Friday, November 17, 2006

The General Lee Has Arrived!

Sokol Blosser 1
Okay, here's the deal...sometimes living in Salt Lake City can be really irritating and other times it can be really great. Here is a case in point:

You cannot order your favorite wine online, because wineries and shops are not allowed to ship to Utah. While living in Portland we developed a fascination with a few Pinot Noirs that are not available in our state run liquor store. This means that if we want something that is not locally available we have to transport the "contraband" across the state border ourselves. Fortunately, my co-worker's husband happened to be in Portland this week, and in true "Dukes of Hazzard" fashion they agreeed to run moonshine (aka a case of Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir) across the border. Tonight, the shipment arrived. Hallelujah!

Good Times:
Alright, I don't know why this happens, but sometimes the state run liquor store offers wine at half price. Did you get that? That's right, HALF PRICE!!! Tonight we happened to get a few bottles of Chehalem, Stoller Vineyard, Pinot Noir for $21.50 (normally $41.95). I think it is twice-a-year that the state wine store has a "big sale" with many wines priced half off, but it also happens periodically throughout the year for a few select wines.

Tonight, it happened to be one of those nights where irritating was cancelled-out by good times.

Utah: we love to hate it...and we hate to love it.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro


Like Scalo, Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro is located in Albuquerque's Nob Hill district. Also like Scalo, the folks at Zinc know what they are doing when it comes to wine glasses. After all, nothing is worse than a tiny little wine glass filled to the brim. Having made it through a long day, I was more than ready for a drink, and thank God they had proper wine glasses.

The scene at Zinc is warm and refreshingly easy, despite its being described on their web site as being one of Albuquerque's "classiest" restaurants. The open kitchen creates energy on the main floor and the loft provides a nice view of the action. With fresh cut flowers in galvanized buckets lining the stairs, the loft is the ideal spot for a romantic dinner.

Zinc prides itself on supporting local, organic farmers whenever possible. On Saturday nights they also offer live music. All of their wines by the glass are available in a 3-ounce “1/2 glass portion”, as well as a full glass, half bottle equivalent and full bottle.


Peju Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley - $10

It has been too long since I've had a glass of Peju. I savored every minute of it.

The menu at Zinc had some really fabulous looking entrees and seasonal favorites but I decided to keep it simple with a couple of appetizers. I was, however, a little peeved when I heard my server offering a couple seated next to me a 3-course tasting menu after I'd already placed my order. How did I miss out on the courses pitch?

Herb Marinated Goat Cheese

Herb Marinated Goat Cheese, Olives & Roasted Garlic - $8

Served with Zinc's house made Sardinan flatbread this appetizer was huge and delicious. I wish J had been there to share it with me.

Smoked Trout & Potato Pancakes

Smoked Trout & Potato Pancakes with Creme fraiche and black truffle vinaigrette - $9

Another appetizer that I would've liked to share with J. A little trout goes a long way; a lot of trout is just plain fishy. This stack of poisson was a bit much for one.

Not a bad dinner for $30. If you are in Albuquerque, be sure to check it out. Have a glass of Peju for me!

- K

Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro
Nob Hill District
3009 Central Ave. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
(505)-254-ZINC (9462)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Scalo is located in the Nob Hill district of Albuquerque, in one of the few prime locations in this funky district with off-street parking. The exterior is nothing spectacular, but inside there are some treasures worth uncovering.

I noticed right off that Scalo has good wine glasses: varying sizes and shapes, depending on the style. Since it was lunch and since I also had a day of work ahead of me, I was a good girl and refrained. But that doesn't mean I didn't envy the woman at the next table with her glass of white.

Tuscan White Bean Soup
Tuscan White Bean Soup, Parmesan, Pancetta, Basil Pesto - $5

I should preface this with the fact that J makes the best Tuscan bean soup I've ever had. Therefore, it really wasn't fair to Scalo that I would order theirs, as it just came up short.

Flatbread with Wild mushroom, Parmesan Reggiano, White Truffle Oil - $10

The basil and mushrooms were fresh and the bountiful portion would have been a perfectly filling lunch on its own. Delicious!

Everything on the lunch menu (including pastas and paninis) was $10 and under, and the scene was lively and bustling for a Monday. If you find yourself in Albuquerque with a case of the "Mondays" yourself, take refuge at Scalo. You won't be disappointed.

- K

3500 Central Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Em's Restaurant

Em's Restaurant
You know those restaurants where you have one favorite thing on the menu and you keep going back in the hope that you will discover a second item that is equally good? This has long been our relationship with Em's. Their goat cheese tamales are hands down one of my favorite treats EVER! On the entree menu at lunch, the tamales are served on a bed of black beans; at dinner they are an appetizer, served only with a drizzle of Chipotle con Crema. If I just stuck with the tamales at Em's then I'd never be disappointed. Unfortunately, curiosity always gets the best of me.

Goat Cheese Tamales, served on a bed of Chipotle con Crema - $7

Unwrapping these little husks is like opening a present. The gift is the delicious marriage of soft, sweet corn and tangy goat cheese.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops on a Bed of Asparagus - $10

J found the scallops to be cooked perfectly. Sesame seeds gave the dish an interesting Asian twist.

Smoked Salmon & Crab Rolls with Avocado, Sesame Seed Vinaigrette & Cilantro Oil - $8

These are pretty amazing—without being too rich.

Artichoke & Parmesan Ravioli with Pinenuts and Sage Brown Butter - $18

I like the use of artichoke, but the ravioli needed a life preserver for the pool of butter it was swimming in.

Ribeye with Bleu Cheese & Caramelized Onions, Roasted Potatoes & Seasonal Vegetables - $18

Overabundance of two things: fat and bleu cheese. J loves the flavor combination of bleu cheese and beef but they could have left most of the bleu cheese off and it would have been just right. As for the pile of fat that was left on the plate, it may be where the flavor comes from, but this cut was more fat than meat.

It's fair to say that Em's excels in two areas: appetizers and ambiance. Tucked away in Salt Lake City's historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, Em's is intimate but unpretentious; the perfect venue for sharing a meal with friends or loved ones. Our recommendation? Go for lunch, or just stick with the appetizers if going for dinner. Order the goat cheese tamales and you won't be disappointed.

- K

Em's Restaurant
271 North Center Street
Salt Lake City, UT

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Utah Law Strikes Again

J's birthday celebration is continuing tonight via dinner with my brother and his wife. The cute newlyweds stopped by this morning to firm up plans and we offered to come by their house pre-dinner with a bottle of bubbly. I went about my entire day looking forward to a refreshing glass of sparkling; it's the reason I made it through 100 sit-ups at the gym, kept my mouth shut when my hair stylist was running 30 minutes behind and patiently ignored the screaming toddler at the grocery store. Tonight I would have bubbly.

I came home around 4:30 (or wine-thirty, as we call it on weekends) to find J staring glumly out the window. "Do you see that flag?" he asked, motioning to the American Flag standing erect in our neighbor's yard. "Do you know what that means?" he went on. I nodded. "Veteran's Day," I quickly responded, proud that I had already called my father, a Veteran, to thank him, as is the custom. But that wasn't where J was headed. "Do you know what that means?" he repeated, and this time I got it: state holiday means no bubbly from the state wine store.

You see, in Utah we do not have the liberty of local wine shops, or even wine sections at our grocery stores. In the Beehive State we have two options for obtaining wine locally: the state wine store and the state liquor store; neither of which is open on anything approaching a holiday. And don't even think about Sundays. In fact, on the nights leading up to any kind of holiday the stores typically have to limit the number of customers allowed in the store at one time...because it is such mayhem. People stock up! Unfortunately for us, yesterday afternoon, we were not among them. Thanks, Utah...way to burst our bubble.

- K

Friday, November 10, 2006

Blue Boar Inn

The Blue Boar Inn

As we said before, J's birthday on Tuesday was thwarted by the "no wine before the polls close" election day rule. Thus we celebrated his big 3-5 a couple days late, at the Blue Boar Inn.

We'd heard great things about the Blue Boar Inn and with the Sundance Film Festival just around the corner, we decided a posting about The Blue Boar could serve helpful for Park City visitors.

The Blue Boar Inn looks like a Swiss chalet...right down to the Swiss Flag that was billowing in the brisk November wind. Inside the decor was country cottage; picture lots of antlers (chandeliers, coat hangers, even the toilet paper holder in the bathroom was made from a deer antler), comfortable couches and a roaring fire.

The restaurant immediately scored points for attention to detail: the hand towels on the bathroom counter were imprinted with the signature blue boar and they even had a bottle of hand lotion on the counter. (Ladies, you know what I'm talking about.)

The wine list's variety was equally impressive (by Utah standards) though the markup, at 100% for most bottles, was not. We selected a bottle of Argyle Pinot Noir to remind us of our days in Portland, grimacing at what we had to fork over to have it.

Amuse Buche
Our lovely server took our mind off the pricey wine markup up by dropping off a little Amuse Bouche - Wild Boar Ravioli with Arugula Pesto - compliments of the chef

From there it went something like this:

Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni & Cheese -Fontina & Gruyere Cheese with Herbed Bread Crumbs, Truffle and Shaved Prosciutto - $9

Sounds rich, right? It wasn't. In fact, this mac and cheese was delightfully smooth and light.

Coriander Dusted Jumbo Prawns - Miero Citrus, Watercress Risotto, Lemon Basil Butter - $11

J enjoyed the prawns but found the risotto to be a little flat.

Spicy Tomato & Fennel Soup
Spicy Tomato & Fennel Soup - $8

Between this and the mac and cheese I was feeling like a kid again; minus the romper pajamas.

Arugula Salad
Red Beet Jus, Arugula & Chevre Salad - $11

J loves anything with arugula and this salad was no exception. The fresh pear that was hidden underneath the tower of arugula was a nice surprise. The chevre was served fried and on the side (think chevre McNuggets).

Brown Sugar & Juniper Rubbed Bison, Huckleberry Thyme Jus, Braised Rapini, Butternut Squash Raviloli - $36

The meat was as soft and luxurious as velvet, but the truckload of broccoli and tomatoes on the plate seemed out of place with the hucklebery thyme jus and butternut squash ravioli.

Center Cut Beef Tenderloin
Center Cut Beef Tenderloin, Tapenade Crust, Gorgonzola Gnocchi, Charred Red Pepper Coulis, Balsamic - $36

While tender, J found that the meat lacked any flavor; the same could not be said for the red pepper coulis, which overpowered everything in the dish. The gorgonzola gnocchi was dense and dry.

Nonetheless we were stuffed from our meal and planning to skip dessert, but our sweet server wanted to buy J dessert for his belated birthday celebration. He selected the Crème Brûlée, possibly because he likes to crack the sugary shell more than anything else.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée - compliments of our server

With our check we received a little parting gift: two chocolate boars, which I gobbled down like vitamins. And I couldn't resist an extra sweet treat from a plate by the door: a delicious sugar cookie frosted in white and covered in blue sprinkles. The cookie was everything I want in a sugar cookie: soft, warm and sweet.

Would we go back? If we lived closer, probably. But The Blue Boar Inn is an hour drive from Salt Lake City. We'd sooner walk up our block where we can enjoy neighborhood favorites The Paris Bistro and Fresco than waste the time --and gas-- required to drop a couple hundo at The Blue Boar Inn.

- K

The Blue Boar Inn
1235 Warm Springs Road
Midway, UT 84029
(435) 654-1400

Monday, November 06, 2006

Osteria Fasulo

I had high hopes for Osteria Fasulo. In Sacramento on business, I was in the mood for the slower pace of Davis and had read great things online about Osteria Fasulo. I left a message for the restaurant early in the day requesting a reservation, as is their process, and had a voicemail back within the hour confirming my table for one.

Unfortunately, I had already checked out their web site and was drooling over several selections: in fact, I had my entire meal planned. I was crushed to arrive at the restaurant only to realize that the online menu was out of date (they'd lost their web developer, my server explained) and not one of the items I'd been thinking about all day was actually available.

While sipping on my complimentary shot glass of prosecco I sadly revised my plan of attack. While not a big fan of aioli, I was bound and determined to have myself some carpaccio, and so I knew the Carpaccio Cipriani, thinly sliced Harris Ranch filet served with a refreshing aioli dressing for $14 was in my future. I also opted for the Penne all' Arrabbiata, Barilla penne served in a spicy tomato sauce for $9. As a former vegetarian, I really don't go out of my way to eat meat, but I've never met a carpaccio that I didn't like. Fasulo's was no exception. I could take or leave the pasta.

I had gone with a very early reservation that evening and so there were just a few fellow diners in the restaurant. One table, two men and a woman, were having a hard time deciding on a wine. Their server recommended a wine from Osteria's extensive collection and was quick to point out that owner Leonardo Fasulo was very committed to ensuring that guests had a positive connection with their wine. If not, the server explained to the trio, Fasulo would rather bring them a new bottle than have an unhappy customer.

I continued to watch the trio as their server returned with the selected bottle, opened it, and poured the gentleman who'd ordered it a taste. The gentleman noted the wine's flavor by swirling it in his mouth, and deemed it acceptable.

And so I was rather apalled when, a good twenty minutes--and several sips--later, the showy guy summoned his server back to the table and passively commented on how the wine didn't seem like a "true sangiovese". The server promptly brought Fasulo to the table, who graciously brought the undeserving customer a new bottle of wine. I was so digusted at this table's gross willingess to take advantage of the system (and the staff's subsequent fawning) that I had to order my check immediately and get out of dodge. I left the restaurant feeling rather disappointed.

I am a firm believer that some restaurants deserve a second chance and I do think Osteria Fasulo is one of them. Their "no questions asked" willingness to replace a bottle of wine for an unhappy customer is certainly noble; there is no question that Fasulo takes pride in his restaurant. If I hadn't fallen in love with the online menu then the menu I had to choose from that evening probably wouldn't have been so disappointing. (By the way, it looks like they must have found a new web developer as the "current" menu can now be viewed online.)

- K

Osteria Fasulo
2657 Portage Bay East
Davis, CA 95616
Telephone: 530.758.1324

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Election Day Fallout

This Tuesday (November 7) J will turn 35. We don't really do gifts at our house; instead we like to do experiences. Clothes inevitably end up on ebay too soon after we tire of them, but a great meal together is something that keeps on giving all year long in the form of memories. (Though now that J is turning 35 that memory of his may be on its way downhill.)

J decided on the The Blue Boar Inn for his birthday dinner. We've never been there but have heard good things about it. Located in the stunning Heber Valley (Midway, UT to be exact) The Blue Boar Inn is close enough to Park City for any Sundance attendees or snow bunnies, and the Four Diamond restaurant boasts the highest possible Zagat rating of 26. It has also received Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, and has been named Utah's top dining establishment by the Best of State organization. Sounds great, right? Too bad J's birthday falls on Election Day this year.

As if Utah doesn't make it hard enough throughout the year to buy a bottle of wine, the beehive state is one of nine states with some type of alcohol ban on the big day. Bottom line is this: restaurants and liquor stores are not allowed to sell alcohol on Tuesday until after the polls have closed, the reasoning being that one might have a hard drink with their meal and end up making a horrible mistake in the voting box.

Now as an article in the Salt Lake Tribune pointed out Salt Lake City International Airport is allowed to sell liquor to anyone flashing an ID from out of state. If only we still had fake IDs we could enjoy buffalo wings and Sutter Home chardonnay "on the fly".

Instead we will have a belated birthday celebration at The Blue Boar Inn on Thursday, and the wine we will be able to consume will help us mourn the silly rules that sometimes come with living in this bright red state.

Check back later this week to read all about our meal at The Blue Boar Inn.

- K