Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Trip To Duong Son

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Eight of us gathered tonight for another "feast". We had Karen & Stan Wong with us tonight. This was the first time that they had attended one of these dinners. They live in Santa Monica so it was a way for them to drive to Westminister.

Henry ordered some standards and a couple of new items.

We started out with a fried fish (I think it was catfish). Tasty. Next came the roasted duck 2 ways. First the Peking with the soft white buns (no crepes here) then the shredded duck mixed with a variety of items and served in lettuce cups.

Spicy green beans with shrimp and beef tendon came to the table, Stan & Bob had never had beef tendon before. Its not for everyone but those at the table tonight all enjoyed it.

The tofu dish tonight was "fried tofu" with a seafood sauce. Great dish. Next a plate of greens showed up. Henry said they were the snow pea shoots and leaves. This was a dish that was more expensive than the regular "greens" Stan, always the "lets compare" person had Henry order the other greens. We all decided we liked the "snow pea shoots" best. .

Dessert was fresh cantaloupe, cherries, white peaches, red bean tapioca and sesame seed buns.

Wines tonight were:
1997 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling
1996 Icon, Ravenswood, (Syrah/Grenache)
2002 Siduri, Rosellas, Pinot Noir
1999 Kistler, McCrea Vineyards, Chardonnay
2000 Justin Isoscles (corked)
2006 Clos Pepe, Sta Rita Hills, Chardonnay
2008 Jada (Viognier/Russan/Grenache Blanc)
2003 Rochioli, Russian River, Sauvignon Blanc
1997 Arcadian, Pisoni Vineyard, Pinot Noir
2004 Loring, Clos Pepe Vineyard, Pinot Noir
NV Mirabell, Brut Rose
2004 McKeon Phillips, BPR Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Sete Cepas, Albarino

Utopia Summer Wine Dinner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Utopia ,, hosted a summer wine dinner tonight. At $39 this was the bargain of the year. Yes it was only 4 courses and 3 wines but for the price you could not go wrong. You could have multiple pours if you wanted to do so.

We started out with a "Seafood Ceviche" , grilled calamari, shrimp, scallop in a fresh tomato, cilantro oilve oil sauce. Pared with 2007 Dry Creek, Clarksburg, Dry Chenin Blanc. This was a very good pairing. Everything melded nicely.

Next was "Baby Arugula Salad", arugula, fresh mango, roasted walnuts and goat cheese in a aged balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Decent salad but not enough dressing on it. Paired with a 2007 Folonari, Pinot Grigio.

Main course was a choice of duck or lamb. I asked the waiter to bring what was the rarest. Both proteins I like rare so it didn't make any difference to me. He brought the "Roasted Duck Breast" with cranberry cream sauce. It was barely pink inside, over cooked for my taste. He offered to exchange it but I declined. This is my basic complaint about Utopia is that they have a tendency to overcook lamb and duck. Toby got the lamb chop and it was too rare for her. Guess it just wasn't my night. This course was paired with a 2005 Fieldstone, Alexander Valley, Merlot. A good pairing.

Dessert was "Homemade Bread Pudding" with vanilla ice cream. Quite nice.

Bob Ballard was the "wine guy" tonight. He is not a rep but is very knowledgeable about wines. At least they were not really pushing the sale of wine. Bob also happens to be my optometrist.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July's Wine & Dine

Saturday, July 18, 209

This months "Wine & Dine" group met at Pasta Al Dente in Naples for dinner. We sat outside and the weather was great. It was still warm but since we were 1 block from the marina and the bay it was very pleasant.

Since the menu that CJ had put together had more "white wine" food dishes I brought a 2008 Curran Grenache Blanc. It was a good choice. Quite a few other people had the same idea. There was 18 people in attendance. If was unique that most of the people that brought white wine were seated at on end and the red wine people were at the other. So we had the red zone and the white zone. I did bring a red wine just in case but it wasn't necessary to bring it out as there was an abundance of wine on the table

We started out with 3 appetizers. All of them winners.

Crostini di Formaggio - warm brie with pesto, carmelized garlic & onions, sun dried tomatoes on a toasted baguette.

Calamari Fritti - fried calamari served with a spicy marinara sauce.

Funghi Imbottiti - Baked stuffed mushrooms with pieces of chicken breast, green onion, cream cheese and herbs, finished with a Romano cheese bread crumb gratinat.

Pizza was up next. I could have stopped eating with this dish., I was taking small portions because of eating a few hours before and was starting to get "full". This pizza was outstanding
Parmigiano & provolone cheese, marinara sauce, breaded eggplant and zucchini, red & yellow bell peppers garnished with pesto vinaigrette

Next up was "Manicotti di Formaggio" - manicotti pasta stuffed with Ricotta cheese and topped with a garlic & roasted pepper cream sauce, scallops & shrimp.

A platter of breaded chicken breast topped with a lemon caper sauce showed up next. Along with a platter of Italian style grilled and roasted vegetables.

Dessert was a Spumoni Cake.

All the food was good. But as usual it was too much and you get stuffed really quick. Even tho the food was good I could have done without the calamari and the roasted vegetables. That way I could have stuffed myself with more pizza & mushrooms.

It was a great evening and a nice restaurant with fun people and good wines. It doesn't get better than this.

Next month we are off to Belacan. A Malaysian restaurant

July's Gathering of The Flock

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Today's gathering was a very small flock. Too many vacations and conflicts during the summer. Also this held on a Saturday not Sunday as our normal gatherings are. I personally prefer Sundays. It 's a more laid back day. Saturdays are way too busy for me.

Today's theme was"Sangiovese & Pinot Grigio". Nice wines showed up and I was really glad to have several Pinot Grigio's on hand. The day was very hot and no air was moving.

The hosts served a nice pork loin was a raspberry chipolte sauce. I ate and drank very sparingly today as I had a dinner this evening with the "Wine & Dine" group.

I brought a Point Conception Pinoit Grgio that they had left on the skins for a short while it gave a nice pink tone to the wine. It was a really nice refreshing wine for the day.

Stan had several "old" sangios that he brought . A 1988 & 1990.

South African Wine Dinner

Wednesday, July 14, 2009

Sebastiani's Restaurant,, hosted a South African Wine dinner tonight. I was looking forward to this dinner because of the menu. When I walked in to join friends Paul & Margie for the evening sitting at the table was Toby. She had fallen and broken her hip several months back and I was delighted and surprised to see her. She was still using walker to get around but was getting "stir crazy" at home and decided at the last minute to get out of the house. When she was in rehab I went and visited a couple of times. Once I snuck in a bottle of wine and a 2 glasses. She really enjoyed that.

The wine rep's were from Fairest Cape. They rep'd the dinner at Capone's last month also.

First course was "Ostrich Carpaccio" - thin ostrich loin with kiwi-cilantro relish and shaved parmegian cheese. This was served with a 2006 Villiera Estate Chenin Blanc. A nice dish with a nice pairing.

Second course was "New Zealand Mussels Au Gratin" - New Zealand musssels baked with garlic lemon grass and a splash of Saugivon Blanc and parmegiano regiano. Nice flavor, nothing overly exciting. Paired with a 2006 Villiera Estate Saugivon Blanc. Paired well together.

Third course was Zuppa di Salcica - South African venison sausage with lentils in a kale broth. This was my favorite of the evening. Good flavor and really paired well with the 2005 Westerland Estate Pinotage. Pinotage is not my favorite wine but it went exceptionally well with the venison sausage.

Fourth course was "Alligator Tenderloin all Balsamico" - alligator cutlets sauteed with a balsamic sauce with black grapes and sage and served with spinach rissotto. Paired with a 2000 Kaapzichi Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. Alligator is similar to chicken in taste and texture. The sauce was good and the pairing was good.

Dessert was a Passion Fruit Mousse. Very light and a nice end to the meal.

The food at Sebastiani's is good. Not great but good. They do nice sauces, portions are good and the prices are always reasonable. At the wine dinners they are very generous with their pours. And they were very accommodating to Margie and substituted everything for her.

I think the pairing of the wine and food at this dinner was better than the dinner at Capone's last month

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Delius Restaurant hosted their annual bus trip to the "wine country" today. As usual we had a great "buffet" breakfast before boarding our bus at 9:00 to start our journey.

Unfortunately its seems there was a "huge" mix up on what size of bus that was ordered for 37 people. In rolls a mini bus that is like the ones that they shuttle people between hotels and airports. It held 27 people and had no restroom. After conferring with the transportation company which said they could have another bus to us in an hour, Dave decided to keep this one and take two additional vehicles .

Off we went down the freeway towards Solvang. The seats were narrow, no padding and the suspension system on this "bus" was non existent. This was starting out to be a very "non-enjoyable" experience.

Arriving in Solvang many hours later (it seemed like 24) we went into "Trio" which is the tasting room for 3 labels, Curran, Badge and D'Bruno. This was the highlight of our trip. Kris Curran and Bruno D'Alphonse were waiting for us and provided a very nice "seminar" on their wines and winemaking. Very informative, generous pours of wine and a Laurel & Hardy banter between the two of them (they are married). They also offered a 30% case discount on their wines today. Obviously we took advantage of that.

Next stop was Stolpman Vineyards. We stopped here to have lunch and originally were going to the tasting room in Los Olivos afterwards. But they brought the wines to the vineyard. I am a big fan of Stolpman wines but this was an ok stop but no where near the Trio stop. Their pours were small and they were not to fast on giving seconds. I overheard someone remark "why don't they leave the bottles on the table" . The only higher end wine they poured were the Hilltops Syrah. The rest were the wines they have made for the tasting room. I did like a white wine that I had not had before and when I am up in the area in September I may check it out some more. Personally I liked it better than the L'Avion, which is a blend of Marsanne and Rousanne.

Lunch was ok. I getting real tired of the same sandwiches that have been served for the last several years. The salads were very good along with the homemade potato chips. Hopefully if there is a trip next year Louise will break out of her rut.

We loaded ourselves into "Mr Toads Wild Ride"and went to Dierberg for our final tasting. The wines were nice but all they did was pour for us and no one talked about their wines. We left there at 5:15. We were due back at 7:00 but no way was this going to happen.

We made a stop around Ventura area to use a restroom. After everyone was loaded back on the bus the driver made an announcement that he could not drive anymore and had to park the vehicle. His boss had called and said there was a problem with Dave's credit card going through and until it was straightened out we were going nowhere. That seemed extremely ridiculous as the vehicle had to driven back to its base at LAX anyway so why waste time sitting and not moving. And besides what business waits until late in the day after the business transaction takes place to run a credit card ? It should have been run before the vehicle was dispacted in the am. I offered to put the charges on my credit card just to get the damm vehicle moving again. The company was having a hard time getting hold of Dave . His cell phone kept going to message. Finally someone called the restaurant and had them get hold of Louise and Dave finally got it straightened out the the transportation company. Eventually we were on our way.

We returned at 9:40. I got my wine and left. At this point I was "pissed off".

No only was the whole thing a fiasco from the beginning. The driver drove like a idiot. 70 to 80 miles an hour. Crossed the solid double lines to get into the carpool lane. Drove with one hand and held his cell phone with his other hand while he talked (a lot). Carried on conversation with the person sitting in the other front seat. When we returned to the restaurant I would have thought that Dave and or Louise would be there and get onto the "bus" and apologize for the the day. There were 27 of his customers on that damm thing and no one from Delius was with us. They were in nice comfortable SUV's. Dave did come up and talk with a few people after we unloaded. Most of us just left as fast as we could. Not only did we have a "harrowing ride", we were held hostage for a period of time. My back was screwed up for a week afterwards with all the swaying and jarring.

This was not an experience that I want to repeat. And in hindsight we would have been better off to wait for a larger bus and drop Dierberg from the itinerary if needed. This whole mess could have been avoided if Dave when he saw that the bill for the bus was a lot less expensive than last years would have taken that as a red flag and checked it out to see why. He also delegated the task to Fred his floor manager to reserve the bus and did not double check to see if everything was done correctly . Fred had never done this before but he should have asked questions about the size. You can't shove 37 people into a vehicle made for 25. Also the contract should have been read when it was received. Always double check and don't assume. The bus company was downright stupid not to run a credit card before a dispatch. And the bus company was stupid for not asking why a mini bus was ordered for a trip to Solvang. As Forrest Gump said, "stupid is as stupid does" or something like that. My employer has a saying, "treat everyone behind you as stupid so you can cover yourself".