Thursday, August 20, 2009

2 Current Favorites: a wine and a restaurant

Nothing much to say about the world of wine these days except I wanted to give shout-outs in two areas where I can say I have a current favorite each:

Favorite wine I have taken out to show in the past month:

2007 Hans Wirsching Iphofer Kronsberg Silvaner Spatlese trocken

This is an absolutely fabulous dry Silvaner from one of the best producers in the Franken region of Germany. Hans Wirsching specializes in dry wines including Silvaner, Riesling, and Scheurebe, but this wine hits it out of the ball park with its unique flavor and texture. This is a single vineyard late harvest but fermented dry wine - a description that sometimes confuses - this is a wine made from grape harvested from one vineyard alone, and the harvest level is classified as "late harvest" but all the grape sugar in the must has been fermented to alcohol, so the wine is bone dry. But is it austere and puckery? Heck no. Gorgeous rich texture that is rich but not round, perfect minerality, succulent acidity but not too much, delicious Silvaner fruit - a wine to drink by itself or with delicious seafood....... Rudi says this wine is perfect with sashimi (not sushi, but sashimi) as it has the texture and mouthfeel of sake, but the complexity and balanced (read: lower) alcohol level of a wine. Actually, the alcohol level is not paltry, but a decent 12%. The wine is in a word: perfect - a white wine that impresses, and makes people who say they only drink red wine sound.... not bright.

This wine is so fantastic right now I just took a break from the computer to pop a sample in the fridge so I can take it out today and show everybody I see today how fabulous it is!!!!

Drink this at Sushi Roku Santa Monica. Buy at Wine House.

Current favorite restaurant:


Took Rudi Wiest to this restaurant earlier this week when we worked together, and even he was impressed. To me, Gjelina represents the new order of restaurants these days - not stuffy, not Wine Spectator Grand Award Winner, not white tablecloth, not 5 course tasting menu, and not $30 and up main dishes. This type of restaurant is casual looking, casual sounding (loud as hell), has no sign to let you know it is there, but for some reason, all the locals know it is there and pack it every night of the week to sit and eat delicious market-fresh food cooked perfectly and seasoned right and drink wines from all corners of the world - even Germany, if you can imagine. I had heard of this restaurant before I had found it (due to no sign outside its door) - I finally found it when I was working in the area and saw a wine delivery truck backing up and unloading a huge amount of wine - and the wine was in those lay-down boxes I tend to associate with French wine, and I thought to myself, who is buying this giant load of French wines? The last time I saw a delivery truck unloading stack after stack of lay-down boxes of French wine was at The Wine Country.......

So I explored this brown building, and lo and behold this was Gjelina, voted top new restaurant of the month or something by LA Magazine, so of course the local Venetians grabbed on to the place and was not letting go. I took a look at the paper menu and it was one of those menus that didn't really speak to me - okay, there were thin crust pizzas, salads, the usual sort of Californian cuisine with some European influence..... even oysters on the half shell, okay anyone can do that, even the Santa Monica fish market.... so I didn't make plans to have dinner here, I mean, it didn't look like haute cuisine. And the rough looking interior was hip and interesting, slabs of wood for tables and also for walls - the decorator seemed to have a penchant for dark brown. But the best part was finally getting an appointment with the self-proclaimed "Three Wine Jerks" - Joshua, Henry, and Robert - I later discovered that Robert was the GM and Joshua and Henry were the wine buyers, but all three were into ecclectic, interesting, great wines - they had good wine knowledge and good palates, and they were adventurous and their customers loved their wine.

Finally, over time, I have eaten here, once for lunch with Johan - he enjoyed it; once with winemaker Stefanie Hasselbach from Gunderloch Estate, for dessert at 9:30 pm, because we couldn't get a table at dinnertime for dinner, so we came after dinner for dessert, and dessert was fabulous; once for lunch with a friend who has a business in the local area; and finally, this week for dinner with Rudi, when normally we would never get a reservation for 7pm, but Henry and Joshua kindly got us a table, which was a nice feeling! I have enjoyed their thin crust pizza, a duck confit salad, and their braised chick-pea stew, and a couple of desserts including a caramel pot au creme.... all the food is delicious, fresh, exciting, and I highly recommend it.

And the wine list is fun. Of my wines they pour 2006 Heger Pinot Gris, 2003 Von Buhl Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Spatlese, and 2004 Pfeffingen Riesling Beerenauslese. They also have awesome wines from the Kermit Lynch portfolio, Beaune imports and other top notch importers.

Let's put it this way, when you are in Gjelina, you're going to have a good time, you will by osmosis feel hip and cool and youthful and adventurous, and there's no way you will not enjoy the food, wine, and service.

And stroll around on Abbot Kinney while you are in the neighborhood and visit some other fine establishments. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Weekend Seafood Extravaganza - Pictures

Last Saturday, 13 people convened to consume a seafood feast delivered fresh from the east coast. Of course, there were fun accompliments, such as this cute lobster bread made from sourdough from Boudin: The dining was al fresco in this beautifully set table, as the afternoon sun filtered onto the table.
Pretty bowls of three kinds of salt - black salt, red salt, and pink salt to serve with all the courses and breads:

After an appetizer of crab tacos (which I didn't get photos of), we moved on to these beautiful mussels in a Pastis and Aquavit sauce, which was served with an Albarino (Spain) and a Verdicchio (Italy).

But what else was in these boxes? What did we know was still alive?

Yep, lobsters:

They didn't look big, but, they were very meaty!

After the cooking, the men went in there and started pulling off the heads and taking all the shells off!

Then I ran out of batteries and could not take a picture of the final lobster plate, which was also graced with potatoes mashed with roasted and smoked pablano peppers! Delish!