Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sip This: Panther Creek Willamette Valley Lazy River Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014

Panther Creek Pinot Noir 2014: This Willamette Valley winery doesn’t lack for history: Founded by Oregon legend Ken Wright in 1986, more recently it was bought by Bacchus Capital Management — the same firm that invested in Qupé in 2011 — and they installed Tony Rynders from Domaine Serene as consulting winemaker.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Eat This: Tres Leches Cake @ Julienne

It’s entirely possible the best dessert in town is the most deceptively simple. Tres leches cake has gone from a mysterious origin — practically every Latin American country claims its creation, and then there’s an ugly possibility a condensed milk company came up with it to sell its product — to a blanded-out cliché. Chef Justin West rescues it from both its murky and over-familiar history by paring it down to its core delights.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Mighty First & Oak Grows in Solvang

If you can’t bring the people to you, you have to go to the people. At least that’s the way the Rosenson family saw it. Since 2005, they have owned Coquelicot Estate Vineyard just outside of Solvang. But knowing, as Jonathan Rosenson understated it, that “land use in the valley is pretty strict,” they opted to buy the Mirabelle Inn in Solvang as a hospitality center of sorts for their winery rather than build something on the estate itself.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why Santa Barbara Might Need to Blush about Its Roses

To claim you don’t like rosé is about the same as saying you don’t like cheese or people. While Limburger or a crowded bus might be too stinky for you, have you tried a nutty-gouda delight like Ewephoria or met Pope Francis? While these particular examples might not float your cheese or human character boat, I promise there’s a rosé out there that will.

Especially if you’re drinking Santa Barbara County rosé. That point became transparently clear at a recent Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip to Santa Barbara itself, the first after the group had such success bringing the brand to Los Angeles recently. On a relatively balmy day on Sama Sama’s back patio, 15 area producers poured a rosé or three and made clear, as usual, for variety this region can’t be beat.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Santa Barbara Vintners blog.

(P.S. that cocktail in the photo was from the rosé dinner later that evening at Sama Sama)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Goleta's Got a New Chef

That, my hungry friends, is kimchi fries, and yes you want some. It's really not as fussy fusion as it sounds, since there's a classic like chips and malt vinegar lingering in its roots if you think about it. So you get fries down at the bottom but even better some yummy apple and cabbage with just enough zing; in fact, any Korean kimchi aficionado is probably going to bitch the stuff doesn't stink enough. Settle down, though--you're eating in Goleta. Then you get some lime curry aioli, too, for more lift (citrus always lifts--think about that when you choose the cocktail to pair with this, and you'll want one of those too--it's a lovely list of drinks).

This dish is just one of the highlights on the menu at the Outpost at the Goodland Hotel, a spot with a new chef, Nick Bajal, who is whipping up some tasty plates. The menu is slowly shifting under his watchful eye and keen palate to add stuff like bibimap (he does have a bit of a Korean thing going, but overall it's all Pacific Rim, and a big rim that is) with a duck breast cooked to such perfection you'd instantly order duck if it were on the menu. Or something like white bass over a cashew mole, rich with more savories than you can count yet not a bit gloppy or gooey (if you've been scared off by too many more chocolate-based moles). This dish is so good even the red quinoa on it is ok!

Save room for dessert, too, especially the beguilingly exotic Coconut and Hibiscus, which is rum soaked coconut cake, candied cashews, and hibiscus sorbet. The cake is moist but also a bit biscuity, a very satisfying texture, not too rummy (this isn't Little Italy), and than that sorbet gives just the right fruity-flower notes. Lovely.

Sip This: Speyburn Arranta Casks

Speyburn Arranta Casks Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Unless you’re up on your Gaelic, that “arranta” won’t help you; it turns out it means “intrepid and daring,” and, yes, it also means this single malt from Speyburn is a product for the American market. The good news is Speyburn’s 200-plus years of tradition means it’s not overly amped up, despite being aged in American oak bourbon casks.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Tip of the Cup to Cusp


It would be easy to think that Cusp Dining & Drinks starts off with two strikes. First, it's atop the Hotel La Jolla, and there's that old rule: the better the restaurant's view, the less good they figure the food needs to be. Given this view is La Jolla in all it's San Diegan splendor--it almost looks a bit wild out there!--and, if you time it right, that big ole ball of sun dumping into the Pacific at dinner, they could probably serve you sawdust burgers and you'd still leave with a smile on your face. Second, it's a hotel restaurant, and too often they cater to a captive audience they assume doesn't want anything too adventurous; after all their lazy diners can't even bother to leave the hotel for a meal. (C'mon people, see the sights!) At least they miss the easy third strike and avoided the curse of cutesy alliteration and didn't name the place Cusp Cuisine and Cocktails.

The good news is that if anybody can hit it out of the park when behinds in the count, it's Cusp. (How un-Padre of them!) (Sorry, cheap shot, I know.) That began with Dennis, our very professional server. Just enough smile, just enough polish, just enough knowledge, just perfect timing. That kind of thing. Gracious.

Well, actually, the space itself probably came before even Dennis. The eleventh floor as you descend to La Jolla shores in a room of all windows and a great grate on the opposite wall, and banquets set a bit higher, and music there but not THERE--it's a very pleasing place to be, a tad retro but also a bit timeless, because what else is the best retro but forever?

To save both my time and yours, I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow, so will, alas, not lavish enticing descriptors on the Oaxacan Sunset cocktail (a Mezcal-starring reinvention of the Margarita), or on the appetizers that appetized (a fried calamari that avoided cliche by laying aside a romesco sauce) or the dessert (apple fritter that was more a donut stuffed with a still pretty crunchy apple round--very clever).

No, I want to talk lamb, which you can see above. Usually the "serve it on something other than a plate" bit seems precious to me, but the black slate really worked, especially since that salsa verde was so blissfully thick. The meat was juicy yet coated with a good crunch and redolent with fresh rosemary and tarragon and lots of black pepper. The vegetables were more than an afterthought, a sprinkle of grilled corn to make it all the more summer (the seasonal menu had just kicked in the weekend we were there) and the squash a fine counter-point in flavor and texture. And if you're wondering, I sure did use my fingers to get each last nibble to the bone.