Wine Review: Castello Di Amorosa 2011 Barbera

Pardon the Punctuation…I know I’ve been off the grid for a while but here is a sign of good things to come. Recently got my hands on a bottle of Castello Di Amorosa 2011 Barbera from their twin creeks vineyard. Here’s the rub.

Tasting Notes: On the cusp of being top acidic for my taste but it made the cut. The aromas do justice to the classic wines from the Piedmont region in Italy. Hints of black pepper, sage, and blackberries. Paired it with some Gnocchi and it worked perfectly. I’d say open it and give at least 30 min before drinking. It softened up a bit after a while. Would definitely drink again.

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Pono Burger In Santa Monica Is The Best Burger I’ve Had All Year.

Pardon The Punctuation…If you live in Los Angeles you start to learn that people love burger joints like they love their favorite sports team. Arguing over which place has the best of everything. Last night I discovered a new team to root for…Pono Burger in Santa Monica. In Hawaiian, “pono” means “to do things the right way and that seems like the only way chef Makani does things at Pono Burger. To quote their website, ‘that translates to fresh, never frozen organic beef from pasture raised, grass-fed cows, organic ingredients from local farmer’s markets and fresh cut organic french fries.” They also grill all their burgers on a wood fire grill that’s gives them a unique smokiness. Their fries are also organic and wonderful. Here’s what I shoved in my mouth.

Salad

Seasonal Farmer’s Market Salad: Organic arugula bed topped with organic farmer’s Beets, local Gioia burrata,
crushed organic Santa Barbara pistachios, housemade champagne vinaigrette. A great way to start the meal. Fresh ingredients equals fresh flavors.

Burgers

THE KUAWA CRUNCH: Organic beef patty, Hook’s 1 yr. cheddar, topped with housemade organic russet potato chips, organic green leaf lettuce, housemade cole slaw, and housemade spicy guava rum sauce. A burger with a kick. The nice thing is that it’s not too hot. Just enough spice and the sweetness from the guava rum sauce adds all the balance it needs.

THE PANIOLO: Organic beef patty, English oak smoked cheddar, Niman ranch bacon, housemade Kona coffee
bourbon BBQ sauce, and housemade buttermilk beer battered onion rings. The sauce, and onion rings can be sold on their own to make a small fortune. This rich and decadent burger hits all of the senses. You could smear that BBQ sauce on pancakes…yeah I said it.

PIKU “FIG” BURGER: Housemade drunken caramelized fig jam, organic beef patty, Fermier brie cheese, Niman ranch
bacon, crushed hazelnuts, organic arugula, topped with housemade balsamic vinaigrette. The best burger I’ve had all year. If “Fine Dining” were a burger this would be it. Elegance on the palate and every bite is more and more complex. I’ve had fig and brie burgers before…but never as good as this. You must order this!

Dessert

SALTED CARAMEL AND BACON MILKSHAKE: Made with Straus Family Creamery vanilla soft serve organic ice cream and Niman Ranch bacon bits. They had me at bacon and salted caramel. Just delicious and gluttonous. It was amazingly good yet I felt ashamed after I downed it. In other words it did it’s job.

If you want to be blown away with an amazing burger give Pono Burger a shot. If you the service to match ask for “Tasha.” She rocks. I know you’ll fall in love with them as much as I have.

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Girasol…A little Foraging in Los Angeles

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Pardon the punctuation…residents of the San Fernando Valley you no longer have to drive over the hill for fine dining. “Top Chef Duels” winner Chef C.J. Jacobson has brought Girasol to Studio City for your foodie pleasure. At Girasol you’ll try flavors you can’t find anywhere else in Los Angeles. Things like Forrest Floor Vinaigrette, Cactus Ice, Fennel Pollen, White Fir, and Rosemary Ash Oil. Oh yeah…C.J. isn’t messing around. If you’re wondering where the heck the chef gets the ideas to incorporate these flavors…well he forages in southern California. That’s right. He Forages! In other words the food at Girasol is connected to the land around it. Particularly Angeles National Forrest. Cool shit. It also doesn’t hurt that C.J. worked and learned at arguably the best restaurant in the world. Noma in Denmark. I had the blessed experience of dining at Girasol recently and here’s what went down.

Cocktails

Apple-Walnut Old Fashioned:
Bulleit Rye, Germain Robin Apple Brandy, Kuchan Nocino Walnut Liqueur, and Forbidden Bitters. Great spin on a the traditional cocktail. What’s beautiful is that you never forget you’re drinking an old fashioned. All of the other flavors are subtle enough that they just compliment the drink.

Food

Market Pears and Burrata:
With crispy lentils, shiso basil, and forrest floor vinaigrette. Here’s one of the flavor experiences you can’t have anywhere else. Chef should bottle that vinaigrette and make a killing on it. not too tangy but tangy enough. The pears and burrata are a happy marriage of salt and sweet. The basil galvanized the dish and gave it the perfect finish.

Coastal Farms Cherry Tomatoes:
Marinated local tomatoes with cactus “ice” and market basil. Imagine fresh tomatoes with a cactus snow cone on top. A snow cone of goodness. Here’s something that before having this dish I didn’t know I didn’t know…I love cactus ice.

Long Roasted Pumpkin:
With fuyu persimmon, condensed butter milk, raw walnut, CA juniper, and sherry vin. This dish was perfectly executed and presented like pumpkin art. Flavor wise it just wasn’t to my taste. I loved components like the butter milk and California juniper and wanted to fall in love dish but it reminded me too much of potpourri. Pumpkin lovers are going to dig it.

Shrimp and Weiser Farms Melon:
Chili-crusted grilled shrimp, concord grapes, CA bay leaf, radish, and lime. Talk about a dish that is fresh and pops. The shrimp were cooked with sniper like precision. Not chewy and on point with the seasoning. Who knew that I’d love California bay leaf so much. Now I have to go find the stuff.

Marinated Grilled Pork Satay:
With caramelized onion puree, CA olive oil, grilled lemon, and fennel pollen. Juicy, juicy, juicy. Hit the spot after the lighter dishes I had before. The seasoning was unique and left me wanting more.

Octopus Salad:
With long roasted eggplant, little gem, rosemary ash oil, sweet and sour chili, and toasted lovage. Those of you who follow me know that I love octopus and eat it whenever I see it on the menu. This is now in my top 3 octopus dishes in Los Angeles. It was so good that I forgot everything else on the plate and almost fought my wife for the last piece.

Hamachi:
Sea beans, mouse melon, finger lime, white fir, and wild sorrel broth. Like octopus, hamachi is one of those dishes I always order if it’s on a menu. Flavors were bright. The mouse melon is something I’d never had and added a nice facet to the dish.

Pork Loin Roasted in Hay:
With sweet corn puree, raw squash, and sweet clover reduction. Tender and moist…this pork tasted like it had been slow cooked for hours. The corn and squash enhanced the pork because of the sweetness and texture of the two. A healthy portion size and can be easily shared as a main course.

Smashed Potato:
Sonoma jack cheese, crispy garlic, and chives. Worked well as an accompaniment to the pork. Can’t go wrong with garlic and chives.

Chocolate Brownie Cake:
Salted caramel gelato, sable cookie, and chocolate pudding. If you like chocolate you’ll chop off an arm to have this dish. If you like salted caramel too, you’ll chop off both arms. Rich and sweet yet balanced by the salt. The gelato could be and amazing dessert on it’s own.

If you’re looking for a mind blowing dining experience in the valley Girasol is the top spot in my book. For those of you living in 310 you finally have a place in 818 you’ll be proud to say you drove over the hill for. Sorry for the Los Angeles lingo but out of towners should get their toosh over there too.

When 6’8″ meets 5’7″

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Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay in Downtown Seattle

Pardon The Punctuation…Seattle the “Emerald City” is a rainy foodie paradise. A Valhalla for all things digestible. I just got to spend 5 days in this amazing place and since most blog readers have the attention span of a fruit fly I’ll keep it short.

Stay:
The Kimpton Hotel Vintage. Perfect location. Just a few blocks away from the the Link Light Rail train fro the airport and right in the heart of all the downtown action. Gorgeous remodeled modern rooms and a complimentary wine hour from 5-6pm every night featuring local Washington State wineries. Also they serve complimentary Caffe Vita coffee in the lobby every morning. The staff knows how to treat a guest.

Great room at the Hotel Vintage.

Coffee:
Victrola Coffee serves up freshly roasted java and barista drinks. You’ll want to try everything they make. I wish they had a store from in Los Angeles.

Caffe Vita is a mix of art gallery space and killer coffee shop in the Capitol Hill part of town. Friendly baristas will rock out whatever you want to drink and if you ask you might get a quick tour of the roasting plant behind the shop.

Latte at Caffe Vita

Chow:

Sitka and Spruce in Melrose Market offers up local farm to table delights. Best charcuterie and house made Kombucha I’ve ever had. Get a reservation as they fill up quickly.

Best Charcuterie!

Oddfellows Cafe and Bar serving up yummy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So good I went back twice. They also have a great $5 happy our “Old Fashioned.” For breakfast get the bacon egg and cheese biscuit…stellar. Had the mussels for dinner and they were solid.

Eggs , Bacon, and Biscuit at Oddfellows

Great $5 Old Fashioned

Great mussels at Oddfellows

Skillet Diner in Capitol Hill serves up some yummy breakfast fare. I had the chilaquiles and they were ok. Nothing to write home about. Their Bacon Jam on the other hand is the kind of stuff that wars are fought over. Perfectly sweet and spicy…order it on the side with one of their freshly baked biscuits. One of my friends ordered the pork belly and corn meal waffle. This was a heavy and delicious dish..definitely sharable.

Biscuit and that bacon jam is my jam

Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bars grow the best oysters I’ve ever had on the planet. They will blow you away… joke…get your ass there now.

Taylor Shellfish Oysters…wow

Bar Sajor another farm to table gem. Fresh, fresh, fresh, and the menu changes daily. I had the leg of lamb. YUM!

Leg of Lamb

Lowell’s restaurant in Pikes Place Market serves up good food in a touristy spot. Never expected food this good in a tourist trap. Great egg sandwich.

Molly Moon’s serves up outstanding homemade ice cream. The salted caramel will blow you mind.

Mamnoon has the best middle eastern food I’ve had this side of the atlantic. This place will blow your mind. Try the kibbeh, arnabeit makli, sambusek, shish taouk, and finish it with the turkish coffee dessert. This place has the “wow” factor.

arnabeit makli AKA Cauliflower

shish taouk ..Chicken, garlic, lemon, and olive oil.

To Do:

The Space Needle is an iconic building in the Seattle skyline. Felt like a complete waste of time to me. The view is fine but really not worth the time.

The Seattle Underground tour was fun and entertaining. Funny guides take you under Pioneer Square and keep it entertaining. It runs about 90 min and tons of fun.

If you’ve never been to Seattle I suggest you plan a trip ASAP. Wonderful people, food, coffee, scenery, and just about everything else. Can’t wait to get back there.

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Coffee Review: Magnolia Coffee Co. “Bali Reserve”

Dylan's Candy Bar

Pardon The Punctuation…There’s a new coffee roaster in town and their name is Magnolia Coffee Co.. By “In Town” I mean Charlotte, N.C.. I love it when great coffee roasters pop up in unexpected places. This morning I had a chance to sample one of their roasts from the Kintamani region of Bali. Hints of orange peel, honeydew melon, and dark chocolate. An outstandingly smooth roast that will make you smile in the morning. You should follow these guys…I think they’re going places.

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Foodie Friday Featured Dish: Sea Urchin Spaghetti At “Bestia” in DTLA

Pardon The punctuation…In what looks like an old warehouse space in downtown Los Angeles sits Bestia restaurant. On a recent dinner there a particular dish really stood out to me as the star of the meal. The Sea Urchin aka “Uni” spaghetti was outstanding. House made pasta with squid ink bottarga, garlic, calabrian chilies, breadcrumbs, and of course uni. Perfectly al dente with the uni flavor not taking over the dish. This is the perfect dish to introduce someone into the flavor of sea urchin without scaring them away. If you’re ever in DTLA check them out. Get a reservation as they tend to fill up quickly.

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Wine Review: Hedges Family Estate 2012 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Syrah

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Pardon the Punctuation…I had no idea a wine from Washington could conjure the Rhone Valley. Hedges Family Estate wines do just that. Their 2012 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Syrah is a stunning example of the magical fruit from Washington’s Red Mountain. Aged 100% barrel aged for an average of 12 months in 52% new oak and 48% older oak, this wine is dark, viscus, and spicy. Right away you taste blackberry, and allspice. The wine is ready to drink now or could go a few more years. I’d have trouble aging it because it’s delicious. The only bad thing is I don’t have a case of it in my cellar. Perfect with grilled meats or on it’s own. At under $30 this is a steal of a wine. If it were from Napa you’d expect to pay upwards of $60 for a wine of a similar caliber.

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Quick Review: “Dirty Habit” at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco

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Pardon the punctuation…How many times have you stayed at a hotel where the restaurant on property is subpar? In my experience it happens a shit ton. Thats definitely not the situation at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco. “Dirty Habit” is their lounge/restaurant. It kicks ass across the board. Juliet was my server and here’s what she suggested we have in her total awesomeness.

Cocktails

Manhattan: They hit it out of the park with this solid interpretation of the classic cocktail.

Honey Bee: Hendrick’s Gin, Honey-Lavender Shrub, Pomme de Normandie, lavender flowers, orange oil, rosemary, and roasted apples. Just refreshing and delicious.

Food:

SF Halibut Tiradito: with passion fruit, ginger, and plantain. Fresh halibut…the passion fruit was so bright on the palate and it helped bring out all the flavors. A work of culinary art.

Steamed Bun: Fried lamb belly and peanuts. Did someone say lamb belly? Done and done. Delicious!

Chicken Wings: Sweet soy and chili vinaigrette. Korean style with a little sweet and heat. A must if you go there. Very generous portion…perfection.

Early Girl Tomato Salad: Goats milk curd and chermoula. Perfect recommendation from out server. The perfect salad to compliment the meal.

Sisig fried Rice: with pork belly, calamansi, and soy. The rice had a little pit of crunch and with the fatty pork belly this is a dish you could easily eat for breakfast with a friend egg on top. My mouth is watering right now.

The three desserts I had were all yummy. Jackfruit panna cotta, ginger churros, and the figs & sourdough. I’m going into a sugar coma just thinking about it. When you’re in SF and want a drink, food, or both, check them out.

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Halibut

Chicken wings

Steamed buns

Early girl salad

Fried Rice

dessert

Great outdoor courtyard

Wine Wednesday Review of “Spring Mountain Vineyards” 2002 Estate Cabernet

wine.com

Pardon The Punctuation…Here’s a quick review on a great library wine from Spring Mountain Vineyards in Napa, California. Spring Mountain is one of my favorite regions in Napa and the wine from there seems to never disappoint. This 2002 Cabernet has all the great characteristics of a Napa Cabernet with the smoothness of a Bordeaux wine. To use one of the terms I’ve learned here in Cali..it’s “Hella good.” It drinks really well now. Blackberries punch you right in the nose with hints of dark chocolate on the palate. I wouldn’t hold on to this one for more than another 3 or 4 years. It’s perfect right now.

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Ritual Coffee Organic Los Anonos, My New Main Squeeze

Save 20% + FREE Shipping ($4.50 shipping in Canada) on ALL orders at CoffeesofHawaii.com. Use Promo Code: COFFEE20 (Offer Valid Until 09/30/2014)

Pardon The Punctuation…If you’re a fan of coffee then you have to become a fan of Ritual Coffee Roasters from San Francisco. Their “Organic Los Anonos” roast has become the latest coffee to make it’s way into my pantry and it’s in contention for being a permanent fixture there. You have to take a sniff of it to understand the amazingly inviting aroma of this roast. It brings a smile to my face the second the bedroom door opens and the aroma hits me. It’s so damn good I go to bed thinking about it. A fresh cut grass mixed with molasses bouquet will spark the curiosity of your senses. The finish is smooth with a hint of citrus on the palate. The only thing I can hope for is that they open a store front in Los Angeles soon…like in my neighborhood.

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