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Basque Country Trip ( with Rioja too )

I just bought a 1926 Rioja from PJ Wines. Story was that the importer/distributor obtained them from a restaurant in Spain that decided to unload its library wines...I wonder.

Jun 02, 2015
turbowine in Spain/Portugal

Basque Country Trip ( with Rioja too )

At this restaurant, for the red we went with a suggestion from the sommelier, a Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva. If you are not that familiar with Spanish wines, I think that you are probably ok trying the Gran Riservas from any of the known wineries, if you want to play it safe, or the lessor known wineries if you want to be more adventurous. I'm a big fan of Lopez de Heredia, but they are very traditional old school in style, and may be too austere for someone with a more modern palette.

Personally, I'm familiar with the big houses, but don't know about smaller, more obscure ones. So I'm the wrong person to ask about hidden gems.

One thing I noticed, at both Akelarre and Venta Moncalvillo, is that neither of them had wines more than 20 years old on their lists. (In case you don't know, 20 years can be considered young in Spanish wine terms, for example, the latest release of Heredia's Gran Riserva is 1994.) I was surprised because I'm used to restaurants of this caliber having a wine list as large as the New York City phone book. Perhaps there was a separate library list that you need to know to ask for.

Jun 02, 2015
turbowine in Spain/Portugal

Basque Country Trip ( with Rioja too )

This is a continuation of our trip that started in the Dordogne and wound through French Basque country and then crossed the border into Spain.

You can find the French components here:

Again, don't have a lot of notes, but thought I'd post the restaurants we enjoyed, in case it helps somebody, someday. I must admit that I found it interesting that the Spanish Basque country didn't look as distinctive as on the French side. Yet, the Basque language was dominant on the signs, while in France, French dominated. And while my guidebooks say Rioja is in Basque country, you wouldn't know by looking, which is why I listed it explicitly in the title of this post. Perhaps because it is on the southern extreme. Anyway, to the food!

Casa Ursola
San Sebastian
Wonderful lunch, lots of locals, which (usually) is a good sign. We were upstairs in the restaurant, not in the bar. I'm told it's great for tapas too, but we never did try them.

San Sebastian
Dinner. This is a Michelin three star, so excellence was expected. A bit out of downtown (about 15 min by cab). Nice ocean views before sunset. Very popular. When we were waiting for the cab at our hotel, we were standing next to another group of Americans, also waiting for a cab. Two cabs showed up. We all got in them, and departed. About 5 minutes into the trip we noticed the other cab had not turned off, was still going our way. 10 minutes later, both cabs pulled into the driveway of the restaurant and we all shared a good laugh. Funny coincidence. And, they crammed 4 people into a small car while we had an extra seat. If only we'd known. Anyway, the food and wine were great. Though, truth be told, this style may be a bit too edgy for me, pushing things a bit too far to the extreme. Also, a bargain, price wise, compared to 3 stars in France.

El Gordo
Lunch. This was a working person's place. We were certainly the only tourists, and probably the only people not going back to work after lunch. But it was crowded. Limited three course menu. Our mains were roast chicken. Simple but delicious. This was truly local.
A nice change from touristy places.

Restaurante Iruna
Dinner. Not a tapas place, despite being on the main drag for tapas bars. A good change for when you don't feel like tapas.

Venta Moncalvillo
Daroca de Rioja
Dinner. This is a Michelin 1 star. Again, excellence was expected. About a 20 minute cab ride from Logrono, in a small country town. We really enjoyed it. Didn't have the polished service of the other starred restaurants of the trip, but the food and wine was fantastic!

Hospederia de Los Parajes
Lunch. This is a terrific little town for strolling around. We found this restaurant on the main street, but after walking by several other restaurants that were closer to the main gate, main entrance into the old town. It was "less touristy" in feel that those were. Felt more authentic. If you know this town, you know it is small, so I'm talking 60 seconds of extra walking to get deeper into the heart of the village. Not very far, and worth it.

Dinner. Wandering the pedestrian zones on a Monday night, when almost all of the Michelin starred restaurants are closed, and the ones that are not are all booked up. (Make your plans in advance!) We were on a wait list, but it never came to be. So just looking around for something interesting. Bumped into this, the menu look good and different too. Once we got inside, sat down, ordered drinks etc, we realized everybody was speaking Italian. I guess that is why the menu looked different! Only complaint is that the employees would smoke right in front of the door and the smoke would blow into the dining area.

There was one lunch in Sos del Rey Católico, where I didn't get the name of the restaurant, because we were not impressed. (Of course, I now realize I should have anyway.) It was the first restaurant we saw after parking the car. It was not in the old town, we hadn't walked into the pedestrian part of town yet. (Mistake!) But, it was packed with locals eating lunch. Incredibly busy, seemed like a good sign. But as I say, we were disappointed. We both ordered duck, and it came out over cooked, dry and tough. Very disappointing. Our only bad meal in Spain. Lesson is to always walk around, check out the options. Don't let your hunger dictate a hasty decision, and I just prefer to gamble on more out of the way places -- they have to be good to get people in.

We also ate tapas in San Sebastian and in Logrono. Didn't note which bars, though I did decide there is no reason to follow advice either. Tried to hit the places the guidebooks recommended. Ultimately realized that there is no need to follow a book around. Just look at menus, see what people are eating, and try it. It's a lot of fun. Order a glass of wine and a single tapas at each place and then move on to the next one. Repeat at 5, 8, 10 bars (depending on your stamina). It's a good evening.

May 31, 2015
turbowine in Spain/Portugal

Which two of Martin Berasategui, Mugaritz, Arzak, and Akelarre?

I really appreciate your advice! I too, am already thinking about my next trip!

May 31, 2015
turbowine in Spain/Portugal

Dordogne & Basque Country trip

Just got back from a trip to the Dordogne and French Basque country. Don't have a lot of notes but thought I'd pass along the names of restaurants we enjoyed.

Hostellerie du Passeur
Les Eyzies
Dinner, was our first meal of the trip, and it was worth it. My wife had duck three ways, and I had walnut stuffed duck breasts

O' Chemin de Lune
Dinner. Small town, small restaurant, friendly people, creative food

Le Roi Carotte
Dinner. Nice, out of the way spot. Good food and friendly service

L'Hostellerie de Béquignolles
Dinner. Again, an out of the way spot. Fantastic hosts, very fun and friendly. Food was terrific. Nice ambiance. Highly recommended.

Lucter Restaurant
Only open a week when we stopped in for lunch. Very creative and tasty. Only a block from the cathedral

Hotel Ithurria
Dinner. A Michelin one-star. Nice staff, very charming. Only complaint is the main road through town is busy and noisy.

Le Chistera
Good Basque food for lunch. Very helpful staff when we walked in after being "pigeon bombed" Nice location, lots of chocolate stores nearby.

Hotel Euzkadi
Very nice traditional Basque dinner. Cute town, the home of the local chili's

La Table Gourmande de Ghislaine Potentier
La Bastide-Clairence
Lunch. A fun find in a small town in the countryside. Very charming decor. Good traditional food.

Hotel Argi Eder
Dinner. Another big hotel with a big restaurant. Very nice people, loved the decor and architecture of the restaurant, lounge and bar. Inspired basque style food.

Chez Txotx Sidreia
Lunch again. This time outside with river views. Another good traditional restaurant. Duck with cherry sauce (with cherries from Itxassou).

We also stopped by the other big restaurant in Ainhoa, Restaurant Ur Hegian, but we decided against it. Didn't seem to be the on the same level as the others, based on reading the menu and just looking in the door at the ambiance.

I must say, I've never eaten so much duck as I have on this trip. And Foie Gras, it was everywhere. And I loved every bit of it! We drank a lot of local white wine, which we enjoyed, but found the local red wines were not at the same level. Bordeaux is so close, we found it best to just get reds that were from there. Drank a lot of Armagnac too. Good stuff!

This trip continues in Spain, you can find that report here:

May 31, 2015
turbowine in France

Which two of Martin Berasategui, Mugaritz, Arzak, and Akelarre?

We decided to order our own wines.
First of all, they did have the 2007 Selección de Añada, Pazo de Señoráns, Rías Baixas -- for 54 euros. Really enjoyed it. Nice wine.

For a red, we went with the 1994 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia. Enjoyable, but not as rich as other vintages I've had.

The restaurant was fun and the food was definitely inventive and tasty, but some seemed over the top, as if trying too hard to be unique. I do wish we had the time to do Arzak as well, it would have been interesting to compare. The comments here made it seem like Arzak was more traditional, not as edgy, not pushing boundaries as much. In hindsight, I wonder if I would have liked that more. I can still count the number of 3 stars I've been too on one hand, so maybe I'm not experienced enough to truly appreciate the more daring chefs.

Later in the trip, we went to Venta Moncalvillo, a one star outside of Logrono, in the small town of Daroca de Rioja
( ) You will be interested to know that they had the 2005 Selección de Añada, Pazo de Señoráns, Rías Baixas -- for 50 euros. And it was noticeably better than the 2007. Very nice wine. I have to say the food was more my style.

May 31, 2015
turbowine in Spain/Portugal

Which two of Martin Berasategui, Mugaritz, Arzak, and Akelarre?

Having dinner at Akelarre tonight. First time. Is there a wine pairing? If so, is it worthwhile? Recent wine pairings in the States have been disappointing. Paying $100+ for a few 1 oz pours from $20 bottles of wine. Restaurants viewing pairings as profit centers and not as a reasonable part of the meal experience. Just curious what people are experiencing here in Europe.

May 14, 2015
turbowine in Spain/Portugal

Central(ish) California Trip

I did enjoy the Buffalo meatloaf, and my wife had the carnitas tacos, which were also good -- but nothing so special as to deserve all the hype I've heard.

If there is a better place in Lee Vining, would love to know for future use.

Oct 21, 2013
turbowine in California

Central(ish) California Trip

My wife even said "Maybe I'm turning into your parents" (Who are notorious cheapskates -- we once had a very bad "free" breakfast with them in a hotel because free is better than anything you have to pay for, no matter how bad it is)

But, as I said, this actually wasn't bad.......

Oct 21, 2013
turbowine in California

Central(ish) California Trip

It wasn't bad, actually - we were at the Ascot Suites -- for a freebie they did a decent job. I was just hoping for some nice local ambiance, see a little bit more of Morro Bay and its residents; rather than a cramped lobby full of travelers in a hurry to get on with their day. But with her in a bad mood to begin with and then being disappointed with her meal, it was just not my best moment.

Oct 21, 2013
turbowine in California

Central(ish) California Trip

Just got back from a road trip through California (from our home in San Diego).

First night & morning: Morro Bay

Dinner at Shawn's on Main (912 Main Street, 805-772-1059)
Upscale casual fair, very well prepared. Shawn & Nicole are terrific proprietors.

Breakfast at Kitty's Kitchen. My wife wanted the free breakfast at the hotel. I wanted to get out and see the local scene. I won the argument and we ended up here. I ordered eggs and Linguicia sausage. It was fine, tasty actually. My wife ordered eggs & bacon. Bacon seemed like it was rewarmed leftovers from the day before. She was not impressed, and I was in the dog house..........when we got back to the hotel she marched straight to the free breakfast.
(890 Main St, 805-772-3677)

Second night: Oakhurst

Erna's Elderberry House
Michelin Star quality fine dinning at the foot of Yosemite, need I say more?

Third Night: Grass Valley
Owl Grill & Saloon: Maybe the best place in town -- anyway, we had a good meal, though nothing was spectacular

Fourth & Fifth Nights: Placerville
Cafe Mahjaic. Not in Placerville proper, out in the woods, so to speak, the closest place to our B&B, actually the closest place within a 30 min drive. So we ate there twice, partly because it was so good and partly due to convenience. But it really is good, possibly the best dining in the Placerville area.

Sixth night & morning: South Lake Tahoe

Evan's American Grill: Very nice atmosphere and food, emphasis on sweet sauces however, just be warned if that matters to you.

Breakfast at the Original Red Hut Cafe -- great diner for breakfast!

Seventh day:
Lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining. This was good, but didn't live up to the hype. I think it is more about location than the menu.

Dinner at Holy Smoke BBQ in BIshop
Nice, authentic smoked Texas BBQ. Great casual way to finish the trip

Eighth Day:
Lunch at In-n-Out in Victorville -- just what you expect it to be.

Overall a great trip filled with lots of good food.

Oct 21, 2013
turbowine in California

Three nights in Bologna

Trattoria La Corte Galluzzi: 94 euros for two, including a 28 euro bottle of wine and two glasses of grappa after dinner

Ristorante Teresina: 85 euros for two, including a 27 euro bottle of wine

Trattoria Battibecco: 143 euro for two, including a 40 euro bottle of wine and two glasses of grappa after dinner

May 29, 2013
turbowine in Italy

Three nights in Bologna

My wife and I just spent three nights in Bologna.

First night, very nice place to dine
Trattoria Battibecco
Via Battibecco, 4/b, 40123, Bologna

A little wine bar, right next to the above. Nothing special, but we had time to kill before the restaurant opened.
Via Battibecco, 4c, 40123, Bologna

Traditional, nothing too fancy, but we enjoyed it. (Sunday night, not a lot open to choose from.
)Trattoria La Corte Galluzzi
Corte Galluzzi, 7/B, 40124 Bologna

Last night in town, very nice! Definitely do recommend.
Ristorante Teresina
Via Oberdan, 4, 40126, Bologna

May 29, 2013
turbowine in Italy

Turkey Trip

Just spent two weeks in Turkey on an organized guided tour. Saw plenty of ancient ruins and learned a lot of amazing history. What a place, I highly recommend it. As it was an organized tour, didn’t get to pick many restaurants, and most of where we ended up was traditional Turkish cuisine. Here are some of the restaurants the tour led us to. They seemed to do a pretty good job with the traditional food stuffs. Not saying these are gourmet extravaganzas, only that for traditional Turkish cuisine, they were good. If you are in the area and need to eat, you could do a lot worse.

Near Giant Apollo Temple, Didyma
Didim Sehir Lokantasi

Near Ephysus, a fantastic ancient city
Selcuk Koftecisi
Ataturk Mah. Sehabettin Dede Cd. No: 10, Selcuk/Izmir

Two nights in Bodrum:
Sunger Pizza
Neyzen Tevfik Caddesi No: 218, Bodrum

Tranca Restaurant
Cumhuriyet Caddesi No: 32, Bodrum

In Istanbul, near Taksim Square:
Ipekyolu Restaurant
Lamartin Cd. No: 26/1 80090 Taksim, Istanbul

We did take a boat trip to a Greek Island one day (Just off the coast of Turkey). Here we could order rabbit and kid. The kid was the better choice; the rabbit was ribs, if you can believe that. Not legs or chops, but ribs – needless to say, not a lot of meat.
Eski Kahve Bozcaada
Cumhuriyet Meydani
17680 Bozcaada/Canakkale

In Antalya (this one I did choose, with the advice of our guide, our last night was a free night).
Club Arma Restaurant
(Not traditional Turkish – more European upscale, on the water front, nice location though the laser light advertising after dark was kind of hokey
)Selcuk Mh. Iskele Cd. No: 75, Antalya

Oregon Wine Country Trip (McMinnville area)

Was just in the greater McMinnville area on a long weekend. Was a group of ten of us. Thought I would throw up a quick report that these restaurants are still pleasing people:

Dundee Bistro, Dundee
Tina's, Dundee
Bistro Maison, McMinnville
Red Hills, Dundee
Painted Lady, Newburg

We pretty much all agreed that everybody enjoyed each of these, but that Painted Lady was our favorite. Probably the best restaurant in the area.

May 29, 2013
turbowine in Pacific Northwest

Morro Bay area: good restaurants and cafes

I think that should be Margie's diner

Mar 24, 2013
turbowine in California

Vegas Trip Report

Sage has a corkage of $35
Robuchon is $100
Atelier at Robuchon is $35

To be more complete, we started at Robuchon with glasses of champagne, then a bottle of white off their list. We then opened two bottles we brought, a 58 Margaux Bordeaux and a 73 Heredia Rioja. We finished with glasses of grappa (not very good grappa, was disappointing for the price and restaurant to serve have it.) We let the sommelier taste both of our bottles. While not complaining about half off, corkage should have been waived entirely, in my opinion.

At Sage we started with glasses of white wine, then ordered a bottle of white. Opened my 85 Guigal Hermitage and let the sommelier taste it. The corkage was waived and we got free glasses of dessert wine. Much better treatment!

Jul 18, 2012
turbowine in Las Vegas

Vegas Trip Report

Hmm, we did the tasting menu as well, so maybe our tolerance for rich food is less than yours.
As to flip-flops -- wealth does not always mean class

Jul 18, 2012
turbowine in Las Vegas

Vegas Trip Report

Just got back from two nights in Vegas.

Went to Public House (Venetian), Sage (Aria) and Robuchon (MGM)

Public House was terrific. You must have the charcuterie. We had:

Duck Rillettes
Rabbit and pork loin sausage
Country pate
Strawberry gazpacho

The Poutine was wonderful: French Fries, Cheese curds, Duck Confit and gravy. Wow, that was tasty!! The curds a bit salty, but overall what a great combination. The Duck Rillettes were also outstanding, and a good size portion too. In general, it was all good. Nice beer list too. My only complaint is the cheese selection is too small. They only had two to choose between. Dessert was Strawberry gazpacho, with a white chocolate "bowl" floating in it filled with additional sliced berries. Also quite tasty.

Sage was as you would expect -- good combinations of tasty food. Was it my favorite meal ever? No, it was not. But I'd go back. As for the food, my only real comment is a warning: The Foie Gras Custard is too big a portion for something so rich. Enjoyed it but could not finish it. Only order one and split it. Big plus: We brought a nice bottle of wine and let the sommelier try it. Not only did he waive the corkage fee, but he also gave us each a glass of dessert wine as well. Ambiance was nice but spoiled by the ball-cap, shorts and flip flop crowd since they don't seem to have a dress code. However, the people watching was kind of fun; all the older men with dates young enough to be their daughters.

Robuchon (the main one, not L'Atelier) was a hit. Food was fine, the bread cart and cheese cart outstanding and fun. Ambiance and service was terrific. The staff was fun & friendly, we had a good time with them. They also waived half our corkage fee after letting them taste our wines. I don't know that the food was any better than Sage and therefore am not sure it was worth all that extra money on that basis, but the overall experience was definitely a couple of steps up!

Jul 17, 2012
turbowine in Las Vegas

Salt Lake City Report

In Salt Lake City recently

If you haven't been to this site recently, it is worth a look:

We went to Forage, Log Haven, Pago, Eva and Les Madeleines, Red Iguana and Leatherby's

Forage was terrific; fantastic creativity and flavor combinations. Great upscale restaurant without being too spendy. Only complaint is that the portions are smaller than I'd really like. Left me hungry, but then we headed out to Leatherby's for ice cream and that solved that problem!! They also waived our corkage fees because we brought in some nice bottles and let the staff try a little sip. That is always a plus in my favor.

Leatherby's is a dive diner, but has homemade ice cream and sauces with gigantic portions, reasonably priced. Ice cream lovers need to give it a try, but again, expect the dive diner ambiance!

Really enjoyed Pago; nice place and while not on the same level as Forage (or the same price), you can tell they put the food together with care. We sat at the bar, which was great because you can watch the kitchen staff cook and assemble the plates all night. It was terrific fun. The wine guy has eclectic taste, which I also like. Nice to have some creativity in the wine list. Would definitely go back.

Went to Eva but late at night. Weren't serving dinner anymore, only the bar menu. Still, was good food. Would be interested in trying dinner sometime, based on what we had. Bad thing: sitting outside on a hot summer night is a mistake. Surrounded by brick walls, radiating the heat of the day back at you with no airflow was not good. Also, the neighborhood is a bit seedy after dark.

Log Haven sounds better than it is. Even the view was described as better than it actually was. There is better for that price range. Not bad, just a little something missing from the food. My bison was tough, my friends salmon was dry, the chili soup too spicy, etc. They did only charge us corkage on half our bottles however. Again, a plus.

Red Iguana is decent Mexican food, but only if you order the mole or something else you can't get everywhere. If you order carne asada, it is nothing special, so think outside the box. Great thing about this place is that it is near Leatherby's.

Les Madeleines is a good French bakery. They failed my usual yardstick (croissants) but hey, who passes outside of France? Almost no one. Anyway, you must have a "Kouing Aman" if you are ever in Salt Lake City. Take croissant dough. Slather it in additional butter, cover it in caramelized sugar and bake to crispy, gooey goodness. Heavenly!

We were in the city for a convention. If you are a convention planner -- the Grand America hotel had the best banquet food we've ever had, and we have been to a lot of convention banquets

Jul 17, 2012
turbowine in Mountain States

Two nights in Vegas -- July 4 and July 15

Passing through Vegas July 4 and July 15, 2012

We (my wife & I) normally eat at Picasso or Lotus of Siam, but figured it is time to branch out and try something new.

I've narrowed my list down to this from what I've read on the boards so far:

Robuchon - MGM
L'Atelier de Robuchon - MGM
E by Jose - Cosmopolitan
Sage - Aria
Le Cirque - Bellagio
B&B -- Venetian
Scarpetta -- Cosmopolitan

Question 1) Is Robuchon worth it? (Cost not a problem, but still want good value.) Or would we get a better or as good a meal cheaper somewhere else on this list?

Question 2) So which two of the above? (Or which other one, if Robochon is a must do?)


Jun 16, 2012
turbowine in Las Vegas

Croatia -- Istria - Buzet area -- Toklarija

My family and I ate at Toklarija in May, 2012.
(There were four of us.)

This is an outstanding restaurant, probably the best of our trip. (We didn't do too many fancy upscale places, stuck to local cuisine for the most part.)

Six course meal, designed around local specialties, and paired with local wines.
Very very tasty, well executed and well presented. Took about 4 hours and was well worth it.

Inexpensive for what we got, comes in at only 400-500 KN per person (varies depending on the meal and wines of the evening.) Gotta love countries that aren't on the Euro for value!

This is a husband and wife shop, just the two of them, they do everything.
The restaurant is in a 600 year old olive oil mill, that has been refurbished and remodeled. Decor is great, loved the ambiance. In warm weather they also have outdoor seating and a wonderful view.

Reservations are a must, no walk-ins. They only buy enough for those they are expecting.

Was a little hard to find (thank god for GPS, makes back road European travel much easier, even though a bit of the adventure is lost......) but is only about 15-20 minutes outside of Buzet in a little town called Sovinjsko Polje. No web site, but you can find it on Phone is: 091 926-6769

Jun 16, 2012
turbowine in Europe