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With just over a week left in 2014, I have my winner for the best meal of the year. We ate a lot this year and had the opportunity to do some great travel (Best of travel coming tomorrow!), so it was tough to decide. Our experience at Aniar in Galway was just so exquisite though, I couldn’t NOT choose it as the best of 2014. My photos don’t do this meal any justice; the lighting was perfect for a date night but not great for photos. And I definitely know I am leaving details out, since it seems like this dinner was ages ago. Below is my best effort at sharing with all of you an evening that delighted so many senses and left us singing Aniar’s praises all over Galway and beyond.

Aniar Galway

Aniar means “west” in Irish, and much like wine makers, they are driven by terroir. You won’t find lemon in your water at Aniar because lemons don’t grow in Ireland. Our tasting menu feast highlighted meat and produce from Ireland; it was a great testament to the fact that Irish food can be REALLY good, something I have been trying to get across for years. Ireland has some of the best raw materials for amazing cuisine, and it’s great to see places like Aniar showcasing that.

Aniar Galway

We decided to go all out and do the tasting menu with wine pairings since this was my belated birthday dinner, which we didn’t make due to a flight cancellation from Scotland.

I was so glad that we did the wine pairings, as they were spot on perfect. The service was even better. The wines weren’t listed on our menus, and when I asked about them at the end of the meal, our server hand wrote each one on the back of the menu. Throughout the night there were so many little added touches where the staff went above and beyond.

A light, fun, Prosecco kicked off our night, and went nicely with our first course, a fresh piece of mackerel. I love pairing a fatty fish with bubbly, and our first bites set the tone for the whole meal.

Aniar Galway We had a table right by the window, so we were able to watch the hustle and bustle of a rainy Galway evening while we dined. It was cozy and romantic, and despite Aniar being a Michelin star restaurant, there was nothing stiff or pretentious about the place. It felt so homey and relaxed.

Aniar Galway Each bite of the meal was perfect; this fresh hen egg was swoon-worthy.

Aniar Galway

Halibut dusted in fennel, deliciously flaky and meaty at the same time, paired with Chardonnay from Beaujolais (Terres Dorées 2012 Classic) that was acidic and crisp, full of mineral and lemon.

Aniar Galway

Somewhere along the way (I am missing a course, pork neck.) we were served a wine that I was able to instantly recognize as Gamay, the grape in the oft overly fruity and awful Beaujolais Nouveau. This Gamay, by Jean Paul Brun, was a perfect example of how good Gamay can be when aged and finessed the right way. Big, dark cherry notes and a little earthy funk made this wine a new favorite, and I am definitely hoping to get my hands on it in the US.

A beautiful local herbal tea sorbet was the perfect mid-meal palate cleanser.

Aniar Galway

The tasting menu included some things I don’t normally go for, like venison, but I was adventurous and tried it all. And I hate to say it, but I thought the venison was incredible. It was so tender and flavorful and paired perfectly with the earthy, seasonal vegetables served with it. A gorgeous Rhone Valley Syrah rounded out each bite. This was my favorite course of the night.

Aniar Galway

 

wine pairings at Aniar Galway

Dessert was a fun and foamy blackberry, apple, and buttermilk concoction paired with a Chateau Jolys Cuvee Jean, a dessert wine that had so much balance with its honeysuckle sweetness that even I, one who does not like sweet wine, loved it.

dessert at Aniar

I wish I had taken the time to take more photos and notes along the way, but the way this meal flowed, the chat with our servers, watching the people go by and peeking into the insanely clean and busy kitchen all caught my attention before the thought of blogging creeped in. This night was a delicious, long breath of fresh air, filled with flavor and obvious love of food and of Irish ingredients. Bravo to Chef Ultan Cooke and the Aniar team, and thank you for being my best meal of 2014.

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Tags: Dining out, Food, Galway, Ireland, restaurants in Ireland, Travel, travel blog, travel blogger, wine, wine blog, wine blogger

It’s easy to spend a day in Healdsburg without getting into the car once, especially if you are staying on the plaza.  If you’re not, it’s also pretty much always easy to find parking and to spend your day just wandering in and out of tasting rooms and shops and restaurants.

We’re always excited to add a new tasting room to our Healdsburg mix, so when we saw that the space previously occupied by Boisset Taste of Terroir was now a C. Donatiello tasting room, it was our first stop. We have tasted and loved C. Donatiello wines in the past, including during the Wine and Food Affair.

C. Donatiello Sparkling Wine

Vacation is for celebration, so we started off with glasses of sparkling wine which we loved. It reminded me a little of Prosecco, with pear notes and the tiniest bit of sweetness. It ended up being perfect for a little Sunday brunch bubbly before our Savor Healdsburg Food Tour too! Perfect alone, this bubbly would also be nice in a mimosa on the beach. As it’s already unbearably cold in Boston, that is a thought I will hold onto.

C. Donatiello

We didn’t want to leave the C. Donatiello tasting room once we pulled up the couple of chairs in the window overlooking the Healdsburg Plaza. It’s a warm and cozy space with great people watching. Staff was friendly and helpful, happy to walk us through the various Pinot Noir and Chardonnay options available but also happy to give us space to sip and relax without feeling rushed or sold to.

So we decided to stay and share two more glasses, a  Russian River Valley Chardonnay and a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay offered everything I love in this varietal, acidity and green apple notes with a delightful roundness, hints of vanilla and butterscotch on the lingering finish. The Chardonnay for me would be a perfect food wine.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

As far as the Pinot goes, we love Sonoma Coast wines, and C. Donatiello is definitely doing these grapes, grown in a stunningly beautiful but sometimes difficult region, major justice.

How beautiful is the color of that Pinot Noir? It was light and tart with strawberry notes, a little spicy, and oh-so-easy to drink. Fall always puts me in the mood for Pinot Noir, and I am wishing we had filled a case with this one.

It’s no secret we loved this spot; it was one of two tasting rooms we visited twice on our trip and one that will always be part of our itinerary moving forward.  Unpretentious, nicely appointed, with delicious wines, and welcoming people. . . what more could you ask for?

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Tags: California, Healdsburg, Sonoma County, sparkling wine. tasting room, wine, wine tasting, Wine Wednesday

Let me start off by admitting I went to the new Legal Oysteria twice in two days. It’s that good, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty close to my office.  I didn’t spend much time at Olives, the restaurant previously in its space, except for the epic reopening party, where it seems Todd English spent all of his money on a seven hour open bar. . .

But I loved the space and location, and well, while Todd doesn’t seem to have a love for Boston, Legal does, and I had a feeling they would get it just right.

Legal Oysteria maintains that same bright, open layout and design that Olives had, with a beautiful white marble bar and a variety of types of seating, including a dining area, bar, and high tops.

The cocktail menu offers many aperitif and digestif type drinks; a number of them have bitter elements like Amaro. I started with a Prosecco Cocktail, a refreshing and too-easy-to-drink blend of Prosecco, Aperol, Aperitivo Rosa, Citrus, and Soda. The paper straw it came with was cute, but it disintegrated pretty quickly.

prosecco cocktail

Legal Oysteria is the perfect place to dine with friends who are up for trying lots of bites. Every single one was delicious, and we filled up before we had the chance tp even look at the entrée menu!

calamari

{Crispy Fried Calamari, Salsa Rossa}

Tender, salty, perfectly crisp, the calamari was a surprise. I often try calamari that I don’t love, but this one really was perfect.

caponata

{Eggplant Caponata with Grilled Focaccia}

I love eggplant, but I love it even more when someone else cooks it for me. This caponata was dotted with sweet raisins to provide a flavor contrast, and the bread was fluffy and buttery,

grilled oysters with fennel butter

{Grilled Oysters with Fennel Butter}

This is possibly the most heavenly and decadent way to eat oysters ever. Warm fennel butter mixed with plump grilled oysters was a combination new to me, but it is something I want to eat again and again.

 

ricotta fritters with spiced honey

{Ricotta Fritters with Spiced Honey}

These little fritters reminded me of donuts. They were awesome, but I think they might belong on the dessert menu.

shrimp and chickpea fritters

{Chickpea and Shrimp Fritters}

I had these both nights at Legal Oysteria. I loved the mix of shrimp and chickpeas in a piping hot fritter, and the spicy aioli was a perfect addition.

clam pizza

{Roasted Clam Pizza, Garlic, Oregano, Mozzarella, Pecorino}

The roasted clam pizza was our main course, and it was delightfully crispy and garlicky, the perfect end to the meal and the bite that put me over the “too full” edge.

Legal Oysteria is an excellent addition to the Boston dining scene, and I am certain it will become an after work favorite for me and my colleagues.

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Tags: Boston, Charlestown, cocktails, Dining out, Food, oyster bar, oysters, Restaurants, seafood, summer

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