Friday, October 17, 2014

Summer's final gasp, we hope.

This week brings cooler temperature to the rest of you, of course it is always cool in a cave.  This particular cave, AKA The Cave, has been quiet, minus the crickets whom I've counted, tagged, and tracked.  Each cricket has his own tiny GPS.  Here is a map of one of the crickets, Henry.  This was just one night!

Since it's been a bit quiet around here, I've not been opening wine.  Or maybe I'm just drinking it all by myself.  Either way, here are a mere FEW samplings to catch up on, plus one astonishing end of summer foodie thing.

I finally drank all the white wine and opened this 2010 Bila-Haut.  Here's the long version:  2010 M. Chapoutier "Les Vignes de Bila-Haut" CĂ´tes-du-Roussillon Villages.  (I heart copy-and-paste.)  It's made by some guy named Michel Chapoutier which seems to mean something to people. The wine is organic/biodynamic, and boasts the first wine label in braille. This was part of the Late Great Zachy's order of noted wines at affordable prices.  It is currently selling for $13.99 at K&L. This was a nice, pleasant wine.  It's like if you go to Trader Joe's and get a $6 wine that is a meh daily dinner wine, why not spend a few more bucks for a better daily dinner wine, which this is. 

Speaking of Trader Joe's, they moved, rat bastards.  (Am I allowed to say that on a family blog?)  They are now on the corner of Brand and Glenoaks.  "North of the 134," code for no longer in our humble ghetto that is South Glendale.  Trader Joe's is where I've pilfered empty wine boxes so my dear customers had something to carry out their wine. Nothing classier than your Bordeaux and Burgundy dressed up in a Chuck Shaw box, and it was convenient to carry armfuls of boxes, six or seven trips-worth, to The Cave.  Alas. 

Oh, say, here's a wine.  It is, was, the last of Plonk Part Deux.  As it's been going, it was over the hill in the most pleasant manner - boozy, caramelly.  What happened is I'd gone to bed and was wide awake at 3 a.m.  Around 4 I realized life was futile, or sleep, anyway, and decided to make my tomato sauce from all the heirloom tomatoes fresh from that days farmer's market.  Around 4:30, it occurred to me the last of the Plonk Part Deux would be great in it. So I came down to get it.  Onion, garlic, ginger, curry...around 6 a.m. the sauce was done and cooled and I decided to go to bed.  Nice night. 

But here's the astonishing end of summer foodie thing.  I tried to find the recipe, it was posted on LATimes twitter, or NYTimes twitter or neither of those...I couldn't find it... but   it     is     k i l l e r.  Cucumber salsa.  Cucumbers, red onion, 1 jalapeno with seeds, fresh cilantro and mint, lime and olive oil and salt.  The first time I had it with fish tacos and OMG.  Second time, this batch, I threw in a pomegranate, too.  Black beans, sour cream, and this on top...Holy Mother of OMG.  Both times, The only thing missing was a really appropriate wine pairing. 


Yes, it's been awhile, but we've now resolved that.

PS - If you don't have a food processor, you might want to make the salsa on your day off.  Lots and lots of  chopping

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Summer whites.

I confess, I'm not a huge fan of white wine.  No idea why, it tastes good, it pairs well with the food I eat and it's a pleasant summer quaff.  Wait ... what was I thinking, I DO like white wine! Here are four that went down this summer. 
1.  2009 Kuentz-Bas Alsace. I think I blogged about this one already.  It was good.

2. 2011 Villa Angarano "Angarano Bianco" Vespailo Breganze.  (Really, are all those words necessary?)  Let's see, I went to Topline and asked for something that went well with hummus - you may still be having nightmares about the late great hummus search - and they gave me this. 

As a matter of fact, I had it with the above - sauteed arugula, fried porkchop covered in hummus and a side of japanese and lemon cucumbers with lemon, dill, mustard, olive oil.  this was all just way too tasty.  The wine was: nice.

3. 2010 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Vineyard Chardonnay. A most generous gift to the cause, all I hear about California chardonnays are how buttery and oaky they are.  This was tight and minerally. Nice.

4. 2013 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling.  Australian and dry, this was recommended to me by a customer.  It is a reasonable grab at K&L. It was my first dry Riesling, and I really liked it.

Maybe I am not a fan of whites because by nature troglodytes prefer the culture of being warmed than the culture of being refreshed.  Winter is coming?  Not this week.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What's new in Armenia? WINE.

(Two things I know nothing about, wine and Armenia.  This should go well.)

It all started with this article in Glendale News Press,  July 24, 2014, written by Brittany Levine, sadly no longer with the paper, don't panic, still on earth, just no longer with the Press.  In the article, Ms. Levine writes about Varuzhan Mouradian, who, after 20 years living in Los Angeles, has returned to Armenia to make wine. Though it seems the subject of wine making and Armenia occasionally cycles 'round, what made this article stick was, well, timing.  For instance, Mr. Mouradian references the country's indigenous grapes, Areni, Haghtanak, Karmrahyut, Kakhet, and unusual grapes are a bit of a trend right now.  New World Wines are in, too: South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand. The timing for Armenia is RIPE.  THEN, about a month later, M. came in and announced he was asked to go to Armenia to give a lecture on modern wine things.  That clenched it: Armenia is about to HAPPEN.

This is a panoramic shot of the cave Areni-1. (click on to enlarge)  I'm not sure the rent on that little duplex in the front, or the nearest Starbucks, but you have a CAVE in your backyard, one almost as nice as THE Cave.  Also, it is the very cave in which the world's oldest-know winery was discovered not but a few years ago.  It turns out Armenians were making wine in 4,000 BC. You'd think they'd be pretty good at it by now, but alas, like many ubiquitous supermarket wines, the current offerings most available, most recognized, are ... lacking. 

That's all about to change.  

In the south of Armenia, the Areni-1 cave complex lies along the Arpa River just outside Areni Village.  If you google-map this cave it's, like, nowhere. The Caucasus Mountains look like endless dry dust interspersed with moments of lushness.  Areni is in the most sparsely populated province in the country and one of four regions of wine making in Armenia, though I'm only finding specifically referenced Ararat and Vayots Dzor.  It is Ararat that is believed to be the resting place of Noah's Ark, and Noah himself that planted the first vines.  Like he got off the boat and planted vines. Tough trip meets intact priorities. Though Ararat is now technically in Turkey, it is spiritually forever Armenian. 

In the village there is the Areni Wine Factory, but the crest above the cave winds a long road to a lone-standing Monastery, Noravank. (click on images to enlarge)

Seriously, check out this monastery. Very small distinction between a troglodyte and a monk, mostly one of light. I think I can handle this.

That picture is lifted from the website for Zorah Wines, one of the wines already making its impression.  From their website, "Zorah’s carefully selected indigenous vines, which derive from the abandoned vineyards of a nearby 13th century monastic complex and have remained pure and unchanged for hundreds of years, are grown on original ungrafted root."

Zorik Gharibian returned to Armenia from Italy to pursue wine.  His winemaker is Alberto Antonini, among the top 5 of Forbes' list of the world's best winemakers. The company's agronomist, Stefano Bartolomei, is also Italian.  

In answer to "What's missing from Armenian Winemakers," Gharibian responds, ""Unfortunately, [people] in Armenia don't understand what a treasure they have. Many world-famous winemaking countries such as, for example, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina, don't have indigenous varieties, while Armenia has hundreds of indigenous varieties, which many are not interested in. This is lamentable. The second woeful fact is that we have a 6,000-year-old [winemaking] history and we don't pay attention to this fact, while in Europe they preserve their 500–600-year-old [winemaking] history to such an extent."

"I'm now speaking about my land. Armenia has altitudes — this land, this water, history, indigenous varieties… we have all the links [to the chain] to develop winemaking, but what we're missing is self-consciousness," he says, looking toward the clay amphorae laid out in the first floor of the factory."  Gharibian ages his wine in traditional clay amphorae, not too dissimilar from what was found in the caves.  When it became too difficult to source out, they opened their own factory. 

In 2012, Ellen McCoy posted on her Top 10 Wines.  Along with a 2009 Romanee-Conti that goes for $14,000 - $18,000 was the $45 2011 Zora Karasi Areni Noir.  Wow! Had that happened to me, I think I'd have produced a few clay pots on the spot. 

The 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards awarded 7 medals to Armenian wines, three of them silver.  If you are still unconvinced Armenia is the next hot wine region, peruse this nearly 80-page report from 2012.  It was embedded in Ms. Levine's News Press article, and it's actually a fascinating read of a possibility, a reality, and the challenges between. Armenia has the history, the grapes, the climate, the terroir, and the buzz - all the necessary components of notable wine - except, for now, the wine.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beer week is coming. See beer art!

In advance of Los Angeles Beer Week, September 20 - 28,  the gallery La Luz de Jesus opened last night its second annual beer coaster show. 

LA Times: "...we kept the rules simple: We told them to do whatever they wanted [as long as] each coaster must be a solitary work (though it’s fine if several pieces work together contextually), and they must be priced $250 or less.”

Typical to La Luz de Jesus, it's a great bit of fun to peruse. It runs to September 28. (click on images to enlarge)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wine versus Wine.

(This started out as part of another post, but the other post is evolving into another idea, so now this is  a mere non-sequitur.   Apparently I think it's too genius to merely delete.)

This is an ad for Barefoot Refresh, one wine in the Ernest and Julio Gallo line up.  E and J Gallo is the number one selling wine brand in the country.  The Barefoot Refresh slogan, "Say hello to wine on the rocks," is maybe ironic? I doubt it.

It's certainly not this stuff, which many consider the world's best wine. (Small aside, more of curiosity  than proof of quality: in 2013, 3 bottles of the 1990 vintage were sold for $72,000.)

In testament to the limits of language, or maybe a mere misunderstanding of terms, (only in the most  Wittgensteinian ways), both these products are  acceptable definitions of the word, "wine."

Just like both these paintings are called, "art."


Liking bad wine and bad art doesn't make it good wine and good art, it means you like bad wine and bad art. For instance, I like this.   And most of what George W. paints.  But I'm not delusional about it.

Is all. Glad we had this chat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The World's Greatest (guest) Beer Review, Lost Abbey Deliverance.

Since I can't figure out why the printer is suddenly not working - it IS working and the computer is working, but they no longer seem to be working together - I'll instead post here the World's Greatest Beer Review as not written by yours truly.

Part One showed up in my inbox this past weekend, followed by Part Two, a disclaimer of sorts, that rendered it an immediate classic.  I have permission to reprint both parts, with a few minor changes to protect the innocent.

Part One, 11:05 p.m.

"_____________ very kindly gave me some beers.

"It took me until now to open one.  I'm by myself here, so I thought I'd open a smaller bottle.  That had me choosing between two Lost Abbeys.  I had a Lost Abbey once, at Spring St. Bar, and I loved it so much that I considered getting a second one (I didn't; I'm a lightweight), but I can't remember which of their beers it was.  Devotion, maybe?
Anyway, of the two bottles of Lost Abbey, one seemed super-special, and the other seemed less special.  I chose to less special one, because I was eating dinner alone, and hopefully I'll open the other one with a friend around, and that friend will get to try it, too.

"So,  Deliverance.  Thankfully, my dinner was some hot Italian sausage that was actually hot (good job, Trader Joe's) with caramelized onions and slightly burned bell peppers.  This beer poured like sour cherry juice, and had very little going on in the way of carbonation (was it always like this? Or did this happen in the dark, over time, between 55 and 58 degrees Fahrenheit?).

"After it poured like sour cherry juice, it tasted like sweet coffee.  At first.  It's "blended ale aged in bourbon and brandy barrels," so I could have expected some of the sweet darkness of it.

"The beer is NOT syrupy.  I draw the line at syrupy beer and won't drink it.  But this successfully walks the line and does not become that.  It was a great companion to a spicy-sausage-based dinner, and totally ruled out crackers (by which I mean, I could not handle this beer with bland foods or a lot of carb-y things.  If you ever eat eat pasta again, which I know you won't, don't drink this beer with  it).

"Without crackers, I broke out some salty Spanish cheese (whoa, Trader Joe's, thanks again!) and Jesus, salty cheese and this beer were made for each other.  The second time I went to slice salty cheese, however, things were more complicated, because this beer is 12.5% alcohol, and, as previously mentioned, I am a lightweight.

"Now it's time for a late-night, somewhat tipsy shower. I'm pretty excited.

"P.S.  This beer has sediment.

"P.P.S. Thanks for reading this/I'm sorry.  I realize there's no context here."

(Before we get to Part Two, let me just say, this is me after every beer I've ever had.  This is already an awesome email. And then...)

Part Two, 3:32 a.m.
"I am so sorry for making you the victim of my questionable impulses.  Which in this case, looked like, "You know what would be fun?  Writing about drinking this beer and hitting send before I have a chance to regret it."

"I woke up, pretty confused, still unshowered, on my bed a few hours later, and sheepishly rinsed my dinner dishes.

"I'm just going to tell myself that at least it wasn't bad poetry."

The end.

Okay, a few things.  If you are prone to useless endeavors, like casual writing, I declare a bit of alcohol makes it much more fun.  For entirely unknown reason, there simply is something satisfyingly pleasurable about typing away on a keyboard half a sheet, maybe one sheet to it

Which is why so many good writers were famously alcoholic.

Also, it's kind of fun when people are silly. The world needs more silly.

Ode to the lightweights,
to the metabolically challenged,
the lacking of body mass,
the feint of machismo.

Cheap date?
Economically inebriated!
Competently crocked,
proficiently potted,
ne'er vomit nor hangover be.

'Tis Braggart, the lightweight,
they  chortle at the rest of us:
"You stinky pukards,
mine was done effeciently,
minus huge bar tab
and disgusting effluvium.
And then I wrote about the beer, versus posting nude selfies on my instagram account."

Ode to the lightweights,
alcohol exemplars.
A little silly,
a little funny,
a little sleepy,
a little nap.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wine beer. Or beer wine.

Today's very generous donation to the cause, the bottle reads,"For this farmhouse ale, we teamed up with our neighbors at Margerum Wine Company to bring the best of both to the table.  We brewed a pale, dry, spicy French-style table beer and then barreled it in oak barrels with Margerum's tropical, floral, bright savignon blanc must."

It is carried exclusively by Whole Foods who also had a hand in creating this partnership.   Figueroa Mountain's Biere de Manage ("home brew") tastes like flowery things with an undercurrent of clove.  It is based on the Saison ("season") style of beer making, a style that originated in the french-speaking region of Belgium.  During the slower winter months, the farm houses would brew this stuff to have on hand for their summer workers.  Originally around 3-3.5% ABV, this bottle was still a fairly easy 8%, and it was a perfect quaff to fritter away a long warm day.  Which it did. I was also there.  (Life on the farm is hard.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Hotel Glendale gets its close up.

This is the Hotel Glendale.  I got this picture from The Glendale Historical Society website because the Hotel is indeed a national historical landmark, reference #94001197.  Also, this is how the Hotel typically looks: green awnings, red vehicles. 

Back in July, 2012 was this post about an Australian beer commercial being filmed here at the old Hotel Glendale. I posted a few photos of the shoot.  Red awnings, green vehicle. 

Then I forgot about it.

But Ever-Vigilant Glendale Denizen Tropico Station, THE Glendale Blog posted this video yesterday on his FB page, the actual ad filmed that day.  And though The Hotel is at the very beginning, stay for the crashing through the police barriers, at least. Cheers.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The good old days are now.

There is a never-ending generosity that is The Cave, and though I reference it to a possibly ad nauseam end, I will continue to reference it ad infinitum.  Because it's generous, and in this world that is something, every time.

Wino Summer continues with a contribution to the cause from the one and only, the legendary, you'd know him if you loved him: The Deanster. I was poking around the goods and decided it might be a good time to open this, a 2009 Kuentz-Bas Alsace. It's a Kermit Lynch wine.

Theoretically I prefer many wines, but few match my gastro-tendencies.  At the moment it is all about lemon, mustard, and hot sauce on some otherwise unimportant food item. To resolve the disparity, I typically hang out, have a glass of wine, and then have dinner.  This wine I thought might do okay with condiments.

And then R. came in.  R. came in Saturday talking about doing some much needed re-arranging, a favorite activity in the dog days of summer, and a necessary one in advance of the coming shipping season.  When it got to be within an hour of close and it looked like R. was still knee-deep in it, I offered to stay late.  After close this fell open, and I was happy to share it.

Sunday: DITTO!  R. was still in there working on his "system."  M. showed up so now we were all here after close working, catching up, and enjoying the pleasant generosity of The Deanster - also present in an ipso facto-y kind of maybe way.   A lovely evening, it's The Cave at its best.

Onward with the generosity!

On Monday or Tuesday, I decided to open this stuff up, a most generous donation from V.   Full Sail Black Gold Imperial Stout from Oregon. This is a Russian Stout aged for 10 months on bourbon casks from Kentucky. As you can see from the picture, "Still Life with Lemon," it's very inspiring stuff.  Drinking this is like lounging on the bottom of a bourbon barrel while eating a dark chocolate bar. This bottle is enough for twenty people.  Remember it on Valentine's day.

I am a most fortunate troglodyte surrounded by a great and warm AND VERY UNNECESSARY SO CUT IT OUT ALREADY generosity. Cheers.

A later-added PS.  About a week ago I was in 7-11 and saw this for the first time.  In response to my reaction, wordless and agog, The Niece said, "Don't look at it, just walk away."  All I have to say is "Clamato" might just be the most tragically named product ever.  That + beer + this beer is a train wreck too complicated to grasp. 

Earlier today I'd emailed V. to thank him for the stout, and he emailed back a picture of his wife in Hawaii drinking this stuff.   NO WAY!  Hahahahahahhahahahha!

Have fun in Hawaii, kids.  These are the good days. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2003 Drinkward Peschon Napa Valley Cab.

Good stuff!  Just when I wasn't sure Cabs were my thing, this tall drink of grape walks through my door.  With me.  I was carrying it, a very generous donation to the cause.

2003 Drinkward Peschon "Entre Deux Meres" Napa Valley Cab.  Two beautiful photos from their website.

This paragraph from Polaner Selections.
"Lisa Drinkward and Francoise Peschon were introduced to each other by their children and became fast friends. They, in fact, liken their philosophy about wine to their philosophy of raising children, and named their wine "Entre Deux Meres" (between two mothers, in this case), "Give them a lot of tender loving care, nuture always, then let them go on to express themselves and become the unique individuals they were meant to be." They believe that gentle handling and minimalist intervention yields unique wines that are elegant and balanced -- a true expression of the roots.

The wine is made by both Francoise Peschon and Lisa Drinkward. Peschon is also the winemaker at Araujo vineyards in Napa, while Drinkward is the wife of Les Behrens (of Behrens & Hitchcock). In fact, the wine is made at Behrens & Hitchcock on Spring Mountain.

The wine is produced in miniscule quanties, The 2000 vintage was the first they produced, and their Cabernet Sauvignon is the only wine they bottle."

Lots of good pedigree here, and it might explain why I like this cab when I was otherwise losing all cab hope.  Not to be sexist about it, but many of the recent cabs I've consumed seem to have a certain  muscle-i-ness to them.  There's a spiciness to them that seems to obliterate rather that mingle, and if you have a second glass, it almost burns the tongue like cinnamon.   It's like being trapped on the elevator with a guy wearing too much cologne, or being at a small party with the one obnoxious guy talking too loud and too long.

Not this stuff, this was a well-curated party: nice, intact tannins and a balanced presence of spice with fruit and other grape-y things.  Good party.

Again, not to be sexist about it; we all have our obliterating bits, like how mine right now is hummus.  No matter who made that wine, it was a nice wine. Just trying to make a point.  And avoid hate mail.  Cheers.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The dog days of The Cave.

Well, if everyone is going to leave town or otherwise not drink wine, you get what you get: hummus!  Lots of hummus, more hummus than you can shake a stack of pita at. 

As you know, caves - especially The Cave - are or is ...?... a tender and revered eco-system, and a good troglodyte respects its environment.

 I believe, in this Cave Food Pyramid, I might be the Organic Debris at the bottom.  I could be the greatest predator of them all, I'm pretty sure were it between me and the Cavefish I could take that Cavefish down. But best to let the ecosystem thrive and then adjust to how that shakes out.

So now that it's summer, I am adjusting to lots and lots of microorganism salads. Microorganisms are tasty, don't get me wrong, but after some time enhancements become necessary and so that is how we get to The Great Glendale Hummus summer.

Many salads of what's in season: cucumbers and dill and cilantro and red onion, a nice lemon/olive oil drizzle, a generous spoonful of hummus on top, and an egg on top of that - sometimes fish, I can't seem to not want this every day, and the hummus is a fitting dimension.

We started with Central Grand Market and then found Pacific Food Mart.  The latter I preferred as being lighter and, as the customer commented to me it would be, "cleaner."  But Central Grand Market had a nice bite to it lacking in the Pacific Mart.

Then the laundry room was crazy so I (wait for it) threw in the towel and opted the laundromat.   Across from the laundromat is the strip mall where Eden Burger is, and I walked over there to get a bottle of water. Nestled into the corner of that strip mall is this place, Kozanians Ranch Market.  (There is another one on S. Glendale Ave.) This is when I realized there are, in Glendale, a million of these little groceries and there would be much hummus in my future.

When I saw it was made by a company called Babylonia Foods in Glendale, this gave me hope there was a single producer supplying many small groceries apt to carry hummus.  But no, a little research showed it's simply their in-house name.  I don't know who Barron is, or why it's Babylonia Foods and not Kozonians Hummus, but I do know you might not want to buy your meat there, heh-heh.

The hummus was chunky, "artisan," had the best balance of flavors (not noticeably too salty) and an interesting recollection of deviled eggs. That might be paprika on top, it might have been from that.  Also, cumin in there, it was a nice after taste. This was a nice hummus.  

NEXT. Well, I had to try this and check it off the list, Nature's Pride Golden Farms. There is one on San Fernando, but this I got from their store on N. Glendale, north of the 134. This was a nice hummus but safe, which I guess is necessary to appeal to the widest audience. Turns out I like a little more opinion in my hummus.

NEXT. I was running a little early today and remembered this place on Central, Glendale Ranch Market. Which begs my question, What IS a Ranch Market?  Is it one company with many ranches? I don't know, but there are a lot of them in Los Angeles.

The hummus here is also nice but unremarkable.  It is vaguely unbalanced - like your resident troglodyte, you're thinking right about now. 

Yesterday I was in Whole Foods and the gentleman standing in line ahead of me was wearing chef pants.  I'm not sure how these got to be THE chef pants, but I engaged him in conversation anyway and he works for a company that caters to the studios.  They specialize in middle eastern cuisine.  I asked him where in Glendale one can get the best hummus.  "Packaged?"  Then he trailed off and it was clear I was on a fool's errand.  However he does favor Raffi's for good local Mediterranean eats.  Which I see has hummus on its to-go menu.

Right now we are leaning towards the offerings of Pacific Food Mart and Kozonians Ranch Market. 

Entirely unrelated, last weekend I decided it was too hot to drink wine, at least anything red and big, which is precisely why I opened this, 2002 Chien Lunatique.

I think the chien was lunatique after drinking this wine. 

I don't know why France's dogs are lunatiques while ours are merely something to beware, but there it is.

This wine was exactly what I wanted: decadent and delicious.  Deep dark fruits, mysteries and allures, exactly right.

Cheers to the quiet days of summer and all the little bits that fill it.