Sunday, November 20, 2016

Big Red Wine Dinner at Delius

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Delius Restaurant hosted their annual holiday dinner tonight.    www.deliusrestaurant.com,           
 Used to be all Champagne and sparkling's but people just could not seem to grasp the idea of food pairings with those wines. I personally though it was a great theme. So Dave switched to the "Big Red" theme.

We started out with a House Cured Pork Belly, winter squash, pecan persillade, black garlic vinaigrette  and mizuna.  Sauce was excellent. The greens could have been left off because to me they are an absolute pain to eat gracefully. You always seem to have stems sticking out of you mouth.  I really would have preferred the pork belly to be thicker so I could get the flavor. It was more like thin jerky. Something was lost in the translation.  No red wine with this dish. They poured a NV, Toresella Prosecco. Paired very well.

Second course was a Stone Fruit Braised Beef Cheeks with charred green onions, radish and pickled pearl onions. Cheeks were extremely tender and flavorful. The add ons really brought out unique flavors. Two wines were served with this dish. A 2014 Amarte Mas Albarino and a 2014 Pio Cesare Barbera D'Alba.  Surprisingly the Albarino was the better pairing with the food. Probably because of the stone fruits in the dish. The Barbera needed a few more years.

A 2014 Faivley Borgogne was paired with the next dish. Crispy Skin Artic Char, celery root puree, Hen of the Wood mushrooms and pea greens. Again those stupid greens. Mushrooms were very earthy, the puree was excellent. The Artic Char was very good, cooked perfectly except for the skin. I did not think it was crispy enough. I could pull the entire skin off in one limp piece. That to me is not crispy. Wine was a perfect match.

Main course was Grilled Rack of Lamb, roasted brussels sprouts, leek and caramelized onion gratin with rosemary-juniper demi. By this time I was very full, Ate one bite of the lamb and had them box it up to take home. After all there is dessert. Delius always does and superb job with lamb chops and duck breast..Two wines were paired. A 2011 Mirafloe Barolo and a 2012 Tangley Oaks, Napa, Merlot. The merlot was good for a merlot. I did prefer the Barolo. Much more going for it.

Dessert was very good. A Chocolate cake with Clementine gelato and a Almond Tuille. Gelato had bits of the rind in it and that really made the dish. 

Good dinner with great dining companions and to top the evening off Warren treated all 8 of us to dinner. That was a huge surprise. Time to give a bottle to him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Stag's Leap wines at Chianina

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chianina in Naples, www.chianina.com, hosted a Stag's Leap Wine Cellar dinner this evening. Met up with 3 others and was looking forward to the evening.  As always we started out with the basket of rolls. So addicting. I did limit myself to 2 rolls tonight but I could have eaten the whole basket by myself. Their Marscapone butter is to die for.

We started out with a Hamachi  Crudo and green apple. Just a bite but refreshing and very good flavor. Chianina always seems to throw in a couple of bites of something good outside of the menu.

We were poured the 2015 Aveta Sauvignon Blanc. Nice wine not to acidic. Went well with the Hamachi and the third glass went well with the first course of Grilled Prawn with saffron rice chip. The prawns had a sauce on them which helped the flavor. I was not impressed with the prawns. Thought they tasted old, were slightly overcooked and for prawns they were small. They had the heads on he plate which had been deep fried. Ate one of them but it was not much to get excited about. The head I had at the sushi place in Shell Beach was ten times the size and much better tasting.  At least I had 3 glasses of wine to help out.

Second course was a John Dory roll in eggplant with Castelvetrano olive, sweet pepper. Flavor was OK but I was not thrilled with this dish either. Something was very lacking .  A 2014 Karia Chardonnay was the pairing. Oaky but did blend itself with the dish. Gave most of mine away.

We were then presented with a little bite of a Fried Risotto ball with black trumpet mushrooms and talleggo cheese. This was good. Should had  this as one of the courses.

A 2013 Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon was paired with the Roasted Liberty Farm Duck, celery root, beet and fall vegetable puree. Puree was excellent. Duck was good but I have had better flavor from duck. Maybe a tad more seasoning.

Fourth Course was the Grilled Chinina Rib Eye with Maitake mushrooms, peewee potato and Farm Lot mustard frill. I did not taste any of this dish. Just had them box it up and took it home. I ate it for dinner the next day, reheated, steak was good but not great. Potatoes were under cooked. Two wines were served. A 2013 Fay Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2013 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. The Fay was drinking were nicely but the SLV would be one for holding.

The Fifth Course was not listed as dessert. Turned out to be a Foie Gras parfait with house made biscotti. Had some kind of nuts and maybe golden raisins in top. It has a very creamy texture like a very soft pudding. You could taste the Foie Gras but it also had a hint  of a taste of malt.. Not would I would pick for dessert. They did serve a 2013 Muffato Della Sala with this dish. Sweet but not over bearing. 

I was not really super happy about this dinner. Food had some flaws. Wines were good but to me a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is way to young to drink. But I also realize they are not going to be pouring their cellar wines. The idea is to get you to buy the newer releases.  

But the company was good and it was a nice evening.  But then on Friday I get a notice from from credit card company about fraudulent charges. Seems someone lifted my number. I last used the card at Chianina. Had to cancel my card again. Earlier this year same thing happened after I  dined at Russo's. Fraud department told me that restaurants and gas stations were the places that cards are compromised the most. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Margie's Monthy Wine Dinner - At Issara

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Back to Issara Thai restaurant, www.issarathaicuisine.com,  for our monthly dinner.  15 people and 19 wines.  8 courses and rice. A little overwhelming.  I probably tasted 8 wines and did not eat much of three of the dishes.

We did drink a toast to our friend, Terry, who passed away this week, with a 2008 McKeon-Phillips, BPR, Cabernet Sauvignon. One of Terry's favorite wines. He now joins his wife Cora and friends, Edie, Rose and Gary at that big wine bar above. We will all join them some day. Hope they save some wines for us. 

Started out with 3 appetizers. Issara Chicken Wings, some of the tasting wings around. E-Saan sausage which is grilled rice and pork, which had really nice flavor and Beef Satay which is always a hit. Beef was very tender and the peanut sauce was rich without being too much.

A salad of artichoke, shrimp, chicken breast, creamy coconut dressing, toasted peanuts,  hard boiled eggs and cilantro. This was very good. I could  have eaten more of this dish . I will remember it when I eat at Issara again.

We had 4 entrees along with steamed rice. I did not eat any of the Duck with Red Curry and only had one very tiny piece of the Mu Yang pork. It was way too much food for me.  I did enjoy the Kua-Kai Noodle dish but only had about a quarter cup of it. Had one piece of fried sole.  A did see a large bag of leftovers go out the door. I am sure I was not the only one that could not everything that was presented. It is a pain getting older, your appetite drops but the weight doesn't. I eat way less than I used to. 

The wines were a mix. A few were not good at all. Lot of Champagnes and sparklings. Margie likes to move wines down the tables after awhile so everyone gets chance to taste. But some of those wines never moved from in front of the person that brought it. When I saw the list of what was brought I noticed that there were at least 5 wines that I never saw throughout the entire evening.

But a good dinner with some nice wines and pleasant company.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cheval Des Andes Wine Dinner at Chianina

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cheval in France has a winery in Mendoza, Argentina.  Cheval being a big name we decided to enjoy this dinner at Chianina. Sat at the table with the winemaker, Lorenzo Pasquini. Yes an Italian making French wines.

Started out with a NV Ruinart Blanc de Blanc sparkling. After several glasses of this wine we were served the "Stuzzichino"  poached scallops with caviar, potato and sea urchin (uni) . Sopped up the sauce with the bread. It was that good. 

The wines served with the balance of the dinner were 2006, 2011 and 2012 Bordeaux blends. Different percentages of grapes in each. The 2006 had 60% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5%  Merlot. The 2011 had 70% Malbec, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. The 2012 had 66% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petite Verdot.

First course was "Fall Chicories", Prosciutto, pear and black trumpet mushrooms with some greens.  The 2012 blend was paired.

Second course was Sweetbreads Cappelletti, truffle puree, root vegetables and broth. 2011 blend was this choice.

Third course served was Roasted Liberty Farm Duck, red cabbage, shitake mushrooms and taleggio cheese. 2006 blend was the wine.

Fourth course was Grilled Chianina Rib Eye, swiss chard, fingerling potatoes, bone marrow and braised short rib. We were told to keep a little of the three previous wines to try with the main dish and compare. 

It was an interesting comparison. Wines were all good and food was excellent. 

Dessert was a Brown Butter Cake, raspberry, caramel and walnuts. Very good and served with a Moscati di' Asti. Not made by Cheval but Chianina added it to the dinner.

Excellent food and wines, great dining companions. Wine rep was personable.  Added a lot to the dinner. Very knowledgeable. Apparently the Bottle Shoppe in Naples carries these wines. A rep from there was at the table also. A very enjoyable evening.


Road Trip

Friday, November 4, 2016 to Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Back up to Avila Beach for the SLO Fall Festival. Took one hour to drive less than 25 miles on the freeway when I got on the road. Had three accidents slowing traffic on the way up. Not the best start to a getaway. Also could only get three days at my time share. Seems someone who owns 50 timeshares at the resort had them all booked that week. 

Stopped at Huber Winery to say hello to Traudl and Norman. Had to pickup some paperwork that Traudl translated for me. She can read and write in the old German script which I was very appreciative of. 

Saturday morning off to the festival. It is held on the golf course right next to the resort. Very convenient.  Saw a few people from down south and had a good time tasting and eating. But my age is starting to show.  Maybe this will be my last trip up to Avila.

That evening went off to Kanpai Sushi in Shell Beach for dinner. Had the Nigiri Omakase plate and a Morimoto Imperial beer. 

Sunday I forced myself not to go to all the open houses in SLO. It was all free but I knew I would buy wine and add several cases . I just have to back off buying.  I find out that Ember  opened at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon . It is a restaurant that I have been wanting to try for since it opened. Timing just did not work out before.  I stopped at the Taste of the Valley wine bar in Pismo Beach and did a tasting. Did buy two bottles of Baker and Brain (yes brain) Gruner Veltliner. A very good wine.

Arrived at Ember in Arroyo Grande about 4:20. The place was half filled by then. By the time I got my food the place was packed. Food was excellent. Service was excellent.  They served a basket of bread. House made Rosemary Foccacia and a house made Country bread with a sourdough taste to it.
Ordered an appetizer of Pork Belly, Abalone and Cilantro Cream Sauce.  To die for. So good. Then onto a plate of  Polpette,  lamb meatballs with a spicy cheese sauce. I filled up on bread so I ate one meatball and had them pack the remainder for the next day. Enjoyed a glass of Au Bon Climant Pinot Noir.

Left Monday morning to check in at the Hotel in Solvang. Decided to spend two nights before heading home.  I swung by the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc before checking in. I had heard about a glass blower opening a shop there.  Ended up my a few Christmas presents.  Stopped at Industrial Eats in Buellton for dinner. Ended up with a Wild Mushroom Pizza which was dynamite. Loaded with mushrooms and spinach.

Tuesday morning after breakfast at the hotel I wandered down the block to the Jules Hus. A Christmas  ornament store than remains open all year. Picked up a few item but for some reason not much appealed to me. Then off to Los Olivos . Unfortunately J. Wilkes was closed as was Tercero. Stopped in at Stolpman and did buy eight bottles of wine. The cheapest I have gotten out of there. Usually pick up three cases or more. I am trying to cut back.  On the way back I drove into Santa Ynez and had a late lunch at Trattoria Grappolo. Ordered the Veal Scaloppine which was very good and had a glass of their house chardonnay. No oak so it was on my side of liking. Took an order of Tiramisu back with me to eat later this evening.

Wednesday morning was on the road at 9:00. Wanted to miss the Santa Barbara work traffic and get into Los Angeles before it started there. Traffic was good until I hit the valley at 10:30  and then it was a crawl until past the airport.  Mileage was good for this trip. Put on 571 miles and got an average of 38 mpg. Used 15 gallons of gas. Not bad. 

This may be my last trip unless someone else drives. It is starting to get to me, Just cannot push like I used to.  



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Back to the Seafood Palace

Monday, October 31, 2016

Back with the boys to Seafood Palace for Dim Sum. Unfortunately we do not think Terry will be able to join us anymore.  At our ages life starts taking it's toll. The waitstaff asked about him. We have been coming in for a long time now so they have gotten to know us.

We started out with a couple of items off the dim sum cart. Shrimp Dumplings and Shu Mai. Then on to regular menu.  After a bowl of the complimentary sour, spicy soup we hit the regular menu big time.

Lobster today. Stir fried with noodles. Messy to eat because of the sauce but such good flavor.   Then onto salt & pepper calamari which is always a favorite of mine. Rounded out the lunch with beef and Chinese broccoli and salt & pepper pork chops. Chops are thin and small but these were cooked perfectly. Still moist and juicy.

We grabbed two plates of the egg custard tarts at the beginning of lunch because they only had a few in the cart. Good call by CJ.  When we finished lunch there were no more available.

We had a good selection of wines today. A 2015 Viu Manent,  Sauvignon Blanc  from Chile. Surprise of the day. Very good and only $7.

Other wines were a 2012 Ivary Brut blend,  2008 Dragonette MJM (wives initials) blend and a 2008 Prisoner by Orin Swift. All good wines.

A good afternoon with friends, catch up time. Good food and wine. Looking forward to our next one.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dona Paula Wines at Utopia

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Another wine dinner at Utopia.   www.utopiarestaurant.net       This time it is with a winery in Argentina.  Dona Paula from the Mendoza area. An interesting collection of guests tonight. One woman even had the gaucho hat and split skirt on. Big earrings - looked very Argentinian. 

Ended up having 3 glasses of Chardonnay before our first course arrived. Utopia has never been known for fast service. But you learn to deal with it.  A 2015  Chardonnay - I would have thought it was from California with the oak - it had seen about 30% oak but that is about 25% too much for me. Nice slight green apple, touch of tropical fruit.  Did pair well with the Ceviche de Mariscos. Not much ceviche but lots of lettuce and ridiccio. 

Second course was a Wild Mushroom Ravioli with a sundried tomato cream sauce. This was a very nice dish. Good flavors. Wine was a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Light tannins, decent fruit but way to young.  Don't think this is a wine for cellaring but at $12 a bottle it was OK for dinner.

Main course served a a pair of  Grilled Lamb Chops with caramelized onions and garlic, goat cheese and roasted pine nuts. Good flavors. Naturally the chops were overcooked by my standards. And unfortunately the mashed potatoes were  luke warm. paired with a 2015 Malbec. Again way too young but the better wine of the evening. Selling for $11 per bottle.

Dessert was Utopia's standard Tiramisu which they make themselves. Always very good . A glass of Croft Distinction Port accompanied the Tiramisu. Decent port.

Utopia's food is always decent, some things better than others. But at $55 for a wine dinner it is always a bargain. They are generous on their pours. Service is always up and down depending on which waiter you get that night.  But it always takes awhile to get through these dinners. Starts at 7:00 pm and I got home at 10:30 pm.