Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy Hour at The Daily Grill

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Made the trek out to Irvine at go to The Daily Grill, Donna's birthday and that is where she wanted to go. Not for dinner but happy hour. Saturdays and Sundays is all day happy hour. Long way to go but that is what she wanted. At least someone else drove.

We ate in the bar area because of happy hour. My preference would have been dinner but it was not my birthday.

I started out with deep fried asparagus. Good flavor but about half of the asparagus was edible. Not a good impression on me. I also had a crab cake that had excellent flavor but needed another minute or so cooking. Way too moist. Then onto Firecracker Shrimp. Again good flavor but I do think the shrimp had been frozen previously. Drank a couple of splits of Chandon.

Other dishes ordered were a HH special, Chicken Pot Pie. The 3 people that ordered it were all very happy. Deep fried chicken strips and a seared ahi sushi with fried spinach rounded out the selections.

We had a good time but I would not drive out there specifically to go to the Daily Grill. If I was in the area I might stop in. I found that the food service was slow. Granted it was Saturday night and they were packed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bistro Bleu

Tuesday, September 23, 2015

We ended up with 5 people tonight for dinner. Bistro Bleu is quite the find for Margie. .  Started with 8 and one dropped out after finding out that only one 2 fer coupon could be used per table. The other couple because of a misunderstanding in the table arrangements. So it is their loss.

Couple next to us celebrated his birthday so we did share wine with them.

A really nice selection of wines were brought but we all agreed that the wine Greg brought was the hit of the evening. A 2010 Thomas George, Russian River Valley, Starr Ridge Vineyard, Pinot Noir. Not a drop left.

Other wines were:

2009 Roar, Garys Vineyard, Pinot Noir
2001 Serpico Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio, Aglianico
NV   Graham Beck, Brut
2007 Sea Smoke, Southing, Pinot Noir
2013 Tablas Creek, Cotes de Tablas, Blanc

A really mixed bag of dinners tonight. Lamb Chops, Hamburger (huge), Fish & Chips, Salmon, Lobster Bisque, Rabbit and a cheese plate.

Found out that Wednesday is no corkage night. Next dinner here will be on a Wednesday. We had 6 wines tonight so that was an extra $60 on the bill.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gainey Wines at Utopia

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I have not been to Utopia,, in several years. Parking in downtown Long Beach is just too much for me to handle. This time I only circled the block twice before I made a very illegal U-turn to nail a spot. I know there are paid parking structures nearby but I have this thing about paying excess parking fees. And Long Beach is one of the worse cities for parking. along with a few others which I don't frequent either. Marc and Judy took the bus which made it very convenient for them. Does not work for me.

We started out with a couple of glasses of the 2011 Gainey, Santa Ynez, Riesling. Not overly sweet and a nice wine. It did pair well with the Seafood Ceviche, shrimp, salmon, scallops and calamari in a spicy cilantro lemon sauce. Dish had good flavor. I think the seafood had been frozen. You can usually tell by the texture.

Second course was Warm Brie with Caramelized Garlic and Onion with a toasted baguette. This and dessert was the best of the evening. A 2012 Gainey, Sta Rita Hills, Chardonnay was poured. A good wine, very slightly oaked but blew off with the fat of the cheese.

A 2012 Gainey, Santa Ynez, Merlot was next into our glass. For a merlot it was decent. Too fruity for me but it was right up Judy's taste  buds. The food served was a huge disappointment. Thins slices of grilled zucchini with a sauce of Marsala wine and brandy. I think I ate some beef tenderloin. The pieces were so small and not tender by any means. There also was a blob of mashed potatoes in the middle.

Dessert was the highlight. A Raspberry Sorbet covered with White Chocolate Gelato. This was really good. But the wine served was a 2012 Gainey, Santa Ynez, Pinot Noir. Went OK with the dessert but nothing to get excited about.

Both red wines were a bit warm for my taste. Food portions were on the small side. But dinner was only $55 so I can justify some of it but not all. I know Utopia is very capable of producing good food. Tonight just wasn't their game day.

After the great meal last night this was a real downer. Probably will be awhile before I return.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Playground Presents PIG

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dinner was called "Swine City" - the Playground Restaurant in downtown Santa Ana,, hosted an all pork dinner. One dinner on Tuesday night at 7:00 sold out, two dinners on Wednesday night, 6:00 and 8:30 sold out. Granted there are only 17 seats available in the 2.0 room but I find it impressive that almost all of there dinners in this room sell out completely. Met Marc and Judy there. We all know what a pain Marc can be but he was impressed, so much so he wants to go back. Most of these dinners are $125 inclusive. Includes food, wine pairing, tax and tip. Plus it is paid for ahead of time so no hassling with the bill at the end. Just get up and leave when you want to. This rooms set up is an old bar. Long bar top and you sit on bar stools. Absolutely no room for any type of table. Just a long room, large bar, narrow hallway. All the prep, cooking and plating are done in front of you.

On this dinner the dish of food set before you was for 3 people to share. Forces you to interact with your neighbors. We started out with a Procuitto (housemade) which was excellent.  Then onto to a small cast iron skillet that a corn bread had been cooked in and topped with Benton ham, caramelized shallots and butter. This was so good. I could have each the whole dish myself but then I would not have room for the rest of the meal. Served with a glass of Fino Sherry. I thought the sherry tasted oxidized and asked Rhett about it. He explained it is deliberately made that way and it is supposed to be one of the best fino sherries available. Have no idea but will research "oxidized sherry" and see what I come up with.

Next was a salad made with frizee, thinly sliced jalapeno pepper, hazelnuts, orange vinagrette and pork belly. Just a bit spicy for me so I ate the pork belly, A 2011 Patrick Piuze Chablis was served with this dish and the next.

A non pork dish was set down. A Boudin Noir Tarte, The tart shell was topped with apple, fennel, mushrooms and tiny sliced potatoes. Again another dish that I could have devoured the whole thing

Next dish was a "Sope" but instead of a corn cake they used a very thick slice of sweet potato hollowed out and filled with mashed avocado and braised pork cheek, topped with pickled sweet onion and lemon. Another excellent dish. Paired with a 2011 Daniel Largael, Chorey les Beaune which was the wine for the following dish also.

A "Devils Gulch" roasted pork loin was cooked slice in front of us. The Playground gets a small allotment of this meat because of the demand from very high end restaurants. Seasoned with salt only, roasted, sliced and served on a sauce made with fermented blueberries. They ferment the blueberries in house and it takes about six months. Really added a very special taste to the pork.

Next "piggy" up was roasted pork, caramelized shallots and brussel sprouts along with crackings and a blueberry reduction. A 2009 Domaine Durad, St, Joseph, Syrah was the wine selected.

Last dish before dessert was a housemade pork chorizo. Had one slice, great flavor but really had a kick to it. I would not be able to eat this. A dish with french green beans, marcona almonds and heirloom tomatoes accompanied it. At this point I an saturated with food. But I felt the green beans again were just a bit too al dente. Just another 30 seconds of cooking.

Dessert's (2) were a Chocolate Mousse made with bacon fat infused cream and a Apple, Brown Sugar Confuti. A glass of Stone Imperial Russian Stout  was paired with the desserts and it was good. the stout had a nice chocolate flavor to it. A very nice finish to a great dinner.

I did find out that Patrica Greene will be at the Playground for a wine dinner in January or February. No date yet but I sure hope I see the posting for that one when it comes up. Marc already said "when you see it get 3 tickets". But we will be back before then. I would like to try some of their themed dinners.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sweet Summer Finale at Franco's

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

This was the 3rd wine dinner Franco's has held this year. Completely sold out. They actually closed the restaurant at 5:00 for the private event dinner. Had not done that before. The owners and staff at Franco's seem to getting the hang of hosting dinners.  Next one will be November 3, 2015

We started out with several glasses of 2012 San Gimignano Vernaccia. I first tasted this grape in San Gimignano, Italy. I had the varietal on my list to find. Walking thought the town, built on a hillside, I spotted a sign that said "wine bar".  It was one of the wines being poured that day. Turned out to be a former convent and the building had been repurposed.

The first course was Cozi Ripiene, stuffed mussels on the half shell. Excellent and the sauce they sat in was bread sopping good. This was my favorite dish of the evening. They again poured a glass of the Vernaccia with this course. So first course and 3 glasses of wine down.

Second course was a big surprise. Insalata Di Misticanza, Bibb lettuce (super cold and crsisp) and arugula salad with grape tomatoes, tiny thinly sliced cucumbers, robiola crostino (excellent) and a white balsamic vinaigrette.  A red wine was poured with the salad. Never would I have paired a red wine with lettuce. Most white wines don't go with lettuce. Big surprise, it did pair very well. Don't know why. Wine was a 2011 Antica Burchino Chiani Organic.

Next was the entree. Arrosto di Maiale con Pesche, roasted pork chop with glazed peaches and creamed potatoes. Potatoes were to die for . Really good. The pork was a bit dry. Do not think they brined it before hand. Glazed peaches had very good flavor. I have about a third of mine and had it boxed to go. Then when I left I forgot it. Carrying a couple bottles of wine and navigating my way out on the backside of the table I just plain forgot to pick it up. Paired with a 2010 Villa Marin Ripasso. A good pairing.

Dessert was good but not the best pairing. A good pairing but. Torta di Cioccolato Blanco, white chocolate mousse tart with strawberries. Very good mousse. But the wine was a 2011 Aubin Cellars Verue Gerwurztraminer and I felt that this wine should have been paired with something made with stone  fruits, peaches, nectarines, plums maybe even pears. It was an OK pairng but would have been a standout with a peach cobbler.

I did buy 2 bottles of the Vernaccia and 2 bottles of the Verue. Don't need more wine but these were really good and reasonable. The reds they poured tonight were good but not standouts. But they were really being bought up by the dinner guests tonight. Maybe my "taster" is still off from Saturday night. Wines did nothing for me that night either.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fuego in The Heat Wave

Saturday., September 4, 2015

Margie's wine/dinner group met tonight at Fuego at the Maya Hotel on the bay in Long Beach. In the middle of the miserable, humid heat wave we are experiencing this week it was a welcome respite. Dinning outdoors next to the water was what we needed. We had a good, lively group tonight. A very pleasant evening.

The hotel had several functions going on tonight. A child's 6th birthday party took the honors with the best entertainment. Polynesian dancers gave quite the show. A wedding reception was also being held but in comparison it was damm boring.

We had a choice of 3 starters, 3 main dishes and 3 desserts. Normally I do not eat salads at a wine dinner but because of the heat I opted for that over the Chicken Tortilla Soup and the Argentine Beef Churrasco. Tried the Churrasco two months ago and it was a bit dry for me. But good flavor. The soup I had last year. I will say the salad was very good. The lettuce was extra cold and crisp and it came with Hearts of Palm, Roasted Mushrooms, Peppers, Red Onion, Blue Cheese, Lemon and Olive oil.

For the main we had a choice of Polla a la Parrilla, Prime Short Rib or Pan Roasted Chilean Seabass. I decided on the chicken. It was chili rubbed with a Poblano Ginger Sauce which was excellent. Several people choose the Seabass were happy with it. A couple opted for the short rib which they said was a bit on the dry side.

I had the Salted Caramel Cheesecake and it was very good. I took half of it along half of my chicken home. Way too much food for me. Other options were Coconut Flan, Molten Chocolate Cake .

Maybe because the hotel had so much going on tonight it may have reflected in the food. The dry beef. My chicken was not quite as moist as it was two months ago.

Because of the heat a lot of white wine showed up tonight. I brought a 2014 Longoria Albarino and a 2014 Tecerro Albarino. Grapes sourced from the same vineyard. Different winemakers. The Longoria is made by Rick Longoria who has made the Albarino for years. The grandfather of Albarino in the Santa Ynez area. Larry Shaffer is the new kid on the block. This was his first Albarino. Side by side was an interesting comparison. The Longoria won the tasting by a small margin. A softer wine not quite as acidic as the Tercerro. Both had a nice lemon taste to them. We will see what Larry Shaffer does in the upcoming years with this grape.

I tasted some of the other whites and a couple of reds.   I will not offer any comments about the wines. Frankly most of the whites and all the reds did not do it for me. Way to hot for me  to really enjoy. Exception being the Cava. Always the right time for sparkling.

Other wines were:
2013 Williams Selyem,  Chardonnay
2011 Roar,  Sierra Mar Vineyard, Viognier
2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir
2012 - 3 Rivers, Columbia Valley, Malbec
NV   Renie Barbier, Mediterranean Rose Brut-Cava
2010 Graham Beck, Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2014 Life From Stone, Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Anthill Farms, Peters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir
2012 Chaeau St. Michelle, Riesling
2012 Alchemy, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, Carmenere
2012 Jordi Oliver, Emphora Blanc, Spain, Granacha/Macabeu
2012 Cuveler, Los Andres, Mendoza, Malbec (compliments of the hotel)
2005 Grgich Hills Estate, Violetta, Napa Valley, Late Harvest

Monday, September 7, 2015

If Its Sunday It Must Be Dim Sum

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A very last minute invite for Dim Sum. A nice break from a "working" holiday weekend. Put in new bathroom vanity with top. Naturally walls are not straight. So we will have to be creative in this problem solving. Cambria is coming in Tuesday to replace all my new kitchen counters. Seems there is a manufacturing defect in them and there is a lifetime guarantee - so total replacement.  When Henry called for a last minute invite I jumped at it.

Headed over to the Seafood Palace,(next to a Home Depot which I need so two things taken care of). Met Henry and the boys for lunch.

Started off with Steamed Shrimp Dumplings along with Steamed Pork Chu Mai.  Then a small plate of Deep Fried Baby Squid. These were room temperature and had a sweetness to them. Quite good. A tin of BBQ Pork Dumplings was next off the cart along with a Steamed Ground Pork Tart.

Then onto dishes from the regular menu. Spicy Pork Strips with Chefs Sauce (which means anything that is available), this dish had loads of garlic and was very good. CJ's favorite. A  plate of White Sea Bass with Chinese Broccoli. Fish was subtle and sweet.And the last dish  Dry Stir Fry Beef with Fat Noodles,

Eight dishes of food, and we were stuffed, tax and tip $10 per person. Love eating with Henry. Always a huge bargain.. They had fresh live Crab on special today at $20 but we opted out as none of us wanted to deal with the shell and mess.

A very mixed bag of wines today. I brought a NV Meres Freres, Extra Brut, Memorie, Champagne. Got this at Wine Country a few years back. If I remember right this bubbly is made with numerous years of wine, limited and they were  only were allotted a few bottles. Had not tasted it before but I was intrigued with the story so I bought it. Was not cheap and I was waiting for the perfect time and today felt good to me. Small amount of people to share it with. It was damm good

A 2003 Paolo Scavino, Barolo - either just slightly over the hill or going through the "dumb stage".

2011 Evening Land, Edna Valley, Chardonnay - a nice chardonnay, clean and went well with the fish.

2007 Domaine, Gran Veneur, Les Champay Vins, Cotes Du Rhone - Excellent wine

2010 Joseph Swan, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir - very good wine but I would hold it for a couple more years.