Tag Archives: reviews

Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar- Ouch

Wow- the Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar, which I talked about here, got a not so kind review this past weekend by Tom Sietsema in the Washington Post.  You can read the full review here, but I think you have to be a subscriber (free) to read the whole article.  Some highlights:

[Referring to French Onion soup] …but the bowl’s thin broth, minimal onions and cap of blond cheese distance themselves from the classic.

Even sorrier is the cassoulet, which does a great imitation of a vegetarian casserole. We dig and dig and dig for any sign of meat and come up with just a morsel of shredded pork.

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Washington Post Reviews Black Hog

And it wasn’t good.  Tom Sietsema didn’t like it very much calling the food “mixed.”  In fact he says the best thing is the service: “At Black Hog, a new barbecue joint in Frederick, the service is warm but the food is not.” I can’t confirm this as despite the name (of a heritage breed of pigs) the meat served there doesn’t meet my criteria.  In fact I’ve always been a little pissed off at the place.  If you look at their home page it seems to suggest that they serve heritage pork: “compared to other breeds, the flavors of the Black Hog’s meat is exceptional.”  You have to really parse the text to learn that they just named the restaurant after the breed to “represent the fine quality of food and service that we offer…”  One has to assume that they serve modern industrially produced meat then.  Am I being too prickly?  I don’t know.  As always feel free to comment, good, bad or indifferent.

Full review is here, but you need to register to view it.

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Flying Dog Road Dog Porter

Continuing my tour of Flying Dog Brewery beers with their Road Dog Porter. road porter Nice dark mahogany color, with a creamy brown head.  Nice malty aroma.  Has a good malty flavor as well, with a hint of coffee.  Finishes with a touch of bitterness.  This struck me as a bit lighter than some other porters I have tasted but it was right up my alley.  I would definitely say this was my favorite out of the ones I have tasted so far.  At 6 % it is half a percent higher in alcohol than the others that I have tasted.

In case you are not keeping score here are the others:

Old Scratch Amber Lager; Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale

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More Ethics

I had talked about ethics in an earlier post.  So it was interesting to see that in early October the Federal Trade Commission ruled that bloggers who made endorsements had to disclose any payments they received from subjects of their reviews.  Those that did not could face penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.   Of course the first thing that springs to mind is how difficult it would be to enforce this, especially with the millions of blogs that are out there.  However I think it’s important that this issue at least be recognized.  As noted I’ve been looking to sell out for years, but so far nobody’s been buying so as of now everything I review has been paid for by me.

  Full Washington Post article here.

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In A Wine Slump

As you know wine is a passion of mine and I really enjoy finding wines that excite me and letting you know about them.   I have been really eager to add some more wine reviews up here, but lately all of the wines I’ve tried I really can’t recommend for one reason or another.  Generally I only mention the wines I like but I don’t want you to think I’m not trying!  Here are the last three I’ve tried:

2006 Saintsbury Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch:  very austere with lots of cranberry flavors.  Can do much better in the Pinot category at this price point (approx $35).

2007 Peirano Estate The Other.  Decent if one dimensional red, could be a tolerable pizza wine, but at $14 a bottle I will pass.

Grotta del sole2008 Grotta del Sole Gragnano Penisola Sorrentina. This was interesting and we enjoyed drinking it.  A blend of the Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciasinasso grapes, it is a mildly fizzy (frizzante) red wine that is recommended to be served cold.  With its dark purple color it looks very much like sparkling concord grape juice and is what is considered a “new” wine: bottled as early as November following the fall harvest and meant to be drunk young.   With fruity flavors and a touch of sweetness this was a fun wine meant to be drunk (liberally) and not thought too much about.  More like a soft drink than a serious wine it was worthwhile from a perspective of adding something new to my mental wine database, but at $18 a bottle it out of the everyday drinking price that we felt a wine of this quality should be.   Get this around $10 per bottle and it would be a great everyday wine, especially for somone who likes more fruit and less acid.

 On a positive note I did really like  the 2006 Ojai Vineyard Grenache.  This California (Santa Barbara) wine is mostly Grenache (80%) with the rest Syrah.  It was a delicious, medium bodied wine with lots of black currant and raspberry flavors.    Very drinkable now; it struck me as a terrific Thanksgiving wine.  The only reason I hesitate to unequivocally recommend it was at $35 per bottle it’s not in the value sweet spot that I look for.

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Budget Cuts and the Fourth Estate

I don’t think anyone is envious of those poor souls labouring in the newspaper business right now.  However one of my favorite abuse pinatas:  the Frederick News Post is really plumbing the depths.  Yes in their current “In Good Taste” column [Cue announcers voice: “In Good Taste reports on an unannounced dining experience and is not meant to be a critical review” they review  ,excuse me, report on…cue drum roll… the Waffle House.   Good God those budget cuts must really be hurting.

Should you have questions about the fare at Waffle House you can see the review unannounced dining experience here.  Some highlights include “the portions were generous” and “the prices were modest.”  Coming next week:  The FNP reviews McDonald’s Value Menu.


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Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about two reviewers from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate accepting trips etc. from winemakers.  One reviewer “vacationed and enjoyed lavish social dinners in the company of wine importers whose wines he reviews.”  It raises some interesting ethical questions.  I think the potential for abuse is especially ripe in the blogosphere.  After all who knows where bloggers are coming from? I’ve mulled over what I would do.  The closest I came is that I was offered a free bottle of wine from a local winery after one of my reviews.  I didn’t accept it,but I thought about what would happen if I was offered a free meal or something like that.

So far this is all just speculation.  Fred’s been looking to sell out for years, but nobody has been buying!

Link to the article here.


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A Matter of Taste

Had an interesting experience that just highlighted the subjectivity of wine and taste.  Usually Mrs. F and I are in sync with our feelings on a wine.  Very often we write down our ratings so as to compare them to each other fairly and I would estimate about 95% of the time we are within two points of each other.  However, this past weekend we had a wine that we couldn’t even agree on what it tasted like let alone a rating.  It wasn’t a bottle we bought, so we knew nothing about it and we were drinking it with some homemade pizza (Mrs. F even made the fresh mozzarella herself!] that we had cooked on the grill.   Anyway, I though the wine was very sweet, over-extracted and full of fake fruit taste.  I think my exact comments were something like “it tastes like bad Two Buck Chuck”  Mrs. F said it was extremely dry, acidic and thin!  We both kind of looked at each other stunned.  After several more tasting we both stuck to our guns.  Just goes to show how truly subjective wine is.  Take all “recommendations” with a grain of salt.  There’s only one palate that truly counts- yours and life is far too short to drink crappy wine.

PS We both thought the wine sucked, but for different reasons (I gave it a 78, Mrs. F an 83).   The remainder of the bottle is in the fridge awaiting incorporation into the next batch of tomato sauce.

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Screw The Rules

Chardonnay with fish, pinot noir with turkey, cabernet sauvignon with steak.  We’ve all seen the lists of rules for pairing food with wine.  If you want to waste your time you can find whole books devoted to this subject.  This idea that certain wines must be drunk only with certain foods is ridiculous and is promoted by the Pharisees of the wine world.  These “rules” often create a paralysis in the wine novice who seeks the security of  the same wine time after time for fear they might -god forbid-drink the wrong wine.  (Although fair warning that I will laugh at you if you drink nothing but white zinfandel)  Well there is no wrong wine and your first clue to this fact should be that the lists of rules often do not agree with each other.  Now it is true that if you are need of guidance that there are some varietals you should first consider, but all you are really doing is playing the percentages.  Truly there is only one rule of wine consumption: drink what you like.    After all when you get down to it wine is literally and figuratively really a matter of taste.

 I have a good friend who loves Elk Run Vin Du Jus Glace.  Now this wine is a fine wine made right here in Frederick County which has won several awards, but it is a very, very sweet dessert wine. Conventional wisdom says this sort of wine should only be drunk after meals with cheeses, nuts and sweets. Now I have seen her drink it with everything from lasagna to burgers and she loves it.  Her husband has given her a case as a gift at Christmas time.  Who is to say she is wrong?  One of the joys of wine is experimentation.  Right now, according to the BATFE there are about 55,000 wines for sale in the United States.  You never know when or where you’ll find a that magical wine that sends fireworks down your palate.  Drink what you like, drink a variety and screw the rules!  Don’t let anyone tell you differently- including me.

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Quote of The Day (and brief history lesson)

Most of you may not know that one of the first food critics and publisher of a best selling guide in 1935, Called Adventures in Good Eating was Duncan Hines. (yes that Duncan Hines- he ultimately sold the rights to use his name which ended up on Proctor & Gamble cake mixes).  Anyway I came across a fantastic, in a bit non-PC, quote attributed to him:

“If the soup was as warm as the wine, if the wine was as old as the turkey, if the turkey had breasts like the maid, it would have been a fine dinner.” – Duncan Hines

I wish I could write something half as good as that some day.


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