'Tasted: Argentina, Maipe Torrontes'

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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Silverlake Wine Blue Monday

On Monday night we met our pal Corina Weibel, chef of Canelé in Atwater Village, for Silverlake Wine‘s Blue Monday tasting. (When your favorite chef has the night off and invites you to join her at a wine tasting, well, of course you say yes.)

Silverlake Wine is our neighborhood wine shop so we’re frequent patrons, but it had been quiet a while since we participated in a tasting. In fact, the last time had been at the invitation of Valerie and Stanley of Valerie Confections (geez, we have some talented friends). SLW put together a terrific lineup to compliment VC’s sweets on a Sunday. It was a fun and tasty afternoon with some antics thrown in. Between sips we got a few of the tasters (including Val and Stan) to play a little game: Just an Eyeful. (Read what it’s all about and see the whole series of pictures here.)

Unlike the vendor specific food pairings on Sunday afternoons, on Monday nights SLW offers three wines, a selection of farmhouse cheeses, olives, and La Brea Bakery bread in an atmosphere SLW’s website describes as “blatant low-key relaxation.” The shop’s  Tweets and Facebook updates about this particular Monday night’s line-up, however, were anything but mellow:

Really, a $20 bottle of wine. Although this may not sound too expensive, Blue Monday’s tastings cost only $12 for three generous pours of three different wines and lots of delicious snacks, so having a $20 bottle poured makes for a great deal.

We were also super intrigued about the “perfectly perfect” label art of their new proprietary wine. Could it be by the “Awesome Bears” artist Phil Lumbang? The happy bears have popped up all over the Silverlake, waving hello, smiling, giving a wink. They feel like as much a part of the neighborhood as SLW is. The wine shop is a huge fan of the bears…so much so they got Lumbang to paint their bathrooms. What could be more “perfectly perfect?”

Living up to the hype, when we arrived at 7 p.m. the place was packed and lively, full of happy people nibbling on cheese and lucques olives and sipping wine. We made our way through the crowd to the bar for the first pour. It was a delightful, perfumey Torrontes with a hint of sweetness in the finish that complimented the rich blue on the cheese board. Corina joined us and quickly caught up. We all agreed the wine was a bargain for just $10. Next up was a quenchable Tempranillo, also reasonably priced at $15.75. So what was this $20 bottle going to be?

Well, it turns out there was no $20 wine (it really was just hype), but the third wine was a treat: Para Silverlake Red from Monterey Country, featuring on the label…an Awesome Bear. The jubilant wine pourer explained it was a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet and Merlot. It was a soft, friendly wine (just like those lovable bears). As we finished our last sips of Para Silverlake, the shop continued to buzz. We all remarked on how great it was to have SLW in the neighborhood and to see so many happy faces at the tasting. It was a truly delightful way to spend a Monday evening. On the way out grabbed a bottle of the bears and Tempranillo, thirsty for more. We headed up the hill to Corina’s to continue our tasting ways, vowing to be more serious and take some notes this time.

First up was a bottle of L. Preston Red which Canelé has just started to pour it by the glass. Corina explained she had been looking for a replacement for the popular Donkey and a Goat Rhône style red they had been pouring. “I wanted a Rhône style wine, but not something that was 100% syrah or French…I like the jamminess that the California wines offer.” She recommends it with the lamb with roasted eggplant, capers, olives, and garlic they serve at dinner. Sounded good to us.

There was really just enough for a serious sip left in the L. Preston, which had been opened the night before, so Corina decided to pop open a bottle a friend had left at her house. We did not protest. The Murtas, San Michelea Torri was an older vintage: 2001. The generous friend who left the bottle was on a “peak frequency” diet, which has something to do with old wine and enzymes. Our bewilderment was erased by the delicious wine.

Not quiet ready to call it quits, and because we did want some notes about at least one of the wines we tasted at SLW, we popped open the Tempranillo, Ardales we had picked up on the way out.

In between discussions about Awesome Bears (She had seen one during our trip to New York), movies (“the story was insulting…they should have been more responsible…”), and music (“Maps is a way better song than Sweet Child O’ Mine, but Modern Romance is still the best…”) we jotted down some notes.

L. Preston, 2007 (Healdsburg)

She said: The nose is raspberries, candy, and some earthiness. For being open a day it still has a lot of heat. Flavors of cola, pepper, and mixed berry jam. It has a really lovely mouthfeel; not too rich but intense with refined tannin and a kind of freshness. Does that make sense? It is both richly flavored and austere. Completely agree with Corina that it would go great with lamb.

He said: First things first, love this label design. Cherry and raspberries on the nose and very earthy. Taste is strongest in the finish. Medium bodied, I agree it has a great “mouthfeel” but that term still gives me weird brainfeel. Front of tongue feels it right away and it’s dirty with some spice. Some heat in the finish. A little tart, but I really like it.

Murtas, San Michelea Torri, 2001 (Tuscany)

She said: Very little fruit on the nose, rather it is minerals, salt, and a bit of earth. Drinks like a large, refined Chianti. Lots of bright cherry fruit, high tannin, and very dry finish. Very elegant and quenching. Could stand up to all kinds of food, including strong flavors like bbq–are those foods allowed in the “peak frequency” diet? Whatevs…it’s delicious.

He said: My notes are bad, wait, I mean they don’t exist. I was busy making my point that Maps is to the 2000′s what Sweet Child O’ Mine was to the 1980′s. And then Corina told me that Karen O is a regular at Canelé and I was like “whoa.” Because as I have said before, if She were to die in a tragic wigwam accident, I would want Karen O to be my girlfriend. Back to the wine, I wrote “some heat.”

Tempranillo, Ardales, 2007 (Spain, $15.75)

She said: Soft tannin, cherries, youthful acidity…similar flavors to the Murtas we tasted earlier, but not quiet as refined. Enjoy Tempranillo and this is an example, truly lovely and at fifteen bucks, a bargain. I’m buying more. (the price on the bottle includes the tax…this is how SLW does their pricing).

He said: I got nothing. Was I even there anymore?

We decided to save the Para Silverlake for another time…enough bottles had been popped for the night. Before we left Corina’s house we vowed to come to Canelé soon for dinner. Must try the L.Preston with the lamb.


(The Awesome Bear spied near Cooper Union in New York last week.)

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Field Trip Fridays: Culver City Crawl

We typically enjoy wine at our homes, at friends’, or at a handful of our favorite dining spots. It’s a routine we love, but we decided we should branch out–there’s a whole lot of wine to drink out there and a whole bunch of places to slurp it. And it’s a perfect excuse for Field Trip Fridays.

Last Friday we did a Culver City crawl, starting at Bottle Rock. It was about 2p when we got there and the place only had two other tables occupied. The interior is a bit stark and reminded Her of a chain restaurant, like Chili’s or Red Lobster or something like that (not that she has ever been to those places); a bit too clean and generic. But the server was all smiles and sunshine and immediately made us feel welcome and let us know how the place works. It’s really a great idea: Bottle Rock will open any bottle they sell and serve it by the glass, you just have to order two glasses. Cameo (our sunny server) also offered to discount wines which had been opened the night before. We enjoyed two different whites (reviews below), a delicious butter lettuce salad with candied kumquats (misspelled on their menu), a good truffle grilled cheese sandwich (more truffles, please), and a Reuben (Her first ever).

We moved down the street to Ford’s Filling Station. It was the first time either of us had been there. She knows Ben Ford from way back when he was a newbie at Campanile and sees him at the Farmer’s Market. The place is very comfortable, like the hotel lobby of western hotel, complete with upright piano. Were we on the set of Deadwood? The menu looked really delightful, be we were still stuffed from Bottle Rock sandwiches. We decided bubbly would be perfect and enjoyed a glass of Schramsberg. Refreshing. We didn’t take notes, we just sipped and smiled.

Next door is Fraiche, but unfortunately (and why, why?) they close in between lunch and dinner service. So we stopped in at Kay ‘n Dave’s, a Mexican joint down the street. Time to regroup…with a margarita. It was happy hour, after all. And how good did those free, warm chips and a delicious fresh salsa taste. The bartenders were incredibly nice and eager to keep the tequila coming. We indulged in a few and then decided a walk around the neighborhood would do us some good.

On the drive back to the Eastside She said, “Wouldn’t caviar be nice? Let’s go to the Hungry Cat.” So we did. It was early still (how could this be? felt like mindnight) so there were stools available at the bar. Danielle is one of our favorite bartenders in L.A. and lucky for us–she was there. Oh, the greyhounds are gorgeous. We started with this refreshing cocktail and moved on to a carafe of Muscadet to compliment the caviar. We were feeling good. This is a nice ritual we’re starting, Field Trip Fridays.

Saturday morning came too soon. Advil was consumed. Here’s what we tasted:

Maipe Torrontés, Salt, Argentina 2007 $27/9 (Bottle Rock)

She said: The  color is a pale yellow with a hint of green. Very tropical in the nose. If the tasting was blind I would have guessed a viognier, marsanne, roussanne blend. No significant hints of oak, but the fullness and richness of nose and mouthfeel may indicate it. Lovely tropical flavors of mango, guava, and pineapple, some peach. Ultimately light and refreshing on the palate although I initially thought it would be too cloying. Nice long finish–really a lovely wine.

He said: Very apparent pineapple on the nose, but I think I “forgot” to look at the color.  I wonder why?  Light tropical flavors and full-bodied in the mouth. I’m also getting some vanilla and something flowery. To my knowledge, this is my first taste of this grape. Getting a long finish in my mouth (that’s what she said).  I have “nice” written twice in my notes.  You would think I never studied architecture; if you ever said “nice”, “good”, or “I like it” in a presentation it was suicide.  “Nice” means absolutely nothing when you review your notes, I need to know why I thought it was “nice”.  Anyhow, I liked it, it was nice and good. 

Sans Liege, “Cotes du Coast,” 2006 $34/11 (Bottle Rock)

She said: Very golden and rich in color. Tons of peach and heft in front palate. Finish not as long as I would think for such umpf up front. Oak on nose and everywhere. Not very well balanced–a bit too rich in the mouth with a lack of acid, but this is characteristic of the blend. When comparing to the Maipe Torrontés, prefer the Argentinian wine.

He said: I have an inexplicable aversion to Viognier. I don’t mind the taste so much, there is just something about the feeling that reminds me of drinking Boone’s Farm in the late 1980′s. Like maybe I’m going to have a fucking piercing migraine very soon.  But I refuse to give up on it, because I hear people rave about it. I got a lot of peach on the nose.  In the mouth I can definitely make out the Viognier, plus peach and pear.  The other grapes balance it, but still very sweet, bring on the headache.

Muscadet, Domaine de la Pépiére, 2007 $31/16/8 (The Hungry Cat)

She said: Took no notes but ordered it purposefully to go with shrimps and caviar. Which I think I remember it did. Of course it did–it’s a crisp, dry, stony white. That goes down really easy.

He said: Did we go to The Hungry Cat?  This was after many bottles of wine, some bubbly, a margarita or few… I may have to review this wine later because I have no notes or taste recollection.  The trials and tribulations of having a wine blog; sometimes you get really drunk.

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