The Taste happens this Labor Day Weekend!

Looking for something to do over the holiday weekend?  Look no further than The Taste, an epic culinary affair hosted by the Los Angeles Times.  The event is a gathering of some of the top chefs & restaurants from Los Angeles along with plenty of wineries, breweries, and other vendors.  This year, there are tons of great events occurring between Friday and Sunday.  Here are a couple not to miss:

imgresField to Fork – Hosted by Russ Parsons, Times Food Writer and Columnist, and Gary Menes, Chef/Owner of Le Comptoir; Sat., Sept. 5th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

California’s bounty of fresh produce inspires this homage to seasonal cooking, punctuated with engaging demos from Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Sherry Yard (Helm’s Bakery) and Niki Nakayama (n/naka). In addition to offering a glimpse into these locally-inspired perspectives, the event will feature a roundtable moderated by Parsons that examines the rise of the “root-to-stem” philosophy with Menes, Bruce Kalman (Union) and Ari Taymor (Alma). Restaurants include Hinoki & The Bird, Kye’s, M Café, Mayura Indian Cuisine, Michael’s on Naples and Westside Tavern, along with Choctal ice cream.

Flavors of L.A. – Hosted by Jonathan Gold, Times Restaurant Critic, and Carlos Salgado, Chef of Taco María; Sun., Sept. 6th, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The depth, breadth and diversity of flavor that make Los Angeles one of the most exciting places to dine are showcased in the closing-night celebration. Taco maestros Salgado and Wes Avila (Guerilla Tacos), along with critically-lauded chefs Curtis Stone (Maude) and Suzanne Tracht (Jar), will each choose a favorite dish to demo for festival-goers. Delving into the latest SoCal culinary phenomenon, Gold will discuss Things in a Bowl with Alvin Cailan (Ramen Champ/Eggslut), Christine Moore (Lincoln/Little Flower Candy Co.) and Minh Phan (Porridge + Puffs). Restaurants include Bar Pintxo,CHAYA, Gasolina Café, Joe’s Restaurant, Madcapra, Racion and Worldwide Tacos.

For more info, including tickets, visit The Taste!

The Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival is a Wrap!

The 5th Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival was a food and wine enthusiast’s dream!  I attended two of the three evening events and tasted delicious food, sipped outstanding wine, and filled my iPhone with incredible pictures.  Here are some of my favorite shots from the event!

Opening night - "Ultimate Bites of LA" hosted by Curtis Stone

Opening night – “Ultimate Bites of LA” hosted by Curtis Stone

LA Food & Wine

Chef Curtis Stone, amazing bites, and Beastie Boys’ Mike D on the turntables!

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Epic setting, Chef Nancy Silverton, and delicious Spicy Lamb Burgers from Badmaash!

Salad Nicoise from Bouchon Beverly Hills

Salad Nicoise from Bouchon Beverly Hills

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Fantastic wines from California!

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Citrus Marinated Hamachi from The Montage Beverly Hills is perfectly plated!

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The Roots rocking the stage on Night 3!

Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival Starts Today!

Looking for something awesome to do over the next few days? If you are anywhere close to LA, you need to check out the 5th annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival.  The event takes place in several locations across LA and features a lineup that includes some of the most talented chefs in the world (think Curtis Stone, Nancy Silverton, and Thomas Keller) along with musical guests The Roots!!!  There are also tons of featured wineries, breweries, and restaurants hosting tastings and events throughout the festival.  I am particularly excited about the wineries in attendance this year.  Some of the wineries I will be checking out include Red Car, Tablas Creek, and DuMol.

LA Food and WineSome events not to miss include:

“Ultimate Bites of LA” hosted by Chef Curtis Stone

“Night Market” hosted by Chef Tyler Florence

“Lexus LIVE on Grand” featuring The Roots

For more information, including how to get tickets, visit Los Angeles Food & Wine.

 

Sandlands 2013 Chenin Blanc Amador County

As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed a few weeks ago, I noticed that Silverlake Wine just added a post that they received a limited amount of Sandlands wine.  I quickly dialed them up and ordered a few bottles.  Amongst the jewels I picked up were a couple of bottles of Sandlands 2013 Chenin Blanc.  According to the winery, the vines for the Chenin were planted in Amador County in 1979 and grown at 1500 feet in a mixture of iron rich volcanic, quartz, and decomposed granite soils.  The vineyard is head-trained, dry-farmed, and own rooted.  The result – an incredibly delicious Chenin Blanc!

Sandlands Chenin Blanc...we enjoyed it over a meal at the corkage free restaurant "A Food Affair"

Sandlands Chenin Blanc…we enjoyed it over a meal at the corkage-free restaurant “A Food Affair”

Sandlands Chenin Blanc has layers and layers of flavor.  There are floral notes along with tastes of tangerine, peach, and melon.  There is also vibrant acidity but the texture of the wine is the real showstopper, adding complexity that is hard to come by.  This is by far my favorite American Chenin Blanc…grab as many bottles as you can find!  (12.6% alcohol, $26)

Pop the Champagne – J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” Premier Cru Brut Champagne

Life is too short to not celebrate the little things!  However, when most bottles of Champagne come with hefty price tags, it’s often hard to justify popping a bottle.  Thankfully, Brandon and I took on the tough job of sipping Champagne priced under $40 and I think we have found a winner; J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” Premier Cru Brut.  Imported by Kermit Lynch, the Cachet d’Or is a blend of equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier aged for 36 months on the lees before disgorgement.

J. Lassalle "Cachet d'Or" Premier Cru Brut Champagne

J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” Premier Cru Brut Champagne

Cachet d’Or has a lovely, creamy texture that romances your palate as you sip the wine.  Harmonious flavors of lemon curd, toast, and green apple are surrounded by minerality and followed with a dry, crisp finish.  It’s definitely sophisticated yet very approachable with an incredible showing of vibrance and complexity for $35.  Grab a bottle, a few friends, and celebrate!

Seasonal Recipe Idea – Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Salad

I walked into Whole Foods this week and could not help but notice the beautiful selection of heirloom tomatoes as I entered the produce section.  The bright red, yellow, orange, and green fruit looked beautiful so I picked up a pound to bring home with me.  When heirlooms are in season, I love making this Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Salad.  The recipe originated in Epicurious.  I have tweaked it a bit over the years and reduced the portion size since I normally make it for 2-4 people.  The recipe may seem a bit simple, but trust it…it will come out delicious!

The finished product

The finished product

Ingredients

Assorted Heirloom tomatoes (About 1 – 1 1/2 lbs)
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 ounces of burrata cheese
Balsamic vinegar

Preparation

Cut tomatoes into 1 inch wedges and place into large bowl.  Add oregano, basil, and olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Let stand for an hour.

Scoop and place buratta cheese in the center of a plate (or scoop into four smaller circles for individual platings); fan the tomatoes around the cheese.  Drizzle with dressing from bowl.  Finish with a very light drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Wine Pairing

Pair with a dry, sparkling wine or Vermentino.

Exploring New Wines: Sparkling Wines from Franciacorta

Have you ever popped open a bottle of sparkling wine from Franciacorta?  Most people haven’t and they are definitely missing out.  Franciacorta is a wine region in Northern Italy, located close to Milan in the heart of Lombardy.  It is a relatively new region for sparkling wine by European standards as it has only been producing them for the last 50 years.  The most remarkable thing about Franciacorta is the quality of sparkling wines coming out of the region.  Much of the wine is well-made and can compete with wines from Champagne for a fraction of the cost (think $25-$35).

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Twitter tasting of 5 different Franciacorta wines.  They were all distinct from one another and, for the most part, very enjoyable.  Here are my tasting notes from the evening:

Franciacorta Lineup

Franciacorta Lineup

La Montina Argens Saten 

Aromas of lemon curd, yeast, and honey define this 100% Chardonnay sparkler.  Fine bubbles, brioche, and zingy acidity make this a nice choice for shellfish! ($28)

Contadi Castaldi Brut

Contadi Castaldi is a blend of 80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Blanc.  Fresh tastes of lemon, pear, and toasted bread are coupled with lifting acidity make this sparkler a definite crowd-pleaser! ($25)

Guido Berlucchi ’61 Brut

This blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir has mousse-like texture along with notes of stone fruit, yeast, and citrus with a bit of a spicy finish.  Not super complex but definitely enjoyable! ($30)

Lo Sparviere Brut Cuvee n. 7

The Lo Sparviere definitely takes a step up in complexity!  Notes of lychee, grapefruit, toast, and green apples are entwined with minerals, balanced acidity, and fine bubbles.  100% Chardonnay and a really nice wine! ($35)

Antica Fratta “Essence” Rose 2009

Opening with aromas of red berries, the “Essence” Rose offers an elegant palate of strawberries, raspberries, minerals, delicate flowers, and fine bubbles.  This blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is fresh, clean, and was by far the most enjoyable wine of the evening for me! ($35)

*Media Samples

A Wine and Food-Filled Weekend in San Francisco!

This summer has been incredibly busy and delicious so I figured I would share some pictures of some of our recent adventures.  We just spent a fun-filled weekend in San Francisco.  Here are some of our favorite moments and places you don’t want to miss!

Absolutely beautiful weather to accompany the beautiful views in San Francisco.  Here is the Bay Bridge from the Ferry Building.

Absolutely beautiful weather to accompany the beautiful views in San Francisco. Here is the Bay Bridge from the Ferry Building.

Starting off the morning with a freshly made waffle and latte from Blue Bottle is a must!

Starting off the morning with a freshly made waffle and latte from Blue Bottle is a must!

We had to indulge in seafood from Hog Island Oyster Co. while we were in SF.  Some of the best shellfish in the city!

We had to indulge in seafood from Hog Island Oyster Co. while we were in SF. Some of the best shellfish in the city!

We ventured to Cupertino to check out Ridge's Monte Bello property...stunning property and excellent wines!

We ventured to Cupertino to check out Ridge’s Monte Bello property…stunning property and excellent wines!

You can catch breathtaking views of Silicon Valley from Ridge's Monte Bello property!

You can catch breathtaking views of Silicon Valley from Ridge’s Monte Bello property!

Domaine Rimbert “Les Travers de Marceau” Saint-Chinian

As we hit the peak of BBQ season, it is always great to stumble across an excellent steak wine.  Last weekend, we fired up the grill, threw on a couple of sirloins, and uncorked a bottle of Domaine Rimbert “Les Travers de Marceau” Saint-Chinian.  Domaine Rimbert is run by owner and winemaker Jean-Marie Rimbert, who organically farms his 20 hectare parcel in the St. Chinian AOC.  Domaine Rimbert “Les Travers de Marceau” is a blend of 30% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 25% Carignan, and 15% Cinsault.  The grapes are hand-harvested and the wine is fermented with native yeasts.

Domaine Rimbert "Les Travers de Marceau" Saint-Chinian

Domaine Rimbert “Les Travers de Marceau” Saint-Chinian

Les Travers de Marceau has an incredibly intriguing nose.  There are aromas of paprika mingled with leather, red cherries, and pepper.  The palate is meaty and funky (in a good way).  Red fruit is met with earth and minerals.  It’s an incredible wine for the price.  Definitely give this wine some time to open up (and perhaps even some more time in the bottle).  An excellent pairing with our steaks! ($15, 12.5% alcohol)

The Garagiste Festival is Coming to Los Angeles July 11th

Hey LA…one of the coolest wine festivals in California is coming our way this week!  The Garagiste Festival is arriving in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 11th.  This year, the festival will take place at The Wiltern and will feature over 60 of the area’s hard-to-find, micro-production commercial “garagiste” winemakers.  Each winery has a production of 1500 cases or less.

The Garagiste Festival: Urban Exposure

The Garagiste Festival: Urban Exposure

The event will take place from 2pm-6pm.  Here is more info regarding the tastings:

2:00-6:00pm – VIP Early Access – $99

This ticket allows attendees to enter the Festival one hour early to taste and meet the winemakers with a smaller group of tasters. Unlimited tastes of over 200 ultra-premium, hard-to-findwines provided by over 50 wineries, including exclusive tastes of “Rare & Reserve” wines* ONLY being poured from 2-3pm for VIP Attendees. Includes bread, cheese & charcuterie, as well as product samples provided by Artisanal LA vendors. These tickets are limited.

3:00-6:00pm – Grand Tasting – $69
Unlimited tastes of over 200 ultra-premium, hard-to-find wines provided by over 50 wineries from all over California. Includes bread, cheese & charcuterie, as well as product samples provided by Artisanal LA vendors.

If you would like to get tickets, visit The Garagiste Festival.  We will be pouring with Two Shepherds, so come by and say hello!