Articles from February 2010

The haute homey

(firmuhment writes rhymes better than you–and Us)

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Dessert Island Wine

This Henriques & Henriques, Madeira, 15 year old Bual, is one of the best wines I have ever had. And that is saying a lot because I hate about 85% of the sweet wines I have tasted. We served it tonight with our profiteroles. I drank it with and without them and regret not buying (or accidentally taking) a bottle home.

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Voir-vous ce soir à Canele

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Erath single vineyard pinot noirs

We’ve spent the last week moving Her into new digs in Hollywood, an arduous but also satisfying task: the place is effing awesome. But by the end of a day of lugging and unpacking boxes (including two labeled “jello molds”) the last thing either one of Us have been in the mood to do is cook. But of course We’re always in the mood to drink wine.

We’ve picked up some nice, inexpensive bottles at a couple of Her newly local shops: hands down our favorite new spot, Locali, and across the street in the competing mini mall, the newly opened Oaks Gourmet Market. (An aside by Her: the word “gourmet” in the name of a store turns me off because of it’s inherent snobbishness, but We’ve found the liquor and food selections terrific, the staff friendly, and the prices on par with or just slightly higher than other places.)

We’ve also scouted the neighborhood for a new “corner” liquor store to supplement our Big Mac’s Mondays series. Hello, Pla-Boy Liquor: you are our winner. Soon we’ll be supplementing our smokes and gin purchases with a bottle of wine.

While we’ve taken care of the booze part of the post-moving evenings (priorities), We’ve left dinner to others: pizza delivery, sushi delivery, sandwich delivery, chicken and ribs delivery, etc. But the best meal We’ve had delivered thus far was from our friends David and Melanie last night. They graciously offered to bring dinner and arrived with a delicious, fragrant cauliflower tart and fresh from their garden herb salad. The night seemed perfect to open our second favorite delivery of the week: a box of 4 bottles from Erath. (Actually, as He aptly pointed out in His post a few days ago, there were two packages at the door that day–unfortunately for Her the foxy FedEx man was not around to share a bottle of wine with Us.)

The four of us swirled, smelled, and slurped greedily from our glasses of two of Erath’s single vineyard pinot noirs. We explained to our friends the wines were samples sent by the winery, something We were both thrilled about (free wine!) and nervous about (what if they suck?)

Pinot Noir, Prince Hill, Erath 2006 (provided as a sample, winery price: $45)

She said: Very beautiful nose: dark cherries and Knott’s Berry Farm jam, with a little hint of spice. Lush and perfumey in the nose, sensations that continue on the palate. A truly voluptuous mouthfeel: soft, creamy, rich. Very fruit forward (dark cherries and berry jam again) and ready to drink now. The structure, acid, tannin could all be stronger, but the wine is beautiful. A total crowd-pleaser. score:

He said: This smells really good. So creamy in the mouth. All fruit with a hint of spice. Drank very well with the tart and the cupcakes we had for dessert. Not really feeling a lot of tannins, but the creaminess and flavor make up for that. I would and will buy another bottle of this.

Pinot Noir, Leland, Erath 2006 (provided as a sample, winery price: $50)

She said: Another beautiful nose, this time heavy doses of cocoa and cola with dark cherry fruit. More refined in the mouth than the Prince Hill because of a touch of acid that gives it some backbone, but again very lush and voluptuous. This is another very pretty, feminine wine; downright sexy. Long cherry cola finish with mild tannin. Of the two pinots, this is my favorite. A delight. score:

He said: Cherry coke on the nose. This one feels lighter in the mouth than the previous. More acidic and less creamy. All cherry and cola and fruit-forward. A very good wine indeed, but I like the creaminess of the previous one more.

Phew. Thankfully, we really enjoyed the wine. As did our dinner guests.

Erath also sent us a Pinot Gris, which we drank with CW, chef-owner Canelé, while we discussed our cooking debut at the restaurant on February 23 (join us there Tuesday–it’s going to be a great, tasty night). We all agreed that the wine was a little shy in texture and acid, but had really nice tropical fruit flavors. All in all, this was a very good batch of wines. We, and our friends greatly enjoyed them.

And We aren’t just saying that because they were our first samples and We were excited by that. We promise.

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Pinot? Pi-Yes!

Aloha everyone, happy Friday. It’s been a busy week, being my birthday and all. Today, as We were moving Her into Her new SSS HQ (where I have built two compost bins; one pile and one worms) a package (well, 2 really) arrived at the door. She was taken aback by how hot the FedEx deliveryman was. Yes, he was young. Yes, he had tattoos. And OK, yes he was handsome. I am going to have to be there every time a “package” comes.

Anyhow, the dashing deliveryman had in his hands our very first free sample, from Erath Winery. We are very grateful. We are a new blog, less than 4 months old, and have already been offered free bottles. We are humbled. Note to anyone who wants to send Us free samples: Please Send via UPS. Or anyone whose deliverymen aren’t hot. The foxy FedEx driver is a porn plot waiting to happen.

But also totally fucking having a moral dilemma.

We haven’t opened a bottle yet, but what if We hate it? We vow to write honestly about the wine We taste, but We also would like to continue to receive free samples. Our wine intake ain’t cheap.

The wines we received:

Erath 2008 Oregon Pinot Gris
Erath 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir
Erath 2006 Prince Hill Pinot Noir
Erath 2006 Leland Pinot Noir

We plan to taste the single vineyard Pinot’s side-by-side later in the week. And I really hope We like them. Either way, producers, send Us more free stuff.

And, really, when We started this blog it was never to get free wine. It was for my wine education and for Her to get back to an industry that She has been in and out of Her entire adult life. And We really enjoy writing together. But as my favorite wine reviewer, legendary rapper Sadat X, says “If you wanna get down with us, send a case to this place.

Word.

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Happy Birthday to Him

It feels like a perpetual holiday here at the Swirl Smell Slurp headquarters.

On Sunday He disappeared for an hour and came back with a package He wrapped himself in a brown paper bag full of goodies for Valentine’s Day, including a chilled bottle of Lassalle Champagne, a favorite producer of mine. The weather was fantastic so We decided to pop open the bottle and enjoy it poolside. The wine was pure pleasure and delicious, even out of pool-friendly plastic cups; rich, well balance, and had a wonderful toasty, yeasty finish. A delight.

Yesterday We celebrated another sunny day and my upcoming move by twisting the cap off a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc by Pic*nique, purchased from Locali, an organic driven store near my new house (their tagline is “conscious convenience”). The shop has lovely, small selection of organic wines. The SB was bright and fruity with lots of citrus and a lush, full finish. A terrific bargain white for just $10.50.

As for this sunny day: it is His birthday. For my own last October He presented me with a beautiful bottle of wine and declared We would have a new gift giving tradition: popping open the previous birthday’s gift to celebrate the new one. Lucky Us: tonight We will be slurping Williams Selyem Pinot Noir.

And now…what bottle will I present to Him today to be opened on my birthday? Red Bordeaux is on the brain and its flavors have been teasing my palate in anticipation of this weekend’s SSS Sunday Salon (have you RSVP’ed yet?). I’ll sneak out later later and pick out a bottle. And wrap it myself in a brown paper bag.

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Friends Cook at Canelé

We’re really looking forward to our stint as guest “chef’s” for “Friends Cook at Canelé” on February 23rd. Canelé is one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants and Chef/Owner Corina Weibel is an old friend. We have had countless delicious meals and fun times at this sweet spot. Plus we love to cook and we both look hot in aprons and clogs.

The cooking gig came up a few weeks ago when we met up with Corina at Silverlake Wine for their (very happy) Blue Monday tasting. She mentioned our mutual friend Steve Ventrello, who lives in Napa, was going to be in town and had agreed to play the accordion at Canelé one night during his stay. “Wouldn’t it be perfect for you guys to be the Friends Cook that night?” Too perfect. We promptly said yes.

Steve not only plays the accordion, he is deeply involved in all things wine: making it, selling it, drinking it, and teaching others all about it. I immediately thought it would be fantastic to pair some wines from his extensive sales book with the three courses we would be preparing. He was enthusiastic about the idea, but first thing first, what were we going to cook?

Coming up with a menu was harder than it sounds–we wanted to make everything. Duck confit… or maybe trout almondine. Something with eggs? Always love a po’ boy sandwich. Or housemade pasta? A central consideration was not simply to make something we love to eat, but to make sure we didn’t embarrass ourselves or Corina by going beyond our skill levels.

Finally, inspired by Steve’s accordion oeuvre (think Amélie) and our love of French cuisine, we came up with a classic bistro prix fixe menu, with some beautiful wines to compliment the three courses. We are giddy about it.

So… please come join us next Tuesday for our restaurant cooking debut (and by cooking I mean cooking with a really heavy dose of help from Corina and her great kitchen staff), fine wines, and the sweet sounds of Steve’s accordion.

“Friends Cook at Canelé”
featuring
Swirl Smell Slurp

and wine pairing from
Vintage Wine Marketing

frisée aux lardons
Riesling, “Vieilles Vignes, Lucas et Andre Rieffel
****
steak frites
Lussac St. Emilion, Chateau du Courlat 2005
****
profiteroles
Madeira, 15 year old Bual, Henriques & Henriques

(Canelé’s nightly dinner menu will also be served. No reservations are necessary, simply come as you please between 5-10p. The wine pairing portion of our menu will be optional. Prix fixe price to be announced soon.)

Steve graciously provided some information about the winemakers from the line-up:

Lucas et Andre Rieffel
Near the town of Andlau, surrounding the village of Mittelbergheim, lie the 9.5ha of vineyards owned by Lucas Rieffel and his father André. Lucas took over the reins in 1996, and he has been working towards becoming organic ever since. Mostly Riesling (35%) his current crop of varietals is grown on a rich mix of sandstone, clay, marl, granite and limestone soils. His holdings include a tiny parcel of Grand Cru Wiebelsberg, he also makes impressive examples of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and a Klevner Pinot Blanc (aka Auxerrois) from 50-year-old vines. For the past four years he has been busy replacing the overly generous clones with a hand-picked ‘selection masale’ for greater quality. Vinification is a traditional blend of ‘foudres’ and stainless-steel.

Chateau du Courlat
The estate belongs to Mr Pierre Bourotte, also owner of Ch. Bonalgue and Clos du Clocher in Pomerol and is located at the north-west of the city of Lussac on one of the best parts of the appellation. The estate was bought by the family Bourotte-Audy in 1936. The vineyard dates back to the 18th century. 80% Merlot / 15% Cabernet Franc / 5% Cabernet Sauvignon / Age of the vines : 20-25 Lussac St. Emilion 2005

Henriques & Henriques – Madeira
Henriques & Henriques is the largest independently-owned winemaker, producer and shipper of Madeira and the only Ma- deira House who owns vineyards. Since the 15th century the Henriques have been leaders in the Madeira wine business.

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List w/o Commentary: Barbrix last night

Drink:

  • Blanc de Blancs, Parigot & Richard N/V
  • Savennieres, “L’Enclos,” Morgat 2006
  • Tempranillo, Tinto Pesquera 2005

Food:

  • seared ahi tuna carpaccio with sambuca fennel, orange aioli, cara cara oranges, 2009 olio nuovo
  • hamachi crudo with ginger creme frâiche, avacado, paprika oil
  • deviled eggs with marinated boquerones
  • saffron arancini stuffed with smoked mozzerella
  • and three cheeses I forget the name of

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Field Trip Fridays: Loteria Grill and Musso & Frank

Friday night was double date night and to start the evening off right our pals brought over a bottle of “Sinister Hands” by Owen Roe from their local wine shop, Colorado Wine Company. (The store is terrific and We inadvertently left it off the list of where to buy wine for next Sunday’s Salon–thanks for the reminder, Ceci Sipper.) We just had a few sips before the cab pulled up to take us down the hill to Loteria Grill. We didn’t have the time or the inclination put “Sinister Hands” through our regular tasting regime (note color and then a whole lot of swirls, smells, and slurps), but I did notice the wine was thinner and lighter than I would expect from a Châteauneuf du Pape blend. On the palate it was showing it’s youth: the wine was tight and a bit sharp, with somewhat muted flavors of candied strawberry, some tar, and lots of spicy black pepper. Very enjoyable, but still young and acidic and missing the juiciness I enjoy in these style of wines. I want to try it again after it’s had some time in the bottle.

Our cabbie weaved in and out of the crazy Hollywood Boulevard traffic and we finally arrived at Loteria just in time for our reservation. The place was packed and LOUD, two qualities I usually don’t mind in a restaurant but the sound bouncing off the walls and echoing in the vaulted ceiling required us basically shout at each throughout the dinner.

Taking a cue our friends who had been before, we we immediately ordered a round of Tamarind tequila “martinis” from our goofily enthusiastic server. The pretty orange concoction was a bit sweet for my taste, but it was pleasant enough. Next up was the Probaditas, a platter of 12 tiny tacos. The one’s I had were tasty, and I especially enjoyed the fresh, green flavors of the cactus taco. The problem with the dish is that it is hard to share a taco with anyone else–they are single bite size. Next up for me was the special fish, a mahi mahi with mole. And a round of Cazadores shots for the table. My fish was disappointingly over-cooked. I enjoyed the sauteed greens and the mellow but flavorful sauce it was generously covered with, but the protein seemed secondary on the plate. He felt equally underwhelmed by his Cochinita Pibil burrito. The spices (not peppers, but what seemed like clove and/or nutmeg) overwhelmed all other flavors.

We’ve heard a lot of hype about Loteria, so our expectations were high and we had been looking forward to the dinner all week. Turns out that it’s not for us. We still had a fun time because of the great company (and tequila), but, as He said this morning, I’d rather get a taco from a truck downtown.

After the meal we walked across the street to the beloved Musso and Frank, taking the back entrance and heading straight for the bar. Turns out the dining room was shut down but the bar was still mixing cocktails (they just recently started staying open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights). Three of us had Manhattans and He ordered a Millers gin with a cucumber. Ruben, the legendary bartender, looked pained and said, “What…you want a salad?” There was a very funny exchange back and forth and finally Ruben handed Him a Miller High Life with a slice of cucumber on the side. Oops. He reordered: Hendricks gin with a lime, please. Everybody had a sweet tooth so I gigantic piece of cheesecake was ordered with cherries and a strawberry compote on the side. It lasted about 2 minutes. We marveled at how they got the cake so tall and with such a lovely no-crust crust.

We headed back out to Hollywood Boulevard, and it was hopping: lots of bare legged and barely dressed kids (they were like 16, those girls, right?) lined-up in front of various clubs. Traffic was horrendous, but we easily hailed a cab and headed back to the Eastside. We said our goodbyes and…promptly went to bed. Slept like babies. After last nights’ festivities we lazily spent this sunny Saturday morning with some tasty and much needed French press coffee.

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Red Bordeaux a no-no

Red Bordeaux (or shall We be fancy Français about it and say Bordeaux Rouge) is the topic of our upcoming Swirl Smell Slurp Sunday Salon. This time around We’re asking our guests to bring a bottle of the Frenchy stuff, keeping the cost at $20 or under. (We provide everything else: meet-and-greet bubbly to start the afternoon off right, glassware, informative notes, a tasting notebook, and light snacks.)

It occurred to Us that We should try and find and drink a few Bordeaux before next weekend’s Salon, to whet our palate… and also to make sure that finding one under twenty bucks that doesn’t suck is possible. Turns out We had found one already. The blog is becoming a great reference for Us to keep track of what We tasted when and what We thought about it. (Beats all those misc. notebooks, cocktail napkins, and back of receipt reviews We used to try to keep track of.). Clicking the Bordeaux Reds category under Tasted brings up a very favorable review of an $8.99 Bordeaux We bought at the local corner liquor store. Oh, how we love Big Mac’s.

While we encourage our guests to go to their local, independent wine shop to buy wine, We found that a few of our guests at the last Salon were intimidated by wine shops. “No, no,” We told them, but the snobby reputation of wine, is just that, a reputation. But it is tough for some people to brush aside this perception. We’re doing our part to persuade such folks that this is simply not so. And if they encounter such a place, hell yeah, never go back and tell all your friends to do the same.

If there is not a local wine shop in our fellow Salon-er’s neighborhood or they simple decide to buy their wine the last minute, We recommend these shops that are on the way to SSS headquarters (depending on what direction they’re coming from) to purchase the day’s theme wine: DomaineLA, Silverlake Wine, City Sip, Palate, and Rosso Wine Shop. And if wine shops are really just not their thing, well, there is always Big Mac’s.

The place We do not recommend our friends stop at before the upcoming Salon to pick-up a red Bordeaux is our neighborhood Gelson’s. Here’s why: they only have one Bordeaux under $20 and it is very meh. Our review:

Montagne Saint-Emilion, Château Forlouis, 2006 (François Janouerx, $15.99)

She said: Deep garnet in color, cloudy/muddy/opaque. In the nose are barnyard and dirt aromas with a background of plums and misc. red fruit. Very sharp in the mouth. Tannins are ripe and very vocal: there is very little fruit or any other flavors to distinguish. Finish is sour. The wine may benefit from some oxidation. Tasted it immediately after popping the cork and an hour later, but there was little change. Perhaps leaving it open overnight (tomorrow’s breakfast wine?) will help dissipate the harshness. Would not consider the wine a bargain, even priced at $15.99, because it lacks fruit and balance.

He said: Well, actually He took a quick sip and said: “Gross.” And then He went back to His architecting. He’s too busy to write a real review, but the drawings He’s working on sure look good. She guesses His rating would be the same as Her’s (if He knows what’s good for Him).

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