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Archive for September, 2010

The 6th Annual Triangle Uncorked was Sept. 26th this year at Koka Booth Amphitheater from 2pm-6pm.  The pricing was about $32 depending upon where or when you bought your ticket for regular admission, and about $80 for the VIP ticket.  I only went for the regular ticket, because I didn’t think there would be that many extra perks with the VIP ticket.  But I was surprised to see how many extra booths there were for the VIP-only people.  We got there at about 4pm to avoid the heat of the midday sun, but it was still pretty hot and miserable out.  Some of the booths were empty by 5:30pm, so late arrival for next year is not recommended.

The VIP booths were all near the stage, and the regular booths were around the outside under the shade.  Unlike the beer festival, there were no food booths, and very little going on out in the lawn.

When I entered I was given a Tasting & Order Book and a swag bag.  The swag bag didn’t get used at all, there was no swag at this event.  But I used my Tasting & Order book to write little notes about all the wines I tried.  I stuck mostly with the Chardonnays and Rieslings, but I did try a couple reds too.  Here are my thoughts on the varieties:

2009 Excelsior Chardonnay – not very good, I didn’t like it

St. Kilda Chardonnay – very light and sweet, I liked this one quite a bit

Ironberry Cabernet/Shiraz/Merlot – very good for a red, drinkable and pleasant

Revelry Vintners 2007 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley – it was a dry wine, well made but not to my liking

BV Chardonnay, Caneros – it had a bad aftertaste,  I didn’t like it at all

Yellowtail “tree free” Chardonnay – I liked unoaked Chardonnays, but this one was still surprisingly harsh.  I didn’t like it.

2008 Alma de los Andes Bonarda – this was a red that tasted a lot like the Estancia Pinot Noir, one of my favorite reds

2009 Lazzaro Torrontes – a sweet white wine with a strong citrus taste, like pineapple.

2009 Marino Semillon – deep white with a strong aftertaste, like vanilla.  I didn’t like this one so much.

2007 Stoller Vineyards “S.V.” Estate Chardonnay, Dundee Hills – very unique taste, almost like a bubblegum or tutti frutti.

2008 Brutocao Cellars Sauvingnon Blanc, Mednocino – had a very strange taste, like an acidic cheeseburger.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it, it was just too weird.

2008 Cameron Hughes Lot 145 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara – very bitter and oaky, yuck

2008 One Hope Chardonnay, California – had a really interesting “cultured” flavor to it.  I imagine it would go wonderfully with just about any kind of cheese.

2009 Kiona Riesling, Washington State – this wine was AMAZING!  Made me remember why I used to like Rieslings so much.

Maycas del Limari Syrah – had a beefy flavor and was quite powerful, not necessarily in a bad way but it would take a delicate matching.

Markham Vineyards Chardonnay, California – was fruity and acidic.

Summit Estates Riesling – really good, almost as good as the Kiona.

Kitchen Sink White Blend – also a pretty good white.

Il Duca Stella Rosa – I don’t often try blush wines, but this one was spectacular.  Very, very good, deliciously sweet and could be a fantastic dessert wine.

Chaltan Chardonnay – strangely ham flavored.  I guess it would go good with a bacon/ham/pork dish, but very oddly flavored for a white wine.

2009 Dr. Beckerman Auslese, Germany – this one was fantastic, it’s been so long since I’ve found a good Auslese.

2009 Panilonco Chardonnay/Viognier, Chile – very oaky, yuck

My 3 favorites of the day were the 2009 Kiona Rieling, the Il Duca Stella Rosa, and the 2009 Dr. Beckerman Auslese.  I was very happy to find out the Auslese is available at Trader Joe’s for a very cheap price of less than $6.

I wish the festival could have been later in the year.  I’m sure the wines would have tasted better at about 60 degrees, instead of the 90 degrees some of the reds were served at.  They could also use some water available at booths for rinsing glasses and small crackers for cleansing the palate.  Still, it was a fun time, and I’m looking forward to attending next year.

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I made this today for brunch, and it tasted great.  I’m still not sure what sort of dipping sauce might be appropriate.  This recipe is for 2 servings, 1 quesadilla each.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium tortillas
  • 12 crushed almonds (pecans would also work well in this recipe, but I prefer almonds)
  • 1/3 apple
  • one 4 oz. slice of ham
  • 2-3 oz. Fromager D’Affinois (or other very soft brie), w/o rind
  • 2-3 oz. shredded cheddar/jack mix
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • cooking oil

Crush approximately 12 almonds (or pecans if you want).  Slice your 4 oz. ham into small pieces.  Then slice up about 1/3 of an apple into small pieces.   On medium heat, melt the butter and a tbsp. of oil.  Toss in the ham, apple and almond and stir.  It’ll take about 5-10 minutes to fry up, stirring about every 2 minutes or so.  About halfway through cooking, add the 1 tbsp. maple syrup.  Make sure you use 100% maple syrup and not “table syrup”, because flavored corn syrup won’t give it the same flavor or caramelization.

Ham, apple and almonds are about ready

While your ingredients are cooking, fold the tortillas in half to get a good seam down the middle.  Spread your brie over 1/2 of each tortilla.  You may have to purchase more than 3 oz. of brie to get the required soft parts you’re looking for.  The rind of brie is great with chardonnay though, so save the rind for later.

When your ham, apple and almonds are cooked well and most of the maple syrup has been absorbed, empty the pan into a paper towel lined bowl.  You can either wipe out the pan or use a new pan for cooking the rest of the quesadilla.

Tortilla, Brie, Ham, Apple, Almonds, and Shredded Cheddar + Jack

Spoon the ingredients onto the brie side of the tortillas.  Try not to get too close to the edges, otherwise your food will fall out.   Then top with the shredded cheese and fold the other half of the tortilla over.

You’ll want to cook the quesadillas rather quickly since the inside is fully cooked already.  Your main goal is just to brown the outside and get it nice and crispy.  Medium heat with a bit of oil in the pan should work fine.

When both sides are a golden brown color, remove from the pan and cut into 3-4 pieces.  As I’ve said, I haven’t figured out a good dipping sauce for this one yet, but the honey dijon sauce from the chicken/bacon/mushroom quesadilla recipe might go well with it.

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I was always a Rocky Rococo’s girl growing up in the Midwest, so I never really ate Papa John’s before moving to NC.  The taste does differ greatly from Rocky’s, but it’s still good in it’s own way.  Papa John’s doesn’t have any pan style, just a regular pizza crust or thin crust.  And their veggie pizza is not nearly as good as the Garden of Eatin’.  But I have found a few favorites there, and their cheesesticks are just great!

Usually we get carry out, though they do deliver to our area.  The restaurant is in the same lot as the ABC and La Farm Bakery on NW Cary Pkwy, but you might miss if you’re not looking for it.  It’s tucked in the corner, a tiny, hot little shop with barely enough room for 4 customers to stand.

My favorite pizza lately has been the BBQ Chicken and Bacon, which has BBQ sauce instead of regular pizza sauce.  It’s pretty good, and the pizza here has always been pretty consistent.  We always order some cheesesticks too, because my son doesn’t like pizza with sauce.  It’s kind of like just a small cheese pizza with no sauce on it, but I end up dipping my pieces in the tiny little tub of sauce that comes with it.  I love their sauce.  I love cheesesticks.  I love sticking cheesesticks in my mouth.  I guess that makes me a gay cheese.

The restaurant also features some sodas and other appetizers like wings, breadsticks and cinnapie, but honestly I just get the BBQ Chicken Bacon and cheesesticks every time.  I think if we got bored and wanted a different pizza, we’d probably go for Smokehouse Bacon and Ham.  We used to get that one a lot and it was pretty awesome too.
Papa John's Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Today I was invited to lunch with some co-workers at Bistro at the Park in Cary.   I hadn’t heard of the restaurant and asked it was new, and they said no, it’s been around for a while and it’s one of the best lunch buffets in the area.  I was sent a pdf of today’s menu which included pork loin with pommery sauce and fish fillets, and thought it didn’t sound too bad.  I usually don’t eat too much plain American food but if the food is done well, I’m game.

The Bistro In The Park is actually the restaurant in the Embassy Suites in Cary, on Harrison Oaks Blvd.  I don’t think it has a separate entrance or a sign that states “Bistro In The Park”, so I imagine they don’t get much drive-by business.

They serve food from a menu and a lunch buffet, and we all took the lunch buffet.  At $8.95 it’s actually cheaper than many of the lunch buffets in the area.  They offer 2 main entrees, a vegetable, and a “starch”, a salad bar, and a selection of desserts.  Even though there’s not a whole lot of selection, the buffet changes each day so you can always try something new.

I started with a small salad with ranch dressing and chicken/chickpea soup.  The salad wasn’t fabulous, but the soup was amazing.  I don’t know what the spices were in the soup, but they were just great.

The buffet selection today was pork with pommery (mustard) sauce, fish fillets, red potato slices and vegetable medly.  The vegetables weren’t overcooked at all, but squash wouldn’t be my preferred choice.  The red potatoes were good.  The pork was just amazing.  It tasted like they had done a real emulsion with the sauce, and the pork was so very tender I could cut it easily with my fork.  The fish wasn’t nearly as good as the pork, but it was still pretty good.  I ate everything and wasn’t disappointed.

The desserts looked so pretty, each with their own sauce and garnish.  I picked both the chocolate cake and the thing that looked like chocolate cheesecake.  The chocolate cake was good, though not the best I’ve ever had.  But the chocolate cheesecake turned out to be the biggest surprise of the lunch.  It was not cheesecake, and it may have had chocolate, but that wasn’t the dominant flavor.  I’m going to just call it a coffee French Silk Pie, because I don’t know how else to describe it.  It had a very strong coffee flavor, but was incredibly light and fluffy.  It was so good, I could have eaten 5 slices of it.  I would love to get the recipe for it.

Some Kind Of Coffee Dessert

I was really impressed with the high quality of the buffet, for such a reasonable price.  The restaurant was spacious and open with the soothing sound of the waterfall in the background.  The buffet was clean and well-stocked.  The atmosphere was gorgeous, especially if you get to sit near the koi pond.  They have the biggest koi there!   They must be 20+ years old.

I was surprised to find such high quality in a buffet with this restaurant and I hope it starts pulling in more outside business.  It’d be a shame if this restaurant stayed a secret.  The buffet is available between 11am and 2pm, and I believe the rest of the day until 10pm they just serve food off the menu.  I did check out the menu too, and they serve a lot of traditional American entrees at reasonable prices.

Dessert Bar with Photobomb

Salad Bar

Koi Pond

Bistro in the Park on Urbanspoon

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Covey Run 2007 Chardonnay

I was unable to find any more unoaked chardonnays to try at my local Kroger, so I decided this Covey Run looked decent.  I think I had had this brand before, but at the time I couldn’t recall for sure.  After checking their site when I got home, I realized I had tried their ice wine before.  I can’t remember what I thought of it, so it probably wasn’t bad.

This chardonnay, though oaked, had a very light and refreshing flavor.  It was also incredibly smooth to drink, and went well with my brie.  I think it could be a good cooking wine as well, as it could really add a lot of good flavor to any dish without overpowering it.

As an experiment, I poured out a small glass of my Estancia chardonnay so I could compare the two.  Estancia has long been one of my favorite cheese chardonnays.  The Estancia still has a flavor I like, but compared to the Covey Run, it comes across as more harsh and less smooth.  But the Estancia does seem to have a more warm, homey flavor to it.  Honestly, I’m not sure which I like better.  I’m just really impressed that the Covey Run performed so well, and I think when the Columbia Reserve becomes available I’d like to see if it’s even better.

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Teriyakin’ is a new Japanese restaurant in Morrisville.  It features casual Japanese cuisine that they call “Matsuri”, the food commonly found at festival vendors.  The restaurant does have the atmosphere of a fast food place, with seating for maybe 20 to 40 max.  The prices are very cheap, with all the entrees between $4.49 and $9.99.


Tamagoyaki

I got the tamagoyaki for an appetizer, though with the amount of food you get you really don’t need to order appetizers.  I got the rib plate as an entree, which comes with rice, a small cabbage salad and macaroni salad.  My husband got the steak plate which comes with the same.  After you order and pay, you take a seat somewhere in the restaurant and wait for your food to come.  They also have sauces, plastic ware, chopsticks and napkins up near the front you can help yourself to.  The wait is a few minutes, but I don’t mind since that means all the food is made fresh, and not sitting under some hot lamp.

Rib Plate

I love tamago sushi, so tamagoyaki sounded awesome.  I didn’t realize it would be served hot!  It was great, I love the way the Japanese make their eggs.  I just wish there was some soy sauce to dip it in, they only have teriyaki sauce and hot sauces.

The cabbage salad was pretty good.  I’ve always liked cabbage salads better than lettuce salads.  I think the dressing was some kind of ginger flavor.  The macaroni salad was mediocre.  I asked my husband if macaroni salads were actually in Japan, because it didn’t seem to go with the dish at all, and he said he had never seen them there.  The macaroni salad was the only thing really out of place here.  The ribs were fantastic, though difficult to eat.  I had to use my fingers to grasp the ribs and chew off the meat.  It’s a sloppy meal, but delicious.

Steak Plate

I tried some of my husband’s steak, it was tasty.  Not as good as the rib meat, but at least it didn’t have any bones in it to eat around.  We both ate all of our entrees, even though they were huge.

Overall I think this place makes for a fantastic lunch restaurant.  With the fairly quick food preparation and cheap menu, this would be an great place to stop by at least once a week.  It’s very conveniently located near RTP, just south of the Chapel Hill Rd. exit off 540.  It’s set a ways back from Chapel Hill Rd. though, so it may be hard to see if you’re not looking for it.  I was also impressed with how authentic the food was here.  Japanese was spoken by the kitchen staff and the customers, and my husband said everything but the macaroni salad was just like what you’d get in Japan.  I imagine 20 years from now this Teriyakin’ place could be a very successful chain.

Teriyakin' on Urbanspoon

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Tasu is an Asian bistro in Brier Creek, but it’s on the other side of Lumley Road near the Earth Fare store.  Since parking gets a bit hard to find around dinner time, I ended up parking a lot closer to Earth Fare than to Tasu.  The restaurant was extremely busy, but since the restaurant is divided into narrow sections, it didn’t get too noisy or seem all that crowded.  We were seated in a corner in a small booth in the back corner of one of the rooms, so it was a very cozy arrangement.

For starters we got the sampler platter, which had shrimp in a blanket, fried gyoza, crab rangoon, and spring rolls.  They were all very good, but I think I would have preferred a sweet and sour sauce instead of just soy sauce to go with the spring rolls and crab rangoon.  I don’t know if this was an option.  Though the service was friendly and attentive, I always feel bad about asking for food or sides that aren’t served with the dish.


General Tso's Chicken

Tasu serves Japanese, Chinese and Thai, and all 3 of us there just happened to order 1 of each.  One of my colleagues got the General Tso’s chicken.  He’s ordered it many times before and was not disappointed.  The servings are really large enough for 2 people, and he wasn’t able to finish it all.

My husband got the Thai Curry with chicken.  When it came to the table the aroma was just the most delicious thing in the restaurant.  He liked it very much, and had enough left over that I got his leftovers the next day for lunch.  I think it was just as delicious the next day, the perfect level of spices and the perfect textures and flavors.

I had asked the waitress if I could order a custom roll, or make modifications to an existing one, so I could get my special “Magie Rolls” which is yellowtail, cucumber, egg and avocado.  The waitress consulted with the sushi chef and let me know they could do it.  I also ordered the Blue Sea rolls, which had yellowtail, some other ingredients I can’t remember, and seaweed on top.   My Magie Rolls were served up with some spicy mayo on top, but I didn’t mind.  It seemed to go well with it.

Despite the way they look in the picture, there are really 8 of each roll here, not 4 really long rolls of each.  They were just stacked closely

together.  I was really happy with both sets of rolls.  The Blue Sea rolls I had to eat the seaweed separately because it would fall off if dipped in soy sauce, but was good otherwise.  My rolls were wonderful, I always like getting these 4 ingredients together in one roll.


Blue Sea and Magie Rolls

Everyone seemed really happy with the food here, and I have no complaints about the service.  I would definitely come here more often if it were closer to my house, and if the traffic around Brier Creek wasn’t so nasty.

Tasu Asian Bistro Sushi & Bar on Urbanspoon

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My local Kroger started carrying Fromager D’Affinois so I’ll be trying out more Chardonnays to go with my brie.  This one caught my attention as it’s not treated with oak, which is what I prefer with my wines.  It’s a screw-off cap, which I’ve found isn’t always a bad thing, and can be helpful when on vacation.

I tried it by itself first, then later with my cheese.  It comes on rather strong with a bitey acidity to it.  Very fruity, but almost harshly so.  I really prefer the Layer Cake Chardonnay over this one, it didn’t appeal to me.  It’s not the worst Chardonnay, and I’ll certainly drink it and eventually finish the bottle, but I probably won’t buy it again.  I imagine it might go well with some sort of citrus food, like lemon marinaded salmon or orange peel chicken.

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Top 11 Foods to Try in Wisconsin

Why 11?  Because I made a list of 10 and then realized I forgot one, that’s why.  I was recently in Wisconsin again for a wedding and took advantage of a lot of the great foods that are available there. I know the most common foods people think of when they think of Wisconsin would probably be beer and cheese, but Wisconsin’s warm summers and rich floodplains make for some really delicious produce as well. Honestly, after being converted to Belgian beers, I can’t even put Wisconsin’s on the list. They taste too watery to me now. But here’s the foods I really love:

11. Popcorn There are stores in Wisconsin that sell every kind of popcorn under the sun.  Cheesy popcorn, caramel corn and buttered are common, but you’ll also find really original varieties like white chocolate cashew, toffee, root beer, anything under the sun.  I usually prefer the variations on caramel or toffee.

10. Amish Candy I guess Amish people don’t get a lot of fun things in life like booze, mini golf and water slides, so they try to make up for it by making really awesome candy.  One of the best kinds of candy is the chocolate covered cashew brittle, made with just cashews, cane sugar, butter and chocolate.  You won’t find any artificial colors, flavors or HFCS in this stuff.  The Amish store I usually buy from is this tiny little place at W3884 Grand River Rd. in Markesan.

9. Brats I may not appreciate Wisconsin beer all that much, but I do know that the beer brats in this state are great.  I don’t have a grill so I can’t make them the way you’re supposed to.  They’re best simmered in beer and chopped onion until fully cooked, then throw them on the grill for just a few minutes for that grilled taste.  Then back in the beer if you’re making a bunch, so they stay warm.  Brats have always been a great picnic food because you can have so many ready at once for your guests this way.

8. Cranberries I love cranberries with my brie, and the best cranberries come from Wisconsin.  Cranberries are Wisconsin’s number one fruit crop, and you’ll find a lot of cranberry festivals up North in the fall.

7. Kringle The Kringle is a large ring pastry that’s often served around Thanksgiving and Christmas in Wisconsin.  They come in a bunch of different varieties, but the cheesecake Kringle is my favorite.  Kringles are sold a lot for school fundraisers so it’s not too hard to find them.  You can even order them online at http://www.kringle.com/

6. Rippin’ Good Cookies We stopped at the Rippin’ Good Cookie Outlet Store last week and it was just as awesome as always.  You know how awesome it would be to be one of the kids who visited the chocolate factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, eating everything you see?  That’s exactly what it’s like at the Rippin’ Good Cookie outlet store, you just eat everything in sight.  They have packages open of nearly every single kind of cookie they make.  My favorites are the fudge marshmallow cookies, the shortbread cookies and the sugar wafers.  I’ve found the chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies to be a bit dry for my taste, but I eat them if they’re free anyway!

5. Apples I was there a bit early for apple season this year, but there were still enough freshly ripe ones that Tom Dooley’s was open.  Tom Dooley Orchard is just east of Waupun on Highway 49.  They sell huge bags of apples, pies (fresh, ready-to-bake or frozen, apple squares, mince squares, different varieties of caramel apples, apple pastries, apple muffins and all other things apple.  I got a ready-to-bake dutch apple pie and a mince square, and they tasted great with some caramel syrup and whipped cream.

4. Cheese curds I’m not a huge fan of most American hard cheeses.  I don’t really care for cheddar, Swiss, muenster or Colby.  But I still love cheese curds that are so fresh they squeak.  If they don’t squeak, they aren’t fresh.  The best is the deep fried cheese curds, dipped in marinara sauce.

3. Strawberries When I was a little girl, strawberry season was as much a time of year as Christmas time or spring break.  Every week in the late Spring I’d ask my parents if the strawberries were ripe yet.  When the time was right, we’d drive out to Kirschbaum’s Strawberry Acres on 151 between Columbus and Beaver Dam, and pick crates full of strawberries.  I remember so clearly standing in the fields with the ripe berries all around, and being able to smell the fresh berries in the hot summer sun.  I’ve had berries from California, Mexico, and these days from the local Apex strawberry farm, but they just don’t seem to compare with how perfect those Wisconsin strawberries were.

2. Ice Cream Maybe I’m biased because I used to work at the ice cream shop in the Memorial Union at UW-Madison, but Babcock ice cream is the best in the world.  My favorite flavor is orange custard chocolate chip, but just about any of the flavors are just as good.  The blue moon is a fantastic old Midwest flavor as well.  There are other ice cream stores in the state like Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream that’s pretty good, but if you want the best, go for Babcock.

1. Corn on The Cob I was lucky to be visiting at the end of August when corn on the cob was still fresh off the stalk.  Commonly when I make it at home I just throw it in a pot of boiling water for 6 minutes, but in Wisconsin it’s made the best possible way- on the grill.  The corn, still in its husk, is soaked in a bucket of water for a few hours.  Then it’s put on the grill until the outside is blackened.  It’s a challenge to peel off the husk when it’s done without burning your hands, but the end result is so worth it.  I dip it in butter and eat up.

I know I’m probably going to get some complaints that I didn’t include Wisconsin beer, venison, Colby cheese and Door County cherries, but they’re just not my bag.  I can’t tell people to try things that I don’t personally like.  But maybe there’s something here I totally forgot, so feel free to add more in the comments!

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