Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Best Chicago Irish Pubs

In continuing with our Chicago feature, today we will discuss the awesomeness that is Chicago Irish pubs.

Irish pubs in the Bay Area suck.  Really.  There are exceptions, but on the whole, the Irish pubs here are just…not.  Not Irish.  Not pubs.  Not nothing like that.

Thus Irish pubs were one of the things I was excited to explore when I spent a year in Chicago.  The first job (and in this context, job means “slave labor” or possibly “major rip off”) I had upon arriving at the Windy City was blogging about Irish pubs, and boy were they better than the ones in SF.

Having spent time in Ireland and having learned how to drink in the U.K., I have an appreciation for authenticity that escapes most Americans.  At the same time, having lived in England briefly, I have an equally strong appreciation for non-British food and the knowledge that while Irish food is better than English, there are advantages to throwing some American in there too.

With that in mind, these pubs stood out amongst their many brethren as the best, whether for food, drink, atmosphere, or the whole package.

Unforgettable Atmosphere

Wilde is more of a restaurant than a pub, but it has two bars and an abundant selection of drinks, so close enough.  Centered around Oscar Wilde, the Irishman responsible for The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wilde is set up like an upper class library, covered with massive bookshelves, stained glass windows, and cozy alcoves perfect for reading.  The drink selection is vast, and the food is fabulous if not cheap, providing a full selection of Irish fare along with American options.  Being able to sip some cider in an armchair surrounded by books is a truly unparalleled experience.

Bet You've Never Seen an Irish Pub with a Stained Glass Dome

Bet You’ve Never Seen an Irish Pub with a Stained Glass Dome

Most Irish

Celtic Crossings is everything an Irish pub should be.  Built and manned by Irish immigrants, this is the most authentic Irish pub I have encountered anywhere outside Ireland.  Even on an average day, the pub was largely peopled by Irishmen.  As per Irish tradition, they do not serve food but sport a large selection of Irish beers and whiskeys from their large wooden bar that was actually imported from Ireland.  They introduced us to the  tradition of adding a dash of 7-Up to your Smithwick’s, and Daniel has been ordering it that way ever since to the constant consternation of bartenders.  I dream of spending St. Patrick’s Day here; it’s probably the closest I will ever get to spending it in Ireland.

Just the Right Amount of Irish

Just the Right Amount of Irish

The Best of Both Worlds

Even though there are more Irish and more exciting pubs in Chicago than Bridget McNeill’s, I cannot have a best Irish pubs list without it.  Admittedly, I have a strong personal attachment to the place, but my love grew from the pubby atmosphere.  The most important aspect of an Irish pub to me is not the food nor the drink but the friendly, cozy atmosphere that accompanies sharing a pint with some friends after a hard day’s work.  With its comfy arm chairs, small tables, and a sound level at which you can actually have an intelligible conversation, this pub exudes the atmosphere that really makes Irish pubs for me.  But in place of an Irish menu, Bridget McNeill’s sports the best that America has to offer from fantastic thin-crust pizza to scrumptious burgers to baked mac and cheese.  The food is superb and varied and helps this pub truly encompass the best of Irish and American pubs.

Great for Food, Friends, and Trivia!

Great for Food, Friends, and Trivia!

The Best of the Best

However, much as I love Bridget McNeill’s, the pub that truly mixes Irish and American traditions flawlessly is Fado.  The atmosphere exudes Irishness in a tactful manner without being overly overt.  The pub centers around a massive, ovular wooden bar fading into dark, wooden tables and rustic decor on the ground level.  Floor number two is topped with a boat.  Yes, an actual boat.  Just hanging from the ceiling.  Tell me that’s not awesome.  The drink menu is not only wide but also diverse, from a large range of Irish beers and whiskey (and Strongbow!  It may not be Irish, but it is awesome and such a U.K. staple that it still lends to the pub’s authenticity) to more international fare like white sangria and mojitos.  And the food, oh the food!  It is so, so good.  Traditional Irish dishes abound, but their flavoring has been updated to perfection.  Never have I tasted better corned beef and potatoes.  Even the cabbage was good!  And you have to try the boxty.  Shaped like an Irish pancake, the boxty is basically a fried potato tortilla that does not need filling to be delicious.  Fado has everything an Irish pub could offer but the variety and ingenuity of Americans intent on perfecting the pub experience.

Something for Everyone

Something for Everyone

No matter your tastes, as long as you like Irish pubs, these four are bound to please.  Should you wish to read more about them, visit my Chicago Irish Pubs Examiner page.

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Categories: Field Trip, Food | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Molly’s Cupcakes = The Best of All Cupcakes!

As you know, I spend a lot of time eating cupcakes.  Upon visiting a new city, I first seek out the best cupcakeries around so that I can find the city’s best cupcake.

I am going to Chicago this weekend for a family event, so I thought I would share with you some of the city’s finest attributes.

We start with the best cupcake I have ever had.

My first taste of Molly’s Cupcakes was a tiny bit of buttercream frosting that had rubbed off on the side of the box, just a small smidgen if you will, hardly even a taste for normal frosting.  But the second that baby taste hit my tongue, my mouth exploded with flavor.  I could actually taste the butter and the cream, separate entities yet inextricably entwined to create the greatest flavor of frosting I have ever had.

Next to that explosive taste experience, the otherwise delectable cake seemed like a little bit of a letdown…until I realized it was filled with berry jelly.  The mixture of incredible buttercream, moist but strong cake worthy of holding sweet filling, and fresh berries on top, adding a tang to the sweetness, made for the best cupcake I have ever eaten.

Until I had some of their other cupcakes.

The Mixed Berry cupcake is still quite possibly my favorite, but now it is in competition with their Butterscotch Caramel, and the Peach Cobbler is up there too.

There are several cupcakes that are high on my list of all-time favorites.  The Berry Berry at Spot Dessert Bar in New York was exceptionally moist and perhaps the best chocolate cupcake I have ever had.  I still can’t get enough of the Lemon Pistachio cupcake at Love at First Bite.  And once there was another shop in Chicago called Cupcakes that had a fabulous Salted Caramel that still moves me even though they have gone out of business.

However, none of them measures up to any of the cupcakes I have had at Molly’s.

So next time you’re in Chicago, go visit Molly’s Cupcakes, or I will hound you until you do.

The Best of Molly’s Cupcakes: The Filled Kind
source

 

Categories: Dessert, Field Trip, Food | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why Smart Alec’s?

When I first came to Berkeley, one of the first places I heard my fellow students rave about was Smart Alec’s.  Close to campus and ever popular, Smart Alec’s was everyone’s favorite dining option, the destination of choice when one did not want to use meal points.  As my college career progressed, many things changed including my friends’ favorite gastronomic haunts, but Smart Alec’s was always at the top of the list when faced with the question, “Where shall we go to eat?”

And I never understood why.

Smart Alec’s is fine, I guess, if you’re into the sort of thing.  I’m not much of a burger fan, and to be perfectly frank, I’m no health nut either, so Smart Alec’s really isn’t my kind of joint.

I can appreciate a good burger, soup, salad, or sandwich when forced, but to my mind, Smart Alec’s is none of these things.  It may produce a “healthy” burger, but that doesn’t make the burger tasty, and I am quite sure most of my comrades were not eating there for their health.  None of their food groups moved me or even satisfied me no matter how many tries I gave them, and with everyone constantly suggesting we go for dinner, I gave them more than their fair share of chances.

The only thing that ever impressed me about Smart Alec’s was the corn bread.  Rich and flavorful, the cornbread is the only item I enjoyed.  I will say that their veggie burger is good for what it is.  It tastes like a regular burger, and in my opinion, is slightly more flavorful than their standard burger.  However, it really only stands out when compared to a hamburger, and on it’s own just isn’t worth it.

Hate me, spurn me, tell me I’m crazy, but I just cannot imagine why anyone would go to Smart Alec’s when there are so, so many better dining options not only in Berkeley but within a five minute walk.  Good burger joints may be one of the few food genres that Berkeley lacks, but there are still much better options than Smart Alec’s.  Like Barney’s.  Or Manhattan Roast & Grill.  Or any other burger place in Berkeley!

Or you could go have Indian, Chinese, sushi, crepes, or any of the other many, many ethnic food choices Berkeley has to offer that are fantastic!

All right you Berkeley undergrads, now tell us why we should go to Smart Alec’s.

Categories: Bay Area, Berkeley, Food, Northern California, Restaurants | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Campbell Farmer’s Market of the Gods

Farmer’s markets are one of the greatest of Northern California institutions.  Ever-present, they bring quality fresh, local produce right to the consumer, and it tastes so good!  Though not always cheaper than grocery stores, it is almost always tastier.

The King of Farmer’s Markets in the South Bay has got to be the Campbell Farmer’s Market.  Every Sunday, Downtown Campbell gives it’s main street over to tents, produce, and vendors from 9am to 1pm(ish).  And never have you seen its equal.

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Four long blocks of goodness, the Campbell Farmer’s Market is so big it has to be broken up into sections.  On the west side, you’ll find prepared food vendors.  The east side sports artsy goods, and in between you’ll find mountains of produce.  I could never begin to tell you which produce vendors are the best, cheapest, or best value; there are too many.  But I can tell you about a few gems.

My favorite stop is always the Milk Guy.  His business is not actually so named, but he will always be the Milk Guy to me.  One might think that milk is not a product to get excited about.  One has clearly never met the Milk Guy.

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He sells raw milk, straight from the cow, no preservatives, no pasteurization, just pure milk.  It is beyond compare.  Richer than milk, more refreshing than cream, you can drink this milk in place of a meal and feel completely satisfied.  It’s deliciousness is beyond compare.  Get the true raw milk–that is, the whole milk–and I swear you will be amazed and astounded unless perchance you have had milk straight from the cow.

There is an abundance of scrumptious prepared food as well.  Should you be willing to brave the lines, the Oaxacan Kitchen is amazing AND reasonably priced.  Everything is hand-made in front of you, including the tortillas, and this is one of those rare instances in Northern California where the Mexican food lives up to–or perhaps even eclipses–its southern counterparts.  I always stop by the Indian food booth for a $1 samosa, and Daniel rarely visits the market without buying a Flying Falafel sandwich (even rarer are the times I don’t steal at least one of his falafels).

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Yummy $1 Samosas

 

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Flying Falafel

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Oaxacan Kitchen

Some of the booths straddle the line between prepared food and…not, and they are generally worth a visit if nothing else for the free samples.  The Hummus Guy (and that is actually what he calls himself) is awesome.  All of his hummus is delicious as are the flavored pita chips.  The bolani people are really good too, giving you the perfect combination of sauces and flavored bolanis though alas we cannot afford them.

And indeed that is the most difficult thing for me about the farmer’s market:  not dropping all of the cash in my wallet on their wares.  We pretty much do it every time we go, so we’ve had to keep our visits to a minimum.  Everything tastes so good, it’s hard not to buy the whole market.  And frankly, most of its offerings are a bit pricey anyway.

But totally worth it.  The quality is impossible to find in a grocery store.

Making up for the price is the ease of finding samples at the farmer’s market.  Almost all of the vendors have samples of their wares, and I usually fill up on samples before deciding what to buy.  And it absolutely works in their favor because we have bought way, way more than we ever would have without a taste first.

If you haven’t been to the Campbell Farmer’s Market, you are seriously missing out.  Go now!  Eat and be happy.

Categories: Bay Area, Food, Local Travel, Northern California, San Jose | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Refuge in Carmel

This week, Daniel and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in the beautiful town of Carmel.  This oceanside gem may well be the most beautiful place I have ever been.  To put that in perspective, I have been to Jamaica and Hawaii, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, the Grand Canyon, Egypt, Paris, Greek Islands, Cinque Terra, and basically everywhere in California.  But Carmel just has something the equal of which I have never seen.  Between the ocean, the cypress trees, and the gorgeous coastline, Carmel exudes natural beauty, and it’s houses and downtown area are adorable without taking away from the beauty that’s already there.  Carmel also has much to offer in the food and wine areas, and I try to visit whenever I head down to the Monterey area.

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We began in Carmel Valley with a fabulous lunch at the Vineyard Bistro.  It was adorable!  We sat outside, surrounded by trees, my skin baking in the sun.  I had the most amazing tortellini in gorgonzola cream sauce.  It was rich and flavorful without being overpowering, and I am quite sure my arteries were in danger of bursting afterward, but I didn’t care because it was SO GOOD.  It was a really nice place to sit and enjoy each other’s company, lazing about in the sun.

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We couldn’t very well visit Carmel Valley without tasting some wine, so we wandered over to Chateau Sinnet‘s tasting room nearby.  Having done very minimal research ahead of time, I had seen their tasting flight contained 7 wines for $7 which is a pretty good deal, so we went for it.

Apparently, we should have looked around a bit more.  The wine was perfectly decent.  The White Merlot was unique and tasty, and if we didn’t already have a ton of wine at home, I might have bought a bottle.  We both enjoyed the Cabernet Franc and the Late Harvest Zinfandel as well, and the prices were really reasonable.

The Tasting Room Manager who was anything but.  We agreed after that he was the worst pourer either of us had ever had.  Usually, pourers are either relatively reserved, giving you the chance to concentrate on the wine, or they try to engage you in conversation, about the wine, your day, or whatever else they can think of.  In my experience, the best pourers are friendly and chatty, know a lot about their wines, and are eager to share the information without pushing it.

This guy was just about the opposite.  He was disengaged, talking super fast but monotone as if he were reading from a script.  And he pushed the hard sale which is just stupid when you’re talking about wine.  No one wants that, and we may actually have bought a bottle if he had just shut up.  As it was, we were both ready to get out of there as quickly as possible to the point of leaving before we had finished our last taste.  We practically ran to the car once we got out the door.  Suffice it to say, I will not be going back.

And then we entered nirvana.

The main event of our trip was Refuge.  It is similar to a spa in that people visit for relaxation and renewal, but the how is unique.  The Refuge Experience consists of cycles of heat, cold, and relaxation.  If you do it according to their plan, you heat up for 5 – 10 minutes in a hot tub, sauna, or steam room, immediately cool down in a cold pool for as long as you can stand it (up to 1 minute….I definitely never made it that long), and then relax for at least 15 minutes before starting the cycle over.  You are primarily outdoors, surrounded by trees and crystalline pools with waterfalls flowing down the rocks.  The setting is idyllic and very conducive to relaxation.

However, the process itself was at times rather rigorous.  Normally, heat and I are good friends, but the sauna and steam room were both much hotter than I was comfortable with, and I couldn’t stand to be in either for long.  The steam room was so steamy that I could not see the back upon entering, and the steam was laced with eucalyptus which made it hard for me to breathe.  I must admit though, I felt a lot better after sitting in that steam…you know, once I got to the relaxing part.

The cold pool was, well, really cold.  Actually, I should say the “cool” pool was really cold as I never could get in the 37 degree “cold” pool past my thighs.  They wanted full submersion, and at 50 degrees, trying to stay in the cool pool for even 30 seconds was difficult.  However, the process did make me feel better after a few rounds, and the relaxing portion was just that.  I almost went to sleep more than once, and coming out of the cold makes you feel a lot warmer than I would have expected while you’re relaxing.

I tried to do the cycles their way, but after the first hour or two, I started spending large amounts of time in the “warm” pool between cycles.  That was truly relaxing.  But I do think there is merit to the cycle system because Daniel and I both felt great after.  Our skin looked amazing, and for both of us, that is not an experience we often get.

Refuge was completely worth the drive and the cost, and I fully intend to go back as frequently as possible.

Carmel is a place where I can always find tranquility wherever I look for it, but if you want the ultimate relaxation experience, Refuge is a good place to look.

Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Monterey, Monterey County Wines, Northern California, Restaurants, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mrs. Delish’s Cupcakes: the Best Cupcakery You’ll Never Visit

As anyone who has been reading this blog for a while can attest, I have a special relationship with cupcakes.  Upon entering a new city, searching out the best cupcakeries is one of my goals.  Whilst driving in a new place, I will often spy a cupcake shop out of the corner of my eye and proceed to slam on the brakes, throw around a u-turn, and sprint from the car, wallet in hand.

Which is why I was so excited to find Mrs. Delish’s Cupcake Boutique.  On one of my first trips to Monterey after moving to San Jose, I spied it squished into a crevice among storefronts and immediately abandoned all other plans to buy a cupcake.

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And I was so glad I did.  As I walked toward Cannery Row, I took a bite of my cupcake and stopped short.  I knew in an instant that this cupcake was special.  This cupcake belonged in the category “made by gods.”

I made my husband wait with me as I sat down on a curb to finish it.  This cupcake was too good for walking and munching.  It needed to be savored.

I vowed to return to Mrs. Delish’s the next time I visited Monterey, and I have been by on every single visit.

And it has never again been open.

I try to get down to Monterey as often as I can.  I have gone about once every two months on average since that first cupcake tasting about two years ago.

The store is clearly still in business.  They’ll have notes on the door explaining why they were closed today or that they had to close early.  Sometimes they’re not open on Sundays or holidays.  Sometimes they’re closed for no reason at all.  Maybe they just dislike for me for reasons I cannot begin to fathom.  Still, they have never once been open for me since that first bite of heaven.

So I am calling you out, Mrs. Delish!  I am going down to Carmel for our anniversary, and you had best be open when I get there!  Or I will…I will…I will be sad.  Really, really sad.

Categories: Dessert, Food, Monterey, Northern California | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Cafe Gratitude: Berkeley’s Most Stereotypical Restaurant

Despite having lived in Berkeley for four years and near it for another three, yesterday was my first visit to the iconic Cafe Gratitude, and it was even more of a Berkeley stereotype than I had expected.

It had it all:  organic, locally grown fresh vegan food with every effort made toward sustainability and raw options, food with titles that made you think about yourself (and your meal) in a positive light while also prompting you to reflect on the deeper questions of Life, the Universe, and Everything (comment if you know the answer), and in true Bay Area tradition absolutely everything was grossly overpriced.

That may not be exactly true.  With the growing practices they require for their food, they would have to pay much more than the average restaurant, even the average healthy restaurant, for their products, and when you consider their claim about caring deeply about their employees, it may actually not be overpriced.  Nonetheless, I could never afford to go there and feel satisfied.

That said, the food is really good.  Daniel and I were both very impressed with the quality of our meals.

I had “I Am Humble” which was an Indian inspired dish sporting a lentil curry and a coconut mint chutney served over quinoa with vegetables.  It was really good and clearly very good for you.  I’ve had more enjoyable curries but never one that made me feel so healthy.  The quinoa paired spectacularly with the curry too which was surprising but awesome.

Daniel had “Yo Soy Bueno,” essentially tacos covered in black beans, salsa, avocado, greens, and a rather amazing sauce.  He took one bite and responded with, “Wow, this is good!”

We were both stuffed long before we finished our meals, but I wish we had saved room for desserts because they looked so intriguing.  I mean, how often do you have good vegan cheesecake or chocolate balls?  Next time perhaps.

After reading the menu, hearing the quote of the day, finding “What are you grateful for?” at the bottom of my bowl, and talking to our uber calm waiter who may or may not have been on drugs, one could only expect the atmosphere at Cafe Gratitude to involve giant hippy dioramas awash with colors that haven’t been seen since the 1960s (and then only when on acid).  Surprisingly, the atmosphere was the one part of this restaurant that wasn’t over-the-top.  The brick walls were sparsely furnished with large paintings that in no way made my eyes burn.  However, I must warn you that instead of having normal tables, we were seated at long benches shared with other customers.  It was kind of awkward.  Not terribly awkward–there was at least space between us–but still kind of awkward.  I don’t love my fellow man that much.

At the end of the day, this was an experience.  I feel I cannot say whether it was a good or bad experience, that is too much left up to what you’re looking for, but it was definitely a very Berkeley experience.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you want to squeeze the essence of living in Berkeley into one dinner, Cafe Gratitude can help you out with that.  But only if you’re grateful afterward.

Categories: Bay Area, Berkeley, Food, Northern California, Restaurants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Casa de Fruta: The Most Random Place on Earth

Huddled in the hills between the 101 and the 5 in Hollister is one of those off-the-highway places you’d expect to find somewhere like Kansas.  It’s cute, it’s clearly there for tourists, and most importantly, it is super random.

But not in a bad way.  Casa de Fruta has much to offer:  fruit, nuts, fudge, candies, wine, even entertainment.  It’s just hard for me to get over how in the middle of nowhere it is.

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Like any good roadside attraction, Casa de Fruta has a lengthy history.  It began in the 1940s as a cherry stand for the nearby orchard.  As per tradition, fresh and dried fruit can still be found in abundance at Casa de Fruta.  The family expanded into nuts as well, and I must say, their nut collection is varied and delicious.  My husband and I are big fans of the chili lemon almonds.

But these days they have much more to offer than just fruit and nuts.  Along with Casa de Fruta, there is Casa de Restaurant, Casa de Wine, Casa de Sweets, and even Casa de Choo Choo (hehehe).  Everything you need for a roadside stop to get the kids out of your hair for an hour.

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Waterwheel and Panning for Gold (Except Not Really)

 

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Peacocks Were Everywhere

Of these, I’d say Casa de Fruta is still the most impressive.  It has a wide selection of dried fruit and nuts with some offerings that are not so easy to find, like toffee-glazed chocolate-covered pistachios, fruit and nut rolls, and those chili lemon almonds.

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With my unrelenting sweet tooth, I of course had to check out Casa de Sweets.  Much of it was pretty standard candy, but they make their own fudge, chocolates, and chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, and it was all good.  My mind was not blown, but hey, when is homemade fudge not delicious?

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I cannot say I was impressed with the wine, but they did have some unique flavors.  Along with some standard whites and reds, Casa de Wine sports a line of fruity wines which were certainly intriguing.  It’s not every tasting room that will serve you an apricot, blackberry, or pomegranate wine.  I wasn’t a fan of all of them, but the plum was good, and the sparkling pomegranate I actually considered buying.  Alas, it, like all of their wines, was grossly overpriced.  You could basically get the same flavor from sparkling pomegranate juice for a quarter of the price.  BUT the tasting was FREE!!!  You know I love me some free, especially free wine.

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While I did feel like their products on the whole were well-made, they are all on the pricy side, and I just don’t think the quality justifies it.  It’s so easy to find good handmade candies, luxury nuts, and farmstand fruits in this area that are cheaper, higher quality, or both.  And if you’ve read anything else on this blog, you know good wine (read:  better wine) is about as easy to find near Silicon Valley as computer programmers.  But if you’re looking to find all of these things in one place, want a place with variety, or just need somewhere to stop on your drive south, Casa de Fruta is certainly worth a look.

Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going to Japan!!!

I just found out that I am going to Japan for a friend’s wedding!  It’s not for over a year, but I am already excited!  Who has been to Japan?  Where should I go?  I’m finding that in spite of my forays into anime, I know surprisingly little about Japanese tourism.  What should I not miss?  I will chiefly be in Tokyo, but I have every intention of getting out of the city for a few days.

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Sipping at Cinnabar

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For years I have driven by the Cinnabar tasting room and thought I really need to go try that place sometime.

Today I finally did, and as usual left wishing I had gone much earlier.

We began with a rosé.  Rosés and I are not great friends with a few notable exceptions.  This is one of those exceptions.  It was light and crisp but still subtly sweet, a very pleasant summer wine.

Then came the Chardonnay.  Though I am a staunch lover of whites (don’t judge), I do not generally care for Chardonnay either.  Ironically, it is practically the only white that I dislike yet often the only one to be found in this area as well as the only wine drunk by my mother.  Figures.  As I have begun to frequent higher priced wineries, I have found more and more Chardonnays that I do like or at least tolerate, but nearly all are unoaked.  As the pourer began to describe this French oaked buttery Chardonnay, I prepared myself to endure it and move on quickly, but as it touched my tongue, I gasped in surprise.  It was delicious!  Light, fresh, buttery but not oaky in the slightest.  It was very nearly my favorite wine of the day, and had it been half the price, I may well have bought it.

From there my friendly pourer jumped off the tasting list to the Mercury Rising, a blend which is apparently one of their most popular wines.  I cannot say I was overly impressed.  For a blend, the mix of flavors was interesting with each presenting itself in turn, but on the whole it was a bit too scattered for my taste.

We moved on to the Petit Verdot which was actually kind of amazing.  “Bold flavor” does not begin to describe the first sip of this wine; it hits you like a rogue tree branch when you had barely realized you were standing under a tree.  It’s good though, and despite its strength, it’s light on tannins which is always a plus in my book.

In contrast was the Malbec which had more tannins but a smooth, even flavor.  Also one of their most popular wines, I much preferred it to the Mercury Rising.

My pourer was kind enough to give me a little something extra (always chat up your pourers, you won’t regret it) with the Incantation Blanc.  Also a blend, this one was my winner of the day.  Smooth, light, and sweet, this lovely little summer wine has a slight orange tang to it and would be a lovely wine to sip on a patio while listening to music.

Overall, a tasty way to spend an afternoon.  I’ll be back for their weekend wine bar evenings, complete with live music.

Categories: Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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