Monday, May 30, 2011

May Gathering Of The Flock

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stan was hosting today's wino gathering. He lives in Santa Monica which is a trek so I hitched a ride. Merlots was the theme for today. I am not a fan of Merlot but grinned and beared it. As my late friend Orv always said, Merlot is a blending grape. Especially in the USA. France is another game. They make wine to last. eg: Petrus.  I am always "ticked off" by peoples excuses of why they don't attend these monthly gatherings." Its to far to drive". Altho Stan drives the same distance to come to their house." I don't like the theme". So what. Maybe people don't like your theme but they show up anyway. These same people are the ones that get upset if they don't get a big crowd attending their function.

Stan made a great tri tip and and an excellent pork loin with a mustard sauce. This was the day of pasta salads. Fortunately we got 2 desserts. Sometimes its a crap shoot to what food is showing up.

One of the better Merlots to show up was a 2007 Turnbull. The McKeon-Phillips was good. The rest including the one I brought were ok but I don't like Merlots. So I am not the best judge.

Next month  - Red Bordeauxs and French Champagnes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Haras di Pirque Wine Dinner

Friday, May 27, 2011

Delius Restaurant in Signal Hill hosted a Chilean wine dinner tonight.  The dining area was full which surprised me because it being "Chilean" wines. People always seem to want a "popular" wine when they sign up for theses dinners.

Haras di Pirque is owned partly by the Antinori family in Italy. Chile & Argentina are getting a lot of interest from successful wineries in different countries.

Lorenzo Mottola was the wine rep sitting at our table. Delightful person and is the rep for Ste Michelle Wine Estates which takes in a portfolio of 29 labels from 7 regions.  Domestic and foreign. I will keep his card and if I go back to Italy I will  definitely take his offer to set me up with some wineries for tasting. Most foreign countries do not have the open tasting rooms that California enjoys.

I will state now that this dinner was one of the most prefect dinners with wine pairings I have ever had. I have a few stored in my memory bank but this is at the top of the list. Wines were extremely reasonable in pricing. Less that $12 each. I do not feel I would want to drink a glass of any of these wines without food because they do not show what they are alone.

First Course:  White Asparagus Custard with Micro Herb Salad. A savory custard with pureed white asparagus and a two thin strips of asparagus on top. Excellent flavor. Paired with a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine had the citrusy nose to it but had a very soft, long finish.

Second Course: Crispy Oyster Salad, Pork Belly, Pineapple Gelee & Upland Cress. A small fried oyster with  a nice briny taste, small piece  of  excellent pork belly. The pineapple gelee really set this dish off.  Wine was a 2009 Chardonnay. First sniff of this wine showed the oak. I personally would not dink this wine alone because of the oak but the fat of the oyster and pork belly cut through the oak and made an excellent pairing.

Third Course: Roasted Pheasant Breast with Yukon Gold Potato, Duck Confit, Blackberries and Pistachios. The blackberries really added a new dimension to this dish. Set off the pheasant breast really well. Paired with a 2008 Carmenere. Again a perfect pairing.

Fourth Course: Venison Loin with Turnips, Parsnips, Carrots, Micro Arugula, Foie Gras Foam. Wine served was a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The root vegetables paired so well with the venison. A classic pairing since deer is traditionally hunted in the fall.

Dessert: Strawberry Rhubarb Terrine, Vanilla Gelato & Pecan Streusel. Just the right touch for the end of a perfect meal. The Terrine was excellent and the homemade gelato was a perfect accent.

Since the Pheasant & Vension were farm raised they have a tendency to be less gamey  and available all year. No hunting season for them.

I think aside from the oyster my friend Margie who is the pickest eater I know would have liked this dinner.

As  each new dish was brought to the table and people started eating you could hear the low rumble of approval. This dinner was so perfect in wine & food pairing. Chef Daniel Hyatt got a rousing applause. Which is good as his father and his girlfriend were dining that night. Made Dad really proud.

Santa Barabra Futures

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moseyed up the freeway today to the Wine House in Los Angeles. Almost to Santa Monica. Todays tasting was Santa Barbara Futures. 32 labels were pouring today, 58 wines. I paid the extra $9 to get in a hour early so I would not have to hassle parking and walk up the steep stairs.  The purpose of the event was to taste the new releases and place orders (paid for in advance) and pick up your wine later this year or next year. Pricing reflects this. Good bargains.

Saw several winemakers that I knew and found a few people in the crowd that I knew also. Wine house passed appetizers around. I managed to snag a few. Do not feel they passed around enough for the crowd.

I found it interesting that some of the very small production wineries were producing better quality that a few of the big names. I was thoroughly disappointed in Foxen today.

A couple of the small timers that I particuarly enjoyed was Rey-La Cosecha. They poured a Grenache Blanc and a Grenache. Both priced under $20. I also liked "tercero" . His Larner Vineyard Grenache was excellent and his Mouvedre was really good.

Ampelos, Stolpman, Cargassacchi, Clos Pepe, Dagonette, Flying Goat, Jaffurs, Margerum were among the group.

It was a  beautiful, sunny day. Traffic was light which made for a really nice day. Now I have to decide if I want to lay out any money on futures. Have a few days to make up my mind. There is a 3 bottle minimum for each wine so that has to be factored in.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Darioush Wine Tasting

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ABC Fine Wines & Spirits in Long Beach hosted a Darioush tasting tonight.  The upstairs room was packed with 38 people. Difficult to move around. About 8 people to many. The amount of people also made it hard for us in the back to get our pours. We were forgotten a few times and had to bring it to their attention.

It started out with a tasting of Lurisia Sparkling Spring Water from Italy. Then we proceeded to the Lucien Albrecht Brut & Brut Rose. These are from the Alsace region and for the price point were very nice.

All the Darioush wines were Napa Valley. First wine was a 2008 Signature Chardonnay.  Too oaky for me so Jan got a big pour of it. Next we had a 2007 Signature Merlot. Nice wine but overpriced at $55 .I am probably not the best judge of this because I do not particularly like Merlots. 2008  Cravan Cabernet was next.  This wine is a second labe for Darioush. It was listed at $49.99. I used to get it from a rep for $18 quite  a few years ago. Last wine was the 2007 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. 94 points with the Wine Spectator and priced at $85. They actually poured from a 375 ml bottle. Both the 375ml &  the 750 ml were listed but only the one poured. I think it would have been interesting to see the difference in the wine because of the bottle size. I would imagine that the small bottle was more drinkable at this time. It was still tight and had many years to go.

There was a 2008 Darioush Signature Syrah listed but not being poured. It was available for purchase only.

So for $30 it was a good tasting because of the price of the wines but I feel if they produce a flyer that lists 8 wines they should pour 8 wines.  38 people times $30 is $1,140. The price listed for the wines was the stores retail price not what they paid. Retail costs on the amount of wine poured was approximately$650. They get an industry discount so I feel they could have included the other two wines in the tasting. We were getting about 1-1/2 ounce pours on the red wines. About 2 ounce pours on the sparkling.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Zimzala & Groth Wines

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New restaurant in downtown Huntington Beach at the Shorebreakers Hotel.  Zimzala,, Found the notice on, . Did not know what to except. Paul, Margie and I decided to check it out. Aside from hotel personnel, wine vendor it seems we were the only outside guests for this dinner. Could not access the menu from the website which is not good. People like to see a menu before they commit almost $100 to dinner. This was there first wine dinner. The hotel is very "hip" and young. Lets face it , downtown Huntington Beach is young. Hotel reminded me of the westside or South Beach. Attractive venue but young. Almost all the patrons in the bar/lounge area were under 35. In the dining room the age came out.

Event was advertised at having a wine/appetizer reception at 5:00 and dinner afterwards. Arrived a few minutes before 5 as its only a 12 minute drive from my "Casa". We were shown a lounge area beside the patio area. Too cold for outside tonight. They poured the 2010 Groth Sauvignon Blanc along with two very good appetizers. A crisp pita bread wedge with tomato jam and deep fried okra with a sauce which may have been some type of aoili. This "reception" before dinner was the hotels reception for their hotel guests also which was fine. But the big mistake they made was shutting it down at 6:00 and telling us dinner would be served at 6:30. Bullcrap. Not a good PR situation. Dinner should have been at 6:00. We sat around with nothing to do for 30 minutes. No wine, no nothing. I would  have showed up at 6:30 if I had known that.

At 6:35 we were seated for dinner. As I posted earlier we were the only "guests" for dinner. Matt Stuhl who is with JDV Hotels came and sat at our table. They had a basket of fresh made bread and served a small container of olive oil with it. We had to ask for butter which was rock hard. I find this happens a lot. Who wants to tear up their bread with rock hard butter ? But it seems that most places do this. Probably a "health" issue. But it seems to me that they could have a few containers set out of the cooler and be ready for the tables without endangering the world.

First Course: Diver Scallop Crudo with Avocado, Ojai Pixie Tangerines & Crispy Wild Fennel. This was a very good dish. The light acid/sweetness of the tangerines really set off the delicate flavor of the scallops and the buttery texture of the avocado was just the right touch. Served with a 2009 Groth Chardonnay. A little oaky but paired well with the food.

Second Course: Carnarolu Nano Risotto with Squash Blossoms, Lemon Verbena and Hand Made Mozzarella. Extremely good dish. The Mozarella was outstanding. They buy the curd and produce the cheese fresh everyday. Dish had great flavor and the risotto was cooked correctly. But they served this with the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc that we had at the reception. By now I have had my fill of this wine.

Main Course: Lamb Roulade with Cauliflower Olive Oil Puree, spring vegetables, morel mushrooms and lamb jus. This dish was good. I tried a few bites and had them box it for me to take home. We have dessert coming and I cannot finish both dishes. This was paired with a Groth 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. Good pairing.

They then brought a brique of 2009 Caberbet out. This barrique traveled down the coast  with the guest chef. It went surfing, bartered for fresh vegetables, had happy hour and "Barique" had a great time. What they should have done is have a slide show on a laptop of all the "events" " Barique" did on his trip down. They had pictures  on a cell phone but it would have been better to see them larger.  They tapped the barique and served the wine with dessert. The wine is very young and still have vibrant fruit and paired very well with a Strawberry Shortcake with  Albion Strawberries, Fresh Made Strawberry Ice Cream and Chantilly Cream.

The chef then brought out fresh made truffles. One was peanut butter &  jelly and was quite good.

Both chefs are young. The chef at Zimzala is Roy Henrickson. No formal culinary school but very good at what he does. The guest chef form Americano Restaurant was Kory Stewart who trained at the Culinary Institute of America I was impressed with their depth.

Susanne Groth was in attendance pouring her wines. They very generously filled a bottle of 2009 Cabernet from the barique and gave us each one to take home.

The regular dinner menu looked very interesting. The food is good. The place has a nice vibe about it. But it is noisy. This seems be the trend with the under 35 crowd. I find it irritating that you have to yell to have conversation. But I also think that having your cell phone attached to your ear or constantly texting is rude also. I sometimes wonder if they do this while they are having sex.

Dinner was $78 plus tax & tip. I am ok with that what really ticked me off was went I left the parking structure they charged me $16. The restaurant gave us a voucher for 2 free hours. I did not expect $16 for the balance. When I think about sitting around for 30 minutes twiddling my thumbs waiting for dinner it really irks me. I could have been ok with $5 to $8  but not $16.  Unless the hotel changes its parking policy I would not go back to the restaurant. Parking in downtown Huntington Beach is bad and that is why I do not go down in that area. Its a young person domain which I understand because of the beach and surfing. But I have a hard time with spending close to $100 for dinner and then get nailed for parking. I stopped going to the restaurants in downtown Long Beach for the same reason. There are too many good restaurants that I can give my money to that I do not have a parking fee.

Seafood Palace

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Six of us gathered tonight for a midweek dinner at the Seafood Palace in Garden Grove. We have decided to do 6 people dinners midweek at this restaurant because weekends are too crowded and noisy.

As usual we let Henry do all the ordering. Tonight's bill of fare was a lot of our normal dishes Nothing to new. All were good as usual.

Sweet Sour Soup
Salt & Pepper Calamari
Shrimp with Chinese Broccoli
Kung Pao Ckicken
Spicy Shredded Pork
Beef with Spinach
Cooked Oysters with Chives
Baked Tofu

Dessert was a green melon hollowed out with melon balls in a liquid. There were bits of ice floating in the it. How they make it and what the liquid was I do not know. But it was tasty. It may have been a Vietnamese dish as in this area of town the restaurants have a tendancy to combine both cultures. They also served fresh sliced oranges and fortune cookies.

I brought a bottle of 2006 AP Vin Kanzler Pinot Noir and CJ brought a 2007 Testarossa Rosella's Pinot Noir. I thought the 2 best wines on the table.They also were the first to be emptied.  Other wines were a Proseco that was flat so we did not drink it. These things happen sometimes. 2005 Stolpman Estate Syrah, 1998 Saxum Brown Willamette Pinot Noir, 2008 McKeon Phillips BVP, 2006 McKeon Phillips Cabernet Franc.

Hope to get another dinner in before Henry leaves on vacation in June. Word is Doung Son will reopen in July. We shall see as they are 18 months behind schedule now. Right now we are looking for a Dim Sum restaurant that is close. Driving to downtown LA or Monterey Park is an effort.

Arte Cafe & Stolpman Wines

Tuesday, May 10, 2010

Arte Cafe in Cerritos (Town Center) was hosting a Stolpman wine dinner this evening. Eight of us decided to try this restaurant again because of the wines. We have had issues with Arte Cafe before. Dinner was late being served due to Tom Stolpman running late. They did serve several glasses of the Sauvignon Blanc along with an appetizer of Quesidilla and a mushroom cake, similar to a crab cake. The mushroom cake was very good and we couldd have a few more of these. The size was very small so it would have been nice to have a couple. The quesidilla was very small also.

Now this problem occurred again. By time the first course arrived they were out of the Sauvignon Blanc. This happened before at another dinner at Arte Cafe.  Running behind, serve your guests several glass's of wine and then nothing for the food course. Mis-management.

First course: Dungeness Crab & Asian Noodle with Truffle Oil.  Good dish but it needed a little punch to it. I did not taste any truffle in it so apparently the oil was used very sparingly. Wine was supposed to be the 2009 LaCoppa Blanc but that was not served. You had what was left of your Sauvignon Blanc.

Second course: Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper with Mozzarella Cheese with Prosciutto.  Pepper  had good flavor. They came round and added  diced proscuitto to the pepper if you wanted it. Mozzarella was rubbery. . The was listed as 2009 La Coppa Sangiovese but they changed it to the  2008 Grenache.

Third course: Seared Halibut with Eggplant Caponta - Dish had very good flavor, halibut was cooked  just right. Caponta ws good. Pairing was not. 2009 Estate Syrah. It went Ok  with the halibut when when you added the Caponta it was not the best pairing.

Fourth Course: Marinated Rack of Lamb with Garlic & Spinach Confit. Rack was excellent. Cooked the way I like it, red in the middle.  Flavor was good. It was a double chop  on the small side but adequate. Paired with 2008 Hilltops Syrah. Good pairing

Dessert was a Apple Custard with Grand Marnier coated with Mixed Berries and served with a 2007 Late Harvest Viognier. This dish was very good and the pairing was good. Tom explained that this wine was a single year endeavor. Left over Viognier grapes and they decided to make the dessert wine. They do have a winner. Not overly sweet.

Arte Cafe had a trio playing music and singing. They were good but too loud. I want to have conversation which to me means talking not shouting.

So to me the same old problem at Arte Cafe. Not enough wait staff to handle a special wine dinner along with their regular dining trade of the night. We had one server pouring wine and serving food. Tom helped pour and they finally got another waitperson to help. Several times  one of us at our table had to flag down someone to get our plate or wine. It seemed they kept missing people. This is a poor job of management and scheduling. Not the fault of the wait staff. They hustled.  All in all dinner was good - nor great. They were generous in their pours. The food was good. At $58 is was a good dinner.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lioco Wine Dinner

Friday, April 29, 2011

Delius in Signal Hill,, hosted a Lioco Wine dinner this evening. From what the rep told us Lioco is a wine made by two people who were involved in different aspects of wine. A Matt Licklider, wine import specialist and Kevin O'Connor, a wine director at Spago. Hence taking part of both last names to come up with the winery name Their case production looks to be about 15,000.

Everyone now days is getting into the wine making business. There are now over 3,000 wineries in California and new ones popping up every month. A lot of them will never make it in the long run. Over saturation.

Big problems on the 405 freeway tonight so dinner was a few minutes late getting to the table. The restaurant was waiting for people to arrive. Now again I am having the same problem as I had with The Factory a few weeks back. Why not put the bread on the table NOW. Tonight the bread came out with the third course, but we did get bread.

First course: Roasted Octopus, sweet potato, pickled green papaya & micro celery. Sounds strange but worked very well. The octopus was diced as were the sweet potatoes. Very good flavor. This was served with a 2009 Lioco Sonoma Chardonnay, stainless steel fermented. This was a good pairing. The wine was to my palate.

I always have to warm of my white wines at Delius. For my tastes they are served a bit too cold. The flavor enhances as the wine wine comes closer to room temperature.

We even got Margie to try one piece of the Octopus. She decided it was too fishy for her. You have to understand how picky of an eater she is but she did make the effort to try so we are making progress with her. We have gotten her to eat duck now. Big accomplishment. But somehow I do no think we will ever get her to even try sea slug or jelly fish. Her mind works overtime.

Second Course: Goat Cheese Tart with beet gelee, crispy blood orange & Upland Cress. OK is "Upland" different from "Downland" Somehow I am not sure what or where the cress is, it is still "cress". The crispy blood oranges were really good. Micro thin slices and roasted in the oven. I could have eaten a big bowl of them alone. Wine with this dish was a 2010 Lioco "Indica" Rose from Mendocino County. "Indica" is supposed to be a blend that the Mendocino County wineries are pushing to be unique to that area. The notes on this wine says a "bleed" from 70 year old Carignan grapes. I was not a big fan of this wine. It was dry which I like but I felt it was really lacking in flavor and depth. I have had much better Rose's

Third Course: Duck Confit Roulade, Swiss Chard, crispy shallots and dried cherry red wine reduction. Duck had excellent flavor and was rolled in the swiss chard (roulade) . This dish was a real winner. Served with a 2009 Lioco Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Non discript Pinot. It did improve dramatically with the food. But lacked something. But the bread showed up.

Fourth Course: Pork Tenderloin Sous Vide, tea smoked with roasted Kabocha squash and shaved fennel. Pork was cold smoked in the morning and then sous vide before serving. The squash was mashed and had good flavor. Similar to a sweet potato. Fennel is one of the few foods I do not care for. I am not a fan of licorice and fennel tastes just like it. I pulled most of it off to the side. I will eat some but too much is a turn off. The pork had excellent flavor, just the right amount of smoke flavor to be real interesting. Wine served with this dish was a 2009 Lioco, Hirsch Vineyard, Pinot Noir. This was a better Pinot than the first one but it also was twice the price.

Dessert was a Vanilla Panna Cotta with crispy crepes, pineapple granite and rum caramel. Very good. None left on my plate.

Daniel Hyatt the Chef de Cuisine, is now responsible for all the special wine dinners and the menus for them. He also does the wine pairing for them. I think he is doing a really great job. Louise handles the day to day menus. Big difference in the two styles. Both are very good at what they do and with recipe development.