The Capital Grille turns the page to their Summer Plates Menu

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Capital Grille, with locations across the country, recently revamped their lunch Plates menu. Turning the page from spring to summer, they're offering a three course lunch ensured to be completed in 45 minutes at a cost of $16.

New entrees on the menu include a Wagyu Cheeseburger with Fried Egg and Crisp Onions and Seared Sea Scallops with Sweet and Sour Tomatoes. Mini Tenderloin Sandwiches and a Lobster Roll carry over from the spring, rounding out a variety of tempting choices.

I  coincidentally stopped in for lunch with customers on the last day of their spring menu and again on the first day of their summer menu. Additionally we stopped in with the kids before a Red Sox game for dinner in the dining room. Three out of four days at one of my favorite restaurants? When it rains it pours I guess.

From the summer lunch Plates menu I went with the Carrot and Ginger Soup, the Wagyu Cheeseburger and a Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese. The soups are strength of these lunch offerings, and the Carrot Soup is no exception. I'm not a chef - though I have watched several seasons of Top Chef - so I know that a test of the kitchen is the quality of their soups. This one continues to be a strong point in the path paved by the Porcini Bisque from winter and the Asparagus Soup from spring.

But the main event, and the dish I was looking most forward to trying, was the Wagyu Cheeseburger. The admirable qualities of Wagyu beef and similarly but more specifically Kobe -- known for their marbling -- are said by some to be a waste when obfuscated in a burger. That may be true to an extent but who cares? The burger is outstanding.

When the buttery toasted brioche bunch is placed on the fried egg, the yolk cascades down the burger creating a built-in dipping sauce. And an experience best enjoyed with knife and fork.

The burger receives a simple seasoning prepared in-house: Salt, pepper, and a little sugar. I'll have to give that a try next time I'm grilling burgers. Although I may not achieve similar results as my Weber grill doesn't reach up the 1200F their equipment is capable of which delivers burgers with a seared exterior and an even red color and temperature throughout.

It all comes together incredibly well.A 94+ point burger in my book.

The watermelon salad was a bit of an odd pairing with the warm burger. I was hoping to achieve a bit of a "hot with the cold" situation but I think I'd try it with the French Green Beans next time. Or the Truffle Fries if you want to play it safe.

All-in the lunch Plates menu continues to present a tremendous value - if you can show the discipline to not order alcoholic drinks and dessert. But really - how often do we cut out of work for a nice lunch these days?

The Capital Grille distinguishes itself with its consistent quality across the menu and it's upscale, intuitive style of service. Highly recommended.

If you're visiting The Capital Grille for the first time, here are a few sure-fire, iron-clad, can't-miss favorites:
  • Wedge Salad with Bleu Cheese and Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • Pan Fried Calimari with Hot Cherry Peppers
  • Lobster Mac 'n Cheese
  • Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Carmelized Shallot Butter
  • Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake
  • Coconut Cream Pie
Further Reading:
Disclosure: Plates Lunch on a complimentary blogger/press invite.

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite menu items at The Capital Grille?

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Tasting Report: Recent Releases from Sojourn Cellars

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It was just about a year ago when I tasted the wines of Sojourn Cellars for the first time. Since then I've enjoyed their wines so much I feel almost remiss about not having written about their wines here previously.

Sojourn is a Sonoma-based producer of mostly Pinot Noir (~$39-$59) and also Cabernet Sauvignon (~$39-$95). The first time I tasted their wines was at an event in Cambridge a friend on their mailing list invited me to. Founder Craig Haserot was on hand pouring the wines as a chance for their fans in Massachusetts to try before they buy. Definitely a cool gesture. He's got a swagger about him for sure. Deep knowledge about Burgundy and a passion for Pinot - especially Sojourn Pinot!

I thought their wines -- 2009s at the time -- showed great potential. They were powerful and delicious but with some rough edges I hoped would soften with time.

As I've gone back and tasted some of those wines 6 to 12 months later they have indeed softened nicely and are showing fabulously. The style here, speaking about their Pinot Noirs, is more of a Cab-drinker's Pinot Noir. I find they hit the spot when I'm in the mood for a Pinot Noir with a little extra substance.

But that's not entirely the case as you can see in their bottlings from the Alder Springs and Rodgers Creek vineyards for example. These wines show restreaint and reveal earthy characteristics like mushrooms and wet red clay. It's a testament to winemaker Erich Bradley's ability to deliver flavorful, delicious wines regardless of the origin. Their wines may be considered by some to be ripe but I've not yet tasted one that crossed the line into the over-ripe territory marked by raisiny/pruney flavors.

Here are my notes on recent Sojourn releases:
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (6/8/2012)
    Classic Sojourn. Money. (92 points)
  • 2007 Sojourn Pinot Noir Alder Springs Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County (3/16/2012)
    This is a great example of Sojourn's diverse style. Despite making some riper Pinot Noir, here they let the a more restrained site speak for itself. Silty raspberries, wet strawberry leaves, and wet clay on the nose. Ultra-silky tannins at this stage. Long finish but no harsh aftertaste. Pretty but not wimpy. I like it. (91 points)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (2/26/2012)
    Just a fantastic offering from Sojourn here. A fine example of their typical style, but this one steps up and takes it to the next level. Raspberries, strawberries, violets and perfume on the nose which transition seamlessly to the palate. There's a bit of a edge to their '09s which has softened already since tasting them last fall. However, this edge give their wines a substantive punch that hits the spot when I'm in the mood for something between a light bodied Pinot Noir and a Napa Cab. Quite an accomplishment. Outstanding. (94 points)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (11/11/2011)
    I was in the mood for a Cab tonight but I love domestic Pinot Noir so I thought this one would hit the spot. And it did. I've only had it about a month since it shipped cross-country. But immediately upon opening it was in good shape and ready to go. I'd tasted through their 09s previously and they struck me as a little rough around the edges. But this bottle was showing remarkably well. Red fruit, florals, perfume, and wet clay on the nose. On the palate it tastes like pure high quality CA Pinot Noir. Pure fruit, a little bramble, some acid. Love it. Really nice stuff. (93 points)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (5/20/2011)
    So much good stuff going on here but a slightly herbal "off" note bit me on almost every sip. An otherwise pretty wine - would like to try other bottlings from this producer. (90 points)
Posted from CellarTracker

They've got a tasting salon in Sonoma if you happen to be planning a visit. And it's hard to think of a more consumer-friendly high quality producer. Free shipping on 6 or more bottles and 10% off 12 bottles or more.

Click here to visit the Sojourn Cellars website and sign up for their mailing list

Question of the Day: Have you tried Sojourn's wines? If so, what do you think?

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2010 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir: QPR Alert?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


When Wine Spectator dropped a 93 point rating on the 2010 Calera Central Pinot Noir it was a second validation that this bottling has become one to be reckoned with in the California Pinot Noir value spectrum.

The 2009 vintage was rated 92 points by the Wine Advocate, and combined with its modest $24 release price and relatively high production levels (around 10,000 cases) the wine seems destined to join the likes of Siduri and Loring as perennial Pinot value plays.

I was just browsing through the Wine Spectator rating database and man...I had a hard time finding a 93 point California Pinot Noir for $25 or less. I had to go back into the early '90s to a time when Pinot was in its infancy in California and producers were just getting started with the grape to find a Pinot this affordable and highly rated.

But when you're buying by the numbers you're hanging your hopes on one person's palate. In the case of Wine Spectator that's James Laube who has a reputation with some for preferring ripe wines - and he states as much in his tasting notes for the wine: "very ripe but still complex". [Spectator online subscription required]

If we consult the wisdom of the masses we currently see a Cellar Tracker community rating for the 2009 at 89.1 and the 2010 is currently averaging 90.3.

If we run these metrics through the WWP QPR Calculator (what's that?) we get a 2.5: A Very Good value.

The wine is also referred to as the 35th Anniversary Vintage - and there's some confusion and duplicate entries on Cellar Tracker for sure. But there's no special bottling to seek out. If you're buying the 2010 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir you're getting the wine that Spectator rated 93 points. Here are my thoughts on the wine:

2010 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir [35th Anniversary Vintage]
$24 Release Price
14.9% Alcohol
7,688 Cases Produced

Primary [very] ripe plum notes mug the otherwise nice Pinot characteristics lurking in the background. 14.9% alcohol (up from 14.2% in 2009) and it shows. The wine clings heavily to the glass and there's heat at the backend of every sip. An instantaneous aerator the first night and an evening of rest under stopper didn't help accelerate the aging process. Will this be better with time? I wouldn't count on it. But for $24 retail it's a decent wine I guess. I just can't see my way to 92 or 93 points.

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Where to Buy


In Massachusetts:
Elsewhere: Search on Wine-Searcher.com in your state

Question of the Day: Have you had this wine? If so, what did you think?

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