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Getting Lucky at Lucky Devils: Hollywood, California

23 Dec

The wine tap revolution is underway.  The wine drinker is now able to find establishments that serve wine on tap from New York (the excellent Brooklyn Winery) to Los Angeles (Father’s Office) and everywhere in between.  Now, Angelenos have another great option in Hollywood at Lucky Devils, a restaurant and bar that just underwent some extensive renovations, part of which entailed having brand-new wine taps installed.

I was invited to check out Lucky Devils and was very happy to do so; I remember having some beers there years ago, but I am much more a fan of wine than beer, and am a huge proponent of wines served on tap (which is economical, much better for the environment, and helps ensure very fresh wine).

The space is great: in keeping with its name, the color palette is red.  There’s a very long bar, tables, and booths.  There are a large number of beers on tap, a full assortment of hard liquor, and 16 wines on tap (which is double the number at Father’s Office).  In terms of ambience, it would be a good place for both dates and office happy hours.

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I sat down to quite a reception from the proprietor of Lucky Devils, who, not coincidentally, is named Lucky.  Lucky has had an interesting life to say the least: he was an Army Ranger, model/actor, and now a restaurant owner.

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Embracing the Funk: 2006 Francisco Alfonso Pedralonga DoUmia

19 Oct

While I’m not as dogmatic as Miles from Sideways, I do tend to stick to what I know when it comes to wine.  When I go to a restaurant and have to order among white wines I don’t know, I stick to Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling.  When I go to parties with tables covered by anonymous bottles, I choose Côtes du Rhône.  At home, I really like to drink my Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and White Burgundy (when I have the money!).  With wines costing what they do, it can be difficult to commit to a bottle of wine I know nothing about (which is why doing reconnaisance is so important whenever it is possible).

I should be willing to take chances more often.

I had a bottle of the 2006 Francisco Alfonso Pedralonga DoUmia ($24) squirreled away from the January 25th deal of the DC Wine Buyers Collective.  It had survived a lot longer than the other wines I acquired from that deal.  I don’t know why… maybe it’s because I simply didn’t know what to expect from this wine.  What if I opened it and it was undrinkable with the pot roast with which I was trying to pair it?

This wine is from the Rias Baixas region of Spain.  This is a coastal region that is famous for its seafood and for a wine that pairs exceptionally well with seafood: Albariño.  Such is the supremacy of Albariño that most people, myself included, don’t know that this region also produces red wine (apparently red wine only makes up 1% of the total wine production in Rias Baixas).  This particular wine is composed of 70% Mencía, 20% Caiño, and 10% Espadeiro.  I’ve never even heard of the Caiño or Espadeiro varietals!

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Restaurant Review: Firefly DC

27 Mar

It’s tough being a student in DC sometimes.  Unlike LA or Berkeley or NY, DC seems to have a dearth of good, cheap food.  It’s sorely lacking in great street food (although there are a number of food trucks nowadays, like Wonky Dog and the Fojol Brothers) and has barely any serviceable $10-$20 dinner options.  It does, however, have some excellent high end restaurants like, oh I don’t know, Citronelle.

So it’s nice to find a solid restaurant with well-executed food and great service.  Firefly fits the bill perfectly.  In a nutshell, it’s a wonderful place to have happy hour drinks with a few friends or take a date: it’s cozy without seeming small, social without being loud, and as comforting as a warm woolen blanket.  It is a bit more expensive than it looks like it should be, but still worth the price.

Mary Kate and I went to Firefly for dinner this past weekend and it did not disappoint.  We started with a cocktail each: she had the grapefruit spritz and I had the tarragon fizz.  The grapefruit spritz was a glorified greyhound and a bit too sweet for my taste.  However, the tarragon fizz was right up my alley, with tarragon-infused vodka and St. Germaine, fresh lemon, and topped off by sparkling wine.  It was garnished with some sliced tarragon and was pleasantly herbal; it was a nice aperitif.

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Celebrating Christmas with a Cab and a Chihuahua

25 Dec

I have quite a few entries to post, including some from a very nice wine tasting trip up to Santa Barbara, but I will post this one first.  I had purchased a bottle of 2002 Chateau St. Jean “Cinq Cepages”, a wine composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot from Sonoma.  While one could think of this as a meritage the people at CSJ classify it as a Cabernet because of the high percentage (at least 75% in any given vintage) of that grape in the blend.

I was very excited about this wine, having had it shipped from invino to my home back in California.

We opened it up yesterday for dinner, which was New York strip steaks topped with caramelized onion, creamy mashed potatoes, and a nice green bean, tomato, and feta cheese salad.  True to form, I opened it up about an hour before dinner to drink while cooking.  Very dark, saturated color.  On the nose there was prune and blueberry, and herbs.  When my mom tried it she said it tasted salty–I agree: there was sort of a cured olive aspect to the wine.  I got the prune and berries, along with tar, tobacco, licorice, and stone–nicely integrated, soft tannins.  It had a long finish, resolving to lighter red fruit notes.

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A Winter Adventure: Braised Lamb Shanks

9 Feb

Part One: Starting the Day

School was cancelled these past two days, which means I haven’t been in class since Wednesday evening.  I’m hoping that tomorrow will be cancelled as well, which would mean I would be out of class for TWELVE days (I don’t have classes on Thursdays and Fridays, and this Monday is Presidents Day).  This is basically longer than my Spring Break, which is coming up at the end of February.

As my blog has indicated, I’ve been cooking a lot, eating well, and drinking a lot of great wines.  For instance, yesterday morning started with my making a bachelor’s breakfast skillet consisting of a layer of leftover mashed potatoes, two eggs, shredded cheddar cheese, thyme, and a whole lotta Tabasco sauce:

I had purchased two small 5″ Lodge cast-iron skillets for this very purpose but seldom use them.  I should more often.

Although this was a good introduction to the day, I had bigger ambitions for the evening.  See, my roommate Alex was coming home from Europe yesterday, and I figured I should welcome him back to the US of A with a proper meal of lamb shanks and butternut squash.

But how do I cook lamb shanks?

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The Quiet After the Storm: Two More Wines With Which to Get Through Snowmageddon

7 Feb

I’ve been on a wine-drinking and -writing bender lately.  Counterintuitively, I found that there’s something liberating about being trapped indoors by the falling snow: the physical fact of being kept indoors turns the mind inward as well, so there’s been plenty of time for reflection and self-analysis.

And of course, eating and drinking.

Added to the bottles thus far consumed during Snowmageddon are the two below:

The one on the left is a Riesling, the 2008 Selbach Riesling Spätlese ($14.99 from MacArthur Beverages).  I opened this for a dinner of mahi-mahi, wild rice, and roasted asparagus.  The mahi-mahi was pre-marinated, courtesy of Trader Joe’s, in a sweet-salty sauce, so I figured that the semi-sweet Spätlese would be a decent match.

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The Great Ridge Zinfandel Line-Up: Or, Yet Another Reason Why California is the Best State

4 Feb

One of my favorite pastimes in DC is to discuss ways in which California is superior to every other state.  This usually takes place in the company of fellow Californians, as people who aren’t from Cali simply can’t comprehend how their domiciles are inferior.

All kidding aside, California does have a lot going for it.  This being a wine blog, I will restrict the discussion of California’s awesomeness to wine.  Of course, there’s Napa.  Sonoma.  Paso Robles.  There’s Cabernet.  There’s Pinot.  There’s Chardonnay.  Etc., etc., etc.

But just as overexposure to sun can lead to premature wrinkles and skin cancer, and being in the shadow of Hollywood creates self-aggrandizers, posers, and shallow B-list types, so can the sun lead to huge, overly-ripe wines, and so can being in the shadow of Napa create wines that, in undergoing sugar Botox and oak augmentation, have become caricatures.

Thus, there are so many California Cabs that are as undrinkably oaky, and California Chards that leave nothing to the imagination.  Hence my migration towards the refined, subtle graces of Burgundies.

Thank God for Zinfandels.

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2007 St. Innocent “Shea Vineyard” Pinot Noir: A Great Breakfast Wine

24 Jan

Is it obsessive to, when you are taking a bottle of wine over to a friend’s place, also want to bring a decanter and proper stemware?

Come on, you wouldn’t put regular unleaded in a sports car, right?  Yes, yes, I know that that analogy is flawed, but you get the idea.

Such was the question that plagued me when I was bringing over a bottle of the 2007 St. Innocent “Shea Vineyard” Pinot Noir (from the Willamette Valley, Oregon) ($49.00 at Bell Liquor & Wine Shoppe) for a movie night with a friend.  I asked my roommate whether bringing the decanter and some Burgundy glasses would be too much.

“Um… yeah,” he replied, looking at me like I was crazy.  (Then again, this is the guy who recently ran a 50-mile marathon.)  So I decided not to bring the decanter and the wine glasses, even though the Pinot was almost criminally young.  It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I opened the bottle and poured some into wine glasses the hostess provided.

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Even Dwarves Started Small: Alex’s Ultramarathon, a 1990 Riesling, and Herzog’s New Movie “Bad Lieutenant”

24 Nov

As I had mentioned in my previous post, my roommate Alex ran the JFK 50 Miler on Saturday, finishing 41st out of 1050 competitors.  As per our custom, to celebrate and to help him recuperate I cook a “fancy” protein-filled dinner for him a day or two afterwards.

This particular meal, however, would be extra-special.

I had purchased a case of wine from the excellent MacArthur Beverages in Georgetown a few months ago, ostensibly for the purpose of hosting various wine tastings (including the Spanish tasting, the notes from which you can read here, and the outstanding Burgundy tasting, the write-up of which will be coming out later this week).  While there I came across this bottle:

It was the 1990 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese from the Mosel region of Germany (seen on the label as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer).

I was intrigued.  Law students don’t come across 19-year-old bottles of wine very often; one comes across old white wines even less frequently.  The price was right, too, at around $35-$40.  Phil, one of the wine stewards, saw that I was getting a few off-the-beaten-path-type wines like the 1999 Viña Gravonia Crianza and recommended the wine, saying that it was still very much alive and well though with some of the characteristic oxidation found in aged whites.  To seal the deal, the wine was apparently stored at the winery in perfect conditions until only a few months prior.  I couldn’t resist.

After the Burgundy tasting a few weeks ago, this was the last wine from my memorable trip to MacArthur Beverages.  But it was soon to join its noble brethren, as I had plans to open it for Alex’s celebratory meal.

For dinner, we invited the always engaging (and fellow Golden Bear) Waiching, who brought fresh blueberries and blackberries for dessert.  I can’t really describe what I cooked–it’s a recipe I made up some time ago and never bothered to write down.  I guess it could loosely be named lemon-mushroom chicken.  For my own purposes (I forgot what ingredients I needed while I was shopping for the meal at Trader Joe’s) I will list the recipe here:

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Guest Post: The Foodie Guide to Pairing Wine and Cheese

17 Nov

It’s the holiday season, which means there will probably be a lot of celebrating going on. If you’re having a party, you may be looking to pair wine and cheese, which is an often-daunting prospect. Thus, I’m delighted to have this guest post from Sara Kahn, Founder of The Cheese Ambassador.

Whether you are hosting a soiree or a casual get-together this holiday, your mission is to provide your guests with warm hospitality, lively conversation and a delectable spread of food and drink. Whether the menu is complicated or simple it better be delicious. Serving a sumptuous gourmet cheese course is perfect as a starter or centerpiece of the meal. Not only is the preparation simple (no cooking!) but more importantly, your guests will enjoy discovering and savoring new favorites. As a wine lover, you want to impress with the right pairings but the overwhelming selections of wine and cheese can make your head spin. Relax. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing the right combinations of cheese and wine. Just keep in mind a few simple considerations.

A cheese course is about observing and enjoying contrasting and complementary flavors. For a foolproof gourmet cheese course, select 3 – 5 cheeses that vary in texture and flavor. Add some crusty bread, fresh or dried fruit, olives and nuts and voila!

Remember, wines are meant to cleanse the palate, wash away the tongue-coating richness of the cheese and prepare your mouth for the next delicious bite. It’s important that your selections don’t overwhelm the cheese and vice versa. Essentially, you’ll want to match wine and cheese of the same intensity level. Just remember “like for like”.

Take a look at the gourmet cheese categories and wine recommendations below for guidance. You’ll see how easy it is to serve an elegant wine and cheese course. For best results, just add friends and family.

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