Holiday Feasting – Zaferon Grill Restaurant Review

“I’m done” says my pressed waistband about to pop…

And I really don’t care; I’m here to enjoy myself, all the holidays, and the over indulging possibilities.    The WONDERFUL part about living where I do, and being in the wine industry, are the really great BYOB restaurants in my very close vicinity.  When a new one pops up, we gotta go…

Side note – I spend most of my money on food.  Sad, but true.  Eating healthy or not, where you want, how you want, and when you want comes with a price tag.  I’ll spend the dollars on an experience; I have no problem with that.  But, let’s put everything on a scale here.

Zaferon Grill hosted my girl squad and I for our holiday get together.  I went in with high hopes and an open mind; Verona New Jersey, eclectic “American Bistro”, and a enormous price tag.  Hmmmm – not adding up, but whatever.  Upon making a reservation (there are about 10 tables in the restaurant and a floating bar), my friend was told she needed to leave a deposit.  A DEPOSIT ON A TABLE FOR VERONA NEW JERSEY.  Turned off, nose in the air, I poo poo’d this place right away.  C’mon, let’s check ourselves.  However, I get it – new place, trying out new things.  This better be good.

And it was, it was, then it was again.  EVERYTHING was amazing.  I am still dreaming about the vegetable risotto that came tucked under a perfectly cooked scallop.  And a dream lamb shank…a dream people.  However, the star of the evening was the hamburger.  You heard me correctly.  My lovely Jackie is a, well, not so adventurous eater.  She can be at times, but does like a direct and consistent dining experiences.  The server raved about this burger, and of course, we laughed when she ordered it.  This was possibly the best burger I have ever had.  Charred perfectly on the outside, medium rare on the inside – joke on us when Jackie had the best meal on the table.

But you are waiting for the not so great moment.  I’m sorry, and I do hate to say this, but I just don’t think a $30 price tag should be on these entrees.  As good as they were, is the Verona New Jersey dining audience  ready for this?  I am not ready for this.  Montclair is a coin toss away where I can get the same great meal for much less.  ( I can probably name you five restaurants without thinking.  Blog post?)  With Fat Fish Taco two doors down, and Verona Inn screaming at me to join them for a cocktail (Uppercut by the glass anyone?), it just doesn’t add up.  (literally-see what I did there)  Even the appetizers – wow shrimp and chorizo loveliness – are around $15 and $16.  I want to say yes, but I can’t and I won’t.

We all want to feel good, but we all want to live in reality.  Zaferon; you got the feeling good part in spades.  Can we reorganize ourselves in understanding our sense of place?

Wine choices for the evening, and any “American” eclectic fanciness that comes your way?  Safe choice for my Jackie; Etude Pinot Noir.  Pinot noir, as I have said before, is a grape that has everything in it for everyone.  It is mellow, but firm.  It has something to say, yet teases your pallet with a mystery all it’s own.  With little intervention from the winemaker – Jon Priest believes that winemaking is done IN the vineyard – you get a true and authentic California Pinot Noir expression when drinking Etude.  Love in a bottle.  But for my lamb – give me a cab.  I chose Beringer Distinction Cabernet Sauvignon.  I needed a wine with a structure and intensity yet with characterized and varietally specific fruit, balanced with a full body and concentration.  Yes, perfect.

Where can you buy both of these wines?  Well – across the street at Caldwell Shoprite Wines and Liquors.  Do you know that if a wine shop does not have the wine you are looking for, you can ask them to order it for you?  Just saying… (Same goes for a restaurant.  Help a girl out here.)

Should I go to Zaferon Grill?  Eh, sure, why not.  Splurge and don’t look back.  Will I go again; no.  Too many restaurants out there to experience that are not bleeding my wallet.

Click here for more info on Zaferon Grill

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Loosing Myself In A Sea Of Wine

It’s been a while, and I’m going to sketch out why.  Here, sitting in my PJs, about 10 pounds overweight, swollen by all the wine I have been drinking, and dazed by my own existence – here we go…

Last night, I watched a live Instagram feed powered by my friends from @close.the.gap.

Shameless plug – follow follow follow these five women and their conversation on what it means to be strong, be beautiful, be feminine.  The struggle is real, they are real, and they make looking in the mirror a little easier.  Bravo ladies.

This was an “Empowerment to Women” discussion that took the audience into a talk on success and how we portray our success on social media.  An audience member, who is a musician and trying to promote herself as such, told a story of how she became terrified by her social media audience. First of all – I don’t know her posts, her content, her intent.  I have not done research on this women, and do not want to make her a monster. However, this got me thinking. Is this real? Do you see truth or what I want you to see? Do I have a responsibility to show you my side as it authentically rolls itself out, or should I selfie the hell out of my blog.

I wanted to say to that women – dummy up girl. Social media to most people SHOULD BE A GOOD TIME. To those of us that would like to take it to another level, another career, express a voice; we gotta go the distance. I have had haters since the moment I have opened my mouth in this world, and may have you spewing mad comments right now. So do it.  Go for it and get it out.  My responsibility, and let me say that word again, responsibility, is here and beyond. If this woman had nightmares and the shakes because of a Facebook post (that she penned herself I may add), then, hey, I take it all back.  Do you, but do think about your direction.

That was part of my absence; I needed some Susan wine time.  I needed to focus, concentrate, and generate some really good content into my work life – without noise that social media can create.  Let’s go to the documentation, shall we?

  • Organizing a dinner can suck, but performing the dinner can suck more and be a rewarding experience – all at the same time.  I usually don’t eat at the dinner, rather shovel food in my mouth without thinking when I get a quick moment.  Never good for the clean diet of my dreams.  I did sneak in some time with my tribe (necessary to keep me sane), and would grab a meal from @navarritoshomemade – clean Latin inspired meals packaged and ready to go. These meals saved me and my mind. Find the website here; Navarritos Homemade – and like them on instagram!
  • Invasion – winemakers take New Jersey!  I have a love/hate feeling come over my whole body when I hear a winemaker will be coming to town.  They are work, more work, fun, but work.  For some reason, they all decide to tackle NJ at the same time. That calls for a whole lot of activation, and a whole lot of being social, selling, and follow up.  Whew – survived and proud of it. (and made lasting relationships with exciting and intelligent souls.  Damn, lucky girl)

…and then, in the middle of my crazy life, New Jersey decided to throw a major food and wine event at Crystal Springs Golf Resort.  This food and wine show is a MUST to anyone out there ready to celebrate great chefs and wineries. I seem to ‘push the envelope’ a bit on marketing my brands.  Every year I stand on a edge of “should I really do this”  – ask for forgiveness, right? (by the way, you are all coming next year…)

There is so much more to share, and I will.  Stay tuned please; I promise to get on a posting cycle: outlined already in my bullet journal; did you think I didn’t have a bullet journal? (if you would like a sneak peek, let me know)  I would love to hear some feedback, or get into some conversations on questions you may have out there.  Let’s create a theater of wine thoughts together!

Drink This: Stop the Beringer Hate

Mood, history and feelings.  Most of what leads us into our situations.  Wine is no different.

What kicks off in your brain when I say Beringer Vineyards?  I’ll tell you- white zinfandel.  You see yourself perched in front of that huge glass door (cold box) in a wine shop wondering what jug you will choose.  It’s pink, full of gushy fruit, and will do the job.

And nothing wrong with it.  I defend blushy goodnes in this blog: if you are interested in reading: White Zinfandel – so, we don’t need to get into that.

Beringer makes a damn good White Zinfandel – probably the best in the market.  There are a few more facts you should know about the winery.  I covered a few here: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Dinner.  However, for some of the top hits:

  • Two brothers began this winery in 1876.  We can consider them some of the godfathers of California winemaking and wine growing.  Jacob Beringer’s great great (maybe another great) grandson is now leading the charge; Mark Beringer.  One of the COOLEST guys in Cali; laid back, very handsome, witty, a ton of charm.
  • Beringer Private Reserve level of wines (chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon) are the crown jewels of the Beringer line up.  Both varietals have won “Wine of the Year” in the past (the only winery EVER to achieve this status), and continue to be a benchmark of true California “wine of place” choices.
  • There is so much more to explore here.  Not only are wines produced in Napa (and who would snub their nose at that), but fruit is also sourced from Paso Robles, Sonoma…more to come.  Consistency, history, an apex of where we all began in California winemaking.

When I want to grab and go with something good, Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay is on my mind.  In fact, a bottle is usually chilled and ready to go.  It is rich, classy, and complex all at the same time.  There is citrus, honeysuckle, baked apple – but not to a point where you can’t enjoy more than one glass.  Does that happen to you?  Sometimes the chardonnay is just “too much” and overbearing.  I’ve never experienced that with this wine.  In fact, this is a “all nighter” to me; I can enjoy this wine by itself, and throughout the meal.  The wine pairs well with EVERYTHING and everyone enjoys it.  That is always important to me.  If we are friends, you know I can pull out some funky wines.  However, I want you to enjoy yourself, and not wear that wrinkly face after a sip, and ask for some tequila instead.  This is a staple, and will continue to be with me.

Where do I get this stuff? – The nice answer to this question is ANYWHERE!  Shoppers Vineyard in Clifton, Wine Library in Springfield, Central Avenue Wines in Jersey City (I LOVE the owner Neil.  He rules)…I could go on.  This wine is a classic to wine buyers, and as I have outlined, a pure expression of California chardonnay.

What should you have in your purse? – Around $30.  You can buy a cheaper chardonnay, and I don’t blame you if you do.  We are moving into a heavier palette meal time – October brings lovely soups and roasts, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I’m hungry.  You need something that measures up, and can deliver these hearty flavors to your table.  Take the plunge.

And now for something that has NOTHING to do with this blog – check out my girls back squatting.  This summer, nothing has made me more happy than working through my back squat.  If I didn’t have my posse behind me, well, is it worth it?  So impressed with what we all have accomplished!:

 

The Rise and Fall of a Wine Dinner

Maybe my expectations are to high.

I have been privileged to sit and experience the marriage of wine and food at the highest level.  Yes, moments like this have left me speechless.  Seems funny to say that.  This doesn’t need to happen in the fanciest of restaurants, or at a winery.  This can happen in my kitchen with a baked mac and cheese and some Barbaresco.  I want the pairing to sweep me off my feet, and whisper secrets in my ear.  Every time I sit, stand, or linger to drink and eat, I want the wine fairies to lift me to this high once again.

What happens when the food sucks?

Truly sucks.  When you are the speaker, and have lost control with what comes out of the kitchen, this challenge may smack you in the face.  Thank goodness you have a wine safety net.  Good wine can act as smoke and mirrors.  I never want wine to mask the flavors of the  food, but it may win the race.  Last night I leaned on the stories of Beringer Winery’s legacy; the longest continuously run winery in Napa Valley, half of the soil contents found in the world are found in Napa Valley, micro climates, accolades (Beringer is the only winery to win the coveted #1 Wine of the Year from Wine Spectator with both a red and a white wine), and just good juice.  When we got to the third course, and the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, I convinced the audience we were sitting in a vineyard, and that this goopy soup didn’t really exist. (soup in July?)

And then the audience died. (not actually – creative writing…)

When I turn off the wine drama channel in my brain, the people left standing are those that take me for the slightly introverted person I am.  And then I can’t shut up.  Why, oh why, would you do anything fun with anyone else that you don’t want to talk to – or even look at.  Comfortable silence is beautiful, but lazy silence is stupid.  Lay in bed and watch Netflix if that is your game.  Now I am forced to tell all the wine jokes, and act like a clown to raise a spirit.  That actually turns my belly.  I understand that a wine dinner is entertainment, but I don’t want to have to stir your soul for you.  Come with a desire to explore – even for a moment. I will make the wine stuff painless.  It’s just wine; I’m sure your life involves much more complicated tasks.

And if all of this still makes an evening a horrid mess, stop drinking all together.  Please know responsible consumption is the best consumption.

Now for this fabulous Pinot Noir (Beringer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir):

Ah Pinot Noir.  So hard for me.  My dinner guest last night loves the stuff.  He can be a harsh critic.  It took him a few sips, but the wine won him over.  Why a few sips?  This is California in every breath of the word.  Red cherry and bruised strawberry flavors.  Spicy oak on the finish, structured, and slightly dense for a Pinot Noir.  I will soon be writing about Burgundy (still Pinot Noir), and I will outline the difference.  And what a difference there can be.  I like lushness, especially when I am entertaining people I am not friendly with.  Puts me and my guests at ease.  This wine comforts the palette; allows you to taste a full expressive fruit without being overdone or obnoxious.

Beringer dinner, blog

 

An Affair at Restaurant Nicholas

I’m getting tired of eating at restaurants.

Yes, I said it.

I feel like my connection to food is getting lost. I am uninspired. Bored. I’m seeing the same thing reinvented with a new costume. What happened to originality? What happened to blowing my foodie mind with an experience I can write home about? (or at least in this blog)

I am also the worst diner you want at your table. I’m the girl that pulls the meal and wine choices apart.

“Should we have ordered this?”

“Taste this wine again and see if any spice notes come out.” (sigh)

It’s miserable to be with me. I pull out a camera and video your reactions. I ask way to many questions. Wine notes jotted down in your IPad should not be taken on date night.

However, lunch yesterday was off the hook.

I’ve never been to Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank (Middletown?) before. Like many New Jersey dining freaks, I’ve heard the buzz. I’m not about buzz. If everyone is going there, I am going in the opposite direction. I also have had some “difficulties” in the past selling this restaurant, well, anything at all. This is not because of Nicholas (whom is a very sweet man), this is because of the sheer fact that I was concentrating on the wrong message in my sale. Does this restaurant want the brands you have never heard of before? – yes. Do they want the best pricing on the things you have heard of before? – yes. To be honest, I didn’t have a plan in the past. I thought I could wake up, get inspired, grab a sample bottle and go. That was my plan, and I never understood why it didn’t work. I now see that Nicholas has a focus, a direction, and registers with the guest in a complete way. There is a beginning, middle, and ending. The bar, drapes, table cloths, service, and food leaving that kitchen has all connected with each other, and therefore, connected with me.

Thanks for the lesson sir.

Check out my video below to see what happened during this four hour (Ok, it was a trade thing-Get off my back) luncheon.