Category Archives: Food and Wine

Beringer Wine Dinner

Last Wednesday, we had an opportunity to attend a Beringer wine dinner at Cunningham’s in Towson.

Beringer is a big, big name in wine, and they made their mark (and their money) selling inexpensive wine.  They may be best know for White Zinfandel.  So we had tempered expectations on the wine, but were looking forward to the food, and spending some time with our friend M.

We also look forward to meeting new people at these events.

Overall, the food was outstanding, and the wines were pretty good, too. Continue reading


Two Lands Tasting

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an online tasting of Austrailia’s Jacob’s Creek Two Lands wines.  I happened to be having a small party that evening with some colleagues, so a few of us got to taste and talk about the wines.  (I’ve been so busy lately I am just now getting an opportunity to do some blogging – it feels like I haven’t had a day off from my business to do any wine writing.  Clearly we haven’t been updating our blog much, but I’d like to change that.)

Online tastings are always a fun experience, and not only because, as a wine blogger, they send me the wines (thanks to The Thomas Collective!), but it gives me an opportunity to get and share education about wine in general.  Certainly this is a marketing event, but every wine tasting includes not just information about the wine/winery, but about the winemaking process, different varietals, climate, and all sorts of other things that make wine interesting.

Here are my notes on the four wines we tasted.

Two Lands Pinot Grigio 2014

There’s a lot going on with the nose, and it’s a little tough to narrow down everything (which is a good thing!)  There’s some apple coming through. This is not my favorite style of wine.  It’s got a big mouthfeel, almost oily, but lacks acidity and has a bit of sweetness.  It’s good wine, but not my cup of tea.  Would pair well with richer seafood, and maybe Asian flavors.  At $14, it is well priced for the quality. Good.

Two Lands Chardonnay 2014

To me, this smells like California Chardonnay that you’ll find with an animal on the label.  Melon, tropical fruit, and vanilla come through.  Another wine with lower acid and higher sweetness, there’s peach and some citrus.  Soft, a bit of texture, but to my palate, a little off balance.  I find myself enjoying drinking it, though.  I would pair with stinky cheese, or just drink it on it’s own while grilling something for dinner.  Another $14 bottle of wine that’s well priced.  Good.

Two Lands Shiraz 2013

I need to tell you right now, I’m not typically a fan of Australian Shiraz.  Unless it is very high end, I’ve found most of it is far too much fruit bomb and cloying, and not enough complexity or finesse.  I understand that’s the style, it’s just not my thing.  What I do like?  Northern Rhone.  Well, this leans toward the latter while still having that Aussie rebellious streak, which makes for a fun wine.  I get some darker fruit on the nose, but taste more red.  Well balanced, full, rich.  It still has some of the ‘hit you over the head’ Shiraz, but the balance and complexity are there as well.  $14, a value at that price.  Very Good.

Two Lands Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Cassis and dark fruit on the nose.  Big nose.  It has nice fruit, but it’s unbalanced.  I think it might be too young, but I don’t pick up the tannin structure that would tell me waiting a couple of years would make it much better.  $14, I think it’s not bad for the price point, because there isn’t much good Cab available under $30.  OK.

crossposted at thegrandcrew

Wit and Wisdom Review

My non professional opinion of my experience at Wit and Wisdom was fair.  I lean towards disappointment, only because I had heard so many good things.  Perhaps we caught them on an off night.  Perhaps people are raving about the happy hour (which did look good).  Perhaps people who rave about it haven’t experienced some of the really good places around Baltimore.

This isn’t to say it’s bad – it’s not.  It’s good.


The space is really cool, modern, properly lit, and it seems every seat in the restaurant and bar has a great view of the inner harbor.  The hotel itself (lobby, valet) is also very nice, and hotel service is outstanding.


Outstanding.  Our waiter and the sommelier were attentive, intelligent, and engaging, without being pretentious or overbearing.  Our waiter knew when he was over his head on a wine recommendation (which is a really good trait in a waiter – far too many think they know all things.)  He gave the wine recommendation a shot, missed, then went and not only found the expert, but prepared her, so she came to the table already carrying other wine options for us.  The sommelier was very knowledgeable (while I’m not a wine expert, you can’t fool me that you are if you aren’t), communicated well, and clearly enjoyed getting it right, giving us options, giving just the right amount of education, and enhancing our experience.  Very well done.  These folks have the front of the house right, and lots of restaurants should be spending time here watching how it should be done.


Here’s the rub:  I really wanted to love it.  But I didn’t.  We had lobster corn dogs and caesar salads (that they split without some stupid up charge), J had monkfish poached in duck fat, I had a rib eye.  Everything was fine.  But that’s it – fine.  We were expecting to be blown away by something, and we just weren’t.  Nothing was bad, and certainly everything was prepared as we expected.  It’s just that you can get better, more creative food without paying rent to the Four Seasons.  Much better.  If you want a steak, Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s, Sullivan’s, even Flemming’s are all going to do it as well or better, and they aren’t going to charge you that much more, if at all.  (And they aren’t slouches when it comes to service, either).  For creative dishes, Alchemy, The Food Market, Jack’s Bistro, Fork and Wrench are all doing interesting things with excellent results for much lower prices.  And to make sure I don’t leave out some comparably priced places that are in the same area, given a choice I’ll give Chingale, Pazo, even Roy’s higher food marks.

Baltimore is a competitive food town, I’m not mentioning a lot of places that Wit and Wisdom needs to equal or best to get us to return over and over again.  We’ll probably give it another go and give the chef’s tasting menu a shot, or perhaps for happy hour tapas.  But for now, I wouldn’t recommend them when there are so many other choices.



Just a quick note:  If you are into food or are in any way a fan of Alton Brown, you should be checking out his podcast.

I mean it.  It’s awesome.

2011 Reserve de la Saurine

Something new that came in the Pinehurst Wine $100 case.  It’s a pretty simple country wine, but interesting and very good!

2011 Reserve de la Saurine

Appellation:  Gard (Vin de Pays d’Oc)

Notes:  100% Grenache Blanc, 12% ABV.  Grenache Blanc is usually blended, so this is something I’m not sure I’ve ever had.  Tropical nose, a little tight.  Tropical fruit and lots of citrus (oranges, lemons, limes).  Not much acidity, but a nice weight.  Coates the mouth, very elegant.  There’s a lot going on.  Normally, a lower acid wine will not be a great food wine, but this went well with a simple salmon dish.  I recommend searching this one out. Very Good.

Price:  Unknown, but probably under $15.

Crossposted at Maryland Wine Report and The Grand Crew

How Quaint

Who knew there were still towns in Maryland that are dry?  Damascus will have the issue on the ballot this year as a referendum.



Almost exactly two years ago, I mentioned the government is getting involved in who may watch children and what they could be fed.

It should scare you, too.  How long before the US government is telling you who can watch your kids and how they are allowed to do it, including what the children may be fed?

Two years later comes this story.

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the person who was inspecting all lunch boxes in the More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

The girl’s mother — who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation — said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

“I don’t feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home,” the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.

The girl’s grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.

Read the entire thing, as there’s some spectacular stuff from the Government Agents In Charge of
Children’s Food.  It’s easy to look like you can predict the future when you are predicting the expanded growth of power of the state; it’s easy because people are sheep and continue to allow this to happen.


Dietary Ignorance

So it’s big, big news that an overweight aging celebrity chef (really restauranteur) has diabetes.  Much hand wringing ensues that her high calorie, high fat cooking must be the cause.

Karen De Coster points out the spectacular ignorance in the mainstream, including medical doctors on television.  Put simply, fat doesn’t alter your blood sugar or create insulin resistance.  Lots of carbs does, though.  So does eating too much and getting old.

Take a Stand

Once known as a holiday to give thanks for family, friends, and the opportunities we share, Thanksgiving is the beginning of our six week long celebration of the end of one year and beginning of the next.

The beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Tomorrow is “Black Friday”, the busiest brick and mortar shopping day of the year.  Not that long ago, it was simply just a very busy shopping day, not fraught with sales and incentives.  (I always thought it would make more sense for retailers to intentionally spread out the holiday spending over a longer period, but what do I know?)

What it’s become bothers me, and I think it’s time to take a stand.  Those who know me know I’m all for people spending money on whatever they want, whenever they want.  While I may not share the populations desire for constant consumption, I am a big fan of getting the things I want and that make my life easier for a good price.

But the day after Thanksgiving blitz has gotten out of control.

I remember a time (and I’m not that old) when you had to make sure you got gas on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, because all the gas stations were closed.  20 years ago, I worked in one of the first McDonalds to open for breakfast on Thanksgiving – we opened from 6 to 11 and served breakfast.  We weren’t all that busy.

Today, McDonalds are open 24 hours.  Convenience stores and grocery stores have normal hours (which I think is more a demand issue, which is fine).  Beltway Fine Wine?  Open.  Wal-Mart is open 24 hours.

And tonight?  At midnight, Target, Toys R Us, HH Gregg, Macy’s, Ace Hardware, Kohls, and many, many more retailers will open their doors.

Old Navy is open today!  120 Best Buy locations will open at 9PM tonight.

What happened?  Do we really need to start shopping 10-12 hours earlier?  How many families jump up from Thanksgiving dinner and rush out to go shopping?

You know who can stop this?  We can.  Start a movement.  Don’t go shopping until tomorrow.  Better yet, don’t go shopping this weekend at all!  Make this weekend about something other than the sale, other than the price drop.  Retailers will listen and adjust.

Maybe I’m getting old, but my Thanksgiving remains about family and friends, about a large meal and lots of wine.  This year, it’s about Ravens football, too.  All with my wife, parents, siblings, aunt, cousins, nieces, and nephews.  Not with some crowd trying to save $40 on a big TV.  Time with my family is worth more to me.


My First Wine Express Tasting

Wine Express is a local wine tasting/retailing company.  They host regular tastings at Silo Point in Baltimore.  For a reasonable cost in an awesome setting, you can taste a number of wines and discuss both with the host (Rita Blackwell) and the other participants.

It’s a great concept, and they execute it well.

A couple of comments on that execution, then I’ll run down the wines.  The setting is outstanding.  Silo Point is a spectacular building, and the tastings are hosted in a warm space on the 19th floor.  The view is spectacular, and the space is large enough for the group, with plenty of seating options.

The folks running the tasting do a very nice job keeping things moving… I never waited more than a minute or so to get a pour of the next wine, and the wines were served at appropriate temperatures in appropriate glassware.  Everyone had some knowledge of the wines, and had clearly tasted them.  From a service perspective, the tasting is very well done.

Rita Blackwell, as the host, engages every guest.  She’s got an uncanny ability to recall people, she remembers small details that matter.  Clearly, she’s about service first.  That said, she provides background and educates in a manner that everyone can appreciate, from novice to the experienced oenophile.

Most striking is the diversity of the group.  I was really happy to see a varied group; instead of the wine tasting of your old perception (a bunch of wealthy white people over 40 with their pinkies in the air), this was a racially diverse group ranging from 20’s to 70’s.  Everyone was friendly, and we had a great time talking wine with each other.

Wine is fun, and this tasting made fun the focus.  I’m looking forward to attending more. Continue reading

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