29 January, 2010

Good Eats and Zin - Update from ZAPfest 2010

Last night was the best "Good Eats and Zin" ever!  It seemed that the terrible weather recently meant that eveyone who planned to brave it was rewarded by both smaller crowds and much improved weather.  Inside, the Hawaii theme made everyone smile.  And the wineries were pouring copious amounts of delectable Zin paired with delicious bites.  Everything was good!  And after the 20th winery/snack purveyor combo that I visited, I was just as happy as I was at the beginning.  Some impressions from me:
Best Wine and Food Pair: Mini PB & J Sandwiches with Mano Formate Bacon paired with Gamba Zin.  Sondra from Estate did an amazing job of combining tiny biscuits slathered with pine nut butter and jelly that incorporated the Gamba Zin into sandwiches with her magnificent Mano Formate bacon.  It made me want to sign up for a slot in her amazing Mano Formate classes!  Yum!

Most Exotic item:  Fermented Black Bean Braised Ox Tails with Oyster Sauce EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar.  I did not think I would like this, but the various elements really came together in a harmonious manner.  Kudos for creativity.  It made my favorite Accidental Pairing with my favorite new discovery.

Favorite New Discovery:  Marr 2007 Alger Vineyard, Tehama  This almost silky Zin had nice fruit forward bursts of raspberry with interesting touches of herbs and pepper.  Tehama (I had to ask) is located east of Red Bluff near Mt. Lassen.  At $15, a bargain!  Food friendly and delicious.

Most Anticipated by me:  Dogwood Cellars '06 Zin paired with Sift's Snickerdoodle Cupcakes.  This year they had custom frosting pairs with the '07 Mendo Zin too!  Bowls of wine flavored frosting!

Best Hospitality: Murphy-Goode with a Viking Horned Hardy Wallace manning the table dispensing your choice of Spicy or Intense paired with both a delectable Pork Belly Slider and Hardy's own southern fried goodness

Edmeades, Rockwall, Ravenswood ('07 contrasted to '97! Yum!), And too many delicious bites and sips to  mention.   Yum!  See you at the Grand Tasting!

27 January, 2010

ZAP is this Weekend! ZAP is this Weekend! Plus Repost of Instructive Post on How NOT to be a Drunk Ho...

ZAP is this weekend!
Finally!  If you haven't got tickets, time is running out.  Click here for more info on the festivities. 
And speaking of festival drinking.  For instructional purposes, I thought it prudent to re-post this informative "How-NOT-to..."

( Not that YOU, would ever need this---no, not you...)

I have heard wine tastings described as "intimidating", "hoity toity", "snobby". Ha! We go out of our way to make wine, delicious wine , feel accessible to all. In fact, as long as you have not spritzed liberally with that bathroom Polo, or Aquanetted yourself into a HAZMAT violation, I welcome your curiosity, input and company on the journey to learn more about all things wine. That is unless you are a drunk ho. If you or a loved one are exhibiting symptoms, seek professional help. Here are some signs:
Falling off your Barbie heels?
Well, why were you wearing 4 inch metallic stilettos in the first place? Whatever. Dressing like you robbed a Forever 21 is seldom appropriate for Sunday afternoons. Sister, you put that mess together sober! And now you're wobbling on your aching tootsies or worse yet---you can't feel your feet. If it talks like a drunk ho and walks like a drunk ho...---well, you get the picture.

Menage a trois?
Funny. The guy who picked you up this morning has a twin? No, triplets! And suddenly the one in the middle is looking kinda foxy. Blurry. But oh so foxy. What was his name? Please resist the urge to merge right in the middle of the venue. Get a room. You're going to need it. Later. Public restroom floors can be notoriously unsanitary. And no. Those Muni Wind shelters will not do in a pinch. For either purpose---unless you are drunk ho.

Eating disorder?
Believe me. Not only do the Italians know fashion, their colorful phrase for "Yo! You're a drunk ho!" translates roughly to " Poor thing. She has not yet eaten enough," If you are attending a wine tasting, today is not the day for low carb, no carb, meal skipping nonsense. Mangia Bambina! The best of us on an empty stomach can quickly turn into drunk hos. Might I suggest some bacon?

Over swallowing?
Today is the day to let fly the phrase: Spit. Don't swallow. You heard me. Today your personal maxim has its place. Do not chug. Do not consume 20 full pours no matter how much you like the buzz---I mean wine. And stop looking for the keg; those red party cups are Personal Spit Cups. Figure it out. Otherwise, you risk turning into a drunk ho.

Thinking you are Batman .
Over interaction with random strangers. "I love you, Chicago!" "I was just trying to be philanthropic with the sunset" And other things that so do not make sense when one is not wearing booze goggles. Challenging security. Feeling like you have superpowers.
All these can be signs that you are a drunk ho. If you find yourself wobbling on your barbie heels on a rough plank three inches from an embarrassing plunge into the San Francisco Bay. And at that time you find yourself sassing a security guard because he/she is acting deranged, later, you will find that you, in fact, are the drunk ho. NOTE: This is not limited to female persons. Men, be aware, if you have over imbibed, you too can become, yes, drunk hos.

But in all seriousness, I have seen an alarming uptick at several events with out of control, should-be-wearing-a-toga drinking. Besides ranging from unpleasant to dangerous to downright illegal, it takes away the opportunity to learn about a very interesting topic. It also potentially jeopardizes the ability of the organizers to continue with enjoyable events. And hey, Drunk Hos, why are you travelling to events with "friends" so careless that they will let you get a ride home from the Park Police?

I'm not talking about responsible drunkityness. Or crossing the line from wine scholarship into giddy indulgence. Rosy cheeks. Laughing too hard. Getting flirty. Fine. Getting hauled off by the EMT's? You are a drunk ho.

Oh, and unless you are a Russian prince/princess with the means to fling fine champagne-flecked crystal into the fireplace of your cozy dacha, it is never appropriate to throw stemware onto the floor. It is not cute. But then you've lost your compass for cute, because, by that time, we all know: You are drunk, Ho.

25 January, 2010

Fifth Floor, San Franciso - Review of DineAbout Town Experience

Visa DineAbout season is a time when you can sample a bunch of restaurants with little risk as they offer either lunch (2 courses) of dinner (3 courses) for $17.95 and $34.95 respectively.  You can choose and reserve your spots via Open Table, which for me sometimes feels like a mission critical application.  Sure, some restaurants phone it in and offer you weird chicken/pasta but some really make the effort to introduce you to their location.  In the case of Fifth Floor, Xandria and I braved the sub arctic gales to make a dreary Monday reservation and were we ever glad we did.  Not only was the service excellent and the food delish, but they offered a thoughtful and insightful pairing to the food that introduced us to two delightful wines.

We started with an amuse of foie and shaved apples, which was delivered with a red Spanish wine of aromatic delight.  It's rare to get a Mencia and this one, Pazo de Arribi Mencia, Galicia, Spain was bright red, with flavors of spice, red fruit and was a nice match for the lamb salad.  Next, came perfect scallops in a maze of whole porcini mushrooms and a section of perfectly poached pear.  These were swathed in a cabernet sauce in which foie gras perched like Jiminy Cricket, just out of reach but omnipresent.  Matched with a fabulous 2007 Cep (the second label from Peay Vineyards) Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which was a delightful glass redolent with cherries, red currant, cherry bark, baking spice and just a hint of forest floor to lock in the pair with the porcinis.  Yum! 

By, now our inhibitions were gone, what with the ooohing and ahhhings ,and we started photographing with wild abandon.  Chocolate tart with fried banana garnish and a quenelle of potently banana-y ice cream.  Paired with a lovely Broadbent 10 yr old Malmsey?  Delicious way to end a meal. And for a final touch? Mignardises of surpassing delight.  I am ashamed to say I scarfed down the Ladouret-like macaroon so fast, our sever brought Xandria a steak knife to divide the rest (or fend me off.  who really knows?).  Can you blame me?  Fifth Floor is located in the Palomar Hotel on (where else?) the Fifth floor, but the patient front desk folks will direct you as cheerfully as the first person wha asked them that evening.   They also offer a five course menu for $65 with a booze pairing (might include wine, beer or spirits) for additional $50. I so want to try this before seasonality removes the pork belly offering!

24 January, 2010

The PERFECT Blend - Our Conn Creek Barrel Blending Experience

I was lucky enough to be among several bloggers and writers invited by Paul Askiman to visit and experience the Barrel Blending experience at Conn Creek Winery.  Just to let you know, this rocks! 

First of all, Conn Creek is located along the beautiful Silverado trail in Napa.  The winery is known primarily for its flagship Bordeaux style wine, Anthology, which the tasting started with. A gorgeous bordeaux blend with lovely color, complex spice and fruit and nice structure.  Okay, definitely setting the bar high for beginning blenders. 

Then, after a brief primer on the Napa region and the basics of blending, we were turned loose to take our learning kinesthetic.  Barrel samples from all fourteen of Napa's AVA's awaited. 

The folks at Conn Creek have done an amazing job of making a satisfying blending experience accessible to the newest newbie to wine as well as the most curmudgeonly wonk.  It's just plain fun.  In the elegantly and thoughtfully appointed classroom setting, you are provided with beakers and pipettes.  From there, you are allowed to taste samples of Cabernet Sauvignon from each of the 14 Napa AVA's.  These are further broken down into five major classifications by overarching characteristics of: Soft, Supple, Complex, Rich and Bold.  I took their advice and tasted through, ranking each sample and then blended my three favorites in varying percentages to get to the flavor I wanted.  Oooh!  I almost forgot.  They also include barrels of Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, so you can get that Bordeaux blend perfect if that's what you want.  I loved getting the snapshot of the variances in Napa Cabs.  Soil samples are also included so you can get a sense of how place impacts the flavor. 

From there, they assist you with getting your blend right (hint:  there is a bit of math and *gasp* the metric system) and corking your bottle.  There are also materials to get your label personalized just so. 

Here is a video that gives you an idea of the fun I had creating "Liza's Cuvee",  which ended up being a delicious blend of 30% Surber Vineyard from Calistoga, 30% Hohzoni from Rutherford, 20% Stagecoach from Atlas Peak and 10% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Many thanks to @lorzandrabrxchk for her great camerawork and for capturing our obvious glee.

And everyone in the group had their own take on blending and decorating, so that at the end of the exercise, not only did we learn a ton about the magic/science of wine making and the different flavors of Napa, but also had a souvenir of the day.  An excellent value for a day of learning in an elegant venue.  For more information on how to book your visit, click here

20 January, 2010

WBW #65: A Snow Day - Hangar One Vodka: An icy joy

Vodka has a special place in the BrixChicks's hearts. So for this Wine Blogging Wednesday with the door open to write about other spirits, I immediately thought of my favorite Vodka: HangarOne. Let's face it with my deep loathing of all things snow, it would take a whole bottle to get me out in a Winter Wonderland. Plus I would need significant fortification (and specialized footwear) to venture out into snowy climes.

Little incentive beyond the tasting is needed to get me out to St. George Spirits, however. Their Alameda Point tasting room is a wonderful place to visit (Bring a designated Driver! You will need one). Facing away from the delicious booze, you will be treated to a sweeping, unobstructed cityscape of San Francisco across the bay. Turn around and enter the industrial hangar to try excellent spirits. The tasting room and and the adjacent Caddell & Williams store are open Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 7pm, Sunday noon-6pm and the address is 2601 Monarch St. at Alameda Point (the old Naval Air Station.). Tours are available on the weekend, but check the "Visit the distillery" link here as well as to find out more info

In 2001, not a great year to think back on what with the terrorists, dot bomb, etc., etc., but one great thing did happen and that was Jorg Rupf and Ansley Coale got together to bring the exquisite craftsmanship and innovative thinking of their respective efforts together to work on HangarOne Vodka. Pure, clean vodka taste infused with real fruit create lovely sipping vodkas that inspire mixologists everywhere. Look at the cool distilling equipment and concentration on the face of distiller, Lance Winters!
My favorite is Buddha's Hand. An exotic citrus that looks like a cross between a lemon and a monkey paw, Buddha's Hand vodka has a crisp, citrusy tang. I last had it in Citron Lemonade at Absinthe in San Francisco. Delicious! It also lifts up a simple Lemon drop cocktail into something special. My second favorite, Keffir Lime Is also a great mixer. By using the rarer lime variety as well as the leaves, the fresh essence of lime is captured in the spirit. A full list of the vodka's can be found here:
And back to the snow theme, a super fun thing to do with vodka, is easy and elegant. You can take citrus slices, peppers, herbs, flowers or leaves and insert them in a container that will hold your vodka bottle and a thin layer of water. Put it all back in the freezer and adjust your arrangement, so that when your guests arrive, you can place the vodka bottle on the table without losing the chill. Hint: Spray the container with some Pam before adding decorations or vodka bottle so that you can just grab the neck of the bottle to unmold.

Wow! This Wine Blogging Wednesday thing is making me thirsty!

05 January, 2010

Why I love Los Angeles, CA. (It's not the wine)

No, I don't love LA because of the balmy 70 degree late December weather. And I could care less about the film industry and celebrity culture. What I love about LA is the variety of culinary treasures available. I am not talking about the trendy, upscale eateries. I am talking about the food of the people! The pupusas, pancakes, fried chicken and bread pudding! All the stuff that is good for you, especially the pig candy. So here is the synopsis of my mini culinary tour:

So yes, Robert and I really pigged out starting with the pig candy, the specialty dish of the wine bar known as "Lou" in Hollywood. This porcine delicacy is a small serving of bacon house-cured in brown sugar and a combination of 10 secret spices, including smoky paprika. It is a chewy, sweet, rich concoction of pig meat with a smoky poke. Simply addictive...By the way Lou on Vine is a wine bar in Hollywood specializing in wines from Europe (and a few Californians) that also serves entree-sized plates (think Divers Scallops, Merguez sausage and Steak frites.)

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Next on the foodie agenda was Dinah's Famous Chicken. Admittedly this ain't Thomas Keller's fried chicken but I cannot resist crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside fried chicken. Although they don't serve the kinda southern style sides I like (collard greens, sweet potatoes and red beans and rice,etc.) I still love Dinah's chicken with green beans and smashed potatoes. And even better, it is on the way to LAX.

A happy camper at Dinah's.

Next up: pancakes at the LA breakfast institution "The Griddle Cafe."

Snow-covered mountains or Oreo Pancakes?

Modern art or nutella-stuffed French Toast?

It doesn't matter what they look like because they taste phenomenally good. This is what I call breakfast decadence and The Griddle has the most creative pancake and french toast menu. Ever have corn flakes or cinnamon toast crunch in your pancakes? You can have it at The Griddle. You can have pumpkin pie pancakes, carrot cake pancakes, the infamous "bluesberry" pancakes and they even have Red Velvet pancakes for the holidays. The pancakes are the size of the plate and you get three per order. When the server brings the plate to the table your mouth drops they are so shockingly large. Normal people cannot finish the whole plate. Check out the size compared to the average person's hand:

Dang! That's a huge-ass pancake. Check out their menu at: www.thegriddlecafe.com

An honorable mention for Pupuseria del Valle in Burbank, CA. Tuesdays are $1 pupusa day. I don't have pictures of these delectable, cheesy corn cakes cuz they simply did not last long enough to be photographed.

Alas, I have saved the best for last: the most amazing bread pudding on Earth. Next time you are in the Echo Park neighborhood get yourself to "Masa." I had an oral orgasm eating this bread pudding. Oral orgasm? Is that possible? Well go experience your first one at Masa. Chef/Baker Steve explained how this orgasmic dessert is made. First the bread: buttery croissant bread, chocolate croissant bread and almond croissant bread all baked together with vanilla custard. It arrives to the table drizzled with caramel and dusted with cocoa powder. One serving is perfect to share in the charming restaurant. Visit them at www.masaofechopark.com

This concludes our culinary tour. We pigged out so much that we forgot to find the Korean BBQ taco truck. There's always next time.