Tag Archives: wine

Ithaca, NY: Just a Taste

9 Dec

This summer, I went with my two college roommates, Vicki and Kim, on a roadtrip to Ithaca, NY. We went back to Ithaca, where we went to school, to celebrate Vicki’s Bachelorette Party.  We had juggled a few ideas for where to go, but Ithaca won out because of the nostalgic factor and the fact that we all spent 4 years there but basically did so broke. So we were excited to go back to eat at some of the good restaurants and visit the wineries.

On our first night, we dropped in to Just a Taste and put our name on the list.  They said it would be about 45 minutes, so we took them literally and went to kill time by grabbing a cocktail at a nearby restaurant.  Twenty minutes later, our cocktails were just being delivered when they called us to say they were ready.  So we chugged the cocktails as quickly as we could and returned to find that they held the table for us.  Phew!


Just a Taste had been on my radar for some time, and then I randomly read an article on the way up mentioning how they were a fantastic restaurant, so we were excited to try it.  We were presented with an extensive tapas menu and we went to town.


And we did some wine flights to get our party started.



We started with the warm brie with melon and crostini. Loved the blend of warm brie with the perfectly ripe melon, and the crostini was a nice added crisp.


Squash blossom hush puppies with maple butter and zucchini-herb salad. Great dish and unlike anything I have had before.


We asked our waiter what dish we should definitely get, and much to our surprise, he recommended the garlic braised greens with walnuts, stilton blue cheese, and sherry vinegar.  Sure enough, it was incredibly delicious and we never would have ordered it from the menu description.  It didn’t sound all that exciting, but all the flavors were just perfect together.


We also tried the deep fried salt cod fritters with garlic aioli and mixed greens.


These were perfectly crispy on the outside and the salt cod was really perfectly flavored on the inside. Not at all greasy and very enjoyable.


Basque style lamb (local) braised with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and paprika on toasted orzo.  I couldn’t try this due to my allergy, and my sweet friends very kindly told me it was awful (HINT: they LIED!) to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out.



We also go the summer squash sautéed in brown butter with garlic, pecans, and romano cheese.  I really enjoyed this dish. The squash was cooked perfectly and the flavors were great together.


And we also got a plate of the charcuterie.


This came with duck liver mousse, smoked duck breast, shaved ham and pate maison (pistachios) with crostini, wholegrain mustard and pickled garlic scapes.  We loved everything on this plate and all had trouble deciding our favorite bite amongst the selection.


Our meal was absolutely fantastic from start to finish.  We loved all the dishes and there wasn’t a dud to be had.  This rivaled some of the best tapas I’ve had in New York City and there it was, in upstate, New York. But even the cheap food was good in Ithaca when we were there, so really it was no surprise.

If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping in to Just a Taste.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

nomscale- 07.0


Aldo Sohm Wine Bar – New Opening from Le Bernardin

22 Sep

We had a truly special meal at Le Bernardin a few years ago,  so when I heard that they were opening up a more casual spin-off, Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, helmed by their sommelier, Aldo Sohm, it was high on our “must try soon” list.

We popped in last weekend, when they were open for just about a week, and I instantly felt at ease. We were a bit worried that by not planning ahead, our jeans were going to be out of place, however, all the waiters were actually in jeans and the fun, casual nature of the place was apparent from the colorful, fun art on the walls to the friendly, unpretentiousness of the wait staff.



But casual does not mean unprofessional. The bar was beautiful and big, with some couches in front and high tables around the perimeter of the room.


The wine list is extensive, thorough, and spans the gaps of many different price points and options.


The menu is like high end bar snacks, with a heavy weighting towards charcuterie.


We started with the Whole Baked Cauliflower with “Roasted Chicken Salt.”


The “salt” was crispy roasted chicken skin, which added a very rich flavor that made this already great vegetable really pop.  The only problem was that to get the whole head of cauliflower fully cooked, it lost all its bite.  It was a bit mushy and overcooked in the middle, which was a shame. If it had some toothiness left, this would have been a killer ish.


We also ordered the Short Rib Skewer which came with fried shallot and red wine reduction.  The short ribs were just kind of ehhh.  At $12 per skewer, the portion is pretty small, and the meat itself didn’t taste much different from other so-so short rib dishes I’ve had. It was well cooked and tasted like short ribs, but it really wasn’t much more than that.  The mashed potatoes on the other hand… WOW. Those were GREAT! They should offer them alone as a side.  Best part of the dish.


One thing on the menu that caught our eye was the Tibetan Yak Cheese. This was on the menu as a separate dish for $10/ounce with the following description: “Imported from the Tibetan Plateau, Yak cheese is considered a rare delicacy with great health benefits.” I was very excited to get to try a new cheese.  So when I noticed that it was also included on a pasta dish, we opted for that.  The dish was Truffle Pasta with Grated yak cheese.

I wish this was great. But it just wasn’t.  It didn’t taste all that much of truffles, and the cheese really didn’t add much to it.

It was good… don’t get me wrong. But it just wasn’t all that truffle-y nor did the cheese taste much different than any regular cheese.

A few days later, I came across this article that says that the yak cheese hasn’t come through customs yet, however, so now I’m not even sure if we had the yak cheese at all! (And if we didn’t… someone should have let us know!)


We were still a bit hungry after those snacks, so we went back to the menu and decided to order some charcuterie. We got the speck and the fireplace smoked pork loin.  Both of these meats were absolutely incredibly, inching out the mashed potatoes as our favorite part of the meal. We especially liked the speck, and it paired perfectly with our Vouvray (which was easily polished off a bottle of).


For dessert, we ordered the Red Wine Dark Chocolate Ganache Mendiant, which was listed as $12 for four pieces. We also asked our waiter to advise on a wine to pair well with it, and they suggested a really great port (though I can’t recall the name).


I was a bit… surprised… by how they served the dessert.


The filled chocolate disks were wrapped in little plastic envelopes and labeled with the same type of labels we put on our file folders at work.  Hmmm…  While I dig casual, I felt like this really degraded the dessert.  Especially at $12 for 4 very thin candies, I thought it should have been served with a bit more care.


Once I got over my judge-iness, however, the actual candy was beautifully done and had great flavor.  The chocolate was very high quality and the thin ribbon in the middle was rich and not too sweet.  Very good.

I just wish they found another way to serve it.


Overall, I can’t say I was thrilled with our meal.  I wanted it to be great.  This has all the makings of a great place.  But with Le Bernardin as the foundation, the food is expected to be phenomenal and perfectly executed.  Perhaps they are still getting their sea legs, but I have to hope this is not their best foot.  I will go back, because it’s a great place to grab a glass of wine and some bites, but it is not destination dining and I can’t say “You MUST try the food!”  I expected more.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

nomscale- 06.5

Artisanal Merliance Tasting and Brunch

28 Feb

I love cheese.

Like really freakin’ love cheese.

And wine?

I love wine.

So wine and cheese?


I’m in.

But Merlot and I have not been good friends (and I swear I didn’t like it long before Sideways made it a faux pas).  But Lori (of the blog Stuff I Ate) has been singing the virtues of Long Island Merlots for quite some time. We went to a few wineries with her and I actually did like it more than I thought I would. I still would choose a Pinot Noir over a Merlot any day, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

So when she invited us to an event at the Artisanal Cheese Center (10th Ave between 36th and 37th) with the Merliance (Long Island Merlot Alliance), we decided to give it a try.

We didn’t know what to expect, but when we entered there were glasses in the back with  merlot and a table set with cheese. My favorite of which was the Epoisses (which I just realized is the same cheese that I enjoyed so much in our Colicchio and Sons dish). It was creamy and farmy and delicious. 

Import December 2012 iPhone 436

We were not sure if that was the entirety of the event, but we were pleased when we were led into a room next door, poured 7 glasses of wine, and presented with a wheel of cheeses.

Import December 2012 iPhone 441

Throughout the tasting, the different wine makers from each of the vineyards represented spoke about their wine and the cheese it went with. It was very interesting and educational.  

Import December 2012 iPhone 443

And I was a model student and finished all of my wine and cheese. (Please notice the half full glasses of everyone in front of me… whoops!)

Import December 2012 iPhone 442 

While I can’t say I fell in love with Merlot, I obviously enjoyed every glass.  But I ESPECIALLY enjoyed the cheese. There was one in particular called Roomano that I could not get enough of. It is the best crystals of gruyere and parmesan combined with a rich and creaminess that I have never tasted before. I loved it so much that Mike surprised me with it as a present over the holidays and we pursued it each time we were back near Artisanal.

Speaking of…

When I was looking for a brunch location one Saturday after going to my dress fitting with my mother and sister (OMG! I’m getting married!!!), I noticed that Artisanal Bistro had an opening.  So off we went to 32nd Street, just off Park Ave.

There is a full retail Fromagerie in the back of the restaurant.


And a really nice atmosphere, keeping with their maroon and butter yellow brand identity.


They even use cheese wrap as the table cloths.


We started with a cheese plate including a truffle cheese (WOW!) and, my new favorite, Roomano.  


We asked them to bring out some nibbles to go with the cheese, so they brought out some quince paste and some walnuts in (really good) honey. It was all perfect and  a great start to the meal. All of us were doing the happy belly dance (yes… all 3 of us dance in our chairs when we like our food… I’m sure it is a sight to see!)


My sister got a salmon eggs benedict. She gobbled it all up, so I assume it was damn good.


My mom and I got the same dish, poached eggs over pork belly hash and sweet potatoes. It came with a chipotle hollandaise (that mom got).



And I got mine with regular hollandaise.  It was so good. A little crisp on the pork. Perfectly cooked eggs. It all went so well together and while the bowl was small, it was a perfect portion and I’m glad there wasn’t more or else I would have stuffed my maw far too much.


I am a big Artisanal fan, especially after these recent two experiences. How can you beat a restaurant that specializes in cheese?

I had been there for dinner in the past, and very much enjoyed their fondue, but I thought their brunch was even better. We also sat in the restaurant for hours and no one bothered us or pressured us to leave. Service was very good, for the most part, and everyone enjoyed everything they ate.

Yay for cheese!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

nomscale- 07.0