Max’s Brunch Started Me Off On The Right Foot!

Max's Wine DiveOne of my most favorite things in the whole wide world is BRUNCH so what better way to kick off 2009 than with a tasty mid-morning meal (and mimosas…obviously) from Max’s Wine Dive? They even offered the standard black-eyed peas and sauteed petit greens as a starter for good luck and money in the new year. I want to make sure I get all the help I can get as I am determined to have a fabulous year! Black-eyed peas and greens don’t typically get me too excited but these were extra yummy.  The mimosas were just right (only a hint of OJ for color) and my omelet was fantastic! For a mere $3 per mimi you get a lot for a little which is just how I like it. I had the truffle and cheese omelet which is sadly no longer on the menu but they made it for me anyway. Fluffy eggs filled with creamy goat cheese, Gruyere, provolone and black truffle cream. I add prosciutto to mine to take it up to an even higher level of deliciousness. I wasn’t so crazy about the potatoes or grits on the side but the main event was so heavenly I hardly cared. The Texas toast had to be an inch and a half thick and it tasted homemade. Next time you’re looking for some Sunday mid-morning magic head over to Max’s Wine Dive. You’re sure to leave with a smile! (Next time I’m trying the fried egg sandwich… it looked amazing!!)

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Let’s All Raise Our Glasses

Well the election is over. Red or blue we all now need to come together in support of our new leader… to help kick off the new reign, SoVino Bistro and Wine Bar is offering a FREE glass of house wine tonight! Stop by between 5:30-7:30pm for a complimentary toast to the new Prez.

Information soon to follow on their upcoming Quantum of Solace Bond Party next week! Stay tuned…

Win or Lose… Everyone Will Need A Drink On Election Night

The Presidential election is less than one week away! What a journey this one has been, right? I know that no matter the outcome I’ll hopefully have a glass of wine in hand to celebrate (or not). Well, if you’re in Houston, all of The Tasting Room locations as well as MAX’s Wine Dive are offering up some pretty sweet deals to help you make it through the night. They are inviting YOU to come hang out and watch the election returns with them in style. If you purchase a bottle of bubbly, you get half off of a pizza or cheese plate (try the portobello/truffle pizza… my mouth is watering just typing those words). Also for election day ONLY you can get 15% off all six-packs (you can mix and match) of wine to take home! That’s a pretty great deal! Enjoy!

Serving Up Something Spooky…

Here are a few ideas for this Hallow’s Eve that are so fabulous it’s just scary! Booo!

SoVino
One of my very favorite Houston haunts is featuring a specialty cocktail for one night only and it sounds especially sinister, Satan’s Whiskers. While it’s not wine, you know they have plenty for you to choose from once you’ve had your fill of this special gin cocktail.

13 Celcius
I’ve never been to this particular wine bar but it’s on my list of places to try. This Halloween they are having an authentic Day of the Dead celebration starting at 7:30pm, featuring music by DJ Pooks. If you bring a photo for the altar you get $5 off of the $31 admission. The cover includes drinks and snacks.

SoVino: Round Two

After the little preview I got while out with Andrew for my birthday, I had to make a second trip to SoVino and see what else it had to offer. The whole experience was fantastic! Both owners (Manfred Jachmich & Elizabeth Abraham) were there mingling with patrons (which I loved) and couldn’t have been any nicer. I think it is great that they are so involved with their business. This time I went with three friends and we had dinner as well as wine.

The food menu is as creative as it is delicious. We started with the Bruschetta and then I had the Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios. For my entrée I ordered the Mussels which were really good. They had an excellent flavor and I would definitely order them again. They were served over a polenta cake with a mushroom ragout. Mmmm mmm. My friend Catherine ordered the Short Ribs served over Gruyère polenta. Wow. Next time I am there and feel like drinking red wine… watch out! Short ribs all the way! AJ and Lauren split a Pizza and the Shrimp and Grits which was very tasty but really spicy so watch out if you don’t like spicy food! If you do, you’ll love it!

Speaking of wine… let’s get to the good part! First of all, let me say how great our waiter/wine guide was. His name was Jesus and I hope that some day you are lucky enough to have him as your server. We had such a wonderful time talking about the wines we were trying and you could tell he was genuinely interested and excited about the wines that they offer. He had a great knowledge of all of them and even wrote down a few more suggestions for me to try on my own. Since a bottle doesn’t go too terribly far with four people, we were fortunate enough to get to try several of the white wines on their list. We actually started with some sparkles (Catherine called ahead and they had it waiting on ice for us at our table) for a belated birthday toast for me and then also for a congratulatory toast for Lauren and AJ who just got engaged. We had plenty of reasons to celebrate!

We definitely got the night started off right with the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé which is a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. This rosy French treat was crisp with light flavors of strawberries and cream. It was fruit forward but not too sweet. Overall, it was very enjoyable. After we were done toasting, we moved on to still white wine. We began with the 2006 Alexana Pinot Gris by Revana Family Vineyards. This is a fairly new winery and this was their first Pinot Gris and it was lovely. It had flavors of citrus and honey with just the slightest hint of creaminess. I think it was lacking a little in structure but it was still good. They have a vineyard in Napa where they produce Cabernet Sauvignon but this was a project out of Willamette Valley, Oregon which is known for great Pinots. Interestingly enough, the owner of the winery, Dr. Revana, is a local cardiologist here in Houston. Next we tried the 2007 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. I really enjoyed this wine because it was drier and sharper which I prefer. It definitely had some grassy flavors going on and Lauren made the comment that it smelled like Christmas trees while Catherine said it tasted like cactus. I plan on trying this one again at home. Jesus was kind enough to bring out a few little tastes for me so I could sample a few other wines. One I honestly can’t say that I was crazy about but I am really glad that I tried it because it was by far one of the most different wines I have ever tasted. It was a 2007 Colomé Torrantes from Salta, Argentina. It had a soapy, bitter taste (think arugula) and the most interesting part was that the flavors hit the roof of my mouth and not my tongue. I thought I was going crazy but he said that he thought the same thing and Catherine agreed with me as well. I had just never tasted a wine like that in my life. He said that he did not like it the first time he tried it but it has grown on him and now he quite enjoys it. I would try a glass again just for research purposes but I don’t believe I’ll be buying a bottle any time soon to drink at home. He also gave me a little taste of the 2007 Graffigna Pinot Grigio which he said is currently one of their best sellers. It is from San Juan, Argentina and I can see why it is popular. While there really isn’t anything extraordinary about this wine, it was very crisp and clean and tasted like you were biting into a fresh green apple. It is a perfect summer wine. When they brought out our dessert (Cranberry Bread Pudding and S’Mores… yum and yummier) they also brought out a dessert wine for us and it was really good. We had the Two Hands, Brilliant Disguise Moscato Sparkling 2007 from Barossa Valley, Australia. Dessert wines are still fairly uncharted territory for me so I was glad to have the recommendation. So far I have no complaints!

SoVino has quickly become one of my favorite Houston wine bars and/or dinner spots. The atmosphere is right up my alley and you can’t beat the food and wine selections. While the wine list isn’t huge, I believe they are going for quality over quantity as every wine I have tried there has given me something to write about and I can’t say that for a lot of places. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and I can not imagine going there and not having a fabulous time. I will definitely be back soon!

Voice & SoVino… So Wonderful

If my birthday celebration was any indication of how this year is going to turn out, I think 26 is going to be pretty great. After a night spent with family and friends on Friday, Andrew and I had Saturday night to ourselves and it was such a treat. Ever since Voice opened in April at Hotel Icon in downtown Houston, I’ve been itching to try it. I’ve also wanted to try SoVino for a while now and I was so pleased with both places!

Mandee & Andrew At SoVino

Mandee & Andrew At SoVino

Walking into Voice, the decor and design of the resaurant are immediately impressive. It’s very cool and classy but fun at the same time with black and white cowhide barstools, velvet patterned drapes hanging from the very high ceiling and ornate gold trim everywhere. Leather chairs made for comfortable dining but we were seated at a table for two and it was so long that it felt like we were a mile away from each other. That was the only part of dinner that I didn’t love. It made it difficult to share things, which we always do, and even to have a conversation. The one thing that made up for the lack of gab was the awesome music they had playing in the background. Everything from the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson made dinner a lot more entertaining. Enough about the atmosphere, let’s get to the good stuff. Food and wine!

We ordered by the glass since I was in the mood for white and he wanted red. They could have offered a few more options by the glass but overall their wine list looked pretty impressive and was very well priced. I would say it was definitely one of the best value wine lists I have seen in Houston. I thoroughly enjoyed my 2006 Van Duzer Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley, Oregon. It was light, crisp and refreshing which is exactly what I wanted and expected. It was structured and balanced with a clean finish. It would go well with at least half the menu which made ordering dinner especially easy. I started off with the Mushroom Soup Cappuccino which was heavenly. Crimini mushroom soup topped with truffle foam and porcini powder. It almost plays with your mind a little when it first arrives in front of you in a coffee cup because it truly does look so much like a cappuccino. I then had the Maytag Blue Cheese Salad which was good but nothing to write home about. Andrew ordered the Asparagus Salad and they looked almost identical while they sounded completely different on the menu. For my entrée I had the special which was a Tazmanian Trout which looked and tasted like salmon. It was very good but I would order something else next time. Andrew started with the Composition Of Local Heirloom Tomatoes with goat cheese, black mission figs and arugula… very tasty but exactly what you would expect. I like that all of the ingredients are local. His entrée was to die for! He ordered the Venison Sous Vide with a sour cherry sauce. My mouth is watering just typing about it right now. It was so tender he didn’t even need a steak knife. It also paired beautifully with his Australian wine, a 2005 Loose End GSM (Grenache, Shiraz and Merlot) from Barossa Valley. It was fantastic and definitely a wine I plan on seeking out to enjoy at home. Perhaps the most exciting part of this meal were the Truffled Parmesan French Fries. Yes I said Truffled Parmesan French Fries. Little bites of HEAVEN is what those were! It was just silly how good they were. I would say they were better than dessert which is true blasphemy for a sweet-eater like me. Speaking of sweets… I can’t really complain. While it looked like they had several yummy choices, our waiter decided to order for us which we were ok with. Normally I wouldn’t have been but I think I may have been a little bit high on truffled french fries and my judgement was impaired. Before my delectable Study in Chocolate came out (and Andrew’s Warm Chocolate Cake) we had a champagne toast to celebrate my birthday. Like I always say, you can’t properly celebrate without some bubbles. We each had a glass of Leon Palais Brut Blanc de Blancs from Champagne, France and it was perfect. It was, in my opinion, everything a good glass of bubbles should be. It wasn’t too sweet, it had a gorgeous single line of bubbles coming straight up the middle of the flute and it went down easy. It was so good that it left me wanting more… which led us to SoVino.

Birthday Wine

I am actually headed back to SoVino this weekend because I didn’t get enough of it on my first trip. The atmosphere was fantastic. Here we were able to sit next to each other which was nice since we were so far apart at dinner. The lighting was dim and romantic, the music was good and the company was better. I decided to stick with bubbles and enjoyed two marvelous glasses of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. I actually liked the Leon Palais better but would be happy to order this again as well. Andrew drank the 2003 Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa which of course inspired me to go on some sort of rant about Oberon, the King of the Fairies, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s about as intellectual as I got that night. My brain was too overwhelmed with delicious food and wine to think about anything else. It was all in all perhaps the best birthday I have had to date and I am so excited to see where this year takes me!

Cheers!

Mandee

Wine As Interesting As Its Label

I don’t have too much to say about Educated Guess other than it was one of the most interesting Cabernets I have ever had the pleasure to drink. It was incredibly smooth with flavors of juicy blackberries, boysenberries and creamy vanilla. I think it may have been the creaminess that made it so unique. That’s not a texture I’m used to in a Cabernet. I wanted to hold each sip in my mouth, close my eyes and savor it. It was jammy without being overly sweet. It was a true delight.

I will say this, however. I ordered this wine at a tapas and wine and tapas bar called Oporto which specializes in Portuguese wines and foods. They offer other Educated Guess Cabernetoptions, of course, or I would never have ended up with this lovely Californian variety from Roots Run Deep winery. I just didn’t love the wine as much with any of the foods that we ordered. The wine was ordered before the food (obviously first priority). We ate curried lamb meatballs, lump crab meat crepes with bechamel sauce, a marinated portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach and cheese and finally baked brie with fig preserves, strawberries and sliced pears. Does that sound like a delicious meal or what? Oh it was. The Educated Guess didn’t taste unpleasant with the food… it just didn’t add anything to the meal and the meal didn’t accent the wine, either. This is definitely a wine I would buy again, but perhaps just to enjoy on its own. I have not found this wine in a store yet but am keeping my eyes open for it. After doing a little research I learned that all the chaos on the label is actually meaningful. Those are five different formulas that are used in winemaking. Who knew?

If you are in Houston and happen to make it over to Oporto on Richmond (which I would highly recommend) you should try the Estampa Cabernet/Syrah blend from Chile. This was my companion’s order and upon first sip I was certain I had once again out-ordered him. It was almost too dry but once it had a second to open up and breathe in the glass it was absolutely gorgeous and it was even better with everything we ordered. I am always impressed with a wine that can pair beautifully with so many different types of foods. That is no easy task. It was definitely much drier than the Educated Guess and had flavors of cherries and black pepper but still had a very slight hint of vanilla on the finish… very seductive. My second glass of the night was a 2004 Barahonda that was also smooth and dry but, like the Educated Guess, did not pair as well with the foods as the Estampa.