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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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 world of wine has a lot of terms, and an awful lot of them aren't too familiar even among frequent wine drinkers. Some are downright silly.  Some are helpful. But in any event, I've built a pretty extensive wine glossary to help you unravel the mystery...and to find it, go HERE!

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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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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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   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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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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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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When you think of Italian wine—and I’m just guessing here—you probably think of reds. Dr. Hannibal Lecter aside, Chianti is the wine everyone knows best, made from Sangiovese grapes grown in Tuscany, and it’s a truly great food wine.  Amarone, one of my favorites, is lush and powerful, with a hint of sweetness, made from partially-dried Corvina grapes, and works best with rich food. And Barolo and Barbaresco wines, made from the Nebbiolo grape, are among the greatest red wines of Europe.  And of course there are the Super-Tuscans, fairly expensive wines often (but not always) made from a base of Sangiovese, and then "suped-up" with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.  The most famous of these, Sassicaia, actually has no Sangiovese at all, and can…

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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 that was cheap cooking wine you bought at the A&P. That itself was a shame, because Sherry is a delicious and frankly unique type of wine, produced through the Solera system in which some new…

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