Friday, February 27, 2015

Words in Weirder Ways

So this blog is titled George Eats and it should include Drinks. And maybe writes, as that's the only eating and drinking you get to read about here.

But sometimes the writing isn't about eating and drinking as is the case today at Zocalo Public Square where I've got the poem of the day, some lines about where I lived over 20 years ago. My ode to "Centre County."

Still Stirs Your Cocktail

Once there was just a tomato, then heirlooms boomed, and now there are more than 250 varieties. Once cocktail makers only knew one bitters — Angostura — but now the world is brilliantly, broadly bitter, especially if you go and check out Still (37 E. Ortega St.; [805] 883-1080;, Santa Barbara’s new shop for barware and cocktail accessories. Among his other products, owner Jeremy Bohrer offers tastes of his many bitters, like a savory gumbo one from El Guapo in New Orleans, and then he’ll talk you through possible uses. It’s just one way this new spot at the corner of Anacapa and Ortega streets is a mixologist’s dream.

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

(Don't) Sip This: Viniq

Viniq: Ever have the urge to drink a lava lamp? Well, here’s your chance.

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

World of Pinot Noir: Pairings with Mushrooms and Uni

While the annual World of Pinot Noir event might be best known for its two days of grand tastings featuring wines from over 200 producers, it also takes its job exploring the world, not just the taste, of pinot quite seriously. For instance this year's version of the annual event, to be held March 6th and 7th at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, has scheduled a Foodie Frenzy Seminar Pairing, exploring a classic pinot noir match with mushrooms, along with a push of the spiky envelope -- uni.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sip This: Mezcal Amarás

Mezcal Amarás: Mezcal might be having its moment, and this import by Anchor Distilling certainly will help convert anyone assuming mezcal is merely tequila’s burlier, brawnier cousin. It’s a joven (young) style made from 100% Espadín agave from Oaxaca. Amarás translates as “you will love,” and that’s not just advertising bluster — think of this as a smooth, sipping tequila with campfire notes (anyone a fan of peaty Islay scotch wants to get this mezcal immediately).

Want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's website.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Designing a Wine List for Different Restaurant Scenes

It might be easy to imagine away, with the pull of a cork or two, all the work it takes to be Wine Director for the Toscana Group's restaurants Toscana and Bar Toscana in Brentwood, and SY Kitchen in Santa Ynez. But first you have to account for the years of study. For Emily Johnston, the person who is that Wine Director, that meant studying French and Italian in college, then wine at ALMA Scuola Internazionale di Cucina's Wine Academy in Parma, Italy. As she puts it, "There's a lot of work that goes behind putting together and maintaining a wine list, from spread sheets to inventory. It's not just sitting around under the sun drinking wine."

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Modest Confessions of the Barefoot Contessa

I don’t know about you, but any time I’m having a dinner party and things start to unravel during prep, I think, “Just channel your inner Ina.” By that, I mean Ina Garten, the calm, cool, and collected Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network (think of her as the anti-Guy Fieri) whose best-selling cookbooks include her latest, Make It Ahead, and the one simply named after her trademark line, How Easy Is That?

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Perfect Pairs for Valentine's Day: Wine + Cheese

Since Valentine's Day is all about pairing up and then spending too much money to celebrate that fact, talking about pairings might be a good way to prepare you for the holiday. Since one of wine's best food mates is cheese, I turned to the experts at Santa Barbara's C'est Cheese, owners Kathryn and Michael Graham and their staff, for some advice. And since love is a many splendored thing, I asked them for a series of pairings that might reflect some very different love stories. And remember, even after a stinky cheese, love means never having to say you're sorry.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sip This: Mulderbosch Rose

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013: With Valentine’s Day upon us, why not turn to a pretty rosé at a good price (retail $13), so you can have even more to spend on your loved one?

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sip This: Curran Grenache Blanc

Curran Grenache Blanc Santa Ynez Valley 2012: There are almost 300 times more acres of Chardonnay than Grenache Blanc planted in California, but when you drink Kris Curran’s, you start wondering about the wisdom of those numbers.

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

Words with a Water Sommelier: Martin Riese of Patina Group

Today's column will turn wine into water. That's because the subject is Martin Riese, certified water sommelier for the Patina Group, specifically Ray's & Stark Bar at LACMA. It turns out the German-born Riese and water go way back. "When I was four years old and would go on vacation with my parents, the most interesting thing to me was to taste the tap water in different cities," he remembers. But it wasn't until 2005 that he came to his calling, for as he recalls, "A customer said to me, 'You have so many wines on your list, but only one water,' and I thought, 'He's absolutely right!' We're all about options in the restaurant world -- how many beers, how many wines -- well, water has a huge variety of tastes."

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Secret Sauce Is Pleasure

Restaurants can get too caught up in the wow to please, it seems. While of course one reason we dine out is to get the shock of the new--why go out if you can make the same meal at home?--that sometimes leads to tricks that exist just for trick's sake.

Which is why a spot like Monsieur Benjamin is so wonderful. Corey Lee of the three-Michelin starred Benu in San Francisco decided he wanted to open a French bistro. This being Corey Lee, it's not just any French bistro, of course. It's easy to think he's following in the footsteps of his mentor Thomas Keller, with Monsieur Benjamin his Bouchon. But it's more, and distinctly different, from Keller's restaurant if for no other reason than it's so urban, in a new Hayes Valley building, as opposed to cozy Yountville. (Yes, there are other Bouchons now, but let me have this for a moment.) For MB is distinctly an urban spot, as you can see from the photo above. It bustles, but has space, has classic chairs but clean lines, is windowed and open to the street just as the kitchen is open to the dining room. Think of that as a series of welcomes, of gathering one in.

For if nothing else, Monsieur Benjamin leaves you with a sense of comfort you'll rarely have. It's a deep pleasure, a sense the moment is exactly what it should be. That starts with perfect service on that balance point of friendly but not smarmy, helpful but not pushy. Ask about a dish or two, and you get a very detailed description. And when they recommend a dessert, listen (we'll get to that in a bit).

You should start off with a cocktail, of course. We seriously enjoyed The Ace (rye, calvados, sloe gin, lemon, rosemary, honey) and the cryptically named The 4th Time Around (gin, combier, Lillet blanc, absinthe, mint). Both had plenty of moving parts that danced together like the corps of a ballet, creating a unified effect of deliciousness. (And it seems sloe gin is back.) We also opted to go for the only Santa Barbara wine on the (otherwise?) well-chosen wine list, a 2012 Vallin Grenache Rose. A gorgeous wine with plenty of spine and minerality to accompany a dinner rich in sauces. (OK, I guess SF has to stand up for those wines close to them, that poor, unbeloved area, plus as a French place you can guess where many of the other bottles came from.)

For starters we went classic, escargot and sweetbreads. The snails were meaty and not chewy in the least, doused with a Bordelaise vividly green with parsley and enough garlic to have left Buffy Summers with nothing to do. The sweetbreads practically melted in the mouth and were accented well by the Grenobloise sauce of brown butter, capers, and parsley. So, yes, this is a spot to visit for a tour of the mother sauces and all their children in all their glory.

We both went with fish for our mains and didn't miss anything meaty at all. Mediterranean sea bass came with leeks, mushrooms, and a sauce Genevoise, the kind of thing that has more depth than a liquid could seem to have at its been reduced more times than the shrinking man (carrot, onion, red wine, fish heads, fish fumet, butter, of course, are just the start). Arctic char came pretending it was trout (which it certainly resembles but is tastier than) as it had almonds, perfectly roasted, and haricots verts. But then there were sunchokes instead of just some boring potato, and that was all fatted up with a beurre noisette.

These two plates were about as full of flavor as dishes seemingly simple could be. Each fillet was cooked expertly, the skin crisped, the flesh flaky but not a tad mushy. And then those sauces.

Full, we still had to consider dessert, especially since we'd heard our server suggest something that she said no one ever ordered anyway. Trusting her we had some of the best ice cream ever, palmier ice cream doused in a calvados caramel sauce. Of course the sauce was stellar, like every other one that night, but the ice cream was the true surprise, the cookies in little bits but still so distinct and crisp and butter-rich in a wondrous ice cream that would have made Berthillon in Paris proud.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The What and Why of a Vertical Wine Tasting

According to the Wall Street Journal, "The vast majority of wine in America -- estimates range from 70% to 90% -- is consumed within 24 hours of purchase." But you're not reading this wine column to learn that we're an instant gratification society, do you? If you're busy quaffing Two Buck Chuck, there's no point in laying any bottle down to see how it ages.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.