Sunday, February 28, 2010

Italian Wine Dinner

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sebastiani's in Huntington Beach hosted their first wine dinner of the year tonight. They have taken over the space next to them and converted it into a wine bar. It was all festival seating, two very large tables. I would estimate that there was close to 50 people for this dinner. The price was right $45. The acoustics were bad. To much hard surface for sound to bounce off on. It was a party atmosphere.

First Course: Seafood salad in alight lemon & olive oil marinade. Mix of seafood and shellfish. This dish was good and paired well with the 2008 Bindi, Sefardi Oriolus, Bianco di Toscana. It is hard to pair a acid with an acid but this was well done.

Second Course: Caprese Tower - grilled eggplant, roma tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, sweet basil all layered and baked and served with an aged balsamic reduction. Interesting flavors in this dish. The wine was a 2007 Bosco Agostino Dolcetto. I was was not a pleased with this pairing. Something seemed out of sync.

Third Course: Spinach Ravioli served in a delicate roasted pepper and tomato ragu with a splash of red wine and a touch of cream. It was a ravioli. Nothing special, The sauce was alright. Served with a 2007 Bindi, Sergardi Chianti "Colli Senesi". Good pairing the wine went well with the dish.

Fourth Course: Braciola Napolitana - flank steak wrapped with prosciutto and filled with ground veal, gorgonzola cheese, caponata capers and finished with an Arrabiatta sauce. This dish was interesting. The flavor was good. I felt the flank steak was pounded too thin but overall a good dish.This was served with a 2007 Germano Angelo Barbera d'Alba "La Soleggita" A good pairing everything seemed to meld together well.

Dessert was a Triamisu all Limoncello.

All in all it was a good dinner especially for the price. I wish there were a few less people because of the noise factor and they really had you crammed in at the table. I thought is was too tight for comfort. We will see what happens at the next dinner I attend at Sebastiani's.

February's "Gathering Of The Flock"

Sunday. February 21, 2010

This was my time to host our monthly wine group's get together. My theme was wines rated 93 to 100. It makes people hunt for a decent wine instead of just dropping by the local wine store (or worse, the grocery store) and picking up a wine on their way.

We had an abundance of appetizers brought but only one dessert. Last gathering, there was such an over abundance of desserts. Everyone changed tracks this month.

There were 20 wines brought. Among the ones I liked the best were the 1999 Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages, 2005 Renato Ratti, Marcenasco Barolo, 2007 Roar, Gary's Vineyard, Pinot Noir, and the 2007 Tabalas Creek Espirit De Beaucastel. I opened a 2007 Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Noir. It was good but I was a little disappointed. Other people really liked it. I preferred the Roar Pinot.

So another gathering taken care of and March will bring another.

February Wine & Dine

Saturday, February 20, 2010

CJ's wine and dine group met tonight at "Preveza" in Los Alamitos. I have dined there several times now and CJ has put it on list list of restaurants. There were 17 people in attendance this evening.

CJ always pre-orders the dinner. It distributes the amount we pay evenly and makes for a much simpler way. It would be a mess if everyone tries to order their own and get separate checks.

We started out with 6 appetizers. My time we were through with these most of us were getting filled up. I think 4 would have been a better number.

Traditional Hummus with Pita bread - very good hummus but portions were way too big.

Tzatziki - again very good but big portions.

Dolmades - this is a favorite of mine. Fortunately we each got one dolmades and that was plenty.

Tyropita - cheese in a puff pastry - another very good dish

Flat bread with smoked salmon - I have had this every time I go to Preveza. Excellent dish.

Special Mediterranean Pizza - this was good but I could not enjoy it as much as I should have just because of the amount of food I already had.

If they would have served much, much smaller portions of the hummus and tzatziki it would have been better. And delete the flatbread or the pizza. It was too much starch along with the pita bread. You have a tendency when you first are served to eat too much because you are hungry and appetizers seemed to be the thing to nibble on. Soon you have nibbled beyond your capacity for comfort.

The entrees were next:

Spinach Ravioli, Moussaka, Greek Style baked vegetables, lamb on a skewer and swordfish on a skewer.

The ravioli was ok, I did not care for the moussaka. I have had much better.The lamb was good. A tad too well done for me but the flavor was excellent. The swordfish was excellent. I may order that the next time I go to Preveza.

I took a 1999 Hafner Caberent which I was disappointed in. Way to light. I probably sholud have drank it a coupole of years ago. I also took a 2007 Stolpman La Coppola (white) which was good and a 2001 Stlopman Nebbioli. It was ok but again I sholud have drank a few years back.

Several people order desserts and coffee. We split a dessert 6 ways so that was a $1 per person extra and those that ordered coffee came across with another $2. So all this $4o per person and that included the corkage charge of $5 per person, tax and tip.

Luda was our waitress. She has waited on us before. Very good server with a great personality. A another good "Wine & Dine" dinner

Next month it is at a Romanian restaurant in Anaheim. I will be just back from a trip to Italy so I am now sure if I will make that dinner.

Super Bowl Party

Sunday. January 31, 2010

Went to a friends house for superbowl. Small group, just 8 of us which makes it nice as you can see and hear the game. Too many people and the noise level increases. I'm getting to and age that I actually want to hear the game and the commercials. The commercials are the real reason to have superbowl although this year I was really disappointed in them. Most were downright stupid. Seemed to aimed at a generation of dumb downed people.

The appetizers were so good that by time the main dish was served we were all "stuffed". I took a Turley Old Vine Zinfandel and it was drinking really well. I'm starting to like zins with some age on them. None of this "drink them while they are young stuff".

We had the "pool" going. It was really odd that two couples won all four quarters. Best to keep it in the family.

Birthday Bash

Friday, February 5, 2010

Two friends, Donna & Sunny wanted to take me to dinner for my birthday. This all started last year when we took Sunny out for her "big" one. They let me pick the restaurant so naturally it was "Delius" in Signal Hill. This was on a Friday night and I wanted to meet them at the restaurant since I drive right by it on my way home from work. Donna insisted on picking me up which frankly I thought was dumb. But to appease her I decided to do it her way.

When we got to Delius we had to park on the street as the parking area was packed. That was a good sign for the restaurant as it meant they were busy that night. We were sat immediately in the dining area and the waiter came and took our drink order. We asked since the prix fixe room was having Beef Wellington on the menu that night were there any extra portions so we could order it also. Dave the owner came to to the table and said he would ask the kitchen . When Dave came back he said yes there were extra portions. We were happy. Dave also mentioned that he heard it was my birthday (they always bring a cupcake out with a candle) . Dave indicated that the wine cellar room was not booked that night and since it was a big day for me and I was along time customer we could have dinner in that room. I was really looking forward to that.

We followed Dave to the prix fixe room which we had to go through to get to the cellar room. As I walked in Steve started taking pictures and I realized that this was a surprise party for me. I was shocked and very overwhelmed. It took me all night to get over the fact that 30 people paid $75 per person to have dinner with me. And these people had kept this quiet and not spilled a word about it. I had dinner with Paul & Margie the night before and the Sunday before we had our monthly "gathering of the flock".

Hors d'Oeuvres and bubbly was passed and I was still drinking the bubbly that I ordered when we walked in. Good thing Donna was driving.

Dinner started out with a Butternut Squash Ravioli with pine nut herb butter. This was served with a 2008 Calina Reserva Chardonnay. Tad too much oak in the chard for me so I passed my glass to Margie. It was her style.

The soup was Carmelized Onion and Roasted Garlic Bisque. Excellent soup, full of flavor and nothing over powering.

The entree was Crispy Chicken Breast, with creamy polenta & red wine sauce. Nice dish but I very rarely order a chicken dish in a restaurant. Everything was good about the dish, flavor etc., This was served with a 2005 Bear Bottom Creek Zinfandel. The pairing of wine and food was good.

The main dish was Beef Wellington with potato parsnip puree and rosemary pan sauce. My meat was cooked to perfection for me. I like mine cooked just this side of "dead". My only complaint was that the pastry on the outside was starting to get "limp" and I think it probably was because things were starting to get backed up in the kitchen so the Wellington sat for a couple minutes too long before being served. The wine that paired excellent with this dish was a 2006 Adastra Merlot. I had a few bites and asked then to package it for me to take home. I was starting to get really full and we had the cheese plate and dessert to go yet.

Louise, Dave's wife and Executive Chef did the cooking for this dinner tonight. She even made the shallot bread (my favorite) for this dinner. They have been serving a rosemary bread and I do not like it as well as the shallot bread. The rosemary to me is too strong of a flavor for bread served with dinner. The shallot bread has a much more subtle taste.

After dinner the Obligatory "Roast" of me was held. The party was a blast and a month later I still feel overwhelmed by it

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Red Cork Bistro

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Met Paul & Margie at a new restaurant called Red Cork Bistro, 5455 Lampson in Garden Grove. Located in a very small shopping center.

They have a new chef (turnover already) and he was still working off the old chefs menu. I have mixed reactions to this new place. The service is very good, the bread they serve is good. Everything else is mixed. I ordered the "Lamb Ragout" and choose risotto as my side dish. The ragout was was too sweet. The sauce had carrots in it so they automatically make it sweet and then apparently the chef added sugar to it also. The dish was OK but nothing to rave about. My risotto was "gummy". That comes from making the risotto ahead of time and letting it sit to long and then the starches in the grain become gummy. The fresh vegetable mix was nice. Carrots, broccoli and beets.

Paul had a chicken dish which he indicated that the sauce was sweet also. I'm beginning to think it was the same sauce for both dishes Margie had a beet garlic soup that she said was very good.

There was a bottle of Nickel & Nickel Zinfandel, a Curran Grenache Blanc and I brought a 2002 McKeon Phillips BPR Cabernet. All the wines were good. When we were finished eating and after talking with the chef for awhile the owner came in. Young person, first time restaurateur. They took a table from the side and butted it up against our and 3 men joined our table. The owner then proceeded to bring a couple of wines to the table and open them. for us. We sat around drinking wine and conversing so a good time was had.

The corkage charge is $15 per bottle which I feel is excessive. They did waive the corkage that night so that is a plus for them along with the extra wine.

I will give the new chef a month to get his menu in place and go back and try it again. We will see if there are improvements (which there is room for) or not. The Red Cork Bistro has potential and only time will tell if they take advantage of it.

January SAWG

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The gathering of the winos has begun for the new year. Today's theme was Pinot Noirs. Sta Rita Hills vs Oregon (Dundee Hills, Chelhalem Mtns & Yamhill Carlton Dist)

It was really evenly divided amongst the 2 areas , 10 bottles from Oregon and 11 from the Sta Rita Hills.

I liked the Patricia Green & the Stags Hollow from Oregon and the Ampelos, Foley and Clos Pepe from the Sta Rita Hills. I was disappointed in my bottle of 2005 Loring, Cargasacchi. I expected something better since it was a high rated wine. It just did not live up to my expectations

As always we had a great selection of appetizers and the host grilled pork tenderloins. Off to a good start for the new year and I hope all the subsequent tasting are as good.

Pinot Days - Los Angeles

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I gave up watching the conference playoffs today to attend "Pinot Days" at the Barker Hanger in the Santa Monica airport. This was a first for the area and not to be missed if you are a Pinot addict.

The venue was opened to the trade earlier in the day and the public gained access at 1:00. I got there a bit early and noticed that the public was already entering. This gave us a few extra minutes before the hoard ascended. They did limit the number of tickets sold so that kept it at a reasonable group.

I saw a least 30 people that I knew from different groups in my life. Amazing how the "drunks" come out for an event like this.

There were 70 wineries pouring that day and most had more than 2 wines available. Some had as much as 6. You had to pick and choose and also sip and spit.

Among my favorites that day were, Pisoni, Ken Brown, Flying Goat, Arcadian, Cargasacchi, Papapietro Perry, Testarossa and naturally Clos Pepe.

I do hope that they repeat this event next year in the Los Angeles area. I will be first in line for a ticket.

Cab Tasting

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wine Country id Signal Hill hosted a "Fabulous Cabernets & Reserves" tasting tonight. These were all higher end wine with 2 each from 6 different wineries Darioush, Clos du Val, Ridge, Chateau Montelena, Heitz and Caymus.

The 2007 Caymus and their "Special Select" did not show well. For $70 & $125 you would think you would get a really good experience. Also the 2006 Darioush Cabernet and the Caravan were disappointing.

The 2005 Heitz Cellar Cabernet was much better than the 2004 Heitz Martha's Vineyard.

The 2006 Clos du Val was soft on the palate and the 2005 Clos du Val Stags Leap District needed more aging.

Both of the Chateau Montlena's were drinking nicely.

The 2006 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate seemed to have a heavy alcohol nose.

But my favorite of the night was the 2006 Ridge Monte Bello. To me it was by the far the best tasting wine of the entire group.

Thai Again

Saturday, January 16, 2010

CJ's Wine & Dine group gathered tonight at the Tantalizing Thai in the Carson/Long Beach area.
This is a favorite place of the group.

We started out with the "Tom Yum Koong" soup. Shrimp & mushrooms in an excellent broth. I had 3 bowls of the broth.

Next we indulged in Satay Beef, Sarong (shrimp coated with ground pork and egg noddles then fried) and Crispy Garlic Wings. By time you have reached this point you are no longer hungry.

Brown Fried Rice with Basil was presented. I personally did not like this dish Others did. I found the rice too gummy and the basil seemed overwhelming. Another dish that I do not like was up next. Green Curry Mixed Vegetables. I am probably the only one that did not care for these two dishes.

Siam Apple Catfish was served. The fish is very sweet and the sharp green apple slivers add just the right touch of acidity.

Crying Tiger Steak came to us. This is always a crowd pleaser along with the last dish of Thai Baby Back Ribs.

The wines were for the most part good. There were a couple of exceptional ones and as always a few dogs. There were several bubblies and Champagnes served which usually pair well with this type of food.

Another successful dinner. Tonight there were 19 people attending so the wine and conversation flowed well.