Sunday, April 24, 2011

Best Deal

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just a random "musing". Why are the polish dogs at Costco so good ? A drink & a dog for $1.50. Best deal around and they are good.

The Factory Again

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sorry to say the Factory "bombed" again. Natalie went home with back problems and it showed in the kitchen. I also was not overly impressed with the menu. Tonight's wine theme for this BYOB dinner was "Sustainable /Organic Wines". Having no idea of the menu you were at a loss to what varietal to bring.

There was a mixed bag of wine brought. I noted about 8 of them. I brought a 2005 Ampelos Epsilon Syrah. Others were 2009 Riverbench Chardonnay, 2009 Saucelito Zinfandel, 2009 Halter Ranch Rose, 2007 Adeladia Verasion, 2008 Ponzi Pinot Noir, 2007 D'Amare Super Tuscan and a Bonny Doon Cigare Volante. Their was another Rose & Saugvignon Blanc brought but I did not note what they were. A few other also.

Dinner was 35 minutes late being served. No bread or anything on the table to help while you are waiting. Big mistake. When you problems in the kitchen keep people happy with bread. Its cheap.

First up was a Empanada made with diced beets, roasted hazelnuts, raisins, garlic, onions and goat cheese. A cream sauce of mint, honey & thyme was on top. Flavor was good. Beets were way undercooked and I felt the dough on the Empanada left something to be desired. It seemed a little tough to me.

A salad of mixed field greens was served. I think there may have been some cheese in it. A few strawberries were in it. Dressing was non-existent.

Main course was grilled shrimp with strips of skirt steak wrapped around. A few vegetables on the plate. Luke warm. It would have been better to have a small steak along with the shrimp instead of trying to be clever. Especially when they were short handed.

Dessert was an apple crisp with ice cream and chopped dates on top. It had decent flavor but unfortunately the ice cream was melted and it became a cream sauce.

When you become short handed in the kitchen it really shows. Also the idea of "being inspired" by the farmers market the morning of the dinner doesn't help. It might be fine for the vegetable and salad but you really need a game plan in advance of a your main dish. Also it would be nice to know what is being served ahead of time so you can plan you wine accordingly.

I will go to the next dinner in May but The Factory is on "probation" with me again. If they fail next month I will not go back. With a price of $25 you give and take a little. I do not expect a $100 dinner for $25 but I expect warm food and what is served is correct. A grilled cheese sandwich with soup and salad would have been better that tonight's dinner. Don't try to be too clever and over sophisticated. Keep it simple but good.

April Wino's

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our monthly gathering of the winos today was a small group. Too many other events conflicting with today's event. Long Beach Grand Prix, Santa Barbara Vintners Festival, a really good tasting at Wally's and the Orange County Wine Society's annual event at the Anaheim Hilton and another wine group that some of our winos are part of also was hosting a tasting. So we had a split group today of about half.

Today's theme was wines from Mendocino County. The hosts wanted to compare wines from before and after the big fires in 2008 to that vintage. Frankly I could not taste any difference. I could not get smokiness out of any of the 2008 wines. The only smoke I could get was from the smoker that they were cooking the tri tip in.

There were 2 Williams Selyem Weir Vineyards Pinots brought, a 2006 & a 2008. That should have been a good contrast but no smoke in either of them.

It was nice having a smaller group of 14 people. At least you you have conversation with everyone. Weather was a little on the cool side but we all sat outside on the deck and were quite comfortable.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Saturday April 16, 2011 After the Clos Pepe tasting at MAWL today a few of us headed over to Franco's in the Los Alamitos/Cypress area for dinner. Food is good, moderatly priced and no corkage for us. I ordered the Linguine Pescador. Nice light tomato sauce and loaded with clams, mussells, shrimp, scallops and calamari. With dinner came soup or salad and I opted for the 5 onion soup. Great soup. Everyone said their dishes were good also. Their was a veal dish, a flounder dish, a steak and another dish similar to mine only made with alfredo sauce. We had a nice assortment of wines. I brought a bottle of Clos Pepe Sparking Pinot Rose and a bottle of 2005 Chateau Margene Sangiovese. Also on the table was a 2007 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, 2008 Tobin James Refusco, 2005 Lugaya Zenato amd a 2002 Uccelliere Brunello. Papa Franco came out and got a couple of glasses to taste and Mama came a got a pour of sparkling. Nice evening to end a nice day, And the weather was beautiful also. Breeze at the beach and I could hear the Indy cars taking laps for the pole position at my place which is probably about 12 miles from my house. The wind was blowing just right for the sound to travel down the coast.

Clos Pepe tasting

Saturday, April 16, 2011 MAWL Wine store in Garden Grove hosted a tasting today of Clos Pepe wines. Wes Hagen, winemaker and vineyard manager of Clos Pepe was in attendance. 12 of us sat at a table with 7 glasses each. Wine was poured and Wes walked us through the characteristics of each wine. For 90 minutes we tasted, asked questions and really enjoyed ourselves. Wes is the ultimate teacher and really knows what he is talking about. He is entertaining without being boring. We started out with the new not released yet Sparkling Pinot Rose. This particular wine is made by Norm Yost of Flying Goat out of Clos Pepe grapes. So if you ever taste a Flying Goat sparkling Pinot Rose you will notice the similarity. Norm makes all the sparkling then the bottles are split between the two wineries. Just different labels. A 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Rose was poured. This will be the last of the rose produced. Too expensive to produce for what they can sell it for. Next on the table was a 2007 "barrel fermented Chardonnay. Slight hint of oak. It is aged in 3 year old barrels. I can handle this chardonnay although I like the "Homage to Chablis" more. Unfortunately they were not pouring the other chardonnay today. Three years of Pinot were next 2006, 2007 and 2009. It always interesting to taste different vintages side by side and see the difference that "Mother Nature" can make. I brought along a 2008out of my cellar to fill the gap. The last wine on the list was the 2009 Axis Mundi Sleepy Hollow syrah. This will be the last bottling of Sleepy Hollow as someone not in the right mind decided to tear out the syrah grapes and plant Pinot instead. This is a really good cool climate syrah. The Wes surprised us with a pouring of the 1999 Pinot. A little past prime but a nice example of "old" wine. A very informative and enjoyable day. It was nice to be with people that were truly interested in tasting and learning about the wines instead of those that show up and want to drink and chatter away endlessly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Return to Utopia

Thursday, April 14, 2011 Went back to Utopia in downtown Long Beach , tonight for a 4 course wine dinner. At $40 it was hard to pass up. We have not been to this particular place in over a year. For some reason they redid their email list and we were did not get put back on. And its the saying "out of sight, out of mind". We started out with a Seafood Ceviche, grilled calamari, shrimp & scallop in a spicy fresh tomato cilantro olive oil sauce. It was tasty and it helped cut the over oakiness of the 2009 Cuvaison Napa Valley Chardonnay. I just cannot get into the over oaky taste that California winemakers seemed to think is necessary in Chardonnay. Wine is made from grapes (fruit) not the stems and twigs of the grape plant. Second course was a Pork medallion with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce. The pork was thin but cooked nicely and the sauce was very good. Slight smokiness. Wine was a 2006 Gouguenhelm Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina. Wine was ok but nothing to write home about. I would have liked to try a good Malbec with this dish. Main course you had a choice of roasted duck breast or grilled lamb chops. We all chose the lamb chops. They were served with fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic sauce , saffron rice and grilled vegetables. The flavor was good, the lamb chops (2) were very small and thin. The grilled zucchini was over cooked but the grilled carrots were nicely done. A 2007 Eponymous Mertiage, McAllister Vineyard, Sonoma was poured. This was the best of the night. And they did give us second pours. Dessert was a bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, It was good. At $40 plus tax & tip the dinner was ok. I know all restaurants are having a hard time and there is a lot of competition. Everyone is doing wine dinners so it needs to be something that catches you for you to come back. I certainly would not pay more that $40 for the above dinner. And I would take a really hard look at the next wine dinner menu before I would commit.

Seafood Palace

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5 brave souls gathered at the Seafood Palace in Garden Grove on a Tuesday night for dinner. Tuesdays are off days for a lot of restaurants and the main chef's and staff have the day off. You take a chance of quality of food and service. But in exchange you get a small crowd and a lot less noise. Especially in the local Asian restaurants which are frequentted daily by the locals. We were assigned a very good server which was nice. Henry as usual did all the selection and ordering for us. Great that he reads, writes and speaks Chinese. Otherwise who knows what we would end up eating. As it is we have had sea slug and jelly fish with Henry. And both were decent. Seafood Palace is a Chinese restaurant with a Vietnamese twist. So a few more spicy components to the dishes and a heavier hand on the "peppers". Tonight we had several repeat dishes, Salt & Pepper Calamari, Shrimp with Broccoli, Beef with Spinach and the Sweet Sour Soup we had at the last dinner here. With the soup you could tell the difference in who was cooking in the kitchen. Tonight's soup was good but not the caliber as the dish we had last month. Something was not quite the same. The waitress brought us out a platter of Vietnamese sausages (on the house). The sausages were about the diameter of a quarter and sliced thin. You could taste the lemongrass in the sausages. Immediately you knew they were Vietnamese and not Chinese. Served the julienned cucumbers and peanuts. We had a dish that Henry called "Chow Mein" Chicken and vegetables on top of very thin slightly crispy noodles. We had something similar to this at Duong Son but I preferred the Seafood Palace version. A new item was a Spicy Fried Pork. Julienned strips of pork and vegetables. This was a very good dish. Spicy but not enough to kill your palate. I would have this dish again. Ted really enjoyed this one. We were served sliced oranges for dessert (Chinese are not into sweets) and then the waitress brought out a tray of Mango puddings for us. Compliments of the house. This is why Henry is so valuable. We would not get this if we went in on our own. Plus Henry is a great friend and good company. And he is a good dancer. A man of many talents. As always we had a wide assortment of wines. I did not get all the particulars written down as I was too busy eating and chattering away and forgot to make a list. 2007 Huber Chardonnay 2005 Sinor-LaValle Aubaine Vineyards Pinot Noir ???? Marsanney Burgundy 2005 McKeon Phillips BPR Pinot Noir ???? Ken Brown Santa Maria Pinot Noir

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dunarea Romanian Restaurant

Saturday, April 9, 2011 A small group of 6 gathered at Dunarea Restaurant in Anaheim for dinner. We had not been back here is a long time. It was nice having a small group instead of the 20 plus people that CJ usually had when he was doing his monthly "wine n' dine" dinners. Better conversation with everyone instead of just the immediate people around you. Better wines. We ordered a lot of appetizers and when that was finished I was almost also. Way too much food but so good you just kept eating. We started off with: Salata De Vinete - an eggplant spread - I normally do not care for eggplant but this was good. Delta Appetizer - Caviar spread with olives and lemons Cabanos Sausages - small grilled smoked pork sausages Mamaliguta Cu Branza Si Smantana - polenta with feta cheese and sour cream Our main courses were: Stuffed grape leaf rolls, Lamb pastrami (I passed, its too dry for me) and Cordon Bleu, a breaded pork sirloin roll filled with ham and kaskaval (cheese) and mushrooms. I was absolutely stuffed and could not even have a bite of the dessert. Wines were very good tonight, ???? Windward Pinot Noir, 2004 Alapay Rebecka ( a bordeaux blend) 2004 Williams Selyem Flax Vineyard Pinot Noir 1998 Staglin Family Rutherford Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Gypsy Boots Sonoma Pinot Noir 2000 Battaglini, Twin Vines Ranch Russian River Zinfandel 2009 Tobin James Late Harvest Zinfandel NV Provenance California Port The Staglin was a big surprise. It was decanted and when first poured seemed light and maybe over the hill a little, but after about an hour it changed dramatically Became much bigger in scope, more body, fresher fruit and longer on the palate. It did have what I took as a hint of petrol on the nose but that did not show up in the taste. We had entertainment tonight. For some reason all Romanian, Hungarian etc., music seems to be alike. But it did have a few of us bouncing in our seats. We will have to make a point of coming back to Dunarea a little more often.

Indian Again

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 A quick impromptu dinner at what is becoming our favorite Indian restaurant, the Himilayan Grille in Sunset Beach. Didn't take notes but I do remember we had 4 chicken dishes, 2 lamb and a vegetable dish. Seems all had different sauces. A guest from out of state ordered the chicken mango. That was a new one Nice flavor with the sweet mango. I ordered the garlic chicken which I had the time before. I think that will become a regular for me along with lamb saag. I brought a Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir sparkling. Inexpensive but tasty. I also brought a 2006 Huber Dornfelder. Other wines were a Hartford Court Pinot, a Les Duc Rhone, along with another pinot and a white wine that somehow have slipped by feeble mind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A'Roma Ristorante

Saturday, April 2, 2011 A'Roma is a new place for me. A little out of my way but less than 30 minutes drive from my house. I would guess the city would be either Cerritos or La Palma. Near the 91 freeway and Orangethorpe. The dinner was "Hook & Ladder Winery" out of the Sonoma/Russian River area. I had stopped by their winery a few years back. Good every day solid wines. Reasonably priced. Josh DeLoach the owner's son and winemaker was hosting. This used to be the DeLoach winery and some of the acreage and name was sold off. The renamed themselves "Hook & Ladder" because the founder of the winery was a fireman. There were approximately 60 people in attendance tonight. Family style seating. Bread was put on the table along with a dish of butter that had a marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish. People seemed to like it that way. I really prefer my butter "plain". I really like the taste of pure butter. Bread was good. First Course: Blackened Shrimp on a nest of Capellini pasta tossed with julienned sauteed vegetables. This had an Asian twist to it. A bit different for an Italian restaurant. People really liked this dish. I was not that big of a fan of it. It did pair very well with the 2008 Russian River Gewurztraminer. Second Course: Osso Buco Manicotti. Manicotti pasta filled with Osso Buco veal, ricotta, parmesan and braised vegetables with a avery light marinara sauce. This dish was excellent. My favorite of the evening. Paired with a 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir. Wine was too young and tight. You got a real taste of alcohol on the back palate. After taking the wine and sloshing it back and forth between two glasses it improved quite a bit. The alcohol went away and the fruit became a bit more vibrant. I still did get an oaky/tannin taste on the back palate. Main Course: Beef Short Ribs - slow cooked beef short ribs in a red wine reduction served with a creamy polenta and oven baked broccoli with pine nuts and shaved parmesan. Meat was excellent. polenta was good correct, sauce was very good. I felt the broccoli could have stayed in the oven a few minutes longer. I would have preferred a more "roasted" taste to it. The wine for this dish was the Tillerman Red Blend, Russian River Valley. This wine is their "staple" They make and sell more of this blend than any other wines in their portfolio. It has always been a nice solid wine for the price. Dessert: Panna Cotta with a strawberry/grand marnier sauce. Good flavor. A nice light ending to the meal. Pours of wine were generous. You could have seconds or even third pours if you wanted. They ave a themed wine dinner at A'Roma every few months. I would definitely go back.

New Place In Town

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 Went to a "new" place tonight for a wine tasting. New to me but I recall seeing this place years ago. Close to the Belmont Brewing Company. ABC Liquors & Wine in Long Beach/Belmont Shore. The tasting was held upstairs in the ":Attic". Narrow steep stairs. Old building but that's what they had then when the building was built. They set around a tray of cheeses. Some were excellent and meats. Tonight's theme was Patricia Greene wines for Oregon. 6 wines were poured. Pours were generous. They also at the end of the evening put the bottles that still had wine left in them on the table for you to help yourself. For $20 it was good. I will seek out some other tastings here in the future but with the sucked parking it would have to be a winery that I was really interesting in. Their tasting are also on Wednesdays and that is my Happy Hour night out with friends.

March Gathering Of The Winos

Sunday, March 27, 2011 Today's them was Rhone Blends from California or France. You would think that people who say they have an interest in wine and seem to think that they something about wine would know what a "Rhone Blend" was. NOT. 100% Syrah is not a "blend". California blends with Zinfandel in them are not. Wines from provence are not Rhone blends. Interesting to see who brought what. We had 27 wines today and 6 of them did not conform to the theme. Hosts food dish was ribs which the wines paired well with. This again was a gathering that had a lot of appetizers and just a couple of desserts. Since it is always pot luck you get what you get. Out of all the wines a few I found that I really liked were the 2008 Les Pallievas, Lesacines Gigondas, 2007 Perrin & Fils Cotes du Rhoine Villages, 2006 L'Aventure Cote a Cote and the 2004 Tablas Creek Espirit de Beaucastel. The 2001 Caudulet de Beaucastel also was nice. We had one corked wine and one oxidized wine. That's the luck of the draw when it comes to wines. Next month off to "Mendocino" for the theme.

Loire Valley Wines at Delius

Friday, March 25, 2011 Full house tonight at Delius ,, , for tonight's wine themed dinner. Sat at the table with George Pavlov the wine rep. First time meeting him. First Course: Duo of Oysters, one with raw citrus granite, black pepper vinaigrette and a baked oyster with horseradish, parmesan, garlic, micro arugula. Both were excellent. Served with a 2009 Clos de La Chapelle, Muscadet, Sevre et Maine. Very good pairing Second Course: Pork Belly Sous Vide, citrus glaze, cantaloupe spears, Upland cress. Wine was a 2008 Vincent Raimbault, Vouvray. Good food , but I personally like the glazed pork belly on the regular appetizer menu better. Again was a good pairing. I particularly liked this Vouvray, Third Course: Baby Arugula, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, balsamic reduction. Two wines were served with this. I was told because of the blue cheese. Wines were 2008 Joel Delaunay Touraine (Sauvignon Blanc) and a 2006 Xavier Frissant, Renaissance, Touraine Amboise (Malbec, Cab Franc & Sauvignon Blanc) Food was good, Wines were good. I could have done without this entire course. Other people loved it. I just do not happen to be a fan of greens with wine. Fourth Course: Pan roasted duck breast, pancetta & lentil stew, mini slices of brussel sprouts, micro mirepoix. Paired with a 2009 Pascal Bellier, Cheverny (Pinot Noir & Gamay) As always duck cooked to perfection. This was a top notch dish along with a very good wine. Dessert: Raisin spice cake with walnut gelato, mascarpone gelato and carrot syrup. OK when I first saw this on the menu I am wondering how this is going to taste. Sounded a bit off to me especially the carrot syrup. The syrup was on the outside of the plate. and had a very good flavor. Carrots are naturally sweet and I doubt if too much is any sugar was added to this syrup. The cake had wonderful flavor but to me the two gelatos were the absolute best. None of the wines were expensive but all paired well with the food. This makes for a very delightful dining experience. My favorites of the night were the oysters and the gelatos. I could have eaten a couple of dozen oysters and a pint of each gelato and been a very happy person. The two wines I enjoyed the most were the Vouvray and the Cheverny.