Thursday, June 17, 2021

Hugo's Frog Bar al fresco wine and dining

Hugo's Frog Bar al fresco wine and dining 

We dined at Hugo's Frog Bar in downtown Naperville for a summer afternoon al fresco dining experience. I must admit I had this place all wrong as I had pre-judged by what I considered a 'stupid and illogical' name. The kids all rave about it so we gave it a try for a special lunch with special friends in from out of town. We dined outside on the patio adjacent to the fountain. There is much to be said about dining outside amidst the sound of trickling water.

I admit, I didnt realize it was a sister restaurant to the notable Gibson's Steakhouse downtown Chicago along the Gold Coast nightclub and entertainment district, or, that they had been in business since 1997, or, that they specialized in premier east and west coast seafood, oysters, crudos, frog legs, lobster and seasonal fish and shellfish, in addition to Gibsons Prime Angus and Gibsons Grassfed Australian steaks.

Lastly, readers of these pages know I measure a restaurant and dining experience by the wine selection and the available pairing of food and wine. 

Suffice to say, I was blown away, very impressed with the food, wine, and overall ambiance and dining experience. 

My initial skepticism deepened and continued when I read from the menu about the Seared Hudson Valley Scallops. I was intrigued by their preparation and accompaniments - brie cheese polenta, wild mushroom bordelaise sauce, and toasted sunflower seeds. 
But Hudson Valley Scallops? Scallops are from the bay, or the ocean, or they would have to be farm raised, in an environment not conducive to delectable eating. 
I challenged the server who insisted they were Hudson Valley, wild caught, fresh scallops. I was still skeptical, especially when she insisted they were Bay Scallops. I mentioned Hudson Valley is the Hudson River in middle and upper state New York, not near any Bay, or the Ocean. 
She went to the kitchen to re-confirm and came back and corrected what she had said, that they were Sea scallops, not Bay scallops, but still, from Hudson Valley! One last challenge, not Hudson Valley foie gras?  No, Hudson Valley Scallops! 
I gave in, rolled the dice and gave it a try. They were spectacular - perfectly prepared and accompanied by an imaginative, delicious, delectable delightfully prepared and presented sauce. 
The wine selection - B-T-G (by the glass) was decent, respectable, a selection of a dozen chardonnays B-T-G (by the glass), a half dozen each Pinots, Cabernets, 'American Reds' and 'Imported Reds'. 
Wine List ? An impressive, imaginative, well thought out, carefully prepared wine list that touched all the bases from simple to complex, budget conscious to self indulgent - all American wines, with all the requisite varietals, regions and blends. I found no less than a two dozen bottles of wine that I would find suitable, reasonably priced, and appropriate accompaniments to the menu selections, for a primo optimal wine and dining experience. Kudo's! 
With our entrees, Linda and I each selected a glass of Chardonnay, each to our preferred style. 
Far Niente Napa Valley Chardonnay 2018

Far Niente has been producing this Napa Valley Chardonnay since 1979. It was their first varietal cultivated and bottled. Far Niente Chardonnay is a blend sourced from Napa Valley vineyards located in Coombsville. Nestled in the rolling foothills, protected by those hills east of the city of Napa, Coombsville offers the characteristic cool climate of Carneros, with less wind, with deeper, well-drained gravelly loam and volcanic ash soils - ideally suited from Chardonnay. 
Producer notes: "Aromas of melon, sweet citrus and white blossom floral layered with notes of flint, yeast and sweetly toasted oak. A smooth and focused entry is followed by a silky midpalate with ripe flavors of honeydew and lemon, supported by just of touch of wet stone, yeast and toasted hazelnuts. The finish is long and structured with citrus rind and mouthwatering acid.

This is an amazing label given that they produce 40 thousand cases of this wine, year after year, amazing volume with consist quality.

This was awarded 90 points by Wine Spectator, "Rich and juicy, with oaky accents to the dried apple and glazed apricot flavors. The well-structured finish is filled with savory and buttery notes. Drink now through 2023. 41,970 cases made."

I liked it a lot, bright gold colored, medium bodied, round, full, bright expressive melon, wet stone, what the producer called 'yeast and toasted hazelnuts' with buttery toasted oak, rich mouthfeel and supple lingering finish. 
An ideal compliment to my entree - a perfect pairing, which only amplified the enjoyment of both! 
RM 91 points. 

Linda had the salmon entree and chose this Santa Barbara Chardonnay which she knows well as we have bottles from this producer (shown) in our cellar. The salmon was perfectly prepared and presented and was ideal with the Cambria Santa Barbara Chardonnay.

Cambria Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2017

We've had several bottles of this producer over the years and find it a high QPR, great value nice balanced dependable every day wine.  
From Santa Barbara, this was less buttery and oaky than many of the Napa Chardonnays that tend to be a bit bigger and fuller. This has more a clean citrus based layer than the Far Niente above, more to Linda's preference. 

Wine Enthusiast said of this Santa Barbara label. "candied or pie-filling pineapple jam, Mandarin orange zest, apricot brulee and vanilla custard flavors..."
I give this 88 points, but at a fraction of the cost of the Far Niente, one would argue it is a higher QPR and therefore better value. In any event, its what one prefers in character and style and this is Linda's preference. 


Prior to our entrees we had the Loaded Wedge with bacon, tomato & Blue Cheese. Bingo. 
Afterwards we had the two dessert selections, creme brulee and the flourless chocolate cake with berry sauce and creme fraiche, all the food groups, both large enough for sharing, and both delicious. 

As mentioned, I had the scallops, ideally accompanied by Far Niente Napa Valley Chardonnay. Spectacular! Memorable! Notable! 

I am still skeptical about the Hudson Valley seared scallops, and am still half believing they confused the Seared Scallops with foie gras with the Hudson Valley designation being a misnomer with the scallops. I stand ready to be corrected, or enlightened, or ratified. In any event, they were wonderful! 

After lunch I wondered into/through the empty mid-afternoon dining room. It looks delightful and inviting for a wonderful dinner experience and I can't wait to try it out, soon!