Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fall Wine Dinner at Arte Cafe

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I will say this dinner was a lot better than the Spanish dinner last week at the same restaurant. The food was their style of cooking. Chefs should be wary of trying to cook foods that they are unfamiliar with until they practice a lot.

A lot of Cal di Salice sparkling Rose was poured when first seated. It was a nice touch since it had been a very hot day. 

Appetizer was a duck liver pate crostini and a duck confit crostini. Both quite good.  Paired with a Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio. Not my favorite grape varietal but the "wine nazi"as in a better mood tonight and was pouring  very liberally 

Second course consisted of roasted red and yellow baby beets, heirloom tomatoes (I question how heirloom) with goat cheese, EVO and aged balsamic. Clean flavors, nice presentation. A 50th Anniversary Chateau St. Michelle  Chardonnay was the wine. A good combination and the wine was clean just like I prefer by chard's.

Next was a Erath, " Resplendent", Pinot Noir. Quite good but a little lean.  Paired with a Seared rare Pacific Bluefin Tuna, fennel-orange relish and cauliflower/yukon mash.  I did like this dish a lot. The tuna was seared just perfect, almost raw. Good flavors and a very good pairing.

Last course was Beef Stroganoff with a 50th Anniversary Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet (magnum). Good wine and good food.  Dessert was interesting. A Chef's Aftershift Rootbeer Float made with spiced rum, Jim Beam Honey Infused Ice Cream and "nilla wafer..  We managed to get two of these. They were really tasty and  a nice end to a good dinner.

Compared to last week at Arte Cafe for the same price of $49 this dinner so over shadowed last week. Richard needs to stick with what he knows best.  Arte Cafe's wine dinners are a bargain. Sometimes the food might be a bit off and sometimes you really have to track down the "wine nazi" but perhaps that is what makes things interesting and not boring.  They always give away bottles of wine after dinner.  This dinner had the place packed. Every table was taken. 2 large tables of 12 and a table of 8 in our dining area along with the 2's and 4's. The back dining area was filled also.

Cheese Addiction

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Margie's monthly wine activity was the "Cheese Addictition",,   at Bella Terra. They also have  store in Belmont Shore but the parking there is impossible.   There were 15 of us so at 2 tables of 12 three of us were seated with other patrons of the store. Nice group we were with and a lot quieter that the other table.  We had 11 cheeses and we all brought wine to pair with the cheeses.

I brought a "Hafen" port style Dornfelder and a Sauterne. I found that those two wines just about covered all 11 cheeses.   I had 6 glasses in front of me with different wines. I tried them all with the cheeses and for my taste a Roussane,  my two wines and a bubbly were the best fit.

After looking at the list of what people brought I had to shake my head and ask" what were they thinking".  A couple of my favorite cheeses were a Pave du Marin, Pumpkin Spice Gouda, and Great Ocean Road Cheddar.  They had a Feta in Olive Oil that was quite good. The cheese itself was creamy, not dry and salty as Feta usually is.

List of wines this evening are as follows - I did not taste the majority of them due to being split from the group.

2015 Hart, Temecula Zinfandel
NV   Roederer, Brut Rose 
2015 Penner Ash, Old Vine Riesling
2014 Addendaum, Cab/Syrah blend
2013 Sierra Roble, Cabernet
2012 Monetemar, Pinot Noir
2016 Rombauer, Sauvignon Blanc - not to my taste and did not go well with the cheeses
NV   Herman J Wiemer Rose Cuvee - decent wine but limited to what cheeses
2014 Chateau Jalouise Bordeaux
2014 Babcock, Sauvignon Blanc
2007 Sea Smoke, Pinot Noir - good wine but I did not find a cheese I liked it with
NV   Monsigny, Brut Champagne - very nice
2016 Pascal Jolivet, Sancerre
2011 Clayhouse. Temp/Cab/Syrah/Tannat - would be better with a hamburger
2013 Two Vintners, Roussane - very good and I was very surprised how it paired with a lot of the cheese
2013 Merriman, Sauvignon Blanc - not a fan
2014 Suber, Dornfelder "Hafen" went well with the drier cheeses
2010 Petit Guiraud, Sauterne - went with everything

Friday, October 13, 2017

Spanish Wine dinner at Arte Cafe

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Last year Arte Cafe featured Torres wines for a dinner and it was good. This year something happened. But for $49 I really shouldn't complain but I will.  Wines were good but the food really fell off . But then again two days after a perfect dinner it might be hard to compete.

Started out with Gazpacho with Chicken Croquette. Good flavor. Croquettes were tasty. A decent dish. Paired with a De Casta Rose.

Bacalo was next - baked cod, steamed peppers, broth, patatas fritats and olive oil. Cod was dry and so salty. Potatoes and peppers had no flavor and were not seasoned.  Wine was a Pazo Das Bruzas, Albarino. Again a good wine.

Braised and grilled lamb shank, garlic aioli with grilled root vegetables.  The pieces of lamb shank were thin. They took the shank and sliced it. Meat was dry. Vegetables were not grilled. But the wine was good. Celeste Tempranillo Riserva Crianza.

Then on to Paella, or at least something that was supposed to be.  Rice that was more like Risotto with some clams. shrimp. mussels and spanish sausage thrown on top.   A Salmos Red Blend, Priorat accompanied this dish. At least I had wine to drink.

Best dish of the day arrived - a Flan Valencia with a Torres Orange Side Cat made with Torres Spanish Orange Liqueur.

The evening was fun. Showed everyone how to drink out of a Spanish dodad that you put next to your mouth, lean back and pour from up high. Several people tried it. Lots of wine and Arte Cafe hats were given away. But the place was packed and the noise level tremendously high and then the live music added on top of it.  Even yelling across the table did not help the hearing.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Swine City at the Playground

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tonight at the Playground,, is all "swine". No other meat featured. We had a group of 7 tonight. The 2.0 Room was sold out. The have a capacity of 18 people only. You are seated at a long curved bar and all the cooking and plating is done in front of the diners. A lot of interaction with the chefs and staff. This venue is ideal for a single diner. Always someone to talk with .

When we were seated Jason, the head chef and owner was carving a Jamon Iberico de Bellota ham. The most expensive ham available. They run in the high hundreds of dollars to purchase a whole leg.  The pig is raised on acorns which gives a tremendous flavor to the meat and fat.

We started out with a cocktail called Queen B. Made with VSOP Cognac, Amaretto, milk with honeynut cheerios that was clarified, honey and lemon.  This drink could get very addicting. Not overly sweet but a very refreshing taste to it

First plates up were a house made salted roll with house made butter. So fresh from the oven you had to wait a few minutes to touch it. And a plate of very IDB Secreto, grilled. Otherwise very, very thin slices of the Iberico ham. Melted in you mouth.

A refreshing salad of Arugula, goat cheese, hazelnut, fennel with a orange-sherry vinaigrette. A really good dish. This could have been my entire meal it was so good.

A take on huevos rancheros was next. A dry cured choizo huevos caberos. Loads of flavor, beautiful cooked egg, just perfect to mash into the meat and sauce. This had a bit of a bite to it. Just enough for fantastic flavor but not enough to spoil your palate.

All the pig gets used today. This dish was "Jeff's" logansia stuffed trotter, which is the lower leg, ankle portion of the pig. No feet. Logansia is a Filipino sausage.  A side of marinated carrot spirals, green papaya achara , sticky rice and a Filipino egg roll completed this dish. The fat on the inside of the trotter was like butter. Rich but so good.  Made a beautiful picture taken with the iphone. 

A Taiwanese style fried Sakura pork chop , garlic green beans and corn braised in Tonkotsu ramen broth was the last savory dish served. Everything was super delicious. 

A palate cleanser  of strawberry sauce with a lemonade sorbet cut the richness of all that pork.  Then a baked pear clafoutis with half-semi fredo rounded out the meal Baked in individual cast iron skillets. This was a perfect ending to a perfect meal.

 I cannot say enough about the quality of the food and how it is prepped at the Playground. A few items at previous dinners weren't to my specific taste but even those were good if you leaned that way.  This dinner was $150 inclusive. All food, alcohol, tax, tip etc.  But worth every penny.  But this is not the place for people with allergies (altho the do ask). Picky people would not have a good time at the 2.0 Room as they make no accommodations for them. People with allergies or specific tastes should eat at the walk in Playground restaurant and order off the menu. 

3 people in our group were new to the restaurant and they raved about the food and the dining experience. I have an idea they will be back. 

Wines served tonight  were 2012 Scribe, Sonoma, Pinot Noir, 2015 Albert Mann, Grand  Cru, Furstewtur, Riesling, 2015 Morgoe Beaujolais, 2014 Anthill, Campbell Ranch, Pinot Noir, 2015 Anthill, Campbell Ranch, Pinot Noir and a 2015 Kinheimer Rosenberg, Riesling Auslese.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Beer Dinner with Delius at Timeless Pints

Tuesday, October 3, 3017

Delius restaurant paired up with Timeless Pints Brewing Co.,  for their Oktoberfest dinner tonight.

Started off the evening with a glass of Heferweizen Wheat Ale paired with a Chevre Stuffed Grilled Pear, Savory Garlic and Honey Crisps and a White Balsamic Reduction.  The Chevre was whipped with honey and quite tasty. The pear had good flavor. The crisps were thick and clunky and kept falling out of the dish which was a too small of a bowl made of recycled palm fronds. The bottom was not that flat and it rocked as your were trying to cut the pear.  I can appreciate trying to use recycled materials instead of just throwaway dishes but test drive them first. The beer was good, my favorite of the day and paired well with the pear.

Next was a Rosemary Infused Pork Belly Lardons, Caramelized Pineapple, Arugula, Endive and Peppercorn Vinaigrette. Flavor was good but we all know my thoughts on these damm greens that have stemey what nots on them. Not date night food when it is constantly sticking out of your mouth when trying to take a bite.. A School's Out Strong Pale Ale was the selection. Nice beer, liked it better than I thought I would and it was a good selection with the salad.

A Curry-Pretzel Crusted Chicken Thigh, Spicy Cauliflower Cous Cous, Roasted Cashew Butter was paired with a Roctober Fest beer. The cauliflower cous cous was good, a different riff.  The chicken had good flavor and overall the dish had a lot of flavor.  I have a problem with being served chicken when I do beer and wine dinners. I eat enough of it during the week. I don't really want it on a paid dinner. Give me something that I don't get all the time.

The best dish of the day was next. A House Braised Brisket, Celery-Apple Gratin and Salted Potato Curls.  The curls looked like wind strewn hair on top of the brisket. I pushed then to  the side. The brisket however was great, good flavor, extremely tender. The gratin was good. . But they served it with  Taste of Fate Smoked Red IPA. Two things I had against the beer. I don't like smoked beer, scotch or any alcohol and I am not an IPA fan. This wasn't too hoppy but enough that two sips and I was done. If you are a fan of  these qualities you probably would have loved it.

Dessert to me was a big disappointment. House Made Chocolate Wafers layered with Sliced Peaches, Raspberry Mascarpone and Blueberry Jam. The Raspberry Marscapone was good, the wafers were strange, seemed soft because of moisture. Just did not entice me at all. The beer was very good. A Blueberry Acai Saison.

It was a fun evening in spite of my idiosyncrasy. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

ZD Wine Dinner at Chianina

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Another sold out wine dinner for Chianina.  This dinners wine selection was from ZD Wines in Napa.

We started out with a 2015 Carneros Chardonnay, slightly oaked but paired well with the poached lobster, yukon potatoes, corn and pequillo peppers.  This dish was sublime. Rich and flavorful , the peppers added just the amount of spiciness to offset the richness of the lobster.

Second course served was a truffled cavatelli with black truffle, coddled egg and mushroom beurre blanc. Great flavor but I have always had a problem with cavatelli. I always equate it to a heavy , dense gnocchi. I really prefer a pasta that is lighter in texture. The sauce was good but the coddled egg need maybe 30 more seconds of cook time. The white was just a bit too runny. Paired with a 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir. This wine was fruity, balanced and a good choice with the dish.

Next the third course consisted of duck breast, preserved cherry, confit leg and braised turnips.  Duck was cooked perfectly, very rich dish. The 2014 Carneros, Founders Reserve Pinot Noir was a bit more balanced that the previous wine.

A 2014 Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon was paired with a charcoal grilled shortrib, honeynut squash, tuscan kale, two ways and a bordelaise sauce. The sort rib was slow cooked for 72 hours, then sous vide before grilling. One of the best tasting shortrib I have had. The kale was sauteed and also fried crisp. Wine was a prefect pairing. 

Dessert was a chocolate mousse with raspberry and hazelnuts. Served with a 2008 Muffato, slightly sweet but not too.

We had the option for $80 more to add a pour of XIX Abacus. Retails for $495 a bottle.
Which is a blending of numerous  years of the premium cabernet.  The winery does it solera style with adding  the new wine to the older vintages in the small barriques. This was to be served with a 2 oz piece of  chianina rib eye.   I passed on this. Could not justify the added price tag  But when I was getting my car from valet I heard someone call my name. Turned around and there was a wine rep I knew. He represented the winery. Asked if I had the Abacus which I told him no, I just could just not justify the price.  He informed me that if he had seen me inside the restaurant he would have given me a taste.  Sometimes in life timing is everything and tonight my timing was off.

A very good dinner. Presentation was beautiful, food looked and tasted great, wines were good. A very good evening.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

If its Monday then its Dim Sum

Monday. September 25, 2017

Only 4 of us today for our monthly Dim Sum lunch at the Seafood Palace in Westminister.  This place seemed deserted today, not many people having lunch. At least we were not bombarded with the cart ladies.

We started out with a birthday toast to Terry who passed away last year. His birthday is Tuesday and we didn't forget. Miss him at our lunches.  And of course we solved all the world problems, gossiped about everyone that wasn't there and had our usual rambuncious  time. These lunches are always looked forward to.  But then next month we may do the lunch buffet at India Grill. Weather is cooling and might be time for some another part of the world.

Two items from the Dim Sum selection.  The Sweet Rice with Chinese Sausage wrapped in Lotus leaves and steamed and Shrimp and Pork Shu Mai. Just enough to get our taste buds going.

Then onto the spicy sour soup which today seemed much blander than usual. Probably a different cook Just did not have the zing we are used to. Even added white pepper to it did nothing.

Kung Pao Shrimp was next. Fresh, juicy shrimp with a really good sauce. This we had not had before. This will be a reorder.  You can Kung Pao anything. It is the sauce that makes it.

A dish of thin rice noodles with vegetables, pork, shrimp, chicken and anything that was a leftover in the kitchen, stir fried. This dish does nothing for me. Bland and the rice noodles are so light that I feel I am eating wisps of something of nothing.  Much rather have fat noodles.

Last dish was beef with scallions.  Tender beef but I am not into eating strips of scallions as a vegetable. Would have preferred the dish with green beans, broccoli or asparagus. 

Wines were a real mixed selection today but then they usually are. Mixed opinions on what wine was best.

2010 Aixs Mundi, blend of Grenache and I think Syrah.

2009 Lucia,  Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir

2014 Stags Leap, Napa, Petite Syrah

2015 Le Champ des Vignes, Pouilly-Fume

NV Antech, Limoux, Brut Natural Sparkling