobsters were a bit overcooked but they are turning them out by the hundreds... I also sampled some fried clams that were quite tasty, steamed vegetables (very al dente) and lobster bisque which was surprisingly good. Other offerings include multiple types of oysters, shrimp, crab legs, fish (salmon in particular in a couple of variations) and even some sushi rolls and simple pieces.

The service was pretty good considering how busy it was. For tables of 7 or more, there is an automatic 18% gratuity but our waiter was worth it.

Go when you are hungry! There are two locations in Orlando - we went to the one on International Drive.

Cheers!

Gary & Allison enjoying some lobsters

We ate a good bit of lobster... Gary had at least 4!

The crowd in front of the
Boston Lobster Feast mobile


Boston Lobster Feast-Intl on Urbanspoon

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Boston Lobster Feast - Orlando, FL

Date: Sun, Mar 7, 2010 Wine Tasting


Do you like lobster? Do you like all-you-can-eat lobster? Do you also like over 60 different seafood choices for one low price? If you don't, then you can quit reading now. Otherwise...

Allison is a member of the Sarasota Bay Parrothead Club. One of their members actually lives in Orlando and invited some folks up this past Saturday to head over to the Boston Lobster Feast for some lobsters. This is actually a restaurant, and not an event! We went back and forth about whether we were going to make the drive, but in the end decided to give it a go and boy are we ever glad that we did.

A couple of things that you should know about this. 1) Get there early. Before 6 PM the buffet is $32.95, although the prices does move up periodically. After 6 PM it goes up to $37.95. While the price difference is not huge, it is worth going early to beat the crowd which seems to line up before they open. 2) While there is a menu, the only reason to go is for the buffet. Check their website and you can print a coupon which is good for including drinks (non-alcoholic) or a discount on alcoholic drinks. 3) Go with a crowd. Yes, they have some two and four top tables but the fun is having a large group of people. There were 8 of us and we had a blast!

Now, this is a buffet but in terms of quality this was pretty darn good. Yes, some of the lobsters were a bit overcooked but they are turning them out by the hundreds... I also sampled some fried clams that were quite tasty, steamed vegetables (very al dente) and lobster bisque which was surprisingly good. Other offerings include multiple types of oysters, shrimp, crab legs, fish (salmon in particular in a couple of variations) and even some sushi rolls and simple pieces.

The service was pretty good considering how busy it was. For tables of 7 or more, there is an automatic 18% gratuity but our waiter was worth it.

Go when you are hungry! There are two locations in Orlando - we went to the one on International Drive.

Cheers!

Gary & Allison enjoying some lobsters

We ate a good bit of lobster... Gary had at least 4!

The crowd in front of the
Boston Lobster Feast mobile


Boston Lobster Feast-Intl on Urbanspoon


Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Dinner @ The Tuscany at Freedom Village with Taste Dining & Travel

Date: Sun, Mar 7, 2010 Wine Tasting

The past Friday we once again had the priviledge of attending a delectable wine dinner over at The Tuscany at Freedom Village. If you missed our post about our previous wine dinner there, you may want to check it out here.

As with all of the Taste Dining & Travel wine dinners, this one was for a cause. In this case it was the Women's Resource Center of Manatee. We had the privilege of sitting with a great group of folks, including Neal & Vanessa from Taste Dining & Travel, the executive director of Freemdom Village & his wife (Kevin & Jane) as well as Lisa from the Women's Resource Center who was instrumental in getting WRC connected with Taste Dining & Travel to make this dinner possible. We once again were blown away by executive chef Luciano Silva's creations as well as the fantastic service from all of the staff. We were saddened to learn that there is no longer a Sunday brunch at The Tuscany but they do serve lunch during the week that is open to the public. I urge you to give them a try; you will not be disappointed.

The dinner consisted of a starter course, salad, entree and dessert and each course was paired with a complimenting wine. I would also like to give Chef Silva a big thanks for making mine cheese free to accomodate my allergy.


1st Course
Sabor d' Quattro Risotto
The Four Finest Combination of Arborino
Porcini with Seared Quail, Roasted Acorn Squash & Sweet Pea, Black Truffle and Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and Reggiano & Maine Lobster.

Each appetizer portion was perfectly cooked and presented in a delighful display of color and contrast.

The wine pairing with this course was the 2008 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc from Sonoma County. Everybody at our table was surprised at how floral this fume blanc was. It hinted at being somewhat "fat" on the palate as opposed to the normal acidity that you would expect to find. It worked well with the course, but personally I would have like one with a bit more zip to it.


2nd Course
Organic Baby Mache Field Greens
Accompanied by Red & Yellow root & vine vegetables, camembert and a pomegranate vinaigrette.

A refreshing salad with a nice mix of vegetables to accompany the greens. The vinaigrette was nicely acidic, which helped to cleanse the palate in preparation for the main course.

The wine served with this course was the 2007 Macon-Villages Cave de Lugny Chardonnay Bourgogne. An interesting choice, this wine was lighter in style that can be expected from a good Bourgogne but it worked well with all of the ingredients.


3rd Course
Filet Mignon
Center-cut filet mignon seared to perfection and served with a parmesan potato biscuit and garden green asparagus which was finished with a black cherry demi glace.
or
Pancetta Wrapped Chilean Sea Bass
Over Yukon au gratin and a vegetable souffle, finished with black fig beurre blanc

I went with the filet, which was paired with a 2008 Bodega Septima Malbec from Argentina. Instead of the biscuit, Chef Silva paired mine with a creamy polenta that was finished with red pepper (at least that is what it appeared to be!). Cooked absolutely perfectly, the meal was a true delight. While the malbec was tasty in its own right, it really did not seem to mesh well with the dish. It was a bit more dry and earthy, whereas I prefer a more full-bodied, tannic styled red. In any event, everybody seemed to like the wine.

Allison stayed with the fish, and said that it was very tasty as well. It was paired with 2008 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. If you read this blog very often at all, you know this is one that we love a lot and I was happy to see it being offered.


4th Course
Freedom Village Trio Dolce
Crema of Cheese with fig coulis, Creme de Pot of Chocolate with Chambord and Crystal Vanilla Creme Brulee

I believe that this is the signature dessert dish at The Tuscany as it is what we had for dessert last time. In any case, it was every bit as good now as it was then. I made short work of both the chocolate, which was a rich, dark chocolate similar to a very heavy mousse as well as the vanilla creme brulee. Dessert was paired with Sandeman Tawny Porto which again worked reasonably well and was a good balance to the differing level of sweetness in the dishes.


As always, we had a fantastic evening and are already looking forward to the next event. If you are in the area and have not tried The Tuscany, I seriously urge you to get out there and partake. And if you have not attended one of the Progressive or Wine Dinners hosted by Taste Dining & Travel, then you need to check out their website or pick up a copy of the magazine (available throughout Sarasota) and come on out for the next one!

Cheers!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine Dinner @ The Tuscany at Freedom Village with Taste Dining & Travel

Date: Sun, Mar 7, 2010 Wine Tasting

The past Friday we once again had the priviledge of attending a delectable wine dinner over at The Tuscany at Freedom Village. If you missed our post about our previous wine dinner there, you may want to check it out here.

As with all of the Taste Dining & Travel wine dinners, this one was for a cause. In this case it was the Women's Resource Center of Manatee. We had the privilege of sitting with a great group of folks, including Neal & Vanessa from Taste Dining & Travel, the executive director of Freemdom Village & his wife (Kevin & Jane) as well as Lisa from the Women's Resource Center who was instrumental in getting WRC connected with Taste Dining & Travel to make this dinner possible. We once again were blown away by executive chef Luciano Silva's creations as well as the fantastic service from all of the staff. We were saddened to learn that there is no longer a Sunday brunch at The Tuscany but they do serve lunch during the week that is open to the public. I urge you to give them a try; you will not be disappointed.

The dinner consisted of a starter course, salad, entree and dessert and each course was paired with a complimenting wine. I would also like to give Chef Silva a big thanks for making mine cheese free to accomodate my allergy.


1st Course
Sabor d' Quattro Risotto
The Four Finest Combination of Arborino
Porcini with Seared Quail, Roasted Acorn Squash & Sweet Pea, Black Truffle and Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and Reggiano & Maine Lobster.

Each appetizer portion was perfectly cooked and presented in a delighful display of color and contrast.

The wine pairing with this course was the 2008 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc from Sonoma County. Everybody at our table was surprised at how floral this fume blanc was. It hinted at being somewhat "fat" on the palate as opposed to the normal acidity that you would expect to find. It worked well with the course, but personally I would have like one with a bit more zip to it.


2nd Course
Organic Baby Mache Field Greens
Accompanied by Red & Yellow root & vine vegetables, camembert and a pomegranate vinaigrette.

A refreshing salad with a nice mix of vegetables to accompany the greens. The vinaigrette was nicely acidic, which helped to cleanse the palate in preparation for the main course.

The wine served with this course was the 2007 Macon-Villages Cave de Lugny Chardonnay Bourgogne. An interesting choice, this wine was lighter in style that can be expected from a good Bourgogne but it worked well with all of the ingredients.


3rd Course
Filet Mignon
Center-cut filet mignon seared to perfection and served with a parmesan potato biscuit and garden green asparagus which was finished with a black cherry demi glace.
or
Pancetta Wrapped Chilean Sea Bass
Over Yukon au gratin and a vegetable souffle, finished with black fig beurre blanc

I went with the filet, which was paired with a 2008 Bodega Septima Malbec from Argentina. Instead of the biscuit, Chef Silva paired mine with a creamy polenta that was finished with red pepper (at least that is what it appeared to be!). Cooked absolutely perfectly, the meal was a true delight. While the malbec was tasty in its own right, it really did not seem to mesh well with the dish. It was a bit more dry and earthy, whereas I prefer a more full-bodied, tannic styled red. In any event, everybody seemed to like the wine.

Allison stayed with the fish, and said that it was very tasty as well. It was paired with 2008 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. If you read this blog very often at all, you know this is one that we love a lot and I was happy to see it being offered.


4th Course
Freedom Village Trio Dolce
Crema of Cheese with fig coulis, Creme de Pot of Chocolate with Chambord and Crystal Vanilla Creme Brulee

I believe that this is the signature dessert dish at The Tuscany as it is what we had for dessert last time. In any case, it was every bit as good now as it was then. I made short work of both the chocolate, which was a rich, dark chocolate similar to a very heavy mousse as well as the vanilla creme brulee. Dessert was paired with Sandeman Tawny Porto which again worked reasonably well and was a good balance to the differing level of sweetness in the dishes.


As always, we had a fantastic evening and are already looking forward to the next event. If you are in the area and have not tried The Tuscany, I seriously urge you to get out there and partake. And if you have not attended one of the Progressive or Wine Dinners hosted by Taste Dining & Travel, then you need to check out their website or pick up a copy of the magazine (available throughout Sarasota) and come on out for the next one!

Cheers!


Read Full Wine Blog Post


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