Wine and…Food? Please! Pairings

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | 2 Comments
Hungry people is a XIV theme?

Hungry people is a XIV theme?

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to try celebrity chef/restauranteur Michael Mina's 14th restaurant, XIV. Positioned grandly on Sunset Boulevard near Chateau Marmont, and at the intersection of Glitz and Glam, XIV was designed by Phillipe Starck to “[evoke] the drama and opulence of a European chateau and [add] an exciting new dimension to the Los Angeles culinary landscape.”

I have to agree, the boys did a really good job decorating.

With it's opulent Versailles-esque interior, the paintings of French Baroque nobility in their finery and rich touches like paneling, lounge areas and a fireplace, XIV offers a decadent buffet for all of the senses, but one:

I didn't get a damn thing to eat.

Our reservation was for 8 o'clock, Saturday. The restaurant called to confirm that we were coming. We showed up on time. Then we were shown to the bar and left there. Numerous trips to the hostess stand provided no results (nor even much of an apology), neither did asking for some love from the bartender. At 9:15, we left. And we were starving.

“Starving” is not an adjective I prefer to use when leaving a restaurant. I was dressed well. I was happy to be with friends. I was slightly intoxicated. I was also unfed. And since my money is green and the restaurant even called to confirm our reservation, I find this to be an inexcusable way to exit an eating establishment. Especially when Los Angeles boasts a staggering number of eating places that are happy to be good to their guests. If XIV, in their mirrored/hallowed hallways thinks their clientele should eat cake…or not, rather…all I can do is remind them what happened to the heirs to Louis XIV's decked-out dwelling outside Paris that serves as inspiration to their endeavor. I'm not suggesting that SBE – the group that owns XIV with Mr. Mina – should be decapitated. But they might find themselves incapacitated in other ways: Namely, customers will revolt and go elsewhere. And XIV will be getting their just desserts.

So, I'm not going to talk about their “60 Under $60” wine list. I'm going to talk about my evening at Viceroy, instead.

Sparkling and so yummy!

Sparkling and so yummy!

Viceroy is a contemporary, ultra-modern, luxury hotel in Santa Monica. An oasis of hushed elegance inside and too-cool-for-school DJ jams on the poolside patio, Viceroy also happens to offer Wine Lover's Nights at their restaurant, Whist, on Monday and Tuesday and a fantastic h

appy hour from 5 – 9 pm. My friends and I took advantage of the latter for a small birthday celebration.

When I arrived, Jess and LeaAnn (the birthday girl), had already ordered the Prime Beef Sliders with cheddar, tomato jam and pickle on brioche; Lavosh Flatbread with burrata and tomato; and White Bean Hummus with petite salad and grilled pita. They were also enjoying glasses of Piper Sonoma Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. I plunked myself down and joined them.

Piper Sonoma is a popular sparkling wine from California (remember that it cannot be called “champagne” unless it comes from the Champagne region in France). My glass was incredibly pale, with a lovely nose of apple and pear and pineapple. Although a sparkling wine, I'd describe this more as “fizzy” than effervescent, and had a lovely, smooth body, with a great dryness that made it tart but not mouth-puckering. It was excellent.

From the producer:

Very pale straw color with tiny bubbles. Aromas of green apple, citrus and white flowers. On the palate, it is dry with a delicate body and crisp, refreshing acidity. Great balance and a lingering, elegant finish.

As more friends arrived, we ordered the Spicy Tuna Tartare with shiso, green apple, crispy rice and soy caramel; Halibut Tacos with cabbage served with two salsas, pickled jicama and lime; Crab Cakes with smoked paprika aioli and watercress. We also ordered the cheese plate, but unfortunately, none of the servers actually told us what kinds of cheeses they delivered.

Truthfully, I was too busy devouring the tuna tartare to even notice.

I'd turn this stuff

With our second round of food, the girls and I also ordered a second round of drinks. This time I selected the 2007 Hitching Post “Cork Dancer” Pinot Noir, from Buellton, California. Delicious. Deep garnet in color, a nose of strawberries and other berries, and a touch of tar. On the tongue it was lush strawberry, chocolate, coffee and fig. Lovely, balanced acidity and barely tannic. If I wasn't driving home after, I probably would've had at least another glass (or two). And the great thing about this happy hour was that both the sparkling wine and the Pinot were incredibly affordable (per bottle, the bubbly runs about $16 and the Pinot is around $25).

A total of eleven appetizers and eight drinks came out to around $40 per person, for five ladies (including tip). For an indulgent evening at a world-class restaurant, this was an amazing value. And I will certainly go back for the deals on that incredible Pinot.

Are you listening, XIV? Depending on the type of culinary revolution you're trying to create, you might want to take a lesson from this story. To paraphrase a different tale of two things: “Viceroy was a far, far better time I had, than the time I spent with you.”


Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment

murphy-goode-alexander-valley-cabernetLast week, my friend Annette and I went to happy hour at a chain restaurant called McCormick and Schmick's. Well. We tried to go to happy hour. We arrived at 6:27 and were told that we could no longer ord

er from the special menu – which is supposedly available until 6:30. Hmmm.

Being the peppy little camper that I am, I was able to rise above this near-crippling culinary setback, consoling myself with a delicious glass of vino (Annette ordered a dirty martini).

I chose a glass of 2007 Murphy-Goode cabernet. This Sonoma red was delicious from the moment it arrived at the table, although a bit tannic at the first sip. The acidity quickly dissipated into a beautifully smooth, full-bodied fruitiness, with a medium finish.

This has me pretty excited to try other Murphy-Goode reds.

I’m much less excited to go back to McCormick and Schmick's.