'Field Trip Fridays'

Field Trip Fridays: Penelope Salma Cruz-Hayek

Soho House West Hollywood


View of Our cocktails and Los Angeles from the Soho balcony. They have a strict “no photography rule” which She broke stealthy to get this shot. He was less than stealthy playing with the video camera on His new iPhone and was politely scolded.

We had been curious about the Soho House since it opened a few months ago, though not curious enough to drop the $2000 (apiece) annual membership fee required to gain entrance. So when She received an email announcing a private LACMA event (We do not, however, mind paying these annual fees. Support the arts, people.) being held at the Soho House, We jumped at the opportunity.

We arrived and got a bit lost in the Soho House, but the first thing We were able to find was the bar. Before We would go searching for the event, We decided to have a cocktail; She a Tequila Daisy and He a Hendricks on the rocks. The Soho House has a nice art collection (including LA favorites Pettibone & Skullphone), a stunning view of Los Angeles, and a cozy, comfortable interior design, although She thought some of the stacks of books (etc) were a bit contrived.

After a few U-turns in labyrinth-like hallways, we found the room for the event, entitled “How to Not Create an Art Collection.”

(from the LACMA invite)
Dagny Corcoran, who has recently brought her renowned Art Catalogues bookstore to LACMA, joins Avant-Garde and Soho House members for a wide-ranging conversation on building a collection of art books and ephemera. Topics will include such legendary artist–made books as Dieter Roth’s “Literary Sausage” and the Marcel Duchamp catalogue cover that featured a fake foam breast.

Art, books, sausage and breasts! All things We enjoy very much.

The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also by Ed Kienholz. Those are a cast of Ms. Corcoran's legs. Think of the body movement of the young men playing pinball in arcades.

Dagny was great. Funny. Intelligent. And brought a great selection of her book collection along with her, that her lovely assistant would show to the small gathered group as she spoke. She had a funny analogy about the stages of book collecting which she equated to marriage:

1st marriage: One marries for love.
2nd marriage: One marries for security.
3rd marriage: One marries for excitement.

After the lecture We had the signature cocktail for the event: Tequila, Agave syrup, Prosecco & orange peel. It was OK, way too sweet for Her and a little too sweet for Him.

We decided to stay at the Soho and have dinner on the really lovely balcony. We started with the Cobb Salad and Chicken Liver Pâté, both spectacular. For the main course, She had the Short Ribs and He the Duck Breast, both also spectacular. We paired Our meals with a bottle of Jules Harrison Pinot Noir 2005, that We both enjoyed. The Soho House has a nice dinner menu, a nice winelist, and very attentive service. The $2000 membership fee is beginning to make sense.

We stayed on the balcony laughing and smoking cigarettes after dinner. The Soho House is full of celebrities. The funny thing is that He never recognizes or knows who anyone is. So when a very vivacious, beautiful Latina asked us if the 2 empty chairs next to Us were taken, He was unfazed. He helped the woman move the chairs and then lit her cigarette for her, while She and the Woman had a funny little conversation. The woman and her entourage stayed next to Us for a couple of cigarettes before thanking Us and returning to their table inside. He asked Her, “Was that Penelope Cruz?” To which She replied, “No, darling, that was Salma Hayek…I thought I saw her earlier dining with Harvey Weinstein” Sufficed to say, if He doesn’t recognize a fairly well-known actress than he doesn’t know a Weinstein from a Goldwyn or a Mayer.

It was a really fun night.

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Field Trip Fridays: what’s good for the geese is definitely worth a gander

We’re staying in this Friday (He’s still suffering from back pain…here’s hoping lots and lots of wine will help), but these geese are on the move, getting some culture. Not really wine related, but this is the best thing We’ve ever seen on Facebook: a special new exhibit. We’re hoping they’ll still be there for next week’s Field Trip Fridays. Cheers and happy Friday. (All images and captions are directly from Norton Simon’s FB page.)


Yesterday morning, a family of geese tapped their beaks on our front door, wanting to get through to the pond in our sculpture garden. What were we to do?


Come on, kids, this way.


Look! There’s an Ellsworth Kelly painting.


I see the pond…

In you go…

Ahh…we’re home.

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Field Trip Fridays: Where We Won’t ever Walk into again.

The W Hollywood:
We don’t like to use this blog as a platform to disparage anything or anyone; it’s really just not who We are. But, you know what? Offend Us, and We can both be quite vengeful people.

Over the last decade We have been loyal Starwood patrons; both as a couple and long before We even knew one another. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that We have spent 10′s of thousands of dollars at Starwood Hotels. We even recently wrote about how much We loved The Joule in Dallas. She just checked Her Starwood account to see where She has stayed:

  • W Chicago-Lakeshore
  • W Chicago-City Center
  • Lanai at Manele Bay (now a 4 Seasons)
  • Sheraton Austin
  • The Joule
  • W New Orleans-French Quarter
  • The Phoenician-Scottsdale
  • W Westwood
  • Palace Hotel-San Francisco
  • W New York
  • W The Court- New York
  • W Union Square- New York
  • W Times Square-New York
  • Westin Bonaventure-Los Angeles
  • and several airport stays at 4 Points Sheraton

When the new W in Hollywood opened just down the street from Her house, We were happy. We liked to walk down on weekday evenings for a bite and some drinks.

We were loyal. Were.

A couple of nights ago We were entertaining a friend (and client) at Her house and decided to walk down to the W. This friend/client happens to be a fairly well-known musician who was in town for a night before going to perform at Coachella. After a couple of drinks at Her house, We decided to walk down to the W to get a bite to eat and a bottle of wine. I tried to walk in as I have several times before only this time I was stopped by an idiotic man with a clipboard in his hands asking if I was staying in the hotel or was “on the list.” “No,” I replied, “I am just here to get a drink and some dinner.” He looked at Us and Our musician friend who happened to be casually dressed and wearing a baseball cap and said, “The hotel is only for guests right now.” I happen to know that they always let people in and what he was saying to me was horseshit. You know what? Let the prices for food and drinks that We were willing to pay decide the exclusivity of your hotel, not some dipshit, minimum-wage doorman who has a list but no clue.

We were obviously offended. And embarrassed. As was Our friend, who thought that it was his (and his hat’s) fault that We couldn’t get in. I was fucking fuming. Like, really, really pissed. I’ve been turned away from places in Hollywood before and not thought twice about it (although I would never go back). But this was a corporation to whom We were, regretfully, loyal.

Suck it W Hollywood, and Suck it Starwood.

From now on when in NYC we will stay at The Standard. And there are many luxury choices in every other city too. We are implementing a full Starwood boycott and would recommend that our friends and families stay somewhere else as well.

The Bowery
We went to The Bowery and had a perfectly good dinner with a perfectly decent bottle of wine, but I was too angry to really enjoy it.

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Field Trip Fridays: Shirking My Civic Duty

Los Angeles Superior Courthouse
For the past two days I have been spending the 8:30-5:00 time slot waiting to see if I would be picked to sit on a jury. I’m admonished from saying anything specific about the case, so please pardon my vagueness. Today was better and more efficient than yesterday, but it still took the entire day (and, really, why so many recesses?). During one of our “it’ll just be 2 more minutes” waits in the hallway I made friends with Juror #30, a cute girl who used to be a computer forensic scientist who now teaches yoga, is writing a book, and something about linux and routing and her new Android phone that I didn’t understand. It was now at least 15 minutes into our “2 more minutes” and the discussion turned to food & wine. I was excited and impressed that she had been to Canelé and then she started talking about her friend Jeff who used to work for Thomas Keller, which brought up a story about Her last jury pool that consisted of both TK & Jeff. It really is a small world, and even more amazing how much you can discover in just “2 more minutes.”

Given Juror #30′s previous career, I knew she was screwed, she was gonna be on that jury for sure. I knew I was getting out, I knew it. And the reason is because of this exact thing that you are reading. When it was my turn to answer the 9 questions on the sheet, I stated where I lived and then for my occupation said, “Architect & Wine Critic.” As soon as it was my turn to sit in the jury box, the prosecutor said,”The prosecution would like to thank and excuse Juror #35.” See you later, bitches.

So, I can’t speak in specifics about the case. But. Hypothetically, if you are ever in a jury pool for a case involving alcohol, start a wine blog. Trust me.

Las Perla
I thought I hadn’t heard about this place yet. But then I remembered Her story about Raul, Her favorite bartender from 20 years ago was opening this place. She seems to know everyone in the restaurant/bar industry and tells me stories of their lineage and which ones She worked with and where and who then opened what restaurant and who was sleeping with who… So, if I remember correctly, Raul was the bartender at Small’s K.O. where She used to go with Corina of Canelé everyday after work which was at a restaurant owned by Nancy Silverton, where Suzanne Goin was the head chef and Manfred Krankl was Her boss and George (the owner of Silverlake Wine) was a waiter. And maybe Thomas Keller was a busboy or something.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. So, we met our double-date partners D&M at this new Mezcal place for a cocktail before dinner. D asked his iPhone what made Mezcal different from Tequila and it told us that Mezcal is made from blue agave and is smokier. The menu is written in Sharpie on pieces of cardboard which we all had different feelings about. Also, each of our menus had different items listed which confused me a little bit. We all ordered the Smokey Margarita. The waitress brought our drinks nervously to the table and spilled a little bit on the denim covering my now wet privates, which I easily forgive of a new place working out all of the opening jitters. The drinks were great, as was the crowd at this place. We weren’t here for long, but I would like to go back. We will.

Lazy Ox Canteen
This is our second time here. We love it. The menu is dynamic and the chef seems to really love to experiment with food. We brought a bottle of wine but decided to start with a bottle of Torrontes Grazioso, Argentina 2008 for our first course (which also waives the $20 corkage fee). We ordered Yellowtail, Pickles, Octopus and Pig Ears. All really good and paired well with Torrontes. The Pig Ears here are amazing, comparable (and much less spicy) then the ones we had at Animal. We ordered our entrees and all D could talk about was ordering dessert. I had Pork Frites (which came out way, way earlier than everyone else’s food. We were warned that they might come out at different times, but I was done before anyone else got their food). D got Braised Beef (amazing), She and M split a Pork Porterhouse with the best whipped potatoes I have ever tasted. And my Pork Frites was great. We opened the wine we bought, Miner Family Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (received as a sample, retails around $60) that was so (pardon my French) fucking good. Creamy and spicy and perfectly balanced and went so well with my Frites. In recent weeks, Miner and Penns Woods are the best wines  I have tasted. There hasn’t been a weak (or even average) bottle of the 8 we have consumed from these two producers.

For dessert we shared the Rice Pudding that D had been talking about since the 1st course. I loved it and She hated it. The one thing that we don’t agree on is sweets. I love them, She hates them. When I am alone, I eat a Snickers bar. Or, once when she was out of town I ordered both the cheesecake and the chocolate cake at Canelé. Anyhow, I recommend the rice pudding.

Dinner ended with great conversation and a bottle of Spatburgunder Trocken Weinhof Scheu 2007 and talked about our next double-date. We might spend a weekend in Buellton and drink wine from our friend Morgan’s incredibly winery, Cold Heaven. And possibly spend a couple of days at a winery that D&M are members of that has a house they can rent for like $90/night. We’re in.

As we were leaving a “gentleman” in his 60′s with a young Asian woman on his arm told Her (3 times) how beautiful Her dress was. It is a beautiful dress (and She, of course, looks beautiful in [and out of] it), I concur, but this guy seemed creepy. I looked at him coldly and said, “Yes, it is.” We ignored him and he left. Then I remembered the time we were here previously we saw the same dude. Only he had a friend and 4(!) young Asian women on their arms. I think maybe he is a porn producer. I want to sell him a porn title that I think might be fitting for his company: Double PenetrAsian.

The Gorbals
Our last stop was to see our friend Ilan. We were all drunkish at this point, but Ilan sent us out 4 glasses of wine, each different for us to taste. I don’t really remember much about the wine but Ilan said, “Oh, you guys have to try this.” He brought us out ice cream he had made in the same manner as Mexican hot chocolate. It was chocolate ice cream with a lot of heat surrounded by little graham cracker crumbs. It’s interesting that something cold in your mouth can be so hot. She loved it, which due to her hatred of sweets mentioned earlier, is saying a lot. Thanks Ilan, it was delicious.

D&M wanted to go to Karaoke, or dancing, but We were both tired and decided to call it a night. Maybe next time.

This morning we are nursing our hangovers with a nice mimosa with fresh-picked oranges from Her mimosa tree. It’s a beautiful day in LA.

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Field Trip Fridays: X to the Z

Some days everything just goes right. This is one of them. It all started at…

The Berrics
We had to swing by The Berrics (the most popular private skatepark in the world, and the most viewed website in skateboarding) to pick up Steve Berra for the LACC Luncheon. I have known Steve for 20 years and I worked with him at The Berrics for a couple of years. The growth of The Berrics has been outstanding and impressive. We are currently working on a few things together, and that’s why we are “honored guests” at the luncheon. Even if you have never skated, The Berrics website is quite entertaining and I would recommend that you check it out. I have to mention that Steve and I had a 3-hour meeting this week with a billionaire philanthropist with the last name Annenberg. It’s nice to meet billionaires.

LA Conservation Corps 2010 Luncheon Celebration (Los Angeles Historical Park, the old Cornfields)

Xzibit with some of the kids who were not exactly the under-priviledged ones.

As I mentioned above, I am working with Steve and the LACC on a couple of architectural projects. The LACC is a fantastic organization with truly ambitious and genuinely good goals. Today they were presenting scholarships to over 250 kids from tough backgrounds. 2 of the kids spoke, it was very moving, She cried.

We had been seated at a table right in front of the stage, and at the table was a well-dressed handsome man who introduced himself to us as Alvin “and this is my lady Crystal.” She, Steve & I all picked up the catalog in front of us that listed the speakers and the schedule. At separate moments, both She and Steve leaned over to me and pointed at the name “Xzibit.” My only thought was, “Cool, Xzibit is here.” I can almost guarantee that I am a bigger fan of Xzibit’s music than either She or Steve, but it took me another five minutes to realize that Alvin was Xzibit. Then there was a funny exchange:

Steve: So you have to get up on stage, huh?

Alvin (Xzibit): Yeah but I ain’t gonna rhyme.

Me: Not even a little What You See is What You Get?

Xzibit (Alvin): Nah, and no Bitch, Please either.

Then he got on stage and the first thing he said was, “I’m not gonna fix your cars.” The kids loved him. He was excellent and funny and charming and sincere. He wasn’t there trying to push or sell anything. It seemed that he was doing it strictly because he believes in what the LACC is doing for these kids. And it was his third year presenting the scholarships. Xzibit is very nice and I really like him.

Lunch was served in an LACC nylon lunch bag and We had turkey sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit salad and water as City Council President (and rising political star) Eric Garcetti spoke. Wow, he’s awesome. I really like him too.

The Gorbals
After our inspiring lunch We were in the mood for a glass of wine. Since We were downtown We decided to pop in and see our friend Ilan at The Gorbals. I designed the space and like to check in every now and then to see how it is holding up, and I really love seeing people seated on the stools I built with my hands. Ilan wasn’t there, so I called him and he said (in that very frazzled Ilan way), “I’m not there. I don’t have time. I am working on something time-sensitive. OK, I’ll come by for 2 minutes and say hello and give you a kiss.” That is actually how a lot of my conversations with Ilan go. We each had a glass of a Pine Ridge Viognier / Chenin Blanc blend. Ilan came by and said hello, and I learned that the time-sensitive “thing” was that he had to move a giant TV before his girlfriend got home from the airport and got mad at him. I love Ilan, but I am happy to report that he did not, in fact, kiss me (though he did kiss Her). The wine was light, lovely and refreshing.

K&L Wine Merchants
I haven’t been to K&L in a long time, which was long before I knew anything about wine. Today, it felt like I was at Disneyland (that is, if I actually liked Disneyland). Maybe I should restate that last sentence: Today it felt like I was at, umm, a Lakers game. Aisles and aisles of bottles. Oh, look, some Txakoli. We have to get a bottle of that. We were there to pick up wine for our United Slurps of America: Washington post that will go up this coming Monday, but left with those 5 bottles, a Txakoli, a Madeira, a bottle of Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, and 4 bottles each of Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon and Tonic Water. And I almost bought a hat because my hair is getting kinda long. Any wine shop that has shopping carts is OK by me.

Later She checked her history online and informed me over the past dozen years she has spent something like $50,000 at K&L. Whoa, darling.

Lou Winebar
We’ve already written about Lou in a previous Field Trip Friday. What can We say, We like the place. The service, food and wine are always top-notch. When We sit at the bar Lou almost always pours us a taste of some interesting wine that he is drinking from a region you wouldn’t expect to make good wine. I think last time it was Croatia. Tonight We sat at a table, She had duck, I had the Niman Ranch Ribeye. We shared Mac & Cheese (with Hook’s 10 year Cheddar, oh my), the charcuterie plate and olives and almonds. We drank 2008 Ribeira Sacra Vina do Burato; the medium bodied wine with flavors of pomegranate / cranberry and tart was a nice compliment to both of our meals.

When We got home, She Tweeted:

To which Lou replied:

I’m very surprised Lou knows of my Txakoli obsession. As much as I do love Txakoli, I hope Lou knows that in the He/She/Lou triumvirate, I am the one with the least wine knowledge. Either way, see you at Lou next week. And how does he know that She tweeted that and not me. Hmm…

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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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Field Trip Fridays: Pourtal

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.

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Field Trip Fridays: Restaurants of the Southwest

Here is a recollection of everywhere we ate on our road-trip to and from Texas. It’s long, I know, but we ate a lot. For lunch we usually ate sandwiches or fruit & veggies from the cooler in our backseat. We didn’t want to eat crappy road food on our long drives so we stocked up at Whole Foods. I really recommend this over eating gross fast food and gas station junk. And it was cute watching Her make us sandwiches in the front seat. At night we treated ourselves to a good dinner. Bon Apetit!

Butterfieds Stage Co Steak House.  Holbrook, Arizona.
This was our first stop for food, a steakhouse a block away from our wigwam. The decor is “heroes and villains of the Wild West” (which would be a perfect precursor to a few things we would see in subsequent days). A nice steak sounds great after a long day of driving, and so does a Maker’s Mark to warm us up, it’s 25º outside. She ordered a T-Bone with a baked potato and cole slaw and I had a Porterhouse with mashed potatoes and I don’t remember. The meal and service were just fine. The big problem in my head was that we had been listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma on CD, and this really isn’t the kind of place to have “Niman Ranch” written on the menu. I am trying to eat only grass-fed beef, but let’s just say mostly instead of only. Butterfields is a little overpriced for what it is, I think we paid $75 for our 2 steaks and whiskey’s.

Café Pasqual’s. Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This place is why Yelp is such a good thing. Neither of us had any idea where to eat in Santa Fe, and went here purely because of the reviews on the site. We are very happy we did. We already wrote about our experience here in detail, so I won’t rehash  it. All I will say is that if you are in Santa Fe, go to Pasqual’s. But make a reservation, this place gets packed.

The Kettle. Childress,Texas.
We got into Childress at 8:30PM and noticed a few steakhouses and a lot of fast food chains. After checking into our hotel we decided to head to one of the steakhouses. Uh-oh, it’s 9PM and everything in Childress is closed, except for McDonald’s, Sonic and The Kettle. We chose the lesser of 3 evils and walked into the Kettle, filled with truckers and some rough looking locals. She ordered the Catfish and I got Biscuits & Gravy. The place was kind of dirty and gross, so we took our food to go and ate in our hotel room. My B&G were disgusting so I could only imagine how bad her Catfish was. Imagine my surprise when She proclaimed that She actually liked it. Get to Childress early, the town closes at 9.

Hannah’s. Denton, Texas.
I had eaten at Hannah’s about 8 or 9 years ago and remembered it as a very nice restaurant in a quaint little space on the square in Denton. Time has changed part of that; Hannah’s has moved into a very large space. Denton is a great town for music (2nd only to Austin as Texas’ musical epicenter) and home to 2 major universities. [Sidenote: If you haven't listened to Will Johnson & Centro-matic, check them out]. It’s nice to see a “fine dining” restaurant thrive in this little college town. After a long drive on remote roads, we sat outside (73º, but it would snow the next day) and She had a glass of Pine Ridge viognier/chenin blanc blend, while I had a glass of Château Bonnet Bordeaux blanc. We shared a few tasty small plates and ordered a bottle of the Château Bonnet.

Dragonfly. Dallas, Texas.
I had read about the Dragonfly for a couple of years and when our free Trolley rolled by, I was excited to go in. Unfortunately, our experience here would foreshadow a spate of terrible service that would (mostly) haunt us for the rest of our trip. To put it bluntly, the bartender was an inattentive bitch. A note to all waiters and bartenders: you work on tips, and if I am (over)paying for food & wine, the least you can do is feign good hospitality. We thought our experience would improve when a second bartender arrived, but it didn’t. Combined with the very loud cursing drunk guy at the bar (it was like 4:30PM), I couldn’t wait to get out of this place. We drank our glasses of red wine as fast as we could and got the hell out of this place. I really hate complaining about service, but this was really, really bad. We left without eating. Suck it, Dragonfly.

The Idle Rich Pub. Dallas, Texas.
We walked a couple of blocks after leaving the Dragonfly and stumbled upon this place with a name we both loved and aspire to. We sat at the bar and were greeted by smiling, knowledgeable bartenders who had food and whiskey recommendations. She ordered a Mark West Pinot and I had a Redbreast Irish whiskey. Our early dinner was a smoked salmon salad for Her and truly great fish & chips for me. According to Yelp, this place gets filled with obnoxious fratboys on Friday and Saturday nights, but our experience was quiet and lovely. And they were playing Wilco.

Charlie Palmer at the Joule. Dallas, Texas.
Already went into detail about this place too. We totally enjoyed out time at The Joule, but by this point we may have to sell all of our belongings to pay for our food & wine adventures.

Churchill’s. McKinney, Texas.
I frequent this place when I stay in McKinney, a good place to get a drink, and shoot some darts and pool. It used to be called The Londoner, which I think is a far superior name, but oh well. The fish & chips are just fine, though nothing to blog home about. The highlight was having a cigarette out front in the snow when a drunk, limping cowboy joined us and told us a story: Two nights prior he had accidentally left his shotgun in his truck, and while drunkenly going to retrieve it he slipped on a patch of ice and shot a hole in his truck. Hence, the limp. A note to all the children out there: If you accidentally leave your shotgun in your truck while you are wasted, watch out for ice. A note to everyone else: watch out for drunk cowboys carrying guns in the suburbs.

Delaney’s. Mckinney, Texas.
Not much to say about this gigantic place in a strip mall in the suburbs. It’s exactly what you expect, but a damn good place to have a drink and watch football on the 14 large plasma screens throughout. Highlight: they are open on Christmas.

Big Tony’s. Mckinney, Texas.
My dad took us to this dive bar for pizza. The pizza is really good, thanks Dad.

Café Malaga. McKinney, Texas.
My mom took us here on our last day in Dallas. I had been in this space before (2 owners prior), and it is a great old building just off the square in McKinney. We ordered tapas for the table and a bottle of tempranillo. It was snowing hard outside, and the food and wine were both lovely. One complaint: server dude, learn how to open a bottle of wine. You must first cut the foil. Our bottle had an aluminum Bart Simpson haircut when he placed it on the table.

Uchi. Austin, Texas.
She had eaten here a couple of times before and raved about it. We sat at the bar and had very great, attentive sushi chefs taking care of us. We enjoyed 2 bottles of 2008 Huber ‘obere steigen’ grüner veltliner while we ate almost the entire menu, we must have had a whole bluefish tuna. By the time our dessert (jizake creme caramel with brown butter sorbet and ginger consomme) arrived we were both pretty drunk. That’s when I tried to steal the menu. It was a nicely designed corkboard book, and for whatever reason, I really wanted it. As I mentioned, we were sitting directly in front of 2 chefs, but also right by the service door to the kitchen; not exactly a dark corner. I thought I was being sly trying to stuff a large menu up my sweater. The waitress came by, gave me a strange look, and I removed the menu from my sweater with an embarrassed smile. She politely told me I could take the paper out of the book, but please leave the cover. Fair enough. Oh yeah, we loved this place, the best sushi we have ever had.

Maiya’s. Marfa, Texas
The hotel attendant at the Thunderbird recommended Maiya’s and got us a reservation. We arrived early, assuming we could get a seat at the bar. As we walked in a couple were leaving the bar, and we were told that we could sit there and they would clear it for us right away. 10 minutes later the remnants of food on plates was still in front of us while we watched the bartender fumble and attend to everything, except the customers sitting at the bar. Seriously, change the paper in the POS system after you clear these plates and take our drink order (or ask the host who is just standing there to do it for you). More on this later. The space is great, minimalist (duh) and clean, the square wreath on the door was a nice, thoughtful touch. When we finally ordered our drinks we both had Hendrick’s on the rocks (hers with a splash of tonic). We started with the Antipasto Plate and Black-eyed Pea soup, a southern New Year’s good luck tradition, both were excellent. For dinner, She had the Grilled Rib Eye Steak with red skinned mashed potatoes and I had Pasta Bolognese. Our meal was unbelievably good, one of the best of our trip. I ate all of my pasta and probably half of Her delicious, tender, perfectly cooked steak. It’s just…this…damn bartender. Doing dishes while our glasses have been empty for minutes. Attending to his servers before his bar patrons; dude, we are tipping you more than they are, I guarantee it. We weren’t alone in our dismay, we could see it on other customers faces. And we watched as twice he delivered the wrong plates to the wrong people (there was no more than 8 of us at the bar). When he did come over to us, he would say that “it would just be a minute,” “they weren’t used to this rush,” and a million other excuses. There are not more than 50 seats in the restaurant, and they had 2 servers, a host, and a bartender. It wasn’t exceptionally busy, and the amount of time we were made to wait and the inane excuses are unacceptable. Luckily for Maiya’s their food is exceptionally good. We totally 100% recommend this place, but that bartender (and his dumb toddler tie) has to go.

Jett’s Grill. Marfa, Texas.
Conveniently located in the Paisano Hotel, our lodging for the night. We began with 2 glasses of “Marfa Red” while we perused the menu. The decor was strange, highlighting the fact that until a few years ago, this hotel was in disrepair. We started with a caesar salad. For dinner She ordered Shrimp Alfredo and (against my better judgment and lack of Tums) I ordered the Pistachio Fried Steak with Jalapeno Gravy, way too intriguing for me to pass up. After enjoying our “Marfa Reds” we ordered a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It did take a very long time for our food to come out, but we were happy and in no hurry, so no complaints. When it arrived, I was overwhelmed by how large the steak was and the fact that there were whole pistachios fried onto the steak, looking like little barnacles on a whale. It was actually quite tasty, but I could only eat about 1/3 of it. Her shrimp alfredo was fine, if a bit mediocre. After we finished, the waitress came over and apologized for taking an hour (was it really that long?!) for us to get our food and that the bottle of wine would be comped. That was very nice, and though we really had no complaints, that is the way you make up for poor service. She should speak to that bartender at Maiya’s.

Café BellaLuca. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Before our soak in the healing waters, we wanted to grab a bite in little T or C. All of our guidebooks and websites we read raved about this surprising little place. It is so great to find a spot like this in what is really the middle of nowhere. After all the fast food chains we passed, for there to be an alternative for the citizens and visitors alike, is refreshing. But, oh no, the server has already messed up our salads. There are a total of 8 customers in the restaurant right now. When it was corrected, our Capri Salad and our Arugula Salad were both fresh, vibrant and delicious. Tonight She ordered the White Calzone (roasted garlic sauce, three cheese blend, spinach) and this time I had the Shrimp Alfredo. Both of our meals were great. The shrimp were huge and meaty and the calzone (which I finished off) was better than any calzone I can remember (though, admittedly, I can’t really remember many calzones). With our meal, we drank a 2007 Sauvion Sancerre. Everything was delicious, but when we were finished we sat for 10 minutes before having to track down our server at the POS station to pay our bill. I’m tired of complaining about service, but the food was excellent.

Nancy’s Silver Café. Silver City, New Mexico.
There aren’t a lot of choices in this weird little place (Vicki’s is out of business, and 1zero6 isn’t open for lunch). We stumbled upon Nancy’s because it was the first place we saw open. The service was prompt, but a strange and a little mean even; a lot of grunting and throwing plates down. We both had a combination plate of enchiladas, a taco, and the best chile relleno I have ever had. This is really just a hole in the wall place, but they serve excellent traditional mexican food. A highlight was introducing her to the sopaipilla, which She had never heard of and I ate tons of as a child. I used to love these little honey-filled fried pastries, and they are still tasty, I just try to eat a little healthier these days. As we were walking away I said to Her, “I don’t think they liked us very much.” A couple of days later when we got home, I read some reviews of Nancy’s that said the staff is “racist” and “gringos not welcome.” I really don’t think it was a race thing, there were plenty of white locals chatting and laughing it up with the staff. I think maybe Nancy’s dislikes tourists. I don’t know, but the food was good and I have enough friends.

Kazimierz. Scottsdale, Arizona.
She writes about it in depth here. This place has the craziest wine list I’ve ever seen. 3200 wines! Perusing the list is like trying to read Homer in the dark, but, you know, fun. Aside from the wine, Margo Reed was the highlight here. What a singing voice on a little woman with a somewhat froggy speaking voice. My favorite is when she talks to the audience she ends with “Okie Dokie? (beat) Okie Dokie Fine.” We had a really nice night here.

Amapola Café. Blythe, California.
Our final stop before we get home. Amapola is situated in front of a dilapidated motel on the main street in Blythe. The sign out front reads “Since 1950.” Wow. She had another sort of combo plate and I had a chimichanga, both paired with Diet Cokes. I am so tired of writing this very long post that I will cut to the chase: the food ain’t bad and it’s a nice stop between Phoenix and LA.

And the winner is….. Uchi. Hands down, the place we both enjoyed the most. Amazing Sushi, great service. If you are in Austin don’t miss it. Oh, and sorry about trying to steal the menu, it won’t happen again. I really hope I’m not banned.

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Field Trip Fridays: Wet, Wet, Wet & a Dry White

Today we ventured out in the rain to Hollywood for what He (for whatever reason) thought was the annual Barney’s Warehouse sale. When we arrived at the locale, Siren Studios, He mentioned something about Barney’s to which She replied:

“We’re not at Barney’s. This is the James Perse sample sale.”
“Oh. Then why the hell did I come?”
“Duh…He makes men’s clothes too.”
“Oh, OK.”

And all was seemingly fine… except for the fact that the sale is next weekend. We’ll try again.

Since we were in Hollywood, we decided to explore a little bit. He had been intrigued by the Hollywood Canteen since he drove by it a few months ago and She had never heard of it, so that was our first try. It was closed. But we’re intrigued by this little out of the way place tucked in between a million studios. We’ll try again.

After some back and forth about where to go next (this is the most organic, unplanned Field Trip Fridays ever), She told Him about Mercantile, a new wine bar He had never heard of, so He tried to make a B-Line for The Well. It was closed. We’ll try again.

Where can you get a drink in this town on a rainy Friday afternoon? After driving around for a few more minutes He gave in, and we were off to Mercantile. [This is He talking: I don't know what my trepidation was about going to Mercantile, I really don't. But I didn't want to go.]

The Mercantile


Image from Yelp.

Upon entering we were both a bit confused. Do we seat ourselves? Where do we order? Can we get wine at the counter too, or do we order that at the bar? Luckily, a waiter handed us a menu on a clipboard and told us to order at the counter. The food looked delicious. He still wasn’t convinced.

Half of the aesthetic of the place was good, half bad; the blue & white wallpaper still makes us both scratch our heads. The industrial part of the place’s design is great. The faux French/Italian café part is not. He, as an architect, likes the unfinished pine and plywood and the metal screwed to the bar top. [This is She talking: Okay, Arrogant. You don't have to be an architect to appreciate the beauty of unfinished pine. And, did I mention, as a graphic designer, I really disliked the clipart graphics on the menu?]

We sat ourselves in the corner of the bar after ordering a Croque Monsieur (for Him), Poached Ahi Salad w/ Frissé (for Her) and Potato Salad (for Us). He still wasn’t convinced.

We had only quickly browsed the wine list before ordering, because we saw it at the last minute. We both ordered reds. When we had more time to consider and peruse the list, He exclaimed excitedly “Txakolina!” We had been offered a taste of this exact same wine by Steve at Palate a few months ago and it had been kind of a Romancing The Stone treasure hunt for Him to find it again. Nobody in LA seems to have Txakolina after the summer.

His whole mood changed.

merc-1He got up to see if they sold the Txakolina by the bottle, which in fact they did for $20. Sold. Then the food came. Totally fantastic, His sandwich and Her salad were both great, and they had dueling forks in the potato salad. Then the bartender, Paul, saw that we had a bottle of Txakolina in front of us and came over to talk it up. When he found out we had tasted it before and actually knew a thing or two about it, he poured us both a complimentary taste, and talked to us about his time at Bar Pintxo and all of the other Txakolina we should try. (A rosé? We had no idea.)

The food, the wine selection, and Paul the Bartender were great enough to erase any questions we had about the place. He was totally convinced.

As we were leaving we saw Paul making everyone who worked at the restaurant taste the Txakolina, including the chef, who she thought was hot. [Him speaking again: I sometimes don't get her taste in men. She likes the uber-hot young model untouchable types, but also the heavyset, bearded, interesting (but, not "hot") looking types. Of the chef she said "I believe his smile." I think that is a very nice thing to say, and thank whatevs I don't get jealous. He does have a nice smile. And I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle of the uber-hot and the heavyset-interesting.]

Back to Paul for a minute. We just want to say “Thanks.” It’s very nice to find an engaging, intelligent, welcoming young bartender in this town. Not saying they don’t exist, just saying it’s nice, and he (along with the wine and food) really made us enjoy our experience. We’ll try it again.

2006 Bodegas Neo “Sentido” Ribera del Duero, Spain ($9/glass)

He said: Very dark in color with blueberry, cassis, tobacco and cedar on the nose. My first sip wasn’t that impressive; not bad not good. After Paul poured us Txakolina, I let this wine sit for about 45 minutes. When I drank it again it was terrific. I don’t know if it just needed to open up, or if it was the food, or my mood change, but now this wine was terrific. Milky, creamy, chocolate and coffee textured with a nice vanilla finish. Great tannins (that lightened nicely over the course of the meal.) I think I am becoming a fan of Spanish wine. Salud!

2007 St. Innocent Pinot Noir, Yamhill ($8/glass)

She Said: Bright ruby color and thin, as is typical. Aromas of sour cherries, a bit of under brush, and dried flowers. No real spice sensed. In the mouth the wine has high acid, is a bit tightly wound, but finish is long and luscious. Not an overly complex or brambly, big fruit-forward pinot. Rather it is elegant with supple, approachable tannins. Highly enjoyable. Would have chosen differently with my salad, which had a pretty acidic dressing.

2008 Talai Berri Getariako Txakolian Hondarribi Zuri, Basque Country ($20/Btl)merc2

She Said: His excitement and passion for this wine is infectious. And I love it that He has been able to make strong declarations about what He enjoys and doesn’t in a wine’s flavor profile. This is real progress. I’ve been drinking Txakolinas for years…Manfred Krankl had it on the list at Campanile when I was his assistant. For a hot summer day they can’t be beat–bright, bracing acidity, low alcohol, refreshing, mild apple and unripe pear flavors, and with a slight, zingy fizz. Turns out the wine is great with poached ahi tuna as well…should have ordered this wine with my salad. At $20 a bottle I can’t say it’s a bargain…there are plenty of delicious, quality whites for under that price out on the wine market. But Txakolina is fairly rare and I’m sure not the easiest thing to import. The price does knock down the score for me.

He said: This wine is meant to be poured into the glass from a certain height, and when Paul poured it I could see why right away. It bubbles like the Basque Ciders I remember having a few years ago. Very lemony on the nose. So refreshingly dry in the mouth with some fizz. Very high acid and again totally reminds me of drinking Cider from barrels in the wall in the Basque hills (think: bite). It should be noted that I am a Basque-o-phile. I have studied the place for years, visited on several occasions, met the greatest people, and had some of the best food of my life there. It is intrinsically connected to my life; the place is why I am an architect. I’ll just say it: I love this wine. It may be my favorite white wine I’ve ever had. It’s great by itself and I think it would be great with seafood. I can’t wait to go back to the Basque Country and visit the Museo de Txakoli, and try this in some of my favorite San Sebastian restaurant. Postscript: this morning some friends twittered us saying they were going to Mercantile and wanted recommendations. Of course, I said to try the Txakolina. They re-tweeted to say the wine was perfect, and they too bought a bottle. I really just love this wine.

drawing-room

The Drawing Room

He used to frequent this mini-mall bar semi-regularly and had just been on a recent afternoon with His architectural partner. (A business meeting with cocktails.)  At night it’s the Silverlake/Echo Park/Hollywood crowd. (Sidenote: Let’s all stop saying “hipster” to describe this crowd. It’s vague, blanketed and a little ridiculous. We’re tired of it.) It’s a much different place during the day when the place is full of quite serious day-drinkers. So we ordered as such: She had a Maker’s on the rocks, He had a Absolut+Tonic.

One of the daydrunks offered us some pizza, when we declined he opened two pizza boxes sitting on the bar to reveal they were empty. Thanks, Cocksucker. By the way, you aren’t Bukowski, get a job.

The bartendress, in between coughing, would sing along to the music on the jukebox and we were both struck by what a beautiful voice she had. We both knew we were just having one drink here. It is a nice neighborhood bar, a little dingy and scary, but everything shouldn’t be clean and safe…that would be boring.

Back Home

The rain has put a damper on our SoCal lifestyle. We tend to do most of our drinking/writing/living on Her beautiful deck ‘neath the orange tree. But the rain 86′s that. We trekked up to the cabana by the pool to light a fire and make some Hot Toddy’s while we wrote and read. Not bad for a backup outdoor office:

cabana-pano

Not bad at all…

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Field Trip Fridays: Chocolate, Gay Mafia & Pulled Pork

Stop #1: Heath Ceramics

We have uber-talented friends who make delicious things… Libations and general festiveness began at Heath Ceramics for “Artisans United,” a collaboration between the exquisite ceramics studio, Valerie Confections and Patz and Hall. Wine, chocolate, cheese, preserves, meats…all presented on the most beautiful pottery you’ve ever seen. The event was food blogger/Yelper/Twitterer heavy. (So we fit right in.)

We sipped three wines from Patz and Hall:
Dutton Ranch Chardonnay
Chenoweth Ranch Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
No notes were taken on our slurps. All were delicious and were thoughtfully paired with exquisite chocolate and amuse-bouche prepared by VC.

(She takes full credit for this event coming to fruition, by the way. Both VC and PH are old friends and She introduced Chocolatiers Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman to the winemakers Anne Moses and James Hall at Her birthday party. Free samples is all the payment She asks for. You know our address.)

Stop #2: LACMA

tom ford

We try to be good citizens and support our local art institutions, so we are LACMA members at the avant garde level. Aside from feeling pleased with ourselves for being good people, we get invited to really, really cool private things. This time it was a special screening of Tom Ford’s film A Single Man.

We arrived early and went to the museum’s courtyard restaurant Pentimento for a pre-film drink. She had a Tanqueray & Tonic and He ordered a Rioja red. They were out of the Rioja so the bartender recommended a 2004 Celler de Capcanes “Mas Donis” Barrica from Montsant, Spain. Thank you, Bartender: it was excellent.

Before the film Ford took the stage to say a few words, and naturally he was the best dressed man in a very well-dressed room. He demurred at our enthusiastic applause, thanked David Geffen (also in attendance), and the curtain came up. Here is our review:

A-Single-Man

He Said: Totally beautiful to look at, that’s undeniable. Although the cinematography was beautiful, the music was beautiful, it kind of felt like watching a 90 minute perfume commercial (think dramatic music, soft focus on exquisitely dressed super-hot people in the snow). About 15 minutes before it ended, I was ready for it to be over. The story is nice, but not all that engaging. It’s nice for a film to show a loving relationship between gay men, but I wonder how the story would hold up if this film was “A Straight Single Man”. I imagine it would be a little cliché. The acting was terrific and Colin Firth was top-notch as usual. Also, I was happy to see a more subtle John Lautner house in a movie. Although I didn’t love it, I liked it, and would recommend seeing it, simply because it is really, really nice to look at. (And I assume that critics that recommend films get some kickbacks and I definitely want some Tom Ford Menswear.)

She Said: The film is visually gorgeous. Every single shot, vignette, scene is meticulously constructed. It is as if the pages of W Magazine have come to life. This said…Ford is a complete fetishist. He focuses on small (albeit beautiful) details that do little to progress the story. Close-ups of heavily made-up eyelids, a naked man being tossed around in water (that has the color and look of Mountain Dew), the hairy, tan legs of a young girl. And all those pretty, pretty boys. (Must they have such pink, plump lips? Gives a chick a complex.) All of this is complete eye candy, no doubt about it. But what is it’s purpose? There is nothing ugly (other than some characters attitudes about war, gays, and literature) in the entire film. The cars are pristine, a Pyscho poster looks like a Richard Prince painting that should be hanging in the Guggenheim, the men’s suits and ties are perfect, as are the pruned orange trees inside Julianne Moore’s mansion. And speaking of homes, really Lautner’s Schaffer Residence is the star of the film. I. Want. To. Live. There. A few other thoughts: the film reminded me of Sodenberg’s The Limey, both structurally and all that visual obsession; the final bedroom scene was straight out of Blue Velvet; the swimming scene and shots of the lovers on the cliff are straight out of From Here to Eternity–or maybe Herb Ritts’ Madonna version. My eyes got tired of all that glorious beauty after about 45 minutes, I had no sympathy for any of the characters, and thought the story was overly clichéd–but, damn–is A Single Man a looker.

Stop #3: Lou Winebar


(Image from Bestor Architecture)

Lou occupies a special place for us because it is where we went on our first “official” date. We had, of course, already had sex and all that, but it was are first time really sitting across from one another at a table.

When we arrived, we were seated between a 6-top and a cuddling/groping 2-top. We asked if we could move to the bar because we felt a bit crowded and, frankly, we just prefer to sit at the bar. We’re glad we did. Lou was behind there sniffing and slurping a variety of wines which he would then tell us about. Enamoring him tonight was a Croatian white with a nearly unpronounceable name. Upon sipping it, one of the servers said, “it’s contradictory in the mouth,” an assessment we both appreciated.

We began our drinking (or rather, continued) with a very pink Cava of which we have forgotten all information. This said, Lou: update your wine list on your website. For food we started with the Market Salad and Charcuterie and Cheese plate. Both were excellent, but wow, the charcuterie plate included the best cheddar cheese either of us have ever tasted (Hooks from Wisconsin–not England).

About a month ago we had signed up with Blackboard Eats for a free bottle of wine at Lou, and tonight we cashed that in and ordered a La Cabotte from the Cotes du Rhone. Lou remarked that it was a light-bodied red that would go well with both of our entrees (Her, the clam and chorizo, Him, the pulled pork sandwich), but he did pour us a glass of Pinot Noir that “is perfect with the pulled pork.” This is another reason why we love sitting at the bar.

Our dinner was wonderful. It was the perfect end to a fun, busy evening. You should all go to Lou, don’t be alarmed that it’s in a mini-mall next to a laundromat (where, coincidentally, we both used to do our laundry–before we ate here, or had sex with each other). It’s really fantastic.
La Cabotte_Cotes Du Rhone2007 Domaine d’Ardhuy Côtes du Rhône La Cabotte (Price: We forgot, because it was free)

He Said: Doing this from memory because I took no notes. I remember it almost bubbling after it was poured. Blackberry and pepper on the nose gave way to a very straightforward, light-bodied wine with hints of cola. Very nice compliment to the pulled pork sandwich. Not knowing the price, I can’t really do an honest valuation, but for free it was fucking excellent.

She Said: Deep ruby color. Pepper, earthy nose with an underlying gaminess. A slight frizzante on the tongue. Not as heavy or overly earthy in the mouth, which I was grateful for. Dark fruit, pepper, spicy wood, a little clunky, but pleasant and silky. Fine and easy drinking. And what a value: FREE!

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