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Todd English’s “Wild Olives” Restaurant, Boca Raton FL

Saturday evening, June 26th. I’m down from Chicago visiting my parents over a long weekend in my hometown area of South Florida.  I was searching online for a new restaurant to try, and came across Wild Olives ( by Todd English (  Todd has been on the scene receiving numerous culinary awards over the last 20 years and his restaurants enjoy a reputation for high quality fine dining. Needless to say, I was excited to dine at one of his places and had above average expectations. 

I called at 1:45pm to make a reservation for 3 people at 6:00pm. This took 5 minutes to accomplish (a little long for a party of 3, don’t you think). One of the Chefs answered the phone. I give him my reservation request and he says “Ok, hang on. Give me a second, I just need to minimize the screen I’m on and pull up the reservations screen.” He gets the screen up and then asks for the details again. He then says that he should be able to take our reservation, but has to get the general manager to “make sure.” Then the GM gets on the phone and asks for the THIRD TIME about the details for the reservation. This was the first bad sign for me. Timeliness on the phone with direct clear answers is very important.

We arrive at the restaurant at 6pm and there is ONE table of diners. The rest of the place is EMPTY. I’m thinking “really, it was that difficult to take my reservation for 3 guests and the dining room is empty.” However, the hostess was very polite and professional and the decor was very impressive. My high hopes returned. We were sat in a very comfortable booth and all was good…. so far.

Our server for the evening was very courteous and professional, and he seemed to be very knowledgeable about the food. After a few minutes with the menus and our water, a runner brought us some bread. The plate had 3 dipping sauces on it. Before we even noticed there were three different sauces, the guy who brought out the bread was gone with no explanation of what they were. My mom has an allergy to nuts and we were concerned about the ingredients. I motioned over a nearby server who was polishing her table’s stemware and she explained the sauces. Yep, one of them was an almond based sauce! If you’re going to bring something out to the table that was NOT ordered, you need to explain what it is. When our server came back we then informed him of my mom’s allergy to nuts so we can avoid them for the rest of the meal.

We started out with the anti-pasti. Very nice presentation, nice selection of fresh meats and cheeses, but what’s on the chopping block?? NUTS! Are you kidding me? This place isn’t even busy yet!

Now to the wine service. I ordered a bottle of Erath “Dundee Hills” Estate Pinot Noir 2008. I have never had this bottle before, but with all the hype on Oregon’s 2008 vintage I thought it would be fun to try. The server brings out the wine and presents it, I see Erath 2008 Pinot Noir and tell him ok. He opens the wine, I sampled, accepted, and then he poured for us. Wine service was fine… however, when he left the table I started looking at the bottle some more. I noticed the appellation designate for this wine was simply “Oregon.” Now I knew Erath made a simple entry-level Pinot and I started to question that they brought me the right wine (which was in the $50’s on their list). The “regular” Erath would probably be in the $30’s on a restaurant list, or maybe low $40’s. I pulled up Erath’s website on my i-phone ( and found the “Dundee-Hills” bottling that was on Todd’s wine list. The label was completely different then the wine they brought out. I called over the manager and explained the situation. He removed the wine and we ordered a MORE EXPENSIVE Hitching Post Pinot Noir which was delicious. I wonder how many other people ordered this Erath Pinot and got the lower-end Oregon bottling instead of the Estate for a HUGE mark-up. I’m sure the restaurant didn’t know they were doing this, but it was another huge disappointment that was unexpected at a Todd English establishment. My guess is the whole-sale distributor of Erath sent out the wrong wine for delivery and someone at the restaurant accepted it who wasn’t familiar with appellation designate wines. It was then binned and voila… out for sale! Yikes! Perhaps hiring a Certified Sommelier would solve some of these issues Chef?

Finally dinner came out. We’re fans of seasoned food, but holy salt batman!! This food was REALLY over salted… it’s all that you could taste!! Not worth sending back so they can have another crack at it… we’ve already had enough!  That was the last straw for us. It’s too bad that this is my first Todd English experience because it’s going to be very difficult to get me to try another one of his places unless I know that he is there personally in the kitchen!

The moral of the story is don’t assume that because there’s a famous chef’s name on the marquis that it’s going to be any good!

Check out the video of this dining experience:


A Blind Tasting featuring [Yellow Tail] Reserve

May 5th, Cinco de Mayo! What better way to start the day then with a blind tasting held at NAHA ( The theme? Well, basically, see if you can pick out the Yellow Tail Reserve. The tasting featured John Casella, Managing Director for Casella Wines, and was hosted by none other than Master Sommelier and Master of Wine Doug Frost (one of only 3 people in the world to achieve both of these distinctions, The tasting panel of nearly 20 guests was made up of local wine industry all-stars including Master Sommeliers Alpana Singh ( (popular from her show “Check, Please!”) and Serafin Alverado (also director of Education for Southern Wine & Spirits in Illinois), Chicago Tribune food and wine columnist Bill Daley(, Chicago Wine School Director Patrick Fegan, Sommelier for Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill and Topolobompo Jill Gubesch, Master Sommelier Candidate and wine buyer/manager of local retail shop Wine Discount Center Michael Baker(,, and a handful of other professionals whom I wish I had more time to meet and chat with.

The format was simple and casual. We all gathered around a table that had eight red wines at each place setting, divided into two flights of four wines. The four wines in the front were in Burgundy shaped glasses (these have wide bowls shaped like a balloon that taper in towards the top allowing more surface area for the wine), and then the other four wines in the back row were served in Bordeaux styled glasses (large bowls that are not as wide as the Burgundy stems but taller and more vertical, used for tasting Cabernet Sauvignon wines). Each taster was given a sheet of paper for each flight to take notes. We tasted quietly on our own recording our notes which we would then discuss as a group one flight at a time. We began with the front flight in the Burgundy stems. The following are my notes. You’ll notice they get less and less descriptive and that’s because I like to take my time with a wine but the average group time for tasting the four wines was faster than my pace.

Wine #1: COLOR– Ruby core, purple/pink rim, light staining of the tears, medium+ viscosity. NOSE– medium intensity and youthful with ripe cherries, raspberries, blueberries, stony minerals, fresh herbs, mint/menthol, fennel, vanilla, baking spices (indicating use of French Oak). PALATE– dry, medium body, medium tannins, medium acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium length, medium complexity.

Wine #2: COLOR– dark ruby core, garnet rim, medium staining of the tears, medium+ viscosity. NOSE- medium+ intensity, baked black cherries, blueberry jam, raspberries, pepper, leather, fresh dirt, thyme, bayleaf, fresh ground coffee (indicating use of oak barrels). PALATE- dry, medium body, medium tannin, medium acid, HIGH alcohol

Wine #3: COLOR– ruby core, light red rim. NOSE– FRESH red fruits, cherries, raspberries, green bell pepper, menthol/mint. PALATE– medium tannin, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol.

Wine #4: NOSE– DRIED red fruits, fresh earth, mushroom, cinnamon/baking spices. PALATE- Medium+ tannin, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol.

So what were the wines in the first flight? What did you think based on my descriptions? I thought the first wine, along with a couple others, could have been Pinot Noir. Sounds very similar to Pinot Noir. Nope! All four wines are Shiraz! This is why you can’t generalize if you like “Australian Shiraz” because the styles run up and down the board! My favorite of the grouping? Wine #1!

Here’s the answer key:

Wine #1- 2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz ($11)

Wine #2- 2008 Marquis Philips Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($13)

Wine #3- 2007 Archetype Shiraz, Barossa Valley ($15)

Wine #4- 2006 D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($60)

The “best on paper” and most expensive “Dead Arm” Shiraz had a really bad day and did not show well next to the other wines. Gotta love those blind tastings!

Now on to flight #2!

Wine #5: NOSE- FRESH fruits, blueberries, black cherries, stony minerality, fennel, licorice, leather. PALATE- super ripe and concentrated fruits, medium + alcohol, medium+ tannins, medium acidity

Wine #6- Blueberries, blackberries, cassis (ripe and concentrated), floral with violets and lavender, herbal notes, coconut. Dry, medium+ body, medium acidity, medium+ alcohol, high tannin.

Wine #7- Dried fruits, raspberry dominant, meaty/game notes, bacon, grilled meat, toast, lots of mineral. Medium+ tannins, HIGH alcohol, medium+ acidity.

Wine #8- candied fruit, medium acid, medium+ tannin, medium+ alcohol.

I didn’t particularly care for any of the wines in the 2nd flight. My least favorite was easily wine #7. My favorite? Do I have to pick a favorite? Fine! If you force me to drink down one of these wines, it was wine#5! So what are the wines here? Sounds like Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is, with the exception of one. My least favorite, wine#7 was to my surprise a Malbec. Usually Malbec has much more vibrant concentrated ripe fruit with some sexy oak thrown on top for good measure. Not this one!

Here’s the answer key to flight #2:

Wine #5- 2008 Mollydooker Maitre’d Cabernet Sauv, S Australia ($24)

Wine #6- 2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, SE Australia ($11)

Wine #7- 2008 Layer Cake Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($14)

Wine #8- 2007 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauv, S Australia ($16)

First Post

So I finally stumbled into the world of blogging today. I’ve been active on the internet through the social media sites twitter, facebook, and youtube, and that has led me down the path of blogs. I wasn’t sure where to blog, and I still don’t really know HOW to blog, but I heard about wordpress so I’m checking it out. Sorry Tumblr, but I’m sure I’ll visit you soon too. Hopefully this will be a small learning curve, but we’ll see.

So why start a blog? Well, I have a lot of passion and experience about food and wine (and music) and I really enjoy sharing that passion with others. I’m really just hoping that there will be people out there who find my content interesting, and in turn, I will find their blogs and learn a thing or two from them. That’s what it’s all about for me… sharing and networking! As bad as I want people to discover my blog, I also want to discover yours! I don’t want this blog to just be a personal diary, I want it to be a vehicle in which I can discover YOUR passions about wine, food, or whatever!

So with that, I’m off to get my blogging show on the road!