Friday, November 21, 2014

Kosta Browne at Charlie Palmers

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I had been looking forward to this dinner for awhile and it did not disappoint . Got to South Coast Plaza with plenty of time to spare.  Never know about work traffic and what it will bring. Charlie Palmers is located at Bloomingdales at the center. www.charliepalmer.com.  Since some of us were early we sat in the lounge with a glass of bubbly until we were summoned into the dining area for the reception.

The restaurant was pouring J sparkling and were generous with the wine. Took about 20 minutes for the seating for dinner to begin. We had 9 people at our table and plenty of room for us all. Chairs at this table. No banquette. Makes for more comfortable seating.

Started out with a Hamachi Crudo, Green Apple, Seaweed, Compressed Cucumber, Pink Sea Salt and Tangerine Yuze Vinaigrette. Very good dish and the dressing was exceptional.  Paired with a 2012 Kosta Browne, One Sixteen, Russian River, Chardonnay. Nice wine and paired well with the salad. Slight oak but for me very drinkable.

Second course was a Beeler's Farm Crispy Pork Belly, Root Beer Glaze, Brown Butter Butternut Squash Puree, Shaved Radish- Petite Salad. (very petite). Pork was very flavorful. I would have preferred a touch more fat on it but it was good. Puree had nice flavor. A well composed dish. Wine was a 2012 Kosta Browne, Russian River, Pinot Noir. Another good pairing.

Third course was up - Creamy Farro Risotto, Duck Confit, Mixed Berries, Parmesan Cheese, Poultry Jus. Farro is a grain and the consistency showed that. Good flavor and the wine paired well. It was a 2010 Kosta Browne, Gary's Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Pinot Noir. Good wine but somehow I was not overly impressed. Gary's is one of my favorite vineyards but something wasn't clicking.

Main course was served - Coirander Dusted Colorado Lamb Loin, Portobello Mushroom, Pomegranate Truffle Sauce. Paired with a 2009 Kosta Browne, Kanzler Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir. This to me was a far better wine than the Gary's. Granted it was a year older but showed much better. Very well balanced, good fruit and complexity. I did not eat any of this dish as I was getting stuffed and we did have dessert to go. Had them box in up and ate it Thursday night. The flavor was really on. Very good cut of lamb, excellent dish. Sauce was outstanding.

Dessert was a Pumpkin Cheesecake, Gingerbead, Pecan, Creme Fraiche Sorbet. A really nice touch at the end of the meal. ate every morsel.

Excellent dinner and wines. Michael Browne, one of the winemakers was in attendance. He made the rounds and went to every table and talked with everyone. Very personable. He seemed to be really enjoying himself this evening. A really huge difference in his attitude over Bob Cabral from Williams Seylem who talked to everyone through a microphone and did not leave his table area.

Interesting to note the difference in quality of food and wine compared to the amount charged. This dinner was twice the price of my dinner Monday night. But the quality of the food and the wines was so much better along with the level of service. The old saying "you get what you pay for" really rings true.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lane Tanner's Lumen Wines at Restaurant Christine

Monday, November 17, 2014

Winemaker dinner at Restaurant Christine in Torrance, www.restaurantchristine.com,  Close to work so its and easy drive. Lane Tanner who retired for a few years is now back with a new label "Lumen". I enjoyed her wines years ago and was anxious to see what her new endeavor would bring. Lumen sources their grapes from the Sierra Madre Vineyards.

This dinner was put on by Wine Getaways.  I saw Bart at the Terecero dinner here earlier in this year but had not seen Peter for several years. Most of their dinners are on the westside of LA and the drive is really too much in work traffic.

We started out with a reception in the patio area. The 2012 Lumen Stary Rose was poured liberally. A blend of Pinot and Grenache. I thought this was the one of the best wines of the night. Grilled Anjou Pear & Triple Creme Brie Crostini, Wild Mushroom Tartlet with Aged Gouda and Pancetta and a Pork and Shrimp Shu Mai Dumpling with Asian Glaze were the passed appetizers All were very good.

After about 45 minutes were seated for dinner. The restaurant was sold out for this dinner and seating was tight.

A Charred Shrimp Salad with Soft Organic Greens, Dried Pineapple, and Mango Vinaigrette with a Warm Avocado Toast  was served.  Way too much Radicchio for me. The vinaigrette was extremely good and the dried pineapple added a nice sweet touch to the salad. Shrimp had good flavor but were slightly overdone. The avocado mash was dark but flavorful. The wine paired was a 20121 Lumen Chardonnay. Slightly oaked. I did not feel it really went with the salad. I was not impressed with this wine. I felt it did not have a good mouth feel and tasted "weak". Did not finish my glass.

Main course was a Slow Braised Pork Cheek, Butternut Squash Risotto, Sage Brown Butter and Broccolini. The pork was tender and the sauce was very good. But it did almost taste like beef. Several people at the table made the same remark. Probably because of the sauce. Risotto was good. Paired with a 2013 Lumen Pinot Noir. Nice front palate but no back finish. Way too young to being poured now.

They did pour everyone a small taste of their Reserve Pinot Noir which is not available now. It was a better wine but compared to other Pinots that I like, I am not to apt to consider this wine.

Dessert was a Savory Goat Cheese Tart, Spiced Nuts, Dark Berry Compote and Cocoa Nib Bark. The filling was very good. The crust was tasty but difficult to cut with a fork. (the knives had been taken away).  They poured a 2013 Lumen Grenache which had 10% Beckman grapes in it. This and the Rose were the two picks for me as far as wine.

A little disappointed in the wines. Could be that they are just way to young to be opened yet. Another thing that slightly irritated me was that they did not change the silverware with each course. This is not Denny's .  Service was good and efficient. Dinner was over about 9:30. I left before the real end as I had a drive to get home. But it was priced well. $89 inclusive.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sequoia Grove - Trujillo Wine Dinner at Delius

Thursday, November 13, 2014.

This was a last minute dinner that Delius decided to put on.   "www.deliusrestaurant.com", I had never heard of this winery before so I checked them on line. Medium priced wines. Been around for a long time. Mike Trujillo the owner and winemaker was in attendance. This dinner was sold out.

Started out with a Goat Cheese and Leek Tart, Boston Lettuce Salad with Pancetta Lardons and Herb Vinaigrette. Tart was excellent,. Very rich. Paired with a Sequoia Grove Sauvignon Blanc. Nice clean, well balanced wine.

Second course was a Pan Seared Scallop. Apple and Salsify Puree and Micro Arugula.. Scallop was cooked correctly and the puree was good. Wine was a Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. No oak on the nose but I did pick up some on the taste. It did well with the food but I would not drink a glass of this on its own. I was really not overly impressed.

Third course was served. A Duck Confit and Red Wine Mushroom Risotto. Duck was good. But I think the Risotto was a little thick. Flavor was there. Paired with a Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice pairing but again not overly impressed with the wine. It lacked something.

Fourth course was presented. A Rib Eye Steak, Cipollini Onion, Roasted Marble Potatoes and Sauteed Kale. My steak was cooked perfectly. Had nice fat on it. By this time I was stuffed so I had them box it up and I ate it for breakfast on Friday. This dish was good, but I felt it was a come down from what I have had a Delius' wine dinners before. I am also getting quite tired of Kale. It seems to be on every restaurants menus now. It is being over done. Wine poured was a Trujillo Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was better than the last cab but not overly great. Nice wine but.

Dessert was a Pecan Pie (which was more like a cookie) and Brown Sugar Pear Ice Cream. Ice Cream was great. The pecan whatever was good but I had Fred wrap what was left and will take it home.

So dinner was good but not great. Maybe I am spoiled by Delius's other dinners. I think this dinner fell a little short by their standards. I did notice the chefs did not spend a long time afterwards and they did not ask what dishes people really liked. Almost like they knew the shortcomings. The wines were alright but nothing I would buy or order in a restaurant.

SLO Wine Harvest Festival

Took off the morning of Friday, November 7, 2014 for Avila Beach. Tried to consider Friday morning work traffic with the need to be in Buellton about noon Got on the road about 8:40 and was in Buellton by noon. Had two wine pickups to make today as these wineries would not be open on Wednesday when I planned on doing all my pickups. With really good, cold nights and decent daytime temps I would not have to haul the cases of wine into my room, on the 4th floor of the resort. Had time to stop at Trader Joes in Arroyo Grande to get a few items to last me a couple of days. Everything is going good today. Had time to check in, clean up and rest for a ferw minutes before heading back down the road to the Sycamore for dinner at the Gardens of Avila.

Wine reception was held at 5:30 and we were seated at 6:15 for dinner. Sat at Mike Sinor's table, he is the wine maker at Ancient Peaks and has his own label, Sinor-LaValle. We had the noisiest table in the room. 5 women and Mike. Two of the women were out from the south, Kentucky, Alabama or someplace. Came out for a wedding and they were in a parteeeee mood.. All wines at this dinner were from the San Luis Obispo County. They had decided to brown bag the wines and have a contest to see which table won.

Started out with a Garden Squash Soup, Brown Butter, Crisp Sage and See Canyon Apple This to me was the the best of the meal. Good flavor. The wine was a 2013  Ancient Peaks Blanco.Muscat and Chardonnay. I guessed the muscat but could not pick up on the Chard.

Salad was just a salad. Pepper Creek Farms Greens, Cranberries, Walnuts, Bay Blue Cheese and a Persimmon  Vinaigrette. Ok but nothing special. Paired with a 2012 Clairbourne and Churchill Estate  Riesling. Good wine. They also spelled Riesling wrong on the menu.

Next dish was a Sunburst Ravioli, Artichoke Kale Puree, Farm Egg Yolk, Servecchio and Sungold Tomatoes. This had the makings of a really good dish but it was served barely warm. Kitchen screwed up on this one. Wine was a 2012 Baileyana Halcon Rojo, Pinot Noir. Fruity Pinot. I frankly thought it was a Grenache.

Main course was presented. Braised Short Ribs, Glazed Purple Haze Carrots, Potato Emulsion and Natural Gravy. Everything was great about this dish, meat was tender, good flavor but oh so much salt. Ruined the dish for me. Paired with a 2012 Saucelito Canyon Estate Reserve Zinfandel., Very good pairing but I just could not get past the salt.

Dessert was interesting. Lemon Verbena Creme Brulee, Anise Hysopp Short Bread, Fig Jam, Flowers and mints. The brulee was very good. The shortbread was hard to break a piece off, fig jam had good flavor. Wine was a 2008 Center of Effort Chardonnay. So damm oaky. I did not even taste it. The oak smell was enough to turn me off.

It could have been a really great dinner but so many flaws. Company was good and that made up for the shortcomings.

Next day, Saturday was the festival on the grounds of the golf course next to the resort. Lots of wine and food, A cool day but very pleasant, Some fog this morning but it did burn off. Ran into  people I knew, they were staying at the resort also. Had happy hour with them in their room Saturday night. They were leaving Sunday and I will be here until Thursday.

Sunday was open house at all the wineries in SLO county. Heavy fog in the morning and It was not burning off. When I got to the Edna Valley about 1:00 the fog was hanging a little bit in the Valley. The coast was socked in. Only went to two places. I was wined out and I also knew where ever I went I would buy. So I was good almost. Bought 6 bottles at Sinor-LaValle and 6 bottles at Wolff.

The whole week was fogged in and cold. Did not go into Paso Robles. Did some Christmas shopping, hung out a few days at the Taste of The Valley Wine Bar in Pismo Beach. Was good. Only bought 5 wines here and 2 were for Terry.

Had a meal at Yanagi in Pismo Beach. A sushi bar. Ok but not overly great. Passable. Did hear about another sushi place in Pismo and will try that next year. Also did a dinner at Custom House in Avila., They are OK, nothing spectaculor\. I probably should have gone down to the Old Port Inn on the pier but you really could not see anything because of the fog.

Did have a decent dinner at Giuseppes just a few feet away from Taste of The Valley. They have a good menu but I opted to do appy's. I ordered a half bottle of 2010 Damilano, Levinguevigue Barolo. Decent but not exceptional. Maybe I should had ordered a glass of Stolpman Sangiovese. I would have been happier. Started out with a basket of bread and a dish with grated parmesan cheese and chopped garlic. They then stirred in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This was a really big hit with me. Then I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms. Five mushrooms topped with cheese sitting in a cheese garlic sauce. This was good. I soppped up the sauce with the bread. Next was a Beef Carpaccio. The meat might have been good but it was covered with halved cherry tomatoes, and greens. On top pf the carpaccio was a lemon dijon sauce with capers, shaved parmesan and balsamic. I want my carpaccio plain so I can taste the meat. Put all the other stuff on the side so I can decide what I want to eat with it. A big disappointment. I then ordered a plate of Spinach Gnocchi. This was excellent but I did not consider it an appetizer. The portion was large. Had them box it up and took it with me. Ended up eating the balance Thursday afternoon when I got home.

This was a good trip, relaxing because I did not go and push myself. The fog kept me from doing a lot. Left Avila about 7:10 in the morning and got back to my place about 11:30. Traffic bogged down to a crawl between Desoto and the 405 fwy. At 10:00 in the morning you would have thought this was late afternoon work traffic.

Have a dinner tonight at Delius - looking forward to it. Next week 3 wine dinners scheduled.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recon at the OC India Grill

Tuesday. November 4, 2014

Time to recon the dishes at OC India Grill to help Margie get her menu set for her upcoming wine activity dinner.

Five of us were here to critique the food. We have been here before but needed to talk with Sanjiv and get some prices set.

Started out with two appetizers, Paneer Pokoras - housemade cheese in a dough then fried and Vegetable Pokoras. I preferred the Paneer. The cheese came through more than the vegetables.

Then on to main dishes. We tried the Lamb Chau Chau, which is pan fried noddles with chunks of lamb and vegetables. I always like this dish.

Next was a Nirvana Chicken , new dish for me.  White meat in a coconut curry. Quite good. Then a  Shrimp Masala. Shrimp were very fresh and cooked perfectly. The Masala sauce is always a winner.

Our vegetable dish was Vegetables Korma. Mixed veggies in a creamy cashew curry. This is one of my favorites. The sauce is so good.

We had garlic naan and onion kulcha. The kulcha was new for me. Onion stuffed naan, very good but a bit spicy . It did have really great flavor.

We topped the dinner off with Gulab Jumun which are deep fried dumplings of creamed milk in a saffron syrup. Just the right size to end the meal with. Not overly sweet.

Of course we had our wine bottles on the table - no dinner is complete without wine. So tonight we had.

2008 Rusack, Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Noir. This wine was drinking nicely. Not overly extracted but not a light weight either.

A 2009 Louis Latour, Marsannay, Burgundy. Much lighter than the Rusack but a beautiful wine.

2011 Clos Pepe Sparkling of Pinot Noir. Always a winner. First bottle emptied.

2012 Montagne, Sierra Madre, Pinot Blanc. For a Pinot Blanc it was a good wine. Not my favorite varietal

2006 Faust, Rutherford, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon. I think this wine needed a few more years and it also would have been much better with a different type of food. Just did not go well with the Indian cuisine.

So we had had numerous dishes here at the India Grill and now Margie must come up with her menu items. Glad its her job and not mine.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hall Wine Dinner at The Watertable

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Watertable Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach hosted a wine dinner featuring Hall Wines and Walt Wines. Same owners and winemaker just two separate labels.  I was looking forward to this dinner to see if things had improved at the Watertable after last months wine dinner which I was not overly happy with. I will most always give a restaurant several chances before I write them off completely

There were five of us and a big surprise when William and Patte walked in. Apparently there was a loss of communication between William and Margie and we did not know they were coming. The staff at the Watertable were very accommodating in getting added seats to  the table for them. Also Patte is a vegetarian and they had a separate menu for her and the other "veggies".

 The  reception was basically the same as last time, Proseco flowed, the appetizer table was a little different. They had an olive tapendade and a spread that had smoked paprika in it. Also a cream cheese mixture that tasted a bit like blue cheese. It was dimmly lighted just enough that I hard a hard time reading the menu on the board. The staff puts these things together in the daylight so its easy to see. They do not take into account how it will be in the evening with  "mood" lighting. The food was good. Not so many items in olive oil so less mess. Still have to handle the bread and break off a piece. I shared my  "loaf" with Margie. At least she knew that my hands were clean, other people you never know.

We were ushered outside to  the dining area. This time were were seated at a real table. The heat lamps were on and there was no need for a sweater or jacket even though the night was cool.

Dinner started out with a Baja Rock Scallop Crudo, Passion Fruit, Chili, Watermelon Radish and Micro Arugula.  Good dish. The scallop was perfect and the dish had really niceflavors to it. Paired very nicely with a 2013 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This was an exceptionally nice wine. Not to over mineraly, over acidic and overly citrusy. It had a soft, full mouth feel and was easy drinking. I am not much of a Sau Blanc fan but this wine would be an exception. Dinner is starting out good.

Second course was a California Kurobuta Pork Belly, Pea Puree, Spiced Hazelnuts, Toasted Pea Marshmallow, Apricot-Apple Cider Gastrique. Again flavors were good. I would have liked the pork belly to bet a bit more crispy on top instead of seared. Not sure if that would be the right description but I like a crispy top and this wasn't. It was very tender but still had to have a knife to cut it. The Pea Marshmallow was excellent. That was a first for me and I liked it. Whimsical but very good. The pairing was with a 2012 Walt La Brisa Chardonnay. OAKY - tried a couple of sips with the fatty pork belly but the oak just pushed its way through. I gave my wine to the others that are into the oak. I had some Sau Blanc left in my glass and frankly I thought it was a better pairing. I also had a piece of Patte's squash tart. It was very good but even it didn't really hit the mark with the oak.

Third course was a Hay Smoked Aged Striploin Duo, Redwood Hill Mushrooms, Celery Root Puree. Blueberry Pinot Reduction, Brussel Sprout Puree, Potato Foam,   Crispy Shallots, Ligonberry demi. A lot of flavors on this plate. All the "sauces' were very good and added a nice dimension to the dish. I felt that the meat needed just a bit more cooking. The fat needed to be cooked just a little longer. It was too  close to raw. If you are going to serve raw sliced it paper thin. But this was an excellent dish. Loved  the flavors that all blended in together. A pair of wines was poured. 2012 Walt Blue Jay and a 2012 Walt La Brisa Pinot Noir. Both nice wines but my vote goes to the La Brisa. Softer on the palate, plush, better fruit.

Fourth course up was a Illy Coffee Scented Lamb, Pee Wee Fingerling Potatoes, Heirloom Carrots. Fall Harvest Chutney, Thyme Lamb Jus. Again another really good dish. Lamb  was cooked perfectly. The Au jus was excellent and had really good  flavors going in it.   Gave Margie a small bite (she does not eat lamb) and she liked it. Maybe we will convert her someday.  We did convert her to duck. She is quite a challenge. A 2011 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was poured. I am not a Cab fan. This was a nice wine but I gave it the the boys and drank the Pinots with the Lamb which personally I felt was a better pairing.

Dessert was a Chocolate Cambozola Cheesecake, Walnut Crust, Port Reduction, Candied Orange Peel. This was to die for. Deep Chocolate flavor and the orange peel really added a nice contrast to the chocolate. Served with a 2006 Hall Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. Not to sweet and a good end to the evening.

As always the service from the waitstaff as impeccable. The resort does a very good job with service. and the ambiance is so nice.  The view of the ocean is always a good sign and tonight  was a beautiful sunset also.

Since this dinner went so well I was hoping to end the evening on a high note. But unfortunately it did not. When I went to get my car from valet they dinged me for extra charges even though my ticket was validated by the restaurant. I was a little over the 4 hours allotted and they wanted $20. When I protested she brought it down to $10. The attendant said everyone was complaining about having to pay extra. Now if they can bring the charge down from $20 to why they cannot forget it completely I don't know. I know I have gone over the limit a   few times before and never got charged for it when I was doing a wine dinner, but  this was a different attendant in the booth than before. Almost makes you wonder if they were pocketing the money themselves. So a sour note to  a great evening. Very good food, good wines, great conversation with my dining companions.

I will miss the next dinner which is Silver Oak - will be out of town  -  going to Avila Beach and have a winemaker dinner scheduled the day I arrive and then the SLO Wine Festival over the weekend. A few days tasting around the Paso Robles, Edna Valley area and then heading home to do a Sequoia Grove Wine dinner at Delius the day I return.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Prix Fixe at Delius

Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Nine of us met tonight at Delius,  www.deliusrestaurant.com,  for the October Prix Fixe menu  The  which changes at the beginning of every month

Started out with a Chicken Sausage Stew, Kale and White Beans. To me it was a soup not a stew. Stews are always thicker. Very good flavor and went well with the 2013 Cade, Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was not overly acidic and had a light tropical fruit taste to it. But I did have some bubbly left from earlier and I thought the bubbly went better with the dish.

Second course presented was an Autumn Squash Ravioli, Sage and Pecan Butter. This to me was the hit dish of the evening. Dough was very tender and the squash really put it out there.  Great flavor and the butter was one that you sopped up with bread. Wine served was a 2011 Fossil Point , Edna Valley, Chardonnay.  Not my style of wine as it a bit oaky but the wine did hold up to the butter sauce. I could have had several of these raviolis.

The next dish I was really disappointed in. Crispy Calamari, Spicy Arrabiata Sauce.  I found the calamari rings to be a little tough. The whole baby calamari were ok but without the sauce they would have been nothing. The breading left a lot to be desired. Not much of a flavor. I am so used  to the salt and pepper calamari at the Seafood Palace that maybe I have become spoiled with really tender calamari. The Arrabiata Sauce is spicy and that is what is supposed to be but I personally found it too spicy for me and it did not pair well with the wine. The wine was a 2008 La Maia Lina Chianti Classico which is Sangiovese. I thought the wine was weak and did not pair well with the food. This was a big miss for me. I wonder what the Stolpman Carbonic Sangiovese would have tasted like.  Had this wine with a spicy risotto and it was a good match. Also perhaps a Grenache may have worked better or a light Zinfandel. I know a Riesling would have been great with this dish. I may have been able to handle the spicy sauce if the wine would have paired better.

Main course was a Rib Eye Steak, Roasted Cauliflower and Caramelized Onions.  Tender and cooked perfectly. The onions were very good. The cauliflower added some crunch.  A very good dish. Wine was not that great. A 2010 Stepping Stone, Napa Valley, Cabernet Franc. I prefer Cab Franc over Cabernet Sauvignon but somehow this wine did nothing for me. I poured half my glass into Maria's. Someone should enjoy it. Maybe it just me as others seem to like the wine.

Dessert was a Panna Cotta, Roasted Rhubarb and Salted Peanut Tuille.  Glad to see a light dessert served. The panna cotta is always good and the rhubarb was a surprise. Went very well together. The peanut tuille was a nice crunchy addition. A good ending to the meal.

A good dinner, hits and misses and good conversation. It was an enjoyable evening.