Monday, November 25, 2013

Our lunches at the Anaheim White House always seem to turn into a special event.  This time we met, by chance, a  long time acquaintance from the wine industry, Mark Abraham, So. Calif. manager for Pedroncelli Sonoma County wines.  When we arrived Mark was meeting with Franco Pafundo, wine director and beverage manager at the White House.
Later he came over and sat at our table while we talked about old times.  Pedroncelli wines are almost aways featured at the So. Calif. Restaurant Writers Awards Dinner and we told Mark how the dinner in March 2014 would be held at the new banquet hall of the Titanic Exhibition in Buena Park.  The hall, when completed, will be  a replica of the Titanic's first class dining room.
Then Franco came over to join us and asked if we had sampled the 2013 Beaujolais Noveau. We said no so he brought over a bottle of 2013 Georges Dubuff for a tasting.  We both agreed that this year's vintage had inched up in quality from the 2012 bottling.
As usual we dined well.  My dining partner and I shared a plate of Calamari which came with a memorable dipping sauce.  My entree was breaded Sand Dabs with shallots while my partner ordered the Bucatini Con Gambai, a Sicila region pasta with shrimp. He liked the dipped sauce so much he ordered another bowl to go with the shrimp.  Our desserts were Tiramisu for me, one of my favorites, and a Dolce al Zaagliore Sorbet for him.
I am a great advocate of the two and one half hour lunch.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The 2013 Harvest Report of the Wine Institute is in and there is agreement by vintners from Mendocino county in the north to Temecula Valley in the south that this year's vintage will be exceptional. 
The harvest was easy and bountiful with yield increases in almost every appellation.  Last year total tonnage of the harvest was four million tons and that amount may increase slightly this year, slightly lower in coastal areas but increases in interior regions.
The 2012 vintage was considered outstanding and many vintners are saying that 2013 harvest will make it two exceptional years in a row for quality wines.
California is the world's fourth largest wine producer and exports are growing continually.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A good bottle of wine and its label can take one to some interesting learning experiences.  Last evening we were, once again, at Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale renown for its Lebanese cuisine.  Our wine was a bottle of  Chateau Ksara Blanc de Blanc from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. 
A good deal of history here since grapes have been grown and wines made in Lebanon for 7,000 years.  The Phoenicians were exporting wine from Lebanon to other countries before the birth of Christ..  Chateau Ksara was founded in 1857 by Jesuit Priests.  A part of the Ksara cellar is a grotto from Roman times.
Our Blanc de Blanc was a blend of 50 per cent  Sauvignon Blanc, 25 per cent Semillon, and 25 per cent Chardonnay.  We thought the wine perfect to accompany the many dishes that arrived from the Phoenicia kitchen.  Nimo, our waitress was wonderful, always gracious and smiling, while explaining some of the appetizers.
All of which keeps Phoenicia, with its five star rating, one of the best restaurants in Southern California.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just returned from trip to Temecula which makes me one of two million people who visited the city and surrounding wineries this year.
This visit included  a tour of South Coast Winery and Resort and its newly opened Hotel with 53 guest rooms, all like mini suites with ourdoor patios overlooking the vineyards.   We were greeted by Owner Jim Carter who continues to improve South Coast which has already won awards as the best Winery Resort in California.
As for the wines they also are continually bringing home awards from competitions.
We then moved to the Barrel Room where a presentation of chefs from some of Temecula's best restaurants took place to celebrate November as Restaurant Month.   This event will duly be reported in Vittles next issue.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Our return from San Diego took us on another of our auto tours.  We headed east on Interstate 8 leaving at first light.  Once past Alpine we had an empty highway which gave us time to stop here and there for photos and to admire a wild scene of rock mountains that extended to  distant horizons. At Ocotilo Wells we left the Interstate for S2 whch would lead us to Borrego Springs and our destination, Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
This State Park is the second largest in area in the U.S.  On S2 we were checked at a Border Patrol station, chatted with three agents who looked into the trunk of my car and then passed me on.  So far I had not seen a single other car but did sight a southwestern desert fox, the first I have ever seen in the wild.  I stopped my car and watched till he finally loped off in the brush.
Next I saw three coyotes and again stopped to admire this family, since I believed it was a mother and her two almost grown pups.  Again a first since previously I have never seen more than one coyote at a time.
Our drive was at a leisurely pace with stops to look at signs hinting of exciting adventures: Indian Gorge, Well of 8 Echoes and Box canyon to name a few.
We also watched a road runner skip across the road in front of us, seemingly from a long ago cartoon.
Our visit to the State Park will be told in a future Vittles story.  This day we moved on past the Salton Sea and finally onto Interstate 10 for home.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On our most recent trip to San Diego we discovered another great Chinese restaurant featuring Dim Sum.  It is the Jasmine located at 4609-A Convoy Street.  It has also received good reviews from other writers for its seafoods.  We stayed with Dim Sum on our visit with steamed Shrimp Har Gow, Pork Siu Mai,, Chui Chow Fun Gor and steamed BBQ Pork Bun.
Jasmine is a spacious restaurant with an excellent attentive wait staff .  On our next visit we will try their famed seafood menu which is large and enticing.
Jasmine offers off street free parking and is open for lunch and dinner.  Call 858 268-0888, on the web at

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Once again  on assignment  in San Diego.  This time I started in Old Town, first on two hour trolley tour which took us through city's most interesting locations.  Then spent much time in Old Town Historic State Park, which is the most visited Park in California.  Also visited Mormon Battalion Historic Site which was a truly rewarding experience.  Lots more to come about this day.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The matching of foods with wine varietals is a special culinary art in its own right.  This matching of food and wine has been a hallmark of the Ventura Chapter of Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenphiles, WINO  for short.  Each month wines from an individual winery are coupled with the artistry of a restaurant chef.
Now in its third decade, under the guidance of Jeanne Bartlett,  the Wino group met last evening at the Residence Inn in Oxnard where Executive Chef James Smith showed a menu that perfectly matched the vintages of Rancho Sisquoc Winery.  It is located in northern Santa Barbara County adjacent to the Sisquoc River, east of Santa Maria.
We had the opportunity to meet with Sarah Holt Mullins, brand ambassador and assistant winemaker, as well as her mother, Mary Holt.  The Holts have managed the ranch and vineyards since 1975.  Originally a cattle ranch grapes were planted in 1952 and now include fifteen varietals with 300 acres of vineyards.
The menu opened with a salad of baby spinach with apples, candies walnuts and bleu cheese which was served with Rancho Sisquoc 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, a wine we thought outstanding.
Next was pumpkin and mascarpone ravioli with 2010 Tre Vini, a blended red of Sangiovese, Syrah and Malbec.
There were two entrees, the first broiled pork loin with spiced quince and apple chutney accompanied by Sisquoc 2011 Merlot followed by  grilled breast of chicken with Creole sauce and a 2011 Pinot Noir.
Dessert was handmade chocolate truffles and chocolate dipped strawberries with 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. All three of these Sisquoc red varietals rated high on our score card, as did the talents of Chef James Smith.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We were invited to the Simply Italian Great Wines tour that reached Beverly Hills this week and attended a seminar on Veneto Wines.  Veneto D.O.C. is the largest wine producing region in Italy and producing many different varietals and styles of wines.  Prosecco is the name for Italian sparkling wines and we tasted two produced in this region.
Veneto also produces a unique wine called Amarone.  It is made by the drying of the grapes after harvest by a process called 'appassimento'.  By the time of pressing the grapes weigh less than half the normal and show slight botrytis.
Amarone wines spend longer time in oak barrels and a long rest in bottles as well.  These wines are generally 16 per cent alcohol and can have a very long cellar life.  The wines are labeled Amarone Della Valpolicella and we had the opportunity, at this seminar, to taste three of these vintages.
Then it was to the top floor of Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel for an expansive tasting of many Italian wines which was enthusiastically attended by many people including some of our colleagues from the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.

Friday, November 1, 2013

It was a gala evening as officers of the Southern California Restaurant Writers gathered at the Renaissance Restaurant in Hollywood to present its chef, Phil Christodoulou with the Writers' 2013 Chef of the Year Award.  The medallion was presented to Phil by Jim Woodin , President, with Jeanne Bartlett, Secretary, and Neill Foster, Treasurer looking on while This Writer, a lifetime member of SCRW took photos of the event.  Looking on were two staff members of Renaissance who had received SCRW awards in previous years,  Christian Bolinard as pastry chef of the year and Gerard Marini as Sommelier of the Year.
The Renaissance earns five star rating each year as well as a Golden Bacchus award for its wine selection.
Master Chef Phil Christodoulou, Christian Bolinard and Gerard Marini have all been with the Renaissance for over two decades.
An added festive note for the evening was helping Jeanne Bartlett celebrate her birthday.
As dining room for the historic Manor Hotel the Renaissance is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.  It is located at 5930 Franklin Avenue in the heart of Hollywood.  Call 323 960-3222.