Jersey Restaurants: INC in New Brunswick, NJ

You’d think it would be easy to get a good whiskey sour in any decent restaurant. After all, it’s a pretty simple and very classic drink, right? Well, I’ve had more watery sours in the last year than I can count, from Chicago to New York and several places in between including several in New Jersey. But last Friday at INC in New Brunswick, NJ, I was not disappointed. And my sour was not watery. It was delicious, appropriately cloudy, with the bourbon hitting you on the front end and the lemon on the back, all covered with a lovely egg-white froth laced with bitters. Just superb. And that was the start of an evening that was outstanding. We began…

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Jersey Restaurants: Hotoke Restaurant–Hot or OK?

I dined at Hotoke in New Brunswick on Friday night for the first time since at least 2011. I’d remembered the place fondly, and it was wildly popular at the time, so I was anticipating a fabulous meal. Sadly, not so much. Laura and I started out with cocktails—she with the Silk Road—X-rated Malibu and Parrot Bay Passion Fruit Rum, Pineapple juice and a splash of Cranberry, which was great. My whiskey sour, though, was watery and near-tasteless and went back in favor of a Pomegranate Martini, which was at least decent, but served for some odd reason in a wide-bowl wine glass. Appetizers of Mini Lobster Crab Cakes, which as far as we could tell had nothing to do…

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Jersey Restaurants: Chez Catherine in Westfield

This tiny place in Westfield, adjacent to a highway-type franchise hotel, bills itself as “one of the best French restaurants in New Jersey.” That is nonsense. It’s got to be the best French restaurant in New Jersey. And one of the best of any kind. I had lunch here years ago and remember it to be good but unremarkable. Not so on September 26, when my date and I decided to see what all the acclaim is really about. We were greeted warmly and escorted to our table, which was formal and lovely but not over the top. After a short wait, our waiter approached and began the service, which throughout the evening was attentive but not intrusive. And he…

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The Organic Contessa

It's always great fun to meet with a winemaker.  And it's especially fun when the winemaker is a woman—in a somewhat-still male dominated field—and when she's also an owner of an estate that goes back well more than a thousand years.  And she's a Contessa! So I was very much looking forward to a wine-soaked lunch earlier this week with Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini, whose family and estate have been around since the 1200s!  I spent three hours with her at Manhattan's Quartino Bottega Organica, an especially fitting place because Ginevra transformed this ancient business into an organic and biodynamic farm and winery more than ten years ago. The winery uses no herbicides, chemical fertilizers or synthetic chemicals, and uses naturally-occurring indigenous yeasts for fermentation. Even the corks are…

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Eye On Iberia!

I recently had the pleasure of tasting a bunch of Spanish wines, courtesy of Wines from Spain USA.  More Americans are drinking Spanish wine these days as far as I can tell just from what I’m served in friends’ houses, what I see on wine store shelves, and what people who talk about wine are, well, talking about. That’s good for Spain (and for consumers) because not too long ago, the only Spanish wine that American really knew was Vino de Jerez—Sherry—and a lot of it was cheap cooking wine you bought at the A&P. That itself was a shame, because good Sherry is a delicious and unique type of wine, produced through the Solera system in which some new vintage…

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Happy Birthday United States Marines!

   The United States Marine Corps Celebrates its 239th birthday today, November 10, 2014   As we enjoy our freedoms and a lifestyle envied the world over, please remember that U.S. Marines are fighting and dying in wars that our nation sent them to fight.     The Original Resolution of the Continental Congress: "That two Battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, 2 Lt. Colonels, 2 Majors, and Officers as usual in other regiments, that they consist of an equal number of privates with other Battalions, that particular care be taken that no person be appointed to Officer or enlisted in said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so aquainted with maritime affairs as to be…

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Wine Term(s) of the Week: Spain

The Spanish take their wine aging very seriously--they are truly concerned with not releasing a wine "before its time."  So much so that they've written it into their wine laws: A Spanish quality wine labeled Crianza (red wine) must be aged a minimum of 2 years, with at least six months in barrel (barrica de vino). In Navarra, Rioja, and Ribera Del Duero, the minimum time in barrel is a year. White wines must be a year old, with at least six months in barrel. Reserva wines (red) must be aged at least three years, with one year in barrel. Whites must be two years old, with at least six months in barrel. Gran Reserva wines (red) must be aged…

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Stellenbosch Vineyards: South Africa Comes Out to Play

South Africa is one of those wine regions that a lot of people have heard about, but few people–too few, anyway—have taken the time to discover and explore its wines.  I’m a little bit in that category; I’ve tasted some of its stuff from time to time, particularly Chenin Blanc, which they sometimes call “Steen” locally, and of course Pinotage, a cross of Cinsault and Pinot Noir that was literally invented in South Africa in 1925.  But I've never really spent much time thinking about South Africa except at an occasional tasting.  And for a lot of people, SA is really just off their wine map, and that's unfortunate. Wine has been produced in South Africa probably since the mid-1600s,…

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