Char

We go to Char entirely too often. Need a quick bite before RBTL? Char. Nightcap after RMSC event? Char. New Years Eve? Char. Date night? Char. Happy Hour before Play Ball at Strong Museum? Char.

See, a long time ago, we had a pork belly app here that still calls out to me. We return in the hope of getting that pork belly again. Unfortunately, it’s not on the menu anymore. But now they have a spicy sausage stuffed calamari and this oxtail gnocchi thing that are easily two of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Please keep in mind there are always many glasses of wine and a baby sitter associated with Char, so I might be biased.

I posted about RMSC Uncorked the other day and how it wasn’t really as, um, good/informative/not crowded as we’d hoped. We arrived there right at 6, after stopping at Hedges (always, it’s just down the road from our house and has a great view, dated everything else, but a great view) AND Char, for a glass of Girard Chardonay and some potato wedges. We knew there would be food at RMSC, but wanted a bit beforehand just in case there wasn’t enough. Well, there wasn’t enough.

Just after 8 we headed back to Char and were seated right away. Our table was one of the less desirable, but no wait is no wait. Overall, excellent again, both service and food.

1. Girard Chard–we like it, it’s not too expensive and pairs nicely with the oysters and calamari we ordered.

2. Oysters–$3 a pop, the special, and I can’t remember what variety they were. Four of the six we ordered were great, but two of them (two of mine) were bad–one had lots of broken shell and the other one tasted like cat litter. We told the server, assuming he’d take the $6 off the bill but instead he took the whole dish off. Great job, Char!

3. The aforementioned calamari stuffed with spicy Italian sausage and bread crumbs, grilled and served over cannellini beans and cherry peppers. This is the full squid, stuffed with the fattiest spicy pork sausage ever. Amazing. In some ways it reduces the calamari to a sausage casing, but I don’t care, it’s delicious and we get it every time.

4. The red wine-braised oxtail ragù with ricotta gnocchi. Do I even need to say anything else?! Tender, fatty, rich, amazing. Surely needs a good red to work with all that fattiness, but we didn’t order one to compliment this. (Are you counting; I’m up to a glass at Hedges, a glass at Char, tastings at RMSC, splitting  bottle back at Char…)

And we were home by 11!

RMSC Uncorked

Friday night we had a grown up night at the Rochester Museum and Science Center; we’re members and like to do the adult only fundraisers because it allows to actually look at exhibits we like for as long as we like without someone (ahem, Raddy G….) insisting that we move along.

I’m glad we went, but I’m not sure I’d go again. There were a wealth of local wineries, restaurants, breweries, bakeries, etc all with tastings included in the ticket. Sounds great, right? It was, mostly. To sum up: too crowded to actually talk to any vendor about their product and not enough, um, quality? Maybe that’s the food and wine snob in me (and I’m far from having a well developed palate) but there were only two wineries that I had what I would consider some of the best the Finger Lakes has to offer. And don’t get me started on the abomination that was the amatriciana from Mario’s. We’ve never had a great version outside of Rome, but this was basically orecchiette with sweet tomato sause, not the wonderfully fatty guanciale and tomato over bucatini that is typical.  I would have loved to talk to the Owl House rep longer, and the Silver Thread Winery owner too, but the crowd was huge!

The upside was walking through the temporary DaVinci exhibit with plenty of time and glass of (too sweet and not great) wine.  It focuses on many of his drawings turned into the three dimensional inventions he had in mind and also includes a very detailed analysis of the Mona Lisa. We enjoyed that so much we might go back.

In the end, I’m glad the museum can hold popular fundraisers, but I wish they could spread out the sampling area throughout the musem to relieve the crowds and encourage people to look at more exhibits. We left after two hours, annoyed by the impossiblity of actually relaxing and enjoying our samples, headed over to Char at the Strathallen and had an excellent unplanned dinner.  (review to come)

What happened to our last wine shipment? Uh, we drank it.

wine shipment

March Shipment-Ravines Wine Club

So the March shipment was pretty good, all wines we really like from Ravines Wine Cellars. On the left, almost invisible (thanks, stupid daylight!) is the 2013 Gewurztraminer, then 2011 Artgetsinger Dry Reisling, followed by 2013 Kueka Village Red and 2012 Pinot Noir.

First to go was the Pinot. We had some charcuterie and bread for dinner (pretty typical Friday night fare around here) and opend this. And then the the Village Red went too.  Viviane at Foodandstyle.com does a much better job than I at describing what there is to love about Ravines Pinot, and although this was a differenct vintage her description of a light-in-color, delicate-in-taste wine is spot on and we too, paired some cherry tomatoes tossed with oil and arugala with this. When that was gone we opened the Village Red.

Village Red is my dirty secret wine. It’s very easy to drink and pair, light, a tiny bit sweet and…mixed with some Orange Sunkist and fruit is awesome Sangria. I know. Whatever, it’s good stuff.

So half the bottle was gone. Just a few nights later we were having a cheese board for dinner (I know…but bread and cheese are delicious) with some gouda, young cheddar, asiago and mozzarella. Perhaps not the best mix, but all of them need a sweeter wine, so we drank the Gewurztraminer. Here’s what I like about Ravines Gewurzt–it doesn’t taste like I’m eating flowers. I really have always hated Gewurztraminer for the intense florals in the ones I’ve tasted. This is not like that at all. Again, someone else has described it better than I (thanks, Joe!).

The last bottle, the Argetsinger Reisling will have to wait. We met Sam Argetsinger last summer at Ravines and loved him right away. A man who believed in a full pour, drank his own wine, loved what he did, and learned viticulture at a late age. He died  in December and the Finger Lakes lost someone special; Jake and I have been so lucky to have been able to meet and talk with him. Evan Dawson wrote a lovely post on the New York Cork Report, that like all things, is much better than I could have done.

St. Patrick’s Day

This is all that’s left of the Irish Brown Bread Jake made last night…

bread

Jake’s Irish Brown Bread remnants

He asked me not to give away his recipe, but I’m sure you can google just as easily as anyone else!!

Anywhere Wednesday: The Black Sea

Bulgaria? Maybe….Read this and you’ll be convinced too.

So, we went to Key West, again.

And we did nothing. Really, nothing. There was some booze and lots of long walks, a nap or two, more food than is advised but that’s pretty much it. So instead of a play-by-play I’ll give some summary thoughts.

1. Lodging: We really like Almond Tree Inn but might be ready to stay elsewhere. The rooms are large and very well kept, the service is excellent, the pool and hot tub relaxing, but…We go out for these meandering walks and find ourselves intrigued by other inns, B&Bs, and rental properties. So maybe the Gardens next year. Or not.

2. Things we won’t do again: Roof Top Cafe has lost us. I wonder if we just happened to have a great meal last year and mediocre is their standard. We went for a bar snack/light meal around 8:30 on a Sunday and had both poor service and food. The place was empty and still the bartender took FOREVER to serve us, recommended a wine that was really not very good, and then served us cold food. That also didn’t taste that great. Very disappointed. We had a similar experience at the bar last year, but figured since our dinner was so good it was an anomaly. I think the good dinner was the anomaly. We also are over Hog’s Breath Saloon. I like the music but it smells like college in there. And the bathrooms are icky. There is a shit ton of live music in Key West and I’m not sure why we stayed attached to this place. Anyway, next time, these two are out. And why, oh why, do people like Half Shell Raw Bar or Turtle Kraals? Cheap food, that tastes like cheap food, the most poorly schucked oysters of all time, conch fritters that had no discernable conch in them, and drunken tourists (I resemble that remark) but not the good kind. I’m being judgy, I don’t care, I didn’t like either of these places at all. Maybe I missed something by going during happy hour.

3. New (to us) places we loved: Square One is really good. We ate there twice, partly out of convenience, partly because Devils on Horseback are amazing!! I would only eat there once next time and stick to tapas rather than entrees. Nothing wrong with the entrees, just we enjoyed the tapas more. Off the Hook was great too; they had me at duck bacon. We both had fish tacos and loved them and will return for more. The service was great, the food was great, they deserve some love. The place is really really small though, like I can’t believe they run a full kitchen out of that building small. And how did we not go to Santiago’s Bodega before? I don’t know, but we’ll go back. I liked the happy hour sangria, Jake was not as enthused, but the wine list is big, the tapas delicious and it’s off the beaten path a bit meaning everyone is there because they made the effort to go there. We stopped by 2 Cents for happy hour and free bacon, left to go to Half Shell Raw Bar (see above) and ended up going back later that night for sliders, met a guy who put Jake to shame in both height and liver, had a billion moscow mules and then gin and tonics and regretted it only a little the next day.  The food I had (apps) was good, the drinks were great, the bacon a bonus.

4. Old faithfuls: Grand Vin is still great. Love the porch, the people, Donna and Greg. Mainstay for us. Think daily. La Creperie also nails it again. We ate three of four breakfasts there. Mmmm, brie.

5. Prana Spa. Its a good massage, priced like resorts are. I recommend it, but in the end it was similar to every massage I’ve ever had. It’s a nice perk on vacation, but I can get them at home pretty easily, just as enjoyably, and for less money. I’m biased as I have Eve Buckley as a SIL and she has magic hands.

So, we shall return and maybe we’ll even go on a boat, or swim, or something other than sleep, eat and drink.

2014 Disney Food and Wine, Wine, and Wine Festival-PreTrip

I don’t think I started (let alone finished) blogging our family trip to Disney in May. I’m sorry. Really, I am, but honestly, I can’t even remember what we did, other than the room was great and Adam loved the slide at the pool. But I’ve got one piece of advice from that trip that I’m going to try to follow on this one: don’t drink so much wine!

Now that you’ve stopped laughing and have wiped the tears away, I’ll remind you (did I tell you this then?) that we went to the Jiko Wine Tasting at 3PM one day, left Rad with my parents, then had two before we left for dinner at CG and so instead of going to our room went to the Bay Lake Towers Top of the World bar…where I’m pretty sure I was over served. Then we went to dinner and we asked for the waiter to choose wine pairings for our apps and entrees, which he did. And then it gets very fuzzy and much money was spent and food may have been enjoyed and my kid wakes up at 6AM. So, you know, suckage.

This is a kid-free trip for FWF, so I feel less bad about Mommy’s overindulging on this trip (really, don’t do that thing I did above, it’s not cool). Some great stuff is on the agenda including Party For The Senses and French Regional Lunch-Champagne!! And we are using up three days on old tickets because we’ll get new annual passes for our family trip for all three of us in April, so this feels like we can relax and not try to get the most bang for the buck out of our park days.

It’s been said that Epcot is the world’s greatest bar with the world’s largest cover charge and I’m about to find out if that’s true. We have to use a day of our tickets just to get into Epcot for PFTS which is also bunch of money for the separate ticket and another day to get to the FRUNCH plus paying for that meal. You can do math, you can figure out what’s invested. I swear if I didn’t have DVC or a boatload of Disney Rewards I’d gag on the amounts.

We’ve typically done Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival on weekdays and have never done the events other than the booths and one or two cooking demos, so this will be very different: the weekend crowd, the party and meal, the FP+ that I’m booking but probably not using.

We leave Saturday, 1PM, Southwest direct flight. Rad goes to Baca and Mimi’s house. Quicksilver is picking us up. I considered Magical Express but for a short trip it seems like a waste of time;  we land at 3:40 and PFTS is at 7. I know ME can be as little as 2 hours or as much as 3 from airport to resort, but this level of good-looking takes more maintenance time pre-party then ME could provide for me.

So far some very good things have happened for us regarding this trip. The first was a resort change. I booked Animal Kingdom Villas (its my home resort–you book where you own at 11 months, and others are allowed at 7 months) at 11 months out but then decided to waitlist for Boardwalk Villas at 7 months. Then I forgot completely. I logged in one day in July to see how many points we had left and if it was worth renting them to someone or banking them and found that we had gotten BWV! The next day a letter came in the mail confirming.

I also took advantage of being a Disney Visa card holder and booked my FWF experiences (or wallet emptiers, you be the judge) before the general public. I was concerned as there was confusion last year with CMs who didn’t know that Visa card holders could book, a closed reservation system, and people saying they didn’t get either their perk or their desired ressie. But no problems; Disney Food Blog is certainly the most comprehesive resource on FWF, booking, perks and the like. 

Plans as they stand:
SAT-Fly, QS to BWV, get fancy, go to PFTS (yes, I’m dressing like I paid as much as I paid to go to this thing; dressing well is about politeness to the other guests, the chefs, and my wallet. And honestly, I like dressing up), possible hit MK for late night after (yes, still dressed for the evening…) but maybe just BLT bar to see 11PM Wishes…We’ll see.

SUN-Lazy morning, maybe the pool, certainly coffee. FRUNCH at noon, til 3:30!! Then leave Epcot (gasp) because I’ve heard about you drinkers on the weekends and the bad behavior (read the DIS thread on this, I’ve never seen what people are describing, but then maybe I’m too busy enjoying myself to notice middle aged drunks at Epcot) and head to HS for some thrill rides. I’ve got FP+s for the biggies, but again, I’m not married to any of this, perhaps we’ll sit by the pool and relax. Take a nap. Oh, sleep, I miss you so.

MON-Soaring at 10AM FP+, then FWF around the world. That’s it.

TUE-sleep some more, pack, go home at 1PM. Pick up Weeman and love on him a ton. How can you not love all over this?

Making “Daddy Bread” (and very excited about flour…)


See you when I get back!!!! 
I’ll be instagramming and tweeting tons too: @onafullstomach