Here I’m, continuing to report on my food and wine adventures in Portugal (here are the first and second posts from the series). Well, I guess “adventures” is really too much of a word for simply excellent food and wine experiences, but “adventures” put the things in the right prospective, isn’t it? Never mind, let’s just talk about food and wine.
On the first night we ended up at the small place called Restaurante Nova Europa. The place looked very authentic in the sense that they had a hard time to find an English menu, and our server spoke practically no English - that didn’t prevent us from having a very good dinner. Most of the people at the table ordered some version of the local fish called Bacalhau, which is a cod. It was offered in different variations – mine had a lot of potatoes:
And as I often ignore food and wine pairing rules, the wine was red:
As most of the wines from Douro, this 2010 Evel Tinto Douro, this wine is made from the “classic set” of Portuguese grapes – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz a Tinta Barroca. The same grapes are also used as a foundation for most of the Port wines, which are made in exact same Douro region. Good body, good depth, not necessarily spectacular but easy to drink and pleasant.
Now I would like to mention two of the very local products. First one is beer. I’m not sure how many different beers are produced in Portugal (I’m positive though that US microbrewery revolution didn’t take any roots in Portugal so far). The beer is called Super Bock, it comes in lager, stout and few other versions, and it is produced in the area just outside of Porto – according to Wikipedia. I only tried the stout, which was dark, rich, smooth and creamy. I have to mention though that it is somewhat dangerous to rely on my opinion about beer – for the most of the time I prefer dark beer and on contrary to many of my friends, I don’t find Guinness bitter. And here is the picture for you – the picture was taken by my friend Kfir, not by me – but he was using my camera, so I guess I have some rights to it…
Next item to bring to your attention is a local sandwich (supposedly it is Porto’s specialty) called Francesinha. This sandwich is made out of two slices of crust-less bread with various meats (or even veggies) in between – we saw it on the menu in most of the restaurants in Porto, and it can come with steak, white meat, various ham cuts and so on. The sandwich is completely covered by melted cheese (top and all sides), and it is served with the secret sauce which is supposed to be some combination of tomato sauce and beer. I had a steak version and it was very tasty. Believe it or not, but I’m not always carrying my camera to the restaurant, so Francesinha is probably the only dish I regret not taking my picture of – but someone thankfully did on Wikipedia, so below is the picture for you, courtesy of Wikipedia:
And then there was Cufra. Pardon my little drama here, and let me explain. We saw the restaurant while walking by, checked it out on the web, and it looked appealing enough. Service staff spoke not too much of English, but the menu was possible to understand, so we all ended up with decent food – but the wine was more memorable. For the white we had 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro, a blend of Codega do Larinho, Rabigato and Viosinho – very typical blend for Douro white wine, all indigenous grapes (Wine Centurions, take note!). The wine was very nice, with good acidity and somewhat similar to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, only with less of grapefruit.
Then we had a bootle of 2009 Quinta do Cardo Selecção do Enólogo Beiras DOC, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, produced by Quinta do Cardo. The wine was nothing short of being spectacular – with the exception of vintage port, during the whole week I only had one other red wine which was on the same level or may be even a touch higher – but I will talk about it in another post. Dense and concentrated, with dark fruit, plums and blueberries on the palate, all very round with the hint of smokiness. The wine was so good for the money (€14, in a restaurant!) that I even got two bottles right in the restaurant to take them back home.
When we went to the same restaurant second time, about a week later, the menu was quite different, and the wine were too. But – one of the reasons for the second visit was the desire to try the crab dish we saw someone ordering during the first time. Considering that Porto is located right on the cross of ocean and the Douro river, it is rather expected that fish and seafood should be very good – and this dish didn’t disappoint (hope you will find the below picture being enough of the proof):
I can’t say the same about wines – there was different 2009 Quinta do Cardo wine on the list (about €4 cheaper), and while it was not bad, it was not anywhere as good as the first one. All in all, if you are in Porto and if you will be in the area, Cufra is well worth visiting.
Last place I want to mention (but not least by all means) is a restaurant called Rabelos. Just to give you some prospective, Rabelos are actually flat bottom boats which were used to transport barrels of Port from the wineries to the Port house cellars for aging. Nowadays the wine is transported by the tanker trucks, and Rabelos are only used to move tourists around.
Anyway, the restaurant is actually located in Vila Nova de Gaia, a town which houses all the port cellars across the river from Porto. It is located very close to the bridge which connects Porto and Gaia, right along the boardwalk in a place which in general should be considered a tourist trap. But it was no tourist trap at all. The service was outstanding, and we got great recommendations and had great experience overall.
One of the starters was local feta cheese, dusted with Parmesan and slightly roasted with olive oil (take a note – I think it should be as easy to make it at home as it is delicious, and as a very least I’m going to try it…).
Then we had beef carpaccio and shrimp salad – the pictures don’t do justice to those dishes, but both were delicious
Next we had two dishes made from Bacalhau in different styles – one was baked with cheese sauce and one was grilled – both were outstanding:
Again ignoring the pairing rules, we went with the red wine called 2010 Borges Quinta da Soalheira Douro Red, a blend of classic Douro red grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cão, made by Vinhos Borges. The wine had medium body, good acidity, nice red fruit on the palate, well balanced – perfect for every day drinking, considering you can find it.
For the desert, we had lemon cake (paired with white Port) and chocolate cake paired with simple tawny. Below are a few pictures – the first one is taken by me ( boring, sigh), and then two others taken by Kfir – I will need to learn how to really use my own camera…
And of course nobody can leave the restaurant without coffee, right?
That’s all, we are done for today folks. Sorry for all the pictures, hope you found them at least moderately entertaining. Until the next time – cheers!
This is the last post in the series about our experiences at Hotel Fauchere in Milford, PA ( previous two posts can be found here and here). Have to warn you upfront – if you thought that there are too many photos in my posts, this one will be extreme – there are way too many pictures I want to share. Here we go…
Culmination point of our weekend getaway was chef’s tasting dinner, long anticipated and planned for. The dinner took place at The Delmonico Room at Hotel Fauchere – for historic reference behind the name and relationship with The Delmonico Room in New York, you can click here. Anticipated is fine, but what’s up with planning? Considering love of wine in the group, we decided to take upon the pairing of the tasting menu by ourselves. For the tasting and pairing experience, this was a good decision, for the service part – not so much. Not that I can really complain about service, all the plates, decanters, glasses and silverware were flying around properly, but the service was delivered in the stark contrast with “everybody smiling” (if you read my previous posts), I would say it was delivered with the stone face. There can be some objective reasons to that ( we brought our own wine, therefore I guess we questioned the level of wine service)… Anyway, let’s talk about food and wine
So we had 7 course tasting menu with two very small “single byte” dishes at the beginning and in the middle of the dinner. Menu focus was on the local, seasonal and fresh ingredients, and I think mission was accomplished quite well. We selected 7 different wines to pair with the dishes – 4 whites, 3 reds.
2009 Domaine Eugene Carrel & Fils Rousette de Savoie Altesse, France
2007 Staglin Family Vineyards ‘Salus’ Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley
2009 Jorge Ordoñez Málaga Botani Sierras de Màlaga
1995 Domain Cazes Ambré Riversaltes Languedoc-Roussillon
We made a lot of good decisions with this set – but more about it later.
And here are the three reds:
2005 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley
2005 Chateau La Grange Clinet Premier Cotes de Bordeaux
This was also a great selection, all worked very well with food – so lets get some details.
The first dish in tasting was Tortelloni A La Zucca (Seared Diver Scallop, Black Walnut, Sage Butter). Wine pairing – Rousette de Savoie Altesse.
I would honestly question composition of the dish, as pumpkin tortelloni didn’t do anything to the scallop, tortelloni looked almost as a presentation piece. At the same time, wine worked very well with all of the components in the dish – apple, leeches and earthiness worked well with pumpkin filling, and wine had enough fruit and acidity to complement scallop. One important thing to mention here – with this wine I was able to make a progress in the treble journey, as Altesse is a grape from Savoie which I never tasted before. Color me happy – 273.
The next dish was Foie Gras De Canard (Porcini Mushroom, Brussles, Pear, Pomme Maxim). Wine pairing – Staglin Salus Chardonnay.
Salus is produced by Staglin Family, one of California cult wine producers from Napa Valley (Staglin Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 just got WS 98 rating). Salus was one of the most beautiful chardonnays I tasted lately. Vanilla, butter, caramel, toasted oak and acidity of the wine worked perfectly with heavy but creamy texture of the foie gras.
Next dish was Roasted Black Sea Bass (Caramelized Sunchoke, Garden Chard, Cabernet Franc Emulsion). Wine pairing – Mara Pinot Noir.
1. It was one of the best versions of Roasted Sea Bass I ever had. So, by the time I realized that I didn’t get a picture of the dish, it was too late.
2. And I guess it was also too late because everybody got carried away after taking a sip of Mara Pinot Noir.
Mara Pinot Noir was really a centerpiece of the tasting. “Oh my god” was major phrase at the table after the first sip of the wine. I don’t think that wine should be described in terms of color, fruit and acidity. This wine should be described in terms of opulence and decadence it cast upon the table. “Total and absolute balance” would be the right way to put it. Anyway, if you can find a bottle, you should experience it for yourself ( about 250 cases total production). In my “drinkability” ratings it is defnitely a 9+.
Next dish: Sautéed Squab (Confir Potatoes, Red Peppers, Serrano Ham). Wine pairing – Bradford Mountain Zinfandel.
Deep earthy and gamey flavors of the dish ( tasted almost like a fried liver), were complimented well by spices and acidity of the wine. This was definitely a good combination.
Following on, major entree: Duo of Farm Raised Rabbit (Bacon Wrapped Loin, Rabbit Scrapple, Chestnut, Garden Carrots, Natural Jus). Wine pairing – Chateau La Grange Clinet Premier Cotes de Bordeaux.
Bordeaux had being nicely decanted, so it was open enough in time for this dish being served. Coming from magnificent 2005 vintage, this wine can be drunk right now, but will improve with some time in the cellar. The wine worked well with the flavors of the dish – combination of tender, a bit gamey loin and fresh garden vegetables was well complemented by dark fruit flavors in the Bordeaux.
And now it is time for desserts: Cheese Soufflé (Pinot Noir Must, Grape Aspic, Rose Champagne Granite). Wine pairing – Botani Sierras de Màlaga.
I discovered Botani Muscat at the dinner at The Capital Grille. This wine delivers incredibly bright acidity and fruit combination, every sip feels like it is full of live. That acidity was instrumental in this pairing. The wine worked quite well with both Granite and Souffle components of the dessert.
And last, but not least, one more dessert: Gala Apple and Granola (Apple Jack Caramel, Foraged Crabapple Confit, Cinnamon Gel, Pecan Brittle, Mulled Cider Ice Cream). Wine pairing: Ambré Riversaltes.
If Mara Pinot Noir was best of tasting, then this was the most interesting wine. This wine, made out of White Grenache, is made in the Solera style – it spent 7 years in the open tubs, developing delicate flavors. Ambré Riversaltes exhibited fresh and balanced flavors of toasted apple and caramel, which perfectly worked with “apple many styles” flavors of the dessert.
That’ s all, folks – it is time to conclude the report on the Hotel Fauchere experience. All in all, we had a great time, and will gladly do it again. The life journey continues…
Well, this post definitely will be about life and experiences. This past weekend, we went with the group of friends to the small town called Milford in Pennsylvania. The goal was to stay in the nice Hotel Fauchere, experience the special chef tasting dinner at The Delmonico Room, and to do sightseeing and enjoy beautiful fall colors of East Coast. We definitely got a complete range of experiences – enough for few blog posts, as if I will try to cram it all into one, I will lose my readers.
Let’s talk about those experiences, one by one. Hotel Fauchere is a beautiful boutique hotel, belonging to Relais & Châteaux group of luxury hotels. The interior is nice, at the same time, the rooms don’t stand out (for the same price, you can find amazing accommodations at many Bed and Breakfast). So where is the “experience” part you ask? It’s in the service. I’m traveling quite a bit, and yet I had not being at the place with so many genuinely smiling faces. The key words are “Genuine” and “Smiling” – it really puts the whole stay in the perspective. Service at Hotel Fauchere is definitely something to experience – attentive, accommodating, focused on YOUR needs.
What else is there to experience? Well, one is the Bar Louis, which we will talk about in a separate post, and another one is a continental breakfast.
Yes, you are not mistaken – continental breakfast. If you got a picture of corn flakes pack and tiny milk box, try to scare that thought away. We are talking about continental breakfast as Experience.
You start with the french press coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice at a beautifully appointed table.
Next element of experience – home made vanilla yogurt and granola. It’s too bad that picture doesn’t convey the taste – and if you like the picture, you have to trust me that the taste is few levels above:
Delicious! And if you in a mood for something different than continental breakfast, you can get a traditional omelet which comes with thick sliced country style bacon (amazing, by the way)
Or a french toast:
All in all, Hotel Fauchere is something to experience – and while I will continue to report with the next post, nothing will replace the real thing. Reach out for that GPS already…
It seems that I’m looking at a good prospects of visiting Finger Lakes region of New York quite often over the next four years ( my daughter just started a college there), so I’m gladly taking the opportunity to talk about food and wine in that beautiful part of the country. Finger Lakes region is well known for it’s multiple wine trails. For a long time, the region was mostly known for it’s Riesling wines, and then white wines, such as Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, now it is slowly changing with the grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Baco Noir producing interesting wines.
I have to admit that visiting wineries was not the main purpose of this trip, so with this post I would like to mostly share the experience around the food. Outside of Panera Bread which is consistently good no matter where you go ( I would personally go as far as declaring it the best implementation of “slow food” in the fast food setting), we visited two other places. First, we had a dinner at the restaurant at the Inn called Rogue’s Harbor Inn (it is Bed and Breakfast place). Overall all the food was consistently good, with focus on local ingredients. The only surprise ( in a bad way) was the smallest fried calamari appetizer I ever saw. All entrees were done very well, so here are some pictures:
Wild Mushroom Ravioli (great mushroom flavours):
Chevon sausage with greens ( local sausage):
Three cheese Chicken Parmesan:
Few notes about the wine: it was great to see a wine list fully composed of local wines – I think it is great when local food is complemented by the local wine. We chose Long Point Ciera Rose 2009, simple and pleasant wine, as it was working well with variety of dishes we ordered.
Another place we stopped at was Castel Grisch winery. Located in very picturesque place, the winery offers magnificent views of lake and surroundings. As we made it to the winery, of course I had to try the wines. I did try most of the wines, except the ice wines, and unfortunately I didn’t find anything I like, except Gewurztraminer 2007, which was actually done in Alsace style – dry wine with very nice floral and spice expressions. In addition to winery, Castel Grisch also operates a very nice restaurant, with good selection of sandwiches and hearty soups, such as Hungarian goulash soup. I would definitely come back there for the food, but most likely not for the wine.
This would effectively conclude the post. As we had good success with the food, I will make an effort to find good wines – I’m sure I will, as I have plenty of time… And until later – Cheers!
Don’t worry, this will not be a story about apple wine. At the minimum, it will be about food and wine. So the weather was beautiful, and the apple picking trip (almost an annual tradition in the fall) was inevitable, especially considering free weekend day. Our favorite place to pick apples is Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut. This place never disappoints – apples are good and abundant, and getting them of the trees is a lot of fun.So once you have a lot of apples, what do you do? No, not wine. And for me – not an apple pie either. I don’t really like liquidy pies, so my personal preference is an apple cake. How do you make an apple cake? Actually, quite easy. Here is the recipe:
4 apples (Granny Smith is the best as they usually sour enough to stand against sweet dough)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour
Cinnamon ( by the taste).
Core and peel the apples, and slice them thin. Making a dough: blend eggs first, then add sugar, and then flour. Make sure you end up with liquid and consistent dough. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 425F.
Grease pan with butter stick and cover with bread crumbs. Bread crumbs should cover bottom and walls of the pan. Remove excess of the bread crumbs. Your pan should look like this:
The dough goes on top:
And then pan goes in the oven:
Bake it first for 15 minutes on 425F, then reduce the heat to 375F. DO NOT OPEN oven until the end – you have to let the cake to rise. In the end of the process, you end up with this:
And this is the look inside:
Yep – Yummy!
So you think this post is about food only? No, of course not. Yes, you can have this cake with ice cream, coffee and/or tea. But this blog is about wine, so how about it? I’m glad to report that Bartenura Malvasia Salento IGT 2009 from Italy, a sweet, lightly fizzed wine worked quite well with that apple cake, complementing each other.
So here we are – great and very simple cake ( takes about an hour from start to finish) and simple easy wine – all together equal to great and enjoyable evening.
P.S. By the way, what would you pair the apple cake with?
Let’s set things straight – this post will be more of a photo report. The words fall short to describe an amazing experience at Norma Jean, Bistro/Bar in Tel-Aviv. The best place to sit is in the bar, as stuff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. You can start with the beer, which comes form all over the world, and needless to say, each served in its own proper glass. While you enjoy your first beer and glass and waiting for the food, your eye can rest on the walls full of scotch:
Among many bars, I’ve seen those where you will pay $500 for a shot, and but I never saw the one with such a selection of really great scotches which you can actually afford!
And then comes food – all fresh, succulent and great tasting:
Of course the next step is the scotch. Based on the friendly recommendation, we couple of new scotches which we never had before. First one was coming form Speyside, a belnd of three different single malts, called Monkey Shoulder in the honor of those who developed a “monkey shoulder” condition throwing peat with the shovel, while making a great scotch for the rest of us:
The next one was Laphroaig Triple Wood, matured in the 3 different kinds of wood barrels, as you can see on the label:
The smoke flavor and bite on this one were immense, like breathing the air coming from the smoker (or may be just chewing on the cigar ). Too strong by itself, addition of 3 drops of water made a miracle – the scotch opened up beautifully, with big flavor profile and lots of depth.
And then… yep, a special dessert for the scotch lovers! Tartufo, made out of the best Belgian chocolate with addition of pepper and scotch:
I know that the picture worth a thousand words, and this is why you can see a lot of pictures. However, one should really experience the taste, this is where picture fails short – and this is why, if you even the smallest opportunity – head to Norma Jean in Tel-Aviv, you will not be disappointed.