Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30, 2015 Clingancourt Flea Market

May 30, 2015. Flea Market 

We left a little before 10:00 and walked to Villiers Metro station to ride the metro to Porte  Clignancourt for the Fleas Market ( Marche aux Puces) and arrived at 10:00.  Willy arrived on the next train about 3 minutes later and we walked the three blocks to the Puce through a throng of Arabic looking persons hawking all manner of goods.  We finally arrived at the main area of the market which has grown significantly in the last fifteen years since I last visited it with mother, Suzette, and Billy in 2010.

In fact we walked past the same shop where mother tried on the leather motorcycle pants, although now it offers mostly sneakers.

Much of the market is the same, the warren of small shops, some appearing to offer the same type of goods, like vintage posters or old brocades.  After going to the older are we had a snack and then walked into the new large two tired shops on the other side of the street.  Soon Suzette found some interesting items.  In one shop she found two small silver salt spoons and a strand of Baccarat cut crystal beads that probably were made for use in chandeliers but would be excellent beads for necklaces.

Kathryn mentioned lunch around noon and we walked toward a restaurant she recommended.

In the block before the recommended restaurant we came upon a fish restaurant named de Navire that was offering fresh mussels and fresh charbroiled sardines.  Since we love both of these seafood items we stopped for lunch at Navire.  We ordered two each of mussels (18 €) and sardines (14.50€) and a bottle of Muscadet sur Lies (22€).  Willy ordered a broiled salmon plate (18€) and we had a pleasant seafood lunch.

We then walked up Bert street and went through the warren of new shops on that side of the Main Street where we found a perfect house gift for Kathryn, a silver napkin ring made in1911 with a lovely iris design on it, high art nouveau.After another hour of shopping during which we found old latches for our gates at home, we stopped for a carafe of rose wine and Willy ordered fresh mint tea. 

Then at 3:30 we made our way back to the apartment after saying goodbye to Willy.  We decided to walk through Monceau Park which was filled with folks picnicking and children riding ponies.  Quite a gay assemblage of humanity.

I was not feeling well so I lay down until 7:00 but Suzette and Kathryn went shopping for freak salmon and asparagus tips.  Kathryn fixed dinner of broiled salmon with yakitori sauce that was cooked to perfection, melt in your mouth fresh and tender, yet flaking at the touch of a fork.  The asparagus were lovely also and she made a sliced tomato salad dressed with fresh balsamic vinegar and basil.

I was still not feeling well so I took two Tylenol and went to bed a dee were able to connect to our Netflix account, so we watched a movie about an English chef who opens a restaurant Ina small English town.

Bon appetit

Friday, May 29, 2015

May 29, 2015 lunch at Restaurant Jules Verne and visit to Musee Jacquemart Andre

We spent a quiet morning at the apartment, not taking any food in anticipation of today's meal at Restaurant Jules Verne and due to our overeating last night.  

We left for the Eiffel Tower around1:00 and took a taxi dream Rue  Hausman to the tower where we waited doe WIlly for about ten minutes.  Wen he arrived we rode the elevator to the first level at 123 meters. We were seated at a corner booth out of the flow of traffic and with a terrific view down the mall toward Ecole Militare.  Soon our waiter and menus arrived and we saw that the 
Lunch menu and was a prix fixe three course meal do appetizer, entre and dessert for 105 €.

Everyone except Willy ordered the Crustacean Royale appetizer, which was good but not great, a fish gelatin wiry a pile of pickled vegetables on it and an a king crab meat egg roll.  Willy ordered French onion, which turned out to be very interesting.  It had a round of gelatin with a thick soup. 

Our entree was good but not amazing.
We all ordered the sea bass except for me.  It came with large aspagus stalks.  I ordered the pigeon which was a half of pigeon with some sautéed micro vegetables.  The sommelier talked me into orderin a glass of St. Julien, which was very nice with the demi-glacé sauce.

For dessert we had ordered a special hazelnut cake for Willy's birthday, which was served with hazelnut ice cream and a tray of mint macaroons, brioche with custard and a fresh raspberry and a chocolate wafers and mocha cream on a thin layer of gateau, plus a purple marshmallows and chocolate truffles.
What the meal lacked in the first two course it made up for in the dessert course.

After lunch we walked around the restaurant then went outside and walked around the tower, but the wind was blowing so we soon went back inside and took the elevator down to the ground.

We took a taxi to the Jacquemark Andre Museum to see the Giotto to Carravagio exhibit.  The museum was a private collection of old masers and older master works in a palatial house that had been given to the French government.  I have never seen a better private collection.  
it is impossible to describe fully.  Three Mantegnas, a large Tiepol fResco in the winter sun room, a Donatello freize of a young man, a Pereugino, a Botticelli, four Rembrants,including the best one I've have ever seen of Christ at the home of Emmanaus.

Then went to the Giotto to Carravagio show and my mind was blown again.  There were three Carravagios, including the best one I have ever seen of a young man being bitten by a lizard. 

In the early category there was a Giotto diptych of two saint .p. Then I turned the corner into another gallery and was confronted by a Massacio.  The quality and artistic excellence can not be overstated.

It was a rare and treasured afternoon of art.

At 5:30 we went back to the apartment and crashed for the night.

May 28, 2015 Fontainebleau Castle and Le Caveau des Lys

We left the apartment 7:20 and walked to St. Augustine metro station.  Then Kathryn bought us tickets to Fontainebleau and we metroed to Gare de Lyon, where we met the other six members of the American Women' Group in Paris and took the 8:45 train to Fontainebleu.  We visited the extensive castle rooms and garden for over there hours.  Fontainebleau was built beginning in the 13th century, but was significantly enlarged by Francis 1st in the 16th century and then Louis 13th and 14th in the 18th century.  It was the main castle/hunting Lodge of the French royalty until Louis XIV built Versailles.

Here are some pictures:

After walking through some of the gardens, we meet in the entry and then walked across the road into the town of Fontainebleau to Cadeau de Lys where Kathryn had made reservationa for lunch.

We all took the prix fixe lunch. The appetizer course included escargot in beet and creme fraiche purée, which Mike, Kathryn and Suzette ordered and foie gras with rumsteak, which I ordered.

My foie gras was revelatory; a terrine of whole duck liver with a thin slice of aged and salt cured "rumsteak" garnished with tall sprouts of a tender vegetable and topped with a delicate sail made with sugar crystal and accompanied by a spoonful of green tomato coulis; a fabulous presentation.

The entree course was equally impressive. Mike and Suzette ordered steak tartare with boiled potatoes topped with mashed potatoes served with a salad with a flower on it.  Kathryn and i ordered the local fish, which was served on a mound of risottoed rice and red quinoa.

Dessert turned out to be the most dramatic moment of many memorable moments in the meal.  Mike, Kathryn, and Suzette ordered pears and a baked crumble served with a warm chocolate sauce.  The pears and crumble was served in a deep glass bowl with a thin chocolate wafer covering the top of the bowl with a fleur de lis inscribed in powdered sugar on top of the chocolate wafer with a steel pitcher of warm chocolate sauce on the side. 

When each gave the signal to pour the chocolate sauce the waitress poured the sauce onto the wafer and the sauce melted through the wafer leaving the outline of the fleur de lis; pretty cool.
 My dessert was more pedestrian but no less imprssive; a shallow bowl of honey and saffron flavored creme brûlée with a thin layer of crystallized sugar on top.  I loved it.

After lunch we walked through a walking street to the church and then back to the bus stop and took the us back to the railroad station and took the 4:00 train back to Paris, arriving about after 5:00

We metroed back to St.Augustine station and walked back to the apartment.  

When we arrived Kathryn thawed out the four pork chops she had bought the day before and I suggested making the Spanish tapa of roasted pork with onion and apples.  Everyone agreed, so Mike and I ran to the bakery for a loaf of bread, then to the supermarche for a container of cream and then to the green grocer's next door to buy mushrooms, apples and tomatoes for a salad.  

We decided to make the Spanish tapa recipe and then add mushrooms and cream.  I sliced the onion and the Jazz Apple and we cooked them in a skillet and then baked them with the pork chops.  When the pork chops were cooked, we added a bit of cognac and the cream.  

Unfortunately, using two sauces made the dish unusually heavy.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

May. 23, 2015 Elizabethtown steak dinner

May 23, 2015 
We woke up this morning and I ate a bowl of warm baked oatmeal heated with milk.  
We then went on a tour of the yard and especially the herb gardens.  Suzette decided to make a flower arrangement with the lovely red and white peonies that are blooming now. 
Then when Jean, Suzette's sister arrived at around 9:00, we drove to several garage sales.  The best one was out in country at a contemporary house where a woman who was obviously a hoarder was moving and had sell the 45 years of accumulated stuff.  I bought what appeared to me to be a very old Mexican blanket for $2.00.  
At another garage sale, I found what for me was the find of the day, the box set of Jimi Hendrix' music, musical history and a video  published by his family several years ago for $5.00.   Don and Bev arrived around 11:30 at another garage sale area with a box filled with one-half of a roasted chicken from the Fire Department BBQ Chicken Roast, we had seen from one of the garage sales earlier in the morning. 
Last night when we arrived at Suzette's parents' home, we had seen the 8 lovely marinated Delmonico steaks packed in cryovac that the Lindemuths had bought for tonight's dinner and knew we were going to grill them, so we just needed to add the side dishes to them.   
We all decided to drive to a large open air and enclosed flea market nearby.  I did not find anything there but Suzette found salt cellars.  After a while Bev found me and said there were greengrocers inside the large enclosed sales area, so we walked inside and the over 1/4 mile length of the building and came to the green grocers' area.  I first found fresh local mushrooms for $2.50/lb. and bought 1.6lb. of them. 
Then we saw a lady with lovely local green onions ($.79) and asparagus ($2.50/bunch).  After calling Mrs. Lindemuth to see whether she had asparagus, I bought a bunch of onions and two bunches of asparagus (about 1 lb. each).  Mrs Lindemuth said she had fresh white potatoes.  
We then drove home for a lunch of cheddar cheese, pretzels, beer, Lebanon salami, fresh white radishes, carrot sticks, and fresh green onions.   
Everyone (Suzette's mom and dad, her brother Don and his wife, Bev, Suzette younger sister, Jean, all said they were okay with us preparing some Bearnaise Sauce for dinner.  We also determined that we wanted to grill the large lovely local asparagus with the steaks. 
On our way home for lunch Don and Bev drove to the Giant Supermarket where we  bought four nice shallots and a small container of fresh tarragon.  Then we drove to the State Wine and spirits store, where we bought five bottles of wine; a DOCG Gavi di Gavi Massseria del Camelitani white from the Barola region of Italy, a 2013 Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir, a 2012 Red Rock Winery Reserve Pinot Noir from Healdsburg, CA, a Zinfandel from Amador County and a bottle of Cotes du Rhone red (75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre). 
We then met the girls (Suzette and Jean) at the local brew pub (Mooduck), which was closed, so we drove to a tavern in downtown Elizabethtown where Suzette, Bev and Don sampled more of the local beers and Jean and I had a drink. 
I was 5:00 by the time we finished our drinks, so we drove home and began cooking dinner.  
Bev and Don said they wanted to learn how to cook better.  Bev is a very conscientious learner and carefully watched me make the Bearnaise Sauce.  unfortunately, Don needed to grill the steaks and asparagus with Suzette's assistance, so he had to leave after I showed him how to hold a chef's knife so he could control the blade and not cut himself, which he immediately got and sliced about twenty mushrooms in beautiful thin slices.  Bev helped him and sliced the green onions.  Suzette and Jean had picked and de-stemmed about 2 Tbsps. of fresh thyme and 4 Tbsp. of fresh mint.   
We chopped about 10 potatoes into bite sized chunks and Suzette tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them into the oven to cook covered for about 45 minutes and then uncoveredfor about 15 to 20 minutes. 
Bearnaise Sauce 
I decided to make 1 1/2 recipes of Sauce so I used 1/2 cup each of white wine and tarragon white wine vinegar and chopped one large shallot (2 bsp.) and stripped two Tbsp. of tarragon leaves from a stalk of tarragon.      
I then put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and reduced the liquid by 2/3's at medium high heat. 
I then separated three eggs into yolks and whites and whisked the yellows until emulsified.  Then I added the yellows to the cooled reduction of liquid that I had strained into another saucepan and began adding 12 oz. of butter in one oz. slices to the liquid and egg mixture over the lowest heat available on the Lindemuth's electric stove.  The secret is to not let the mixture curdle or get granular.   The way to do this is to balance the heat so that the sauce drives off the liquid in the for of steam while not heating to such a high temperature that the egg and butter emulsion breaks apart or the eggs curdle.  The way I achieved that tonight was to periodically move the saucepan off the heat  on the stove to let it cool down a bit but to not stop the action of driving liquid off the sauce.  I must confess that the skill of knowing how to manipulate the heat in a saucepan is an acquired knowledge gained after many years of failures.   The tried and true method recommended by Julia Child and others is to use a double boiler so you can create a more constant and stable heat source. 
After the butter was all added I continued to stir the sauce both on and off the heat until it became creamy.  I then added about 1/4 tsp. of white pepper and 1/2 tsp of salt and took the saucepan off the heat and stirred it for about two minutes more to allow it to cool down a it and then poured it into a pyrex 3 cup measuring pitcher and placed it in the refrigerator to cool and consolidate its texture. 
We opened the two bottles of Pinot Noir to let them air out a bit.  
Suzette had marinated the asparagus in virgin olive oil and when she and Don started grilling the steaks and the asparagus, Bev and I started the mushrooms.  I asked Bev if there was some sherry and she went to the basement liquor cabinet and found a small bottle of White Vermouth.  Don and Bev had filled a large deep sided skillet with the mushroom and slices of two green onions and the 2 Tbsps. of chopped thyme leaves.  I then turned the heat to high and put about four oz. of butter and about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil into the large skillet. 
I sauteed the mushrooms and after them began to absorb the butter added about 3 Tbsps. of white vermouth and cooked them until their juices combined with the other cooking liquids. 
Soon the steaks were ready when cooked to medium rare to rare and soon after that Suzette brought in the grilled asparagus.  We took the potatoes out of the oven, put the wine on the table and each person took their steak, served themselves the potatoes and asparagus and we put the wine and Bearnaise Sauce onto the table and had a fabulous dinner.  We all agreed thatthe wines were a little young but all like them, especially the Wild Horse Pinot.    
After dinner we talked for a while and then took slices of a fabulous cheesecake made by Mrs. Lindemuth, graham cracker crust on the bottom, cream cheese with lemon filling on top of that and a top layer of flavored sour cream.  The cake is baked three times to cook all  its three layers. 
Here is the recipe: 
Bon Appetit

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 16, 2015 Grilled Teriyaki Tuna, PPI baby book Chou, and Rice. May 15, 2015 Five Layer Bean Dip

May 16, 2015  Grilled Teriyaki Tuna, PPI baby bok choy and rice  May 15, 2015 Five layer bean dip

Friday I thawed out the two tuna steaks I had bought at Sprouts. This morning I made a small portion of teriyaki marinade with 4 Tbsps. each, of aji mirin, sake and Tamari soy and ½ Tbsp. of sugar and marinated the tuna steaks.
Dinner was easy.  I made 1 ½ cups of rice and heated up the PPI stir fried baby bok choy and water chestnuts and Suzette grilled the tuna steaks.  I heated a pitcher of sake to drink with dinner and we drank tea after dinner and had some ice cream with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and maraschino cherries.

 This morning it was raining but we wanted to check out the Farmers' Market. First, we drove to Pastians to buy bread.  We bought a loaf of English muffin bread and six bagels.  We then drove by the Farmers' market but there was little activity due to the persistent rain, so we went home and decided to make Eggs Benedict with our newly acquired English muffin bread.  I made a quick Blender Hollandaise from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking  with three egg yolks, 2 tsp. of lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. of salt, a dash of pepper and 4 oz. of melted butter.  Suzette sauteed a smoked pork chop for the meat and we had a lovely breakfast.

Eggs Benedict

This month's Neighborhood Second Friday Cocktail Party was hosted by Daniel and Carrie Terrell, who have recently bought and remodeled the big 1960’s California Deck house that was the by Art Speigel/Collister house.  I made a five layer bean dip with layers of re-fried black beans, sour cream, guacamole, diced tomatoes and crumbled queso fresco.  I think folks liked it.  The best dish at the party was made by Carrie.  It was slices of fresh toasted French baguette smeared with a puree of green peas, thin slices of fresh mozzarella, and topped with a smear of pesto.

There was lots of other good food, including a large basket of chicken wings, chicken salad made by the Buckhalters, and a lovely sugar snap pea salad.  

Chicken Salad
We took a bottle of Famille Perrin Reserve red.  Daniel served Caceres Rioja Rosé and several reds and whites.

We had a lovely evening of conversation with several of our neighbors but crashed at around 8:30 p.m.

Bon Appétit    

May 17, 2015 Black Mole, Black Beans, Sautéed Chard, Rice and Clafoutis for Cynthia and Ricardo’s BD; May 18, 2015 Lunch – Salad Nicoise Dinner –Grilled Steak, Potatoes Savoyard and Steamed Asparagus

May 17, 2015 Black Mole, Black Beans, Sautéed Chard, Rice and Clafoutis for Cynthia and Ricardo’s BD; 
May 18, 2015 Lunch – Salad Nicoise  Dinner –Grilled Steak, Potatoes Savoyard and Steamed Asparagus

            We are into leftovers land this week.  I have stopped buying food and we are trying to use up everything we have in the freezers and crispers.  I ate PPI Clafoutis that I made last night for breakfast.

            For lunch I used 1/2 head of Romaine I had bought several weeks ago to make a Salad Nicoise, with Saturday night's PPI Teriyaki Tuna, a boiled potato, a boiled egg, an avocado, a tomato, some Kalamata olives, a radish, and some boiled green beans.  I added fresh tarragon, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic to the old dressing to freshen it up.  

           The last food I bought was on Saturday at Ranch Market, when I bought 2 lbs. of cherries, three leeks, some green beans, a 10 lb. bag of potatoes, 5 avocados for $.99, 1/2 lb. of crema (sin sal), four serrano chilis, about two pounds of cluster tomatoes for $.69/lb. about 2/3 lb. of Chapala queso fresco for $.3.19/lb., some discontinued re-fried black beans for $.25 per 15 oz. can and a few limes for $.50/lb.

           Last night we made a mostly PPI diner for Cynthia and Ricardo’s birthday. We thawed out and heated up some black chicken mole and black beans from Christmas.  The Chicken mole tasted wonderful with a bite of chili, the sweetness chocolate and the pungency of of the rest of the mole herbs.  The black beans were still sublime with their combination of fresh avocado and Hoja Santo  leaves ingredients and a sprinkle of  queso fresco.  We used some PPI rice we had made and we picked and sautéed fresh chard and garlic from the garden.  Cynthia made a lovely salad with dark purple and yellow tomatoes and a wonderful balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.  I actually made clafoutis to go with the dish.  I had soaked about six cups of pitted and halved sherries in about 1/3 cup of cognac and 3 Tbsps. of Grand Marnier overnight.  We drank LBV port with the Clafoutis and ate in the garden for a lovely dinner.  The garden is a sea of colors with white and pink water lilies, purple sage, orange and yellow snap dragons, pink/red Tropicana and pink Don Juan roses, purple chive, and yellow columbine flowers all in bloom.  

The Clafoutis

Ricardo pouring champagne

toasting the birthday guys

Black Chicken mole, chard and black beans

We also added some crema
         We drank Gruet Rosé champagne and Tecate and Monk’s ale beer with dinner last night with the mole.

         Today I thawed out an aged steak, which we grilled and when the wind picked up finished cooking by sautéing the steak on the stove inside with the last three of our white and last three of our shitake mushrooms, some sherry, 1 oz. of butter, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme from the garden. 

        Suzette also steamed the few stalks of asparagus that were not limp.  I made potatoes Savoyard with some of the fresh potatoes, the last ½ cup of Swiss Gruyere cheese, 3 oz. fresh double brie and about ½ cup of Manchego, plus 6 oz. of butter and 1 cup of beef bouillon.  It turned out that the combination of the extra ½ cup of cheese and the 6 oz. of butter produced too much fat and the potatoes were swimming in butter fat, but they were delicious even though we had baked the potatoes for over 50 minutes at 375˚.

         I wanted a pinot noir to drink tonight so I went to the basement and discovered that I had a 2007 Carneros Creek Pinot Noir.  I opened it and when Suzette sipped it, she declared, “It’s lovely.”  After a few minutes the wine opened up more and became smoother and fruitier, which was good because the steak turned out to be a bit stringy, so the wine had to make the dinner memorable.  I ate the last Tsp. of béarnaise sauce, but it was unnecessary because of all the extra butter fat in the potatoes and mushroom sauce.

          Bon Appétit


Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 13, 2015 New Recipe – Italian Sausage, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs over penne and artichoke

May 13, 2015  New Recipe – Italian Sausage, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs over penne and artichoke  

This morning I thawed out two aji tuna steaks and a package of Italian sausages.

I made pho soup for lunch with the fresh Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles and PPI steak.

This afternoon  I went to shop at Ranch Market and bought zucchini ($.79/lb.), limes ($.50/lb.), tomatoes ($.50/lb.), bananas ($.33/lb.), small avocados (5 for $.99) and green beans ($1.29/lb.).

I recalled that Cynthia had told me that she makes a simple sauce of zucchini and Italian sausage for pasta, so at 5:30 I decided to cook that type of pasta dish using the zucchini and serve it with the artichoke I had boiled yesterday.  

I needed to make a dipping sauce for the artichoke so I went to the garden and picked a few sprigs of dill for the artichoke sauce.  I also picked a small handful of basil leaves and pulled two bunches of garlic that were intruding into the tarragon patch. 

Artichoke Dipping Sauce

2/3 cup of mayonnaise
¼ cup of yogurt
Juice of ¼ lemon
2 tsp. of olive oil
½ tsp. of dill
After mixing the ingredients for the dipping sauce I put it into the fridge to chill and consolidate.

The Italian Sausage Sauté

I washed two stalks of garlic and sliced the white bottoms, then I fetched 1 ½ tomatoes, two halves of onion, the last bit of pasilla chili, ½ of a red bell pepper from the vegetable crisper and chopped them.
Suzette came home and confirmed the concept of sautéing the Italian Sausage and she de skinned and chipped up three sausages and then sautéed them in a large skillet.  I then added to the skillet about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to keep the ingredients from scorching and then added the garlic, onion, and zucchini initially.  Suzette also went to the garden and picked a handful of fresh oregano for the sauce and chopped it and put it into the skillet.

Then I sliced the tomatoes into wedges and sliced four white mushrooms and the basil leaves and put them into the skillet.

We looked at the skillet and decided it needed more tomatoes and more liquid, so Suzette put in a 15 oz. can of organic stewed tomatoes from Costco and added about ½ cup of water, which brought the liquid level almost to the top of the ingredients in the skillet.  We allowed this mixture to cook covered over medium heat while Suzette started a pot of water boiling.  When the water in the pot was at a rolling boil we added a lb. of dried Italian penne pasta (Costco) to pot of boiling water and cooked it until tender.

After another twenty minutes the ingredients in the skillet were tender and the liquid level reduced to a sauce and the pasta was tender, so I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of 2012 Fabula from Monteregio di Massa Marittima DOC in Tuscany, Italy.  I had tasted the wine at one of Total Wine’s wine tastings and had liked it and bought it ($12.99), but tonight Suzette did not like the wine which I agreed had a flat taste with a slightly bitter finish.  A sure sign that it was an inferior wine was when Suzette only drank one glass and the bottle was not emptied.

Soft but not sauce


The food on the other hand was interesting.  It turned into a meat and vegetable forward dish with all the ingredients intact with a light sauce made mainly from the cooking liquids of the ingredients. This was a refreshing change from the heavy tomato based spaghetti sauce I usually make.  I would cook this dish again, especially since we now have access to more fresh ingredients from the garden and have planted squashes and tomatoes, so by the end of summer we should have most of the ingredients.

We ate the artichoke while the pasta and sauté were cooking and then enjoyed dinner, except for the wine.  So it is back to more reliable chianti superior and reserve.  It is important to be aware that Total Wine pushes its exclusive labels of wine.  Sometimes they are interesting and a good value but others are just dressed up dogs.  One hint as to the winners is to look for the pictures of the employees with their recommendations.  The wine buyer employees drink the wines and the ones they prefer are their picks and they put their picture and stamp of approval on, which usually are the better wines.  

Bon Appétit