Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ritter's

Wednesday. April 16, 2015.

A friend had read about this restaurant and wanted to try it. www.rittersskc.com. Cajun style cooking. Looked it up on Yelp and the reviews were good. But it was downtown Huntington Beach which I avoid as much as possible. Parking is so bad. I did park in the parking structure in the next block but I really find it a pain to hassle parking.

Restaurant was very noisy - no acoustics at all. Mixed crowd of people. Metal chairs that really made a scrapping sound when someone moved on the hard tile floor.

Food was decent. My dish was good. House Pan Roast with Seafood. A tomato cream creole sauce with seafood and rice. Someone order a fried catfish PO'Boy sandwich. Said it was good but it was large and a mess to eat. The other dish ordered was shrimp scampi. Not enough garlic, the butter sauce tasted watery. Shrimp were slightly overcooked.

Maybe this place does better with the Jambalaya, Gumbo and Etouffe. I would try it again if I was in the area  but would not make a special trip.

They do have a very small wine and beer menu which is new to the restaurant. Wines are cheap. I bought a bottle of Riesling for $20. It was passable. Corkage was $20 which is way too high for a place like this with a very poor wine menu.

I can see why this place would become crowded towards the weekend. Younger crowd who does not mind shouting to be heard. Large portions. OK food and a big change from burgers.

Pinot and Swine at Chianina

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chianina, www.chianina.com, in Naples decided to start a Tuesday "special". Every Tuesday will feature a wine with a food dish that compliments it. This first week was Pinot with Swine. 25% off any bottle of Pinot and the dish was house made pork sausage with sauteed dandelion greens and mashed potatoes.

There were 3 of us tonight and I did have the "special" dish . The others ordered short ribs and scallops.  My pork sausage was excellent. very moist, not overly saturated with spices and really tasted good. The restaurant considered this dish an appetizer portion but for me it was all I needed. After all they did have those great salted honey and rye rolls. I did taste the short ribs and they also were excellent. Good flavor and extremely tender.

We ordered a bottle of Pinot. First choice was the Walt, Clos Pepe, Pinot Noir which they were out of. The manager recommended the 2013 Lando Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir, www.landowines.com, which turned out to be a good choice. This wine have good structure, complexity and just the amount of forward fruit. After decanting it really opened up.

So an enjoyable evening with friends, good food and good wine.  Looking forward to next Tuesday to see what they come up with.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Seafood Place on Saturday Night

Saturday, April 11, 2015

16 of us tonight for Margie's April Wine Activity. Two round tables of 8. Had to have the "lazy susan" to access the food and wine. First time we have had name place cards for seating, Worked out well. Because of the singles in the group the seating had to be thought of ahead of time so as not to split the couples up.

Henry did the menu and all the ordering tonight. Best way to handle this dinner since he knows all the ins and outs of the restaurant.

Started out with traditional egg rolls and then shrimp wrapped in seaweed and fried. First time we have had the egg rolls here. Good, light and not greasy. Then a platter of Salt and Pepper Calamari - one of my favorite dishes here. The calamari is sweet and tender and the breading is perfect. I do not order this dish anyplace else because no one does it like the Seafood Palace.

Large platter of Peking Duck arrived.  Always impressive and great flavor. Found Marc chewing on the head. Sweetest meat is on the head.

Bowls of Sour and Spicy soup were next. We have had this soup numerous times and it is always good. This was followed by Walnut Shrimp. Shrimp were good size and fresh. Breading was perfect.

Beef French Style with greens. Meat was tender, very flavorful. 

Scallops with Snowpeas was next. Again the scallops were light, moist and tender. Cooked perfectly.

Fat noodles with vegetables was the last dish before dessert,

Dessert consisted of oranges, followed by Sticky Rice with Lotus Seed Paste and Sticky Rice with Minced Pork and Vegetables.

Wines were a really mixed assortment. Some wines were really not the best for this type of food. But all got drank. Some more than others. Did not taste all of them - 21  wines is  a lot

3 sparklings tonight. 

NV Louis Bouillot, Grande Reserve, Cremant de Bourgone, Brut - a nice wine for a reasonable price

2012 Paringa, Sparkling Shiraz, South Australia - I did not have any of this wine - why I don't know - maybe I just did not have enough glasses - only had 4 on the table

NV Graham Beck, South Africa,  Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut Rose - very good wine

2012 Tercero, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez, Grenache Blanc - clean, crisp, not overly acidic and paired well with the seafood - others did not seem to  like it as much as I did -  brought home half of the bottle

2014 Matura, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc - very, very grassy

2012 Dr. Heidmanns-Bergweiler, Graacher Himmireich, Reisling, Spatlese - did not try this wine, others said it was good

2011 Dumol, Chloe Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Chardonnay - nice chardonnay - clean, nice mouth feel to it - no vanilla, or those other butter type flavors which I do not like

2012 Koehler, Santa Ynez Valley, Quartette, white wine blend - had a small pour - it was not my type of white so nothing good or bad to say

2012 Pozzuoli, Sauvignon Blanc - I did not pour this wine - I have had it before so felt no need with so many wines on the tables

2011 Hart, Temecula, Roussane - did not taste this - I am not a fan of white Rhone wines so why try something I know I don't like

2009 Road, Pisoni Vineyard, Pinot Noir - I liked this wine which is good since I brought it - well balanced, complex yet very clean - perfect age for drinking - bottle was emptied fast

2008 Clos Pepe, Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Noir - very barn yardy on nose and taste - took awhile to blow off - 08 was not the best year in the Sta. Rita Hills

2008 McKeon Phillips, BPR, Cabernet Sauvignon - did not taste - have some in my cellar

2012 Dumol, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir - clean, well made wine but needs a few years

2009 Delille Cellars, Red Willow Vineyard, Woodenville, WA, Merlot - very big wine, lots of tannins - would be better with heavier meats

2010 Louis Chaxy, Pinot Noir - another wine I did not taste

2009 Clos Pepe, Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Noir - one of the better years that the Clos has produced - balanced, just the right amount of fruit showing - had this two nights ago at dinner - good

2010 Chateau Hanteillan, Haut-Medoc - poured a taste then dumped it - I found it to be a "weak" wine - I could not get much out of it - maybe it is way to young yet or maybe just not a good wine for me or maybe it just was "not a good wine"

2006 Anselmann, Trocken Beerenauelese, Ortega, Phalz  -  remembered the bottle when I spied it in my cellar but for some reason it never made my spreadsheet - this was an outstanding dessert wine - rich but not sweet

There were apparently another French red and a Schamsberg Blanc de Blanc that never got written down. Have no idea what the red was as it was kept on the other table and I never saw it and the Schamsberg never got opened.

Friday, April 10, 2015

India Grill on Thursday

Thursday April 9, 2015

Seven of us tonight at the India Grill in Cypress. www.ocindiagrill.com,  Started out with the mixed appetizer plate. Vegetable Pokoras, Somosas, Chicken and Lamb Tikka. Somosas are great. I felt the Vegetable Pokoras were over fried. Needed to pick them up by your fingers to eat. Hard to get a fork into them. Did not try the meats because they have a tendency to be over dry for me. I like meat cooked rare not well done and also we were having meat dishes at dinner. CJ likes very well done meat. He was ordering so that is what we got.

CJ had them make a dish that is not on the menu. Chile Chicken. Great flavor but too spicy for me. Should have been made mild not medium. Screwed my palate up. This dish would be better with beer not wine.

Regular Basmati rice and Vegetable Biryani rice were set down. We also had Garlic Naan and Onion Kulcha which is a Naan bread with onions in the dough. Good flavor and generous amounts.

A sizzling platter of Tibetin Lamb with onions and other vegetables was brought. Had two pieces. Too dry for me but again good flavor.

Bowls of Nirvana Chicken were next. White meat with a mild cashew curry sauce. The sauces are what really makes the dish. Flavors are excellent.

We rounded out dinner with Shrimp Masala and Saag (spinach) with carrots and cauliflower. Both flavorful and good.

A real mixed bag of wine. A couple of bubblies that really hit the spot. A Bailly-Lapiere Cremant de Borgogne, Rose of Pinot Noir. Written down as a 2014 but it was older than that - probably a 2004 because a discussion was made about it being 9 years old. Had a funky nose and taste but that blew off quickly.  We also had a NV Louis Bouillet Rose.  Both wines hit the spot when it came to the spicy food.

The rest of the lineup:

2009 Clos Pepe Estate , Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Noir - showing very well after it opened up a bit - typical Clos Pepe - well balanced

2007 D'Alfonso-Curran, Sanford and Bendict, Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Noir - at its optimum now

2010 Saxum,  Paso Robles, Broken Stones, blend - excellent wine but I think it still needs a few years

2012 King Estate, Oregon, Pinot Gris - did not taste this wine - I am not a Pinot Gris fan - Greg made a comment about King Estate being one of his favorites in Oregon

2012 Albrecht, Gewurztraminer -  spicy and a good wine for the Indian food

2012 Flowers, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir -  very good wine - showing well, lush, good mouth feel, well balanced, complex - needs a few years to bloom

2013 Orin Swift Cellars, Napa, Red Wine - blend - very big, too young - needs a few years - would be best with heavy meats like lamb shanks or short ribs - not the best choice for Indian food








Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mojito's

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A glut of Meyer lemons prompted Tim and Maria to host a Lemon Mojito party.  Since Meyer lemons are not as acidic they made a delicious Mojito. The rum was infused with mint so it added a nice touch without being overly minty.

Lots a really good food was brought by the guests. Wine flowed. Conversations were good.  Tim and Maria's backyard is so inviting with all the trees, shrubs and plants and water feature. 

It was a beautiful, relaxing day. Weather was perfect. Could not have asked for  nicer people or venue.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Joyce Vineyards and Delius Restaurant

Saturday, March 28, 2015

First wine dinner of the year at Delius, www.deliusrestaurant.com,. I was unfamiliar with the winery, Joyce Vineyards,  www.joycevineyards.com,. Looked them up and the founder was a Francis Joyce who apparently moved into the area because of the Laguna Seca race track. He raced in the SCCA series and also LeMans.  His son, Russell was the rep tonight along with his fiance and her sister. In the course of the conversation before dinner started I mentioned that this was my third wine dinner of the week and I made the statement that the food tonight would be superior to what I had a Ruth's Chris and at The Watertable at the Hyatt Regency. They had look of disbelief when I said that but they were really impressed with the food afterwards.

First course was Pan Seared Scallops with Sesame, Curly Endive and Chevre. Scallops were cooked perfectly, The endive had just the right amount of dressing. A simple dish but executed well. The wine poured was a 2013 Joyce, Monterey Stele (that's the way they spelled it) Chardonnay. It was clean, crisp a little citrus and green apple. Dijon clone. My style of Chardonnay. Very good pairing.

Second course served was a Duck Terrine, House Pickled Vegetables and Brioche. Terrine was full of flavor but the impressive item was the "vegetables". They were micro, mini. I am talking 1 inch carrots, 3/8 inch beets., turnips, with such a light pickle to them, They were addicting. The Brioche was housemade.  A 2014 Joyce, Monterey, Rose of Pinot Noir was paired. Good color, a little bit bigger Rose than some but well balanced. Went perfectly with the food.

Third course was my favorite of the evening. Farro Risotto, Oxtail, Mushrooms and Dried Cherries. The richness of the oxtail and mushrooms with the sweetness of the cherry. My only complaint is I wanted more.  Paired perfectly with a Joyce 2013 Monterey, Pinot Noir. Grapes are sourced from 3 vineyards.

Entree was a Grilled Hanger Steak, Squash Puree, Roasted Potatoes (white and purple), Farm Carrots and Sunchokes. The vegetables were cooked enough to get a fork unto them but not so over cooked that they were mushy. I was full by now but I did manage to eat most of this dish.  I probably should have taken it home.  A 2012 Joyce, San Benito, Cabernet Sauvignon was poured. I am not a big fan of cabs. The wine was good but since I do not drink cabs often I cannot really say how it compares to others. It went well with the dish so that is the most important thing.

Dessert was fabulous. Panna Cotta with a Blood Orange Granita. Excellent flavor but light and refreshing. I prefer this type of dessert after a big meal. Heavy, sweet desserts are a waste for me. I eat them because they are served not because I want them. I very rarely order a dessert after a meal and when I do the majority of the time I am disappointed.

Louise's shallot bread was served tonight. She does not make it as often as she used to so it was a treat.

Patrick Gallardo is the sous chef and for the last couple of years he has been in charge of the menu selection, recipe's and wine pairing. He is doing an  excellent job and just keeps getting better. He has a real knack of being able to pair the wine with the food without tasting the wine. I wish I had his instinct.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Italian Dinner at the Watertable

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Watertable restaurant at the Hyatt in Huntington Beach hosted a "Best of Italy Wine Dinner". We had a table of 8 tonight. Dined "al fresco" and the weather  and the view could not be beat.  It had been super hot during to day so this was a perfect ending to the day. 

Prosceo was poured freely before dinner along with the appetizers which have always been good.  About 6:45 we were seated for dinner. 

Now if  you are having Italian wine and the menu is "Italian" you would think the chef would have some idea on how to cook it correctly and not have his own personal spin to the dishes that made them so "non-Italian". We also were told that these wines were only available to restaurants but I found them on line through winesearcher.com

First course was a Friuli Forest Mushroom Risotto, parmesan, crispy proscuitto, chives, lemon scented olive oil. It had good flavors blended in. Best dish of the evening, but personally I think that the rice should have been cooked a bit longer. Risotto should have a  very creamy texture.   Wine served was Tenuta Ca'Bolani, Aquilis Sauvignon from Fruili. Wine was very acidic and citrusy but the fattiness of the cheese cut the acid quite nicely. A good pairing.

Second course served was a Tuscan Heirloom Tomato Panzanella,  pickled cucumbers, rustic bread, capers, arugula, bocconcini, tomato water dressing. Which simply put is bread salad. In Italy they use their leftover bread as a filler in a salad with tomatoes. The bread soaks up the juices from the tomatoes. The chef used large croutons. Why I cannot fathom. You could not get a fork into the crouton. You never would be served a Panzanella in Italy like this one. It looked pretty but it ended there. The wine served with this did not pair well at all.  A 2011 Rocca di Montemassi, red blend. Way to heavy for this salad.  Wine was tight and had a  metallic taste mid palate.  None of these wines had been decanted. 

Third course was a Piedmont Spring Pea Gnocchi, fresh peas, smoked enfuso oil, percorino cheese, pea tendril salad. This was the worse attempt at Gnocchi I have ever tasted. It was more like fried mashed potato puffs. Gnocchi is a "dumpling". A mashed potato, flour combination rolled in a long round rope and cut into approximately 1 inch pieces then boiled in salted water until they float. Usually served with a brown butter sauce or a marinara sauce. If you can't make them correctly don't bother. To me it shows a chef that hasn't a clue about Gnocchi.  Paired with a 2010 Poggio Le Coste Barolo from Piedmonte. This wine was a better pairing with the salad and the red blend was better with the "fake gnocchi".

Main course plated was a Sicily Pan Roasted Lamb Loin, eggplant puree, braised fennel and green olive coriander lamb essesnce.. Lamb was tender but had no flavor. Very bland .  Touch of salt before cooking would have enhanced this dish tremendously. The saving part of this dish was the sauce which was excellent.  It also was warm not hot. The lamb took a long time to get to the table. I have an idea that the kitchen got over whelmed and couldn't plate fast enough for service.  A 2012 Nero d'Avola, Sicily was paired. This wine was the best of the evening The funky nose blew off after I sloshed the wine between two glasses to open it up. I did this with all the reds wines and it helped a lot.

Dessert was a Pistachio Cannoli. chocolate ganache, afforgado ice cream. Ice cream was good, the filling in the cannoli was good. The cannoli itself was way too thick. Made a big mess when you tried to break into smaller pieces. Only way to eat it without destroying the plate was to pick it up with your fingers in one piece and eat it. You should not have to do this. And why did they have a small pile of micro greens on top of the ice cream ? I did not taste them but it looked really dumb. Maybe it was mint or something but I pulled mine off and set them aside. A 2007 Vin Santo, Tuscany wine was paired with this dish. The wine reminded me a lot of a Pedro Ximinez sherry. Rich without being cloying sweet. A very nice wine.

The wine dinners at the Watertable have always been a hit or miss. One time they are excellent and the next time mediorce. This dinner fell into the latter category. And I cannot believe that the person in charge of the wine did not decant them in the morning. These wines needed a minimum of 5 hours decanting time. You do not need fancy decanter . Large water pitchers work well. That is why I asked for an extra glass and took my glass of  red wine and poured it back and forth 5 or 7 times to open it up. It made a huge difference in the taste and mouthfeel of the wine. The Watertable has such a great outdoor eating area, ambiance is good, pours of wine are generous, service is awesome but why can they not be consistent with food prep for special dinners ?