Bright Lights, Big Tweety

If Swirl’s blog, Twitter, and Facebook ended today, never to return, I would be fully satisfied because this just happened:

(typos forgiven–the dude’s French)


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Rewriting the Review

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Print is *not* dead

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With or without you

Recently I enjoyed two wines (without Him) worth seeking out. Which is to say: I’ve had a lot of wine without Him recently–He was in Texas for nearly a week and upon His return has been avoiding whites. (He posted a snapshot of what he had  in Texas over on our Facebook page. I faired better.)

My first new favorite was a wonderfully named red. After a free Tecate in a can at the closing reception of the Like Father, Like Son show at Carmichael Gallery in Culver City (a collection of excellent gritty and often sexy East L.A.-centric photographs spanning 30 years by the Oriol’s who both signed our books) my pal RW and I headed back to the eastside and stopped off at Lou for a snack and some wine.

My choice: the inky 2009 (?–I think) Lemberger, Weingut Schnaitmann. Not only did I love saying Lemberger (over and over again, glass after glass) the wine really did it for me. Blackberry and sour cherry fruit, a wonderful chalky texture, and a hint of dried herbs in the finish. It turned out to be a great paring with the charcuterie and cheese plate we shared. A lighter red (despite its deep color) the wine has a fine acidity and juicy flavors that made it really food friendly.

Lou says the bottle would make a great Thanksgiving wine, and I’d have to agree with him. That is, if I liked traditional Thanksgiving dinners. But I think I’ll serve it anyway. It will go great with the pork loin stuffed with herbs we’ll probably make on that day. K & L Hollywood has carried this delicious Lemberger (Lemberger, Lemberger) in the past, but is currently sold out. Shame. I’ll seek it out at another local shop…

…such as Domaine LA which is where I just picked up (and am currently sipping on) an excellent white for a great price: 2009 Bergerie de l’Hortus blanc ($12.50), a lively white blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and roussanne. Lots of sweet and sour apricot and honey with a strong acidity and long finish. It manages to be rich and round without being cloying or overpowering. The perfect aperitif. If only I had a goat cheese to nibble on with it.

I also picked Him up a couple of reds. I have a feeling we’ll be popping those tonight too. He’ll report on them later. (By the way, it’s worth mentioning I walked out of  DLA with 3 bottles for a less than $35 tab. Excellent. Thanks for the recommendations, Jill.)

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Soda obsession, part deux

The latest in the soda making adventure: strawberry.

This one was so simple. No cooking. Just a little maceration of the sliced berries (and spoonful of sugar), add a splash of Pomegrante juice, a little lemon zest, a few whirls in the food processor, and then strain. (We used the leftover stuff as a spread for toast the next day.)

I added a splash of vodka and a sprig of mint. Perfect.

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Root, root, root for the home brew

Latest libation obsession:

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Toasting the new home sweet home

The first slurps on the new patio were delightful, plentiful, and the prettiest shades of pink.

Our pal S came by and we watched the sunset, drank rosé (it’s L.A. in October, totally appropriate), sipped bubbles, and later made a mess of the kitchen preparing potatoes, haricots verts, slow cooked greens, and a roasted chicken. (Which turned out to be more challenging than it should be as we adjust to the new oven. Hmm. The chicken initially looked a little anemic, but we broiled it for a few minutes and got it close to brown.)

Having a housemate who loves to cook and is damn good at it is a (tasty) treat. Between the two of us, He is going to eat very well. Combining our tools of the trade and larder has our kitchen packed to the gills including an amazing, fragrant collection of spices, oils, vinegars, and oh yeah, wine. Loving it.

The first toast was a perfect: 2004 Nicholas Feuillatte Blanc de Blanc. Sweet flowers on the nose, racy citrus on the palate, with some green apple. A terrific aperitif. When the bottle was empty, we tried another French sparkling, this one a blend of Pineau d’Anuis and Chenin Blanc: NV Domaine Brazilier. After tasting the elegant Feuillatte, the Brazilier stuck me as flabby in structure. But it is also lovely in its own way: ripe pears, yeasty, hints of allspice, long finish.

The hot housemate had a bottle of rosé open from the night before: 2010 Prieuré Saint-Hippolyte from Languedoc. It was a beautiful orange pink, fresh, fruity, and simple. And it matched the sunset. You’ve got to love a town that has weather so moderate and wonderful that rosé season is practically year-round.
As we feasted on the chicken and veggies, we sampled three reds (as I said: there is a lot of wine at the new digs): a spicy, dense Rijoa (2005 Vina Santurnia Reserva), an absolutely wonderful and elegant Marc d’Grazia selection from Sicily, and a rather vegetal Chinon (2009 Le Paradis). If I could buy a case of the 2010 Etna Rosso, Tenuta Delle Terre Nere I would, but sadly George at Silver Lake Wine sold me his last bottle. I’ll be seeking it out elsewhere.

The conversation around the dinner table centered around what we would be cooking, eating, and drinking at our first dinner party. I loved the old Hollywood house, but this was a damn good move. Hello, Silver Lake: I love you.


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Grains vs. Grapes

(Note: “drinks with friends” is an occasional guest column written by folks we like to booze with. This time around it is Robyn Wescott, a stellar designer, art director, copywriter and all around cool chick. Recently we got talking about His new found fondness of beer and Robyn revealed she too had been skipping wine and belling up for a brew instead.)

How is it possible to go from wine as a god for your heart, to a wine atheist? What chemical etched a new groove inside my brain and took a side? Looks like my recent bout with severe food poisoning flipped a switch and turned off the wine gene. That very same switch also illuminated my path to vegetarianism. I have been reprogrammed!

Blogs show that in some cases extreme diet change, such as those following Atkins, have lost their desire for wine. Have the toxins escaped, leaving less room for tolerance? Turns out a bacterial infection was the game changer for me.

Swinging from grapes to grains (suddenly beer, which always seemed like a cheap substitute), sounds so refreshing and appealing.

Luckily there is a growing trend towards beer. U.S. breweries have expanded in volume over the last five years, confirming that the craft brew has changed the face of American beer. Perhaps wine has had her day, and beer, which was once considered inferior by some, can be ordered at dinner without hesitation. More than once when I was out and about recently, our table was encouraged to try the impressive selection of microbrews as well as the wine.

Sausage and burger joints are appearing all over L.A., and restaurants now offer a beer flight happy hour, with dessert beers that round off the night.

But I still love the idea of wine. Cooking, tasting, the time it takes to explore the taste and all its complexities.

And yet, the opposite is what I like about beer. It’s easier. Having a beer can be a more relaxing experience because you’re not under any pressure to know its provenance. You just pop the top and enjoy. And with the way people are pulling back on finances these days, easier on your wallet as well.

I’m open. Beer just sounds like fun again. Here’s to the house parties that host tastings, and the new simplicities of this experience. The perfect parings of beer, with fun casual food, like chili, chips, Mexican, and Thai.

Step aside wine snobs. Make room for a tall cold one.

– Robyn Westcott, beer advocate newbie


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This Side Up

We are moving the Swirl Smell Slurp HQ back to where it all began, the Silver Lake hills. While we have both enjoyed living in the Hollywood Hills, we have really missed our old environs. Next week we will be living in what we are calling The Hilltop Manor.

But currently we are drowning in corrugated cardboard. Every room in our house is a few feet smaller with floor to ceiling boxes stacked along every wall. How did we get this much stuff? And now that I packed away those Sorel boots that I haven’t worn in 8 months the weather chills out a bit and now I want them back. That’s the nature of stuff.

Did I mention all of the wine is packed away too? Yep. We have been ending long days of packing boxes by drinking leftover party beer brought by guests. We don’t drink a lot of beer (though I has vowed to start doing so) so we have cabinets full of a couple of Stellas, a couple of Pacificos, some IPA’s et al.

But wait, what’s that? Oh yeah. We forgot about the stash of Sine Qua Non in the cabinet with the free weights, Lakers basketball and yoga mats. Now where are those glasses?


We still haven’t packed these, but no glasses. Maybe I’ll make a Perfect Manhattan in my mouth.

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Tried these 3 sparklers last weekend with friends. We’ve been looking for a nice crisp, not too sweet, with lots of bubbles base for making sparkling aperitifs. Out of this round the Atmospheres was my pick. Guests seemed to really like the German Gilabert, its nose was off putting to me but I agreed it was tasty. The Cava Bien was lovely, but too sweet for our purpose. All delicious and all from a fave local shop: Domaine LA.


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