Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chalk Hill and Phil Trani's

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

After the last dinner at Phil Trani's I was really looking forward to this one. Big disappointment. Last dinner the food was considerably better than it had been in the past. Not tonight. Mediocre at best.
And the wine pairing left a lot to be desired. All the portions of food were much smaller that previously. But at $65 inclusive,  that is Ok if the food is good.

We started out with a 2012 Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc paired with a Roasted Root Vegetable Salad. Not sure why peppers and tomatoes were considered root vegetables. Pairing was bad. Wine was way to acidic for this dish.  Also was not too impressed with the fact that when they set my plate down apparently there was quite a bit of food on the bottom underneath and it ended up on my place mat and menu.

Up next was a Linguini with Clams - sauce was very thin, needed something to thicken it. Like maybe parmesan cheese. But it was not offered. Taste was OK but nothing special. Have had much better numerous times at lesser restaurants. Pasta was just a bit more than al dente but not too overcooked. Pasta was "store bought" not housemade and it tasted like it. I would have preferred my clams to be a bit larger in size. They looked like they went through a meat grinder. Chopped would have been better but I have a suspicion that these came from a can. Wine was a Chalk Hill Chardonnay - way to oaky for me and there was not enough "fat" in the dish to balance out the oak. Poured my glass of wine into Kelly's.

A Pork Cutlet with Carmelized Onions and Feta Cheese was the third course.  Pork was dry. Onions were OK. The Feta Cheese did nothing for the dish.  A Chalk Hill Etate Pinot Noir was the wine selected for this course.  Went Ok with the pork but clashed with the Feta Cheese. The Pinot itself was alright but not stellar.

Main course was a Flat Iron Steak with Tarragon Sauce. Steak had a lot a grizzle. Not a good quality meat. Sauce was good. Mushroom on top was cold and raw. I could have had a better piece of meat at the 24 hour diner "Norms".  Wine paired with this dish was a 2010 Chalk Hill Estate Red Blend. Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Carminere.  Best wine of the evening but a lot shorter pours of it that the other wines.

Dessert was a small chocolate "bundt" cake with raspberries.  A little dry but decent flavor. Reminded me a  cafeteria dessert. A Late Harvest Semillion was poured. We all know that I am not a sweet with sweet person. Overkill. Wine was very good on its own. But would have preferred a cheese plate with it.

Place was booked for the dinner. The price is what brings them in not the quality. I have had much better meals at Phil Trani's before. Don't know it its a new chef or a chef that is trying to be high end in a comfort food style restaurant. But its not working.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fuego at the Maya

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dinner tonight was off the a good start with the view of the harbor and the Queen Mary. Weather has been just plain hot for the coastal area and it was a nice treat to have dinner outside on the very large dining area. Fuego (means fire) is located at the Maya Hotel off of Queensway in Long Beach. The building has been there for over 30 years and has changed ownership several times. It still is tricky to make sure you are on the right road to get there. That hasn't changed.

We had one large table that they had set up for us. It was way to small for our group. We would have crammed in with no wiggle room at all. They did bring another long table out and set it up for us which was accommodating of the staff. Usually hotels try to cram as many people as possible into an area, especially when they have a fabulous view.

Margie had arranged for a pre-set menu to get a good price for dinner. We had a choice of soup or salad. I opted for the salad as I had the soup last time I was here. Salad consisted of romaine, cotija cheese, roasted corn, chipotle dressing and topped with fried tortilla strips. Good on a hot day. The soup choice was a spicy chicken tortilla.

Three items were available for the main entree. I selected the chicken only because I liked the sides better and I had the beef dish last time. It was a pan seared chili rubbed chicken breast, onion pepper sofrito, chorizo risotto (which was excellent). Other two dishes were a Ropa Vieja and a Pan Seared Mahi Mahi.

Dessert was a choice of Coconut Flan or Molten Chocolate Cake. I selected the Flan again because of the hot weather,

A big mix of wines were brought. I will say the majority of them I was not too impressed with. But then people didn't seem to be impressed with my red wine. Maybe because it was light and these people seem to prefer fruit bombs. I try to  pick a wine which I feel will go with what food dish I am ordering and also weather plays into it. I do not handle big reds in hot weather.

There were two bubblies brought and both of them were emptied quickly. A 2004 Gloria Ferrrer, Royal Cuvee Brut and a non-vintage Cremant, D'Alsace, Albrecht Tradition Brut Reserve. Both different and both good. The Cremant got my vote.

Three Malbec's were on the table. A 2007 Cinquain Reserve, a 2011 Kaiken Ultra, Mendoza and a 2009 Pondera . The Kaiken is always a good selection at a bar because of the price.  Inexpensive but decent. The Cinquain did nothing for me. So my pick of the three would be the Pondera although none of them were that stellar to me the Pondera was the best.

Two Chardonnays - 2009 Hillard-Bruce, Sta Rita Hills and a 2012 Martin Ray, Santa Cruz Mtn., Both a little on the oaky side. I brought the Hillard-Bruce. I liked it much better when I first tasted it. Can't say I really liked either one that much but then I am not into oak for my Chardonnays.

A couple of Sauvignon Blancs were floating around. 2013 Twomey, apparently from the notes there were two of the same wine brought. Nice  wines but to acidic for me. I stay away from Sau Blancs.

Four mixed reds rounded out the wines. 2010 Melville, Annas 667,  Pinot Noir - good wine. 2009 Dunham Cellars, Columbia Valley Syrah, cool climate Syrah - did nothing for me. Did not seem to have much going for it. 2001 Vendimia Saleccionada, Tinto Figuero, Spain. I really liked this wine. A lot going on. Layers and complexity. A good selection for tonight. 2013 Stolpman, Ballard Canyon, Carbonic Sangiovese. This wine I brought. It is light and a good hot weather red wine. The use of carbonic gas to press the wine seems to be the new darling of some winemakers. To me it worked well in this wine. Yes, this wine was not a big, heavy fruit bomb, but it was a fun wine and frankly went extremely well with the chorizo risotto. Better than anything else.

Too many wines are brought to dinner with no thought to the food or the people just do not know how to pair food and wine. They are drinkers and don't care how things meld together. If I am going to enjoy food and wine together I want them to compliment each other in the mouth. Not produce a war.

Another one of Margie's dinners down the pike. Next month Greek.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back to the Seafood Place.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We decided to get Marc out of the house for an evening. It's been about a month since Edie passed away and Marc is very depressed now. Maybe a dinner out with friends may help just a little. We can hope.

Margie is in attendance tonight so there won't be much seafood ordered or anything exotic. Probably good food, but safe  dishes and to me boring.

Started out with a Salt and  Pepper Calamari. Always a good dish here. And this is the only seafood dish of the night so I really enjoyed it.

With 7 of us Henry ordered the Peking duck. Tonight it seemed to be better than usual.  It was good because not much was left of the platter.

A sweet, sour, spicy, soup was served. We have this quite often and it always has good flavor.

Stir fried chicken with Chinese broccoli. A staple in restaurants but we have not had this dish for a long time. Since we usually go heavy on the seafood the chicken dishes get shoved aside. It was good but its chicken.

Henry opted  for stir fried bok choy with beef. Beef was excellent and I am a sucker for bok choy. But again this is another "staple"dish. served with fat noodles, Another item I am a sucker for. So maybe this dish was a little bit more than a "staple"

Dessert was fresh oranges which were very good tonight.

A nice selection  of wines were brought. But somewhere in the evening a bottle that still had quite a bit of wine in it seemed to disappear from the table. I can only assume the the "owner" wanted to take it back home with them. Yes there was a lot of wine on  the table but somehow that seems to me an attitude of "drink every ones wine so I can take mine home" because I am a cheap sob. Like Henry said - "no more invites for this person"

2007 Sinor-LaValle, Talley-Ricon, Pinot Noir - opened up after a while and was  good. Complex with a lot going on.

2009 McKeon-Phillips BPR Cabernet Sauvignon . Drinking exceptionally well right now. All of us have a seeming endless supply of BPR.  Mine goes back to 2003.

2010 Sea Smoke, Southing. Pinot Noir. Fruity but lacked character. Also young. needs a few years.

2010 Hartford, Far Coast, Chardonnay. Too oaky for me so I have no more comments.

2006 Tobin James,   Cabernet Franc. Big, fruit wine , seemed a little alcoholic.

2010 Williams Selyem, Limestone Ridge at Vista Verde Vineyard, Chenin Blanc.  Excellent wine. Nice and crisp, just a touch of acidity. My favorite of the night.

Another chardonnay was on the table. It neglected to write it down so I am not sure of the year. I think it may have been a 2010 or 2011, Lot 21. Also too oaky for me


Death by Uni at the Maruhide Uni Club

Wednesday. Septemebr 10, 2014.

10 of us gathered at the Maruhide Uni Club restaurant in Torrance this evening. This place specializes in Uni so we are all looking forward to this extravaganza. Or as the dinner was named afterwards  "Death by Uni"

Original set up was for 12 and reservations had to be made 7 days in advance for the "Omakase" dinner, otherwise the chefs dinner. 2 people had to drop out at he last minute so there was 2 extra
plates of everything on the table to share. At the end of the evening we all were so stuffed that it was hard to get a grain of rice down.

Uni is the "gonads" of the sea urchin. The only edible part. The gonards produce either the roe or milt. There are 5 lobes to an urchin so that is 5 very nice servings per urchin. They also grade the Uni by A, B or C. I am sure we had "A" tonight. All the urchins at Maruhide are Santa Barbara Wild.

Small wine list and over priced. Most of us ordered beer. Found out the corkage is $20. When I come back I will bring my own wine.

This was a 12 course dinner at $90 per person. Do not know what the $120 dinner consists of but I don't know how it could be any better.

Started out the a Dashi pudding with Uni. Slight fishy taste to the custard. A nice beginning but not to sure if I would order this on its own.

Next was a mixed appetizer plate consisting of squid noodles, carrot with uni miso, cured uni on endive, cured uni on toast, marinated chunk tuna and edaname beans. The tuna chunks were the weak part of this dish. I found them very dry The squid noddles were exceptionally good.

Then a plate with Blue Fin (Toro) fatty tuna with miso pepper and micro greens was set in front of us. The tuna melted in your mouth. Almost like butter.

 4th  course was a bowl of Uni cream pasta. Sounds strange but one of the best flavors of the evening.  Sauce was so good. Just needed maybe a sliver of crab or lobster to make it fantastic.

The  most beautiful plate of the evening was set down. A whole Uni shell sitting on a bed of rock salt, a banana leaf with 5 pieces of Uni sashimi with a dab of sea salt and wasabi. The very slight sprinkling of the sea salt added a punch to the rich Uni but  the wasabi over whelmed the Uni.

 Sixth course was a grilled Longostino, split with pickeled diakon and Uni. The Langostino was mushy, almost like it was old. Not the best  and messy to eat.

A small plate of Blue Fin medium fatty tuna along with a seared skin red snapper sashimi was added to the offerings. Very good. And nice break from the Uni

 8th course  was a oven  baked lamb chop, asparagus, snow pea, yellow pepper and Japanese radish with a red wine uni sauce was offered. Good flavor on the chop. As is the newest trend every where the vegetables were almost raw.

Next a plate of tempura was brought out. A Shiso leaf, a Scallop with Nori and two Shrimp. Good but not the best tempura I have had. The Shiso leaf seems to be the in thing at Sushi restaurants right now.

A offering of sushi was presented. 3 large pieces all wrapped in Nori. Salmon Roe, Uni and Blue Fin Tuna. At this point we are starting to groan. The waitress said most people don't get past the tempura course.

The least liked presentation of the evening was a Blue Fin Fatty Tuna Ball Broth. The fish was grainy and terrible flavor.

Dessert was a small dish of Creme Brulee. Topped out the meal very well. Not filling as we were over stuffed at this point. But we did make it past the tempura course which was in itself a feat.

This was an experience dinner. But I will say I did get my fill of Uni. It is so rich and decadent but somehow I feel very over Uni'd right now.

Back to the Himilayan Grill

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just 3 of us tonight for the Himayalan. www.himalayngrill.com, in Sunset Beach. Needed to do a restaurant review for our condo communitys newsletter. I could have done it without returning but 2 neighbors had not been there so they tagged along.  I made the suggestion to them that we all order a separate dish and then share.  They agreed  but I could tell they were not to sure about it. Since they did not how the food was plated it was a new concept. Since they always ask for separate billing when we go out, the sharing idea and splitting everything was a little upsetting. Some people are so afraid that they will somehow get the short end.

We started out with Samosa's which are always great at the Himalayan. Never greasy like some Indian restaurants. Shrimp Chau Chau (whole wheat noodles), Lamb Masala. Chicken Vindaloo and Vegetables Korma were ordered for dinner along with garlic naan

I will say that the Vegetables Korma was better that I have had here before. The sauce was outstanding tonight for some reason.

These ladies are not wine drinkers so I just ordered a glass or Riesling off the wine list. Did not bother to bring a bottle.

Denish, the owner was telling me they plan to expand by taking over the next unit in the building. That should be a good thing. The restaurant is small, about 12 tables total. So an expansion will help with larger parties. No time frame yet as the next unit is still occupied. Probably by next spring or summer.

I fell this is some of the best Indian food around. No cheap but quality is excellent and to me that is worth a few extra dollars. I had cash and tipped heavy but since one of the ladies put everything on her credit card, I sure hope she passed the heavier tip on to the waitstaff. I told how much I left so to make sure it was included along with the other tip. Since we were splitting the bill evenly except for my wine, giving her cash was best at the moment, but I always have qualms about other people tipping criteria.


July's Wino's Gathering

Sunday, July 27, 2014

At dinner last night Margie pointed out to me that I did not comment of her wine event in July. Somehow I just plain forget all about it.  So this will probably be a short post because after 6 weeks my memory fades. In fact after 6 minutes it starts to fade. I hate to think how I will be if and when I stop working. Working full time at my advanced age does keep my brain active and keeps me around younger people which I like. I go to happy hour on Wednesday with a group and they are all retired.  Sometimes I am so bored with their chatter and medications, health problems. dietary problems etc.,

So I do remember that the theme was South African Wines, Reds, Whites or Sparklings.  There were a couple of Graham Beck sparklings which were quite good. There are a good buy for the money.Total wines brought were 20 and it was a mixed bag. Only 4 Pinotages which was surprising. I brought a 2008 Tamboerskloof, Steelbosch, Syrah. I liked it. But at this point I can't remember what other wines I liked besides the sparklings and a 2011 Spier 21, Gables, Chenin Blanc.

The hosts decided on a belated 4th of July theme and had hamburgers and hot dogs on the menu. Paul went around and took your order. 1/3 lb or 1/2 pound. Rare, medium or well. Cheese ? which kind. Bun ? toasted or not. That is a lot of work. Felt like a restaurant. Of course all the condiments were there also along with a large array of side dishes. I filled up on appetizers so when dinner came around I opted just for a burger.

The weather was miserable. We were outdoors in a very nice shaded patio area but the humidity was not kind to us. I just cannot eat or drink alcohol in hot, miserable weather. Maybe I should move to Florida and then I could lose some weight

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chez Lomita Expo

Saturday. September 6, 2014

This party was set up as a mini cellar cleaning. The host had a magnum and double magnum of wine he wanted to share with a larger group. It was a mix of "wine" people and "non-wine" people. Otherwise a group that knew what they were drinking and a group that was asking for "Chardonnay". or "white wine". Nice people but no clue. Limited wine experience. Some were interested in learning and others just wanted to drink. But that is what life is made up with. Makes for non-boring parties.

The front patio area and the area in back around the pool was set up with tables, chairs, food, games, trivia., etc. Something for every one. Along with chips, crackers, cheeses, dips, nuts etc., the host made Tri-tip, Grilled Salmon and Ahi sliders. Along with accompaniments. 

Later in the evening we were treated to a "magic" show. Two friends to the host are members of the Magic Castle and entertained us with tricks. A nice ending to a great day.

The two show cased wines were the 2000 Williams Selyem, Vista Verde, Pinot Noir, # 3 of 4, Double Magnum, signed by the winemaker and the 2005 Ponti, Holiday Reserve, Temecula, Zinfandel, Magnum. I will say both wines were exceptionally good. I am not a big fan of Temecula wines (most grapes are sourced from other places than Temecula) but I give thumbs up to this Zinfandel.

Other notable wines was a 1982 Opus One, just slightly over the hill, still had lots of fruit, good color. 2000 St Innocent, Seven Springs Vineyard, Pinot Noir and a 2006 Beaulieu Vineyards, Geoges La Tour, Private Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon. 1997 Chateau du Tetre Marguax and a 2009 Chateau Dauzac Marguax.

One of my favorites of the evening was a 2010 Robert Biale, Black Chicken, Zinfandel. Needed a few more years of aging but I have always liked this wine.

In all there are 30 wines on the list. Something for everyone. The reds out numbered the whites 3 to 1. So a good time was had by all.  But my luck on the road that day was something else. Going to the event the main street was blocked at the freeway so we had to get on the freeway, go a mile,  get off and detour to get to the street I wanted to be on. Leaving the event the main street was blocked about a half mile down by police so we had to back track and take an alternate route. Fortunately I was in an area I am really familiar with so I knew the shortcuts. And along with that,  the chair I was sitting in at dinner collapsed and I ended up on the floor of the patio. Someone spilled a large glass of red wine and I got splattered with the wine. Sure hope it comes out of my blouse. But at least it wasn't a boring day.