This was one of the treasures from our most recent Napa trip. Conn Creek is on the Silverado trail and has a welcoming tasting room. We picked up the Cab Franc and a 2004 Cab Sauv that needs some more time laying down. The Cab Franc took some time opening up, but once it did, we enjoyed it to the last drop. It’s not a fruit in your face Cab Franc, but rather holds a bit back with some tannin and structure and still has the deep blackberry/cocoa finish. This is a great bargain too at $25 for the bottle.
Petit Verdot is often used as a blending grape, so finding a Napa vineyard that produces a 100% Petit Verdot is a bit unusual. This 2006 Trinchero Petit Verdot was an enjoyable start to the evening. It’s a somewhat lighter, full bodied wine that I think worked really nicely with our Greek appetizers. For people that don’t live the dry reds, this works well, but certainly isn’t a ‘fruit bomb’, so it’s versatile enough to go with many foods. Not to use one of the typical wine terms, but I think there was a slight cedar-y finish to it: nice and crisp.
I have a former colleague who has been hounding me for over a year to go to Effie’s (1127 Pine Street, Phila, PA). Well, I finally got there last night. My wife and a friend enjoyed a few drinks before at Mixto (other post) and then had a fun and filling dinner at Effie’s. This also presented an opportunity to bring out some treasures from recent Napa trips. I’ll focus on the food in this post and the wine will be separate.
To me, Greek = sharing when it comes to food and Effie’s was no different. We sat in a room which is on the other side of their outside area which is charming into itself and felt like we were in someone’s home. We started with some appetizers:
- Saganaki – lightly floured and seared Kasseri cheese: Take a pita, grab some saganaki and you have the best cheese sandwich you can imagine. What’s not to like about gooey greek cheese? Just make sure you squeeze the lemon on top before eating; it really wakes up the taste.
- Spanakopita (2) – spinach, scallion dill, feta, phyllo dough parcel: Hands down the best spanakopita I’ve ever had. No more wedding/bar mitzvah spanikopita for me.
- Thessaloniki – tzatziki, hummus, meletzanosalata, olives, feta, dolmades: I found the hummus a little bland, but outside of that, the meletzanosalata which is an eggplant salad (that makes you forget that you don’t like eggplant unless it’s breaded) was great.
For dinner we all had some type of lamb dish (and I, of course tasted everyone’s, for editorial purposes…):
- Lamb Souvlaki – grilled cubes of marinated lamb on a skewer served with tzatziki, rice and stewed green beans: This was mine and the meat was uber-tender and flavorful. I barely needed the tzatziki, although it was very good. While I was expecting green beans, it was served with green peas, which were good, just not what I expected. The rice was a throw in; I think I’ll get the souvlaki sandwich the next time.
- Paidakia – grilled baby lamb chops, feta basil risotto and greens: The lamb chops where tender, but slightly overcooked, I wish they were closer to medium-medium rare, but very good no less. The star of this plate was the risotto which was perfect and had great, fresh herb flavor.
- Lamb Lemonato – pan seared lamb cubes, roasted potatoes in a lemon wine sauce: Presented like a stew, this hearty dish had hints, rather than the strong lemon taste throughout. Very enjoyable.
By the time we finished dinner, we were (over)full, but really enjoyed our time and food at Effie’s. We will surely return.
Cooked tonight and made an earthy Whole Wheat Linguine with Shallot, Spinach, Flat Leaf Parsley, Shitake Mushrooms, Fresh Parm, and of course, Garlic.
Picked up fresh whole wheat linguine at DiBruno at 1730 Chestnut St and went from there. Quick saute of two boxes of shitakes with a shallot and a clove of garlic at a pretty high heat until the mushrooms are soft. Add 3 handfuls of baby spinach, 1/2 cup of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, and a ladle of pasta cooking liquid to wilt the spinach. Meanwhile drop the pasta in salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. Mix together and shave fresh parm on top for an earthy, filling dinner.
We are really spoiled to have so many great restaurants and bars in our area. When Noble opened, the decision became even harder as they have some masterful mixologists behind the bar. Regardless of the beer & wine happy hour specials, I seem to gravitate towards their cocktails which, considering the quality and taste are a value at less than $11 for most.
Last night, we had:
- Beet & Endive salad with blood oranges: Really liked the flavor profile and the beets were roasted and served in a good sized bite. It went quickly and wish there was more of it.
- Sweet Potato & Curry Soup: Just pure Yum.
- Grilled Flank Steak & Roasted Turnips: I think it was turnips with the steak…whatever it was, I’d like a bowl of that by itself next time.
All of the bar drinks are great, from the Old Fashioned I had last night made with two types of bitters and their own cherries (not that maraschino crap) to the Rye based beverage I had first. My other half enjoyed the Bell’s Stout first ($3 during happy hour) and then shifted to a favorite wine; Erath Pinot Gris (Oregon, 2008).
We enjoyed this when we dined at 24K on Saturday night for a private dinner with the chefs (next post will be about dinner). This was a special occasion and the wine matched the company. It took a few minutes to open up, but this was a true spring mountain cabernet with berry and medium licorice tones and proved easily consumed for all. If you’re a PA resident, this is one of the Chairman’s selections in the store.
Review on Snooth: http://www.snooth.com/wine/schweiger-vineyards-cabernet-sauvignon-2003/
I made this last night and it’s enough for a few nights of side dishes. It’s almost vegetarian as it uses chicken stock, but you could easily substitute veggie stock instead and it would still be good. The fresh herbs add a great, rounded flavor and I purposely slightly undercooked the lentils as I knew I’d be reheating them for a couple nights. Also, if you don’t have creme fraiche, sour cream works in a pinch.
This also provides a good excuse (not that I needed it) to open a bottle of wine.
Here is the recipe (from the recent issue of Food & Wine)
- 1 1/2 cups French green lentils (12 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 packed cup baby spinach (2 ounces)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
- 4 lightly packed cups mâche (2 ounces) or arugula
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Freshly ground pepper
- In a large saucepan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and simmer over moderate heat until tender, 40 minutes. Drain the lentils.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the red onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and the wine and simmer until the wine has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the crème fraîche. Add the mâche, parsley and cilantro and cook until barely wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.
Had the Del Dotto Caves Blend with dinner tonight and it was a perfect match (to the buffalo burgers & sweet potato ‘baked chips’). This is a great mix of 60% Merlot 30% Cabernet Franc 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that had a red-fruit forward nose, easy drinking and vanilla finish. It’s like a berry-cream soda!
I didn’t realized how much my wine was overpriced until I was at the PA State Store yesterday. On Friday, I had the Crios 2008 Rose of Malbec at Chifa and it was $10 for a glass. At the state store, the entire bottle is $10.99. I picked up the bottle too and will enjoy it with a more detailed review soon. This is beyond gouging; restaurants get a 10% break on bottles from the state as they are the only distributor (everyone has to buy from PLCB), so it’s a known that wine prices are marked up in PA and the reason behind so many BYOB restaurants.
However, with that all said, this means that GRG paid $9.90 for the bottle of wine and broke even on the sale of one glass! Everything else in that bottle goes to cover operating costs and then directly to the bottom line. If it were $7 or $8, that would have been a little more reasonable.
From now on, I will only order mixed drinks and beer in PA restaurants and if I want wine, I’ll go to a place where I can bring my own.
Last night, we had a fun dinner at Chifa, part of the Jose Garces (Iron Chef) food empire growing in Philadelphia. We really enjoy the small plates/tapas experience as you can try lots of things rather than having to decide on just an appetizer and main course.
We both had mixed drinks from the bar to start our meal:
-Spicy Margarita (Tequila, Passion Fruit, Thai Chiles) & Chinese 5 Spice Manhattan (Rye Whiskey, 5 Spice Infused Simple Syrup). The margarita had some kick from the Thai Chilis and the Manhattan was nice and smooth. I’ve been on a bourbon kick recently since attending a Bourbon tasting last year.
Wine during dinner:
- Crios “Rose of malbec ” 2008 Mendoza, Argentina: This was in the deep rose family and had enough body to stand up to the spices in my dinner, but also some dry fruitiness to round it out.
- Riesling: SCHLOSS VOLLRADS 2007 Rheingau, Germany: No doubt a very sweet Riesling that we enjoyed. I found some pineapple and peach in the wine which might have been better with dessert (which we didn’t have) than dinner.
Then the food arrived…
As if we hadn’t ordered enough, the chef sent out these manchego cheese stuffed breads, almost savory donuts which were light and cheesy! From there, here’s what we ate and my impressions of each item:
- Peruvian Ceviche (corvina, sweet potato, pickled pearl onions): There was a good amount of fish in the dish and it had solid, citrus flavor. My only thought is that it was more of a citrus soup with fish and other good stuff and might have benefited from a more shallow dish. This was served with corn nuts which we really enjoyed snacking on throughout the meal.
- Kobe Tartar (sriracha, pear, wasabi mayo): If I see tartar on the menu, I’m ordering it. The overall flavor of this was ok, but I felt that the steak didn’t shine as there was too much salt. My wife, who loves salt enjoyed it but could see how I felt that way.
- Chifa Pickles (melon & cucumber, cauliflower & apple, spicy greens): These are not Jewish deli pickles! A very interesting set of flavors. The spicy greens had a sesame oil in addition to the pickling spices and were good; I could have eaten a bowl of that with some tiradito.
- Pork Belly Bao Buns (hoisin glaze, pickled daikon & carrot, togarashi mayo): Melt in your mouth pork belly goodness sandwiched between rice dough pancakes. Can’t miss this which can also come with Duck, Tofu, or Lobster)
- Soup Dumplings (heritage pork, sesame, black vinegar): I’ve had the soup dumplings in NYC, specifically at Joe’s Shanghai which are the best, so this was enticing, but had a lot to live up to. The noodle and filling were fresh, the pork filling had a pungent ginger and scallion flavor, but there wasn’t much in the way of soup in the dumpling. Overall good flavor, especially when mixed with the dipping sauce, but more of a steamed bun than a soup dumpling.
- Pork Bowl (ramen noodles, braised pork, egg, spicy greens): Some of the best ramen noodles I’ve ever had and the broth had a richness to it that was so appealing. The pork itself was almost a throw in, I could have just enjoyed the noodles and broth. This too, like the Tartar had a bit too much salt for my taste.
- Humita (charred corn, bacon, mushrooms, aji cream): This was a real earthy (umami?) dish with the grilled corn cake, almost polenta-like and thinly sliced mushrooms and bacon. Luckily, this was our first hot dish and we were able to taste it all.
We didn’t eat dessert as we were so full, but the check came with 2 small rice crispy treats with the Chef’s logo on it and that was a nice end to the meal. Service was fluid, efficient, and educating. Overall, this was a fun and filling experience and I look forward to returning.