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Firestone Walker Deconstructed LA with The Home Brew Chef


Firestone Walker Desconstructed

For LA Beer Week, Firestone Walker is pulling out all the stops with their Deconstructed LA beer dinner. Firestone Walker will be breaking down their “XV” anniversary blend into eight individual components and they have enlisted the help of renowned beer inspired chef The Home Brew Chef Sean Paxton, who will deconstruct the flavors in each beer then craft small dishes to create a perfect and seamless pairing.

The event will host the debut of XV, Firestone Walker’s 15th anniversary ale. Every year, in September, Firestone Walker blends several of their strong, barrel-aged beers to create the Anniversary beer; this year’s is XV. Firestone Walker brings together top local winemakers under the guidance of Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, to blend one of the most unique brews available. Eight ales, were hand selected to create XV, a blend that will become this year’s finest moment.

“Sean is mildly insane and phenomenally talented; his unbridled imagination and deep understanding of the DNA of beer and food creates a real experience ,” said David Walker, co-proprietor of Firestone Walker. “Add that to Matt Brynildson’s equally inspired Anniversary blend and you have something that you’ll not forget.”

Deconstructed L.A. will be held in the Bardot at the Avalon Theater from 7pm-10pm on October 12. Tickets are $75/person and very limited. The price will include complimentary beer, small plates, an event snifter glass and an amazing evening with Executive Chef Sean Z. Paxton, David Walker and Matt Brynildson as hosts.

Tickets and additional information available at www.FWDeconstructed.com or call 805-225-5911 x607.

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Dim Sum And Then Some: WP24 Introduces Dim Sum Sundays


Wolfgang Puck WP24

Drive about ten miles east of downtown Los Angeles and you’ll find yourself in a sort of cornucopia of Asian food. Vietnamese, Chinese – a spectrum of dim sum that stretches from soup dumplings in tiny, ten-tabled holes-in-the-wall to cavernous event palaces where older women push carts of cooked chicken feet, jellyfish, pig stomach and a rainbow of intestines.

Clearly, it’s not for everyone.

But in the heart of the shining and glitzy LA Live complex, towering over the city on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel, chef Sara Johannes is bringing old world-style dim sum to Wolfgang Puck’s WP24. The restaurant launched Family Style Dim Sum Sunday Dinners on September 25. For $55 each, diners get four courses (ten dishes to share), including honey drizzled BBQ pork buns, scallop steamed shu mai with blue crab in ginger sauce, organic Jidori chicken chow fun noodles with sweet Thai basil, Singapore style chili prawns, and farmer’s market vegetable fried rice. For an additional $20 per person, Alaskan king crab dumplings, Peking style duck two ways or Korean grilled lamb chops with kochujang aioli can be added to the menu. Not a single durian pastry to navigate or chicken brain to avoid.

WP24. Tasting of Dim Sum

Perfectly paired with Klaus (brother to Wolfie) Puck’s wine suggestions, the bright, precise flavors – from mild hot-sweet to deep and searingly spicy – are a lovely introduction to the vast and sometimes overwhelming world of Chinese small bites. The restaurant is lovely, the views spectacular; and the menu is not only based on seasonal availability, it is also designed to change according to the weather: a little spicier on cold days, a bit more Yin when the temperature climbs.


But if after the concert, the game, or the Family Sunday Dim Sum Sunday Dinner, you still want to try a bit of dou fu fa (silky tofu in syrup) for dessert, that drive to San Gabriel is a twenty minute straight shot down the 10.

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Event Recap: Rioja y Rivera


The Wines of Bodegas Riojanas

The waiters have just begun to serve the third course at John Sedlar’s restaurant, Rivera, in downtown Los Angeles. The plating is inspiring: Occupying the top third of the square white dish and painted in spices, is an image. Five different pictures in all, divided among the fifteen or so at the table. Mine is a word, something (meaning now forgotten) printed in delicate Arabic letters, tasting primarily of cumin and paprika. The person next to me has an image of a bull. Beside them is a plate painted with a pair of female eyes, gazing back beneath heavily lined lids. Each picture, the accompaniment to Sedlar’s grilled Snake River Farms chuleta de puerco (under the green of a pureed pippan sauce), is whimsical and strong and leads to an immediate surge in conversation.

But the well-presented pork chops aren’t the only reason the table is buzzing. Vinos Unico, a San Francisco-based wine importer specializing in Portuguese, Spanish and Argentinean wines, invited guests to this dinner to show off their new portfolio of Bodegas Riojanas wines. And they just poured a 1978 and a 1964, side-by-side.

The Wines of Bodegas Riojanas
The brands on display tonight, Viña Albina and Monte Real, both represent traditional Spanish Rioja – brambly, earthy, slightly untamed. The Viña Albina wines, in particular – from the 1978 Gran Reserva to the 2004 Reserva (paired with macerated salmon, white asparagus and nasturtium), are all masculine power – berries braced against tannin and spice, unfolding into cigar and barnyard and forest floor. These wines are smooth, but substantial. As they open, it’s impossible to predict the direction they’ll take. The ride is exciting.

The Monte Real Rioja, by contrast, are more restrained. These wines, while still possessing the earth and complexity of the Viña Albina, are more feminine; they’re big but pretty. The journey is less unpredictable; they’re gentle and soft on the finish. Even after ten, thirteen, forty-seven years of aging, these wines still show fruit. If everything aged so pretty, half the people in Beverly Hills would save a fortune on fillers and peels.

Rioja wine comes from La Rioja, an autonomous community and province in northern Spain. The region, itself, is divided into three separate areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Grapes (traditionally Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha for red; and Viura/Macabeo, Malvasia, and Garnacha Blanca for white) are grown in each of the sections – top, middle and lower. The most acclaimed wines come from Rioja Alta, whose higher elevation tends to produce the best combination of fruit/structure/acid/alcohol. By contrast, most of the grapes from Rioja Baja are used for blending.

Bodegas Riojanas is a Rioja Alta producer. Both lines feature a majority of Tempranillo, with Mazuelo and Graciano making up the remainder of the blends. True to tradition and D.O.C. regulation, the Reservas have been aged anywhere from 24 – 30 months in oak barrels and spend another year in bottle; the Gran Reservas spend 36 months aging in bottle after 24 – 30 months in oak.

The 2001 Viña Albina Dolce Reserva, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. This is a sweet white Rioja; the rich, viscous, honey-citrus blend made from Viura and Malvasia – and has just been paired with Sedlar’s honey ice cream, anise kumquat cookies and macerated blueberries. It is the perfect ending to a presentation of unforgettable food and wine; an evening that has proven to be an enlightening combination of old and new in Spanish wine and cuisine.

Feast on the Best of LA’s Food & Drink at THE TASTE


The Taste

Last year, the food infatuated of LA glittered and guzzled at the first-ever Food & Wine Presents: Taste of Beverly Hills,” a multi-day event, showcasing the town’s best restaurants and some of eating and drinking’s brightest stars. This year, the team behind that gala (Best Events) has joined with the producers of the “Los Angeles Times’ Celebration of Food & Wine” to throw an unparalleled, city-wide extravaganza of the edible, called simply, The Taste.

The event will take place for four days over Labor Day Weekend, September 2-5, 2011, at nine different locations – from Downtown to Hollywood. Over forty of the city’s top restaurants will be serving unlimited bites of their best dishes, and food celebs like Giada De Laurentiis, Ludo Lefebvre, Michael Voltaggio, Marcel Vigneron and Susan Feniger, and others, will preside over the various parties.

All that delicious food is only half the story, of course, and for those of us who are particularly partial to potables, The Taste promises an abundance of liquid pleasure, too, guided by LA legends of libation, like Julian Cox, Michael Shearin and The Beer Chicks.  Events such as “Paso Robles Pioneers,” “How to Taste Like a Master Sommelier,” “Taco Tequila Tryst,” “Art of Mixing,” and “Navigating a Wine List,” will offer glimpses into the world of professional drinking – and learning how to drink like a professional. Event sponsors include Anchor Distilling Co. and Peroni, Avion and 4 Copas Tequila, Caorunn Gin, Wild Turkey, Campo de Encanto Pisco, VeeV Acai Spirit, Aperol, Cyrus Noble Bourbon, Chopin and Voli Vodka and Don Q Rums. Wineries such as Flowers, Justin, Chalone, Charles Krug, Coppola, Row Eleven, Summerland Winery and Banfi will be pouring unlimited tastes throughout the weekend’s events.

Tickets are available for the entire weekend or by individual event.

Washington State Selects 10 Farmers Markets for Wine & Beer Tasting Pilot Program


Hollywood Farmer's Market

The Washington State Liquor Control Board announced the tentative selection of ten farmers markets throughout Washington to participate in a pilot program allowing wine and beer tasting at the markets. “This pilot is another avenue for Washington’s breweries and wineries to educate customers about their products,” said Sharon Foster, WSLCB Chair. “Because farmers markets take place in a community setting, there are safeguards in place to ensure tastings are conducted with public safety in mind.

The pilot program is a result of Substitute House Bill 1172, and is scheduled to run from September 1, 2011 to November 1, 2012. 47 wineries and 4 breweries qualified to participate, though only one brewery, microbrewery or winery may offer samples per day.

The selected farmers markets include:

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Event Recap: Vintage Hollywood 2011


Vintage Hollywood

Did I tell you I used to be a foster care social worker? No? That’s so strange; I thought we had no secrets…

Anyway. Having spent untold hours working to improve out-of-home care for anywhere between 300-500 Los Angeles youth, there are certain organizations that hold a particularly soft place in my heart. Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) is one of those organizations.

From the OPCC website:

OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) is the largest and most comprehensive provider of housing and services on the Westside to low-income and homeless youth, adults and families, battered women and their children, and people living with mental illness, particularly homeless mentally ill women.  OPCC currently operates 257 emergency and transitional beds in six facilities, and has over 150 individuals living in apartments throughout the region with rental subsidy vouchers obtained by OPCC.

You can imagine how thrilled I was, then, to accept an invitation to the 2011 Vintage Hollywood charity event on June 11 – a major fund-raising gala for OPCC.

Held at the private home of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Kouba, the grassy lot adjacent to the house was spotted with white lanterns and seating, and ringed with tables offering star-quality wine and food, like oysters from Blue Plate Oysterette and Oyster Gourmet; Waterloo & City’s foie gras chicken liver mousse; Mozza’s burrata and pesto with roasted tomato; steak tartare from Bouchon; and desserts from Valerie Confections, Florentino Ice Cream and simplethings. There were only 350 tickets available, so securing the best from the attending 22 wineries and 19 restaurants wasn’t much of a problem. For these perks, guests paid anywhere from $250 (for an individual ticket) to $25,000 (at the “Vineyard Sponsorship” level). In-between, celebrities such as Ben and Christine Stiller, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, Marcia Cross and Thomas Mahoney joined an assortment of donors – from banks to private philanthropists – to support OPCC’s cause.

Again, from the website:

Since 2002, the Vintage Hollywood event has raised more than $1,100,000 to benefit organizations including Children’s Action Network, JDRF, Save the Children and United Friends of Children.

A food and wine event, benefiting one of my champion charities? For me, there couldn’t have been a better pairing.

List of wineries from 2011:

Ampelos Cellars and Vineyard • Arrowhead Mountain • Baxter Winery • Bodegas M • Captûre Wines • Center for Wine Origins • Clos Pepe • David Family Wines • Forlorn Hope Wines • Hitching Post Wines • Kristine Ashe Vineyards • La Fenêtre Wines • L’Aventure Winery • Les Deux Chats Cellars • L’Objet Wines • Malibu Family Wines • Martian Ranch & Vineyard • Peters Family Winery • Skipstone • Terra Valentine • Terry Hoage Vineyards • Tres Sabores

Vintage Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood

2011 restaurants in attendance:

Akasha • Blue Plate Oysterette • Bouchon • Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf • Florentino Ice Cream • The Foundry on Melrose • Jar • La Sandia • Literati Bar and Grill • On Sunset • Mozza • Oyster Gourmet • simplethings • Tavern • BAR Toscana • Valerie Confections • Waterloo & City • Whist • Zengo

Vintage Hollywood

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Event Recap: Family Wineries, Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays


Family Wineries Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays

Who doesn’t like champagne, sparkling wine?  Incredibly and uniquely complex reds, like an ’08 Noyes Sonoma Coast Pinot?  And who wouldn’t pair that with some succulent tri-tip on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon?  That’s why all the tables were occupied on Saturday June 25th, for Family Wineries’ Tri-Tip & Wine Saturday.  If not the perfect way to spend a Saturday, then, as one guest told me, “It’d be pretty darn tough to get any closer.” And at this cooperative tasting room, with its many bottled characters, no wonder this gentleman vocalized such elevated regard.

Family Wineries Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays

No excess crowds to deal with, just a tranquil afternoon in Sonoma Valley.  Family Wineries, being known for its impressive variety of wine types, varietals and styles, hosted their Saturday Tri-Tip & Wine Saturday.  The pervading profile of the day’s happening, relaxation.  Most of the tables were occupied by wine club members, locals, tourists the same, just out to have a nice wine-timed midday.  Like visiting a friend’s house, that’s what it felt like, many told me.  The structure has the exterior of a cabin, or vacation home.  So, no surprise the day’s guests were so eased.

Some of the favorite Wine & Tri-Tip pairings, that guests notified me of, were with the 1) Cass Winery 2008 Paso Robles Grenache, 2) Cass Winery 2006 Paso Robles Petite Sirah, 3) Collier Falls 2007 Dry Creek Primitivo [romantically layered, this is a must-sip], 4) SL Cellars 2004 Dry Creek Syrah, and 5) Tres Hermanas 2005 Syrah/Sangiovese Blend from the Central Coast.  Oh, one guest reminded me, the N.V. Grand Cuvee, Extra Dry – Pour La Vie.  “And,” she said, “pretty much any other of the champagnes here.”  Myriad, you might mumble.  True, as Family Wineries is a collective tasting Room, representing numerous approaches, appellations, oeno-aesthetics. “Tastes great with a tri-tip sandwich,” she told me, as I snapped a pic of a meat slab on the BBQ.

Family Wineries Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays

As the event came to close, the acoustic singer packing up his guitar, gear, most just hung around, not wanting to let go of the pleasant embrace of this distinguished wine world moment in Sonoma’s picturesque valley.  Family Wineries Kenwood is just the spot you’d come to delight in easiness, enjoyment, more than enough wine variety, taste shapes.  That’s just a small pour of the accoladed acclaim sheet that follows this tasting Room.  Keep watch for the other events they have in cue.  All assured, by Family Wineries’ staff, to be equally relaxing, incomparably tasty.  A splendid slice of Sonoma Valley, and County.  Sip, sip …

1 comment 06.29.2011 |

Recap: Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival


Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Pebble Beach Food & Wine is perhaps the glitziest of the gadjillion or so culinary festivals in the United States right now. Every year for the past five years and counting, the event has borrowed the inimitable Inn at Spanish Bay for a spring weekend; draping itself across the grounds like a glittering evening dress you can’t afford or a royal picnic blanket most people only get to feast on in pictures.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Thanks to Lexus – a major sponsor of the event – from April 28 to May 1, 2011, sleek luxury cars navigated from the resort to neighboring Carmel and beyond, and back again. The right event pass earned attendants carriage service from sun-up ’til long after sundown; either the beginning of the day or the end of it, depending on which side of the table celebrants stood on.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

And which was the better side of the table? In a sea of food and wine luminaries, that’s hard to say. It would’ve been great to be a guest; but lucky diners, servers and sommeliers alike, got to share space (and Lexus rides) with the likes of Jacques Pepin, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Roy Yamaguchi, Graham Elliot, Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard and Stephan Pyles – 100 chefs, in total, pulled out their knives for the gala. While an elite team of wine professionals (many were specially invited, based on knowledge and reputation), slaved away for 16+ hours/day, what they had the pleasure of pouring was, literally, without equal: The very best of Burgundy, Premier Cru Bordeaux, Cult Cabernet, a flight of prestige Champagnes from 1990, and a Port vertical dating back to 1880, to name just a few.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Attendees selected seminars, dinners and tastings before the celebration as part of event packages ($995 to $4,750) and add-ons ($150 to $2000). With a little time off between indulgences, there was golf (of course). Shopping, horseback riding. Some of us learned the hard way that the food festival’s only sustenance was served during specific events (chef demos, meals or pairing workshops, the Lexus Grand Tasting). We Dwellers of the Lower Tax Bracket and Woefully Unprepared Seat-of-Pants Fliers survived between sessions on water, crackers and a fruit-and-cheese basket thankfully left in our ocean-view press room the first night, at the ultra-luxurious Monterey Plaza Hotel (a little far from the festival, but worth a weekend in its own right).

And then there were cocktails. After a long day of foie gras, king crab, caviar and Grand Marque Champagne, chefs, sommeliers and civilians gathered on the same piece of real estate to cleanse their palates with scotch and stogies. A lone bagpipe player serenaded the 18th hole as strangers became friends over Rob Roys and margaritas, and the rolling ocean caught and cast back the last, dying rays of sunlight. Although the crowds dispersed for dinner, they came together again for the after parties. The music pulsed as a new line up of chefs served small bits to beautiful people. Bartenders came out of hiding to mix caipirinhas, tin cups and an unpalatable combination of root beer liquor, club soda and whipped cream. New friends embraced or ignored each other and the night poured on.

And then, the next morning, bacon sizzled, corks popped, and hangovers were artfully hidden behind Prada sunglasses or a perfectly pressed suit and tie, and everyone took their places and did everything all over again.

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