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Swine Make Good BBQ (but Bad Wine): Travels with James and Nick in Search of America’s Finest BBQ

27 Oct

There is something therapeutic about seeing trees and towns and wide blue sky passing by you at 80 miles per hour as you sit in a car, listening to good music, on your way to somewhere.  It is an added bonus when those trees are at that moment when they are still lush but where the leaves are no longer green but various hues of yellow, red, brown, and orange.

Such were the trees on the road on the way to Lexington, North Carolina, whose Barbecue Festival my friend James (of The Eaten Path fame), our friend Nick (of the US Patent and Trademark Office) and I attended this past weekend.

bbq26_hmpg

(Thank you to the Lexington BBQ Festival for this poster!)

For those of you who do not know of James by this point, he is one of my good friends from Berkeley who has for the last year called Brooklyn, New York home.  While his more regular contributions to the blogosphere can be seen on The Eaten Path, he also is a huge aficionado of all things barbecued, once spending a few weeks traveling through the Smoky Crescent and eating and observing the best the South had to offer.  It is one of his goals to publish a comprehensive and awesome book on barbecue–a noble goal, indeed.

Thus, when he said there was a barbecue festival in North Carolina I asked if I could go.  I figured I wouldn’t have very many more chances to have a purpose to go to North Carolina, and besides, any reason to get out of DC is reason enough.

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Note: Grüner Veltliner–the Perfect Accompaniment to Dinner At An Austrian Cafe

16 Sep

A very quick post on a wine I might forget otherwise. I took a friend out to dinner at Leopold’s Kafe a week or two ago.  Leopold’s, which is a modern Viennese-style cafe/bar/restaurant, is one of my favorite places in DC: it offers very well-executed, delicious food at reasonable prices, as well as outside seating and the best Euro eye-candy you can find in Georgetown.  It is especially good for brunch or dinner and is a great place to take a date, parents, or people you wouldn’t want to entertain at a TGI Friday’s.

I had the steak frites, medium rare.  The “steak” in question was skirt steak, which is often used to make carne asada.  It wasn’t the most tender cut of meat, but it was tender enough and very, very flavorful.  It came with what I took to be caramelized shallots and a sort of creamy chimichurri on top, as well as Leopold’s breathtakingly good frites.  She had the roasted chicken which came with potatoes, warm escarole, and some sort of mustard sauce.  Both dishes were very good and very filling.  After dinner we shared a topfentorte (cheesecake with passionfruit gel, mango, and berries) and each had a kleiner Brauner, which is basically like an Austrian machiato.

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I Love LA, Part One: Bacaro L.A. Wine Bar

31 May

LA*: what a world of possibility; what a world of great food and places to go!

I was meeting up for dinner with my friend Camille from high school and had to find a place to eat.  But where to eat?  I looked around the internet and scoured the annals of my own experience to come up with four or five choices, which I proffered to her to choose from.  She chose Bacaro, a wine bar in South LA.

(Thanks to Yelp! for the pic.)

(Thanks to Yelp! for the pic.)

Bacaro came recommended from one of my fellow bloggers, Horny for Food.  It was supposed to have a good, reasonably-priced wine list, and good, reasonably-priced small plates.  Note also the cool atmosphere–blackboard wall, wine bottle ceiling, good mix of yuppies, hipsters, and yupsters.

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How Do You Cook YOUR Steak? Or, Helping Alex Recover from the National Half-Marathon with Filet Mignon and the 2001 Arrowood “Le Beau Melange” Syrah

23 Mar

While waiting for my dinner to cook (just some spaghetti, pre-made alfredo sauce, and a frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe’s) I’d like to write about YESTERDAY’s dinner: filet mignon served with steamed fingerling potatoes tossed with leeks and goat cheese.  To wash this down was a fair amount of the 2001 Arrowood “Le Beau Melange” Syrah from Sonoma Valley.  Altogether, a great meal.

le-beau-melangeThe impetus for this meal was a half-marathon Alex ran the previous day–the National Half-Marathon–as practice for the true full marathon he was planning on running in early May.  He did very well, coming in I believe 74th out of hundreds if not thousands.

The wine was to help celebrate; the steak was to help him recuperate.

True to form, Alex and I had a bit of the Arrowood before dinner–it got us crunk.  At 15% alcohol, this one was a heavy hitter.  However, it didn’t taste hot, nor was it too big and bold for our tastes.  It reminded me of one of my favorite wines–the Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine La Roquete.  However, THAT wine, being from Southern France, was made primarily of grenache, while the Arrowood was composed of syrah.  It felt more like a “French” wine–apparently, too, Le Beau Melange is Arrowood’s Rhone-style offering.  It succeeds despite the higher alcohol content.  Australian shiraz it ain’t.

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Wine Note: 2006 Philippe Jouan Bourgogne-Passetoutgrain

20 Mar

Just a short note on the wine I mentioned the other day, the 2006 Philippe Jouan Bourgogne-Passetoutgrain.  As stated in that previous post, this wine hails from a subappellation of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and is made from at least 1/3 pinot noir and at most 2/3 gamay.  I am assuming that this particular example is made more or less from those two grapes in that proportion.

I opened the bottle yesterday for dinner, which was completely Trader Joes: spinach and ricotta ravioli with tomato sauce, and vegetable pizza supplemented with goat cheese.  Good dinner, and I bet that the wine–which was described as acidic–would go well with the tomato sauces and cheeses.

Transparent purple color, with a promising nose which smelled like a Cotes-du-Rhone, actually–but my roommate and I found the wine a bit too insubstantial, too acidic.  Some cherry and minerality, but there was no heft.  It was like a pretty girl with no substance behind her smile.  It wasn’t a bad wine, just perhaps a touch too acidic.

Not to write it off too soon, I corked the bottle and put it in the fridge to see if a day to “breath” would round out the wine.  Now I’m drinking it with some more pizza–straight-up cheese–and it’s still acidic but a bit more open.  I noticed a little tinniness on the (short) finish I hadn’t noticed before.  Good with the pizza, actually, and better than what Clive Coates, MW described:

“A blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir might promise to be barely drinkable.  In practise as this wine is largely from grapes which barely ripen in the coolest parts of the  Burgundy vineyards the results are usually worse.  Someone must like it, for the amount produced each year is not negligible.”

from An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France

The coolness leading to the low ripeness must lead to the wine’s low alcohol and light body.  Though more pleasurable than Mr. Coates warned, I would probably not buy this wine again.

From the East Coast to the West: the “Tres Picos” Garnacha from Borsao

4 Mar

I am at home, taking a much-needed break from law school.  First semester was a breeze compared to the marathon of mock trial, briefs, classes, and journal competition!

Having lived in DC now since August, I feel like I have a sense of the city.  True, I haven’t really explored too much, but enough to realize a few things.  First, DC is a nice city–to visit.  Second, there are nice restaurants–in the $$$ range.  Third, there are some good cafes–if you’re willing to take the Metro and walk a while.  Fourth, there ARE some good wine shops, though the District of Columbia isn’t exactly the Bay Area.  I am pretty certain that I will be returning to California after law school.

I really do like certain aspects of DC.  I do like the cold weather, for instance, and the snow (although it can be a real pain when you’re trying to walk in slush and frozen ice).  I do like that you can generally get around using public transportation (traffic today in LA brought back some bad memories).  But, after all of this, and despite LA’s problems, LA is still home to me.

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Rabbit Cacciatore and Clos La Coutale

3 Nov

This is my attempt at “live blogging.”

5:50 pm
I am exhausted from nine hours at law school. With the exception of an hour-and-a-half gap in between for lunch and socialization, I was at it all day. With finals coming up, there is a distinct change in the atmosphere at school… people are definitely getting more stressed.

Nonetheless, I finished my civ pro assignment for tomorrow, put my books in my locker, and set for home.

on-burner6:15 pm
I am cutting vegetables I bought at Eastern Market yesterday. The rabbit recipe calls for two red bell peppers–I bought one red bell pepper that was streaked with green (yum!) and, for variety, two big sweet red peppers. (I cut those into pieces and, because they looked so good, ate a piece… SO delicious! I could almost eat those like fruit.) I bought a small onion. Some mushrooms. 16 kalamata olives. I had garlic at home, a big can of chopped tomatoes from Trader Joe’s… flour, check. Bay leaves, rosemary, thyme… check.

The rabbit is extremely meaty. It doesn’t look so tough, either–probably didn’t spend its days foraging on some lonesome meadow a la Watership Down. The butcher cut it into six pieces–two hindquarters, two midsections/ribs, and two forequarters.

Rabbit has been compared in taste to chicken… it seems that way, actually, although it has a certain characteristic of its own. I wouldn’t call it gamy, because it’s not. It’s just… well, I dunno… all I can say is that it’s the type of meat that would go well with dried herbs and rustic wines.

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Three Days of Wine

20 Sep

I’m listening to Cannonball Adderley’s rendition of “Autumn Leaves” (with Miles helping out on trumpet) with the window open–the air is fresh, the sky is blue and flecked with fast-moving clouds, and the temperature is a lovely 64 degrees.

Needless to say, I am pretty content right now.  Washington, DC is a great town, and I find myself enjoying law school much more than college.  One of the reasons for that is there are some good people here, and fun things to do.  Like drink.  And cook.  And drink and cook I did for three consecutive days.

Wednesday

My friend Adrian invited a few people over (all guys, regrettably) on Sunday for beef stew and poetry.  I brought over my “house red”–a bottle of Nero d’Avila from Trader Joe’s (retail: $4.99)–and we discussed Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” over steaming bowls of stew and sips of wine.  To repay the favor, I invited Adrian and two of our friends to my place on Wednesday for a meal of roast lamb, honey-rosemary potatoes, and roasted garlic asparagus.

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2006 Bodegas Enosur “Tierra Prometida” Malbec

7 Jul

My brother and I were going to cook a tenderloin roast yesterday for dinner. This called for a red.

Not just any red–something that could stand up to thyme and rosemary. Something that would accentuate the lovely rareness and juiciness of the meat.

I was thinking of something from the Cotes-du-Rhone, but bleh. I haven’t been impressed with any of my selections from that region lately. I was at a loss as to what to get.

Luckily, Chris at Mission Wines had the perfect wine: the 2006 Tierra Prometida malbec from Bodegas Enosur, which is located in Mendoza, Argentina.

This wine is a solid malbec, dense but silky, tasting of plum and chocolate and a whiff of tobacco. With the roast the wine revealed notes of herb and pepper… very good match with the thyme and rosemary combination. The medium tannins of the Tierra Prometida worked well to cut through the “fat” of the tenderloin. There’s not a lot of fat on a tenderloin, anyway, so any more tannic wine might have been too much.

I tried some of the leftover wine tonight with Korean food: rice, kimchi, kalbi, and even some raw crab pickled in soy sauce. Surprisingly, the malbec went well with the spices and strange textures of the Korean food. There was just enough umami for the crab, enough body to counteract the acidity of the kimchi, and enough fruit for the kalbi. My usual aversion towards mixing sticky rice and wine (in my stomach, NOT in a bowl, mind you!) was overcome, and I had a very enjoyable meal.

I would highly recommend the Tierra Prometida. It might even be better than the Maipe malbec I love so much!

Wine and Dine at Lou on Vine!

6 Jul

It’s funny how seemingly different things are related. For instance, it’s been well-documented on this blog that I love Intelligentsia Coffee. I was reading more about this specialty coffee roaster online when I came across this New York Times article on the interior design of Intelligentisa:

I really like the blue and white tile. (Thanks to the Times for the picture!)

At any rate, Intelligentsia’s space was designed by a woman named Barbara Bestor. I found that she had also designed the interior of a quirky wine bar / restaurant called Lou, which happens to be in a seedy strip mall–sandwiched between a Thai massage parlor and a 24-hour laundromat–off of Melrose and Vine in Hollywood.

I did some more reading on Lou and liked what I read: a fair-sized and eclectic wine selection? Check. Hip interior? Check. Good food? Check. All I needed was to actually go.

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