Saturday, March 19, 2011

Penfolds at The Sky Room

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Sky Room at the Breakers Hotel in Long Beach hosted a wine dinner this evening. It has been several years since I have been here and the view is still spectacular. The City government hasn't had an opportunity to screw that up yet. They seem to have gone out of their way to screw everything else up in the city.

Penfolds was the wine of the evening. I was the first to arrive at the table and the wine rep, Matt from Penfolds along with Margaux Pierog the rep from Heirloom Wine Group were already seated. I was poured at glass of Penfolds 2009 Bin 51, Edna Valle Riesling. Nice and dry with a slight sweet hint of fruit. I was also offered a pour of Champagne which was the second label of Salon. It was very nice. I had met Margaux at Delius when they had the Hartford Court dinner last year. Always pays to know the wine rep. She was doing a blind tasting of the champagne to see if she could identify it. Margaux is an Advanced Sommelier.

A small reception in the bar upstairs (steep stairs) was being held so we climbed up. They were pouring the Riesling for this portion along with a small plate that had a raw oyster(very small) on a bed of salt and a Risotto/Mozzarella ball (fried). Then we had to climb down the stairs (steep) to go into the main dining area. This I do not think was a wise decision on managements part.

Dinner was held a very large round table with a stunning view of the shoreline and ocean.

First Course: Grilled Calamari with tempura vegetables and walnut sauce. - they took a tentacle of calamari and stuffed it. The stuffing, sauce and vegetables were good but I thought the calamari was tough. Certainly not the great calamari we have had at the Seafood Palace. This was served with Penfolds 2009 Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay.

Second Course: Duck Confit Tacos, napa cabbage, black forbidden rice & berry gastrique. The small shell portion (flat) was very hard to cut. Some people picked it up with their hands but I wasn't keen on that as then I would have a very messy wine stem. The Duck filling was very good. The wine paired with this dish was a Penfolds 2007 Bin 138 GMS, Barossa Valley. I thought this wine was the best of the evening.

Main Course: Fennel Herb Crusted Lamb with peppercorn pomme frites. Flavor of the lamb was excellent. But the chops (3) were way too fatty. Served with a Penfolds 2006 Bin 128 Kalimna Shiraz, South Australia. This was also a good wine and a good pairing.

Desert was a Pecan and Cheese Duo - a couple of pieces of cheese on the plate along with pecan halves with a soft cheese sandwiched between. OK, nothing to write home about. They also then brought a small creme brulee tart which was good. Served with a MV Club Reserve Classic Tawny Port.

We then had a pour of the 2009 Penfolds Grange. You could taste how good the wine should be but unfortunately it was going through a "dumb" stage and was not showing well at all. I have had Grange before so I know how good it can be and how long the bottles age. This particular year, 2009, the Grange is 100% Shiraz.

All in all a nice evening with decent food but nothing spectacular. The wines were good along with the company. I would attend another wine dinner at the Sky Room to see if I still feel the food is not quite up to the level this restaurant should be. I do not write off a place because of a "missed" dinner.

Himilayan Again

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A very small group of us went the the Himilayan at Peters Landing in Sunset Beach tonight.

We started out with two appetizers , a Vegetable Pokora and Samosa's. A couple of new dishes that we had not had before Rogan Josh (lamb) and Garlic Chicken. The chicken had the best garlic cream type sauce on it. I will definitely remember this one. We also had Lamb Saag, Shrimp Marsala and Lamb Vindaloo.

The wines brought were:
2004 Melville Clone 115 "Indigene" Pinot Noir
2005 Lucia Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir
2006 Ken Brown Clos Pepe Pinot Noir
2003 Shirvinton, McLaren Valle Shiraz
2005 Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits
Albecht Mann Alsace Grand Cru, Pinot Gris

Even though we arrived at 6:00 for dinner we were still at the restaurant at 9:30. A small group which made for very good conversation. And the wines weren't bad either. We just lingered over the wines. and talked. CJ was just back from India. His mother passed away and he spent several weeks over there for the funeral. At least he did get to see her before she passed away.

The Factory BYOB - Napa Wines

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

At The Factory in Bixby Knolls tonight's BYOB theme was "Napa" wines. When I think of Napa I immediately think "Cabernet". So I found it strange that the main course was chicken breast with a lemon sauce. Nothing on the menu screamed "CAB" and knowing people they will bring red wines to this dinner. Some people just do not know how to pair wine and food together to make dinning an enjoyable experience.

We started out with a lamb meatball with two sauces. The sauces were white and a dark red/purple tone. The lamb was good and the sauces were good. Too bad we didn't know what they were No one let us know. This dish did pair well with a few of the red wines that were brought.

Next was a mixed green salad with sliced beets, fennel, shaved Manchego cheese and walnuts with a herb, lemon olive oil dressing. I was surprised that this went well with a Neyers Merlot that was brought.

A plate of crisp baked potato rounds along with seasoned vegetables was served. I found that this paired better with a Chardonnay.

The main dish of Lemon Roasted Chicken was set before us. This had a bed of onion & garlic noodles which was very good. But no way did this dish pair with red wine. And a few people were doing that. I felt it paired well with the 2009 Twisted Vine non-oaked chardonnay that I brought. Other people must had agreed as it was the first bottle emptied.

The menu of the website had dessert as a chocolate pudding with lemon & coconut infusion. Do not know what happened but we were served a vanilla ice cream with basil and something else in it. Again no explanation or description of what was served.

There were 15 people at this dinner tonight. The crowd has fallen off. Those two bad meals in a row last year apparently influenced people and they have not been back. A young couple has this restaurant and they have made a few mistakes in the past year. Hopefully they have learned from them and will be successful in their endeavor.

There was one person in attendance that was so full of himself it almost became laughable. All he talked about were ratings and $ and especially with his wines. But this is the person that wanted me to try the BV Tapestry with the chicken because he thought it was so good. I think I hurt his feelings when I said it was ok but not a good pairing and that my chardonnay was a much better wine paired with the dish. Most of the time this person brings mediocre wines and then brags about them

I did not keep a list of what wines were on the table but along with the 2009 Twisted Vine Chardonnay and the BV Tapestry there were numerous Sauvignon Blancs which I tried none . A Josph Phelps Syrah, Neyers Merlot, Turnbull Caberent & Chardonnay, Joe Gott Sauvignon Blanc and a Domaine Caneros Bubbly. A couple of Chardonnays and a Pinot Gris were seen also,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chinese Again

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Duong Son still has not opened so we headed back to the Seafood Palace in Garden Grove for dinner. This is a very large restaurant which has a lot of "private" functions on Saturday nights. Tonight the had a large Chinese wedding reception going in the main dining area and a Vietnamese church fund raiser going in the banquet area. That left a small "VIP" dining area left for the rest of anyone eating there that night. And that dining area was full and also had a birthday party going on at one of the tables.

This made for a "loud" evening. The banquet room had a band playing and naturally they were loud. I think I will check with Henry and see if we can move any more dinners we have at the Seafood Palace to a weeknight. Doung Son now is supposed to open May 5, but it also was supposed to be open last July. So we shall see.

Fried Tofu - good but it seemed the pieces were too large. Even Henry had problems picking it up with his chopsticks.

Fried Salt & Pepper Calamari - exceptional good, the quality of the calamari made the dish

Shrimp with Chinese Broccoli - again excellent quality

Sweet and Sour Soup - one of the best I have had

Beef with green - again good quality meat and good flavor

Kung Pao Chicken - we had this last time and it is still the best Kung Pao I have had

Chicken with Rice Noodles, vegetables and anchovy sauce - I could have made a meal of this alone

Chicken with Spinach - Henry told me they blanch the spinach in boiling water for just a few seconds and into an ice bath - dry the spinach out and then stir fry it. I did eat a lot of this spinach

Shredded Pork with bamboo shoots and fish sauce - again another very good dish

Dessert was "Herbs In Coconut Milk" a Vietnamese specialty - it did nothing for me. Maybe if I was in Viet Nam and it was hot and humid I would like this.

They also came around and offered us another dessert that was being served in the banquet room. An Almond pudding type mixture with fruit cocktail in it. This again is another Vietnamese dessert. This one was better that the other.

Jan was getting good at pouring with her let hand. Her broken arm is not quite healed yet. But her left hand chopstick skills were non existent. The room was so loud that Terry & Cora had problems with their hearing aids and the rest of us shouted a lot. But it was a good evening out and a lot of fun. We had a good time watching the church party through the glass doors. They sure liked to dance and sing karaoke. We were sat at a table that could accommodate 12 people and we were 8 so that added to the "shouting". Of course by the end of a wine dinner we are plenty noisy ourselves so we seemed to blend right in with the crowd.

I tasted most of the wines but I think I missed a few.

I brought a 2008 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir. I brought this to taste it and find where it is in aging. It took awhile to open up even with the aerator on but it did become one of the best wines that night. Glad I have 6 more bottles of this wine stashed away. I will not open another bottle for a couple of years unless I decide to do a vertical tasting.

2007 Clos Pepe Chardonnay - slightly sweet, small amount of residual sugar
2006 Privada, Norton (blend)
2009 Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner
2006 Graziana Coro Mendocino (blend)
2006 Rusack Santa Barbara County Syrah
2007 Redemption Mission Ranch, Monterey, Pinot Noir
2009 Vieillies Vignes Pouilly Fume
2006 McKeon-Phillips Leonardo (blend)

310 Main

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In conjunction with Orange County Dine Out Week we decided to try at new restaurant in Seal Beach. 320 Main. That is the name and address. Seal Beach is always a challenge because of the parking but there were two small city parking lots close by and since it was in the middle of the week I lucked out.

This restaurant took the place of the old Bayou St. Jean. Still small but it seemed a little noisier. Noise seems to be the trend now with the younger generation. Maybe because they are losing their hearing because of the earpieces that they stuck in their ears to listen to music 24 hours a day.

Since this was a "special" with Dine Out week we had our choice of 3 appetizers, 5 main dishes and two desserts for $30 and with $5 corkage on Wednesday night we knew this should be a good deal.

I ordered the "Mac n' Cheese" with duck appetizer. Had 4 cheeses in the sauce. Very good. A small portion but I could have stopped eating right then it was so filling. The other appetizers ordered were "Fried Brussel Sprouts" with mustard sauce and caramelized onions and a bruschetta. I tasted the brussel sprouts and they were good also except I do no think I could eat the entire serving of them. The mustard sauce tasted good but a little went a long way.

My main course was the "Lamb Chops" with a mustard rub and a pistachio crust. Served with a salad. I ate the salad because it doesn't travel well and then one double chop. You got 4 double chops. The lamb was excellent, cooked the way I like it. Took the three remaining chops home for dinner on the next night. After all we have dessert coming up. Paul ordered the 12oz Rib Eye steak and was happy with it and Margie had the Gnocchi which she said was good. Clyde & Libby had the lamb chops also.

You had a choice of 2 desserts. Creme Brulee and a Fried PBJ sandwich. Four of us opted for the creme brulee and Margie had the "PBJ".

Wines brought that night were 2005 Stoplman Syrah, 2007 Turley, Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, 2008 Lancaster Estate, Samantha Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Joseph Swan Russian River Valley white Rhone Blend and 2005 Bridlewood Dustry Trails Syrah.. Not a bad wine in the bunch

We all decided that 320 Main was worth going back to dine there again. The quality of the foods was good. It was a laid back place and no need to feel like you needed to dress up. And the nice thing was they did not charge us corkage. Only negative was the noise. And they were really crowded and that was on a Wednesday night.