Movie Review: McFarland, USA

McFarland,_USA_poster

Release Date: 2/20/15

Kevin Costner in a sports movie is usually a good sign (Tin Cup, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham).  McFarland, USA is no exception.  [Incidentally, Kevin Costner in a non-sports movie is usually a bad sign, unless it’s No Way Out.]  McFarland, USA is based on a true story.  True inspirational sports movies all have one thing in common – if it wasn’t true, you would roll your eyes and say “Oh come on!” because they seem so unbelievable.  [E.g. running a reverse on the final play of the game from your own side of the field to win the state championship; or a group of college kids beating an unbeatable professional hockey team to win an Olympic gold medal – that would never happen in real life.]

A hot-headed ex-football coach (Jim White, played by Costner) takes a group of high school kids who also must help their families in the fields (aka “pickers”) to get by, and turns them into a contenders to win a state championship in Cross-country.  Whaddaya mean, like running?  Not just running!  Something that needs endurance!  Something that needs stamina!  Like, long-distance running!  Cross-country running!

There is no real villain in this movie, and there shouldn’t be.  Running, like swimming or triathlon, isn’t about competing against the guy (or girl) next to you, it’s about competing with yourself and striving to do your best, and overcoming your own inner demons.  They do an excellent job of showing that struggle within each character.  It makes you root for them harder.

One thing I felt was missing from this movie was how the relationship between the community and the coach developed.  This relationship was an essential part of the movie, yet I didn’t understand why this community was so accepting of this outsider coach.  He’s a Caucasian, ill-tempered man who wants to get out of there as soon as he can and isn’t afraid to show it.  The community is a small close-knit Mexican farming community.  Why do they accept him so readily?  Did he do something to earn their respect?

I don’t want to ruin the ending of an inspirational sports movie made by Disney, but if you get tired of watching Prefontaine and want something a little happier this is an excellent choice.

WWYT Rating: 7.00

IMDB Rating: 7.5

Restaurant Review: Luca D’Italia

luca-dItalia

Date of Review: 9/34/13

Luca D’Italia is rated 15/20 on Gayot.  The only two rated higher in Denver are Fruition and Mizuna.  Both of which I have already reviewed.  I ordered the six-course Tasting Meal with the Wine Tasting.

Assaggini —  [Essentially Italian for Amuse Bouche] A Pesto Sour Cream Crostini.  Not bad, except it wasn’t sour cream.  I heard it described for other tables as a Ricotta Cheese.  So it was Ricotta not Sour Cream, which was not good.  It was a little too sour.

“Spoons” Course – Not an official course, but perhaps the best thing I had all night.  Described as each of the line chefs create a small dish on the fly.  The first “spoon” was a baby octopus with grilled frissee.  This was absolutely fabulous.  Octopus is generally a bit rubbery/chewy.  Not this one.  It was the tenderest Octopus ever.  EVER.  Second, “crispy pancetta”, basically a candied pancetta with a spicy after taste.  Absolutely remarkable.  Not as good taste-wise as the octopus, but very impressive technique-wise.  Third, a lobster mushroom risotto.  Really well done, but not as tasty as the other two.  Finally, a tomato soup with a parmesan Panini (i.e. grilled cheese).  The tomato soup was good, it had an earthy quality that I couldn’t indentify.  Maybe a beef broth.  And yes the Parmesan grilled cheese was every bit as good as it sounds.  [I had the 6 p.m. seating, there was a couple next to me, the husband celebrating a 35th birthday at the 7 p.m. seating.  They also got the six-course tasting menu.  Their “spoons” course was exactly the same as mine, except they didn’t get the parmesan Panini – this tells me that it wasn’t really “on the fly” so much as a course created by the line chefs.  Also, there is no way they just had ultra tender octopus just sitting around waiting to be used.]

Pairing — A lemon, mint, soda (think 7-up) with bitter liquor cocktail.  A very interesting drink.  It definitely needed to be mixed up, each sip was different from the next.  One sip was bitter, the next sweet, and the following minty.

 Bread – Herb Foccacia and Parmesan Breadsticks.  The “butter” was a salted parmesan lardo.  Absolutely fantastic.  [I got a refill, but never actually got to the second plate.]

1st Course – Venison Carpaccio.  Really tender roast beef essentially.  There was a Dijon mustard on one side of the plate that I missed (it was under some cauliflower) and really added to the dish.  Though I do think they added some salt there.  The result was a slightly unbalanced dish, with a salty mustard that was on one side of the plate.

 Pairing – A light Italian Red from Northern Italy.  Honestly, it was bland – no flavor profile whatsoever.

2nd Course – Seared Ahi Tuna with a squid ink aioli.  After my first bite I thought, “gosh this is a little on the salty side.”  My second bite didn’t change that opinion.  The server came by asking how it was, so I said “A little salty.  But I can’t decide if it is the tuna or the aioli.”  While I was talking I got the after taste of the tuna.  It was an extra dose of salt.  I asked to try another bite, to make sure that I wasn’t imagining things.  I wasn’t – there was even more salt in the next bite.  When the waiter came back he asked if he should take it away.  “Yes”.  I actually sent something back (perhaps the third time in my life I have sent something back).  They brought me another tuna.  I think they overcompensated a bit with the seasoning, but it was definitely better, the previous dish was near inedible.  [I felt better when I saw the couple next to me get their tuna that was several shades lighter than the first dish I was served.]

 Pairing – A Sicilian Red.  PR68.  Named after the road the winery is on.  The winemaker is a woman.  I don’t know why that was relevant, but the sommelier said so.  Ironically, it was the best pairing for the worst dish of the night.  It really cut the salt.  Had a blackberry taste to it.  Best wine of the night.

3rd Course – Orecchiette or ear shaped pasta.  The pasta was al dente.  I like my pasta a little past al dente.  Other than that, it was pasta.  Not sure what else there is to say.  I love pasta, but it can never really “wow” me.

 Pairing – A Riesling.  A good pairing.  Nothing exciting with this wine, just a good solid slightly dry white wine.

Intermezzo – The fourth course was palate cleanser — a watermelon sorbetto.  I’m not the biggest watermelon fan, but it was good.  What really made the dish was the candied watermelon rind that was on top.  Positively delightful.  Definitely a good palate cleanser.

5th Course (Main) – Duck.  Excellent duck.  But the duck took a back seat to the side dish – a fried gorgonzola.  Taking nothing away from the duck, all I wanted to eat was the gorgonzola.

Pairing – A Piedmont red wine.  Good, but not as good as the Sicilian.

 

6th Course – A flourless choc—NO, I AM YOUR GOD AND YOU SHALL BRING ME A CHEESE PLATE [Or perhaps more plausibly I politely asked if it was maybe possible if there was any way that they could bring me a cheese plate instead of the desert (or dolce) course.]  Honestly don’t remember the cheeses – A buffalo ricotto (not nearly as sour as the earlier ricotta), that wasn’t great.  Two other cheese that were very good, but I was so stuffed at that point I don’t think I truly enjoyed it.

Pairing — I actually had a choice between a sweeter dessert wine and a drier wine.  I opted for the sweeter wine since I demanded a cheese plate.  The second best pairing of the night.  A good sweet wine, but not a sickly, cloyingly sweet wine, which you sometimes get.

 Fin

Overall, Luca D’Italia had higher highs and lower lows than Fruition or Mizuna.  The lows: a slight misstep with the tuna course and the amuse bouche wasn’t great.  The highs: The baby octopus.  Without a doubt the best octopus I’ve ever had, not close.  Nothing even would be 2nd or 3rd best octopus compared to this.  The Duck/gorgonzola was also excellent.

Rating: 8.3

 Gayot Rating: 15/20

 

Hallmark Movie Rankings (Non Christmas Edition)

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I promised I’d be back for more snark about Hallmark movies.  Here is the ranking of all the non-Christmas movies.  Apparently, there was some doubt that I had watched all the Hallmark Christmas Movies, let me assure you that I have seen all of those.  I have seen all of these non-holiday themed Hallmark movies too.  On with the rankings:

  1. The Lost Valentine – Betty White recounts a lost love on Valentine’s Day. A sweet and charming movie.  Rating: 7.50

2t. I Do, I Do, I Do – A Groundhog Day style movie, with unintentional comedy off the scale.  Rating: 7.30

2t. Second Chances – An injured firefighter and dispatcher room together.  The dispatcher’s kids try to set them up.  The characters are very likable.  Rating: 7.30

  1. All of My Heart – A standard Hallmark movie plot, but genuine chemistry between the leads makes this a watchable movie. Rating: 7.25
  2. How To Fall In Love – A nerdy accountant enlists his childhood crush to help him woo a beautiful woman. As a nerdy actuary I can relate to it. Rating: 7.10
  3. Elevator Girl – Boy meets girl in an elevator. They somehow make it work despite having nothing in common. Rating: 6.90
  4. Seven Year Hitch – Two friends have been living together for seven years. This makes them married under common law. Male refuses to sign annulment because he loves her and doesn’t want her to marry her jackass boyfriend.  Rating: 6.85
  5. Crush on You – A case of mistaken identity. A man starts an e-mail correspondence with the woman of his dreams only to find that he was e-mailing someone else the whole time. Rating: 6.80
  6. Loving Leah – Not only acknowledges Judaism, but makes it a center point. Likable characters, but chemistry a bit lacking. Rating: 6.75
  7. The Nearlyweds – A pastor dies before signing three marriage certificates. The couples struggle in their new life and must decide whether to re-marry. Bonus points for something a little different from Hallmark.  Rating: 6.70
  8. Puppy Love – Woman and child find a lost dog and agree to split custody with a baseball player. Bonus points for the dog. Rating: 6.65

12t. June in January – Plan a wedding in less than a month.  Ready, GO!  The couple miraculously stays together.  Rating: 6.60

12t. Love, Again – A couple on the verge of separation find there is still love in their marriage whilst at their daughter’s wedding weekend.  They learned nothing and will probably get divorced a year after the movie ends.  Rating: 6.60

  1. Surprised by Love – A woman tries to get her parents to like her current boyfriend by bringing home an ex-boyfriend that they liked less. It turns out how you expect it to. Rating: 6.50
  2. Smooch – A little girl kisses a frog and finds an amnesiac prince. Mom and prince fall in love. Rating: 6.45

16t. Bridal Wave – Bride to be goes to a “wedding factory” (where they churn out dozens of weddings a day).  She goes through the motions and breaks up with her fiancée in the most unrealistically amicable split in the history of the world.  Rating: 6.40

16t. Honeymoon for One – Woman breaks up with fiancée, but goes on honeymoon anyway.  Meets someone better.  Rating: 6.40

16t. I Married Who?  – Engaged woman runs off to Vegas.  Marries someone else.  That someone else is a superstar actor.  The fiancée doesn’t take it well.  Rating: 6.40

19t. My Boyfriends’ Dogs – Woman accumulates dogs with every relationship.  Ignores the obvious guy in front of her.  Rating: 6.35

19t. Away & Back – Little girl, child of single dad, doesn’t think papa swan can raise baby swans by himself so she steals the eggs.  Speaks highly of her opinion on her father’s own parenting skills.  Rating: 6.35

21t. A Taste of Romance – Firefighter opens restaurant next to long time chef.  He is instantly more successful, she is bitter, but ultimately they fall in love.  Rating: 6.30

21t. Be My Valentine – Another firefighter.  This time he falls in love with a florist.  Rating: 6.30

  1. Recipe for Love – A writer falls for her subject. Undeniable chemistry between the two. Rating 6.25
  2. The Country Wedding – Two California actors and their almost authentic accents, almost wasn’t distracting. A female rancher helps plan a male singer’s wedding despite him not knowing her favorite color, flavor, flower, or that she is allergic to coconut. Rating: 6.23
  3. Perfect Match – Even more predictable than a normal Hallmark movie. Rating: 6.21
  4. Operation Cupcake – A military man has trouble readjusting to his new home life. Rating: 6.20
  5. Just the Way You Are – A Billy Joel song for an intro might be the best part of the movie. Likable characters, but no real conflict to speak of. Rating: 6.15

28t. Cloudy with a Chance of Love – A strong female lead as a meteorologist.  But, an incoherent story and poor characters outside of the female lead drag this down.  Rating: 6.10

28t. Stranded in Paradise – A workaholic woman flies to Puerto Rico after losing her job to try to get it back.  After a hurricane shuts down the island, she discovers there is more to life than work.  Rating: 6.10

28t. The Wish List – Woman makes a list of her perfect man.  Proceeds to fall in love with a man who has none of those qualities.  I’m sure that will work out well.  Rating: 6.10

  1. In My Dreams – Interesting premise but fails on multiple levels. Blah characters, cheesy dialogue (even by Hallmark standards), and a plot that doesn’t make sense. Rating: 6.05
  2. A Novel Romance – An anonymous author falls in love with a critic. Despite numerous opportunities he decides NOT to tell the truth. Rating: 6.00

33t. Looking for Mr. Right – An aspiring novelist finally gets her big break only to discover her agent thinks it is a true story.  It goes downhill from there.  Rating: 6.00

33t. Perfect on Paper – A woman meets a man who matches none of her criteria.  Rating: 6.00

35t. Reading, Writing, and Romance – An actor takes a job as a teacher to make ends meet.  He is a better teacher than actor.  Take that sentence however you want.  Rating: 5.90

35t. Wishing Well – A punishment a writer gets sent to a small town where wishes made at a wishing well comes true.  She sure showed her boss, by falling in love with the town and its quirky townsfolk.  Rating: 5.90

  1. The Magic of Ordinary Days – Doesn’t feel like a Hallmark movie. Felt edited to fit the time allotted. Constantly confused.  Rating: 5.85

38t. Banner 4th of July – Woman fakes a heart attack so her estranged children will play a concert together.  Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.  Rating: 5.80

38t. Love by the Book – Unlikeable female lead tries to save her dying bookstore.  But she doesn’t know it’s dying.  Quite the competent character you created Hallmark.  Rating: 5.80

38t. The Sweeter Side of Life – Stuck up woman lives off husband’s money.  Forced to actually do something with her life once her husband leaves her.  Rating: 5.80

38t. Uncorked – At least this Hallmark lead is likable, but her actions are too dumb to make the movie likable.  Rating: 5.80

  1. Love Begins [Series of Movies] –A series of movies exactly like one another. Once you’ve seen one you’ve seen like all six or however many there are. Each one is more boring than the last.  Rating: 5.70
  2. A Ring by Spring – Female lead is annoyingly cheerful – like laughs when another character is in hospital. It’s okay not to be happy all the time. Rating: 5.65

44t. A Wish Come True – A woman, who is supposed to be great at her job, is actually terrible at it.  No one calls her on it.  The plot doesn’t make any sense either.  Rating: 5.60

44t. Lucky in Love – A woman makes a wish that her life were perfect on April Fool’s Day.  I didn’t know that was a thing.  It comes true and I didn’t care.  Uncompelling movie.  Rating: 5.60

44t. So You Said Yes – Female lead is a sanctimonious, hypocrite, know-it-all, who turns out to be wrong most of the time.  Other than that, it’s just fine.  Rating: 5.60

  1. For Better or For Worse – Wedding planner falls in love with a divorce attorney after their kids fall in love. Preposterous wedding plans, which are, of course, indulged. Rating: 5.55

48t. Chance at Romance – A relationship starts on a lie by a child.  Awesome.  Rating: 5.50

48t. Midnight Masquerade – A poorly done Cinderella story.  Rating: 5.50

48t. When Sparks Fly – A woman leaves her boyfriend because there aren’t any jobs for lawyers in Chicago.  Rating: 5.50

  1. Backyard Wedding – Unlikable characters, weak plot (even by Hallmark standards). Rating: 5.40
  2. Portrait of Love – Unoriginal plot, unlikable characters, unexplained events. Rating: 5.35
  3. Mom’s Day Away – Unappreciated mother gets a day away from her ungrateful family. She should have stayed away. So should you for that matter.  Rating: 5.30
  4. Straight from the Heart – A New York photographer flies out to Wyoming to meet a man from a personals ad. They have nothing in common so obviously they should get together. Never mind where they are going to live.  Rating: 5.20
  5. See Jane Date – A lonely woman makes up a boyfriend because the only status is who your boyfriend is. Great message Hallmark. Rating: 5.10
  6. Just Desserts – A chef and baker overcome their differences to fall in love. Rating: 5.00
  7. Growing the Big One – It sounds dirty, but it isn’t. An absurd story about growing 1000 pound pumpkins. Rating: 4.90
  8. A Lesson in Romance – Or a lesson in stalking. A workaholic mom doesn’t have time for her family until they move away to go (back) to school. She turns to stalking to win them back.  Rating: 4.80
  9. Chateau Meroux – How bad does acting have to be for me to turn it off 30 minutes into the movie? This bad. Rating: INC 

Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Release Date: 2/20/15

Sometimes a movie is so bad that it is good.  Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is not one of those movies.  This sequel, without John Cusack, failed to capture the magic of the first movie (as most sequels tend to do).  I can’t say that it was the absence of John Cusack, because his replacement, Adam Scott, was probably the best character of the film.

I find that crude humor works better when it is used sparingly.  However, when the entire film is an attempt at crude humor, it ends up just being crude.  There were some funny moments, and I did laugh sometimes despite myself.  These few bright spots made the movie more painful in contrast.

The storyline was incoherent at times.  Lou, Jacob, and Nick travel to the future.  In the future of this future, someone travelled to the past to kill Lou.  You spend the entire movie hoping the killer succeeds.  This is always a bellwether for me, if I hate (one of) the main character(s), then I probably hate the movie.  I have heard of a rule in writing: either the protagonist needs to be likable or really good at something.  Lou is neither.

With an unlikable lead, a somewhat incoherent storyline, and painful moments between the funny lines you are better off watching the original again.

Rating: 4.0

IMDB Rating: 5.1

Race Report: DU Invitational

Imagine the lane lines perpendicular to this picture.
Imagine the lane lines perpendicular to the setup in this picture.

Yes, another race report.  A few weeks ago, I posted about the 5k ePostal.  This time I did much shorter races only more of them.  Earlier this summer I did a meet racing all the 50s (one length of the long course pool).  This time I did four of the five 200s (skipping the obvious).  Before the meet, I realized that the only goggles I had were mirrored or smoked goggles, because this is summer and I have been swimming outside.  This meet was indoors, so I stopped on the way to the meet to buy a new pair of goggles.  I got the last pair of my preferred goggles in stock– the Speedo Sprint.

200-meter Back – The first event of my day also happens to be my best, the 200-meter backstroke.  I hadn’t had a chance to do any starts with my new goggles, however.  After my start, the goggle covering my right eye started to leak a little bit.  It didn’t really slow me down, but it forced me to adjust my plans.  I wanted to work on my underwaters – a vital part of any backstroke event, and my underwater dolphin kick needs a lot of work.  I didn’t get a chance to work on this weakness, but I was able to keep a nice steady stroke.  I did try to work the last turn and carry it through on the final 50.  I ended up with a respectable time of 2:48 and close to an even split of 1:23 going out and 1:25 coming home.

200-meter Free – I had 23 minutes rest after my backstroke.  Not nearly enough time to fully recover before diving in for one of my least favorite events.  I was very concerned when I dove in and the man in the lane outside of me left me in his wake, but it’s not a good start when I am much slower than someone I am seeded faster than.  I swam my own race for the first 100-meters (1:14 split).  As I neared the end of the third length, I saw that I was catching the speed demon to my outside.  This spurred me on.  I picked up my pace and raced past him to a 1:18 second half.  It wasn’t a bad split, but it felt faster than that.  This definitely meant that the guy next to me either died really hard, or he was going for a 100-meter time – probably the latter, because otherwise I feel really, really sorry for him.  2:33 time overall time for me.

200-meter Individual Medley – I had more rest for this race, but I was far less motivated.  I didn’t want to race very hard.  So I didn’t.  I cruised the fly (as much as I can cruise it anyway) and the back.  I tried to work the breaststroke (as much as I can work the breaststroke anyway).  Finished strong(ish) for a 2:56.  I split a 1:22/1:34, not that splits mean much for an IM event.

200-meter Breaststroke – My worst stroke and it’s getting worse every day.  Again, I had very little rest and it was my fourth event in a short time frame – this event would be even worse than normal.  Before the race I asked the 55-59 Men’s 2015 Short Course Yards 200 Breast National Champion, how to swim this event.  He told me to take it easy for the first 100.  That was my rough plan anyway.  Those watching from the sideline said I stayed underwater a “crazy long time” off the start.  This is a good thing, since my breaststroke is terrible – the less I have to do the actual stroke, the better.  I tried to take long strokes on my opening 50, and then slowly increase my tempo as the race wore on.  I went out in 1:43 and came back in a 1:50 for a 3:33 time.

Overall, it was neither a bad meet nor a great meet.  It started well, and then got worse as the meet went along.  That was to be expected, with the quick turnarounds between events.  Something is terribly wrong with my breaststroke, and I hope I get it fixed soon.  It will be a long time before my next meet – October at the earliest.  So my loyal readers you can look forward to more snark about Hallmark movies soon.

Restaurant Review: Mizuna

Mizuna

Date of Dining: 9/34/12

The menu options at Mizuna were 1) An eight course chef’s tasting menu (with or without a wine pairing)– not even the waiter knew what was coming.  2) A five-course meal (with or without a wine pairing) that allowed you to choose an appetizer, salad, fish course, and meat course, and a chef-selected dessert course.  3) Select a la carte from the menu itself.  I wanted three appetizers, no salad, three fish and two meat courses so I opted for the 8-course w/Wine pairing so I didn’t have to make a decision.  The downside was that I didn’t get to have their signature dish – the Lobster Mac & Cheese.

Bread:  A bowl of homemade bread with free refills.  One slice of Kalamata olive bread and one slice of white bread.  My waiter told me the accompanying spread was a sea salt butter, but it was not salty at all.  A bit later, I heard the waiter tell the table next to me that it was a sweet cream butter, which made a heck of a lot more sense.  The slices were huge, so I only had one refill.

Opening Course:  Five items on one plate – A selection of appetizer/amuse bouche.  1) Squash gazpacho served in a shot glass.  It tasted exactly like gazpacho; I didn’t taste the squash at all.  2) Green olive tapenade on a brioche.  It was good, but I think I like a black olive tapenade better.  3) Salmon mousse.  It was by far the most disappointing dish I had all evening.  The cucumber (not known for its strong flavor) had more taste than the salmon.  I don’t know if it needed salt or something else, but bland was the word.  4) Escargot wrapped in bacon (or some other kind of pork).  Fortunately, this was much better than the salmon mousse, a fantastic bite.  5) Bite of duck confit.  Not sure what was on the bottom, but it tasted like a bean dip.  A really, really delicious bite of bean dip.  Pairing:  A pink sparkling wine from Alsace France in the brut style.  It was better with the food.

Second Course: “Amuse Bouche” I don’t think this was an amuse since it took about 20 bites to eat.  Sashimi grade Hamachi served with a chili oil and hot peppers.  As you might expect I loved this dish.  In retrospect, I wish I had licked the plate.  The first piece of Hamachi, I felt the chili oil drowned the taste of the fish even as good as the chili oil was.  The second piece I was able to get a bite without the chili oil and it was good, but definitely needed the chili oil.  It really needed the right balance between the chili oil and fish.  Pairing: An Austrian Wine that starts with a G – One of those really long German words that I can neither spell nor pronounce like Gruner-Veltliner.  A little acidic but paired excellently with the dish.

Third Course: Homemade pasta course.  Linguine with Little Neck Clams in a spicy tomato sauce.  The pasta was amazing and the sauce smelled like a pizza sauce.  It smelled like pizza sauce because there were little bits of pepperoni in the sauce.  The clams didn’t add much, but it was marginally better with the clams; the real star of the dish was the pasta.  Pairing: A Bougalais.  The wine stewardess sommelier rattled off the name of the winery way too quick for me to catch it.  My favorite wine of the evening.

Fourth Course: The Fish Course.  Florida Red Snapper in a beurre blanc sauce.  The fish tasted good and cooked perfectly, but unmemorable.  The sauce was the better part of the dish.  It had a little dill, maybe some parsley.  Either way I certainly remember the sauce more than the fish.  Pairing: A sauvignon blanc.  Again paired really well with the dish.

Fifth Course: Palate Cleanser.  A green apple sorbet floating in a Muscato.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect palate cleanser – green apples are my favorite fruit and I always enjoy a good Muscato.

Sixth Course: The Meat Course.  NY Strip Steak with potatoes, asparagus and a Vidalia onion sauce.  First, I must give credit to the chef – I don’t like asparagus.  While I am willing to give it a shot at a nice restaurant, I never like it.  Until tonight!  It didn’t have the normal metallic taste that I always sense with asparagus.  The steak was very good and the potatoes were amazing.  I loved the sauce, but I made the mistake of trying to save some for the end and ended up having some left over.  I ate the sauce by itself.  Pairing: 2008 Atlas Peak Cabernet.  I didn’t enjoy this wine.  It had a bad after taste.  It didn’t improve with the dish.  I didn’t bother to finish it.

Seventh Course: The Cheese Course.  As anyone who has ever eaten with me knows that cheese is my chocolate.  I love cheese, but I was slightly disappointed.  The cheese itself was very good, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese that had the same consistency and flavor profile of a brie (but it wasn’t brie).  My problem, however, was that I only got the one piece of cheese.  I guess it was a course and not a cheese plate, so it was my problem not theirs.  I do think it would have benefitted from a drizzle of honey on the plate or over the nuts.  The bigger problem was that it only came with only a single small homemade cracker.  It was good, but half the size of the piece of cheese.  Worst of all, they took my bread away with my meat course.  Why would you take the bread before the cheese course, this makes no sense.  [I went to the restroom and they took it while I was gone so I couldn’t stop them].  Pairing: I have no idea what she said.  I asked twice.  Maybe I was drunk.  The wine was red.  From Spain perhaps?  It was good, certainly better than the Cabernet.

Eighth Course: The Dessert Course.  Gaylord Apple croquet with a caramel sauce and a quenelle of vanilla ice cream.  It was like an individual apple pie and very seasonally appropriate.  Pairing: Late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.  I always enjoy a good dessert wine and this didn’t have the cloying sweetness that some of the late harvest/ice wines have.

Overall, A good steady meal, with some small missteps along the way, but no major mistakes.  There was also nothing that made me stop and go “wow!”  So closer to the Everest end of the scale than the Alinea side of the scale.  From a value perspective it was twice as expensive as Fruition and not quite as good.  The better option would be to opt for the five-course select your own.  It is 40-45% cheaper than the 8-course and you could get whatever you wanted.  A no-brainer option in a small group where you can split a dish.

WWYT Rating: 8.4

Gayot Rating: 16/20