Monday, February 20, 2017

Brunch at James Republic

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hopped over to James Republic to try their Sunday brunch - so impressed with the food for dinner that this was a must try. www,jamesrepublic.com.

Limited but interesting menu.  I had the Huevos Rancheros.  Served in a bowl. Bottom was a tortilla with a chili verde salsa , then beans and Cotjia cheese  and shaved savory cabbage. Then pork belly and a poached egg. Flavors were excellent.  Serving size is not large but it was more than adequate for me.

Had a glass of sparkling - noticed that the waitress did not come back and ask if I wanted another when the glass was empty. At first I would have had that second glass but as time went on it wasn't necessary.

I prefer this place for dinner. Brunch was good but it did not blow my socks off like dinner did.

Water Grill in Costa Mesa

Saturday, February 18, 2017

This was Margie's selection for her monthly dinner. The building was the old Scott's Seafood in Costa Mesa that closed last year after a really long run. Did not like to see it shut down, I always enjoyed eating there. I loved the ambiance. The Kings Fish Co took over the building and opened it up at one of their Water Grills. www.watergrill.com,

The renovations are beautiful but they lost the quiet of Scotts.  Hard surfaces, open ceiling with duct work.  Noise level was unbearable.  I would never go back. Too bad because the food was excellent. The noise level was so high that you had to put your mouth up to the ear of the person next to you . Not good for an enjoyable dinner. The wait staff had its ups and downs also.  We had one waiter that was very professional and acted it. The other must have been a part time college boy who was only looking for a job and did not care about what it was.

I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass and the fish was cooked perfectly. It was excellent but came on a bit of puree with a few nuts sprinkled on it.  That was all folks - sides were all extra. I ordered a side of Polenta with Fontina Cheese which was cooked in a cast iron ramekin. It also was excellent.  But three weeks ago I had Chilean Sea Bass at Fish Company in Los Alamitos and for the same money of the fish alone at Water Grill  I had the fish, special sauce and two sides at Fish Company. Same quality.

The one bright spot at Water Grill was no corkage. All the restaurants in the company umbrella have that same policy.

I brought a 2008 Clos Pepe VS, Sta Rita Hills, Pinot Noir. Not as good as the 07 or 09 but still a very tasty wine. I also brought a 2012 Huber, Sta Rita Hills, "Hafen" Dornfelder port.  I only got to taste about a fifth of the wines for two reasons. I will not drink oaky chardonnays and at one time the other end of the table (there were 12 of us) had all but 2 wines in front of them. I never saw what was brought because they did not move.

Other wines brought were:

2014 Evans Ranch, Sta Rita Hills, Chardonnay - very oaky
2015 Rombauer, Caneros, Chardonnay - did not taste
2012 Domaine Felines Jourdan, - Picpoul de Pinet, Langedoc - did not taste
2013 Foxen, Tinaquaic Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Chardonnay - did not taste
2013 Anthill Farms, Abby Harris Vineyard, Pinot Noir - did not taste
2015 Dr. Loosen, Blue Slate, Kabinett, Riesling - did not taste
2013 Wiens, Riverside County, Reserve Cabernet Franc - did not taste
2012 Schramsberg, Blanc de Blanc - also a winner
2014 Kosta Browne, Santa Lucia Highlansd Pinot Noir - nice wine but way to young
2013 Rombauer, Proprietor Selection, Chardonnay - did not taste
2013 Evening Land, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon, Pinot Noir - typical Oregon Pinot
2014 Kosta Browne, Sonoma County, Pinot Noir - again way too young










February Wino's Soiree

It was my turn to host the "wino's",   My theme for the day was "Wines Rated 94 to 100".  It always insures some really good wines on the table. The dollar amount is not an issue.  We had two wines from the 90's. A 96 Chateau Soucherie Cote de Layon and a 99 Opus One. The Soucherie was pleasant but nothing outstanding. The Opus was a huge disappointment. Over the hill.  Too bad the owner did not open it up 3 years ago. It was probably just at its prime. That is what happens when we save a bottle for a "special"  occasion. The occasion has come an gone numerous times and you are still waiting. My take on it now is I am the special occasion and I have no problem opening a really good wine just for myself.

A 2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia held it's own. Still had fruit, very soft tannins and good balance.

A total of 24 wines on the table. Hard to remember them all.

As  host I made the main dish. White Chicken Chili.  No tomatoes at all.  Liquid was a combination of broth, sour cream  and heavy cream,. Seemed to be well received as it was almost gone at the end of the day. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

New Restaurants This Week

I tried two new restaurants this week and returned to an old favorite.

Monday night was at Fish Company in Los Alamitos. Had not been there in years and I had forgotten how good their fish is.  A birthday dinner for a friend and 8 of us gathered to celebrate. I had the Chilean Sea Bass which was excellent. Murphy Goode Fume Blanc and Miraval Rose tonight.  I need to remember to stop in and purchase some of their New England Clam Chowder. It is truly the best.

Friday night 7 of us went to a new restaurant in Long Beach called 4th and Olive. Alsatian style food. The sausages are all house made as is the pate. I had the mussels which were good. I have had better but I have had worse. But no spoon, fork only. Questioned the owner later and he said it was supposed to served with a spoon. I also thought they should have included some bread to sop up the juices. Those who opted for the sausages and pate raved about them.  The place has only been one less than two months and I have to say the really need to work the kinks out. Food came out piece meal. The wait staff is enthusiastic but seems to lack detail experience. Owner is a disabled vet who hires other vets.  Parking sucks. In a densely populated area of town that does not have enough parking for the residents much less restaurant patrons. City is not doing them any favors by dragging out a permit for valet parking. Will go back in another month and try again.

Saturday night 3 of us went to James Republic in downtown Long Beach. Upbeat, noisy and really good staff. Eclectic  range of cocktails and interesting wine list. Menu changes everyday.  We shared dishes to get an idea of the food. Started out with the Kennebec Pommes Frittes. Cheesy and garlic aioli really made the dish.

 Brussels Sprouts, fried with frilly mustard greens, mustard crème fraiche, hazelnuts and a poached egg on top. Excellent.

Sunchoke Soup, roasted pumpkin . pepitas, chives, pumpkin seed oil and crispy shallots. Again excellent..

Tagliatelle with uni (sea urchin), guanciale and parmesan. Repeat - excellent.

Oxtail Cavatelli, dececcio broccoli, enoke mushrooms and percorino. -excellent dish again.

The best of the night - a good ole hamburger. Grass fed beef cooked perfectly to medium rare, onion jam, fancy sauce, house pickles, fiscalini white cheddar. Bun was very good,

I had a glass of Rack and Riddle, Blanc de blanc and a glass of Harrington Pinot Noir. Others had the "North of The Wall" old fashion with glenrothes vintage reserve  single malt, vanilla and cardamom. I tasted this drink and it was very good. But I personally do not like cocktails with dinner.

Definitely will come to James Republic again and will order the burger.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sullivan Wine Dinner at Chianina

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nice to get back to being social. Was down a solid week with a nasty head cold and had to cancelled numerous reservations that I had made.

Sullivan wines were new to me. Small, Napa based winery, 4500 case production.  Wines were good but pricey. Ross Sullivan the owner and winemaker was in attendance and came around to all the tables and chatted for quite awhile.

We started out with a Duo of Hamachi, raw and cooked with fennel, apple and brown butter. Delightful bites. Thoroughly enjoyed this dish. Wine was a 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Light minerality, light acid and paired very well with the food flavors. 

Second course we were poured a 2015 Chardonnay. Little oaky but went well with the fattiness of the Monk Fish. Piquillo pepper, chorizo and yukon gold potatoes rounded out this plate. Flavors were really intense on this dish. Very good.

Next was Cavatelli - hand rolled pasta with black truffle, egg yolk and grana. Very rich dish. Paired with a 2012 Merlot.  I am starting to get filled up. Maybe I should not have had that 3rd roll with the Marscapone butter.

A 2013 Red Blend "Coeur De Vigne" wine was served with the fourth course. Liberty Farm Duck breast, cherry and mushroom duxelle and rutabaga  two ways, puree and sliced. The wine was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.  Duck was excellent, extremely tender. Had two bites and had it packed to go.

Fifth course I had one bite also and had them pack it up to go. I just cannot eat anymore.  The wine was a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and paired with a Chianina Rib Eye with variations of brocoili and walnut - fried and puree. Very flavorful and tender. 

They also came around and poured wine from a Magnum of 2002 Cabernet  out of the library. Massimo made the mistake of leaving the bottle on our table. Big difference in the ten years and size. Very good.

Dessert was a Cheese course with Camembert ,  a pecan brittle, black berry and honey. I did eat this. small portions and not overly filling. I just know it was those salted honey rolls that did me in.

Another excellent dinner at Chianina. www.chianina.com.

Pricey but good. service was good, food was great and wines were very good.  Looking forward to next months wine dinner at Chianina.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Il Farro in Newport Beach

Wednesday, January 25, 2016

A good size group gathered at Il Farro in Newport tonight for dinner. www.ilfarro.com,. I don't frequent the area too much as the parking sucks in Newport and Balboa. But this was winter and a cold night. With luck I got to park right across the street from the restaurant.

We started out with four appetizers. Hot calabrese'nduja sausage in puff pastry (had a kick to it), vodka cured salmon crostini with lemon salt (salmon did not bite clean), salisfy root with beef tartar (they used soup spoons - should have had some small white porcelin  spoons) and a large grilled proscuitto wrapped shrimp. These were served with a 2015 Torti White Pinot Noir. (Lombardi) Surprise of the day. I really liked with wine (bought some).

Nest was an Insalata di finocchietto, mela verde acchiughe bianche.  Otherwise known as granny smith apples, shaved fennel, marinated anchovies in a pomegranate citronette dressing. I am not a fennel fan but this was very good. Had to be the dressing.  Wine  was a 2014 Vermentino Guadaimare Toscano. Paired very well with the salad.

The Primo Piatto was Spaghetti alla Chitarra Porto Cervo.  Roasted cauliflower tossed with Chitarra (guitar) spaghetti, garlic, peanuts, olives and sprinkled with dry cured fish roe bottarga.  The spaghetti is square instead of round. To me this was the best dish of the evening. Loads of flavor. I have never had something like this before. A 2014 Castellani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was paired and went very well.

The Secondo Piatta was disappointing to me. Sliced roast veal in a a Maderia sauce with artichoke bottom and snap peas. I thought the veal was not as tender as it should be. It was cut from the round. 2012 Torti Barbera was the wine. Rustic but good,

Dessert was a trio - lemon tiramisu, chantilly millefoglie and chocolate truffle.  They served a Sparkling rosato which was a little sweet for me.  But the restaurant brought out a special dessert wine that was not on the menu. From Sardina and the grape was "Caparno" which I do  not have yet.

Sat next to a gentleman that sells Wagu beef. He had asked if I ever had Wagu and told him yes, numerous times. I mentioned the Playground and their all steak dinner. Turns out he sells to the Playground.  Next to him was an owner of a Japanese restaurant in Costa Mesa. that buys from him.  I will be getting in touch with "Rick" the wagu guy and meeting him for dinner at the Japaneses place. Always nice to have connections.

This was a very nice dinner. priced reasonable. Food and wines were good. Good conversations at the table with everyone..

Grand Cru Bordeaux Dinner

Tuesday. January 24, 2017

Dinner at a private residence tonight. Small group of 7. Theme was "Bordeaux" and the host was pouring Grand Cru's.  

We started out with an array of appetizers.  Cheese plate, crackers, chips, seared salmon with sauces, seared ahi with citrus soy sauce, hummus, pesto, marinated olives, fried vegetable birds nest.  I had some chevere cheese a few crackers, a piece of salmon and a piece of ahi. What the others tasted like I have no idea.  Way too many and conflicts of taste. To me this many appetizers is dinner.

Dinner consisted of Chateaubriand with seasoned juices, two kinds of bernaise and sauteed mushrooms in gravy. Roasted potatoes, roasted mixed vegetables, baby carrots, roasted brussel sprouts with leeks and bacon, cauliflower gratin and baguette bread.

The beef had very good flavor, cooked perfectly for me and very tender. Downfall was it was not warm. Part of that probably was one guest was  late and we did not start plating until after her arrival.  There were two bernaise sauces. I tried one and it was good. I had some if the mushroom gravy but it was also luke warm and had canned sliced mushrooms instead of sliced fresh. Had one roasted potato, a spoonful of mixed vegetables which I could have done without. The Brussel sprounts were very good as was the gratin.

Again as per my palate, two many flavors competing with each other. Do less dishes and concentrate of making what you do outstanding. A lot of times "less is more".  Also if someone is more than 10 minutes start without them. The food was all luke warm and it took away from the flavors and enjoyment of the food.

Even the bread had issues. It was heated in the over but the crust was chewy not crisp.  Frankly I thought it was heated in the microwave. It was a baguette and they should have crisp crusts. Heat them whole then cut them.

The wines were excellent. 1995 Chateau Chauvin, St. Emilion, Gand Cru Classic was my favorite.   2006 Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, Grand Cru Classic. Opened up quite nicely after an hour or so in the decanter. 2006 Chateau Mondorion, Grand Cru, 29010, Chateau de Chanlegrine, Graves. 2005 Reignac, 2010 Chateau Vellois. A 2005 Chateau Coutel, Premiere Cru Classic, Sautherne-Barsac was the last served with dessert.  

Dessert was a pineapple upside down cake with berries.

We had a range of conversations, from political  to porn and everything in between.  I was the only republican in the group but I swing between very conservation and fairly liberal,  depending on what it is. I am basically more of a constitutionalists. 

I was also the only one working so I had to depart earlier than the rest. I am sure the conversation kept going at a good pace. An enjoyable evening with a good group of interesting people.