Articles from August 2010

A trial with errors

Saturday night We got in a cab and headed west to Test Kitchen, a new concept restaurant which showcases a rotating roster of chefs and bartenders (which they refer to as “mixologoists,” but that is just silly) who are experimenting with dishes and drinks. Our double dating partners D & M scored a reservation for Jordan Kahn’s stint as he previewed items from the soon to be open Red Medicine. Behind the bar was Joel Black and Julian Cox.

We arrived  5 minutes late for the 9p reservation, but it was no problem: the place was packed and our table wasn’t ready anyway. Cocktail time. The list and chalkboard specials were incredibly intriguing. Condensed Milk Foam? Cherry Heering and Kombucha in the same drink? “Paper Planes:” was that an MIA reference?

We each ordered a different cocktail, determined to have sips of them all. Love MIA and love Aperol, so I got the Paper Planes. Delicious. D’s frothy strawberry number came with a single ice cube the size of a Rubik’s Cube. Delicious. His had purple basil leaves floating around in it. Delicious. I don’t remember the particulars of M’s, but it too was delicious.

From our stools we watched the kitchen and rather harried waiters and managers running food, looking at tickets, conferring. They were obviously in the weeds. Not only was it a test for the kitchen, but the front of the house as well. And they appeared to be scrambling. The chef’s body language on the other hand appeared calm and determined, as he plated the dishes, hiding behind his very long asymmetrical bangs.

We were finally seated (your table is ready, we get up and leave our bar stools, oh wait, your table isn’t ready, we stand for 10 minutes with our dripping drinks, oh your table is ready) at a large round that previously sat 6 (whom we suspected were blogger papparazi with their constant iPhone updates and picture taking–it made me second guess my own plan to take shots). Instead of spreading out, we scooted close to each other around half of the table. The basement location of the restaurant with it’s low ceiling makes for a loud dinning room, so this helped in being able to hear each other.

Another round of cocktails for M and Him, initially a glass of Gruner (corked) and then Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer “Wintzenheim” for me, and a glass of LIOCO Pinot for D. Later we split a bottle of Demessey Chambolle-Musigny–allowing ourselves to indulge and take advantage of cabbing it.

The food began to arrive. The standout of the twelve different dishes (which the menu declares “In no particular order”) was the next to the last one, a dessert parfait with: Coconut bavarois, coffee, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory. The best dessert I have ever had. Ever.

As for everything else? I thought it ranged from strange (mushy carrots and coconut) to mediocre (saigon tartine) to good (cured amberjack). Nothing wowed me. And this is okay, I thought, because it speaks to the concept of the restaurant: testing the kitchen. Jordan Kahn and crew were experimenting, developing, tweaking.

But if the kitchen was testing, don’t they want to know the score? Throughout the meal the service was spotty (forgotten drink orders, slow in between courses and then two at once, runners who dropped off food without describing it), so I’m not surprised we were not asked how we enjoyed the dishes as they came and went.

The boys bought dinner,  and as we were heading up the stairs I said, “You guys saw they add gratuity, right?” I was the only one who had noticed the “18% service charge will be added to all checks” declaration at the bottom of the menu. They caught the manager just as he had closed out the checks. Waiting to hail a cab out front, we all agreed the server should have said something, as should the manager who would have noticed the extraordinarily large tips.

We hopped in the cab, headed back east, and rhapsodized over …the cocktails. Which we had a lot of time to do: the cab driver unwittingly took Franklin through Hollywood. On a Saturday night? Are you kidding me? He really should have asked us our feedback on the route.

My tweet the next day sums up my take on the food (and cab ride).

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Writing on the wall

(An occasional series featuring favorite wine and booze Facebook wall posts. This one from a dear and witty friend who is a buyer at a standout East Coast wine and liquor store.)

New Favorite @ the store: Willie Nelson’s 86 Proof Old Whiskey RiverStraight Bourbon Whiskey, from Nelson County, Kentucky, comes hot, new and cheap with a guitar pick. Next week, oooh I can’t wait, I can’t stand it…Whipped Cream Flavored (French) Vodka!!! Follies Bergeres meets [store outpost]. The Roller Derby chicks are washing their petticoats in it before they imbibe the nectar. Nymphs.

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Wines of Note: When Raccoons Attack!

Sadly the kiddie pool We so enjoyed during the last LA heatwave has succumbed to the raucous ways of the critters of the Hollywood Hills. Let’s hope they enjoyed it as much as We did. Before my backyard was flooded with a gazillion gallons of water (upside: I didn’t have to water for a couple of days), We did enjoy another couple of bottles of Albariño while floating around in it. (We had so much fun with the Paco in the Pool post, We thought it worthy of a repeat.)

We donned our swimming costumes, popped open two different bottles from Rias Baixas that We had received as samples, and gave them a taste test while floating around in the somewhat ridiculous, but highly satisfying kiddie pool. Both wines were divine.

I’ve had several vintages of Martin Códax Burgáns Albariño over the years and have found it consistently delicious and well priced at around $ 15. The 2009 was bright and clear with a golden hue. It was very fruity in the nose and I sensed Granny Smith apple and almonds. The wine has high acid, but is round in structure. Lots of minerals, very crisp and refreshing on the palate. A long, lingering finish. I enjoy it when a wine, like this one, is lush and round, but also tangy and acidic. I’ve noticed Albariños are becoming increasingly popular (especially in these summer months) on wine shop shelves. This one is easy to find, the right price, and lovely, year after year.

Although I am familiar with several of the wines in Eric Solomon’s book, I had never tried the Pazo de Senorans Albariño. In general I think of Albariños as being an excellent bargain, but this wine is priced at $25 a bottle. What distinguishes it from others? In color the wine is similar to the Burgáns: bright and golden in hue. The nose is more floral and tropical. I sensed lemon curd, almonds, and honeysuckle. Lots of minerals again and a soft, round structure with the tang of acid. The Pazo de Senorans offers a greater concentration and almost syrupy quality with a long lingering finish that I loved. Truly wonderful. I would pay $25…and hope to very soon. Researching where to buy this wine in L.A. now.

With the pool now in the recycling bin, We will be enjoying crisp wines on hot days while sitting in loungers under an umbrella, rather than while floating in the water. Oh well. There’s always the spray of the hose for a quick cool down.

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List w/o Commentary: excuses for not posting

  • WordPress hacker Johnny A infiltrated all of our sites
  • Google put Swirl on a list of sites that will kill your computer
  • We hate Johnny A and hope his fingers catch on fire every time he touches his keyboard
  • We are overwhelmed by the empties which are rapidly piling up
  • sometimes drinking wine is easier than writing about it
  • He has just started a fancy new job at a university that requires him to be (mostly) hangover-free
  • some weeks are more vodka-y and bourbon-y than wine-y