Sunday, April 29, 2007

SAWG Wine Tasting

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Our monthly gathering of the "winos" today. Today's theme was "Washington State Wines". A real mix of wineries, most I had never heard of, ABEJA, Bergevin Lane, Sapolil, Portteaus, GraEagle, Sharecroppers, Syncline. It always interesting to me where people find these wines. As many wine stores, and tastings that I attend, there always seems to be more and more new names (at least new to me)

This was a smaller group than normal. Seems everyone was out of town for the weekend. But these smaller groups are a lot of fun. Everyone is more laid back and you get a chance to talk with every person. It seems also that the wines do not disappear as quick and you can always get a second or third taste. Sometimes at the larger gatherings, I will find that I have not spoke to several people in attendance.

As usual the food was great. The hostess cooked lamb and chicken so along with all the side dishes we were very full (wine & food).

So another gathering of the "winos" is over and I am looking forward to next months meeting.

Belacan Malaysian Grill

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The monthly "Wine & Dine" group gathered at the Belacan Malaysian Grill in Redondo Beach tonite for dinner. This was a first for me. I had never tasted Malaysian cuisine before. Some of the dishes I really liked and a few of them were not my type , but other people enjoyed them.

Malaysian food can be quite spicy, like Indian food. We had the medium spice level with our dinner and it was fine with me, in fact I could have taken it up a notch. But some people thought it was really spicy. When you have a group of 14 people you need to cater to every ones taste and find a happy balance.

Roti Canai - Crispy fried flat bread with a curry dipping sauce (this sauce is to die for, I will have to search the Internet to see how its made)

Satay Tofu - Fried tofu stuffed with vegetables and peanut sauce

Malaysian Curry Puffs - Pastry stuffed with potato chicken curry ( another favorite - I also
put the curry dipping sauce on it)

Kuala Lampur Spring Rolls - just a bit to greasy for me

Penang Rojak - Malaysian fruit & vegetable salad (not my cup of tea but others raved about it)

Spicy Eggplant - Sauteed eggplant with spicy bean paste ( for eggplant it wasn't too bad - the
sauce helped tremendously)

Grilled Tamarind Prawn - Shrimp marinated with tamarind sauce (my favorite dish - they
cooked the shrimp with the shells on "keeps the flavor" and the tamarind sauce was excellent)

Coconut Rice - (I did not try either of the rice dishes - I'm not big into white rice)

Belacan String Beans - Sauteed green beans with spicy bean paste (Another hit for me - even
Barbara who doesn't eat anything green raved about these)

Beef Rendang - Slices of beef in Malaysian curry and spices ( I liked the sauce but I felt that
the quality of the meat left something to be desired)

Of course we had our usual assortment of wines. From sparkling Shiraz to Gerwurtzraminer to Cabernet. I did not try all the wine. I did think that the 06 Kosta Browne Rose was excellent and I am not a big Rose fan. I was disappointed in the 05 Roar Santa Lucia Pinot. It was very elegant front palate then seemed to drop off dramatically. Not to sure if I will save my bottles of this. I brought a magnum of 1999 Kunde Merlot which turned out to be much better than I thought it would be. I'm not a Merlot fan but this one was pretty good. There were several other wines I tasted that I likes but I did not keep notes on them. A Reisling stood out along with the Gerwurztraminer.

Again another fun evening with great people, good wines and unusual food. It doesn't get any better that that.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

La Traviata Wine Tasting

Thursday, April 26, 2007

La Traviata in Long Beach hosted a wine tasting this evening. For $15 you got to taste 12 wines and partake in a light buffet. I think they had twice as many people as they were expecting. The place was jammed. I did not get to taste 4 of the wines, but of those I did taste, I liked the Taittinger Prestige Cuvee Rose and the Masi Amarone Costasera '03.

If Mario decides to do this again, I hope he opens the back room to keep the flow of people moving. There were too many small tables crowded in and that left a small walk area in and out of the main tasting table. Made for gridlock and it also didn't help matters that people once they got to the main table stayed (probably because it was too much of a hassle to go away from it and then come back).

As always the light buffet spread of food was good. Nice assortment of cheeses, olives, salami's, prosciutto and fruits.

This was definitely a bargain.

Fundraiser - Cure for Diabetes

Sunday, April 22, 2007

This is the 5th time I have attended this fundraiser. It was held at the Palm Garden next to the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. This is the land of silicon and botox. I would sure like to find out what these females take to stay so skinny (has to be the Newport water).

This event always has the greatest auction items, silent and live. Along with the Ferrari & Lamborghini show this is a must do event for me.

This year I was a little disappointed - several wineries did not show up as scheduled. But as always there were still enough wines to keep anyone happy. (I also added 2 more wine bottle openers to my collection) The tables of cheese, pates, fruits etc. were there along with the wait staff passing out mini crab cakes, chicken satay and very mini tostadas. The quality of the food is always top notch.

The highlight of the day is the live auction and this year along with the "huge" barbecue (10 ft long) , custom made 8 player poker table with built in wine bar, adorable puppy (seems to be a favorite every year), were the bottles of wine offered. Everything from 750 ml bottles to 9 ltr bottles. The 3 pack of 2003 Screaming Eagle went on the auction block for $6,500. Seems out of line but then you have to consider that it is a tax deduction (over the retail price) and this is a charity event. It's always a lot of fun to see what people "of means" are willing to spend.

This was definitely different from my adventure last week at the "Taste of Huntington Beach". Two worlds and 10 minutes apart.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Long Shadows

April 19, 2007

MAWL Wines presented a "Long Shadows" tasting this evening. Quite a unique concept. Apparently this gentleman, (can't remember his name) came up with the idea of having well known winemakers come to his facility and make wine from grapes of various well known vineyards in the state of Washington. These were all bottled under various labels. All the wines we had this evening were good, but my favorites were , Pirouette and Sequel and the Poets Leap.

2005 Poets Leap Riesling ($17) - an off dry Reisling which could be mistaken for a Gerwurztraminer. It had a long, clean finish and beautiful notes of apricots. Made by Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel

2004 Pedestal Merlot ($46) - Merlot with a little Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, & Petit Verdot. Very concentrated wine, beautiful color, hint of spice and intense berry . Made by Michel Rolland . Works with top Bordeaux producers and Bryant, Harlan & Sloan in Napa.

2004 Pirouette Meritage + Sryrah ($46). A blend of 49% Cab, 27% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot and 11% Syrah. This wine just lingered in you mouth. Luscious and well structured. Made by Philipe Melka and Augustin Huneeus. Petrus, Haut-Brion and Quintessa, Hundred Acres, Vineyard 29, Dominus & Caldwell in Napa. Veramonte in Chile.

2003 Chester Kidder Meritage + Syrah ($45). 38% Cab, 26% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec & 2% Petit Verdot. Dark fruit, soft tannins hint of chocolate. Round and balanced. Made by Gilles Nicault of Woodward Canyon.

2004 Saggi, Sangiovese Blend ($41) 35 % Sangovese, 35% Cabernet, 16% Syrah and 14% Barbera. . Deep black cherry with hints a vanilla and spice. Made by Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari of Folonari Winery & Ruffino in Tusany.

2004 Sequel ($50). 97 % Syrah and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Black fruit with a touch of vanilla. Long finish, extremely well balanced. Made by John Duvel (He made Penfolds Grange for 15 years)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Taste of Huntington Beach

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Went to the 7th annual "Taste of Huntington Beach" today. It was held at the Hyatt Regency Resort. Proceeds for this fund raiser go to the Huntington Beach Children's Library and the 3rd Battalion/1st Marines at Camp Pendleton. This was the first time I had attended this event so I did not what to expect, except it was food, wine and breweries.

I should have known that in "SURF CITY USA" the emphasis would not be on wine. There was Sterling, BV, Edna Valley, J Lohr and Ironstone on the top level (top level for this event) after that it was down hill. But damm, the beer was good. I was really taken with a small micro brewery in Mission Viejo area called Saddleback Brewery. Really enjoyed their liquid refreshments.

Lots of local restaurants participated and among the standouts were, Davios, Longboards, Luccis, Shades, Kabuki, Ruby Palace and Stonefire Grill. In fairness to some of the others, I did not try their offerings as I was getting to the point that if I ate another bite, I wouldn't be able to waddle back to the car.

In all there were 43 food stations, 21 wineries or distributors and 15 breweries, along the with obligatory silent auction and raffles. Not bad for $50 and a tax deduction.

What was really the most interesting observance of this event was the "people". This venue brought out the surfers, beer guzzlers, beach bimbos, chicks with tattoos and strange color hair, along with the 45+ year old babes who think that if they dress and try to look like a 20 year old , people will think that they are. They are odder than the girls with the strange color hair, tattoos and body piercings. It was quite the unique "people watching" experience. Worth the price of admission. Makes me realize how boring I must seem to others.

Next week I'm off to the land of "silcone & botox". Attending a fundraiser , "Cure for Diabetes" at the Palm Hotel in Newport Beach.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Cabernet Tasting

Friday, April 6, 2007

Attended the Cabernet Sauvignon tasting at Wine Country in Long Beach this evening. I had been looking forward to this all month. There were 12 wines on the list and at the end someone asked how these would compare to a French Bordeaux. Randy were generously opened a bottle of 2002 Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru ($200). Needless to say that this wine was a real winner. I personally rate this wine at 10 on my own 1 to 10 scoring system. I am not going to describe each wine we had this evening, but I have indicated my score, which only reflects my personal taste.

( 7) 2003 Kamen, Sonoma - $55
( 5) 2003 Salvestrin Estate, Napa - $47
( 5) 2003 White Cottage, Howell Mtn - $56
( 6) 2003 Robert Mondavi Reserve, Napa - $100
( 7) 2001 Mayacamas Vineyards, Mt. Veeder, Napa - $60
(10) 1992 Mayacamas Vineyards, Napa - $117
( 5) 2003 B.V. George Latour PR, Napa - $87
( 8) 2003 Lail "J.Daniel Cuvee", Napa - $96
( 7) 2003 Rubicon Estate "Rubicon", Rutherford, Napa - $113
( 8) 2003 Diamond Creek, "Gravelly Meadow" Napa - $160
( 8) 2003 Diamond Creek, "Red Rock Terrace", Napa - $160
( 8) 2003 Diamond Creek, "Volcanic Hills", Napa - $160
( 5) 2004 Caymus, "Special Selection", Napa - $130


Friday, April 6, 2007

Finally went to DaVinci's in Long Beach. I have heard pro's and con's about DaVinci's since it was first opened, so I was interested to see what my take would be. I met up with a couple of friends there for cocktails and appetizer's. My first impression is the place is big. Several different dining areas along with the bar and outside patio. The main dining area is impressive with the view of the airport.

Since I arrived early I had 20 minutes to order a drink - the bartender did know how to make a "Sidecar", altho he did not use fresh lemon juice, just a sweet/sour mix. It was a decent drink, much better than a lot of them I've had. The bartenders were pleasant, but seemed to be a little clumsy that evening. They had a case of the "dropsies". (Maybe they were over whelmed with my voluptuous looks). LOL

When my friends arrived, we went to the outside patio. If you like the noise of the small planes, jets and helicopters, it is an interesting place to sit. The noise was not as loud as some of the local establishments that have music. At least we could have conversation without yelling.

We ordered two appetizers. One was a Ahi Tuna finely diced, similar to tartare and with a hint of wasbi/mayonnaise mixed in. It was very good. Almost a buttery taste. I would order this again in a heartbeat. The amount on the plate I would estimate to be around 3/4 of of a cup, lightly packed.

The second appetizer was fried rounds of polenta with a mushroom sauce. The had added a few shrimp to the equation but I really don't know why. The polenta with the mushrooms was tasty enough without anything extra. Maybe it was to jack up the price. There were about 7 or 8 rounds of polenta on the plate and they were approximately the size of a quarter.

Both of these appetizers were served on large plates, very impressive but took up a lot of room on the table. They were in the $14 to $16 range. I little pricey. I would say about $ 2 to $4 too much. They gave us large square plates to eat off of. We asked for smaller plates but were told they did not have any.

One of my companions ordered a Martini that was supposed to come with a jalapeno stuffed olive. When they first brought the drink it had a cherry in it When this was pointed out to the server he came back with two very large stuffed olives. But they were stuffed with cheese, not jalapeno's.

Since I did not eat dinner there I can only comment about the appetizers and drinks. I would go back there but not on a regular basis. Just a tad too pricey for what you get. The wait staff was very cordial and they did seem to be trying to accommodate you. I will have dinner there just to see what the dining menu food is like. This apparently is an expensive place to run and you will pay a premium for it.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Chinese Dinner

March 31, 2007

Dined at a favorite restaurant tonight. Duong Son BBQ Restaurant in Westminister. A group of friends get together every two months to partake in their delectable food dishes. Everyone brings a bottle of wine and we share food and wine. One of our participants speaks the language and is a friend of the owner. We let Henry do the ordering for us and there is always a surprise dish that we have not had before. We limit the table to 8 people and that way it ensures that the conversation stays intimate and we can converse with everyone without having to yell across a larger table.

We started off with some kind of dried cuttlefish and their house specialty, roasted peanuts, then went on to the following:

Stuffed Tofu
Clams with Black Bean Sauce
Whole Lobster, chopped in pieces with the shell on, stirred fried with ginger and scallions.
Soft noodles infused with the sauce from the lobster.
Barbecued Pork Ribs
Spicy Green Beans with Chicken
Chinese Flat Noodles with a Sauce - (not really sure what)
Deep Fried Sea Bass
Sliced Fresh Papaya
Green Tapioca with Sweet Corn
Steamed Dumplings Stuffed with Crushed Lotus Seeds

I am not a big fan of tofu, but this particular dish is a winner. We have had it several times and it is always the best. Very light panko type coating on the outside and soft and creamy inside.

What can I say about the Clams, another favorite dish, full of flavor and the clams were really fat and tender tonight.

The lobster dish is one of the best ways I have ever had lobster cooked. It creates such a succulent juice.

The owner of this establishment will not give out the secret for the ribs. They taste like there is maple syrup in the sauce.

The spicy green beans really had a punch to them, but I was so busy eating and sucking on the lobster feelers that I did not get any of the chicken. (you snooze you loose).

I am not going to keep a pad with me to write things down when I go out to eat. If there is a printed menu for a special dinner, I will use that. But when I'm doing a casual dinner with friends, I will rely on my memory for notes. My focus is having a enjoyable evening with friends. I 'm not a professional food/wine critic. So that be said, the wines we had tonight were a mixed bag, like all the other dinners here.

There was a Rosenthal Merlot from Malibu, Just & Nat Cabernet from Napa, a Gerwurztraminer, a white blend which I have totally spaced out on the name (sorry Clyde), 2003 Stolpman Angeli, 1999 Perolleti (not sure of the spelling) Sangiovese, 2004 Kosta-Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot and a Carmondy-McKnight Late Harvest Chardonnay.

I brought the Kosta-Browne because I was anxious to see how the Sonoma Coast Pinot compared with the Russian River Pinot. 3 of the people at the table had been to my house last month and had the Russian River Pinot so it was a good evaluation of the wine. This Sonoma Coast Pinot was excellent but we all agreed that the Russian River Pinot was better. I'm glad I got on their allocation list before it was closed.

I have had some people tell me that red wines do not go with Chinese food and/or that a mixed group of wines really doesn't lend itself to a food/wine pairing. We had a small discussion of this tonight and we all agreed that the big, bolder flavors of these type of food dishes pair well with reds. It is interesting that whenever we have one of these dinners, that the whites always have wine left in the bottles and for the most part the reds are gone.

The dinners at this restaurant are casual and are meant to be fun. The main focus is to have a enjoyable evening with good food, good wine and good friends. It is not meant to be a sophisticated food and wine pairing. I can pay big bucks and go someplace else for that.

That said, the total amount that each person paid and that includes a large gratuity was $20 per person. We do not get charged corkage and I do not know where else I can go and have such good food at such a low price. ( if we did not have the lobster and substituted another dish, the tab would have been around $15 per person)

I'm already looking forward to our next dinner in May/June.