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Insight

Lessons Learned From The 2013 International Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, B.C., Canada

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).

Okanagan Valley from See Ya Later Ranch. Stunning.

Okanagan Valley from See Ya Later Ranch. Stunning.

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).

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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…)


Plat du Jour Tuesday June 4, 2012: Is It Rising Formality or Declining Formality?

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.”

No lounge here...yet

No lounge here…yet

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…)


The 300th Article: Bites of the Week, End of May Edition

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.

IMG_1133 Gioia Pizzeria, San Francisco: Butter Lettuce with Apricots, Bleu Cheese, Hazelnuts, and Avocado

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's jam and toast...it's transcendent jam and toast, believe me.

Squirl’s jam and toast…it’s transcendent jam and toast, believe me.

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…)


Negroni Week Finale: A Pair From Hinoki & The Bird

On this final night of May and final night of Negroni Week, why not conclude with a pair of winning Negroni variations from the restaurant reviewed on this site today, Hinoki & The Bird? After all, bar director Sam Ross and chef/owner David Myers have concocted a menu that includes a whole category of Negronis.

You can get the traditional Classic Negroni, or a “White Negroni” with Amère Sauvage replacing Campari and no hard spirit involved.

Kingston Negroni

Kingston Negroni

What you really want is the “Kingston Negroni,” a powerhouse adaptation with the deep caramel depth of the funky dark Smith + Cross Jamaican Rum in place of Gin. Gran Classico adds more sweetness and syrupy texture, replacing Campari. An orange twist adds a subtle citrus levity and a glacier size single rock makes this heftier cocktail refreshing.

Or, consider the “Harajuku,” far more starely and elegant than the Tokyo neighborhood its named after. Here, the spirit is Hakushu Single Malt Whiskey, then there is Gran Classico again, and Maurin Quina for the sweet element, all finished by a few drops of chocolate bitters. That last part breaks the 1:1:1 magic ratio of Negronis. I won’t be too strict on the rule since it’s a sterling drink.

Gordon's Cup; Harajuku Cocktail

Gordon’s Cup; Harajuku Cocktail

These are two excellent choices for closing out the week-long Negroni celebration on an innovative note. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Classic Negroni either. You just can’t lose when it’s Negroni Week.


Negroni Week Thursday: The Power of Punt e Mes

Thirsty Thursday of Negroni Week brings the power of Punt e Mes to the table.

What in the world is Punt e Mes? Does it have to with football special teams or rowing in British terms?

Punt e Mes is a common substitute for sweet vermouth in cocktails, both Negroni inspired and not. It’s a hazelnut colored Italian sweet vermouth that has more spice and herbal flair than the very syrupy traditional sweet vermouth, being a particular nice addition to the even more vehemently herbal and spicy Campari.

For your Negroni variation tonight, you can of course simply follow the 1:1:1 ratio of a Negroni with Gin, Campari, and Punt e Mes instead of sweet vermouth.

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Or, how about some more Mezcal? Yes, I know this website has lots of Mezcal recommendations, but it’s hard to beat the stellar smoky agave based spirit. Try the “Mezcal Amores,” a mystical love letter Negroni variation, courtesy of Seattle’s Jay Kuehner. (more…)


Negroni Week: Aged, On Tap, or the Boulevardier

Negroni Week continues with an experimental Wednesday if you will. You’ve made the Negroni as smoky as Kansas City BBQ and made it molto Italiano by replacing sweet vermouth and Gin with Cynar and Fernet Branca.

Now let’s head to the lab/ barrel room.

Of the many liquids Portland, Oregon is known for excelling at (rain, coffee, craft beer, Pinot Noir…), it is also a city with a top flight cocktail scene. Pretending to be a cocktail history scholar, you can pinpoint the Portland cocktail emergence to one drink project by one bartender at one bar. That would be the Barrel Aged Negroni by Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Clyde Common. The ingredients are no different than your standard 1:1:1 Negroni, just as the Count himself would have drank in Florence some 90 years ago.

Except Morgenthaler took a page from the spirits playbook, employing the aging method and barrels that many high-end distillers use to enhance their spirits. Morgenthaler’s Negroni is standard with Campari, Beefeater Gin and Cinzano sweet vermouth. However, before being stirred, the trio gets aged two months in Tuthilltown Whiskey barrels to achieve a taste as crisp as autumn, smooth as Fred Astaire.

"Boulevardier" at Cyrus

“Boulevardier” at Cyrus

It’s a revelation, trust me. The concept born a few years ago has now exploded and bartenders from Singapore to Dublin now are aging cocktails and brewers have followed suit aging their beers in used spirit barrels, so now it is UNcommon for a brewery not to have some form of a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Russian Stout in its lineup.

Yet few, if any of these barrel aged drinks have achieved the refined elegance of the Clyde Common Barrel Aged Negroni. It is as much a part of Portland’s DNA today as Lewis and Clark or the Rose Garden. (more…)


It’s Negroni Week! Start with the Bottecchia

It’s that time of year again!

No, I’m not referring to the fact that with Memorial Day yesterday the summer grilling season is (un)officially upon us.

Our friendly bartenders across the country who are as obsessed with the Negroni as I am have officially deemed this final week of May as Negroni Week. Why not? Every week is Negroni Week for me, alternating between tinkering with the tried and true formula, and simply enjoying the classic 1:1:1 ratio of Campari, sweet vermouth, and Gin. It’s as simple and consistent as cocktails get.

The drink’s somewhat nebulous history dates back to the 1920’s when Count Camillo Negroni was a regular at the Bar Casoni in Florence. The Count enjoyed his Americanos very much (Campari and sweet vermouth topped with soda water), but one day he asked for a stiffer Americano with Gin replacing the soda water.

Barrel Aged Negroni at Clyde Common, Portland

Barrel Aged Negroni at Clyde Common, Portland

And the legend was born. Except, the Negroni itself can mean all sorts of things besides the classic cocktail that the Count ordered in Florence and was brought to America by Americans who frequented the popular Bar Casoni. (more…)