Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sip This: Nolet's Silver Gin

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin: Since juniper is the only thing a spirit has to be flavored by to be billed gin, the way to go different is to add to that perfectly piney taste. Enter this gin, for people wanting to wander gin’s edgy perimeters.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Paso Robles Cab Has Its Moment in the Sun

It's too easy to think of Paso Robles as a place you pass on your way to somewhere else -- Big Sur, Carmel, or San Francisco. The real secret is Paso Robles is on its way to better and better wine, and if you want a sense of that you should attend the CABs of Distinction Grand Tasting on Saturday, May 2 at River Oaks Hot Springs.

"Paso Robles has Napa-like climate and French-like soils," says French-born Central Coast convert Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards and Winery, hailed as the winery of the year in 2013 by the Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine. "It has a unique ability to achieve ripeness year after year and producing phenolic-rich [the compounds that create taste, color, and mouthfeel] wines that are yet elegant. In the last few years, Paso Robles wineries started tapping into the potential of the terroir and we are starting to see some of the results. The reality is that we have just seen the tip of the iceberg in this cabernet region and the best is yet to come."

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's My Saint's Day and I'll Blog If I Want To

[An oldie but, I hope you think, goodie--posted this on an old blog back in 2008. A little something for my dad, also a George, who would have been 87 today. He had a silly sense of humor too.]

April 23rd is St. George's Day, and I feel a special affinity for my namesake, given we both had our sainthood removed (it's a very painful procedure when it's done when you're an adult, let me tell you). To help polish both our images, I did some research, and found out some wonderful things, like St. George isn't just the patron Saint of England, he also is the patron saint of the Knights of the Garter, and therefore not surprisingly, of those with syphilis. Therefore everyone in England has syphilis.

He also didn't slay the dragon all at once. Nope, he opted to first get a bit kinky and then showboat, dragging his dragon into town to show how saintly he was. Here's how the Middle Ages best-seller The Golden Legend put it:

Thus as they spake together the dragon appeared and came running to them, and S. George was upon his horse, and drew out his sword and garnished him with the sign of the cross, and rode hardily against the dragon which came towards him, and smote him with his spear and hurt him sore and threw him to the ground. And after said to the maid: Deliver to me your girdle, and bind it about the neck of the dragon and be not afeard.

When she had done so the dragon followed her as it had been a meek beast and debonair.

Which, of course, begs the question, is that a dragon in your girdle, are you just debonair? And it also is the precursor to those unbelievable moments in horror/action films, when a couple, in mortal peril from a hockey-mask wearing crazy, a Cloverdale Creature, or Al Pacino's hair, decides, "Let's stop running and get busy!" and then is slaughtered in flagrante delicto, but the scene meets the audience-approved nudity-violence quotient so everyone is happy. At least it's good to see the 21st century didn't make this shit up.

So, if you want to celebrate the day, there are many ways. First, you could ask a maiden to take off her girdle and wrap it around your dragon. Then email photos to the address at the bottom of this page. Second, you could just give money to people you know named George. Third, you could do the things English Heritage suggests. Many of these things have to do with eating and drinking. Yes, English food. So let's just skip to the drinking part, which England tends to be better at and keeps you from having something called Toad in the Hole (that has to be a euphemism, but I prefer dragon to toad, at least for my ego). Then make this:

George’s Poison (adults only!)

Drink a toast to St George with this dangerous tipple named in his honour.
Ingredients: 3 parts lemonade, 2 parts ginger beer, 2 parts Pimms, 1 part gin, ice, fresh mint leaves, sliced apples, oranges, lemons, cucumber, and strawberries.
1. Measure all ingredients.
2. Pour out 2 parts Pimms and 1 part gin.
3. Add ice.
4. Add 3 parts lemonade and 2 parts ginger beer.
5. Gradually add mint leaves and fruit slices to taste.
6. Serve in a wide brimmed glass.
Hey, that's not a cocktail, that's a fruit punch!

I think I might celebrate with some St. George Whisky instead. From the good ole US of A. Since we need to work on the awful besmirchment to the name George that currently terrorizes our land.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An Australian and an American Walk into a Wine....

I'm having a wine tasting with at least 20 other people but I'm in a room alone. It's a digital tasting, where a select few watch on computer screens as winemakers Ehren Jordan and Bernard Hickin talk us through the new Two Lands line from Australia.

Perhaps I need to start again. The aptly named Two Lands brings together Jordan, an American who currently works with his own amazing Failla Wines, based in Napa but mostly working with Sonoma grapes, and Hickin, the chief winemaker at Jacob's Creek, Australia's largest wine brand. The four-wine portfolio they've developed, at 7,000-10,000 cases each, is made for the U.S. market only and priced to move at a retail price of $13.99. And it will move, as each one of these wines is not just tasty but interesting, too. It's what one might expect when adding the talent of maverick Jordan (best known for guiding Turley Wine Cellars to zinfandel dominance) to the might, money, and access of Jacob's Creek.

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

Sip This: Field Recordings Tempranillo

Field Recordings Ventucopa Tempranillo 2013: From the distant reaches of the Santa Barbara Highlands comes this light-on-its-feet expression of the great Spanish grape that doesn’t get grown enough on the Central Coast.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Big Foodie Festival in Little Bacara

If you’re gonna do a food festival, whose spirit would be better to invoke than the woman who made French cuisine safe for American kitchens? It certainly doesn’t hurt that Julia Child covered the Santa Barbara angle, too, so it makes sense that the Bacara teamed up with the Julia Child Foundation to host an annual Food & Wine Weekend, now in its second year. Going down at the resort and beyond April 16-19 are numerous tastings, demos, and a special dinner with actor/winemaker Kurt Russell, who’ll share his GoGi and Hudson Bellamy wines, which he also pours regularly in the Wine Saloon at the 1880 Union Hotel in Los Alamos.

If you want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.

Sip This: Corbin Sweet Potato Vodka

Corbin California Estate Grown Sweet Potato Vodka: It takes 10 pounds of sweet potatoes per bottle — that’s several Thanksgiving feasts per 750ml — to make Corbin. But it’s worth it if you want a vodka with some character and not just some odorless, colorless spirit. It’s very smooth, with flashes of nut flavors and that sweet potato sweet that’s a deeper sugar.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sonoma's St. Francis Reaches Out to Restaurants

Wine can get you into a whole host of wonderful things, and that was never more clear than a few weeks back when it meant a tasting/multi-course lunch at BS Taqueria as the very first guests before it opened its doors in downtown L.A. (Yes, it's good to be on the list.) That meant a celebration of the Cochon555 rolling national festival of heritage pig happening later that weekend, a chance to feast on the amazing cuisine of chef Ray Garcia (a two-time Cochon555 winner), and the launch of esteemed St. Francis Winery & Vineyards' new reserve tier wines.

If you want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sip This: Press Gang Cellars Rose

Press Gang Cellars Savanna Rhea Grenache Rosé 2013: The only bad thing about this delightful rosé is that winemaker Kyle Knapp made a mere 24 cases of it. Knapp, who in addition to owning this garagiste outfit is also the assistant winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards, has a thing for Grenache, and picks grapes specifically for this wine—it’s no saignée, and therefore fuller-flavored despite its gorgeous pale pink hue.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Small Production in the Wild Wine West

As a garagiste winemaker, one can fly under radar and flout laws. That's one of the freedoms of being small. The 3rd Annual Garagiste Festival held in Solvang at the end of March made that clear over and over. For instance, Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyards, on the panel "The Diversity of Sta. Rita Hills AVA: It's Not All Pinot and Chardonnay," poured one of his pinots anyway. He can be forgiven as the estate 2010 was a beautiful wine, fruity, earthy, and everything one wants a Sta. Rita Hills pinot to be. Might as well claim that and help us see baselines.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Crazy for Corazon

If tacos are "just" Mexican street food, then the ones you can get at Corazon Cucina are from a street paved with oro. Chef Ramon Velazquez's weekly Sunday pop-up at Three Pickles has folks wisely lining up to enjoy his incredible food that is terrifically tasty, precise and pretty. That photo above (both photos courtesy Forrest Mori) is of one of the best fish tacos you could ever have. The ling cod seems much fresher and full of flavor than the fish that usually gets fried up for tacos, and then that batter is crispy, light, not oily in the slightest**. There's a lime mayo crema that adds layers of flavor yet doesn't overpower. Velazquez's food is all about notes adding up to a sweet song, not a series of solos or a mishmash of stations playing too loudly from the radios of competing cars. And, as with all the tacos, the tortillas are hand-made and gorgeous, with a texture, a bit of heft. This is a dish that will ruin you for all other fish tacos.

There's plenty more, though, so be prepared to be ruined in many wonderful ways. For instance his clever take on street grilled corn-on-the-cob. His comes on those tortillas, with the exact amount of cotija you want to have cheese flavor but not merely cheese flavor, some mayonesa too for a bit more creaminess, some poblano for color contrast and a hint of heat, and then, of all things, crumbled chicharrones, adding an ever pleasing porkiness,* but even better, a bit of crunch, yet small enough not to take the focus away from the corn. (That's it below.)

I could go on and on, but will stop after talking about one of the two ceviches of the day, La Lola. Velazquez was the opening chef at Cielito, and before that he'd spent years at Arigato, so he knows his seafood (and presentation). This one combined local red snapper, jicama, cucumber, avocado, tomatillo, serrano and yuzu (there's the Arigato influence) and then that comes atop a fried tortilla, as both an eating utensil, of sorts, and a crispy contrast. It all mixes into something almost shockingly fresh, partially from the citrus zing and partially because he buys primarily from local farmers market purveyors and local seafood, so that quality and freshness takes his dishes over the top.

The good news is the pop up is research and prep for his own spot in The Mill Project that's going up at the corner of Haley and Laguna, target date this summer. Until then, it makes sense to hit Corazon Cucina on Sundays religiously.

*There was a pork belly quesadilla, too, high and low meeting to make utter deliciousness. And again, the pork was cut in just the right size to function as taco topping. We're talking tacos engineered.

**I forgot to mention the batter is made with Captain Fatty's beer, too. So even that stays local and artisanal.

Sip This: Gordon Biersch Golden Export

Gordon Biersch Brewing Company Golden Export: Gordon Biersch, which opened its first location in Palo Alto in 1988 and has since spread throughout the country with brewpubs and bottle sales, is one of those stories of a little company that could. Now making more than three million gallons of beer a year, it also helps teach the mega-brewers what classic German lager styles can actually be.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Figueroa Mountain Brews Sage Beer for Condor Trail

Warren Alford of the Wilderness Society got to heft a Google Street View Trekker, a top-heavy, 45-pound camera that takes 360-degree photos, over Mount Pinos (that's nearly 9,000 feet high, but who's counting) in Ventura County. He was accompanied by fellow naturalist Chris Danch, and after the 18-mile struggle, filming all the way, they got back to Danch's car. Alford says, "I told him, 'Man, I'd kill for a beer now.' Somehow he pulled two ice-cold craft beers out of his trunk. I definitely had a religious experience that evening."

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