Sunday, June 25, 2017

Williams Seylem Tasting

Saturday. June 24, 2017

Had been looking forward to this tasting for months.  Hosted by CJ. A very select group of people invited.  The winery itself donated a few bottles,  loads of pinot glass with their logo engraved on the and gobs of logo napkins. 

Good selection of foods but I stayed with the cheeses and crackers.  For myself if I am doing a tasting I am not too inclined to eat dinner.  I nosh my through the evening.

All the wines were excellent. Three really stood out for me. The 2009 Ferrington Vineyard, the 2001 Vista Verde vineyard from the magnum bottle and the 2007 Weir vineyard.

The list is in the order that we tasted,

2012 Russian River Valley

2011 Russian River Valley

2010 Russian River Valley

2009 Sonoma Coast (mary)

2009 Sonoma Coast (cj)  there was a big difference in bottle variation

2015 Westside Road Neighbors

2014 West Side Road Neighbors

2013 Westside Road Neighbors

2010 Ferrington

2009 Ferrington

2008 Ferrington

2002 Vista Verde

2002 Vista Verde (magnum)

2011 Rochioli Riverblock

2001 Rochioli Riverblock

2013 Foss

2011 Terra de Promissio

2009 Precious Mountain

2007 Weir

2004 Allen

Friday, June 23, 2017

Utopia and Italian Wines

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not sure if I will go back to Utopia after this dinner. www.utopiarestaurant.net.                                    They raised the price $5 but I was at least expecting to have the potions the same. It seems to me everything was cut back. Even with tax and tip at $74 this was still not acceptable.

We started out with a Insalata di Mare. Shrimp, squid and scallops with an Italian parsley cucumber salsa.  Served in a small ramekin with greens.  Very small dice and only about 4 tablespoons of it. Flavor was good.  Wine was a 2014 Moscato d'Alba..

Second course is Grilled Mussels with Salsa Verde. It had a spicy pesto, caper sauce. The mussels were very good and had good flavor but only 3 small mussels made it to the plate. The wine was too rustic for me. A 2013 Fiulot, Barbera d'Asti.  It was aged in stainless but this wine really needed some oak to balance it.

Main course was Carne Battuta.  Seared beef tenderloin and spicy Italian sausage on a bed of risotto with grilled asparagus. From the description I thought we would be getting a piece of beef with sausage on the side. What they did is chopped up the tenderloin and mixed with the sausage to make a patty. About half way through I was starting to get tired of the flavor. The risotto helped but not enough.  The wine was the best of the evening. A 2012 Occhetti Nebbioli d'Alba. 
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Dessert was housemade Tiramisu which is always good along with a glass of Quady Starboard Batch 88 dessert wine..

Trying to get rolls or bread at Utopia is always a challenge. They are so skimpy with it. You always have to ask and the answer is always the same. "It is still in the oven"

With the very small portions and the downturn in quality this may be my last time at Utopia.  But our  table won 2 of the 3 wines that were given away. So that was a plus for the evening.

Plumpjack Wine Dinner at Chianina

Tuesday. June 20, 2017

Plumpjack wines along with 2 of their side labels were being poured tonight at Chianina.  www.chianina.com.    Menu looks really good. We were started off with a glass of Procesco and an amuse bouche of fried oyster, smoked cream and trout roe.  A bite of delectable flavors. So much so I forgot to take a picture of the one dish.

Then the housemade rolls came out. These are mu downfall.  The salted honey is my favorite. But I was really good and only had two. Chianina wins hands down the award for "bread".

First course is a poached halibut with yellow corn and marinated cherry tomatoes. Halibut was cooked to perfection. Succulent and moist and such a delicate flavor. I even ate the tomatoes. Paired with a 2016  Cade, Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc. Decent Sau Blanc but still a bit to mineraly  for me. It did pair well with the food but the bottle of sau blanc I opened at home the other night beat this one for my taste. It was a 2013  Baehnier Fournier from the Happy Canyon area. That was my style of sau blanc and a few years older.

Second course up is a ricotta and eggplant mezzaluna.  Tiny pasta stuffed with ricotta and tiny pieces of eggplant on top with a sweet summer pepper and basil beurre blanc sauce., Totally decadent, I always want more but at east I will have room to finish my dinner .  A 2016 Plumpjack, Oakville, Chardonnay was the choice of wine.  A bit oaky but the oak was really cut with the beurre blanc sauce.  A good dish and good pairing.

Next they poured a 2014 Odette, Stags Leap District, Cabernet Sauvignon and paired it with confit pork belly and loin, Italian white bean puree, compresssed fruit and pickled ramps. Pork was moist and succulent. Bean puree was just the right touch to cut the fat.  I was happy.

Fourth course is a charcoal grilled prime rib cap with braised shortrib croquette, carmelized cipollini onion and oyster mushrooms.  Meat was extremely tender and I cannot say enough about the shortrib croquette. That was one of the best things I have had in a quite awhile.  A 2014 Cade, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon was the wine.  A good pairing.  Did like this wine 

Last curse before dessert was a San Andreas cheese with a polenta crisp, herb biscuit and fried green tomato.  This dish I was not a fan of.  Massimo and I discussed the fact that the biscuit was dry and I personally felt the pairing was way off.  A 2014 Plumpjack, Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon.  This whole course to me was a loser Wine was too big for the dish.

They brought out a plate of tiny cookies. An Almond Peach, Pretzel Truffle and a Coffee Macaroon. 

A very good dinner and I ended up selling Massimo two cases of the Huber Dornfelder Hafen for the restaurant.

Monday, June 19, 2017

June's Wino Soriree

Sunday, June 11, 2017

This months theme for the group is "New Zealand". Not my favorite wines. Cannot handle that overly grassy. acidic flavor they give their Sauvignon Blancs.

Warmest day but the hosts had lots of shade., Main dish was BBQ'd ribs and garlic shrimp. Both dishes were very good. Sherry also made Palova and did a very good one at that.  But what I found strange today was the hosts said they were making dessert, So what did a lot of people bring - dessert.  Only 4 appetizers and about 4 side dishes and the rest were desserts. Poor Margie who doesn't eat seafood had to be content with a cheese plate for an appetizer.  I just found the whole food thing strange.

I brought a New Zealand Riesling and there were a couple of Chardonnays and 3 sparkling's. . That really helped me since I did not taste any Sau Blancs.  Pinots were good. Northing really stood out. I do remember the Jules Taylor was good.

High Brow White Trash Dinner at The Playground

Wednesday, June 7, 2017.

This was a new themed dinner at the Playground. www.playgrounddtsa.com.     15 courses. I can usually get through half before I scream "no more". So I will need to really pace myself tonight

Since they were doing a second dinner that evening I could not take their worksheet menu home. I had Jason Quinn (owner and chef)  take a picture of it with my phone with the stipulation that I do not look at the menu. The idea with the Playground is that all dishes are a surprise. No menu is ever given out for any of their dinners. Sometimes you can figure something out by watching them cook the dish but until they put it in front of you and verbally tells you.  I had assumed that the menu would have the wines listed so I did not list the wines when Rhett poured them. But that did not happen so I cannot say what we drank beside a cocktail at the beginning, 5 wines during dinner and a stout beer at the end.

We start out with Deviled eggs made with lobster and caviar. Jason gave me the last of the caviar in the tin. I can eat caviar straight from the container.  Then a Foie Gras, PB & J on toasted brioche. Strange  combination but it strangely worked well together.  Jason also gave me the rest of the Foie Gras.  This was my night.

Meatloaf sandwich was the 3rd item.  Grade 5 Wagu beef with a light brioche bun and siracha ketsup and potato chips.   Interesting but I was not enamored with it.

Peach cornbread with Ricotta - good and different.  A carrot terrine with English peas. Good flavor but again not enamored.

Cornflake encrusted striped bass fish sticks with Gribiche (tarter sauce).  This was good. Much better than those store bought fish sticks.  I could have eaten a lot of this if it hadn't been for 9 courses yet to go.

Mushroom Stroganoff with house made egg noodles.  Everything is always housemade. No bottled or packaged items at the Playground. That is what make these dinners so good.

In placed of fried bologna we had Dr.Pepper Han Steak with boiled peanuts.  They boiled the peanuts for 8 hours.. Peanuts are not a nut but a legume like beans and peas. Tasty but since I am not a fan of ham I had very little of is. Which in a way was good.

The taco salad looked wonderful but I am starting to expand. Outside skirt steak, Grade 5 Wagu again,  with romaine, avocado, black beans and tomatoes.  A couple of bites and that was it. Great flavors.

A plate of broccoli with gruyere cheese and crunchy buckwheat. This dish was very good. Too bad I could not eat more of it.

Last main dish was Beer Can Chichen with a side of Velvet Ranch Potatoes.  I think it was good. I am so full.

We were then served a shooter of "Nesquick" strawberry drink. Their version of the drink from the 60's.  Much different than I remember the drink tasting.

A Nilla Wafer (housemade) with bananas, pudding  and shaved chocolate.. Not a fan of bananas and I thought the wafers were too thick.  Had a hard time cutting into this dish.

Last dessert was a housemade "Ding Dong".  Dark chocolate flavor, dark chocolate icing. This was decadent. This was a favorite of the night. for me.  Only thing I missed was a glass of ice cold milk.

Normally they plate for 3 people to share. Fortunately I always have some big eaters to finish the dish but if there is enough left the Playground provides to go containers.

Interesting dinner. I would do another under this theme. The dishes are never repeated so it is always something new. Beef is always grade 5 Wagu, everything housemade. Vegetables and fruits from Chino Frams which the crew goes to in the am to get fresh for that nights dinner. Fish is always fresh from the fish market.  Quality of always high.  Some would think that $150 is steep but for what you get in quality, number of dishes, all wines, beer etc., and includes tax and gratuity I think it is a real bargain.  They do put on their website if you have allergies or are a picky eater this 2.0 room  is not for you.   But with the amount of food you get if you are picky just pass up what you are picky about. They do ask at the  beginning if anyone has any allergies to nuts, seafood etc., They do accommodate somewhat.  Those people would be better off during the regular dinner menu in the restaurant and not trying to eat at the 2.0 Room.






May's Monthly Wino Gathering

Sunday, May  28, 2017

This months get together's theme was CA Central Coast Syrah and Champagne. We all know Oliver is partial to Syrahs and his wife Lisa is partial to Champagnes so this was no surprise. The day was perfect and sitting by the pool next to the golf course was ideal. 

Interesting selection of wines. All the champagnes were good. Did like the Tattinger La Francaise  and the J.Lassalle Chigney-Les-Roses.  There were two Zaca Mesa Black Bear Syrahs. A 2000 which was over the hill but still drinkable and a 2004 which was much better. A 1997 Midnight Cellars showed what an old wine is but it was still good.

The host made grilled Tri Tip. I felt I was lucky to find a piece that still had a bit of pink on it. Oliver likes well done meat and I am the opposite as I like mine just this side of dead.

But it was a good tasting and the ambiance was great. Can't beat SoCal weather.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Breakfast for Dinner at The Playground

Tuesday,  May 23, 2017

The Playgound restaurant in downtown Santa Ana decided to do another breakfast dinner. I had done one there last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.   www.playgrounddtsa.com,  This was held in the 2.0 room that holds 18 people. Everything is cooked and plated in front of you.  Went with 4 others and had a great time. 13 courses paired with wine. I loved every dish except one. The Pea Tendril Fritatta. I like pea tendrils and order them in Asian restaurants but for some reason the taste in the Fritatta turned me off.

Started off with "Bryan Voltaggio" biscuits and gravy. Thin biscuit with holes to absorb the wild mushroom gravy. and a bellini.  Apricot and vanilla bellini made with Absinthe wash and Champlou Vouvray Brut. Quite tasty and refreshing.  Gravy was decadent.

Cured ocean trout, smoked egg aioli, spicy bagel chips. Devoured the trout (similar to salmon) and the aioli was a perfect match This and a Sourdough pancake with ricotta and peas was paired with a 2016 Jolie-Laide, Rorick Heritage Vineyard Pinot Gris.  Again the pancake was excellent. I have a hard time finding fault in any dish they Playground males. But it does happen at times.

Red and yellow beets with a maple yogurt, granola and frisee. Their take on yogurt with fruit. Beets were sweet and the maple yogurt was to die for.

Doushy hash browns with creme fraiche. Shredded potatoes, deep fried and then molded  into a "rectangle" and fried again.

A 2015 Cruse Wine Co, Rorick Hertitage Vineyard Chardonnay was poured. So with several dishes I went went back and forth between the Pinot Gris and the Chardonnay.

Grilled slab bacon, adult apple sauce. Had a punch to it and you can never go wrong with bacon.

Next was my "do not like" dish. A pea tendril fritatta. Just could not get into it.

White cheddar grits, (really decadent) with smoked tomato butter and shrimp with cornbread crumble. Taste was really "up there".  One of my favorites of the evening.  

A 2016 Arnot-Roberst, North Coast Trousseau Noir was served along with a 2004 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonto.  Both red wines to finish out the dinner.

Chicken Chillaquilles were some of the best I have ever had.

Steak and Eggs was served. Thin slices of Wagu beef, egg, Blumental cheese and a Chimmichurri sauce. A bit of a bite but so good.

A plate of jumbo grilled asparagus with a dynamite Hollandaise sauce.

Desserts were Brulled grapefuit with whipped cream and a French toast, vanilla ice cream, banana, caramel, white chocolate and macadamian nut concoction.  What can I say. The bread was house made, the grapefuit was like candy.  

A Domaine Dupont, Cuvee Colette, traditional method Cider was paired . 

Dinner was excellent. A couple of the wines were not to my taste but you go with the flow. Everything is house made. They do not use "packaged" items.  Dishes are set up for 3 people to share.  You never get shorted because you take smaller portions. There is a lot of food and toward the end of the meal you are full.  And you can take the leftovers home which makes it nice.

Looking forward to a new "theme" in a couple of weeks - Hugh Brow White Trash Food. I have my ticket for that already