Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Trail Marker Dinner at The Playground 2.0 room

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Had not heard or Trail Marker before so we decided to give it a try. We knew the food was going to be good so why not. The owner, winemaker was Drew Huffine. He had been with Kosta Browne and Copain among others before. For the most part the wines were good but the Pinot Noir was something else. I have never tasted a Pinot like that. Would have never guessed it as a Pinot if I had not been told. Took a couple of sips and left it. All of us left the wine sit. Not good.

Normally I either write the name of the wines down but last dinner when Justin gave me the menu the wines were listed so I did not bother this time. Alas no wines listed. And I really can't remember . One was a good Rose, then a white and three reds. But anything else leaves my brain because I thought I did not have to write anything down. Only the beer that was served with the dessert. It was a Beachwood Robusta Ryhme. Dark and good.

We started out with a Foie Gras pate terrine with warm , toasted Apricot bread.  I could have had this and nothing else. They even brought me a second serving which they do not do. This was the first of 11 courses.

A dish with Humboldt Fog cheese, Masculine greens, brown butter baby beets and crushed hazelnut cookies was next. Hard not to overeat.

3rd dish  was a Tomme De Savoie and wild mushroom croque monsuier. Almost like a flatbread with this fabulous cheese and mushrooms.  Another winner.

White asparagus, citrus supreme, pickled shallot and baby brioche crouton. very interesting combination of flavors and they went well together.

Wagu steak tartare with frites and hollandaise sauce. A whole new way to eat french fries. Unbelievably good.

Haricot Verts Almandine.  Excellent flavor

Number 7 was a Haibut Cheeks Grenobloise. So sweet and tender

Celery Root and apple remoulade, dried cranberries, candided walnut crunch. Cool and refreshing and they gave me a box of this to take home.

Duck confit, pork belly beans, breadcrumbs, choucrute.  Excellent flavor, a bit salty. Too bad I am stuffed and could not enjoy more of this.

Last was 2 desserts,  A Proper Macaron - two macarons with a whipped cream mixture sandwiched together. Good flavor but I am not a fan of macaroons. Way too sweet for me. Also had a chocolate mousse which I devoured.

Another very good dinner at the Playground 21.0 Room. seats 18 people at a long bar. Easy to make conversation with people sitting next to year but everyone else is a shouting match.  Interaction with the cooks and chef is a real treat. They are all fun and personable

Time to get the calendar out and see what looks good for my next dinner there. 

I am always amazed at how good the food is on these special dinners. So innovative. Not for people who have dining or food  issues but for the rest of us gluttons it is divine.

Delius Restaurant Annual Passport Wine Tasting

Sunday, October 16, 29016

This has been a main stay with Delius for many years,,   I have only missed one of these tasting because the Wino's had scheduled a tasting on the same day.  After attending that tasting, I kicked myself for not going to the Passport. Wines would have so much better.

12 regions were represented, 36 wines. Lots of food but it is difficult to eat off a plate when all the tables are taken, so I just nibbled with finger food. One of the waitstaff brought me out finger food from the kitchen and made sure when the passed around trays of appetizers he got to me first.

100 tickets are sold for this event and it was sold out. Out of 100 people I only recognized 2 people that I knew or had seen there before. 

Wines for the most part were good. Did not taste all 36 but  2 that stood out were a 2015 Castano Monastrell Rose and a 2012 Poder Nuovo "Therra" Super Tuscan.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Deluca Trattoria & Rock Wall Wines

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The dinner tonight at Deluca ,,  was being hosted by Gourmet Wine Getaways and was featuring Kent Rosenblum, the owner of the winery. 

Kent used to own Rosenblum Winery but received an attractive offer for a buyout and took it. He had wanted to retire but after awhile the creative juices started flowing again and he just had to make at least one kind of wine. So Rock Wall Wine Company was formed.  I had not seen Kent in many, many years.  Good to catch up.

So I took the plunge and drove from work to El Segundo. One hour on surface streets from where I work Normally this is an area I would not go to on a weeknight. Weekends would be doubtful also. Not freeway friendly at all.  Met friends who actually live close enough to the restaurant to walk there. Lucky them.  

We started out with a "reception" featuring numerous cheeses and Meringhe (which is sauce/jelly). A 2015 Lake County, Sauvignon Blanc was poured. I really liked this wine. Not too mineraly, acidic or grassy. Very pleasant and drinkable. Cheeses were very good. A nice variety.

Dinner started at least 30 minutes late. But with the wine flowing it did not matter. We were served Bruschetta di Branzino all 'Acqua Pazza (crazy water branzino) and a Bocconcini di Filetto con Porcini ( filet mignon with porchini mushroom) . The branzino bruschetta turned out to me the best thing I had that night. Excellent. The beef bruschetta was slightly dry and  the meat was a  little tough and over cooked for me.   The wine was a 2014 Rigg Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon. Excellent wine. Well balanced and complex. Many layers.  Was a little young but should cellar for at least 10 years.

Next dish was a Spezzatino di Coniglio con Risotto alle Erbe Aromatic  (Gabriella's rabbit stew with aromatic herb risotto). I love rabbit but this was a not a dish I would order again. I have eaten rabbit since I was a child and know what it should be. In fact when I was married we raised rabbits and had the meat on the dinner table at least once a week.  Rabbit was dry and the risotto was dry also.  Not the creamy way it should be. Flavor were good but it didn't make up for the dryness of the dish.  A 2014 Julie's Vineyard, Russian River, Zinfandel was paired with this dish. Big jammy nose and rich flavor. A typical Kent Rosenblum Zin. That is what made him known before. Zinfandel. 

Last dish was a Bocconcini di  Cinghiale con Pappardelle (Gabriella's wild,boar sauce over pappardelle). Again good flavors but the wild boar sauce was way to salty and the pasta was slightly overcooked. Not too bad put again not al dente. The wine paired was another winner. A 2015 Le Mur De Roche, Napa Valley, Petite Sirah. Another big wine.

Dessert was good. a housemade Tiramisu. But the sparkling wine was a big disappointment. 2015 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc.  Tasted much more like a sauvignon blanc grape. I did not finish mine. Taste just turned me off. 

I think perhaps that since this was their first large banquet style dinner that restaurant held the kitchen may have been overwhelmed getting all the food out at the same time. Quality suffered because of it.  It is much different cooking for a banquet style meal for close to 50 people  than individual meals during a normal restaurant service. My friends have dined at Deluca numerous times and they agreed that the dinner was not up to  Deluca's normal standards.  I also had a problem with service. Three times they came and took the used plates away and three times they forgot to give me a clean plate. Everyone else managed but somehow I got  "lost in the transfer" somehow. Plus one of the times I had to ask 3 people before I was finally given a replacement. So I think the kitchen and staff were out of the element. Just need some more large dinners to get the hang of it.

But a nice evening, really good wines and a fun time.The prices on the wines were excellent but alas I am trying to pare down and not buy for a year or so. I am less than 500 bottles now so I have made some inroads but not enough to start buying again. Maybe when I get down to 200 bottles I might take a look at it again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Torres Spanish Wines and Arte Cafe

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Torres wines are featured tonight at Arte Cafe in Cerritos, Sold out dinner. Bargain for $59. A lot of people late because of an accident on  the 91 freeway so we got off to a late start.

We started out with a Chopped Salad.  Heirloom tomatoes, Machego cheese, roasted beets, avocado and sherry vinaigrette. Salad was very good and paired well with the Pazo das  Bruxas,  Albarino,  Rias Baixas.

A bowl of cold Gazpacho was next. Shrimp and avocado, Very spicy. I ate the shrimp and avocado . A couple of spoonfuls of the gazpacho was more than enough for me.Had excellent flavor but I tasted the heated for quite awhile. Not the thing for a wine dinner.  A Jean Leon 3055 Rose was paired with this dish. I did like this Rose. Full of flavor. Not whimpy at all. Named after a family member, Jean Leon who owned LaScala restaurant.

Third dish up was a Pulpo y Chorizo. Grilled octopus with Fingerling potatoes, Spanish Chorizo and olive oil.  Chorizo was very good. Octopus was a little tough. Most went back to the kitchen. A 5G's Garnacha, Campo de Borja was paired with this dish. A nice wine and paired very well.

A plate of Paella was next. Loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp, chicken  and andouille sausage. Good flavors. But I have had better Paella and I have also had worse. Portions of seafood was good.  Paired with a Salmos Red Blend, Priorat. My favorite wine if the evening.

Last main dish served was a Solomillo Steak, grilled ribeye with red wine reduction, pisto Machego with patats bravas (mixed veggies, mushrooms, squash, onions). Steak was perfect. Nice char on it and sizzling when it came out.. The surprise wine of the dinner turned out to be a Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvigon, Penedes. Wine Spectator gave it a 93 rating.. Excellent pairing and very good wine.

Dessert was a Housemade Spanish Flan served with a Brandy Alexander made with Torres 10 Brandy and Torres Spanish Orange Liqueur.  Nice touch to the evening.

Question is and not only this restaurant - why do they served one pat of butter for two large rolls. 

Dinner was good, wines were good and I won a bottle of wine as a door prize. Good evening.



Baba Ghanouj

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Baba Ghanouj was Margie's selection for dinner this month. . Located in the Bixby Knolls area which is becoming quite the restaurant row. 12 people, 17 bottles of wine. No room on table for food.. With the bottles and all the wine glasses it was a tight squeeze for the food dishes. 

We started out with the White Bean Soup which was nice and thick. Lots of garlic.  Good flavors. 

Baskets of Pita Bread showed up but the Hummus was missing. Seems it ended up being served on the dinner plate and not much of it. And for some reason it did not seem the same as the last time I was at Baba. Something was off.

A couple more appetizers were served. Sauteed Potatoes with garlic, lemon, chioli, cilantro and tahini (the potatoes are a  favorite of mine)  and a plate of Feta Mix, feta cheese, chopped onion. tomato. fresh oregano and olive oil with pita chips.

The main entrees were served on individual dinner plates. Consisted of Kibbie Sineeya, which is freshly ground beef with cracked wheat and layered with pine nuts. Baked and served with tabbouleh and yogurt sauce.  Chicken Shawarma which is thinly sliced grilled chicken with tomato, garlic sauce and hummus. Lamb Shish Kabab, marinated pieces of lamb, charbroiled and served with hummus. And the Basmati Rice.

All the meat to me was dry, the lamb was tough and way over cooked for me and the portion size of all the sauces were very small. Flavors were excellent.

Dessert was dry also, Baklawa  (Baklava)  just did not have enough syrup on it.

I would have rather paid $5 more and had larger portions of all the sauces and hummus.

Wines were an interesting mix. I tried less than a third of them. Some just plain did not interest me. I did like the Alain Bally Champagne, Miraval Rose, Stolo Gewurztraminer and the Huber Barrel Select Pinot Noir.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Chianina and Blackbird Wines

Wednesday, September 28, 2916

Joined friends last night for a wine dinner at Chianina,,  in Naples.  Wines were provided by Blackbird Vineyards,,  .  Sold out dinner tonight. Instead of 6 PM to 9 PM  for reservations they opened it to 5 PM to 10 PM..

Noticed as I drove in the valet parking has gone from $4 to $6. Wonder if it was just for tonight. I pulled in right behind the owner, Michael Dene. I asked the attendant how Michael keeps the very shining grill of his Bentley so clean and sparkling.  Found out that the grill on that very expensive Bentley is PLASTIC. Who would have thought.

We started out with a Tuna Arriveste, ahi, toasted brioche and squash. We were not too sure where the squash was or how to eat this little stack of items. Some decided to pick it up with their fingers like a sandwich and I tried the fork method. Not sure which one was the best idea. Flavors were excellent and it went well with the 2015 Arriviste Rose.

First course was a Branzino Dissonance,  branzino, beets, brown butter. burgundy and spinach. Fish was very good, nice crispy skin. The beets were red and gold and cut in small cubes and laid out like a checkerboard. Nice presentation. But I was not thrilled with the wine. A 2015 Dissonance Sauvignon Blanc.  Too New Zealand like for me. Decent pairing but I passed most of my wine to others.

Second course gave us Duck Arise, sliced duck, cooked perfectly, polenta two ways, roasted fennel, pomegranate sauce and mushrooms.. At this point into the dinner I was starting to fill. Ate two of their salted honey rolls with marscapone butter. I think that did me in but they were so good. Had two bites of the duck and had it boxed to go. A 2013 Arise (merlot, cab and cab franc) was poured.  This wine to me was way to young. Needed time. Passed it along also to others.

The Third course consisted of Chianina Beef Rib Contrarian.  Sliced rib eye beef,  lobster cigar, potato puree and truffle froth.. Beef was good, Again I had two bites and had the staff add it to my take out box, After all there is dessert coming.  Wine paired was a 2013 Contrarian (cab, cab franc and merlot) My favorite wine of the evening. I have had this wine before and liked it way back when. 

A Cherry Tart (deconstructed)  with taleggio gelato (good) and rosemary meringue was the dessert. I did manage to make room for this dish.  A 2013 Illustration  (merlot, cab franc and cab)   was paired. It was ok but it again needed time. 

A good dinner. Michael Polenske the owner of Blackbird was in attendance. Went around to each table a chatted awhile. One of my dining companion's  was planning a trip up to the area  next month so he got a personal invite. Wines were on the whole good but way to young to be drank now. Need to cellar. Price range was about $135 for the reds. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

495 Wine Varietals Tasted

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Was invited to a informal dinner at friends. They had a couple bottles of wine that had odd grapes in them and I brought two that I had not opened yet.  Their two bottles gave me 3 more grapes and I officially added my bottles to the mix. I had counted the grapes but had not tasted them yet.

Good dinner  "al fresco".  Evening was perfect. Plus I now have 495 varietals tasted. My goal right now is 500 plus a few extra for good measure. I will then submit them to get my 500 certificate.  There are a few people that have 600 Certificate and that will probably be my next endeavor.