Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NorCal 2009, Day Three: or Yes, I Went to Monterey for Rosh Hashanah

The irony doesn’t escape me. I’d gone from the suburbs of Philadelphia to, well, the suburbs of Monterey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. At least it seems ironic to me. Perhaps I’m just ignorant of the depth of Judaic culture in the Monterey bay area. In any event, it was pure coincidence that my trip happened to coincide with the beginning of the Jewish New Year. I’d gone for vacation, to relax, drink and eat of course, and, more importantly, to visit friends, some of whom just happen to take their high holidays pretty seriously.

While most of our day on Friday would be spent shopping and prepping for the evening’s feast, we did manage to keep the morning free to explore some of the natural beauty in the environs of Monterey. Images of the breathtaking vistas and windy roads of the California coastline tend to be conjured first when thinking of this part of the world, but there’s a different kind of beauty, perhaps even more pacific (yes, the pun’s intended), to the arid interior of the northern Central Coast. During a loping, two-hour hike that criss-crossed Fort Ord and adjoining acreage overseen by the US Bureau of Land Management, only a bobcat (far too quick for my camera yet very cool to spot), the occasional jay and scampering lizard, and a few other nature lovers shared the landscape with us.

Clockwise, from top left: California oaks more than dot the landscape, looking old and wise yet lacy and fragile, their beauty enhanced yet their health undermined by adornments of hanging moss. Recently abandoned cliff swallow nests, built under the eaves and ceiling of a decaying pagoda, part of an abandoned military picnic ground on Fort Ord. A playground of another type, built and showing the signs of regular use by the local BMX crowd. From flat and wide open to hilly and twisting, the trails here are great for both hiking and fast, relatively non-technical mountain biking.

Smart enough, at least I’d like to think so, not to shop hungry, we sated our hike-driven hunger with a lunch of fish tacos and shrimp burritos in downtown Monterey, followed by a stroll around the marina.

A classic local scene: California sea lions have made a permanent sun worshipping station of the breakwater along the Monterey pier. Less common were the swarms of jellyfish, not little guys, mind you, but big suckers, the size of basketballs and sporting waist-length dreadlocks of potential nastiness.

Lunching and tourism done for the day, we finally buckled down to the biz of preparing din-din. Dinner would start with a loaf of round challah (not raisin, all sold-out) served with honey, the shape of the loaf and sweetness of the accompaniment both symbolic of health and happiness in the new year to come. The rest of the meal would be less traditional, perhaps, but still very much in keeping with the spirit of the holiday and the observance of culinary customs.

My pals had gone off to visit Dashe Cellars after reading my interview with Michael Dashe a while back and had come back with a cache of 2008 L'Enfant Terrible, a bottle of which we happily dispatched while working in the kitchen.

As seriously as my pal Steve takes his holidays, his observance (happily) doesn’t extend to diving into the depths of Kosher wine, so we were able to put together a pretty decent little line-up to accompany the meal. In spite of my general distaste for grocery store wine shopping, I did find wine worth drinking at the local Whole Foods, including something I’d been meaning to try anyway, the Touraine Sauvignon from François Chidaine, one of the products of his recent expansion into the négociant end of the wine biz. Mind bending juice, no, but at $12 a bottle it’s a solid value and made for a nice pairing with roasted tomato and pecorino bruschetta. The star of the night, wine-wise that is, was undoubtedly the 2008 Bandol Rosé from Domaine de Terrebrune, one of the little gems I’d picked up at Kermit Lynch’s shop the day before. Firm and herbal, I’d love to check in on it a few years down the road but it was hard to say no to now. Spot on with Stevie’s orange-braised artichokes and the fillet of halibut I grilled up and topped with olive tapenade.

The evening's dead soldiers.

So, happy belated new year to those of you who observe. And stay tuned for more CA adventures to come.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Do Bianchi on Bloggerview

Guitar slingin' somm and scholarly scribe of vinous humanism Jeremy Parzen, author of Do Bianchi, has just been interviewed in the latest edition of Tom Wark's "Bloggerview." Check it! And thanks for the mention, Jeremy. I'm honored indeed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NorCal 2009, Day Two: The Grails of Berkeley

After not one but two miscues with catching CalTrain and BART on the way to Berkeley for the day, my plans to check out the neighborhood around UC Berkeley and to stop into what I’m told is a very cool bike shop were by necessity foreshortened. Instead, there was just enough time to take a quick walking tour up Shattuck Avenue and through the Gourmet Ghetto, stopping off for a quick macchiato at Guerilla Café, before hitting a few of the food and wine cornerstones of the Berkeley scene.

Enough has been said about Alice Waters’ impact on the history of modern California cuisine and the emergence of locavorism that I won’t bore you with a detailed history of her culinary ventures. What I will say is that I headed to lunch at Chez Panisse Café with very clear expectations of the food but little idea of what to expect from the rest of the experience. In the end, neither the space nor the food came with any surprises. Reservations at the Café, set upstairs from the original, more formal Chez Panisse, are not so difficult to come by as at the flagship; in fact, I had no problem securing a same-day rezzy for lunch. The space is casually elegant, lit primarily by the ambient sunlight entering through skylights and louvered shades in the front windows, with white tablecloths offset by comfy cushions and rustic wood flooring and beams.

The food is every bit as simple as I’d expected, yet proves that in simplicity the purest of expression can be found. The day’s three-course prix fixe lunch – a good value at $24, just a couple of bucks more than the average entrée price – included a salad of delicately dressed mixed greens straight from the CP garden; a zesty, piquant and quite traditional interpretation of spaghetti all’amatriciana; and delivered unfussy comfort in a finishing bowl of vanilla ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce. The greatest surprise, and a welcome one, was the wine list. Offering little in the way of ostentation, the list is adventurous yet centered on a clear understanding of the importance of food-friendliness. I could have been happy as a clam with the offerings by the glass – Muscadet from Marc Olivier; Tempier Bandol rosé; the new red, “La Ritournelle,” from Catherine and Pierre Breton; and Arianna Occhipinti’s Nero d’Avola/Frappato blend, SP68, to name just a few – but I’d already set my sights on a half-bottle of Huet’s 2007 Vouvray sec “Le Mont.” If only I'd noticed the '02 Clos des Briords, quite fairly priced on the reserve list....

Curiosity, thirst and appetite sated, I had just enough time remaining for the long downhill walk to North Berkeley’s unofficial gourmet ghetto, the corner of Cedar and San Pablo shared by Acme Bread Company and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. My mission at Acme was simple: to score a loaf of their walnut-currant bread for the next morning’s breakfast. Said goal quickly achieved, it was on to the more economically perilous allures of Berkeley’s bastion of vinosity. I’d entered KLWM with every intention of having the crew there put together a mixed case for me to ship home. What I hadn’t figured on – rather naively, in retrospect – was that, as a direct importer, KLWM has very little business interest in shipping direct to consumers, preferring instead to let their nationwide customers purchase from the three-tier distribution systems in their own local markets. The cost of third-party shipping to the east coast, estimated at about $90/case, quickly put my original plans to rest. No worries though, as that left plenty of time to talk biz with Clark Terry, the KLWM staffer behind the new Kermit Lynch blog, and just enough time to select a few bottles to enjoy over the following couple of days.

Details, perhaps, to follow, assuming I can get my blogcationing butt back into gear….

Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 19, 2009

NorCal 2009, Day One: Corkage Free in Los Altos

After a disaster with our airline bookings was narrowly averted on Tuesday (contact me off-line if you want the full scoop), Wednesday’s flight in to SFO was as smooth as smooth can be. One dreary if relatively innocuous Super Shuttle ride later and we were settled into our one-night stand in Palo Alto for the start of a week in Northern California.

A relatively uneventful entry day was capped off in fine style with dinner at Los Altos Grill, where I met up with friends I’d previously known only through the auspices of the blogosphere – Cory “Saignée” Cartwright and his lovely wife Emily Straley. We chose Los Altos not because, as Cory told me, it’s the wealthiest per capita town in America but rather because Los Altos Grill has a fee-free corkage policy, an apparent rarity in the greater SF Bay area.

Cory and Emily brought along a couple of bottles they thought I might not have tried before. Cà de Noci’s 2006 “Querciole” reminded me of spontaneously fermented beer crossed with a little cider-y, Chenin-y character. I know little about it other than that it’s a frizzante (pet-nat?) wine made from what are essentially table grapes native to Reggio-Emilia, so feel free to fill me in on the details. Dard & Ribo’s 2007 Crozes-Hermitage Rouge was fresh, light and simple – totally uncomplicated. Not so much a vin de terroir as a vin de soif, if you ask me, but it was pretty damn tasty. Meanwhile, I’d hauled along a bottle of Philippe Poniatowski’s 1989 Vouvray “Aigle Blanc Vin de Tris.” I knew Cory had tried some of the Prince’s Vouvrays but was pretty sure he hadn’t had any ‘89s, a vintage which I think rarely made it past the East Coast and which I prefer to 1990 at this estate. Though it’s a moelleux style, it’s going through a pretty dry stage right now and showing the best of the characteristically lime-cave minerality of PP’s Vouvrays.

That’s it for now, as we're off to Big Sur. Thanks for the great evening, E&C.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Heading West

I'm off for a much needed break. A few days in Monterey, a few in San Francisco. A little relaxation, catching up with friends, and plenty of good missions.

I can't promise there won't be any remote blogging... nor can I promise there will. See you in a week or so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Scenes from Saturday's BBQ Cook-Off

It was a blast judging the professional BBQ'd brisket division at Saturday's A Full Plate’s Third Annual Rib Cook-Off. The full results have already been posted by event coordinator e at Foodaphilia and a thorough accounting of the days events is already up at Mac & Cheese. So, I'll keep things brief 'round these parts today with some old-fashioned boldface blogging.

The rain stayed away, gray skies kept the sunburn at bay and a pretty good crowd came out to play in the enclave behind the Piazza at Schmidts.

I'm not sure that judge Marc "Burgatory" Sanders knew quite what to make of some of the entries in the "Anything Goes" category.

Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars and Taylor "Mac & Cheese" High were among the many volunteer judges for the vegetarian category.'s Collin Flatt (foreground) and Mr. Foobooz himself, Arthur Etchells (in cap), were pure pros when it came to the serious, sticky work of judging the entries in the professional rib competition.

The crew from Stoudt's Brewing Company may have arrived in style but they had their work cut out for them trying to keep their Scarlet Lady ESB and American Pale Ale flowing for the thirsty crowds.

The Root cocktail included with the price of admission -- I opted for Root and ginger ale on the rocks -- wasn't quite enough to convince me of the merits of Philadelphia's newest specialty herbal liqueur. I'll reserve more complete judgment until I have the chance to try it straight as well as in a more artful concoction. The gals from Art in the Age seemed to be having a good time pouring it, though.

You might think that volunteering to judge a BBQ competition is just a free ticket to pigging out. Fact is, I spent most of the day waiting in the wings in a good-faith effort to keep the tasting blind. By the time I finished judging the brisket competition, which was the last round of the day, the Mermaid BBQ team were the only competitors still serving.

Three or four of the nine entries in the professional brisket category were pretty damn solid. The sample from Q BBQ & Tequila, though, stood head and shoulders above the rest, earning them first place on the day.

Sonata took this year's crown as overall crowd favorite.

After a long afternoon of pork and beef, sauce and salt, a couple of brews were in order. The Pils Picnic around the corner at Johnny Brenda's was just the ticket. A glass of Sly Fox Keller Pils, another of Victory Herzbrucker Pils, and all was good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Two Burgs Too Soon: Thoughts on Fat, Acidity, Heat, Wood and... Ladybugs?

In the wake of Wednesday’s questions about the aging capacity of Savennières from a warm, ripe vintage, today’s post brings two similar questions – one very closely related, one not so much. Both questions happen to be broached in the context of Burgundy. And both wines were tasted in the same context as the Savennières, with food and friends on Labor Day.

The first wine on the block was a Chablis from the 2006 vintage, a year that (very much like 1997 in Savennières) gave richer, riper wines than is the norm. The question in this case is not how the wine has fared but rather how it may develop over the course of time. Here’s what Rosemary George has to say about the vintage:
2006 is a good vintage in Chablis; July was very hot; August cooler and September warm and sunny. The grapes were ripe and healthy, for Nathalie Fèvre, the healthiest grapes since her very first vintage in 1988. Yields were slightly lower than average. If there is a criticism, acidity levels are lower than in 2004 and 2005. However, Dominique Gruhier from the Domaine de l'Abbaye du Petit Quincy in Epineuil, referred to 'invisible acidity' it is there, but nicely camouflaged by weight and fruit in the wine.

Chablis Grand Cru "Les Clos," Domaine Louis Michel et Fils 2006
Closeout; price unknown. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL.
Very creamy, both on the nose and in the mouth. Kumquats, orange oil and persimmons lead off on the front palate, with ripe apricots following down the mid-stretch and full-on pear nectar rounding out the finish. This is big, opulent Chablis, bearing no overt wood influence but carrying substantial fat on its frame along with an immodest spark of heat on the finish.

There’s minerality here but you really have to dig to find it, much like you do the acidity; in this context, the above reference to “invisible acidity” makes perfect sense. I suspect that the acidity and mineral components will both unfurl and become more integral as the wine ages and sheds some of its fat. My greater concern with how this might develop is the heat, as I think out of balance alcohol is far less likely to resolve over time. Pleasant drinking now, but far from classic for Grand Cru Chablis.

Vosne-Romanée, Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg 2004
~$50. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wine Cellars Ltd., Briarcliff Manor, NY.
There’s a lean, spicy wood inflection right up front, with an aromatic profile redolent of fish oil and campfire smoke. Very dry, high-toned wood aromatics remind me of a cedar closet or, more specific to a very clear memory scent, a fresh set of cedar shoe trees. Underneath it all is a rather elegant core of classic Vosne character – firm red berry fruit, spice and fine tannic structure. We’re a good five years too early on this one but I can’t help but wonder if the wine will ever find its way out from under its oily, cedar-y topcoat.

As my tasting notes suggest, I was initially convinced that Mugneret-Gibourg’s 2004 Vosne-Romanée was suffering from a simple case of over enthusiastic oak treatment. The more I thought about it, though, the more I started to question my first impressions. I tend to associate cedar flavors and aromas with American oak – think Ridge Zinfandels or old Rioja – rather than French barrels. And what was the deal with the aromas of rendered fish oil? That’s not a reduction issue that I’m aware of, and it’s sure not Vosne terroir.

Then it hit me. Could it be the blight of the ladybugs?

I first read at Burgundy Report of the theory that a preponderance of ladybugs in the vineyards and, more importantly, in the winery, may have contributed to what Bill Nanson calls the “2004 vintage character.” It seems that there was a much larger than normal influx of ladybugs, or coccinelle, on the Côte d’Or during the 2004 harvest. As beneficial as these pretty little insects can be in the vineyard, it apparently takes no more than a few on the sorting table or in the fermentation vat to potentially imbue the eventual finished wine in question with methoxy pyrazines, natural chemical compounds that carry strong aromatic signatures even in trace quantities.

Now, I haven't sat down recently with a representative flight of 2004 red Burgundies to put this to the test, nor do I drink red Burg five nights a week as it seems does Mr. Nanson. But I don’t think I’m grasping at straws. Two key aroma factors – rancid oil and cedar – mentioned in Bill's article were clearly present in this Vosne-Romanée. In either case – ladybugs or oak – I'm not sure I see the domineering aromas integrating or fading with time.

In summary, both of these Burgundies display immediately redeeming qualities and show promise deep in their respective hearts, but I'm not sure either will be able to overcome its specific difficulties. Time will tell. Time, that is, plus a few more bottles, which I don't have. Anyone out there looking to make a contribution in the name of research?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Full Plate's 3rd Annual Rib Cook Off

Still looking for something to do this Saturday in Philly? Well, plan your hunger attack now. A measly $20 will buy you all the ribs, brisket, vegetarian BBQ and sides you can eat at A Full Plate’s Third Annual Rib Cook-Off.

Festivities begin at 1:00 PM on Saturday, September 12, 2009, directly behind the Piazza at Schmidt’s in Northern Liberties.

Did I mention that the $20 entrance fee also covers libations from two of the main event sponsors: beer from Stoudt’s Brewing Company and cocktails based on Root, the herbal spirit from Philly’s Art in the Age?

I’ll be one of the judges for the professional division and am looking forward to diving in hands first. So come on out, join me and get some BBQ on.

A Full Plate's 3rd Annual Rib Cook-Off
2nd and N. Hancock Streets
(directly behind The Piazza @ Schmidt's)
Gates open at 1:00 PM
Saturday, September 12th

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Savennières for Labor Day

I was scrounging around in my cellar on Monday, looking for a bottle or two to take to a relaxed Labor Day get-together, when I was reminded of something I’d read recently at Rockss and Fruit. Is it a bad sign when something you’ve seen in a comment thread on someone else’s blog sticks in your head? Whatever your answer, here’s what Lyle had to say in response to a visitor’s quick note on a disappointing bottle of Savennières from Domaine des Baumard: “Baumard is not the ager in Savvy, Vaults [Domaine du Closel] is. '97 is also too ripe for long aging.”

So, out came the ’97 Baumard. Perfect wine for a Labor Day barbecue, no? Actually, I knew I had a bottle of the exact wine in question – Baumard’s “Trie Spéciale” – buried in there somewhere but I landed upon a bottle of “Clos du Papillon” first and figured that would do just fine.

Fact is, I agree with Lyle’s general summation of 1997 in Savennières. It was a hot vintage that gave broad, rich wines with less apparent acidity and nervousness than in a “classic” vintage. I wasn’t sure though – curious, but not sure – as to whether that would necessarily preclude the wines from aging well. As to his experiences regarding the age worthiness of Baumard’s wines, well, they don’t really sync with my own experiences so I was looking forward to putting the questions Lyle had raised to the test. I’m not talking about 20 or 30 year-old wines here; I just don’t have enough experience with Savennières of that age. However, I’ve had plenty of wines from Domaine des Baumard in the 10-15 year-old range that, though oxidative, have been quite wonderful. In any event, this ain’t meant to be a sucker punch; I’m just citing thought provocation where it’s due. Many thanks for the inspiration, Sir Fass.

Savennières “Clos du Papillon,” Domaine des Baumard 1997
~$25 on release. 13.8% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Ex-Cellars, Solvang, CA.
Okay, let’s check it out. Light amber in the glass, things led off with a classically oxidative nose of Sherry and apples, dead-on to my experiences with old-ish bottles of Baumard Savennières which show developed aromas early yet continue to thrive. Scents of chamomile, quince and teak wood followed. Acidity was beautifully balanced too, adding high notes to the wine’s round, vibrant mouthfeel. Sweet, haunting, Madeira-like finish. Very, very long.

Unless I had you worried earlier, I think it’s fair to say this wasn’t matched up with classic Labor Day cookout fare but rather with pan-seared scallops, served with cucumber “noodles” dressed with a sauce of tomato concassé and finished with dashes of both tomato and Sherry vinegar. The dish brought out the underlying freshness in the wine – a really wonderful pairing. The Madeira-like notes I mentioned were unmistakable – Boal, all the way – piercing, haunting and bury-your-nose-in-the-glass beautiful, oxidative but not at all oxidized in the negative sense. Strong notes of crystallized ginger and marzipan built as the wine opened. Really friggin’ delicious and, though perhaps “old” to some palates, still very much alive and kicking.

Do I think the wine has a long future ahead of it? Probably not, but if I had more bottles I’d surely sock at least one away for the sake of potentially proving myself wrong. Regardless, at twelve years of age, it’s still got plenty to say.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jean-François Mérieau's "L'Arpent des Vaudons"

I’ve been reading more and more compelling things about the producers and wines in importer Jon-David Headrick’s portfolio over the last couple of years but, until recently, I’d never seen any of them available in my local area. That recent change comes, surprisingly enough, via the good old Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. It’s hardly a surprise of earth shaking proportions, though, as it’s not as if the PLCB has suddenly brought Headrick’s entire book into the state. No, it’s much more likely, based on the rather random selection popping up here and there, that Headrick or, more likely, his local distributor has discovered and acted upon PA’s willingness to act as a clearinghouse for closeouts and back vintages. It’s always buyer beware in such circumstances but, with a little care in selecting, it is possible to come away with a winner from time to time.

Touraine Sauvignon Blanc “L’Arpent des Vaudons,” Jean-François Mérieau (Vignobles des Bois Vaudons) 2007
$15. 12% alcohol. Nomacorc. Importer: Jon-David Headrick Selections, Carrboro, NC.

Vignobles des Bois Vaudons consists of approximately 35 hectares of vineyards in the Touraine, including a small parcel in Vouvray but primarily based around a home base in St. Julien de Chédon, located just outside of Montrichard and about 35 kilometers south of Blois. Representing the third generation of family wine making at the estate, Jean-François Mérieau took the reins in 2000 after returning from a wine making stint in South Africa, bringing with him a more terroir-driven, natural approach to managing the estate. Working the land according to the principles of lutte raisonée since that time, he’s now in the process of converting to organic farming and is slowly but surely moving to hand culture in the vineyards, a process that’s now about 75% complete.

“L’Arpent des Vaudons” is produced from one of the property’s two primary vineyards, “Les Vaudons,” which includes a nine-hectare parcel of Sauvignon Blanc vines growing in argilo-calcaire soils and ranging from 10-60 years of age. The wine undergoes fermentation on its native yeasts, followed by six-to-nine months of sur-lie aging in steel, with occasional stirring of the lees.

The wine leads off with a slightly waxy, unctuous mouthfeel and surprisingly un-citrusy, un-grassy aromatics. In fact, the fruit initially comes off as more toward the tropical end of the spectrum. It’s backed up by energetic acidity and a stony finish, both of which help to lift and carry the wine’s flesh. Headrick’s technical notes compare this to Sancerre but it reminds me much more of many whites I’ve had from Cheverny, rounder and less racy than the classic Sancerrois profile. As long as we’re drawing comparisons, there’s a faintly bitter, vegetal edge on the finish that reminds me more of the darkly herbal character of Rhein Sylvaner than of the grassy, floral character more typical to Loire Sauvignon.

Jean-François Mérieau (photo courtesy of Jim Budd). At his excellent blog, Jim's Loire, Mr. Budd has just posted a 2009 Loire harvest progress report that includes an update from Jean-François.

Mérieau has found good balance here, as the wine is abundantly ripe yet, again, uplifted by bright, full acids. Given the wine’s heft, it’s a bit of a surprise to find the alcohol content listed at a mere twelve percent, particularly as there are no more than a few grams of residual sugar in evidence; there’s no stamp of heat, though, so I have no reason to believe the alcohol level is fudged by any more than a half-degree.

Spending more time with the wine in the glass, I really am struck by its rich mouth feel; it possesses the marrowy qualities of a vin de garde Muscadet but with the greater fruit intensity of Sauvignon and the creaminess of a Mâcon Chardonnay. Actually, I’d like there to be a bit more fruit intensity, as style seems to have somewhat trumped the wine’s varietal character. With food, however, the fruit does come more to the fore. In fact, there’s the citrus element I’d missed at first pass – a now unmistakable blast of ripe, slightly bitter pink grapefruit.

What I’m trying to say with all this hemming and hawing is that Jean-François Mérieau’s “L’Arpent des Vaudons” is a fine example of middle-Loire Sauvignon, one that bears the clear marks of ambitious winemaking but that stops well short of being overwrought. And it’s enough, particularly given its price-appropriateness, to ready me for further exploration of both Mérieau’s wines and Headrick’s portfolio.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sam's Morning Glory Diner

For almost as long as I’ve lived in the Philadelphia area, Morning Glory Diner has served me well – a reliable, favorite go-to for weekend brunch or a random weekday breakfast. It’s been years since Morning Glory – Sam’s Morning Glory Diner is its full name but no one ever seems to call it that – carried any real buzz around town. But even though the hype has quieted, the Saturday/Sunday crowds don’t seem to have diminished in the least. What keeps it going strong after more than a decade in business?

It would be easy enough to say it’s not the wait for a table, which easily runs into the hour-plus range on weekends. But on a nice day, when patience is more likely in supply, the wait can actually be a pleasant way to catch up with friends and make breakfast seem like an event. One might say it’s not the service, which can be surly at times – thought that’s never really bothered me. It’s definitely not the grits (taste like instant to me) or the coffee, served in tin cups that I really can’t stand. But, aside from those grits, it might just be the food, most of which is consistently good and far outperforms any expectations one might form around the “diner” designation. All in all, though, I think it’s the experience. The food, the location, the hipster/crunchy vibe, fair prices and, yes, the long wait all add up to an overall experience that exceeds the sum of its parts.

A long wait on a sunny day provides plenty of time to deconstruct the city’s single-speed stylings.

They may fit well with the table-top décor but I can’t imagine I’m the only one that doesn’t like drinking hot coffee out of stainless steel mugs.

Serving vessel and grit quibbles aside, the quality of the food is more than high enough to warrant the long waits. The individual, made-to-order frittatas will add to the wait time once you’ve ordered but are worth the wait, time permitting – tasty and more than ample enough to warrant a doggy bag. Southern cooking purists might find fault with the sheet-pan cooked, crumb topped “biscuits” but they’re a delicious base for seasonal house made preserves, both of which, along with homemade ketchup, are Morning Glory signatures.

Counter seating, an open kitchen and bemused, t-shirt-and-ink-clad wait staff are all integral parts of the MGD experience.

I never seem to have room for dessert after brunch. But if the pies as good as the preserves, pancakes and French toast suggest they should be, I’ll have to pay a mid-afternoon snack visit one of these days, Agent Cooper style.

Sam's Morning Glory Diner
735 S. 10th Street
(10th & Fitzwater)
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Morning Glory Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 4, 2009


This one goes out to an old friend.... John Coltrane, performing "Naima" with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. Recorded while I was in the womb, it remains -- and always will be -- beautifully visceral music.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sattler Saint Laurent

When last I tried Weinbau Sattler’s 2006 Saint Laurent, nearly a year ago, it was the standout red of the entire Boutique Wine Collection fall portfolio tasting. Given the promise it showed then, time for a revisit seemed past nigh, so there was more than adequate motivation to dispatch with a bottle. Not to worry, it’s still doing just fine.

Burgenland Saint Laurent, Weinbau Sattler 2006
$20. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Terry Theise Selection, Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY.

A blast of reductive funk quickly blew off after opening to reveal crunchy blueberry compote and boysenberry fruit with a peppery twist of spice. Very much in line with my notes from last year. There’s a dash of volatile acidity too, though far from enough to render the wine unpleasant. Indeed, this isn’t clinically perfect vino. But there’s more than enough charm here to render a few blemishes forgivable.

Deep, vibrant red with very soft tannins, this is wine driven primarily by the freshness of its fruit allied with and carried by bright, snappy acids. Think of the difference between eating a store bought pie, made with syrupy, cloying, canned filling, and a pie made by your grandmother or a good, old school bakery, from fresh fruit. Or think of eating ripe wild berries versus the tamed down versions propagated by commercial fruit growers. There’s plenty of sweetness but also a distinctly tangy character. That structure makes this an eminently food friendly wine, one which I enjoyed well enough with a plate of grilled chicken, onions and zucchini but even more with an after dinner hunk of washed rind cow’s milk cheese. I could keep running with the pie analogy but I think I’ll let your imagination finish the picture….
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