after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Ehlers Estate

Mercato keeps the dream alive

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t says:  g and I have a confession to make.  We’re “over” Restaurant Week.  Back in the day, when it was $30pp, we were all over it like white on rice.  But nowadays, with that $5 price increase (actually, I think the increase is a couple years old now), we’re just not so optimistic.  The restaurants are crowded.  The servers are overworked.  Chefs whine/complain in the blogosphere left and right.  Of course, there are some exceptions out there (looking at you, Amada!), but all-too-often, the food just isn’t a good representation of what the restaurant can do (which is kinda-sorta-the-fault of the restaurant – if you can’t deal with the RW crowd, then don’t participate!  Go on vacation, like Kanella used to!).  But … this season … g and I got back into it RW.  Why?  Well – we had some wine to taste from our Napa trip and people to taste it with (a and v) but nowhere to eat!  As we looked at BYOs to go to, g remembered one we hadn’t been to in a while: Mercato!  AND – because they did a great RW some years ago,  g tasked a to set it up.  a got the job done (he’s dependable like that) ,and we showed up, ready to eat and drink …

October 2012, Tuesday Restaurant Week Dinner, Party of 4.  g and I met a and v at the restaurant.  I pulled out the wine selections for the evening (I caught a with his pants down: his Philly wine stash was low, so he was happy to leave the choosing up to me this time):

wines for the evening … the sauvignon blanc is from a rising young-gun, while the red [covered to conceal its identity] is a lesser-known varietal by life-saving winery Ehlers Estate

Both of these wines are small[er]-production bottles from California (Massican is small-production is general, while Ehlers produces quite a bit more, but only limited quantities of its non-Cabernet Sauvignon bottles like the mystery bottle above).  Is it pointless for me to put these here?  Kinda.  It’s super-hard to find these, especially in PA.  Does it drive you crazy that I haven’t revealed the identity of the mystery wine?  This allows me to introduce our new resident tweeter: TallGlassOfVino.  If you have any questions about these wines, send ’em our way!  The short story for these two particular wines: both delicious, both “interesting”, both worth getting again.

Ok, so back to the food …

meet [nearly] the best antipasto in the city!

The antipasti at Mercato is off-the-hook.  When we saw it on the RW menu, g and I knew that we just had to get it.  It looks like a cluster on a plate, but I assure you that every single thing on this plate is worth eating.  The crostinis, the cheese, the artichoke, the tomato, the pickled red onion (!! surprise awesomeness !!), the cured meat, the lentils, the eggplant, the olives … the sour-savory balance is done so well!  It just doesn’t get any better than this!  Well … except maybe Vetri … but come on – does that really count?  I say no …

Here are shots of a’s and v’s appetizers and food.

a’s app: soup of some sort

v’s app: artichoke – v didn’t seem to really take to it – I guess she was imagining something a little more interesting than artichoke and some aioli

v’s main:  chestnut fettucini – it smelled wonderful – and I liked how it tasted like fall on a plate!

a’s main: blurry picture of veal: a’s was absolutely delicious!  that veal was so succulent, so well-prepared, and the sauce was impeccably seasoned.  i loved it!  (and I only had one bite!)

t’s main: gnocchi with braised beef and broccoli rabe

I remembered the gnocchi dish from the last time we went to Mercato, so I felt the need to revisit it.  And, to be honest, it wasn’t quite as good as I remember.  So instead of “in-the-running-for-the-best-gnocchi-in-the-city”, it’s going to settle in as “better-than-La-Viola”.  As you might gather, there were some issues.  I think the biggest had to do with the sauce consistency – it was just a little too thin for my taste – it didn’t really cling to the gnocchi at all, so in the end, I had some gnocchi that didn’t have a lot of taste due to lack of coverage by the sauce.  The beef was also a little lackluster – it just wasn’t “loved” with the intensity during cooking that I wanted my cow to be loved (I realize that this sentence makes no sense – but I’m sticking with it).

pyramid pasta stuffed with lobster shrimp and cheese

g felt that she won dinner.  I’m not sure I agree, because a’s dish was so wonderful.  However, g was in the mood for something a bit “lighter”, and so she was very satisfied with the surprisingly-light brown butter sauce, the sweet sweet shellfish/crustaceans, and the fresh veggie flavors.  Between this and the super-citrus of the Massican sauvignon blanc, she was in heaven …

The desserts … hmmm … to be honest, I can’t find the pictures of dessert.  I suspect that the lack of pictures and the lack of memory means that they were unremarkable.  g and v had some kind of apple pie thing with cinnamon ice cream (g loves-loves-LOVES cinnamon ice cream).  a had panna cotta (that unfortunately failed the “woman’s-breast-test”).  I had a molten chocolate cake (that fortunately passed the “I-hope-this-doesn’t-suck-test”).   The desserts solid overall – I’m not sure they’d be worth $8ish dollars, but the way we see it – RW is kind of like “you-pay-for-two-courses-and-get-dessert-for-free”, so we couldn’t complain.

In all, 2 of 3 appetizers and 2 of 4 mains were exceptional.  The remaining dishes ranged anywhere from “good” to “could-probably-be-great-with-some-execution-details”.  With better menu selection on our part, we could have probably assembled a flawless dinner (each of us was deciding between at least two options for every course, so I guess we just got a little “unlucky” for the less-than-exceptional choices).  The four of us felt that this was a big win for Mercato.  We’ll have to keep it in mind for future RW when we want to sling some wine.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 October 2012 at 10:03pm

Napa in pictures … Day 2

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t says:  Day 2 started off pretty early in Napa – I popped in Bouchon Bakery for some delicious pastries.  Unfortunately, I took no pictures … let’s just say it was awesome.  Oh – and also, let’s just say that if you go any later than 7:30am on a Saturday during tourist season, you’re going to wait (fortunately, I got there at 7).  After breakfast, g got her nails did (it’s becoming a vacation tradition!).  With full bellies and g’s finished nails, we got down to business with our first tasting of the day: Ma(i)sonry.

Maisonry serves a variety of wines to taste in an indoor-outdoor gallery, including a garden with sculptures.  It was a wonderful setting in which to drink wine.

g and I elected for a tasting of a crap-ton of high-end cabernets.  5 in a row.  Tasting notes include:  “an immature teenage punk-rocker with tusseled hair”, “a classy alluring woman at a skinny black dress”, “a sexy vixen with whips and chains”, “raisins gone wild”, “a baby’s bottom”.  End result: Kristine Ash’s offering (the vixen) and Tor’s offering (the baby’s bottom) were our favorite, with Tor getting the slight edge for grace.

Ma(i)sonry is a great place to go to taste some phenomenal cabs from a variety of winemakers and vineyards.  Yes, it’s pricey, but this was clearly the best “tasting” we had on our trip because it allowed us to compare similarly-pedigreed/priced cabs head-to-head, with no bias or pressure to buy.  Now if only we could afford more of those bottles to bring home with us … maybe next time … Grade: A.

we proceeded to lunch at TK’s ad hoc …

the best fried chicken i’ve ever had … seriously … the crust could not be any more perfect!  Even the cornbread was wondrously fluffy – however – you feel your arteries clogging with every buttery bite …

ribs and a piece of shoulder … it evoked memories of bbq’s of my childhood but with a length and complexity that i could probably only now recognize.  the sauce that was oh-so-addictive – i would use it on every sandwich ever if i had access to it

the potato salad and corn were pretty good – not super-remarkable, but not bad, either …

and here it is: an Ad Hoc cookie … the base recipe for my own cookies … i kinda-gotta-say it: I like mine better – a darker chocolate and a lighter cookie in both flavor and texture – sorry TK!

Our next wine stop was Ehler’s Estate.  We don’t have pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word that they do a nice job there, with a few solid cabs, of which the 1886 comes out on top (predictable, as it’s their top bottling).  Personally, I feel that their more interesting offerings were the non-cabs (Petite Verdot and Cab Franc), but maybe that’s just me being picky (or maybe I still had Kristine Ashe on my mind …).  Grade: B+  (A fun place to visit, but I’m not sure we’d go again on our next trip).

By this time, g wanted a pre-dinner nap, so while she slumbered, I ventured into Napa for another wine-tasting:

Bounty Hunter Wines.  This.  Place.  Is.  Awesome.  For real!  It’s part wine bar and part wine shop (and part bbq joint).  They have an impressive selection of wines by the glass (and by the “taste”) including a few bottlings unique to Bounty Hunter, and the food looked darn tasty (not fancy – just plain ‘ol tasty).  The had a very nice pinot from Brittan vineyards that I’m currently trying to figure out how I can get more into PA.  We’re definitely going to revisit this place on our next trip – I wanna go back with g!  Grade: A+.

Napa Vintner’s Collective.  This little tasting room is most similar to the Carlton Winemaker’s Studio that we visited in Oregon.  The shtick is that it serves as a tasting room for a lot of very tiny vineyards/winemakers throughout the valley.  It had a pretty reasonable tasting fee ($25), but they don’t allow you to pick every wine you want to try – it’s all subject to whatever they have open at the time.  Grade: A-.

For dinner, we went to Bouchon …

Bouchon has a bustling bistro feel, with some very attractive entrees on the menu (think homely French – not quite as rustic as Bibou, but not fancy-shmancy, either).  As you can seen above the meal started off nicely …

… but then the lights went out!  At first it was very romantic.  g made an astute observation, “this is kind of like our version of camping!”  Yep – she’s right-on.  In any case, the restaurant ultimately had to close down, cutting our meal short.  At this point we had had our appetizers (I had an octopus appetizer that was actually quite rubbery – g’s salad was ok), and were kinda-sorta forced to eat our entree in the dark (after the lights went out, we were served our mains in the dark without being asked whether or not we’d like to continue dining).  I have to say that I was a bit nonplussed about this experience and contemplated asking the manager if we could abandon our entrees (or at least mine – the gnocchi dish was actually not a great dish to eat in the dark), but he appeared very busy/preoocupied with all that was happening.  We sucked it up, paid the full bill (they made no offers to comp anything and I was too irritated to raise a fuss), and walked out.  Sorry Bouchon – two sad courses out of four and a disregard for patron’s dining experience … you get a D- (the good bread helps you evade an F)  <g interrupts: Holy crap!  You gave Bouchon a D-?  I think that’s a little harsh!>  back to t:  Ok, then maybe a D … but the point is that it’s so not worth a Michelin Star or the tariff we paid.  I did attempt to contact the restaurant to talk about the experience, but no response yet …

Fortunately, I had some Kara’s Cupcakes to put a smile on my face back the hotel room.  Thank goodness for Kara.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 October 2012 at 9:15pm