Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sushi King, Columbia, MD

Sushi King
6490 Dobbin Road
Columbia, MD

Monday - Saturday

(Lunch 11:30AM to 3PM)

(Dinner 5PM to 10PM)

Sunday Closed

Phone: 410 997 1269
Fax: 410 997 1266

For a Google map, click here.

For Sushi King's website, click here.

Two Japanese restaurants in Columbia have very high ratings in the Zagat guide. One is Sushi Sono (Click here for my comments), and the other is Sushi King where we had lunch today. Sushi King is located in a rather dreary strip mall next to the handy express Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, where you can renew registrations and drivers' licenses without the fuss of going to Glen Burnie. The restaurant is decorated in that typical Japanese bamboo style with little cubicles where you can eat in privacy.

Eating off the lunch menu, we had bento boxes, and two of our party of four were not particularly hungry so we only ordered three of them. Mine came tempura -- two large shrimps and vegetables, rice, an order of California rolls, and a nicely dressed salad ($9.50). The other came with Tuna rolls and Chicken Teryaki ($9.50). Miso soup was included.

The Miso soup was very nice. It seemed slighly sweeter than most. The tempura items were obviously freshly cooked, and the California Rolls tasted very fresh. The food was definitely above average.

Although the food was good although not spectacularI must say that, given the choice, I would prefer to go to Sushi Sono. The service here has been friendly in the part. I am not sure if they resented two of us sharing a box, but the server seemed rather unfriendly. (She presented only three bubble gums at the end of the meal!)

Although Sushi King serves alcoholic drinks, we did not have wine with our meal, and the bill for three lunches (but four people) was about $35, including an extra order of California Rolls to go. Very good value!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Moet & Chandon White Star

Well I acquired this bottle out of spite. A couple of weeks, I was about to buy a bottle of Korbel, but suddenly felt irritated that it called itself Champagne. (If you are interested, click here to see that discussion and Korbel's defense.) So I spent three times as much money -- about $30.00. And I wound up with this delicious bottle of White Star from Moet & Chandon.

They always say that if you spend a little extra, the first thing you forget is the price, and I liked this Champagne very much indeed. It is made with both red grapes (Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier) and white grapes (Chardonnay). It is less dry than most Champagnes sold in the United States, which are usually Brut. This Extra Dry Champagne is considerably sweet. It is a kinder, gentler Champagne that would go well with anything. (I don't find Brut Champagne works very well with desserts although it served so often with wedding cakes.) It has nice beedy little bubbles, and is fruity in a way that is not often found in Champagne -- peaches! Very nice indeed.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pistachio Nuts, B.F. Skinner, and Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

For people seeking the short story on 2001 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is simply extraordinary. I bought it a few years ago at the King's Contrivance Liquor Store in Columbia. (Click here for the posting on where I get my wine.) This wine had a dark berry flavor. It was surprisingly sweet, dark, and extremely intense. You could certainly taste the oak that provided soft vanilla overtones to the flavor. Simply stated, this wine was delicious. Although the price was $16.49 on the bottle, I think it was on sale and I paid about $12.00 for the bottle. Keeping it for a few years really paid off.

Now the long story...

(If you have the time, follow the links. It might be fun!)

In an earlier post, I suggested that some of the fun about wine drinking is about finding a wine where the quality seems to bear little relationship to the price. When I drink wine like the perennially good Petite Syrah from Bogle at around $12.00, I feel that I have somehow beaten the system! The Ancient Vines Zinfandel (around $12.00) from Cline gives me that same smug satisfaction.

But there is another joy of drinking wine that is linked to a theory, which is totally devoid of any research basis, that I have about pistachio nuts. Put a bowl of pistachio nuts in front of me, and I cannot stop eating them until the last one has gone. Other people often seem to have similar weaknesses.

(By the way, if I am drinking wine before dinner, I usually avoid peanuts. I don't consider them very wine friendly.)

Apart from unrestrained gluttony, I believe that this compulsion to keep eating is related to the behaviorist idea that habits are more strongly reinforced if the reward for a behavior is given randomly. So, if you eat thirty pistachio nuts, you are likely to find twenty six good ones, one little stinker, and the remaining three will simply sing in your mouth. Seeking the reward of that perfect pistachio, you just keep on and on eating them.

The pistachio nut enthusiast probably knows that the best pistachio nuts in the world come from Iran which, according the article in Wikipedia on the subject, produces more pistachios nuts in the world with 38% of the world's production. You can usually tell an Iranian pistachio nut just by looking at it. They tend to be much larger than most, and they simply taste better. (Avoid pistachios that are dyed red. They are rarely any good.)

Readers in Maryland can buy Iranian pistachios at Sizar's food market:

6955 Oakland Mills Rd
Columbia, MD 21045.

For a Google map, click here.

(They are not quite as good as getting them from a firend traveling to Iran, but they are still pretty tasty! Sizar's is a nice little Persian grocery store with not just food from Iran, but all sorts of food from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. You can also get Indian food there, including chutneys curry paste, and so on.)

So what has all this got to do with Geyser Peak? Well, I wanted a red wine for dinner on Friday night. We did not have guests so I was not looking for one of my better Bordeaux, but I wanted something a little bit better than an $8.00 "everyday" wine. I also wanted to drink up any potentially "over the hill" wines in the cellar. So that was why I picked the Geyser Peak -- not too expensive, possibly aging, and, without guests, the risk of disappointment was low.

This wine was my unpredictable reward. I hoped for "good" and would have been satisfied with "okay," but I never expected extraordinary. It reminded me of much more expensive wines, and I began to think of Silver Oak. It was so dark, dense, and the blackberry/cassis fruit was marvellous. The oak provided a rich vanilla almost creamy! Although probably mature, it was clearly not in decline, and I would venture to say that it was at its peak. I have one bottle of this wine left. I will drink it soon but on a very special occasion!

I have had a lot of good luck from Geyser Peak, and this experience will keep me coming back again and again to seek that perfect reward!

The winery's notes on this wine are below:

Vintage: 2001
Appellation: Alexander Valley

Grape Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Storage/Type: 100% American oak barrels: 20% new oak; 80% a balanced mixture of one-, two-, and three-year old oak
Maturation Time: 15 months

Production Comments: A portion of the fruit for this wine was processed through our rotary fermenters. These innovative tanks enable maximum desirable extraction with only four or five days of on-skin fermentation, and minimize extraction of harsh, undesirable tannins.

Bottling Information & Analysis: Bottling Date: 06/03

Release Date: 12/03

Cases Produced: 49400

Alcohol 13.5%

pH 3.72

Acid 0.60

R.S. Dry

Wine Description: Classic Alexander Valley aromas of sweet blackberry fruit and cassis burst out of the glass on this wine. The vibrant intensity of the fruit aromas is typical of Geyser Peak's style, as is the restrained oak, which supports the fruit without dominating it. Ripe raspberry, blackberry and black cherry flavors harmonize on the wine's rich, juicy mid-palate with toasty oak notes. Typically Alexander Valley tannins come to the fore on the finish, which harmonizes persistent fruit flavors with fine-grained tannins.
Recipes: Black Olive Tapenade Crostini, Fabulous Flank Steak, Grilled New York Steaks with Cabernet Reduction Sauce, Pork Chops a La Piacenza, Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Jus, Red Wine Braised Oxtail

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hampton Inn, Lexington Park

The lobby at the Hampton Inn. Breakfast is served here.

Hampton Inn
22211 Three Notch Road
Lexington Park, Maryland
United States 20653

Tel: +1-301-863-3200
Fax: +1-301-863-7865

For a Google map, click here

There is an old principle in writing about hotels, planes, and restaurants. Don't judge them by how they perform when things are going well. Reserve judgement until things go wrong. I remember trying to take an old TWA flight from JFK to Madrid shortly before TWA disappeared. The flight couldn't leave, and we were told to go away and come back in 24 hours. Accommodation? Find your own. Can you guarantee us a seat on tomorrow's flight? I can't even guarantee we will be here tomorrow. Shortly after that TWA disappeared. And I was glad!

Anyway, we arrived late at the Hampton Inn in Lexington Park to check into our room, and we were told we had the last room. When we went upstairs, we found the key would not work so the very nice person at the desk came to help. Even his new key would not work so he went to get a "hard" key, a metal one that you use the old fashioned way. As he tried to turn the key, a sad voice from behind the door politely asked if there was any reason why we trying to get into his room.

The desk clerk immediately apologized profusely, and we went downstairs. The first thing he did was to phone the sad man and tell him that there would be no charge for the night. Then he found us a room and said there would be no charge for us either.

I was so pleased that they seemed so anxious to please, and the next day the new person on duty at the desk apologized too and freely admitted that it was her fault.

In every other way, the stay was excellent. This hotel is well appointed with a very comfortable bed, a good large bathroom. Breakfast in the morning is included, and it was quite nice with good coffee.

As I have mentioned before, I really like Hampton Inns, and this was a great example of them going out of their way to please.

I only wish they would not use stryrofoam so much for breakfast!

Our room for the night, if we had not been given the free room, would have been about $95.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Hot Noodle, California, MD

The Hot Noodle
22576 Macarthur Boulevard
Maryland 20616

A Google map can be found here.

Telephone: 301-862-9188

When I see a restaurant that serves many different kinds of cooking, I often walk in another direction. It irritates me if a restaurant seems to be unable to make up its mind about what kind of food it wants to serve. But if I applied that principle to the Hot Noodle, I would miss out on some really very good food.

This restaurant, which is convenient to people visiting Patuxent Naval Air Station or St. Mary's College of Maryland, is located in a little strip mall in an area with offices that seem to feed off the Naval Air Station. Advertising that you can have "The Great Taste of Asia All Under One Roof," The Hot Noodle is a place where you can get Chinese Potstickers ($5.95), Pho ($6.95), Pad Thai ($7.45), or Korean Short Ribs ($13.95). I think the owners are probably Vietnamese so I usually stick to Vietnamese dishes, but friends and family have had food from all over the map. I cannot remember having a bad dish here. And this restaurant offers really good value for money in a nice comfortable setting.

I usually start with the Spring Rolls (3 for $4.95) or the Shrimp Summer Rolls (3 for $4.95), which are "freshly sliced shrimp, lettuce, island mints, carrots, cucumbers, vermicelli noodles, and bean sprouts, hand wrapped in cool rice paper, and served with zesty peanut sauce." The peanut sauce is just wonderful!

The excellent Vietnamese Steak ($10.95) is made of tender cubes of very good beef cooked in a wok and served with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions with a lime and pepper sauce. It is my favorite dish in the restaurant.

There is a wine list, but I have always been traveling so I have never has any wine here, but they serve very nice limeade. The portions are generous, and I have always been too full for dessert.

My only gripe here is the way they print the menu. Red text on green is barely legible to most people, and would probably be a nightmare for people with color perception difficulties! Some of the writing is in small print over pictures, and that is difficult to read too. But I hear they are changing their menu. I only hope that means the presentation rather than the dishes.

Dinner for eight last Saturday (September 16, 2006) was only $113 the other night. We had shared starters, a main course, and soft drinks. An exceptionally good restaurant with excellent value for money!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Château Langoa Barton, 1996

We had a bottle of Château Langoa Barton, 1996, on Saturday night, and I was hoping for something very special, and it wasn't.

I found it hard, very tannic, and there really was not much sense of fruit. It seemed as if this wine was in a period where it had lost the fresh initial fruit of a young wine, but had not yet softened its tannins and gained complexity.

After a little, it seemed to open up a little, but overall this was a disappointment. Perhaps we should have just kept this wine longer!

Westin Hotel, Port Royal, Hilton Head, South Carolina

We stopped for drinks at the very well appointed Westin Hotel in Hilton Head. It was delightful watching the sun go down as we had drinks by the pool. (Be prepared for plastic cups, though!.)

As we drank, we decided that renting in our apartment (See my notes on Sunset Rentals) was a much better way to stay in Hilton Head than to stay at a hotel.

But having drinks by the pool was a lot of fun, and the nachos were great. The restaurants in the hotel looked wonderful too, and we meant to return for dinner but never did.

For people who compile lists of the world's best loos (bathrooms), this was top class with nice soap from Molton Brown!
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Château Musar is doing OK!

During the recent troubles, I worried that one of my favorite wineries, Château Musar, in the Bekaa valley, might suffer losses.

It has always amazed me that they have managed to produce wine year after year. (They have only missed three vintages, 1976, 1984, and 1992, and 1992 was because the grapes were not up to standard.)

Anyway, I decided to write to them to see if they were all right, and got the following answer:

Many thanks for your very kind thoughts and concern.We are deeply grateful for your prayers and your messages of support. All Chateau Musar's team are well and continuing their great work. The winery and the vineyards are doing well and we expect a very good crop for the 2006 vintage.
Best regards

Château Musar

Keep these folks in your thoughts!

For people who are having difficulty locating their wine in the United States, you might want to contact the importer:

Broadbent Selections, Inc
2088 Union Street
Suite 2San Francisco
CA 94123

Telephone: 415 931 1725
Fax: 415 921 0596

(Broadbent Selections was nominated for importer of the year by the Wine Enthusiast last year, and the other selections are really interesting too!)

And visit their blog at