Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day BBQ

Monday, May 25, 2009

Was invited to a barbeque for the holiday. There was 14 of us attending today which made for a nice gathering. I will say that the food and company was great. Appetizers were awesome. Nancy made some really nice stuffed eggs that rivaled Rose's. Rose brought baked beans which were excellent. Tri tip, burgers and homemade sausages were grilled. Home brew was brought out along with some very nice wines. It was a nice relaxing day with good wine, brew and wine.

Made up for Sunday.

Monthly Gathering of The Wino's

Sunday., May 24, 2008

This was our monthly ritual today. Theme was Wines from South America. Of course Argentina represented the biggest group but there were a few from Chile.

This is the first time in 10 years that I can say I was thoroughly disappointed in the whole day.

Another Trip To Vino Cucina

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nine of us gathered tonight at Vino Cucina in Long Beach for dinner. As always the food was great. I had my favorite appetizer "Deep fried baby artichokes stuffed with ricotta & marscapone" . I should order 2 portions and have them as my meal. Had a very nice pasta with fresh tomato sauce and seafood. Different from he one last time. I always try something new when I go to Vino Cucina.

The dining companions were great. We had a great time and they had to kick us out as it was way past closing.

The only negative is that they have raised the price of their corkage to $15. That means we paid $135 in corkage that night. $15 is not to high if you are bringing a $50 bottle of wine. But for as much as we have gone into this restaurant you would think w could get a break.

I know they have a very nice wine list. Most of them inexpensive Italian wines with a few higher end wines. And their house wine is decent. But I always seem to have a bottle at home that I want to see how it is tasting.

The $135 was pure profit for them as most of us bring our own glasses. I won't stop going to this great little place but I may just start buying a carafe of their house wine and bring my own wines to places that are a bit more "corkage" friendly.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Franco's Italian Restaurant

Saturday, May 15, 2009

Tonight was the meeting of "CJ's Wine & Dine" group. Franco's is a small restaurant in Cypress and the food is quite good.. There were about 16 in attendance so a lively table it was. I do not keep track of the wines at these dinners so there will be none listed.

We started dinner with a Pesto Pizza. Pesto sauce, bell peppers, fresh chopped spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic. Excellent pizza. I could have had a few more slices of this and called it dinner.

Shrimp Francos was served next. Large shrimp sauteed with sliced green onions, chopped garlic, fresh basil, herbs and wine sauce. They are known for this dish and also was very good.

They then passed a platter of fried zucchini which I passed on. There was way too much food and I could give this up easily.

Soup was a Potato Leek. It was good. Not the best I've had but by far not the worst.

We were then served a plate with Tilapia Franchese. This fish dish was excellent. It had a garlic, lemon, herbs, olive oil and white wine sauce. Also on the plate was Sauteed vegetables, (potato, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus and carrots) and a small portion of pasta.

Last dish was New York steak with Diane sauce and mushrooms. Another excellent dish.

They had a plate of cookies for dessert which was more than enough. I ate too much as it was. If they had eliminated one of the appetizers or the soup it would have worked better. Also I filled up on bread with olive oil & balsamic. Service. was slow and it was a wait between courses. The wines were good. A few low end wines were brought but there were enough of the better quality to satisfy me. My bottle of Fulicano was emptied first so that had to say something for it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Philo Ridge Wine Dinner at Utopia

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Philo Ridge is a winery that I was not familiar with. Had heard the name but never tasted the wines. Fred Buonanno the owner and winemaker was in attendance. He was very interesting to talk with and had a great sense of humor. The "farm" is fully sustainable. It is 5 miles from the nearest electric grid so everything is solar.

The winery is in the Anderson Valley area of Mendocino County which is known for other "quality" products other than wine. I have heard that Humbolt County produces the best.

First course was "Grilled Pork Tenderloin Dijon Brandy Sauce". This was served with a 2007 Philo Ridge Chardonnay. A nice clean, crisp wine.

Second course - "Roasted Duck Breast in Shallot Balsamic Cream Reduction Sauce". Sauce was excellent. Duck was slightly overcooked for me. I prefer to see "pink" in my meats. This was served with a 2005 Philo Ridge Vino di Mendocino. A blend of Syrah, Zinfanfel, Petit Syrah and Carignane.

Third course was "Grilled Lamb Chop with Fresh Thyme Port Reduction Sauce". Again the sauce was excellent but to me the lamb was overcooked. The wine was a 2003 Philo Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dessert was homemade Tiramisu served with a Laudate Domium White Wine Vintage 2005/2006. They could have left the dessert wine off the menu. I just do not care to have sweet with sweet. To me its overkill. Serve your sweet wines with a cheese course.

All the wines tonight were good. Priced very well. We were also served tastes of the 2007 Gewuztraminer, 2007 Pinot Gris and the 2005 Pinot Noir.

I did purchase a couple bottles of the Chardonnay and the Gewuztraminer to have a few summer wines around. My cellar is 98% red so its nice to have some white available.

Utopia puts on nice dinners for the money. Cost is always $50 and they are generous with their pours. Their sauces are always excellent but I feel for my personal taste they overcook the lamb & duck. Some people like their meat with no pink or red but I am the opposite. I like my meat "just this side of dead".

Chinese Again

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tonight our every other month dinner at Duong Son was held. 8 is the ideal number for the size of the food dishes and for good conversation. Someone became ill at the last minute so only 7 tonight

We had no unusual dishes tonight. All the dishes were standards for us but they are so good it doesn't matter. The wines were good and I didn't see to many bottles with any wine left in them.

Salt & Pepper Calamari
Prawns with a garlic sauce
Spicy green beans with sea bass
Beef & Chinese broccoli
Roast duck (a house specialty)
Tofu with shrimp
Dessert was fresh melon and green bean & coconut tapioca.

NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico - always a nice clean sparkling
1999 Bedford Thompson, Mouvedre
2004 Lapostolle Cabernet, Chile
2005 Domaine Schumberg, Les Princes Abbe, Riesling
2006 Pozzan, Mariana, Napa (red wine)
2006 H (ach) Sonoma County, Pinot Noir
2006 Zaca Mesa, Z Gris, Grenanche Rose
2006 Clos Pepe, Sta. Rita Hills, Chardonnay
There also was a dessert wine brought but I neglected to jot the name down.

Hopefully another dinner in late June or early July before Henry leaves for the month of August.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Monthly Gathering of The Flock

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Today's theme for our monthly winos get together was " Central Coast Wines Rated Over 90". The over 90 rating helps keep the $10 to $12 bottles from not showing up. Unfortunately in this group there are a few who try to get by as cheap as possible but sure take to everyone else's more expensive wines when it comes time to drink.

There was a very good selection of wines. I brought a 2005 Kynski Bien Nacido, Santa Maria Valley, Pinot Noir. I felt it was one of the best wines that day and it was the first bottle to be emptied which is always a good sign. The 2007 Loredona, Monterey Riesling was very good also.

There were a few wines I was not thrilled with but that always happens.

Next month "South American" wines.

Argentine Wine Dinner

Friday, April 24, 2009

I met friends at Delius for dinner tonight. I was surprised to see Kevin Butler from the Henry Wine Group as our "fearless leader". Kevin has moved up the ladder with the company and is stuck in an office for the most part now days. He had a new rep with him. Peter Stolpman had resigned from the company to pursue helping his father run their winery.

I had not seen Kevin since the Catalon dinner at a small restaurant in Newport Beach a few years back. Kevin is the absolute "wine geek". Extremely knowledgeable. Great guy.

There was an unusually small group attending this dinner. I surmised because it was a "generic" wine dinner but that turned out to be a real plus for those attending.

First course was "Ahi Tartare with Fried Plantains, Avocado & Pickled Red Cabbage". Very interesting and good combination. This was served with a Santa Julia Brut Rose, Mendoza, Argentina. Great sparkling wine. I ordered a few bottles of this for my cellar.

Second course was a "Corn Chowder with Pancetta & Chive Cream". Excellent soup. I thought the pairing was very good. Dave the owner at Delius thought the soup was little to sweet for the wine. I disagree. The wine served was a 2008 Santa Julia Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina.

Third course was "Pan Roasted Duck with Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Baby Brussels Sprouts and Pan Jus. The Gnocchi was different and good. I will say this was the first time I have been disappointed in my duck (which I have had numerous times) Maybe I just got a end piece because everyone was raving about how good it was. I found my skin was very difficult to cut and the meat was just this side of dry. This is very unusual for Delius. I did find out later that since the number of diners for this dinner was small that the Chef de Cuisine did all the cooking. Louise did not cook anything for this dinner. The wine paired with this dish was a 2006 Zuccardi Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina.

Fourth Course was a "Smoked-Paprika Grilled Hanger Steak with Herb Polenta, Butter Poached Pearl Onion and Chimichurri Sauce. This was served with a 2006 Zuccardi Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent dish and excellent wine. A very good pairing. The Chimichurri sauce was outstanding.

Dessert was a Hazelnut Sponge Cake with Fresh Berries ands Lavender Honey Ice Cream. These were individual cakes (small) and ice cream was hand made. It was a perfect size and pairing with the 2007 Santa Julia Tardio, Mendoza, Argentina.

Another very good meal at Delius in spite of the duck mishap. At $85 it was $30 more that the dinner at DaVinci's but worth every bit of it.

German Wines & Ristorante DaVinci

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DaVinci, davinciLB.com, at the airport in Long Beach was having a dinner accompanied by a selection of German wines. The importer "Rudi Wiest Selections" has a nice selection of wines.

I had only been to DaVinci's for cocktails and appetizers before and had not been over impressed with the service. The food had been good but a little overpriced for what is was.

This was the first actual dinner I attended so I was looking forward to seeing if my other observations were wrong.

Dinner was set at 6:30 but we were told to be there by 6:00. Arriving at 5;50 we went upstairs via the elevator and checked in. We were told seating would not take place until 6:30 so did we want to have a drink at the bar or outside . Nice tactic on their part to extract additional monies.

We went outside and sat down next to one of the taxi runways. The evening was very nice and the ambiance was good. The service as in the past "sucked". By time we got our drink it was time to be seated for dinner.

As we entered the dining area we were served a glass of "semi" sparkling wine which was a nice gesture. The person serving turned out be Anna, a server from the old Delius Restaurant. She had left 4 or 5 years ago and made her rounds in the different restaurants in Long Beach. I knew we would have good service tonight as Anna is very competent.

So now I am sitting with my "martini", my sparkling and they pour the first wine of the evening. Anyone looking at me must have thought "boy can she drink". They also set down the "Amuse Bouche" which was a soft cheese on top of a thinly sliced something. I honestly can't remember exactly what is was because its been 6 weeks since dinner. ( I am behind on my posts due to damaging my right arm and not being up to par for awhile)

First course was "Shaved Fennel Salad with Santa Barbara Prawns" The only food I really dislike is fennel (I'm not a anise or licorice person). Surprisingly the fennel was shaved so thin and had a light dressing on the that you could not tell what is was. The prawns were cold and just this side of being tough. They were OK but not great. This dish was served with a Rhein River 2007 Riesling, Rheinhessen.The pairing was very good and I thought this wine was the best of the 4 were served.

Second course was "Lobster Ravioli served in a Lemon Consomme". I not sure what the lemon consomme added to the dish. It did not distract but added nothing also. The ravioli were good. The wine was a big disappointment. A Rebholz 2005, Muller Thurgau, Pfalz. Frankly the wine was anoxeic, nothing was there but a slight flavored water. No finish, no nothing.

Third course was a "Spiced Rubbed Pork Belly served with Wild Mushroom Risotto and a Cherry Balsamic Glaze". When this dish was served they put a large steak knife down to cut it with. ( Come up with your opinion on that). The flavor was good, the sauce was good. The risotto was "al dente". I was told that the chef likes it that way. So then let the chef eat it. Risotto is not "al dente". It should be soft with body and creaminess. Vino Cucina knows how to make risotto. Da Vinci could take a lesson from them. This dish was served with 2 wines. A Franz Kunstler 2005 Pinot Noir, Rheingau (the second disappointment in wine). This wine had no body and was way to light for the dish it was served with. I know German Pinots are lighter than French Bugundies but this was not a good selection at all. The second wine was a Dr. F. Wein-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr, 2006 Reisling Spatlese, Mosel. This wine was good and paired much better with the pork belly than the pinot.

Dessert was a "Mascarpone Panna Cotta with Forest Berries". A nice, simple common dessert. Nothing to get excited about but also nothing to complain about. It was just there.

But with all my negative comments I should say that the dinner was only $55. So taking that into account it was OK . It was not on the same level as the "Rudi Weist" dinner at Delius last year but it was also considerably cheaper. You get what you pay for.

But 6 of us can get together at Vino Cucina, bring our own wine, have excellent food (the chef from DaVinci should take some cooking lessons from them), pay corkage, tax & tip and have a better meal at $30 to $40. Yes I know I did not include the cost of wine in the equation. But I would drink the bottle at home if I did not go out to dinner.

Would I do another wine dinner at DaVinci ? Probably if it was still priced low.