Forget about the old cliché that always tied together coffeehouses with the intellectual nature of literature. It used to be that at the coffeehouse, you would either write the next great novel or be reading one, not hacking away on the next great software program over your third espresso.
The romantic rapport of coffeehouses and literature is close to extinct, if not already. Just walk into Four Barrel or any Starbucks. Besides, did Hemingway ever write his important works over a café au lait or a bottle of Vin de Pays? Even Shakespeare probably wrote Measure for Measure bolstered by pints of mead, not pints of lattés.
The real relationship between writers and the dining/drinking world is of course that most inspirational ingredient of all: alcohol. How many times, fellow writers, have you had your epiphany for that next book or article over a glass of wine or after that third Margarita?
Now that the whole Barbary Coast/ pre- Prohibition classic cocktail style bar has run its course nationwide, restaurateurs and bartenders are taking a page from those who write page after page after drink after drink: the literary themed bar. (more…)
Earlier this week we examined the lessons brought home from last weekend’s 2013 International Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Penticton, B.C., Canada.
As with any conference, the talks and networking are of utmost importance. But, nobody leaves Cannes without watching a film or the Superhero Conference without collecting some new comic books.
This is a wine conference as much as it’s a conference for writing about wine. You can’t write about the wine without…sampling the vino of course.
Voilà, from among hundreds of tastes spanning across Canada to Uruguay and Argentina to California and Oregon to the far reaches of Greece, here are the ten winning wines from WBC 13. Some were sampled at formal meals and tastings. Others were brought out by the winemakers themselves at after-parties. Either way, you’ll notice the list has five whites and five reds. That’s not on purpose. It just happened to be a very balanced roster of wines. You’ll also notice no straight-forward chardonnay (I only sampled a few over the weekend and they never moved me) and shockingly, no ice wine (in Canada!).
It’s a great list from a very special wine- filled conference. Cheers! (more…)
It was a whirlwind weekend full of connecting, writing, talks, stand up paddleboarding and most of all, hour after hour of tasting for wine bloggers and winery representatives who descended upon Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. This was the fifth edition of the International Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) and the first for yours truly.
Amidst the splendor of what must absolutely be one of the world’s most underrated wine tourism treasures, the Okanagan Valley, and its various lakes, an emerging wine region emerged to the global wine writing community. Who knew that Canada produced wines that don’t taste like sugar (or maple)? Well, a small part of the wine community did and bravo to them for choosing this formidable site as hosts. Next year’s conference is much more on the beaten path in “Sideways” country, also known as Buellton, California (Santa Barbara County).
With some 250 participants, plus numerous winery representatives, this was a real success in more than just trending on Twitter (not sure why this was a goal, but it was, and they succeeded in it).
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the real details from the WBC: the ten wines that really struck me as vital for everyone to know about. In the mean time, here are the crucial lessons I took back with me south of the border from WBC 13. Perhaps they might be worthwhile for you to learn as well! (more…)
Poor California chardonnay has been taking a beating in recent years, sometimes deservedly so, and sometimes unfairly. If you open a bottle of chardonnay from the Golden State, you tense up and fear for the butter bomb worst. Headaches are not far ahead, as is a complete palate destroyer. You expect more butter than in a top tier Parisian croissant, mingling with absurd amounts of oak in a completely unbalanced proportion. Forget about pairing with food. These chardonnays often can’t even pair with water.
Let us not forget however that not all California chardonnay is like this. A few sips of any of the formidable chardonnays from Liquid Farm, one of the Central Coast’s young chardonnay (and rosé) voices, and you’ll be a fervent believer in no time.
Just by the winery name you can tell that Liquid Farm means business. There’s no pastoral label evoking the rolling hills and happy cows of California. This is about the wine and good times celebrating the beauty of gorgeous grape liquid.
The current vintage of Liquid Farms’ “Golden Slope” Chardonnay is truly a golden benchmark of chardonnay production for the Golden State. You can guess which color medal it would win in the Wine Olympics. (more…)
On this first Tuesday of June, this week’s news of one of San Francisco’s most highly regarded restaurants (and its most expensive) commencing an à la carte food menu in its adjacent lounge area got me to realize about just common it is now how these highest end gastronomic restaurant are starting to de- formalize, at least partially. Saison only has 18 seats in its main dining room, where diners pay $248 a head for the tasting menu. Now you can sit at the bar and graze upon various smaller dishes, adding a completely new meaning to the term “bar bites.” A full meal might end up being $200 each, but it can also be a $40 apértif.
Saison isn’t the only one in the country, or even the Bay Area doing this. Manresa in Los Gatos and Meadowood in St. Helena recently started similar concepts. San Francisco’s La Folie built a lounge with a lounge menu not too long ago. Across the country, Le Bernardin last year did the same after its extensive re-model, and Matthew Lightner’s Atera has a similar separate bar concept. Jean-Georges in New York has entire casual restaurant, Nougatine, that serves as the main room’s “lounge.”
It’s certainly a form of the high-end restaurant starting to de- formalize itself. At the same time, you have more casual restaurants raising the bar (literally bars) within the set restaurants via chef’s counters with much more pricey, extensive tasting menus.
The two directions are completely contrasting with each other. So are we seeing a rise in formality or a decline? (more…)
It’s hard to believe that today we celebrate the 300th article from Trev’s Bistro in its barely over a year old lifetime. Cheers to 300 more articles celebrating and discovering all there is in the wonderful wide world of eating and drinking!
For this Bites of the Week issue, we present a little bit of San Francisco and a healthy dash of Los Angeles, with no shortage of spring peas and spring onions. Plus, summer stone fruit are arriving. That’s a very good sign. You’ll enjoy these bites almost as much as I did.
Here is a tour de force of salad artistry, balancing classical decadent crunch and luxurious cream, with the ripest and freshest California produce bounty. Literally, I was informed this was the first day of the season for apricots impressive enough to use in a salad. If day one is any sign, we’re in store for quite the apricot summer. Even the dressing had just the right amount of ripe apricot sweetness in the mix.
The butter lettuce? It makes a case why every salad should use it as a base. Cheers to apricot season! Oh, with all this salad talk, let’s not forget Gioia happens to be one of the best pizzerias in San Franciso. The Russian Hill pizzeria crafts top notch very New York style pies and slices, complete with the right tinge of grease. You want the stellar salt-spice blast of the “Acciughe” with Sicilian anchovies, Calabrian chiles, and oregano. It’s the perfect mate to the calm as a summer breeze salad.
Squirl, Silver Lake (Los Angeles): Brioche Toast with Blueberry-Coconut Jam
I’m not sure what I can add to the acres of praise about Squirl, Jessica Koslow’s adorable breakfast and lunch counter/ kind of café that will be expanding this summer from its very humble beginnings. At its intimate heart, Squirl started as and still is a destination jam maker, whether buying the jars at the café or Altadena Farmers’ Market. In Los Angeles reality now, Squirl has changed what the basic concept of jam and toast, or really the continental breakfast is. With the Proof Bakery (Atwater Village) brioche toast, toasted to brilliance, then slathered in half a foot of jam or preserves, you’ve got a morning perfected. It’s even better with the espresso service from Alex Guzman that comes with anise tinged sparkling water. Don’t mess with this espresso, served the new age way in a gibraltar glass. The rest of the menu is no slouch either, be it precious Kukoho Rose brown rice dishes crowned by duck eggs, or nut butters on the brioche toast. Ultimately, the jam is what’s jamming here. (more…)
So often when we consider Loire Valley wines, immediately full- bodied, oak- laden whites pop into mind. Sancerre. Sweet Vouvrays. Just the name of the region constitutes an important benchmark for white wines worldwide. But, what about the red wines, in particular the blends?
I once worked at a California winery that made a rare to find excellent 100 % Cabernet Franc. In reality, Cabernet Franc is a professional blending grape, whether with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends, or used with Gamay in Loire or Burgundy combinations.
One of the stalwart wineries of France’s Loire, Domaine La Grande Tiphaine, mixes 20% Cabernet Franc with 45% Gamay and 35% Côt (known as Malbec elsewhere) in its scrumptious “Ad Libitum” blend.
The grapes hail from vines ranging from younger 15 year old vines to veteran 45 year old ones, all strong and virtuous from the local limestone and red clay soil. Then a five month aging period in a fiberglass tank allows for the necessary maturation, without veering too far off its invigorating, agile track. This is not an elegant wine, nor is it a wine that requests aging. Have it now. It’s vibrant and exciting, almost alive. You can feel the pulse. (more…)