Saturday, April 24, 2010
Franco's is a small Italian restaurant in Cypress near the racetrack that I have been to several times. The food is always good and a varied menu. It's not all pasta & marinara sauces.
We started out with an appetizer that is not on the menu. You have to ask for it. Shrimp Franco. Shrimp are sauteed in a thick wine sauce that has capers and mushrooms in it. The sauce is one of those that you scrape the plate clean with bread, which I did. Not very "ladylike" but I have never been known for being prim & proper. Down and dirty is more like it. I also have more fun.
There were 6 of us tonight and and 4 different entrees ordered. 3 people ordered the pork loin . One beef fillet, one pasta with chicken and I selected the lamb shank. Everyone seemed to like their selections. I was glad I ordered the lamb as I had brought a bottle of Barbera that paired perfectly with the lamb dish.
The entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. 5 of us selected the soup which was a cream of Italian squash (zucchini). It had a bite to the flavor which was very good and paired well with the bubbly and especially well with a white wine that Terry brought. A 2008 Vallevo, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. That soup and wine were a perfect match.
We had a very good selection of wines tonight.
2005 Franck Bonville Grand Cru, Blanc de Blanc
2008 Vallevo, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
2008 Lancaster, Samantha's Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sauvignon Blanc
2006 Kistler Cuvee Natalie, Silver Belt Vineyard, Pinot Noir
2006 Fontodi Chianti Classico
2003 Poggio San Polo, Brunello di Montalcino
2001 French Hill, Reserve Barbera, Mokelumne , El Dorado County
2008 Huber, Dornfelder Hafen (Port), Sta Rita Hills - this was served with dark chocolate that had bacon bits in it.
Looking forward to going back to Franco's at the May "Wine & Dine" gathering.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Belacan is a Malaysian restaurant in Redondo Beach and we have been here several times before. 19 of us gathered tonight. CJ started us off the 4 appetizers and then 5 entrees.
Roti Canai - Crispy flat bread with curry dipping sauce - always good
Satey Tofu - Fried Tofu stuffed with vegetables & peanut sauce - a new dish and quite tasty
Crab Rangoon - Crispy wonton pockets filled with crab salad - The sauce they served was way to spicy for me but the wonton's were ok. I'm not sure where the crab was
Lamb Satay - seasoned lamb charcoal grilled on bamboo skewers with peanut sauce - always good and tonight they were cooked correctly. Not dry but very moist
Mamak Mae Goreng - Indian style stir fried yellow egg noodles with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, tofu, tomato and eggs in a spicy tamarind sauce - I found it way to spicy for a wine dinner. Even the white wines were having a hard time with this dish. I also thought there was way too much noodle and not enough of the other ingredients. A lot of this dish was left on the platters so I was not the only one that had an opinion
Vegetable fried rice - this was good but plain which made it a good side dish for the other entrees
Daging Kicap Manis - Tender cuts of beef sauteed with onions and red chilies in a sweet thick soy sauce - this dish was very good, the meat was tender and the sauce was tasty
Vegetable Delight Curry - Vegetables and tofu simmered in a rich coconut milk curry gravy - this has never been a dish I liked, I had a few green beans and a mushroom and that was it. I do not like this particular curry, others did.
Belacan Crab - Lightly battered crab , stir fried with dried shrimp and chilies in a a toasted shrimp paste - this was a new dish and I really liked it. I ate more of this than anything else.
Since this is a "Wine & Dine" group, we naturally all bring wine (a bottle per person) which is shared. A mix of white, red & bubblies usually show up so you have a choice of picking out something that you feel would go with a particular dish.
My big problem tonight was the sequence in which the food was brought out. You were going back and forth between the three types of wine on the table. Once I start drinking red wine I do not want to go back to a white or bubbly. I personally thinks it really screws up your palate to jump around between the different dishes and the wines. It should be a progression of light to heavy.
To me the crab should have been served first to go with whites & bubblies, then the first 3 appetizers, then the noodle dish. That takes care of the white & bubbly wine. Then serve the lamb satay which would switch you to red wine and have the balance of the entrees.
Food taste's better with the correct wine , you have a gradual progression of light to heavy and it becomes a better balanced dinner.
That is only my humble opinion.
Next month the "Wine & Dine" group will be off the Franco's Italian Restaurant in Cypress. But I will be dining there next week so I will have two separate posts on this restaurant.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Eight of us met at our favorite Chinese restaurant - Duong Son BBQ in Westminister. There are two Doung Son's but this one specializes in duck.
Henry surprised us with several new dishes. Patte is a vegetarian but fortunately for us that she only does not eat red meat so we forgot the duck tonight and concentrated on seafood. Henry did order a few meat dishes at the end for us carnivores but by then Patte was full so that worked out well.
Soy Sauce Chicken with Ginger - this was a new dish and the chicken was very moist, tender and the flavor was outstanding.
Fried Sea Bass
Asparagus with shrimp - another new dish
Chinese Spinach - another new one, they did not have the pea shoots available tonight
Beef Chou Fan, Cantonese Style with wide soft noodles - another new one
Pork Ribs, Peking Style - a new dish and the sauce was so good - John kept pouring onto his rice - we will definitely do this dish again
Fried Tofu with Seafood Sauce
Beef with Ginger and Chives - a new one again and also excellent
Fresh fruit for dessert
The wines that were brought all good. Even the cheap Spanish White Wine that at stopped at MAWL and bought before dinner. It was on their tasting list Friday and Saturday but since I did the high end tasting I did not taste this particular wine. As I was looking at the list Saturday morning I decided to google up the name of the wine because their was no grape varietals listed. Turned out there was 2 grapes I did not have on my list so before dinner I stopped and bought a bottle.
2006 Four Vines Syrah
2003 Stolpman Estate Syrah, Santa Ynez
2004 Chateau Margene, Pinot Noir
1993 OV Oakford Vineyard, Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon
2001 McKeon Phillips BPR Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 McKeon Phillips BPR Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 BV Caneros, Napa, Chardonnay
2007 Saxon Brown, Durrell Valley, Sonoma, Chardonnay
2007 Campante, Vina Reboreda, Reberio ( the grapes were, Treixadura, Godello and Palomino)
Went to my favorite restaurant, Delius, for brunch. $6 for a glass of bubbly of $10 for multiple refills. We know which one I took. I ordered the Monte Cristo sandwich and I will say I was very disappointed . I have ordered this particular sandwich many times before at different restaurants and this was the first time I had it served to me just on bread without an egg wash. The flavor was good but with out it being dipped in egg and fried it lacked a lot. I did google up the name and found out there are different ways of serving the sandwich, depending on the region. And apparently one of the ways is it being served plain.
Next time I go to another dish on the menu and of course the $10 bubbly offer.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Delius Restaurant in Signal Hill hosted a wine dinner tonight. The wines of Piedmont, Italy were featured. It was nice to have dinner with Kevin Butler of the Henry Wine group. It had been a few months since I saw Kevin. He introduced to to the new rep that will be handling the wines of Henry Wine Group in the area. It's always a good thing to get to know the wine rep's.
First Course: Hamachi with Soy Ginger Braised Daikon Root and a Wasabi-Yuzu Aioli, Kaiware. I knew about everything except the Kaiware. I figured it was the dark dots of something on the plate. I will have to research this food item to see what is was. All I know is that to take a slice of Hamachi with the Daikon , hit the Wasabi with it and taste it was an mouth watering experience . It also was a perfect pairing with the 2008 Broglia La Meirana Gavi di Gavi wine.
Second Course: Vichyssoise (cold) with Candied Brussel Sprout Leaves, Warm Pancetta Vinaigrette. What can I say. Everyone agreed that this was a superb dish. Also a great pairing with the 2007 Masanta Dolcetto Langhe. I'm not a big Dolcetto fan but this was a great combination.
Third Course: Potato-Herb Crusted Trout with Warm Root Vegetable. This dish was a big disappointment. The flavors were wonderful but the trout was really strong which detracted from the entire dish. It is not to often that I have a dish from Delius that disappoints me. The wine served was a 2007 Borgogno Barbera d'Alba.
Fourth Course: Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Duck Prosciutto Risotto, Radicchio, Pearl Onions, Blackberry-Honey Glaze. This was a big winner. The duck was cooked to perfection and all the flavors just seemed to come together like you always hope for. This was served with a 2005 Paolo Scavino Barolo. Perfect pairing.
Fifth Course: Blueberry-Mascarpone Gelato with Meyer Lemon Confit and a Roasted Pistachio Tuile. Just the right flavors and size to end the meal.
Delius' new Chef de Cuisine likes to add an Asian flair to his dishes and it seems to be working quite well. All the dishes were executed well, the wines were paired very well and if it had not been for a too strong fish flavor to the trout it would have been a perfect meal. Everyone was talking about how good everything was. Yes, the wine dinners here are not cheap but what you get and the quality makes up for it. We all like a bargain but we also have to set our standards lower to get the bargain price. Of course some peoples palates don't seem to care what the food is like as long as its cheap. These people seem to have the same palate in wines..
Today's gathering of the winos was held in Santa Monica. A 45 minute trip took 2 hours because of the road closures due to the LA Marathon. At least we were not the only ones running late. Even those driving the surface streets from the southbay area were late.
It was a small group this month but it turned out to be a right balance for appetizers, side dishes and desserts. Sometimes we get all desserts or no desserts.
The theme today was Petite Syrah-Durif and French White Rhones. There were several wines that stood out but 2 of the ones that stood out for me was the 1998 Fieldstone, Staten Family Reserve, Petite Syrah and the 2005 Meeker, Dibble Vineyard Petite Syrah.
The ride home took 45 minutes. What a relief.
The monthly Wine & Dine tonight was at Dunerea Restaurant in Anaheim. It is Romanian and we have dined there several times in the past few years. I did not attend as I was still coming off the effects of my trip to Italy. The menu that was sent out showed a few new dishes that I would have liked to try. Maybe next year
Spent 9 days touring Italy. This was my first trip to Europe and it was a great experience. The Euro (money) was easy to understand and even ordering from the menus was no problem. Most people spoke enough English to understand.
I was taken back with the graffiti. I always thought it was prevalent in the US but apparently not. It was disheartening to see the damage that it had done to the old buildings. Even Venice had graffiti on the walls.
When I visited the east coast of the US and went to Boston, Washington DC etc., I was surprised at how old some of the preserved buildings were and the contents were still intact. Growing up in California the oldest thing we have are the missions and some Indian ruins. I tried to prepare myself for Italy but it still was overwhelming to see how old everything was and still in daily use.
I found the food very good especially when you get away from the tourist area's. Their cheese is to die for. All the wines I had were good. Some were ordered by the bottle and some were the house wines by the liter. Gelato was so much better than what I have had in the US. Probably because it is prepared in small batches and not mass produced.
A couple of highlights were the dinner we had at Fattoria Il Poggio in Lucca (Tuscany). The boar sausage, pork ribs and chicken were cooked and smoked over Chestnut wood. So good. They did a wine tatsing for us of their Montecarlo wines. Had a singer . People got up and danced. It was a really fun time.
Also had a fabulous sandwich in a town called Rapallo which is where we were catching the boat to Portofino. 4 of us went off the beaten path by several blocks and found a enoteca-wine bar ,Cantine d'Italia, that served sandwiches made with foccacia bread. The lady behind the counter and the owner did not speak English but a local customer in the store at that time did and he helped us order and pick out a bottle of wine. That sandwich was the best sandwich I have ever had. Period. It was so good with pancetta , mozzarella on foccacia with sundried tomatoes , then grilled. They even made us a plate of pasta with fresh made pesto (at no charge) and then they gave us extra sandwiches to take on the boat.
In Florence , John had asked the tour guide for a good place to eat and he recommended Antico Fattore which was several blocks away from the "tourist" area. I had the best Tuscan bread soup I've ever eaten there. Followed by a plate of cheese tortelleni with a pancetta cream sauce. We had a bottle of Antinori Red table wine.
One of the nights that I did not eat dinner at the hotel I went to a place called E'Gusto's. Off the tourist path. Looked like it should be in West LA. No tourists, all locals. I had a smoked fried cheese and then a veal scallopine with mushrooms. The people I was with had ordered dessert so I had a bite of each one. Really good. Their wine by the liter was good also. Very food friendly wine. And I am sure much better than the hotel dinner being served that night.
One evening on Montecatini I dined at a restaurant called "Capersone" so something like that. Didn't get a card so I'm going by memory. 5 of us that night. I ordered the deep fried stuffed olives and a seafood rissotto. Again a really good dinner. The shrimp in the rissotto was so tender. I do not think I have ever had a shrimp that tender before. I have had shrimp caught just hours before serving but never as tender as was. Again wine by the liter and again good.
We had a wine tasting and tour at Castello d"Albolain Chianti, which is one of the few wineries that is open every day for tasting (Like in California). Most wineries are close to the public and you must have a reservation to get in. I thought one of the labels was familar and asked about it. They make 65,000 cases of that wine and Trader Joe's is one of their biggest customers. Their other wines are made in smaller case numbers so it is not exported. The served us 5 wines and a Grappa. Along with meats and cheeses, bread and olive oil. Maybe we were just hungry and thirsty after the long windy road up to the facility but everyting tasted good. There wasn't anything left on the platters or in the baskets.
The only food that I had that to me was not good was at the hotel we were staying at in Montecatini. It was too westernized and was not good. Their soups were good but everything else was so mediorce. What a waste. We had breakfast there every morning (or a sack breakfast). It got to be a running joke of "what kind of canned peaches" are we having today. The same thing every morning . It did not hold a candle to the breakfast we had on my trip to China 2 years ago.
I would like to go back to Italy but the tour was grueling and very hard on my "old" knees, I think it would be great to rent a car and drive yourself. The highways would be very easy to navigate but in the towns it would get a lot more complicated. If I had a tremendous amount of money I could fly first class and hire a car & driver. That would be the ideal why to go. Maybe someday.