Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chateau Julien Sangiovese Rosato Rosé 2007

Price: $18.00
SoG Score: 95
User Score: --
Region: Carmel Valley, California

I honestly can't believe it's already August and summer is almost half over! It's even more reason to relish in the hot lazy summer days and that's what's been tempting me to open my last bottle of my most favorite wine from one of our favorite wineries, Chateau Julien's rosé.

First off, if you haven't vacationed in Carmel Valley/Monterey in the Central Coast of California, you really must fit this into your schedule- it's the perfect idyllic weekend getaway especially this time of year. Two quick suggestions for where to stay- Old Monterey Inn (French country chic) in Monterey and Tradewinds Inn (pure Zen relaxation) in Carmel Valley. And you must stop by Chateau Julien in Carmel Valley- it's one of the most charming vineyards you'll come across in the states. Friendly husband and wife owners who were so captivated by a winery in the South of France that they bought a vineyard and created a replica of the chateau.

Now to their rosé- I think rosés aren't given enough credit in the states. Sure there are some rosés that taste like cardboard and should definitely be passed over, but a good rosé makes for one of the most refreshing drinks out there. Chateau Julien's is by far my favorite. Made from the Sangiovese grape, it's bursting with the essence of juicy strawberries and is surprisingly sweet for a coastal wine but still crisp.

the ideal meal: shrimp scampi for dinner and big juicy strawberries for dessert

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heidi's Minneapolis

SoG Score: Food: A- | Ambiance: B+
Type: American, modern
Address: 819 W 50th St
Minneapolis, MN 55419


Price: $$$

We've been wanting to try Heidi's for some time now but hadn't gotten around to it 'til last weekend. Heidi's is Stewart Woodman's newest moderately priced endeavor- he was named one of the best new chefs by Food and Wine magazine in 2006 and had previously opened some high-end Minneapolis restaurants. He bills it as "familiar foods made extraordinary" which I think is an accurate description. It's a tiny space, redecorated in rich colors with luxurious and artistic accents, including an ornate ceiling and a simple music stand as the welcome desk to create a romantic ancient/modern feel.
For appetizers, I had the foie gras crépe which was your typical melt in your mouth foie gras experience with the added bonus of sweet hibiscus syrup. The texture of the lentils was a little odd against the creaminess of the foie gras but it took on some of the flavor of the foie gras and made it feel like you were getting a bit more foie gras than you paid for. Jeff had the diver scallop on a piece of bread with mustard seeds which had good flavor but the scallop was a touch overcooked.
For our entrées, I had the Australian sea bass with parsley, parsnips, and mussel foam (pictured right). This was prepared beautifully- the first bite was bliss- creamy, milky, buttery. I'm not the biggest fan of butter, so around halfway through I couldn't stomach any more butter, but it was definitely a delicious dish. Jeff had one of the evening specials- a beef tenderloin with a heavenly sauce made of foie gras (pictured left)- pure perfection.
We'll have to stop by again for a cheese plate and dessert as we were too full to even think about it.
the good: I think Stewart Woodman got it right, it really is familiar foods made extraordinary, well-priced: appetizers average around $8 and entrées around $18.
the not so good: we were seated right away with our reservation, but rumor is even with a reservation you should be prepared to wait.
Overall: definitely recommended: don't forget to visit my new favorite store, Patina, right next door.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Domaine de la Pepière 2005

Price: $10.99
SoG Score: 90
User Score: --
Region: Loire Valley, France

Muscadet is a musky white wine that comes from the fertile Loire Valley in France. There are several types and Muscadet Sevre et Maine is supposedly the best of the muscadet varietal. It's crisp and refreshing and as it comes from a coastal region it has a sweet seaside saltiness that is comforting as we're stuck in landlocked Minnesota. We had it with sea bass which was good but it really seems like it was made to be eaten with clams, mussels, or crab. The brininess is balanced by a hint of sweet honeysuckle which adds a fragrant touch. One sip takes you to a calming afternoon on the porch of a seaside cottage in France.

the ideal meal: a chilled glass of Muscadet with moules frites.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pizza Nea

SoG Score: Food: B+ | Ambiance: B+
Type: Pizza
Address: 306 East Hennepin
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Price: $
Twin cities pizza lovers can't seem to ever agree on where to get the best pizza. While I still haven't tried enough Minneapolis pizza shops to give a definitive answer, I can at least comment on the ongoing Punch Pizza and Pizza Nea debate. Punch Pizza all the way! Nevertheless, Pizza Nea was a fun and tasty stop for us. We had the margherita pizza, my personal favorite, and a pizza bianco with porcini mushrooms (both pictured). The cheese and ingredients are fresh, generously proportioned, and absolutely delicious. The crust is crisp and perfectly cooked but a bit thicker than I typically like for Neapolitan style pizza.
The outside patio is relaxing on a sunny day and Hennepin Avenue offers a great way to spend an afternoon with an eclectic mix of shops. Surdyk's Wine and Cheese shop, the largest wine store in the midwest, is right across the street. Be sure to stop by one of my favorite stores, the neighboring Bibelot, after your pizza.
That being said, Punch Pizza is right down the street and offers a spacious beautiful patio, a hip and fun atmosphere, and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Both pizza joints are definitely worth a try.
the good: fresh ingredients, fun neighborhood
the not so good: not much to complain about
Overall: recommended: worth a try, but I still prefer Punch.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chaucer's Ollalieberry Wine

Price: $10.99
SoG Score: 90
User Score: --
Region: Santa Cruz, California

Jeff and I first tried this dessert wine in the Bargetto winery tasting room on Cannery Row in one of our favorite getaway spots, Monterey, California. This dessert wine is a dessert in itself- it is really like drinking a sweet juicy slice of blackberry pie in a glass- or maybe blackberry jam in a glass. Drinking pure sugar couldn't be sweeter. It almost tastes more like juice than wine. Ollalieberries are a hybrid cross between the loganberry (raspberry and blackberry cross) and the youngberry (blackberry and dewberry cross). Basically ollallieberry= larger sweeter blackberries. It's particularly good with anything chocolate.
It won a double gold at the California State Fair and gold at the Salinas Valley Fair and the Tasters Guild International among others. If you like sweets, you'll want to try this one.

the ideal meal: a piece of flourless chocolate cake sprinkled with fresh berries and confectioner's sugar with a glass of sweet olallieberry wine

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Evergreen Chinese Restaurant

SoG Score: Food: B++ | Ambiance: B
Type: Chinese, Taiwanese
Address: 2424 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Price: $

I didn't think it was possible to get authentic Taiwanese style home cooking and breakfast items in the twin cities until we tried Evergreen. The owner acts as your host, server, and cashier, while his wife makes classic home cooked meals in the kitchen. The decor (or lack of) is very basic, reminiscent of small family run restaurants in Taiwan. Visit for the authentic food not the decor. They also serve Let's Tea boba- we had taro tea with boba, boba was hard tea had good flavor but taro was made from powder.

We had delicious steamed and fried dumpling and spicy beef noodle soup 紅燒肉麵 with homemade noodles. We'll have to make it back on a weekend morning for the ultimate Taiwanese breakfast: sweet and salty soy milk with my favorite, fan twan (rice rolls) and the greasy but oh so yummy shao bing you tiao 燒餅油條 (crispy sticks of fried dough wrapped in a sesame biscuit). Oh I can't wait!

the good: serves up unexpectedly authentic Chinese and Taiwanese classics hard to come by in the twin cities
the not so good: lack of decor
Overall: recommended: grandma's kitchen Chinese cooking that won't dent the pocketbook

Monday, June 16, 2008

Barefoot California Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Price: $6.99

SoG Score: 85
User Score: --
Region: Napa Valley, California

For those that know me, the stinky foot on the label is enough to keep me far far away from this wine, but the 5 gold medals for a $6.99 wine were just too tempting. It's not bad for a cheap bottle of cab that is available everywhere- you can pick it up off any supermarket shelf (well except in Minnesota where supermarkets don't sell wine). Very fruity and jammy, complementing well with a juicy savory steak or meaty red sauce pasta. Its strong cherry aroma also makes it especially good with dark chocolate. A little too sweet for a Cabernet for my taste. Worth a try for the price but not sure if it deserves quite as many gold medals as it has won.

the ideal meal: sprinkle sea salt and fresh pepper on a marbled steak and grill to medium rare perfection, enjoy with sips of barefoot cab.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Redstone American Grill

SoG Score: Food: B Ambiance: A
Type: American
Address: 8000 Eden Road
Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (multiple locations)
Price: $$$

Classically American, Redstone offers simple American favorites in an upscale Midwest lodge setting. If you're lucky to find a thunderstorm-free day to go, the patio (at the Eden Prairie location) itself makes it worth the visit, overlooking a pond with a few Bellagio style fountains. It's an ideal versatile setting guaranteed to impress for a business lunch, a night out with friends, brunch with your in-laws, or a dinner date.

The food is reliably decent but not spectacular. Appetizers were very artfully presented, and the buffalo shrimp was particularly good. The sea bass was a little fishy, lacked imagination, and was a touch overcooked. Their twists on banana creme pie and fresh berry tart were the highlight.

the good: patio, beautiful setting, live music
the not so good: long-wait on weekends, pricey for quality of food
Overall: recommended: worth a visit for the atmosphere

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Punch Pizza!

SoG Score: Food: A | Ambiance: A
Type: Pizza
Address: 3226 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55416 (multiple locations)
Price: $ ($$ if you go all out)

We love Punch pizza!! This place is really reminiscent of eating pizza in Italy, wood-fired, simple, fresh ingredients. They have a crazy oven that cooks your pizza in 90 seconds at 800 degrees Fahrenheit.. wild! They also have options where you can have your pizza D.O.C. or doppio style which is buffalo mozzarella, extra tomatoes and olive oil (although to be honest, there wasn't much difference to us between our regular and D.O.C. pizzas). Punch also belongs to the Vera Pizza Napoletana the pizza poliza which certify authentic Naples style pizza. We also had the chopped Italian salad which was excellent- the finest ingredients, bursting with flavor! Definitely up there with Mozza Pizzeria as one of the best pizza places.

the good: super yummy pizza, quick, cheap, fun atmosphere
the not so good: none
Overall: definitely recommended! we'll be back often=).
Tip: if you order starters/salads, you're pizza will probably be ready before your starters, so chow down on the pizza while it's hot!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jun Bo

SoG Score: Food: C+ | Ambiance: C-
Type: Chinese, DimSum
Address: 7717 Nicollet Avenue
Richfield, MN 55423
Price: $$ (count on around $15 per person for dim sum)

After having a couple of people recommend Jun Bo for dim sum and browsing through the quite nice website, we were really excited to try Jun Bo. We probably shouldn't have gone on a Monday afternoon as the servers told us that they had run out of many items since they were so busy during the weekend. Luckily, we were able to try most of our favorites including the shrimp dumplings, shui mai, and Jeff's favorite, turnip cake. The quality of the ingredients and flavor were decent but the temperature of the food was at best lukewarm and by the end of the meal, we felt like we were eating leftovers that they barely had time to reheat (which unfortunately I think was the case). As for decor, it feels like you're eating in a rundown ballroom although the aquarium in the entryway is beautiful.

the good: dim sum all day everyday, easy parking
the not so good: cold food (on weekdays at least), poor decor
Overall: Not recommended, might be worth a try on a weekend