Barboursville Vineyards Viognier Reserve 2006

Barboursville Vineyards Viognier Reserve 2006 (SnoothRank: 4/5) (June 2008) I had this wine at the vintner's luncheon 6/28/08 yesterday, so I'm reviewing from memory, sorry for lack of detail. It had a nice appearance, aroma, and taste. It was the only wine from the tasting luncheon that I was impressed with enough to purchase a bottle afterwards. I'll write a more detailed review when I drink that. myRating 4/5

Bryant Park Grill

Terry and I had dinner at Bryant Park Grill before the theater last Thursday night, and I wasn't particularly impressed, but it was fine for a weeknight meal.

The first annoyance was the crowd at the door, there was a party going on on the roof, and everyone off the street was trying to get up there since it just looked like the bar was open, but the hostesses kept saying the roof was closed (which it clearly was not, they should've just said it was a private party). They could've posted a sign on the door so it wouldn't be so crowded around the hostess stand.

The second annoyance was that they wouldn't seat me outdoors until Terry arrived, but by then there was a twenty minute wait. But that's New York, lots of places won't seat you until everyone is arrived.

The third annoyance was that I booked a reservation through Open Table, and got a confirmation, but the hostess couldn't find the reservation when I arrived. Either the girls were incompetent or Open Table doesn't work. Regardless, we were dining early so we got a nice table by the window anyway.

The dining room was open which gave a nice ambiance when we first arrived, but then it started getting crowded and noisy and then the din prevented us from continuing our conversation. The saving grace there was that we were seated near a window (there are plenty of window tables since the entire front wall is pretty much a continuous window) which was a prime location for people-watching, so at least we weren't bored to tears during the time we would've had to shout to talk.

I had the tuna & salmon tartar; it was garnished with cucumber slices and roe. That was delicious, I'd order it again in a heartbeat. I had the steak frites, but the fries were a little soggy and the steak was average. The dressing on the greens was very good--in retrospect I should've paid more attention to that to discern what ingredients they used. But I was distracted by the bitterness of the greens--they were fresh and attractive, I'm just not a great fan of the fancy greens as salad, I prefer them mixed in with milder lettuce.

The service was average, once the place got busy the visits from our waitress were few and far between. Fortunately, they had a runner to bring out food and pour water, so at least we didn't go hungry due to her inattention. But we didn't have time for dessert or coffee since she took too long to see us after we finished our entrees, and we waited on the check for a while. On a brighter note, at least the two different wines I ordered by the glass were both good.

Although I guess this seems like a bad review, it's not like I wouldn't go back there again. The theater district is something of a wasteland for good restaurants (relative to other neighborhoods in Manhattan) and the several others I would have preferred over Bryant Park Grill had no availability pre-theater. That's what I get for waiting until that morning to make a dinner reservation. . .

Anyway, compared to a lot of other choices, it wasn't bad. Although if you don't have to be anywhere after dinner and the weather is nice, I'd recommend getting on the list for a patio table, it would be quieter.

Old Devil Moon

I am always ready to give a southern-cuisine restaurant in the city a chance, in case I find a gem where I can get some guilty-pleasure food when I'm above the Mason-Dixon line.

However, Old Devil Moon is not it.

They're at least close with the decor, but they've NY-ified the Christmas lights. They're strung in abundance. Sure, you'll find the lights in the south, but some weak single-strands hung where ceiling molding would be, hanging unevenly, maybe a single drape-y light garland above the bar would be more authentic.

Unfortunately, the food isn't even close. The cornbread was so dense, wet and heavy I had to eat it with a fork to not get oil on my hands. It wasn't butter supplying the moisture. I didn't eat much. I grew wistful for the impossibly light, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cornbread I've had in Virginia. I can't recall even one nice restaurant in the south getting it wrong, and the odds of getting good cornbread in any number of nondescript local joints are good. One can't judge a (cook)book by its cover in many instances (which is why I'm so willing to give untested places a try).

The chicken-fried steak was barely recognizeable as such. They used meat the thickness and flavor of a steak-um, and the fried part was more like a poorly-done battered sautee that was allowed to steam in the pan rather than, um, sautee. I much prefer the 1/4 to 1/2 inch steak (seasoned prior to being battered so the meat has flavor), coated in a seasoned batter (c'mon, how hard is it to put a little salt & pepper in the batter?) cooked in pan with at least a 1/4 inch of hot oil (you know, the ''fried'' part of chicken-fried steak).
The gravy fell prey to the so-far consistent tendency for ''southern'' restaurants in Yankee states to cover food with tasteless gray who-knows-what and call it ''gravy''. Any true southern place would go out of business in short order with gravy this bad. And I can't say it's just this one place--NO RESTAURANT that I've tried up here can make good gravy. The Dairy Queen in Crozet makes gravy that tastes like a savory sauce handed down from Mt. Olympus compared to the stuff up here. There are a few places up here I suspect would actually do a good job with it, but I haven't seen it on their menus. I might have to call around to see if they have a gravy meal as a special on certain days or something. But I digress.

The mashed potatoes by themselves were ok, but a healthy dose of butter would have helped (I actually did my best to eat only the outside edges to avoid the so-called gravy). The slaw was bizarre. It was more of some sort of multi-colored-cabbage salad with a bad vinaigrette than a true ''slaw'' (and no, I don't automatically rule out anything vinaigrette-y as not slaw). Whoever came up with the recipe for this stuff, well, I just don't know. The restaurant probably should have gotten their slaw recipe from someone who has actually eaten slaw before.

I will not be making a return visit.

Old Devil Moon stands as yet another example of why Manhattanites who haven't set foot anywhere south of Brooklyn have this idea that southern food is inferior to New York food. Perhaps it is all a big conspiracy to make New Yorkers feel validated in their choice of living somewhere where people are rude, the weather is cold most of the year (except the two months when it is hot and all public places reek of urine).

Crozet Pizza

As Terry and I headed down the road at 6:55 to make our 7:05 reservation at Crozet Pizza, I joked how lucky we are to be so close when people make a pilgrimage to eat a pie here. The big buzz in town this summer was that (insert drumroll. . .) The Washington Post wrote "and a taste of what some call the best pizza in Virginia -- or even the country," referring to Crozet Pizza.

Terry and I have had long discussions about this, and are generally in agreement that anyone who drives two hours or more for some pizza here will probably be disappointed. It's not that Crozet Pizza isn't good, it's quite good and we ARE lucky to be able to pop in anytime. It's just that I don't think it lives up to the hype. The best pizza in Virginia? The country? I think some of Brick Oven's 'zas are better than Crozet Pizza's (although some of Brick Oven's combination toppings are not really complimentary, or perhaps just an aquired taste, in either case I avoid a few of them). Crozet Pizza does have a varied (although not a particularly large) selection of beers in its favor; it is kind of fun to have a Tsing Tau or Red Stripe from time to time.

I would certainly recommend coming from as far as Staunton or Fluvanna for some good pizza, but I am skeptical that people from further away would not be able to find an equally good pizza on their way here.

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