February 22, 2010

Quick Review: Cakes & Ale, Perhaps Decatur's Finest

Was able to make a last minute visit to Cakes and Ale Saturday night. Tables were all spoken for, but we were able to find a couple of seats at the bar where you can order from the full menu and still enjoy a great meal. We started with the tasty mushroom soup topped with candied pine nut brittle and the outrageously tasty Benton's prosciutto with pickled veggies.
For entrees, we tried the stuffed cabbage and the duck leg. Both dishes were extraordinary, the cabbage stuffed with farro and toasted bread crumbs over creamy tarbais beans and winter squash. The duck leg was perfectly crisped and served over brussel sprouts, turnips, fried gnocchi, and a red wine jus. Both dishes were tasty and comforting, speaking to the season with perfection. 

February 17, 2010

A Killer Young Village Burgundy: 2005 Domaine de Courcel Pommard

This past weekend I opened a very young Pommard from Domaine de Courcel. Intense nose of spice, saline, stone. Intense, laser-like precision to the mostly red fruit on the palate. Structured, but also slight sappy with fruit and a wisp of acidity. There's spicy-stemmy quality from the use of whole clusters here. It's on the young side, but it's putting out now. Just great and packed for a few more years of development in the cellar.

February 15, 2010

A Fine Red Burgundy: 2000 Francois Parent Pommard Rugiens & Dinner at Feast in Decatur

Dinner at Feast was great as usual. Feast seems to have carved out a nice niche for itself in the Decatur/East Atlanta dining scene. The place has a great vibe and consistently cranks out killer bistro fare with a southern foundation. Perhaps it was due to the Valentine's Day weekend, but the place was rocking as usual. Robust crowds seem to be the norm on weekend nights at Feast.

We started with the mushroom chips. They were tasty as usual; nice and crispy with a chunky blue cheese dipping sauce. There was a tasty new salad on the menu that featured spinach, Fuji apples, warm brie in phyllo, and candied pecans topped with a vanilla bean vinaigrette. It was a delicious starter salad. Vanilla was an interesting and refreshing taste here. For my entree I ordered the duck confit and breast over black-eyed peas with chorizo and sauteed spinach. The conift was nicely crisped and the breast was perfectly medium-rare. The duck dish matched well with the red Burg I brought along (duh!). Don't hesitate to hit Feast if you're up for a nice bistro-style meal in a comfy setting while out and about in Decatur.

The 2000 F. Parent Pommard Rugiens was in a nice mature space. Rugiens, one of the eminent premier cru vineyard in Pommard, often produces long-lived, structured wines. The Parent showed some soft red fruit and a hwole lot of sous bois on the nose. A nice bit of truffle-funk, too. It opened up over the course of a couple hours and really complemented the food. Nice for a 10 years old Rugiens.

February 9, 2010

2000 Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard

I'm not going to say anything more about Arcadian. I've raved about them here numerous times. If you're not drinking Arcadian, it's not that I haven't given you the impetus. Despite being 10 years old (that's old for California Pinot, right?), this Pisoni is just drinking perfectly and will drink well for several more years. One of the best California Pinots I've ever had, nearly as good as the 1997 Pisoni we had from Bob's cellar last week. Joe Davis still has some for sale from the Arcadian cellars, but it'll cost ya' a bit.

The nose is really too much...in a good way. Floral, tea notes, truffles, cherry...Palate is marked by sweet raspberry and cherry fruit that is framed by a lively acidity that refuses to quit. Long, slightly warm backside that shows damp earth and a finish that sails on and on.Terrific wine. About all I want from my Cali Pinot. I think this could still make folks smile 5 years from now.

February 8, 2010

Some Recent Bites: Taqueria Oaxaquena, Leon's Full Service

Haven't posted any restaurant reviews lately, been too busy and haven't had any really interesting meals out lately (sorry, Parker's on Ponce).  However, this week I'm feeling the need to post on two excellent restaurant stops in the past week.

I stopped in for lunch this week at Taqueria la Oaxaquena in Jonesboro. Jonesboro? WTF? Yeah, I said the same thing, once. But, now that I work in the area, Jonesboro and I are friends. And, it just so happens that Jonesboro has one of metro-Atlanta's top Mexican restaurants. That's Mexican restaurant; this ain't no On the Border, or Don Pablos. This is the real deal. Meredith Ford Goldman from Access Atlanta and John Kessler of the AJC claim it's the best Mex we've got. I think they are on to something.

Oaxaquena has the feel of a converted fast-food restaurant. The front of shop has a cafeteria-style bar set-up where a continuous stream of folks rambled in for take-out orders throughout the time I was there. I took a seat in the back and perused their enormous menu. There are staples that most of us would recognize from gringo-centric tex-mex places, but then there are specialties like their famous tlyuda-a large, fried corn masa that is topped with beans, cheese, aovocados, and other goodies. Like a big 'ol Mexican pizza.

I settled on a few tacos: cow cheek (yep, cow cheek), tongue (yep, tongue), al Pastor (pork), and a steak gordita.
The tacos were just packed with flavor, but it was all about the meats. Unlike tex-mex tacos, these babies were just loaded up with meat, that was succulent, tender, and seasoned perfectly. Served with simple, traditional toppings of cilantro and onions, they are ready to make you happy. The gordita was also delicious, a fresh-baked masa pocket that was fluffy and light, stuffed with succulent grilled steak that was shredded and topped with a cilantro-onion slaw and Mexican crema. Best part: the tacos were $1.99 each and the gordita, with a side of refried beans, was $3.50. I'll be back again. Soon.

Also stopped back in at Leon's Full Service this week. It's one of my favorite spots in Decatur, I just don't write about it here all the time.The thing that is cool about Leon's is they pay attention to detail. Every dish I've had there in my numerous visits is touched by some thing that makes the dish standout from food you get at just about any other pub in the land. From the pub frites with the multitude of dipping sauces, to the in-house house made pickles, and the madras curry catchup, there are little touches of brilliance on many of the dishes.

This time around, the lug nuts, a mix of seasoned nuts that changes often, were caramelized in brown sugar and curry. An addictive and delicious snack to munch while waiting for the meal.
There's also a special winter side dish recently added to the menu: Brussel Sprout Hash. It features shredded cooked brussell sprouts with fuji apples, sweet onions, and bacon. Served warm from the oven, it's a heavenly side dish if you dig on the 'ol sprouts. There was other food on the table including the tasty currywurst, and the grass-fed beef burger that rivals many of the better burgers in town. As always, Leon's crispy pub frites with goat cheese fondue were sublime.

I really love Leon's and don't always appreciate how cool it is...Decatur-you're lucky to have Leon's Full Service.

February 5, 2010

Quick Take: 2002 Nicolas Potel Pommard 1er Epenots

I've been on a bit of a Nicolas Potel kick lately. See here. And here. Last night, I popped a Pommard with a little more age on it; the 2002 Epenots. Epenots is in the southeast corner of Pommard and the vineyard produces age-worthy wines that can be both rustic and impenetrable when young.
Overall, this is still rather austere and hard. It shows some signs of potential...bright, tart cherry fruit, wet forest floor, and tea nots. But it goes from slightly closed, to tight, to clamped down and back again. And still pretty aggressive on the backside. See you in another 3-5 years...

February 1, 2010

2006 Rhys/Alesia Pinot Noir San Mateo County

In the past five years, Rhys has appeared on the California wine scene and established itself as one of the finest makers of California Pinot, Chardonnay, and Syrah. Rhys owner, Kevin Harvey, and his team, are non-interventionist producers who are consistently cranking out age-worthy wines with old-world, some-might-say-Burgundian, sensibilities.

The Rhys philosophy as stated on their webpage:

At Rhys Vineyards we aspire to make great wines from unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead us to select five different sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Our overriding belief is that unique vineyard expression is the key to truly great wines.

Like many other world-class wines, Rhys wines are produced in small quantities and available only through the winery mailing list. A list which I am fortunate to be on.

For the past four vintages, Rhys also produced non-estate grown wines under their second label, Alesia. In 2006, the Rhys team declassified the fruit from their estate-owned Family Farm Vineyard and used it to produce the 2006 Pinot Noir San Mateo County cuvee under the Alesia label. It is an incredible wine that was offered from the winery for under $25 on release.

2006 Alesia Pinot Noir San Mateo County--The wine is still absolutely kicking ass. A great wine for its modest cost. Pale red in the glass. Full of stemmy-spice notes and a long herbal warmth on the finish. So persistent with cranberry fruit and minerals and spice on the palate. So light on its feet, yet so packed with intensity. Drinking well for a few more years if not longer. Bravo Kevin and co.