Saturday, July 28, 2012

Aroma & Stags' Leap

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Festival seating tonight at Aroma in LaPalma. Ran late due to accident on the 91 freeway. Took at least 25 minutes longer than normal. But Paul & Margie got caught up in also so they were later than I was.

It has been about a year since we did a wine dinner at Aroma.

Aroma puts out a mixture of tomato sauce & butter for your bread. Strange combination but it does work well.

First Course: Pam Seared Scallops with mixed greens, thinly sliced green apples and shallots with a honey-lime vinaigrette. Scallops were small but nice and the salad was good. Refreshing with the green apples in it.  Paired with a 2010  Carneros, Napa Valley, Chardonnay. Some oak. Paired nicely with the salad.

Second Course: Eggplant Rollatino - Slice of eggplant stuffed and rolled with ground veal, ricotta, mozzarella, grated parmigiano, toasted pine nuts and simmered in  a fresh tomato sauce. To me this was the best dish of the evening. Good flavor, light texture and the sauce was light. Wine was a 2008 Napa Valley Merlot. OK for a Merlot but it did do well with the food dish.

Third Course: Spaghetti all'Amatriciana - Pancetta, onion, garlic, red chili flakes & plum tomatoes tossed with spaghetti.  Cheap dish to make. I doubt that this dish costs more than 50 to 75 cents per serving to make.  Portion was small. The pancetta was minced so small it was hard to realize it was in the dish. The chili flakes gave it a slight bite which I felt did not pair well with wine. Wine served was a 2008 Ne Cede Malis Petit Syrah. To me this was the best wine of the night.

Main Course: Petite Filet Mignon served with sauteed spinach, carmelized mushrooms and a wine reduction. The filet was very tender and had good flavor. The spinach was overcooked and I did not get much taste of carmelization of the mushrooms. Wine paired with this dish was a 2008 Napa Valley Caberent Sauvignon. Wine was ok but I have had much better Cabs than this one.

Dessert was a Strawberry Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier. Light and refreshing also tasted really good.

This dinner was priced at $80 + tx & tip. It was at least $15 too high. This was a $65 dinner considering the selection of food.  Stags' Leap wines are not that high priced. Also the pours were smaller than they should have been for the price of the dinner. Probably about 2-1/2 to 3 ounces and no refills.  So with the dinner you ended up with 2 normal glasses of wine. Even if you paid $10 a glass for the wine that left $60 for the food. For the food were served tonight I would not pay $60 for it. It was a $30 to $35 dinner. But the dinner was sold out and the dining area was packed.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Clos Pepe & Delius

Thursday, July 19, 2012

After two years of talking with both Wes Hagen at Clos Pepe and Dave Solzman at Delius they finally got together and set a date for dinner. Had to get Bennet Traub from Wine Country involved and he worked his magic.

This was a last minute happening. Less than 2 weeks from yes this is the date to here we are. Dinner was sold out shortly after hitting the emails and Facebook accounts of Wine Country and Clos Pepe. Delius never got it posted to their website as there were no seats left.

Wes was kind enough to bring my wines down with him that I had on order. Turned out to be a really good thing as they did not have the Homage to Chablis Chardonnay with them (where is it  ? ) they raided my wines and took 6 bottles of the Homage for dinner.

Louise was not cooking tonight so the Sous Chef Pat who planned the menu was our head chef tonight and he did a wonderful job with the flavors of the food but his plating took a step backwards.

First Course: Pan Seared Diver Scallop, Citrus Salad, Blood Orange Sphere - served with 2009 Clos Pepe Homage to Chablis Chardonnay. Excellent pairing.

Second Course: Glazed Pork Jowl, Carrot Puree, Baby Carrots, Confit Pearl Onions - a 2010 Clos Pepe Barrell Fermented Chardonnay was paired with this dish. The pork was like butter. It had been Sous Vide for two days. My only complaint was that the carrots were not cooked evenly, One was correct and one was almost raw.

Third Course: Oxtail Ravioli, Carmelized Sweetbreads, Arugula.Frisee Salad - The ravioli was to die for. I felt that it needed a slight sauce of some type because he pasta itself was a little dry. But the meat was so rich it would be hard to match something with it.  The sweetbreads were good but slightly overcooked. The plating was terrible. No color at all. The wine was perfect   -  a 2009 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir.

Fourth Course: Crispy Skin Duck Breast, Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Arugula Salad. Duck was good The Gnocchi great but we just had Arugula salad with the last course. The 2009 Axis Mundi Sleepy Hollow Syrah was poured and it was an very good pairing.

Dessert was small rounds of Panna Cotta with a fruit sauce. Very light and refreshing.  But not memorable. They could have done a lot better.

Wes Hagen had roasted some coffee beans that morning and had the kitchen make coffee for everyone. He insisted that it was to be served clean - no sugar or cream, It was very good, strong and robust.

After coffee Wes had the bar send in three glasses of a Tequila that he found out that Delius poured. One for him, one for Bennett and one for me. I will say it was the best silver (white)  tequila I have had.

Since Wes was down to be a judge at the Long Beach Grand Cru we are already making plans for another dinner next year when the judging starts. He gave Delius Restaurant a very high compliment when he said he thought the food ranked right up there with Michael Mina's. Would love to another dinner with Clos Pepe and Delius before July of 2013. Will have to start thinking about this. And hopefully the plating improves.

Sebastianni's & La Crema Wine

Monday. July 16, 2012

I will say that Pablo the owner of Sebastianni's has upped his game. The food tonight seemed to be
better than in the past. Glad to see that happening. They do wine dinners every month but have not been back for awhile and its only 5 minutes from my house. Makes you wonder about me.

We started off with a Spicy Ahi Tartare over thin slices of Japanese eggplant. Flavor was good. I think the quality of the ahi was ok but not primo. Dish had good flavor. The wine was a 2010 La Crema Rose of Pinot Noir. Good but not great.

Second course was a Roasted Red Pepper and a Heats of Palm soup. These were ladled into the bowl side by side so you have a color contrast between red and white. A very nice presentation and the flavors were very good. Served with a 2010 La Crema Viognier. The wine went well with the soup.

Next was a Salmon Wellington served with spinach salad. The salad was a salad. I think I would have preferred sauteed spinach but that is my own take on it. The Wellington was very good. A 2008 LaCrema Russian River Pinot Noir was poured. This was my favorite wine of the evening.

Mian course was Braised Short Ribs with a gravy and served on a bed of polenta with cheddar cheese in it. This was a very good dish. The meat was exceptionally tender. It had been cooked for 10 hours A 2008 LaCrema Carneros Pinit Noir was served. OK wine by not nearly as good as the Russian River Pinot.

Dessert follows - a Dolce Strawberry Salad with Chocolate Dressing. A light finish to a heavy meal.

So a nice evening with decent wines and good company, The place was full which was nice to see in this economy.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seven of us  decided to have dinner at Preveza in Los Alamitos after attending the play "Sideways". It was an enjoyable why to end the day. Good food, good wine and great company.

The foods that were order was a wide variety. I had the "Aegean" dish which consisted of mussells, clams and shrimp in a white wine sauce over  pasta. This dish is always a winner. The food has always been good here. Along with a few other restaurants we do not get back here often enough. Uda the waitperson told us they are changing the menu and pricing. Business has declined and I did notice the place wasn't as crowded as it was when we were there previous times. They also charged us corkage of $5 per person which they had done in the past.

The wines tonight were a real mixed bag and most of them were very good.

2009 DiBruno Pinot Grigio
2011 Longoria Albarino - one of my favorite wines
2009 Clos Pepe Chardonnay - another favorite
2008 Couvillion , red blend
2007 Dusty Goose Ranbouillet - I did not taste this wine for some reason
2006 Sea Smoke Botella - good but not showing as well as it should
NV   Laguna Canyon Brut - a little to sweet for me but others really liked it
2007 Roar, Gary's Vineyard, Pinot Noir - always a winner
2006 Ken Brown, Cargassachi Pinot Noir - another winner

Sideways Play

Sunday, July 15, 2015

Nine of us met at the Ruskin Playhouse at the Santa Monica airport to attend a production of "Sideways".  Since I had seen the movie and read the book I wondered how they would be able to pull it off at a very small venue, (approx 50 seats).

It turned out to be a very well done production with the actors just feet away from you. They were good and it was a very enjoyable afternoon. During the run of this play small producers of wine had been pouring their Pinot Noirs at the play. Since this was the end of the run it was different. Rex Picket the author of the book was there and he was pouring "f----- Merlot". I thought a off the wall thing to do for the finale. In the book & movie towards the end   Miles opens his cherished bottle of wine and drinks it at a fast food restaurant. The wines turns out to be Merlot made by Sunstone.

They poured wine before the play and at intermission.  For $18 (group rate) it was a bargain. Fun day was had by all.

Seven of us headed to Los Alamitos to have dinner at Preveza to round out the day.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I probably should pass posting this since I cannot remember the name of the Tequila producer. They are new, from Mexico and the names starts with a "N".  Something like "neloza"  A cute young thing was hosting. Her family has grown agave for 5 generations and just started making their own Tequila.

Interesting fact she related - that in some parts of Mexico she cannot go into a bar because she is female and females are not allowed in. So she cannot enter to sell her product.

Her tequilas were good. We muddled, drank straight and mixed. Interesting concept and it was fun. T

I have several bottles of Tequila in my bar so I did not purchase any. They ranged from $45 to $55 a bottle.

Delius' Annual Bus Trip

Sunday. July 8, 2012

Today is the annual bus trip to the wine country with Delius Restaurant.  Good breakfast at the restaurant with free flowing champagne. Lots of new faces in the crowd. Our first stop was a wine tasting room in Santa Ynez called Imagine. Artiste had occupied this space before and the theme was the same. Wine & Art.  I wasn't overly enthused about the wines. They were ok and I did buy 2 bottles of a 2005 Merlot which I thought was the best of their lineup.

I do try to buy at least one bottle at each stop because to get tasting rooms to open up to a bus of 35  people is hard. They look at a group that size and decide we are just looking for a good time and not serious about the wines. Dave always has to let them know the his patrons are into wine and will buy. If the winery has good wines we have been known to buy cases of theirs but when it is a marginal winery I do my duty, buy a bottle and vow not to go back.

Next stop was at Buttonwood where we are to have lunch. When we drove in and the host greeted us I ordered my case of peaches right then. They do sell out everyday and I wanted to make sure they held some back for me. So much better than the jink in the grocery stores. We had a tour of the fermenting room and then walked a short distance to the lake for lunch. This is also where we tasted the wines. Beautiful setting but uneven ground. Best to walk slowly. I bought several bottles of their Zingy Sauvignon Blanc. A lot of people brought home peaches from here.

A unusual thing occurred when we cam down the hill to the tasting room. There was a group of 4 to 5 people that had drove in and gotten out of their car. They  wandered around for a few minutes then went under a tree and rolled their prayer mats out and started to pray towards Mecca. Now I do not know if they stopped because it was convenient just to pray or what. If you are Muslim you do not touch alcohol. We left before they did so I have no idea if the went into the tasting room or not. But it seems to me if alcohol is forbidden a piece of ground in a vineyard should be off limits also.

Last stop was a tasting room is Los Olivos. Called Saarloos. Dutch name. They are from the Bellflower area which a one time was big dairy country. Their gimmick was to pair their wines with mini cupcakes in different flavors. I don't know if they felt the wines needed a cover up or what. They also had a "cute": story for each label. Pictures of their relatives and the wines named after them. I did not buy any wines here at all. I also would not go back. A wine should stand on its own without gimmicks and I felt theirs did not.

\Good trip - we were back in Long Beach by 8:30 without any problems.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Perfect weather for dining al fresco. It has been awhile since we went to Russo's. Need to go more often. But then there are so many places it is hard to get them all in.

Tonight 7 of us met. Russo's upped the ante on corkage to $10 a bottle so our extra bottles did not make the table. I managed to list 5 of the bottles but somehow missed a couple.

We decided to just have appetizers followed by a pizza and do everything family style, Easier to split the bill fairly. I don't eat as much as I used to so its my choice to take smaller portions. What I have a problem with is everyone ordering a full dinner and then the table splits the bill. I very rarely order appetizers, dessert or coffee under these circumstances but others do and then I feel I get the short end because I am helping to pay for all their extras when the entire tab is split evenly.

Tonight we ordered the "Russo's Delight" - rock shrimp, avocado and a creamy cilantro pesto on a garlic toasted baguette.  So good.

 "Stuffed Mushrooms" - mushrooms stuffed with chicken, green onion, cream cheese and herbs topped with Romano cheese and baked. Another winner.

"Palermo Crepes"  Crepes filled with bay shrimp, jumbo shrimp, roma tomatoes, goat cheese, green onions, pepperoncini & topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce. I am not a crepe person but these are the exception.

Roasted Brie with baguettes. Sent this dish back because the cheese was not Brie. They were out of Brie and substituted without telling us. CJ caught the difference right away.

Then we ordered a pizza which was excellent . I had one piece because at this time I was stuffed.

Two people ordered desserts which looked good but where they could stuff in the bodies I have no idea.  I do miss the days when I could eat like that but no more.

Our wines tonight consisted of: 23008 Coho Diamond Mtn,, Summit Ranch, Napa, Cabernet Sauvigon, 2007 Barrel Brand, Happy Canyon Valley red blend, 2005 Sapphire Hill, Russian RiverPinot Noir, 2004 Beni Duilio Castellani Brunello di Montalcino, and a 2005 Huber Chardonnay.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

June's Gatherthing of The Flock

Sunday, June 31, 2012 (July 1)

This months theme was bring a bottle of your favorite wine of a wine you are enjoying right now. Expensive or not. As you can expect it was a real mish mash of wines and values.  Some of the wines were really good but I would say the majority of them were pulled off shelves randomly. They ranged from Napa to Temecula to Europe. Two bubblies, eight white and 10 reds.

The host made Paella. I think the flavor would have really good if he had not burned the bottom the rice. By that I mean is was black black. That burnt taste saturated the entire dish and really threw me off. Which was too bad because the dish would have tasted good. But I do not think that Remy has any competition here. Her Paella is always outstanding.

The weather was perfect for June and the event was held outside which made it quite pleasant. Lots of appetizers and desserts. The Margarita cheesecake that Judy made was excellent.

Next month (July) off to William & Patte's for Greek Wines with Greek food. That will be interesting to see if there are and if so, how many duplicates of wine are brought. Most wine stores carry about the same labels. I will have to go way out of town to try and find something different.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


June 2012

Along with all the other functions that I attended this month I did 5 wine tastings and a champagne tasting to fill in my empty evenings.

Road Trip

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Left early am to drive to Lompoc for a "fund raiser" at Clos Pepe. My friend, William decided to join me.  Got to Buelleton about 10 am and had breakfast at Ellen's.  Always the place for good breakfast.

Hit the Lompoc Wine Ghetteo about 10:45 and tasted at Evening Land, Arcadian and Palmina. All excellent wines

The function at Clos Pepe was at 12 noon. This was a fund raiser for the local libraries. Five wineries were pouring that day along with Clos Pepe.  Ampelos, Kessler-Hawk, Huber, Transcedence along with a winery that ran out of wine before we got to it.

Lots a specialty, gourmet pizzas, farro salad, grilled vegetables, fresh grilled pineapple and mangos along with 4 kinds of brownies.

About 2:15 we left Clos Pepe and went across the road to Huber. I had wine to pick up. After talking with Norman & Traudl for awhile we headed over to Los Olivos. We tasted at Dragonette and Stolpman.

Bought wines at Stolpman, Arcadian, Evening Land and Palimia today. Stolpman has a new wine called Villa Angeli that I had not tasted yet. They did bring it out for us to taste  and I bought several bottles. Excellent addition to their "high end line".

About 5:00 we started to head back. William wanted to stop at AK Spurs and have s teak dinner but that would have added a couple of hours to the trip along with more wine.drinking. That I was not up for.

I was surprised that William had never heard of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, which now has 19 wineries pouring there and he had never been to the town of Los Olivos. He had driven past it but never stopped. Los Olivos must have 30 wineries with tasting rooms there and its a town that is only 2 blocks by 2 blocks big.

Got back to the OC about 8:00, still daylight, dropped William off and went home to unload wine. Good day.

Williams Selyem Wine Vertical & Dinner

Saturday, June 16, 2012

There were 12 of us tonight to taste a 10 year vertical, 2001 to 2010, of Williams Selyem Russian River Pinot Noir.  Most people brought some type of food dish and several people joined forces and cooked the main dishes.  I brought the 2006 and 2007 years of this vertical.

There were also two magnums of Williams Selyem Weir Vineyards Pinot Noir, a 2000 & 2002. These magnums did not get opened as there were plenty of wine to go around. Being saved for another get together.

We started off with a couple of bottles of 2008 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Champagne and appetizers.  The appetizers were enough for a meal. After a plate of them I had no room for dinner.

A black olive tapenade was excellent along with vegetable Samosa's. I brought a wild mushroom, cream cheese pate which naturally pairs well with Pinot. A Borscht soup was served. Somehow I missed that. Rounding out the appetizers were Kettle chips in 2 flavors, 4 cheeses, cashews, fresh pineapple, fresh bluberries and goose pate.

Dinner consisted of grilled Copper River salmon with 3 different sauces, Paella, Lamb Stew, country style potatoes, Haricot Verts and wild mushrooms, broccoli wih vinaigrette & pine nuts.

I took a small potion of the salmon and some Paella. I was full from appetizers and could not each much.Unfortunaely for the dinner portion I will say that some of the dishes were not done well. The salmon was put in a chafing dish to keep warm. But it was put in without any liquids and it dried out. Even putting a Buerre Rouge sauce on it did not help it.

The dish labled Spanish Paella was more like Spanish Rice with additions. The chicken, shrimp & chorizo sausage was cooked separetly and you added what you want to your rice. This was the furtherest thing from Paella I have ever had. I know they took a long time and a lot of effort to make this dish was it was by no means a "Paella". I am glad I took a small portion.

I cannot comment of the Lamb stew, potatoes, green beans or broccoli because I did not put any on my plate.

Dessert was a Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake that was brought by another guest. It was excellent. This was served with a Krohn 30 year Tawny Port. I ate the cheesecake and then got a few pices of cheese to eat along with the port.  I am not an advocate of sweet on sweet. I prefer my dessert wines to be eaten with something savory.

Compaany was good and the wines excellent. It is such a shame with the effort that was put into this dinner that the results were so mediorce.