Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thai Diner

My husband, the Eiffel Tartan, and I went to dinner at the Thai Diner last night. I’m talking about the original Thai Diner in the Westland Shopping Center on Broad St. I had not eaten there since they had remodeled. The place now has bright colors with a nice looking bar with a cityscape on one wall and a spacescape on another. Just beware of sitting under the air vent in the middle of the restaurant. The air conditioning condensation dripped onto the table and we had to move to a dripless space. The menu was extensive with appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees. It also contained a separate multi page vegetarian menu. To begin our meal ET ordered a stick of Seafood Satay – scallops and shrimp with a thick peanut sauce and cucumber salad. My husband and I shared an order of Money Purses – ground chicken with corn and other minced veggies wrapped in a flour wrapper and deep fried. I really liked the corn in the dish as well as the sweet and sour sauce. For dinner proper both ET and my spouse ordered Shrimp Pad Thai – thin Thai-style rice noodles stir fried in a Thai sauce with bean sprouts and ground peanuts. It’s funny, whenever my husband thinks of thin rice noodles, he thinks of Vietnamese noodles that are angel hair thin. The Thai thin noodles were more like linguini thickness, and thus, he had different expectations for the dish. Once he shifted back into a Thai mode, he enjoyed his meal. I ordered Bangkok Chicken – crispy fried chicken, stir fried with green beans, basil, carrots, and hot chili sauce and served with steamed rice. Yes, this dish sounded (and also looked) a lot like General Tso’s Chicken, but with a different taste. The chicken was all white meat. The carrots and green beans I crunched with satisfaction. The sauce had a sweetness to it, yet also portrayed an underlying heat (I ordered mine medium in the hotness range. You can also order it American hot or Thai hot.). We all had enough food to take home for leftovers.

Richmond Magazine Page 198

I'm tooting my own horn a bit today. The July 2007 issue of Richmond Magazine features one of my recipes - Chicken Breasts with Garlic Tarragon Sauce. I want to thank Megan who read my blog and suggested that I submit a recipe. And thanks to Jimmy who hauled his camera over to my house to take a picture of the finished dish before my husband and I devoured it.

The magazine also features Cheap Eats and showcases some of my favorite places: Bin 22, Kuba Kuba, Kitchen 64, and Six Burner.

Check it out!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Northside Grille

Our overnight friends left for home on Sunday after cups of coffee and brief conversation (It had been an extremely late night). My husband and I went back to bed and woke up much later. We landed at Northside Grille a little after 2 PM. Northside Grille is located at 1217 Bellevue Avenue and just opened for a grateful Northside crowd. When we walked in, they were busy with a seemingly limited wait staff. Both the bar and dining roomed looked to be non-smoking, at least no one lit up while we were there. Exposed brick walls, green painted wainscoting, blue framing. I liked the look of the space. Bryce Miller was playing electric piano for the Sunday crowd. We were in a discombobulated mood and tried to order from the brunch menu only to be told that they stopped serving brunch at 2 PM (this important tidbit of information was left off of the menu leaving the wait staff to explain not only to us, but the table behind us that it was too late for brunch). We tried again. This time I ordered a bowl of the Crab Bisque. We decided on the Lumpia appetizer (Filipino egg rolls with pork, beef, and vegetables with a garlic sesame dipping sauce) to share. And my husband had the Cold Plate (chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad over greens). Prices were $5, $7, and $8. Very strange combination (we definitely were discombobulated). We passed on the $2 Mimosas and the $10 Mojito carafes after lots of wine and food the previous night. I hope these specials continue to be present on Sunday, because I definitely want to try them!

I really liked my soup – lots of crab in a very rich creamy base with just enough Old Bay spice to feel a little heat. A bowl was plenty. The Lumpia (5) were very greasy and a touch cold in the middle. The bottom of our basket was pooled with oil. I liked the dipping sauce. My husband’s salad plate was typical. He grew somewhat tired of the egg salad, but the portions were large and he was satisfied.

I’m not sure if we would order again what we had selected on this day, but I will definitely go back. The brunch features omelettes as well as green eggs and ham. Prices range from $5 to $8. Very reasonable. Sandwiches and wraps come with a choice of fries, potato salad, cole slaw, or pasta salad. If you want onion rings, add a buck. Price range $6-9. Entrees ($11-18) are served after 5 PM and feature Crab Cakes, Tempura Battered Ahi Tuna, and Chicken Carbonara.
We saw a wine by the glass list, but did not see a bottle list. I’m sure we will check out the wines (or maybe the mojitos) on our next visit.

Northside Grille
1217 Bellevue Avenue

A Fine Dinner on a Saturday Night

My best laid plans came to fruition, but in a slightly different format. We invited friends from Williamsburg over for dinner. Because they spent the night with us we explored several wine and food options over an extended period of time amidst great conversation.

We began on the deck with a cheese and meat assortment. We had goat cheese wrapped in tarragon.

As well as Zamorano (upper left) and Fiore Sardo (lower left). All of the cheeses came from River City Cellars. We also enjoyed Serrano and a house made Garlic Sausage from the Belmont Butchery.

An assortment of crackers and baguette slices from Sammy’s Bakery rounded out the first course.

To drink we indulged in some Lindauer sparkling from New Zealand purchased from Once Upon a Vine. This bubbly was produced using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

As the mosquitoes began to dive bomb us, we moved into the dining room. The second course was a salad with green leaf lettuce, strawberries, and cashews with a balsamic vinaigrette (equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, chopped fresh basil, a smashed garlic clove, salt, and pepper – whisk and let sit for at least thirty minutes).

Choosing a wine with salad can be difficult. We went with the Sophia Rose. This dry rose paired very well with the strawberries, but not as well with the other items. Although it did draw out a lavender candy memory of grandmothers and England from one of our guests. My hubby found the rose in Williamsburg at Farm Fresh.

The main course was baked pasta with sweet Italian sausage (from Belmont Butchery). I started peeling and deseeding the tomatoes early in the morning. Once I had squeezed all of the pulp from these red babies, I added chopped green olives, minced garlic, and capers.

I then sautéed some chopped onion and added it to the mix.

Finally, I added some Merlot (the 2002 J. Garcia was on sale at The Fresh Market).

The mixture cooked on low for most of the day and reduced by about two-thirds. Right at the end I added fresh oregano. In the meantime I boiled rigatoni and seared links of the Italian sausage in olive oil. For the baked pasta I placed the rigatoni in an oven-proof dish, poured the sauce over it and mixed. I then topped it with slices of fresh mozzarella. I put it in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese browned slightly. I took the sausages that had been seared and placed the frying pan with the sausages in the oven below the pasta and roasted the sausage for about 30 minutes.

We decided to enjoy this course with two different wines. One was a 2004 Rosso di Montalcino from Total Wine.

The other was a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape (we purchased this a while ago and have no idea where it came from).

Both were very different, but both were very good. The Italian red had a brighter flavor and paired well with the baked pasta. The French was more complex and was fantastic with the sausage. Neither wine out-rivaled the other for attention. I could easily go back and forth between the two.

For dessert we had apple pie, courtesy of our Williamsburg friends. What a lovely pie – both in beauty and taste. I loved the grape motif crust. And we were in for an experimental treat. The pie crust was made with butter, not shortening and tasted like shortbread. Very yummy! We rounded out the pie with freshly made whipped cream and a few diced strawberries macerated in Cointreau and fresh mint.

We sampled several dessert beverages with the pie. The first was Campbell’s Rutherglen Muscat. The muscat was darker than a lot of muscats and paired well with the shortbread crust, but clashed with the apples. As we discussed the tastes we pulled out a Chateau Reynella Tawny Port for comparison. Interesting, but not quite there. Finally, we brought out Belle de Brillet (pear cognac). This little nectar was perfect with the apples.

What a great evening. I had lots of fun coming up with the menu and the wines. Of course, I enjoyed cooking the dishes. And the food and wine conversation that carried on into the night was heaven on earth for me.

Basque Dinner at CanCan

CanCan hosted a Basque Wine Dinner on June 21. As always, Bob Talcott, the wine director, kept the evening interesting with wine facts and the facilitation of a food and wine discussion after each course.

Basque Wine Dinner

Hors D’Oeuvres

Chilled Mussels
Tarragon Aioli

Tuna Tartare
Lemon Jam and Potato Chip

Oysters on the Halfshell
Lime Mignonette

2005 Tursan VDQS “Haute Carte”, Les Vignerons Landais

1st Course

Spicy Poached Shrimp
Piperade and Basil Beurre Blanc

2005 Jurancon Sec, Domaine Castera

2nd Course

Roast Squab
Pequillo Pepper and Caper Ragout and Orange Scented Jus

2004 Irouleguy Rouge “Ohitza”, Domaine Brana

3rd Course

Roast Lamb Loin
Pickled Tomato, Salsify, and Paprika Hollandaise

2004 Irouleguy Rouge, Domaine Brana

We loved the mussels. They were tiny and sweet, and we also enjoyed the tuna on the housemade waffle potato chip. The Tursan had a slight bite, but seemed to lose all taste with the food. For the 1st course the accompaniments really made the dish. The shrimp by themselves did not have much flavor and did not exhibit any spiciness. But the piperade – roasted red bell peppers and onions - had the missing heat and spice which was soothed by the basil beurre blanc. Once again, the white wine became lost in the flavors of the dish. The squab, served medium rare, was quite tasty, and the caper ragout added another dimension to the presentation. The red wine stood up to the food. Very tasty. The lamb was surprisingly edible for me (I am not a fan of lamb) and the paprika hollandaise was unusual, but very good. This course also contained a small amount of arugula with rosy peppercorns. The most unusual part of the dish was the pickled tomato – much more pickle flavor than tomato flavor. Given all of these dichotic ingredients, how would a wine pair? To CanCan’s credit the wine paired well with everything. Dark in color, full-bodied, smooth tasting. It was definitely a good choice with the lamb and the rosy peppercorns, but this wine also held its own with the pickled tomato.

Once again, an enjoyable evening. The one criticism at our table was the portion sizes. It seemed like they were even smaller portions than the last time, and we joked about where to go to dinner after our wine dinner. We were seated with wonderful dining companions – Pat, Mike, Carol, and Shoe regaled us with tales of the Midi Canal, Portugal, and the Loire Valley in between our discussions of the wine and food.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Northside Ladies, Pad Thai, and Chocolate Martinis

An adventure for the Northside Ladies Dining Club was long overdue. We headed for Pad Thai on Meadowbridge, south of the 295 interchange. As we parked we were wary. An old gas station converted into a restaurant along a two lane road that none of us travel upon regularly. Is this really a place to have dinner? The interior was a different story - bright, clean, and airy with leaf-motif vinyl tablecloths and tasteful traditional decorations. We treated ourselves to steamed dumplings - ground pork and shrimp enclosed by wonton wrappers and served with a dark sweet sauce. I could have made a meal off of these delectable babies. We also had spring rolls - crispy fried with a nice fish sauce. For the main event we all ordered something different - Drunken Noodles with Shrimp; a Pad dish (#51) with chicken, wide noodles, green beans, and spinach; Duck with red curry served in a clay pot; and Spicy crispy duck with green and red peppers. The most raves were bestowed upon the curry dish (with pineapple and coconut milk) and Pad #51 (very flavorful sauce). The crispy duck became a little too crispy in the end. Alas, there is only so much crispy skin in which one should indulge. Still, I would go back just for the steamed dumplings.

The night was still young and we had not finished gabbing. One person (bless you, BT!) in our party offered to make us chocolate martinis at her house. How could we pass this up? And what martinis! Check out these ingredients:

Absolut Vanilla
Bailey's Irish Cream
Godiva Liqueur
Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
Chocolate Whipped Cream
A Bit of a Chocolate Bar Waiting at the Bottom of the Glass

We sipped these chocolate decadences on the back porch and shared stories. Once again, another fine gathering for the Northside Ladies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Best Laid Last Minute Plans

Have you ever been more ambitious, cooking wise, than you have time for? That happened to me tonight. I wracked my noggin for dinner ideas. No luck. As I drove over to J. Emerson for the B.R. Cohn wine tasting (which was yummy, by the way), I stopped by the tiny vegetable/fruit stand on Libbie. I just had to get tomatoes. I just had to make fresh sauce. After the tasting, I proceeded to Joe’s Market to pick up fresh mozzarella, green olives, and a rustic batard. I had formulated a plan – baked pasta with fresh tomato sauce, olives, and capers. I arrived home and realized I needed to go to a friend’s house to take care of some cats while my friends are sunning themselves in Portugal (no bitterness here, no, really – they were kind enough to take care of my sweeties when I was away). Upon returning home I ran straight into the reality that it’s almost 7:30PM. There was no way I could cook what I had planned to cook. Alas, I pulled out some leftover frozen sauce, heated it, and served it over angel hair pasta with the rustic batard. Oh well, everything will keep. What does my schedule look like on Friday…?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

B.R. Cohn Tasting at J. Emerson June 19

J. Emerson located at 5716 Grove Ave. will host its monthly free wine tasting on Tuesday, June 19 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. B.R. Cohn wines will be featured:

2005 B.R. Cohn Carneros Chardonnay
2004 B.R. Cohn Sonoma Valley Merlot
2005 B.R. Cohn North Coast Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon
2003 B.R. Cohn Sonoma Valley Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
1999 B.R. Cohn Sonoma Valley Olive Hill Estate Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

During the tasting these wines will be available at special pricing.

Good Eats at Gutenberg

My friend SMO just moved into a cute little loft apartment in Shockoe Bottom. We went to see her new digs and wound up at Café Gutenberg for dinner. The last time I had eaten here was the day before the flood. It was about time we tried it again.

We sat at a marble-topped round table looking out onto Main Street. The dinner menu featured a wine list, menu items (no real distinction between appetizers and entrees), and a beer list. We ordered a 2005 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone for $26. Light and fruity with an ever-so-slight spice thrown into the mix.

For dinner I ordered Crab Cakes ($10). Two petite cakes with a curry, mustard, and caper sauce accompanied by crostini. The cakes contained a fair amount of crabmeat, but it was the sauce that put these little babies over the top. SMO decided upon the Mixed Grill ($11) – Lamb and Curry Chicken over Greens and Cucumber Salad, served with pita wedges and a buttermilk parsley dressing. “Yum, scrum, delilumscious!” was her enthusiastic reaction. Her lamb was medium rare – a perfect complement to the char grilled edge. My husband had a hankering for the Bratwurst plate ($10) – 2 grilled brats with sauerkraut and German potato salad. The sauerkraut was the surprise of the night – mild with a slightly smoky flavor. “Finally, someone who realizes that sauerkraut does not come out of a jar,” exclaimed my spouse. He enjoyed the rest of his meal as well.

I really liked the fact that the appetizers, salads, and entrees were listed without headings. In this way I truly selected what I wanted to eat instead of struggling with categories. The portions were smaller, but in the end were just right.

The reason why the portions were just right was because we had room for dessert! These Café Gutenberg folks thought this through and did a wonderful job of manipulating us! We all ordered the Affogato ($6.50) – chocolate gelati with whipped cream served with a shot of espresso to pour. Very rich, very decadent, very delicious.

Wine and War

Stories. Don and Petie Kladstrup like to tell stories. Wine and War – The French, the Nazis and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure relates how individuals in various French wine regions dealt with and survived the war. Some of the most poignant include Gaston Huet from Vouvray and a Gala des Vins de France in a German prison camp, as well as the Hugel family of Alsace-Lorraine who had sons drafted into the German army. The book also features accounts from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Champagne. A fascinating read.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Finger Lakes Travelogue

At the beginning of June my husband and I vacationed in the Finger Lakes. I put together a travelogue of our journey.

June 2-3

Our first stop was the River View Inn in Sunbury, PA ( The Inn is the only thing really going on in the town except for the soft serve ice cream stand about a block away. The innkeepers renovated and furnished the house themselves lending a plush sumptuousness to the interior. Bring your bathing suit. There is a hot tub. The Overlook Room looks out on the Susquehanna.

The innkeeper recommended Front Street Station for dinner just a few miles away in Northumberland. The converted train station idea is a great concept. No wine list to speak of, but a fantastic draft beer called Spring Heat (I was not able to find out who produces it). Smooth, wheat beer served with an orange slice and had a slight citrus/orange flavor. Food was not exceptional and our waitress needed to relearn the art of serving. Recommend going into Lewisburg (1/2 hour away). Elizabeth’s on Market St. might be the best thing in the area. At least the menu looked yummy. And fair warning PA only sells wine in a state-controlled liquor store and we never found one of those.

After one night in PA, it was on to NY.

The first winery we came to was Lakewood Vineyards Friendly. Free Tasting. Chad was able to ascertain what type of wines we liked and poured a good selection. Dry Riesling and Port (made from Baco Noir grapes) were the best.

Veraisons Restaurant at Glenora Wine Cellars served an upscale salad and sandwich menu as well as their wines. It rained while we lunched so you could just make out the vineyards and could barely see the lake. On a clear day the view would be spectacular. The Sparkling Brut had large bubbles and was more minerally than yeasty (not a favorite). The Syrah was very smooth, but very different from the Syrahs we usually purchase. Glenora was the first winery on Seneca Lake established in 1977. This place had three tasting tiers $2 for 6 of the regular wines. $4 for 6 of the premium wines. $7 for the tour of the cellars and tasting of whatever you want. They were a bit pushy and pretentious so we opted for the $2 taste. The woman behind the counter had no clue about the wines she was pouring or why the Yellow Cab was called Yellow Cab. The most decent of the bunch was the Cabernet Franc which reminded us of VA Cabernet Franc – very bell pepperish.

We only did two wineries this day. Both were producing pinot noir. Neither of these got it anywhere close to right.

We stayed at the Fox Inn in Penn Yan. A 19th century abode complete with tall columns. The Lucy Hall Fox room was spacious with private bath with stand up shower stall.

We had dinner at The Antique Inn and Restaurant near Penn Yan. Homey feel. Non-smoking. Friendly waitress. Only bottle of red was the Hunt Country Classic Red. A smooth, fruity table red with a little residual sugar. Made with Baco Noir, Chancellor, and DeChaunac grapes. Produced by Hunt County Winery just up the road. It reminded us of Black Dog by Chateau Morrisette. The fried trout was lightly breaded and very nice. The roast pork was sliced in enormous portions. Unfortunately, mashed potatoes were instant and the carrots were cooked to almost mush-like consistency (this is why I never liked to eat carrots growing up).

Coming back we stopped at Seneca Farms Homemade Ice Cream. Homemade ice cream and frozen custard. They also have a restaurant boasting Fried Chicken. “If Dairy is Queen, we must be King.”

There were Amish and Mennonite communities around Penn Yan. We espied several horse and buggies trotting along Main Street. One buggy had hung fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror.

June 4

The Fox Inn breakfast was HUGE. I had crème brule French toast with sausage patties. My husband had the mother of all cinnamon buns. It was two inches tall and as big as the plate. We started with plain yogurt with fresh strawberries and blueberries. Subsequent breakfasts were equally as large. The Fox Inn asked guests to choose from several selections the night before. I liked this concept. I had buckwheat and strawberry pancakes one morning as well as eggs benedict with buckwheat grits on another day and then fried eggs and ham with hash browns on the last day. The pancakes were the best.

On to the wineries. We followed the Keuka Wine trail today beginning with the west side of the lake. The drive closely followed the lake and the scenery was gorgeous. The first stop was Dr. Konstatin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars and Chateau Frank Champagne Cellars ( . Dr. Frank’s is probably the most celebrated Finger Lakes winery. He was the first to advocate growing vinifera grapes in this region. Wine Spectator has rated some of these wines as outstanding. Some of the vines from this winery are 50 years old. And the quality shows. Don’t miss the view from the tasting room! You reach it from a partially graveled road. Since this was a Monday, we were the only visitors at 10 AM and Bill took us on a lovely tasting. The tasting was free and there was no pretentiousness. The winery is a straight shooter. And it set the bar for our other tastings. Highlights were 2006 Dry Rose, 2005 Pinot Noir (2005 was a very good year for Finger Lakes reds), and 2005 Cabernet Franc. They know how to do Pinot Noir. They have also been the only winery, so far, to really produce a dark red. Most of the reds in this region have had a watered-down color. Dr. Frank used Riedel glasses when conducting tastings, but did not even draw attention to this fact.

Next up was Heron Hill ( ). They charged for tastings. I guess they needed to pay for their tasting room and restaurant. Once again, a great view. I went with the standard tasting for $2 and hubby did the Premium tasting for $5. This way we tasted different items and shared the experiences. The winner here was from the standard list was the 2003 Eclipse – a Bordeaux style blend (42% Merlot 42% Cabernet Franc 16% Cabernet Sauvignon). Lighter than a Bordeaux, but decent. And we liked the 2004 Ingle Vineyard Cabernet Franc from the premium list.

And yes, we went to Bully Hill ( That irreverent winery had a great view and a decent restaurant (Bully Hill restaurant). My husband had a glass of Cabernet Franc. I had a glass of the Foch (a red from Marechal Foch grapes). We skipped Love My Goat. For lunch he ordered the smoked pork barbecue. The sauce was a little too sweet, but the pork was smoked. I had the buffalo burger with smoked mozzarella and bacon. The burger was medium rare and delicious! We also had the corn bread. Very moist with corn kernels and hot peppers. It was served with a cranberry butter. Yummy while being unusual. After lunch we decided to skip the regular tasting (just too cheesy based on the banter we overheard from the tasting being conducted). We did pick up a bottle of the 2002 Cabernet Franc and looked around both gift shops.

One thing that was unusual about this wine region is that most of the wineries in the area and some of the restaurants indicated the amount of residual sugar in the wine to indicate dry to sweet. What a great thing for wine lovers of any stripe!

We then headed to Chateau Renaissance ( located beyond the bottom of Keuka Lake. They made a variety of wines but focused on Champagnes and a variety of fruit wines and fruit sparklers. The wine maker is French and because he uses the method champenoise technique he has reserved the right to call his sparklings champagne. His fruit sparklers had to be called sparkling because a non-grape entity or dosage was introduced. We really liked the Pear Sparkler and purchased a bottle. I also had the opportunity to taste Dandelion wine. Ever since reading Ray Bradbury, I had always wondered about Dandelion wine. It was surprisingly good. Sweet (but not cloyingly so) and fresh-tasting. The wine-maker is also an artist and designs the wine labels. Probably the most eccentric winery we visited. No charge for tasting.

As we made our way along the east side to the lake we stopped at Rooster Hill ( Only open for 5 years, they are already sponsoring wine dinners and comparative tastings on Friday evenings on their patio overlooking the lake. We liked the 2006 Traminette. Traminette is a hybrid grape akin to Gewurtztraminer developed by Cornell in the 1960’s. We also liked the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Tastings are $2.50 and include a souvenir glass. Since business was so slow we were not charged for tasting and did not take home a glass.

We were wined out and headed back to Penn Yan. Penn Yan is home to Burkitt Mills ( ). They produce wheat flour and buckwheat flour. We picked up buckwheat and buttermilk pancake mixes as well as some pastry flour. We then stopped into Oddfellows Coffee for Mochachinos. On another evening we had Gelato Affogato – vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over top. Yummy!

Dinner was at Esperanza Mansion ( A hotel, restaurant ,and banquet facility. We were seated in the grill room and had the best view of the northwest end of Keuka Lake. We had tired of Finger Lakes wine and ordered a Santa Cristina Antinori Sangiovese 2004. My husband had roasted diver scallops surrounded by pasta pearls, red bell peppers, green beans and, grilled zucchini. I had the flat iron steak with a peppercorn-cognac sauce with garlic mashed potatoes (real!) and sautéed green beans. A nice relaxing dinner watching the lake produce wispy clouds that travelled up the hill and settled in amongst the trees.

June 5

Seneca Lake – a longer lake with a lot more wineries. Most with great views. We started with Fox Run ( on the west side of Seneca Lake at 10 AM. We picked up a 2005 Lemberger ( a red grape that is used for German wines) and 2006 Dry Riesling. There was a charge for tasting, but we bought wine and were not charged.

Anthony Road ( was next. Spacious and airy tasting room. The charge for tasting was $1. 2006 Rose of Cabernet Franc and 2005 Cabernet France/Lemberger were the best bets.

Prejean Winery ( was very down to earth. We liked the 2005 Marechal Foch, the 2005 Cabernet Franc, and the 2005 Dry Riesling. They charged for tasting.

Miles Wine Cellars ( opened in 2001. Charged $2.50 for tasting and and we kept the glass. Best red wines of the trip! 2002 Milestone – 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot, aged in Hungarian oak. An outstanding meritage. The 2003 Merlot was very tasty and this was supposed to be an off year for reds. Both had a deep rich red color. They were not tasting the 2005 Cabernet Franc, but we purchased it anyway based on the other reds. Restroom was a port-a-potty – beware! The tasting house was located right on the western shore of Seneca Lake. Huge weeping willow in front of an ante bellum white house. They used to just grow grapes, but now makes wine with those grapes.

Herman J. Wiemer ( charged $3 to taste. The tasting room was in an old converted barn. They only sell wine, no wine paraphernalia, trinkets, or souvenirs. The 2006 Gewurztraminer - Best Gewurz we tasted! Floral, spicy, with a hint of citrus. We also liked the 2003 Select Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling dessert wine and the 2005 Cabernet Franc. Possibly the winemaker’s wife was pouring. She kept referring to the winemaker/owner as Herm. The winery also operates a nursery and supplies vinifera vines to North American grape producers.

Malabar X, a sailing ship on the lake was not running and there was no way to really get info on the next tour. We consoled ourselves by stopping in the Seneca Harbor Wine Center in Watkins Glen (at the bottom of Seneca lake) – really an outlet for Pleasant Valley wines ( that used to be part of the NY Taylor Wine company before big corporations such as Coke and Constellation Brands bought the label (but not the vineyards). All of the cheap NY brands remain such as Great Western Champagne. After lots of tastings and no lunch we succumbed to the offer of free tastings and purchased the Cream Sherry (mainly for sauces), sparkling Burgundy (for future sangria), and Chocolate Lab (a much cheaper version of Godiva Liqueur).

We wanted to go to Stone Cat for lunch. They were closed. So was Red Newt (the hazards of going right before peak season). A lot of restaurants are closed Monday, Tuesday, and even Wednesday.

Atwater had nice wines and a nice view on the East side of Seneca Lake and recommended Wagner Vineyards to eat. $2 tasting fee. We purchased the 2004 Cabernet-Merlot (53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot).

Wagner Vineyards had a Restaurant called The Ginny Lee and overlooked the lake. It was too windy to eat outside on the deck, but we had a nice indoor window seat. They had a fantastic smoked duck and almond salad with dried cranberries and a black sesame Riesling dressing. Yum, yum, yum! The duck was smoked to perfection. I washed it down with a Wagner cabernet franc (so-so). We did not stop for a tasting.

We backtracked to Standing Stone Vineyards. Very casual and rustic tasting area. The 2006 Riesling and 2005 Vidal Ice dessert wine were worth taking home.

Lamoreaux Landing ( boasted a nicely polished tasting room paired with a multi-pierced and tattooed pourer. Quite a contrast, but a good experience. They also featured local art. Tasting fee was $1. 2006 Semi-dry Riesling was the winner.

We drove up and rounded the top of the lake and headed to Amberg. A little off of the beaten wine path. $2 tasting and we kept the glass. The 2005 Semi-dry Traminette was lovely. The winemaker’s fiancée was pouring, filling in for the shop manager who was on maternity leave. Interesting because the fiancée is allergic to wine. It must be true love.

The last stop for the day was Belhurst ( This place located in Geneva, NY featured an Inn, restaurants and wine shop. Tasting fee was $.50 per taste. No great wines, but a great restaurant (Edgar’s) for dinner. And a wonderful view of the top of Seneca Lake. We had the pris fixe for $27.95. Creamy chicken vegetable soup – lots of flavor. Sesame crackers with whipped butter, chile con queso butter and gorgonzola-chive butter. Iceberg wedge salad with Italian vinaigrette dressing. 2 four ounce filets with mashed potatoes and asparagus. Dense chocolate cake for dessert. 2003 Whitehall Merlot for $40. The restaurant is in the castle-like part of the inn that was built in the 1880’s.

June 6

No more wineries! We decided to skip Cayuga Lake wineries and anything else we had missed along the other lakes. Today the air was cool (highs in the mid-60s!). We drove to Watkins Glen and walked the Gorge Trail at the Watkins Glen State Park. $6 entrance fee. The park has a number of trails, a swimming pool, campgrounds, and ball field. The Gorge Trail is 1 ½ miles one way and boasts 19 waterfalls. The views were spectacular. Restrooms are at the bottom and top of the trail. The trail can be wet in spots but the way is paved with a lot of steps. I highly recommend it.

For lunch we stopped at Montage, a mile north of Watkins Glen and attached to the Glen Motor Inn ( Overlooking the lower west side of Seneca Lake with huge picture windows, we watched small sail boats drift on the water. The lobby of the motel displayed old grand prix racing photos (Watkins Glen hosts a Grand Prix race as well as a NASCAR race every year). Jackie Stewart featured prominently among the pictures. The restaurant had typical ladies luncheon choices for the most part. I had roast turkey on a toasted whole grain ciabatta. My spouse had the tuna salad plate. In one corner of the room two tables of four retired women had just finished lunch and were playing bridge.

After lunch we headed for Canandaigua, NY following Canandaigua Lake to Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park ( $10 entrance fee. A Victorian summer home built in the late 1880’s for the Thompsons. Frederick Thompson founded the First National Bank of the City of New York which is now Citibank. The grounds were extensive, but a lot of the gardens continue to require extensive restoration work as well as parts of the house. The Italian and Rock gardens were favorites. In the house we particularly liked the Trophy Room with the Oriental art collection and the Double-Arched Bedroom on the second floor.

We returned to Penn Yan for dinner at Sarrasin’s on the Lake. It was a slow night and we had the casual dining room overlooking the northeast arm of Keuka Lake to ourselves. We ordered a bottle of 2005 Keuka Springs Cabernet Franc which turned out to be stellar. For dinner my husband splurged with the Manhattan Filet Mignon, stuffed with Brie and served with a cream sherry and mushroom sauce. Very rich and tasty. I just had to order the Breast of Duck with Savory Dried Cranberry Sauce, grilled medium rare. The entrees came with house salads with black sesame dressing and mashed potatoes and veggies (green beans and carrots on this night). We watched the sun slowly wink in and out of clouds as we drank in the scenery and the wonderful cabernet franc.

June 7-8

We left the Finger Lakes and cool weather and headed downto Gettysburg, PA. On the way we ate at the Ranch House Restaurant north of Harrisburg. Typical PA diner fare. I had the hot turkey sandwich and mashed potatoes. The potatoes were instant, but the turkey was honest-to-god sliced from the breast with a wonderful gravy. As we made our way to Gettysburg, we returned to 90 degree heat. We stayed in town at a Sentimental Journey Bed and Breakfast. Great location at 433 Baltimore St. Nice front porch with an old-fashioned glider and rocking chairs. Rooms were decorated in WWI or WWII era memorabilia. Breakfast was a box of Entenmanns’s doughnuts or muffins from the grocery store.

Dinner was just down the block at Farnsworth House. A “colonial” tavern. We ate in the garden which was very shady. This was the best aspect of this place. We were greeted by a seemingly sullen hostess and while our waitress was pleasant enough, the overall experience was poor. The menu outside listed game pie (turkey, pheasant, and duck) as well as crab cakes and prime rib. The menu we received had none of these listed. Big disappointment. And the wine list was the generic Ernest and Julio variety. The peanut soup was so-so. The Pennsylvania Dutch “Pot Pie” consisted of wide noodles, potatoes, and chicken chunks (it looked like canned chicken) in an extremely yellow sauce. The green beans cooked with ham did remind me of green beans my relatives made when I was growing up and that was a treat. My hubby had the hamburger steak and macaroni and cheese. Based on the quality of the dinner, we skipped dessert. We had thought about the Rum Cream Pie, but were afraid to try it. We opted for Kirwin’s Ice Cream located around the corner instead. After dinner and dessert we sat in the glider on the porch, watched the people and traffic, and enjoyed a Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc. Gettysburg was hopping even at 10 PM on a weeknight. An antique car show was rolling into town. This is apparently a gathering spot for the motorcycle crowd, also. And yes, we saw visitors in Civil War era garb. We counted at least four different ghost tour companies.
In the morning we walked over to the Gettysburg National Military Park. We wandered around the High Water Mark and over to the Pennsylvania Memorial. We wanted to walk across the field over to Seminary Ridge, but it was already a scorcher.

We wandered back into town and ate lunch at the Lincoln Diner. Bacon cheeseburgers and BLT’s were inexpensive and tasty.

The little town has a number of antique, gift, and souvenir shops dotted along the main square (or traffic circle). We darted in and out of them to cool off in the air conditioning.

In the afternoon we treated ourselves to sangria and artichoke dip at Spiritfield’s. They claim to have the best sangria in town. They probably have the only sangria in town, but it was cold and hit the spot on a hot day.

Dinner found us at The Blue Parrot Bistro ( ). The evening was cooling off somewhat and we decided to eat on the patio (brick alley).

We had just tasted our wine (2005 Stephen Vincent Merlot) and had put in our order when the wind gusted and black clouds arrived. We picked up our wine and glasses and were seated inside. By the way the red wine list only contained six options, but all of them were decent wines and at decent prices. The coarse bread was served with a little dish of mixed olives as well as herbed grated parmesan to sprinkle in the olive oil. We also had house salads with Greek dressing and feta. For entrees my spouse ordered the crab cakes with a chunky cole slaw. He thought they were very delightful. I ordered one of the specials – Veal Shank in a Demi-glace with roasted fennel and mashed potatoes. I was in heaven. The shank bone was at least 5 inches high sitting up on the plate – great presentation. And extremely tender. I also loved the roasted fennel and the potatoes. A wonderful dinner to end our vacation.

I leave you with a final view of Keuka Lake as the sun sets.