Articles from January 2010
James Welling photo courtesy of Dérive.
Last night we invited our friends D & M to join us for a trip to Regen Projects for the opening of the James Welling: Glass House exhibit. The place was architect-heavy (Greg Lynn was there) and so D & M (both architects) instantly ran into people they knew. Also, as it turns out, M designed the Regen Projects space, so of course M knew the owner. And She and M both knew Stacy, who is Regen’s assistant. It’s strange how small the second largest city in the United States can be.
Oh yeah, the show was great. We had two glasses of nondescript white wine in plastic cups and perused the very colorful images of Philip Johnson’s Glass House.
Leaving the opening, we were all hungry and had to decide somewhere to eat on a Saturday night with no reservation. Lou, The Hungry Cat, Lucques, AOC?
It was obvious that we wanted to eat some Suzanne Goin. I have never been to a Goin restaurant (except The Hungry Cat, which isn’t totally her) and have only eaten her food secondhand; meaning what we have cooked out of the book Sunday Suppers at Lucques. It’s almost a crime to live in LA and not eat at AOC or Lucques, so I was pushing for one of those.
We pulled up to Lucques and could see through the window that we were not going to get a seat here anytime soon. Off to AOC.
AOC was less full, but still busy, busy. We asked the host if there was any possibility of us getting a table for 4, or sitting at the bar. She informed us it would be almost impossible, but would be at least 50 minutes. (To be fair, it is ridiculous for us to think we are going to get 4 seats at AOC on a Saturday night without reservations.)
She decided that before we left to our third choice for dinner, She would use the restroom. And who does She see on the way to the restroom…her old dear friend Suzanne Goin. The hostess saw them hugging and I heard the maitre’d mutter “oh” under her breath and look back at her reservation list to see if there was anything she could do.
Suzanne came and introduced herself to D, M & I, and then spoke to the hostess (Suzanne also called Lucques herself to see if there was anyway for us to get in there. This woman might be the greatest restaurateur I have ever seen; calm, hospitable, sweet, very welcoming.)
Five minutes later we had a 4-top at AOC. We began with some bubbly and then the wine steward came over to introduce herself (at Suzanne’s bidding) and assist us with selecting our wine. We had:
- Lassalle Champagne (to begin)
- Bordeaux Superior (with dinner, recommended by the steward and very nice, but we both forgot the name. Think it starts with an “M”.)
- Tement Sauvignon Blanc (for dessert)
- jamon serrano
- chicken liver crostini with pancetta
- little gems, dungeness crab, avocado and lime
- braised pork belly, kabocha purée and gremolata
- farro and black rice with pinenuts and currants
- arroz negro with squid and saffron aioli
- clams, sherry, chanterelles and garlic
- grilled quail (Sent out by Suzanne)
- hooks blue
- tomme savoie
- warm pink lady apple crostata with caramel and vanilla ice cream
- banana choux à la crème with toffee and bittersweet chocolate
Everything was great; the food, the wine, the service. I want to go back very soon (can we get a reservation tonight?)
We didn’t take any pictures, but for a very comprehensive review with nice images, check out Kevin Eats (from whom we borrowed the pic above).
This week on Wine Web Wednesdays He wrote, “There are a lot of things I hate about Twitter…” but here is something We love about it: connecting with people like Erika Kerekes. We’ve been following her for a while on Twitter (and you should too) and were intrigued by a tweet she posted a couple of weeks ago:
Hell yeah, We do…
A few DM’s later and We got ourselves an invitation to a tasting at Pourtal, a wine bar we had been reading about in Santa Monica. Their by the glass program that involved a fancy “enomatic” machine that kept bottles fresh and allowed tasters to try rare, unusual, and expensive wines (along with more common, reasonably priced wines) by the ounce intrigued us. Dominus? By the glass. Oh yeah, we’re there.
Our date was set for Janurary 26th. It was a rather gloomy, rainy night but we braved the traffic from Her lovely Silverlake pad to the Westside. We arrived a bit early and felt haggard from the drive, so it was very nice to walk into such an inviting, warm spot with a friendly host.
The bubbly demeanor of the bartender inspired us to have a glass of Champagne and a few snacks before Erika arrived. The Rare Wine Company’s “Le Mensil” Champagne was gorgeous and a rarity to see on a wine list. It paired incredibly well with the creamy, rich burrata and stuffed grape leaves we chose from their menu. The rich snacks complimented the yeasty yet refreshing wine.
Every time the door to Pourtal would swing open, we stared…was it Erika? Having only exchanged a few tweets and messages, we weren’t sure if we’d recognize her just from her avatar. It had been a couple of weeks since we had set the tasting date, and she admitted:
Luckily for us all, the place wasn’t too crowded, so when she arrived we took our last gulps of the tasty Le Mesnil and walked over to make our introductions (and exchange names). Erika is a delight and easy to talk to (which may explain why We did so much of it). We exchanged our backgrounds in food and wine and then got down to what we were there for: tasting wine.
The night’s theme was Zinology, consisting of a zinfandel, and, as the very knowledgeable wine steward Helena explained, two of their close “couzins:” primitivo and palvac mali. It would be an old world/new world slurping session matched with some house made treats. Helena guided through the tasting with a short spiel before each tasting.
Our new friend asked us, out of earshot of Helena, if We could tell if a wine “expert” was bullshitting. (Although Erika might not have used that term.) She replied “yes…usually I know at least something about what is being tasted or the region that I can tell when they are using the right or wrong language.” He admitted that He didn’t know enough about wine to know if they were bullshitting or not, “…but I can read bullshit pretty well.” She assured them both that Helena was right on the money and the bonus was that she presented the information in such a non-pretentious, friendly, and easy to understand way.
Our notes from the tasting are below. She had explained to Erika the rules We have been following when tasting: make note of the color, swirl the wine and take some deep sniffs, slurp, swallow, and savor…and no talking. Wait a few moments and then compare notes. In general we followed this method.
Plavac Mali, “Peljesac Peninsula,” Dingac Winery, 2007 (Croatia)
She said: Translucent around the edges, slight brown tinge. On the nose: licorice, tar, some kind of spice like allspice/nutmeg, and brambly earthy notes. Soft, medium tannins in the mouth. Earthiness but not many berry or other fruit flavors. Would not guess the wine was zinfandel related. Whole mouthfeel is soft and pleasant, uncomplicated. Paired with Cypress Hill goat cheese which was dried and slightly crystallized. Nice pairing. The cheese added richness to the wine. Found it amusing the front label declares in prominent type: “Quality Dry Red Wines.”
He said: Translucent and watery around the perimeter, no idea what color; it’s dark, and to repeat, I’m colorblind. Right away there is licorice on the nose, followed by baking bread, earth, and that smell you get when opening a bag of balloons. Very light bodied in the mouth and dirty, in a good way. Light to medium tannins. A little heat in the finish with a short aftertaste. Easy and uncomplicated, nice with the cheese. Wouldn’t necessarily serve it, but would definitely drink it.
Primitivo, “Rudiae,” Vigneti Reale, 2006 (Pulgia)
She said: Dark, purplish red. Nose reveals dark red berries, raspberries, cassis, tar, licorice. Definitely smelling more like a zinfandel. In the mouth there is a kind of heaviness on the palate. Hints of white pepper, medium high tannins. Flavors of cassis, dark fruits, prunes. The finish is hot and a bit sharp and acidic. Bottle reveals it is over 14% alcohol. Overall a very drinkable wine with some umpf. Matches surprisingly well with the spanakopita, but that’s probably because the spinach has been baked with so much butter and really nice not too salty feta. They make the cheese in house, we were told. Could have just a couple of hunks of it with the wine.
He said: Guess what? I don’t know the color, and didn’t note it so I may have not even tried. On the nose is black cherry, blackberry and what I think is some kind of creamy pastry; smells like Paris. Much more fruit than the previous wine. The nose gives no hint of the pepper and spice in the mouth. And, this will get you drunk: 14% alcohol. Hello. Light tannins and spice, spice, spice… I like it.
Zinfandel, “Clockspring,” Mountain View Vintners, 2006 (Amador County)
She said: Deep, opaque red purple color. Similar nose to the previous wine: cassis, tar, licorice, dark berries. Really big mouthfeel; a bit cloying and syrupy. Spice, pepper, root beer flavors. Medium to high tannin. Lingering finish of Cassis and licorice. A bit to big, rich, and candy like for my taste. Matched with a delicious pork belly sandwich that had hints of orange. Good pairing, again.
He said: No color again, get used to it. Cherry on the nose with light licorice. This wine is more elusive than the last one; but maybe that’s just because the last one got me kind of drunk. Maybe a little yeast on the nose here too. It’s very creamy in the mouth, like cream soda. And peppery, like Dr. Pepper. The pork belly sandwich was great. This was my least favorite of the night, but it was still good.
Sipping our last drops of wine, Helena brought out some small vials to test our smelling capabilities. For the first round we both got 3 of 4 right, but failed miserably on the second round; 0 of 4. The power of suggestion is just that: powerful. On the first round three of the scents had been mentioned at some point during our tasting. The second round consisted of smells that were nothing like the wines we tasted. It was challenging and very fun. Where do you buy those little vials of smell? We want some.
We all had a terrific, tasty time.
Thank you to Helena for being our educator for the evening. And thank you Pourtal: We loved it. Everyone was warm and welcoming (and it actually seemed sincere), both food and wine were tasty. We will be back; it’s a very good reason for us to venture to the Westside. Cheers.
And a special thanks to Erika for this invitation…and a promise for another one:
Our reply: Hell yeah. We’ll bring bottles.
I tend to be the bossy one in our duo when it comes to wine…because, well, I know more about it.
When at a restaurant the wine list goes to me. When at a wine shop I make the first picks. When at home tasting and taking notes, I set the rules (#1: no talking). When researching about wine, He reads aloud and I interrupt. He gets quizzed. He has to taste blind. It’s fun being the one who makes the rules.
This said, I was shocked (shocked) when He made a rule of his own on Monday: “No drinking before 7:00 p.m.”
This was seriously going to interfere with my wine and cocktail indulging, er, education.
True, we had a few too many “breakfast wine” mornings last week while in New York. And yes, being hungover at four in the afternoon is no fun. Oh, and our jeans we’re feeling a little snug. And, oh yeah, we’re grown-ups, not teenagers–act accordingly.
All the reasons were right, but it felt so wrong.
After initial protests and exclamations and some foot stomping, I finally agreed. But first I did a little negotiating and got Him to make 6:30 the imbibing hour. And weekends don’t count. And…this one is going to save me, I hope: if someone offers us a drink before 6:30, we can accept it. Don’t want to be rude.
So next time you see me, please, offer me a drink.
Something else happened today that has the web buzzing, but we like a wine buzz much more. (Pretty nice looking tablet, but I’m just not sure how “necessary” it is–and I already pay for internet at home, and a lot for my iPhone data plan, I don’t really want another monthly internet bill. We’ll see). Photo from the totally geeky, but entertaining, liveblog of the event at Engadget.
1. Where is wine going in the next decade?: Other than in my mouth, I’m not sure. But Harmon Skurnik might know.
2. Shameless self-promotion #1: 10 of the top wine blogs. We are in pretty good company, and please don’t hesitate to have us over for dinner–as long as your parents are away.
3. Shameless self-promotion #2: The 9 best new food & drink blogs of 2009. Thanks guys, drinks are on us.
4. Trick or Tweet: There are a lot of things I hate about Twitter. Drink Nectar illustrates how you guys can make me hate it less.
5. Bourboulenc + Verdelho = Bourdelho: Goes great with crabs.
6. Do you know the importance of a Skypager?: Totally unrelated to wine, but a list I love. My friend and best-producer-in-the-history-of-hip-hop, Dante Ross lists some forgotten hip-hop accessories.
Three weeks on the road through the Southwest and Texas, a week back in beautiful Los Angeles (before the deluge), and then a glorious week in New York: the year has started out gluttonous and delicious (save a few dubious fried food meals on the road). We’ve spent the last few days recovering from the travel, doing laundry, and watching football.
With the exception of stops at Barbarella and Hollywood Billiards for football, beers and snacks (and also a couple of much needed afternoons of hitting it hard at the gym), we’ve been homebodies, backing off from our typical out-on-the town eating and drinking activities.
Which is to say: we’re ready to get back out there.
Tonight we’re braving the rain and making the drive to Santa Monica for a tasting at Pourtal. Bring on the wine.
Just picked up lunch at Silverlake Wine Co. Yes, of course you can buy lunch at a wine shop. How great looking are those two little Smoked Mac n’ Cheese lasagnas from heirloomLA? We’re thinking they’re going to be a great match with the white Bordeaux from Chateau Lamothe de Haux. And, if not, we bought an extra bottle for backup: Tintero Grangia. Cheers.
At a crossroads while wine tasting in Grapevine, Texas.
And speaking of Texas, hooch is illegal? Don’t tell that to the cowboy who gave me homemade Sotol and Absinthe out of the back of his truck in Marfa.
We don’t hunt the obits for opportunities, but this sure perfect timing: we’re looking to expand our cellar. Anyone have half a mil we can borrow?
“Birthdays was the worst days. Now we drink Champagne when we thirs-tay.”
We’re not the only ones who found that the truth is inside.
Rosés are red…err, pink. Waxing poetic.
The answer is easy: She likes it when I pull it out. Of the cellar.