Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beer Dinner at BBC

Monday, June 23, 2008

This was the second "beer dinner" of the season at Belmont Brewing Company. The beer of this evenings tasting was "Craftsman". I had never heard of this brewery before so I did not know what was to take place.

I arrived early and was seated at one of the tables next to the beach. The view of the Long Beach skyline is great. Even the "Old Queen Mary" looked good at night with the lights twinkling.

While waiting for my dinning companions I had a few glasses of "Honesty Ale". Cherry undertones.

They did serve this with the appetizer which was "Smoked Pork Tenderloin on Ancho Crostini w/Pickled Cabbage and Whole Grain Mustard". Actually the beer complimented the food. I do feel that the "crostini" should have been smaller and it would have been much easier to eat.

Soup course was served next. A "Sweet Corn & Black Bean Soup w/Crema Fresca". Half of the bowl had the corn soup and the other half had the black bean with the crema fresca drizzled across it. The soup had good flavor. They served this with the "1903 Pre Prohibition Lager" This beer had a spicy flavor to it. Cross between cloves and allspice.

A salad of "Crisp Apples, Goat Cheese & Field Greens w/Caramelized Pecans appeared. Just a salad. Nothing overly special. This was served with a "Heavenly Hefeweizen". The beer had a slight fruit taste to it but it did go well with the salad.

Main course was "Oven Roasted Game Hen w/Mushroom Cornbread Stuffing & Julienne Vegetable Nest". This dish was paired with the "Triple White Sage" beer. The underlying hints of sage went well with the cornbread stuffing. By this time I was stuffed so I ate 1 leg and 1 spoonful of dressing and took the rest home. This was a "whole" game hen.

Dessert was a "Expresso Mousse Parfait w/Sour Cherry Compote & Vanilla Cream". This was served with the Baltic Porter. The best beer of the evening. The dessert was just "ok". Nothing special but edible.

These beer dinners are always interesting. Its a crap shoot as to the quality. But at $50 you cannot be overly picky but coming off the absolutely fabulous dinner Saturday night I would say this dinner was acceptable, boring and not to inventive but edible.

I would never order these beers as a stand alone drink. They seemed to pair well with the food but I could not drink a glass of any of these except maybe the porter. But the company was good, the setting perfect along the waves with the twinkling lights in the background and the weather was great for beachside dining.

Wine Fest Weekend

June 21 & 22, 2008

This weekend the Sta. Rita Hills Alliance hosted "Wine Fest". For a fee of $75 you got into numerous wineries both days along with a boxed lunch on Saturday. Many of these wineries are not open to the public except on this weekend.

You get to taste barrel samples and older vintages along with nibblies. Every winemaker I talked with this weekend is really excited about the 2007 vintage. After 2006 (which was ok but not as good as the 2005) they all have their hopes up for a very highly rated year.

From the sample's that I tried I'm excited also. I found most of them clean, complex and a lot of layers to sift through. I did not find the bite or slight bitterness that sometimes comes through in a young barrel sample.

It was a good weekend. Trying but satisfying. It was a 3 hour drive up and 4 hours back. It could have been worse but with the gas at all time highs the amount of pickups with trailers and RV's and campers was noticeably lighter.

Next year, my plan is to go up early Saturday am and come back on Monday. That way I miss the weekend traffic and I will have more time to taste and not feel that I am rushing myself.

Now all I need is to make the cut for dinner at Clos Pepe next year and I will again be a "happy woman". I do not need diamonds and furs. Just give me good wine and good food. That's why I am still working when most people I know are retired. I'm not quite willing to give it up yet. I know the day of reckoning is coming but I hope to push it off as long as I can.

Dinner at Winery

Saturday, June 21, 2008

This weekend is the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Fest and along with the activities several wineries host dinners in the evening.

This is the third year that I have been fortunate to get on the list for the private dinner at Clos Pepe Estate.

The wines poured at this dinner are from pinot grapes sourced from the Clos Pepe vineyards but 3 different winemakers. We had Wes Hagen from Clos Pepe Estate, Brian Loring from Loring Wine Co. and Andrew Vinegello from A.P. Vin Wines.

The evening started in the courtyard of the house with "pizzas from the wood fired oven" which is outdoors in the corner of the courtyard. Every house needs one of these. Unfortunately most houses do not have the room for something this size.

Servers were passing "Smoked Salmon, Mascarpone and American Caviar pizza, Homemade Sika Venison Italian Sausage and Buffalo Mozzarella pizza and Grilled Bison Loin with Manchego and Basil pizza. These were all served with 2007 barrel samples of the three wineries. I will say I was impressed with it all. I did watch my consumption of pizza because we still had dinner to navigate through. But I could have stayed where I was and noshed on pizzas all night. They were excellent.

We were asked to go into the house to be seated. There were 7 tables of various sizes so I headed for the larger one. It is easier to seat a single person at a large table than one that is set for 6 or 8. I am aware of this and do not like to break up couples or people who want to sit together. I was standing behind a chair at the large table when Cathy Pepe came up and asked if I would mind sitting at another table that had a single seat as she needed two seats together for someone. No problem with that for me so I headed to where she wanted me to sit and it was Brian Loring's table. So I had dinner with the "boys". Five men and me. We did have a great time after they figured out they did not have to watch their "P's & Q's" with me.

First course was "Carpaccio of Kona Kampachi (fish) with Avocado, Clos Pepe Olive Oil and Maldron Sea Salt. Served with 2007 Clos Pepe Estate Rose. This is the first year for this wine. Wes's intern winemaker decided to make this wine with grapes that were left hanging after harvest. He got to them before the birds did and made this interesting Rose. Only 70 cases made and it sold out very quickly. I was allowed to buy 6 bottles and I will really enjoy them this summer. It was slightly dry with just a hint of sweetness and a little bit of effervescence. The fish of course was raw, sliced extremely thin (carpaccio) and had a wonderful flavor. The oil and salt was a very nice compliment to the fish.

Second course was "Grilled Maitake Mushoooms with Sesame Aioli, Steamed Spinach and Bonito". This dish was paired with A.P. Vin 2006 Clos Pepe Vineyards Pinot Noir. Another real interesting dish. Great flavor. The spinach was rolled with the bonito inside. I have not had Maitake mushrooms before. They looked like a flower and tasted similar to Portabello mushrooms. Bold flavor. Again another excellent pairing. A.P. Vin wines are more towards the burgundian style and very food friendly.

Third course was "Pan Roasted South Texas Antelope with Cranberry Beans, Heirloom Beets and Smokey Bacon-Star Anise Jus". I have eaten antelope before but since this is farmed raised it was not quite as gamy. I find it similar to lamb and and young goat. There was nothing left on my plate. The wine served with this course was the Loring Wine Company 2006 Clos Pepe Vineyard Pinot Noir. Brian's wines are bolder that Wes's and Andrew's but the boldness paired well with this particular dish

Individual cheese plates came to the table. "Rinconada Dairies Poza Tomme with Sweet Butter and Baugette. The wine paired with this dish was the Clos Pepe Estate 2005 Pinot Noir. 2005 was one of my favorite vintages but after tasting the 2007 barrel samples I may change my mind.

I have tasted Clos Pepe Pinot Noir from 2000 to 2006.

A dessert tray was set down - "Family Style Dessert", very small shortbread cookies, chocolate truffles (handmade) and local fresh strawberries. This was a prefect ending to a very rich dinner. Wes Hagen's roasted coffee was served,

Again to me another fantastic dinner is a gorgeous setting. The temperature had dropped from the heat of the day and it was a beautiful evening. Great dinning companions, fabulous food , great wines and me. What more could I ask for. I'm already looking forward to next years bash.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fund Raiser for Food Bank

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Second Harvest Food & Wine event is held twice a year as a fundraiser for the food bank. As in the past it has been held at the Crystal Court at South Coast Plaza. They take over two floors of the mall and set up tables with food from local restaurants and wine from the vendors.

Maybe it is the economy but this year there were noticeably less vendors. I would say the participation of the restaurants was down approximately 30%, which is a large decline.

For $45 donation you get to nosh and drink wine & beer for 3 hours. I usually make it the 2 hour mark and then I have had it.

The food as usual was good. The wines were OK with a few jewels spread amongst them. But for $45 what can you expect. I have always been happy with the selection.

I did get to taste the 2006 McKeon-Phillps BPR Cabernet Sauvignon which will be released next February. So I know how my wine is coming along. I bought it on futures because the price is always right. Opolo was there also but they ran out of wine half through the event. They were a very popular table.

Next up will be the fall event in October which always seems to feature more micro breweries.

Stan's Cellar Cleaning

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stan who has over 5,000 bottles of wine periodically will have a "cellar cleaning". This moves maybe 1 % of his wine . (Only if he does not buy anymore wine which for Stan is impossible.)

This Sunday we trekked to Santa Monica for the day to see what to our wondering eyes would appear on the table. You never know what is going to be pulled out of the cellar. Today was no exception.

As always some OK wines, some really over the hill ones and a few jewels. There were approximately 50 wines poured. We all had a good time

I did not take a list because Stan was going to make one up and he hasn't finished it yet. So maybe as an after thought further down the road I will come back to this post and add some tastings notes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Riviera at The Fireside

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It has been a couple of years since I went to this particular restaurant. The food is very good. It's an old style continental place. Dim, leather banquettes, table side cooking, "old fashion" dishes, like Duck a'la orange, frogs legs, veal oscar, steak diane

This is not the cheapest place to eat but the quality is worth it. The restaurant was full so I'm not sure about the "economy". You could not tell we are in a recessionary period.

There were six of us dining this evening. Everyone brought a really nice bottle of wine and we gladly paid the $15 per bottle corkage.

They always start you off the a tray of "goodies". Tonight it was their pate which they make themselves, olives, pickled vegetables and a cottage cheese dish that had chives in it, along with baskets of several types of bread and crackers.

Four of us ordered the spinach salad which is cooked table side, flames and all. They do make one of the better spinach salads around. Just the right amount of dressing and bacon. The other two ordered the french onion soup which they said was very good. I have had that soup years before and it was good then.

Four of us ordered the rack of lamb. Margie had the fresh halibut (she doesn't eat seafood but this is an exception) and Steve had the veal chop cordon blue. Everyone agreed the food was excellent. You do not get a choice of sides. Every dish comes with the same, fresh green beans, caramelized carrots, fried zucchini and roasted tiny potatoes. I would suppose this is due to the amount of table side cooking and cutting of meat that is done. It makes the waiters job a little bit easier and less complicated.

We ended up with bananas foster and cherries jubilee for dessert.

The wines that were brought were all excellent. We started off with a 1998 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, France, then progressed to a 2005 Kistler, Kistler Vineyard, Chardonnay, Sonoma. This had way to much oak in for my tastes but everyone else loved it.

There were 5 red wines on the table. 1996 Qunitessa Mertiage, Napa, 2001 Grgich Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 2003 Sea Smoke , Southing, Pinot Noir, Sta, Rita Hills, 2003 Pira, Barolo, Vigna Marcenca, Italy and a 2004 Pahlmeyer Meritage, Napa.

The Qunitessa was a stunning wine, the Barolo opened up after about an hour of decanting. All the wines were very good and there wasn't too much left to bring home.

It is nice to get dressed up and "do" fine dining. Makes you feel a bit more civilized. Although it always boggles my mind that when people go into a fine dining establishment they do not dress for the occasion. Shorts and jeans were seen tonight. I know its "California" and we are a laid back state but this wasn't the local pizza joint. I guess I'm showing my age or perhaps a little sense of snobbery and I hope I don't loose it.

We had a very enjoyable evening and I hope I don't put too much time between visits to The Riviera.

I brought half of my dinner home as the amount of food on the plate was very generous and finished it for breakfast. Yeh ! I know I'm wierd but what rule says you have to eat breakfast foods only at breakfast. I eat leftovers for breakfast all the time.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Chinese Again

Saturday, June 7, 2008

We finally did another dinner at Duong Son BBQ Restaurant in Westminister . I was starting have deep cravings ever since I came back from China in March.

Eight of us foodies were in attendance and again we let Henry do all the ordering. He surprised us with several new dishes we had not had before, which I find amazing as we have been doing these dinners for at least 3 years.

We started out with "Shrimp Crackers". They were freshly made and really hit the spot. First dish up was "Fried Tofu". We have had this dish numerous times and its always a crowd pleaser. The best tofu I have ever had.

Along came "Beef Tendon" in a sauce with turnips and daikon radish. I really like this dish. Some people get turned out because of the tendon but that is my favorite part.

"Scallops with Chinese broccoli " was a new dish for us and it was excellent. The scallops were cooked just perfect. I think this was one of Oliver's favorites along with the "noodles".

"Shrimp with Fat Noodles" came from the kitchen. I really enjoy the fat noodles as they absorb the flavor of the rest of the ingredients.

Next was one of my favorite dishes. "Deep Fried Oysters" Need I say more. They were plumb and moist and so good.

"Duck" was up next. The restaurant specializes in duck and this one was roasted and served with some sort of semi pickled cabbage. Not real pickled but had a slight taste of it. Dave raved about this dish and I could have it again "real soon".

"Fried Beef" was served. I had this dish in China and also at another dinner at Duong Son and its another hit. The flavor was intense. Another dish that Dave raved about.

Thin noddles with chicken was the last dish served. Interesting and good. I do not know the exact ingredients but they went well together and we ate it all.

For dessert we were served fresh Mango and some sort of red bean custard. The Chinese are not into real sweet dishes which is just as well as we had enough sugar with the wine.

A couple of notable wines tonight were 2005 McKeon-Phillips BPR Cabernet, 2005 Stolpman Hillsides Syrah. A 2005 Seghesio Pinot was interesting. I did not know they made a Pinot so it was nice to try. Great taste but it would do with a year or so of aging. A few other bottles of red wine, a Proseco and a Reisling rounded out the evening.

As always we had a good time, nice dinning companions, great food and good wine. You cannot ask for more than that. It was great to have Judy with us again. She was recovering from recent surgery but was on the mend enough to have a pleasurable evening out.

This Must Be Spanish Week

For some reason this seems to be "Spanish" wines week. Wherever I went this week they were featuring the wines of Spain. Wednesday at Utopia a Spanish Wine dinner. Thursday evening at the commuter tasting at Wine Country - Spanish Wines and Friday evening at MAWL Wine - guess what ? Spanish wines. I will say that my favorite wines of all three venues were the ones served at Utopia Restaurant. The others were good but did not seem to reach the same level. All were priced in the same range so it was not like comparing a $6 wine to a $60 one.

Spanish & Utopia

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Friends invited me to join them for a Spanish wine dinner at Utopia restaurant, www.utopiarestaurant.NET, in Long Beach. I have never been to this establishment before but had heard good things about it. Susan the wine rep was hosting that night. I have met her at several dinners over the past couple of years. And the importer of the wine was in attendance. All the wines were from the Navarra region of Spain.

Starter was a "Mariscos Ceviche", fresh seafood w/cilantro, garlic & cherry tomatoes in a lemon olive oil dressing. This was an excellent dish and paired extremely well with the "Vino Blanco Afutado, Chardonnay 2006". This wine was 70% Chardonnay and 30% Muscat. Strange combination but it cut the spice of the ceviche really well.

Next course was "Paella", saffron rice with sausage, smoked ham, calamari, shrimp and scallops in a spicy light tomato wine sauce. Again a very good dish. The wine was a "Vino Rosado De Lagrima 2006". Granacha/Cabernet. A good pairing and a good wine.

Main course was "Grilled Lamb Chops" with carmelized garlic and onions topped with goat cheese and fresh basil. The flavor of this dish was great but I do not like lamb cooked so that it is the same color inside and out. I need pink. The over cooking made the lamb a little dry and slightly tough. If the meat had been cooked correctly than this would have been an outstanding dish. It was served with a "Vino Usoa De Bagordi Select 2005" . Tempranillo, Merlot, Graciano, Granacha. A good pairing.

Dessert was "Homemade Bread Pudding" It was a good dish and was served with a "Vino Laudate Domium White Wine 2005/2006". This wine was a 100% small berry Muscatel. It was slightly sweet but not overly.

We also sampled a couple of wines that the rep brought but were not opened for the dinner. They left the bottles on the table and needless to say they were emptied when we finished.

Normally I do not buy wines on these dinners as I have enough to keep me going for 10 years, but the wines were good and the price was reasonable.