Monthly Archives: March 2012

Biergarten with the Boys!

Every couple of months or so, there is a core group of us at work that will get together for drinks and dinner.  Sometimes we turn it into a company event and invite everyone and at other times it’s just last minute plans to unwind from our crazy lives in the consulting world.  Over the years we’ve gone to some interesting places and had some fun times like going bar hopping in Greenwich Village, vodka sampling at Pravda, tequila shots at a fun bar, etc.  We try to choose a different place each time to keep life interesting.  Most of the time it ends up being me and a bunch of men and thus the title of this post.  Mind you I will never complain about this ratio.  They are like my big brothers despite most of them being younger than me and oh soooo protective that I never have to worry about someone bothering me at the bar of choice.
Last night we went to Pilsner House in Hoboken, NJ to celebrate a couple of birthdays in the group.  We had a good turnout with a showing of eight.  Pilsner House is a biergarten that makes you feel like you’ve been transplanted to Munich as soon as you walk through the door.  The place is huge and set with long wooden picnic tables and benches.  There’s a long bar at one end and a sausage stand at the back.  There’s also an outdoor courtyard for the warm days.  This place is awesome.  There was a live band and an amazing selection of beers on tap and in bottle.  You can also get beer flights so you can taste and decide what you like before ordering.  The tap beer is always served in a glass etched with the brand.  There is so much variety that it is very difficult to choose.  My choice for the evening was Spaten Dunkel.  Just like my alcohol, I don’t like sissy, light beers.  I prefer big, bold beers with complex flavors.  The Dunkel was full of spice, coffee and a hint of chocolate.  Delicious!!
 
Most biergartens in Germany typically serve pretzels with mustard and various sausages with sauerkraut.  The ones I have been to in the US (not that many in all fairness) pretty much serve the same fare.  The sausages in Germany can’t be beat but who can go there all the time for a beer.  At Pilsner House they have modified this tradition and offer a full dinner menu from their kitchen which you can order through the wait staff.  If you want to go traditional you can order your sausage of choice with fries and sauerkraut at the sausage stand in the back.  We started with an order of two fresh baked and hot pretzels.  These pretzels were ginormous!! (Yes, I know that’s not a real word).  The mustard that came with them was positively flavorful and just added a nice spice to the soft, doughy pretzel.
Moving on to dinner, we were split.  A few went to the sausage stand and got some Kielbasa and others ordered from the menu.  I went for the special of day – Beef Bourguignon made with beef shoulder and served with homemade spaetzle, green beans and brussel sprouts. Several of us ordered this and let me tell you this was a fantastic choice.  The tenderness and flavor on the meat was absolutely devine and one would never expect to eat this well in a biergarten.  Those who ordered the kielbasa were very satisfied with their choice as well. 
Another round of beers, substituted for dessert, wrapped up the evening far later than intended as always.  But what a fun way to celebrate a birthday or just hang out for an evening!!  I’m looking forward to going back soon with my boys when the weather is warmer and sit on the outdoor patio.
Pilsner House
1422 Grand Street (at corner of 15th)
Hoboken, NJ
Bottoms up!!

Biodynamic Bordeaux with the Wino Family!!

A little over a year ago I was invited to join a wine tasting group in NYC.  Since the hosts only have so much room at the table, at first I was to be included only as a replacement if someone else couldn’t make it, but I didn’t care I was thrilled!!  I am now a regular as I apparently scared many into leaving the group. 🙂 My love for food is only equalled, and at times surpassed, by my love for wine.  The group is made up of a wonderful lot of people from all walks of life with a common passion for great wine.  Most of us have done some studying at the WSET in NYC with some in the Master of Wine program.  I am not certain I will ever get to that level with the limited time I have to commit to such a rigorous program but our gatherings are a wonderful way to taste amazing wines with other wine geeks.



One of us will choose a theme for the evening and provide everyone with some information in advance.  There is a Google Docs document which allows us to note which wine we will bring to avoid duplication.  Our hosts, C & K graciously open up their home to the wino family and thus the fun begins.  Last night’s theme was biodynamic/organic Bordeaux.  I have not been able to make the last couple of tastings which used to be held once a week but have now reduced to once a month, but this one I was excited about.  The Bordeaux region is one of my favorites and I have visited the area more than once.  No California winery will ever come close to producing the style of wines that come from this region.  That, of course, is my opinion.  There is something to be said for tradition and one can almost taste it in a glass of French wine, and it is something I find lacking in most of the mass produced wines of the new world.  Don’t get me wrong I love the wines of the new world as well at the right time and place and with the right food.  And you can take me to Napa & Sonoma any day of the week!


We tasted 14 bottles of wine from different vintages.  Some from the left bank and some from the right.  The table was set beautifully, as always, with all the necessities including some meats & cheeses from Murray’s deli, bread, and nuts.  We began at approximately 8:30pm and for the next three hours ate, drank, talked and discussed wine in between.  Our topics of conversation have no limits and could go in almost any direction.  Last night, for example, we learned that a sexually deprived male fruit fly likes to drink 15% alcohol to work off its frustration.  Now where else would I possibly pick up information of this sort?

We pour three wines at a time and then talk about each one.  With 14 bottles amongst 9 people, we would be plastered if we actually drank the wine.  Also, we would not be able to taste the later wines very well if our senses were reduced by alcohol, and so the red solo cups are used to spit out our tastings.  The need to drive home afterwards is another reason to not imbibe most of what I taste.  I save that honor for the over the top wines of the evening.  Some of the wines on our list for the evening were :


2010 Chateau Tire Pe Die M
2009 Chateau La Tour Figeac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru*
2000 & 2009* Chateau Couronneau – Bordeaux Superieur
1995, 2007* & 2008* Chateau Pontet Canet – Fifth Growth Pauillac
2008 Chateau Senejac – Haut Medoc
2008 Chateau Guiraud – Sauternes*
2008 Chateau Moulin de Tricot – Margaux*
2008 Chateau d’ Arcole
2006 Domaine de L’ A – Cotes de Castillon*
2000 Chateau Gombaude-Guillot – Pomerol*
1970 Chateau Canon 1er Gran Cru Classe Saint-Emilion*

There were others but I did not get a chance to jot them down after my phone died.  The asterisk represents favorites among the group.  The La Tour Figeac we served two ways – half out of the bottle and other half was run through a blender for 30 seconds to aerate it.  The difference was definitely noticeable.  The blending thing was a new one for all of us and some discussion was had on the subject.  The tasting ended with two “out of theme” bottles as they generally do.  These are not typically spit out wines and tonight’s offerings did not disappoint.  We had a 1970 Chateau Canon St Emilion that was absolutely brilliant followed by a delicious, Sauternes for that dessert effect.

I love hanging out with my wino family and learning more on the subject each time.  If you enjoy wine, I encourage you to start your own group.  It’s a great way to meet people and taste wines that you might not otherwise do.
Santé

A Big Thank You!!

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your comments, feedback and support of my blog.  It is great to hear that you enjoy reading it as much I enjoy writing it.  I have recently gotten so many positive comments via email and in person that I am completely overwhelmed.  I was in disbelief when I saw that my blog page has been opened more than 700 times since inception (figured out how to access the stats page). 
So a big THANK YOU to all of you!!!!! 

This journey into blog land has been interesting indeed and I am learning new things each day.  For example today I learned that I cannot check my persnickety palate email on my regular gmail account.  I actually had to set up an email just for that.  So now when you email me at thepersnicketypalate@gmail.com I will actually get the email.  I am still struggling with the Facebook Like button but will get there soon I’m sure.  In the meantime, feel free to visit my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Persnickety-Palate/136471439803046.  And don’t forget to hit the like button if you haven’t done so already.

Spring is here and Summer is coming which means a lot more fun with cooking outdoors, picnics and visits to interesting restaurants are on their way.  So keep reading and sending those comments.

Dinner this evening by the way was pan fried trout fillet (topped with a mix of bread crumbs, cajun seasoning & lemon zest) with sauteed brussel sprouts.  I had to throw something food in the post else the title would be a misnomer. 🙂

Happy Eating!!!
Swati

Junoon – Hype or Not!!

About six months ago I was watching an episode of Eat Out NY on WNYC with Kelly Choi.  On the show she presented a segment on the newest Indian restaurant to hit the Manhattan food scene called Junoon.  It looked interesting to me but not interesting enough to try right away as I rarely go out for Indian food.  Why would I when I can make it at home or order a great meal at my mother’s with even less effort?  Besides, most so called “upscale” Indian restaurants tend to have the same formula dishes served with more gravy than food (meat or vegetables) making it hard to justify the steep prices they charge per entree that is always served a la carte.  So I put it at the back of my mind and forgot about it.

Over the past few months I have heard many of my Indian family and friends mention Junoon at dinners and parties.  Some have gone to it, others have heard good things about it, etc.  This peaked my interest once again and I put it on my list of places to try.  Last Saturday my brother-in-law asked me if I had been to Junoon and so I decided to check it out as soon as the next weekend.

Last night, after a client meeting in midtown, a co-worker/friend and I decided to beat the rush hour traffic by staying in NYC for dinner before heading home.  We started off with drinks and guacamole at a Dos Caminos while we figured out where to go for dinner – it was early yet and too cold for a discussion on the street and the margaritas were calling.  He suggested Keen’s steakhouse which was fine by me but then he mentioned he had recently been there and didn’t seem too enthused.  Suddenly I remembered that I wanted to try Junoon and made the suggestion to go there, and thus the decision was made.

We had decided that if we walked in and didn’t like the place, we had a backup at the Biergarten in Eataly which is around the corner.  From the outside, it looked promising.  We walked through the entry way and over to the host stand where we received a warm greeting.  The bar and restaurant were pretty empty but then it was 6:30pm on a Monday night.  We opted to sit at the chic looking bar and try one of their signature cocktails before sitting down to dinner.  I ordered the Ginger Rose and my friend had the Bourbon & Peche after being told that the Tandoori Tequila was not available due to a lack of kefir lime leaves.  My cocktail was ok and I expected more from the description.  But then I’m not much of a cocktail girl and prefer my liquor unbastardized by too many other flavors.

We then moved into the large dining area at the back of the building.  I must say the decor is quite warm and welcoming.  The lighting is a bit dim when you’re trying to read the small print on the menu (I’m in denial of my need for reading glasses).  We perused the extensive menu and I was put in charge of ordering for us.  The menu was quite impressive with unusual selections for an Indian restaurant such as duck and venison among others.  Many items sounded familiar and yet new & interesting.  We settled on two appetizers and two entrees which we would share.  Our selections were Piri-Piri Shrimp, Kakora Kebab (made with ground lamb), Black Bass Malvan (gravy made with coconut, cilantro & spices), and Sukhi Subzi (sauteed mixed veggies with spices). 

Before our appetizers arrived, we were served an amuse bouche.  Now this was a new one for me having never had an amuse served at an Indian restaurant before.  Their motto is never give away anything for free thus the almost always a la carte menu.  The amuse was Lotus Root served three ways – Fried, pickled and pureed.  A small yet absolutely delicious bite of food.  The shrimp accompanied by avocado & jicama slices and kebab served with red onion and cilantro relish were also very good and cooked perfectly.  I was looking forward to the entrees which we accompanied with Naan and plain rice.  We loved the Bass in Malvan gravy.  The fish was not served swimming in the gravy but rather atop just enough of it to add flavor.  The bass had been pan fried and placed on the gravy with the crispy skin facing up.  The flavors were delicious, well balanced and with the right amount of spice.  I love coconut with fish and this dish did not fail to impress us further.  The vegetables were also very good and not overcooked as they typically are.  They were not mostly potatoes (I don’t consider them a vegetable) and had broccoli, cauliflower, peas and several other kinds of vegetables.  They were well spiced and still had a slight bite to them.  We opted to drink Schneider Weiss beer with our meal instead of wine.  The slight sweetness in the beer balanced well with the spicy food.

The one negative comment I will make about Junoon is that the service could have been better.  It was not incompetent or bad, but more that it was a mix of either wait staff that was too serious and stoic or ones that were too quiet and shy and hard to hear.  Personalities are a rare find in wait staff at Indian restaurants, but with all the other positives, I cannot take away too many points.  Our meal service was executed well, so who cares if the guy wasn’t friendly and talkative.

Our stomachs were full and dessert was skipped.  We ordered espresso and coffee which came in its own French press and was a darn good cup of coffee.  With our coffee, our server brought a plate of complimentary peppercorn dark chocolate with a mint filling alongside a square of salted caramel.  Both were fantastic and a perfect end to our meal. Glad to have made Junoon our choice for the evening, we left for the subway & a cab to make our way home.

“B” would not let me take any photos of the food (which was presented beautifully by the way) so if you would like to take a look at some photos or check out their menu you can find them at:
http://www.junoonnyc.com/.  Or better yet, go visit and let me know what you think.

Happy Eating!!
Swati

Venturing out into the Burbs of NJ

A few nights ago I had dinner plans with a friend who suggested we step out of the usual comfort zone of nearby restaurants and venture out into Stirling NJ to a restaurant called the Stone House at Stirling Ridge.  It’s fairly new and used to be the location of a catering hall in its past life; one which I remembered going to a wedding at years ago.  Many people don’t expect to find a quality restaurant in the middle of nowhere in a suburb in New Jersey (there are many out there by the way).  It really is not close to anything, up a windy road in the Watchung Mountains, and one would have to know about it to go there.  But apparently it has quickly become a hotspot in the area and is often very crowded.   We went late on a rainy, Wednesday night so not that many had ventured out as we had.

We decided to sit at the bar and have a drink before dinner and ended up staying there for our meal as well.  The ambiance at the bar is welcoming, casual and chic at the same time and resided upon by our friendy bartender, Ben.  The bar itself is very well stocked with some hard to find single malts, bourbons, tequilas and house infused vodkas (lemon, orange, jalapeno, horseradish & vanilla). 

What caught my eye immediately however was the bottle of Rangpur gin.  I can count on one hand the number of places I have been to that stock this gin.  And forget trying to find Rangpur and diet tonic water at the same bar!  If you don’t like gin, this is the one to try at least once.  If you like gin, Rangpur’s infusion of special limes from, where else but Rangpur, makes it more aromatic and smoother than most gins.  I won’t dilute this gin with anything so I ordered a martini with just a touch of vermouth. 

We were having a great time catching up and pretty soon all the talking made us hungry.  I ordered Braised Short Rib with Polenta & Broccoli Rabe and my friend order a Pork Chop.  I must be craving red meat lately as I ordered short ribs last week at dinner at Amanda’s in Hoboken.  Those were good too, but tonight’s were absolutely perfect.  The combination of flavors and textures of the ingredients was sheer harmony in my mouth.  I asked Ben to pour me a wine of his choosing to pair with my plate.  He chose a 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Crest region of Washington state.  If you tend towards cabs from California, I recommend trying some from Washington state.  There are some amazing finds out there with a different style of wine making.  This one paired beautifully with my dinner.

We skipped dessert as I was still enjoying my wine and my friend ordered a drink called a ballbuster (I think that’s a made up name) to end our evening.  As is often the case with me, we closed the restaurant and went home very satisfied with our decision to go astray for the evening. If you live in, or are just visiting the Stirling NJ area, I would highly recommend checking out this restaurant.  I’ve heard it is also very good for Sunday brunch.  If you’ve been here before I would love to get your reactions to the place.
Happy Eating!!!
Swati
A big thank you to Ben for allowing me behind the bar for some of these shots.
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