Sunday, January 20, 2008
This was the monthly event of the "Wine & Dine" group. I have missed the last couple of dinners because of other commitments.
The restaurant the month was "The India Restaurant" in Artesia which is known as "Little India". Stores, markets, jewelry, restaurants are for the "Indian" population in the area. Quite unique and worth a day trip to wander around. You don't have to go to India to shop or experience the culture. The great thing about California is that we are so diversified that there is an area devoted to almost every ethnic group. Makes for great dining.
CJ always pre-orders the dishes. Tonight we had:
Saag/Palak - sauteed spinach, ginger, tomatoes, onions, herbs & spices
Vegetable Madras - vegetables sauteed with ginger, herbs, spices and coconut cream
Murgh Makhni - chicken tandoored & cooked in butter, yogurt & tomato gravy
Tandoori Jumbo Shrimp - shrimp spiced with masala and tandoored
Lamb Sheekh Kebab - minced lamb with onions, herbs, spices and tandoored
Pillau Rice - basmati rice with green peas, onions & cashews
Garlic Nan - leavened bread with fresh chopped garlic
Roti - multi layered whole wheat bread stuffed with potatoes and spices.
Dessert was an Indian ice cream. One was mango and the other was pistachio.
Everyone brought a bottle of wine. A couple of the stand outs were - Duckhorn Estate Merlot, William Selyem Russian River Pinot Noir. There were 2 Gerwurztraminer's brought. The Columbia Crest was a little drier that the Hook & Ladder. The Domiane Zind Humbrecht Alscae was good also. I brought an 04 Windward Pinot Noir - its was good but did not compare with the William Selyem.
Next month the "Wine & Dine" is off to a Bulgarian restaurant.
This was the first time I have dined in the Prixe Fixe Room since the new restaurant has opened. I was anxious to "feel" the ambiance.
I was joining 9 friends for dinner to "test the waters". I got off to a bad start. I was running on time as long as there were no obstructions to my path. I don't like it when I'm on edge trying to get someplace.
I pulled into the driveway and the parking valet had both lanes blocked. "Did not sit well with me". When I told him that I did not want valet parking, he said I would have to park in back. "Did not sit well with me". He moved a car so I could enter the parking lot and I proceeded to to park in the middle. He did not have any area roped or coned off, so my attitude was "screw you". I'm paying close to $100 for dinner and I'm supposed to park in back. I think not. I'm not a fan of valet parking. Its not the $ charge, it's that most of them are lousy drivers and if you have any money in your car it sometimes disappears. And they aways change the seat position.
Upon entering the restaurant, I informed Dave, the owner, of my encounter with his valet. The valet is supposed to leave one lane open for those who do not want to avail themselves of the service.
After checking the score of the football game, I proceeded to join my companions for dinner. The prixe fixe dinning area is a separate room which they keep the door closed to the rest of the restaurant and I was interested in comparing it to the old restaurant.
I was disappointed in the acoustics. It was noisy to me. Maybe the fact we had 10 people at our table entered into it. I have an idea it is not the soft ambiance as with the old place. The harpist still plays on weekends which is a nice touch.
Since I was the last one seated , everyone had already decided to order the house wine pairing with the dinner at $25 per person. I personally would have rather ordered bottles from the wine list, but when you are the "last minute charley" your opinion doesn't count.
The dinner started off with an "amuse bouche", a blue cheese/walnut mixture on a toasted bread round. Soup was roasted red bell pepper and tomato bisque. Next up was a Chipolte Crab Cake with a herb salad. After that came the chicken breasts with a prosciutto sauce. Extremely good. Main dish was new york steak with chipolene onion gravy, potatoes and vegetables. A cheese plate appeared and then dessert was served. You get three desserts, all small portions. Tonight we had Russian cream, (panncotta), sticky toffee pudding and some chocolate concoction. As always the food is outstanding. Louise is outstanding in the kitchen
I wasn't as happy with the wine pairings. I felt they were mediocre and we would have done much better ordering off the wine list. That's the problem when you have a bunch of wine geeks, nothing is good enough for us. We are too critical of everything.
I am doing an Argentina wine dinner this next week at Delius in the prixe fixe room, so I will compare the noise level at that dinner with this one. It may be much better. I hope so.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Left on a Friday morning in drizzling rain which was better than the deluge that had been predicted. Picked up my friend Remy about 6:00 am and started up the freeway towards Buellton. By time we reached that point we needed breakfast so we went into Ellen's Pancake House. If you are ever in the area it is a great place to stop. A plain jane on the outside but the food is really worth the stop. I know that biscuits & gravy are not the best for a person, but they sure are good here.
Another quick stop just outside of Paso Robles at Turley Winery to pick up a few bottles and we continued on our way to Lafayette. I stayed the night with Remy's in-laws. Nancy made a great stew for dinner and Staurday morning after breakfast at Chows. (I had a smoked slamon and cabbage omelet which was very good), John drove us up to "Mt. Diablo" from where you can see the entire bay area including all the bridges and on a very clear day you are supposed to be able to see Mt. Shasta. It was cloudy that day because of the rains. It was extremely cold and very windy at the top and there was ice on the walkways. I found out later from a friend of mine that Mt. Diablo is used by surveyors as a start point for all the property in California along with a mount in San Bernardino county. That is why we have Baseline and Meridian streets in the area. Saturday afternoon I continued on to Windsor where I was staying at the Worldmark Resort.
Sunday morning I went over to the "Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County" airport to pick up my friend Jan who was staying with me for a few days. The only airport that has statues of "Snoopy", "Charlie Brown" and "Woodstock" in their facilties. It was a quick 3 minute drive from the resort. She arrived early enough that we could get to the first winery as it opened. That Sunday we went to 9 different wineries.
We did share tastings, as she was the navigator and I was the driver. Of course she didn't navigate very well coming back from Bodega Bay and we took the long scenic route back.
I was disappointed in the town on Windsor and Healdsburg as I was expected them to be decked out for the Christmas holiday and it was not to be. The shops were decorated but the towns themselves were sadly lacking of any holiday spirit. I naively thought that small towns would get into the holiday spirit more so that a larger town. Santa Rosa had more going for it than the other 2. Another lesson in life - don't expect anything and if something happens you are ahead of the game.
Jan left on Wednesday evening and I had 2 days alone to seek out a few wineries that we missed and a couple of places I wanted to taste again. I tasted at 37 wineries in 6 days.
After tasting at the "big" ones, I found a few smaller ones that I was had not heard of before.
Williamson Wines in downtown Healdsburg. Owners are from Australia. Nice wines and I especially liked their "Cuvee" which is a 5 Bordeaux blend. A couple of bottles of this went into the shipping carton.
Sbragia in Geyserville,. I even liked their Chardonnay.
Robert Young, (not the actor) in Geyserville. I wish now that I had gone back to buy.
Porter Creek in the Russian River area. Came across this one late in the day and squeaked in just before they closed. One of the best Viognier I have had. I bought a bottle of this for a tasting coming up in January. I will be anxious to see if I still like it as much as I did at the winery. All the estate wines here are organic and biodynamic certified.
Papapietro Perry Winery located on Dry Creek Road. Outstanding Pinots and Zins. I did bring a few bottles home from this winery. Although I do not like "wine clubs" per se, I am real tempted to join theirs. I will file the information away in my "mini brain" and sleep on it for awhile before I make a decision.
The weather was good. Cold at night, in the low 30's and in the mid 60's during the day. Had a 9 hour drive back, (alone, no help). I go the101 as I do not like the 5 at all. I would rather spend an extra hour driving than contend with trucks, 2 lane roads, boring, boring scenery and pulling "grapevine" . I got 39 mpg overall in my "rice burner". I did get 42 mpg on the stretch up and back, so with the stop and go of the wineries and dirt roads, 39 mpg overall is good. A total of 1567 miles driven that week.
Some of you will ask where I/we went to so I amd giving you an alphabetical listing of the wineries that we graced our presence with.
Amphora, Raymond Burr, Clos du Bois, Dutcher Crossing, Ferrai-Carano, Coppola, Gary Farrell, Geyser Peak, Harvest Moon, Hook & Ladder, J Vineyards, Kendall-Jackson, Korbel, La Crema, Limerick Lane, Martinelli, Mauritson, Meeker, Murphy-Goode, Papapietro Perry, Pellegrini, Peterson, Porter Creek, Ridge Lytton Springs, Rosenblum, Sbragia, Seghesio, Silver Oak, Rodney Strong, Starry Night, Teldeschi, Toad Hollow, Trentadue, Wilson, Yokim Bridge, Robert Young & Williamson.
I have not decided If I will go back to Sonoma the end of 2008 or perhaps Napa. I need to make up my mind soon and get my timeshare trade in. Paso Robles is great because its 4 hour drive compared to 9 but I have gone there so much in the past few years. I think I need to broaden my vacation plans. I am going to China in March which is much broader but I'm not expecting to see any great wineries there. I did have a taste of a Chinese Cabernet earlier this year. I don't think Napa has anything to worry about for a very long time.