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Date night!


Mark and Grace on date nightI haven't told you this yet, but Mark turned in his dissertation last week. He still has to do his oral defense (a week from tomorrow), but he's more or less done. In celebration of that fact, we went to a very nice dinner last night at a local restaurant, Zoot. Aren't we cute? Our sweet neighbor, Mary, took a few pictures of us before we left.

The menu at Zoot was very nice. I actually thought it looked a little bit tame when reading it, but the execution of every single thing we had was so good that really, I think the menu is just understated. The room is comfortable and casual and they have a great outdoor space. The waitstaff was wonderful--very friendly, and our waitress brought Mark a free glass of wine after she saw me "reprimanding" him for stealing too much of mine. If you live in central Austin, Zoot is pretty far out (it's on Bee Caves), but it is a nice drive and really lovely out there.

For the curious, this is what we had:
First Course
Mark: Charcuterie and chicken liver pate with chopped tapenade and tarragon mustard
Adami "Garbel" Prosecco, Colbertado, Italy
Me: Grilled curry stuffed quail with pickled mango salad
2006 Domaine Adele Rouze, Loire Valley

Second Course
Mark: Chilled fennel soup
Me: Spinach salad with spicy fried garbanzo beans, marinated pequillo peppers, and sherry vinagrette
2006 Chateau Benoit, Muller Thurgau, Oregon

Third Course
Mark: Grilled ahi with potatoes dauphine, frisse, green beans, and poached egg
Light Oregon pinot noir
Me: Rack of lamb with sweet potato and purple potato gratin and garlic mustard greens
Heavy Oregon pinot noir

We split honey cheesecake with burnt sugar and gingerbread crust and lemon-thyme sauce

While everything was great, the standouts for me were my curry stuffed quail and the Oregno pinot I had, which I cannot for the life of me remember the name of (that was the wine of which our waitress so kindly brought us an extra glass). The lamb was also prepared perfectly. The ony things I didn't care for were my greens (and that's just a matter of taste--Mark loved them) and the cheesecake crust (same thing). There were really no weak spots in the service or the food.

Another boon was a tip I got to go over to and pick up a gift certificate to cover part of the meal. I paid $5 ($10 with a 50% off code of MOTHER) for a $25 certificate, printed it out from my home printer, and used it with absolutely no issues. $20 off the meal with very very little trouble. As several of our other favorite restaurants locally are listed on the site as well, it's definitely something I will use again.

All in all, it was a really lovely date night. If you are local, I definitely recommend Zoot. Also, for vegetarians, there is a veggie tasting menu, called the "Farmer's Menu," that sounds fantastic.


Big Congrats to Mark! Definitely something to celebrate. You guys look so great! And wowza on the food. Everything sounds so good. I love quail, when cooked properly, it's amazing. I wish we could get more OR wines over here. If you figure out the name of the wine, let me know, I'd love to try it.

Also check out your local radio and tv station websites. Ours do half-priced dining where you can by $50 gift cert. for $25. Pretty good deal in my book, but similar to what you got.

Cute couple. ;-)
Congratulations to Mark! Sounds like you had a great meal with a frugal twist too, smart thing to do with the coupon. Funny, coupons are definitely not common here and if you ever get one, the staff gets very suspicious and almost take a magnifying glass to see if it's real. :-)


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pepperwood grove old zin.jpgThe 2006 Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel is a damn good California wine. At $8 or less a bottle, it's very affordable, and it goes down easy (take it from me, I drank a whole bottle last night). It's a little bit on the sweet side and very soft. There are some berry flavors and an almost vanilla taste in it, but nothing super strong. It fills your mouth up, but it doesn't knock you over or demand your full attention.

This kind of wine would traditionally be paired with something big and gamy, but we had ours with some bacon and kale pasta and it did very well.

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White wine in review: Root:1 Sauvignon Blanc


Root:1 sauvignon blanc is another lovely wine out of Chile. I think it costs around $12. It has a gorgeous label, and it is very drinkable, especially with food. It's got a bit of an astringent element, so it's a little bit rough by itself, but with anything fatty or cream-based it's awesome, and it works well with spicy stuff as well. It's 13% alcohol by volume.

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White wine in review: 35 South Sauvignon Blanc


35 South is Whole Foods' house brand wine, on sale for $8.99/bottle at my store this weekend. The bottle I bought is a sauvignon blanc out of Chile, and it's very good. We drank it with salad nicoise, and it paired very well. It's got a little bit of a tropical taste and a little bit of fizz, which is very nice. I don't know what Whole Foods' regular price on this is, but it is under $13 or so a bottle, I'd buy it when it's not on sale.

It's 13.5% alcohol by volume.

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This is a go-to wine. It's a 2006 pinot grigio coming out of Monterey County, California, made by the generally proficient Big House label, costing about $12 or so. It has a nice, light, easy to drink flavor and a cute label. I'd definitely drink it with spicy food or seafood, but it's done OK with other things in our house as well. It's 13% alcohol by volume.

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White wine in review: Monarchia Cellars Pinot Grigio


Heed my words:

  1. Do not let Mark pick out your cheap white wine.

  2. Do not buy pinot grigio from Hungary.

Monarchia Cellars' 2007 Pinot Grigio, purchased for I think $8 by Mark, is not worth what he paid for it. Imagine what a white wine made in the stereotypical, gray, depressing Soviet Union would taste like. Soviet architecture white wine. Stalin's white wine. Got it in your mind? That's what this stuff tastes like.

It's 12.5% alcohol by volume.

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White wine in review: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc


Nobilo Sauvignon BlancAnother wine we've enjoyed recently is Nobilo's Regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I got the bottle at Costco, for around $8-$9. This is a sweet wine, with a lot of fruity taste, but it's not super sweet. The best word I could come up with for it is crisp. I can't recall what we drank it with, but I think it would be great with spicy food. I loved this wine, in part I think because it's exactly the type of wine I really dig, but also because it's an easily drinkable, economical choice. I will likely go back to Costco and buy a few bottles of this to store up, since I think it was produced in a fairly limited capacity.

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le grand noir labelBy request, I am going to start trying to review the wine we're drinking here on the blog. Hopefully it will be helpful to my fellow wine drinkers, and I know it will be helpful to Mark and I (to remember which cheap bottles are worth buying again).

Most recently, I picked up 2005 Le Grand Noir (Black Sheep) Chardonnay-Voignier at (I think...) Randall's. I'm not linking you to their website, because it's atrocious, but the wine itself was very good, especially for $9.99/bottle. It's a 25% viognier to 75% chardonnay mix, which made me a bit skeptical about buying it, since I don't usually like chardonnay, but the voignier seems to take a lot of the nasty oak flavor out of the chardonnay, and resulting mix is quite good. The bottle heralds it as "deliciously different," which I'd say is a fair assessment. It's not the greatest thing ever, but it's certainly worth 10 bucks a bottle. It's pretty simple, given the bizarre blend, and easy to drink. We had it with some appetizers (hummus, veggies, and pita chips), on a hot evening, and it was lovely.

The wine is 13% alcohol by volume and a half bottle gave me no real buzz and had no ill effects the next morning.

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