Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When life hands you lemons...and Grenache Blanc.

There are only two reasons to live in Southern California: Mexican food and citrus.  All citrus, but especially the Meyer lemon.  Citrus is in season right now, and I know people.  Very generous people.  I've chosen my friends wisely.

So that when M. came in over the weekend with a generous handful of Meyer lemons from her tree, and I had already in my locker the most generous bottle of Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc from the very same generous person, I knew I needed to make an M. inspired devoted meal.


Because the other reason people think it's swell to live in Southern California is the weather which is less swell and more swel-tering.  It will take us 75 inches of rain to make up for what we've not had in three years: winter. We've had 1, 095 days, of summer. 

 Perfect soup weather! 

But I had the wine and the lemons and the inspiration of generosity, and white wine is sort of summery, I'd not have otherwise looked at it until July.

In a pot, I threw in roughly chopped garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, leeks, fresh fennel, lemon rind,a bit of butter, curry, S&P, and a couple of chicken legs.  After some bits gathered on the bottom of the pot, I covered everything with water and let it cook away for a couple hours. 

In another bowl, the juice of one lemon and two eggs, beaten. I let these come to room temperature.

I'd opened the wine Saturday.  This wine was: different.  My first Grenache Blanc, I have no idea how to explain it taste wise. Mostly it reminded me of the old, over-the-hill, white wines I've taken to for their evolved body and flavor, which I find satisfying both for what they've become and for their other-wine-i-ness. 

When everything in the pot was done I shredded the chicken and pushed everything else through a sieve and then discarded it.  Then I tempered the eggs/lemon and added it to the soup.  I've never tried this before. It worked.  It worked A LOT, in fact it's fantasic. Lastly I added the wine and simmered it long enough for the soup to thicken and the alcohol in the wine to cook off.

This soup is killer good. This soup is life changing amazing.  Why haven't I tried this before?  I didn't even have the concept for this soup in my head until the accidental intersection of generosity, the gift of a really nice wine fortuitously coinciding with the gift of most amazing lemons.  Thank you, M. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Once upon a Trader Joe's

Rifling through someone's locker, really, is like rifling through someone's underwear drawer when they're not home.  NOT THAT I'VE EVER DONE THAT.  There is the exquisite surprise.

And the worthwhile bonus.

Love, the ghost of Trader Joe's.

The 24-case locker fully realized.

It's a work of art, really.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Drink the Good Wine.

I was thinking I was going to do some big, year-end, The-Cave-is-Awesome round-up, which it is, but the year ended on a story that also began it.  So here we go.

2014 began and ended with stories of loss.  The second one came in the end of December to talk to me about closing a multitude of lockers filled with many bottles collected over years of trips together traveled,  bouncing around various wine countries with a partner no longer on earth.

It began years ago, in Oregon, on a random road with a random sign and an arrow pointing to "wine tasting." They were hooked and it became part of their lives; they, the trips, the wine, and the lockers, all growing together.  

There are many lockers filled with wine, lockers filled with all the trips taken together,  private jokes, intimate moments, disagreements.  Everything that is two lives together is in those lockers.  That now will be emptied and auctioned, most likely, two lives emptied and auctioned to the highest bidder. 

There is so much difficulty in this, it will be a very difficult NEXT for this person.

January 2014 opened with a similar story twice removed, and the gentleman was retrieving a bottle of wine to open with the friend who just lost his wife.  He asked me to Google a few bottles for him, to check in on how they might be drinking then.  The bottle he took with him was posted at several thousand dollars.  Several.  "Drink the good wine," he said, after he told me why he was taking that bottle, and as he was walking out. 

So that's my new years moment.  All the wine waiting for the perfect moments to be had, do me a favor and just OPEN one of those once in a while, randomly, for no reason, but to drink the good wine that day.

PS: Also this favorite moment from last year.
Two Hawaiian shirts in, two Hawaiian shirts and two tall boys out.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

6 weeks of Christmas. Wine.

Why are there nine bottles in the photo of six wines of Christmas?  What's going on with the badly photoshopped Williams Selyem Pinot Noir?  Is that even wine on the far right? 

Week 1.  November 21, 2014.

This is where we left off, the ArmAs 2012 Areni.  Strong fruity front, and like nothing I've ever tasted before peppery back. Not the heat of pepper but the fruit of it - really intriguing.  Try it.  (available at Mission.)  Also, This was the week before thanksgiving, so it doesn't really count.

Week 1, November 28.  (Thanksgiving.)  I think.  Give or take a few weeks.

I once went to a local wine place and I was getting champagne for a special occasion and I know nothing about it.  I asked the guy there for help.  He said, "Here, try this.  It's what I like."  My immediate thought was,well, what does that have to do with what I like?  But I took and then brought it to the special occasion and I hated it.  I ended up not drinking any.  And never again buying product from that person or his business. All these years later, after some trial and error, a very kind and patient resident-sommelier started to try to understand my palate, a fool's errand to be sure.  I don't like Cabernet over Pinot Noir, for instance, because I've had good and bad of both.  So it seems I like good wine and I don't like bad wine.

After a long and torturous conversation, he gave me this to try, 2007 Senorio de P. Pecina Crianza Rioja.  It was really all I could want out of a wine, a soft balance of fruit and age. KandL got it right: orange and a hint of tobacco creeping through. Entirely satisfying.

Week 2, December  5.

My customer from Hong Kong was in town again recently and came in to raid his locker.  He left this behind, (on purpose, not like it was an accident and I ran off with it), a Fisher Vineyards 1993 Coach Insignia Cabernet.  I figured, date-wise, it might be drinking nicely, and it was.  Delicious.

Week 3, December 12.

Another most generous donation to the cause, this 2011 Two Old Dogs Cabernet by Herb Lamb.  Didn't taste anything like dogs, in fact it was delicious

Week 4, December 19 (the weekend before Christmas) and December 25, Christmas.

When this came to me early November, the 2012 L'Aventure Rose Paso Robles, my heart went all warm and grateful inside.  The same gentleman had given me a 2010 in 2012, and it was, is, really one of the loveliest wines this troglodyte has ever the fortune to have. Not partial to rose, and I've googled/tried every short cut to get the proper accent over the 'e' in rose to no avail, this stuff is either transformative or transformational, either or both or the one that's correct. 

 Like, okay, here's me usually...

...but this stuff puts me here. Everything glows, angels hover.  This wine is where you want to live.

It came with The Grand Plan, that it I'd open it Christmas to go with the traditional holiday meal of Hebrew National hot dogs, sauteed with onions, garlic, jalapenos, and this year a bit of ginger.  Warm corn tortillas with Jack cheese, hot sauce, and mustard.  Delicious AND festive.  I decided this wine would be a perfect match. 

Then the same guy, what's wrong with this guy, handed over the 2008 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec.  Suddenly, it seemed this might go better with the hot dogs.  And Also, Christmas was on a Thursday this year, so I reasoned I could open the rosE the weekend before and this on Christmas and great happiness would ensue. 

So what I did was, I opened the rosE the weekend before, and the Chenin Blanc for Christmas and great happiness ensued. The Vouvray was, *surprise,* fantastic; fruity and minerally.  Perfect. 

Week 5.  December 27.
Right about now you might be thinking, wow, that troglodyte is drinking a LOT of wine.  Three retorts: 1.  It's cold.  2. It takes me no less than three days to kill a bottle of wine, so I have three glasses of wine a week.  3. It's the holidays!  Onward! 

The original bottle of this is MIA.  I'm pretty sure it was an '06. I opened it the first night and it was...okay.  The second night, some friends of mine called and they just bought a house and they wanted to paint paint samples on the wall to pick a color and so this wine and I went to their house after work.  Except the paint samples were on the other side of the freshly refinished wood floors, so instead we hung out and caught up and drank this wine from glass bowls and it was really stunning. It was like lying inside the bottom of a raspberry jam jar on a lazy summer's day, and slowly, with great delight, licking the jam off the glass. 

Week 5.1, December 29.

It's been so cold I decided a slow-and-low was necessary.  So I retrieved this one and shared it with the impending pork shoulder.  2010 San Felice Chianti Classico, this wine was bright and lively with nice notes of age lingering off the back.  A perfect meal all around for the cold days. Comfort food when it's a hundred degrees out just doesn't work. 

Week 6, December 31. 

Okay, so it was only two days later, but it's the gift that keeps on giving: four days later it's still here, this tiny bottle of Goose Islands Bourbon County Stout, 2013.   Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels, a tidy 14.9% ABV.  What the '06 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir is to summer and jam, this stuff is to a thick, sweet chocolate syrup with a bit of booze tossed in for good measure. Thick, rich, decadent, this 12 ounce bottle could give you six satisfying pours. 

Such a kind and generous Cave I inhabit, how did I get to be so fortunate?  Have you read the troglodyte wanted ads recently? Not since 1997 has a proper troglodyte been wanted, and this guy wants to KILL THEM!  I am fortunate, indeed.  Thank you for the privilege of being here.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Greater Glendale's most complete private wine storage locker"

I've not even started and I'm already verklempt with a beautiful nostalgia. 

I found this.  I found this this past year sometime, and have waited, patiently, to post it, filling the space between with many necessary thoughts, etc. 

Tomorrow is December 15, 2014, The Cave's official  32nd anniversary.  This is the original invitation to the opening. 

In a Glendale News Press article dated July 24, 1982 - which you can read here in our entry way along with many other articles about the Hotel's history - Mr. Day talks about the coming wine storage facility. 

"Day's pet project of the overall refurbishing is the construction of a wine storage business he will operate in the basement of the hotel.  Beginning with 180 locker to test the market, Day will eventually have about 400 lockers-for-rent in the huge basement.

"Civic Center Cellars may soon house one of the largest stores of fine wine in the Southland, provided wine lovers flock to rent the temperature controlled locker as Day is sure they will.

"...He plans to install a large oak door and other amenities to give the cellar some old world charm."

Oh those guys and their old world charm!
The Bordeaux Room opened first, and the Napa Room would follow years later.  Mr. Day had planned to change the name of the hotel to Civic Center House, and The Cave would, as the article states, be Civic Center Cellars.  I'm not sure why the change of heart, maybe after dealing with the city of Glendale over his many renovations he lost his love for all things Civic Center.  I CAN tell you troglodytes much prefer Caves to Civic Centers. 

Gil, also of Broadway-Glendale Co. designed the AC. Here's a picture of Gil enjoying his AC.

Joe Burns was your first emcee, and people who have been here from the beginning still tell me stories about him.  Vern followed.  It's the holidays and about time for me to call him. These are none of them the stereotype of what you might think of as an avid fan of this guy.

These were real guys, old school, from the greatest generation.  Mr. Day is no longer on earth, nor Joe Burns.  Where I sit today is their legacy, one of many, I'm certain, but for this one ... I am so grateful for this privilege.

Happy Birthday to us.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Farewell, iconic Cave shoes.

This is a picture of Keanu Reeves shoes.

This is a picture of Johnny Depp's shoes.

How do people know these things, how do they even exist as a point of interest and as something both researchable and findable?

More than once have comments been made on my shoes.  More than once have my shoes shared the same sentence at the same time as either or both of these guy's shoes.

                                                           RIP, Iconic Cave Shoes. 

You began as shoes, Ken's shoes, in NYC.  He didn't want them so I took them.  They had waffle soles. don't like waffle soles so I took them to a shoe guy and he shaved them off for me.  Much better!  In the end, I took to Doc's and these sat in the closet.  Then I made them something to ride a bike in.  Then I became a professional troglodyte and needed Cave-wear.  These were those.  The elastic sides lost their elasticity and they were twice sewn tighter, and finally just pinned.  Sometimes a heel would fall off for no particular reason, like while I was waiting for the elevator.  It wasn't until the two lines finally met that I called it.  That was the bargain.  Line one was making it's way across the sole from one direction, line two from the other. They met, and it was time to call it.  Also, tip-toeing through water was getting strange, if anyone was watching.

They've been replaced by the next pair of shoes going south. Circa 1990, the leather is already cracked.  They are not as forgiving to the two pairs of socks it takes to withstand a day in this frozen tundra (laundry is 9/10 socks), but they've the potential to become something, maybe a la Kiefer Sutherland.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Someone else's holiday gift list.

Everyone is vying for your holiday dollars.  This past week The Cave has received holiday catalogs from  Zachys and Wally's, beautiful and expensive auction catalogs from Spectrum Wine Auctions, and a post card from Heritage. Okay, maybe Heritage isn't vying too hard.

This is a picture of me having dinner the other night.  You can see the Wally's catalog there awaiting my perusal.  Sorry, Wally, the entire ham had priority.

Sated and dreamy, I opened Wally's Wine gift catalogue to see what my dear friends (um...) might be getting me for Christmas.  Over 40 pages, they would have a difficult time deciding.  Maybe I could help. 


Page 14, say, I've heard of this stuff.  Let's check that out.

Six bottles of the '09 @ $30,000?  $30,000?  Wow, that's a LOT of ham!  Someone must really like you, or want something from you, to get you that for ANYthing.  Might come off a bit showy, better to go with the '08.

 Page 18.  Ooooh, lots of nice wine in that one, and it's a bargain at only four grand. Robert Parker, Jr. really likes those '09's.  And look, you get some caramel popcorn and airplane peanuts with it.  I don't know...

Page 19. $10,000?  To get bowled over?  Dude, seriously, I get bowled over half a sandwich that already has a bite out of it that someone else is too full to finish. PASS!


Mmmmm, cheese.  Page 40.  Over $400 worth of cheese.  That might be more cheese than I eat in a year.  That might be more food than I eat in a year.  Does anyone need this much cheese?  This much anything? Is Christmas, any holiday, love, measured in cheese?


Wally's, et al, is banking on it.

Friday, November 28, 2014


First, hoping everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving with mostly agreeable people (and the few we tolerate), mostly good food, and wine - which of course was good, it's why we're all here.

Okay, a word on pepper. is what my salt and pepper shakers look like.  I forgot to take a picture of mine, these are off the web, that's why they look so clean.  My grandparents had the same kind.  Now you might be thinking if I had any affinity for food whatsoever, WHY DON'T I HAVE A PROPER PEPPER GRINDER?

Not so fast, Louie.  It's true, I don't have a pepper grinder.  I DO have a spice grinder, AKA coffee grinder, a blade grinder, to be specific.  Burr grinders are superior, especially for coffee.  The blade grinder suits me fine.

 In this grinder I grind pepper in small batches and then put that into the shaker.  The pepper is actually a blend of, usually, black pepper, red pepper, mustard seed, and a small accent of star anise, which really makes it.  Sometimes I throw in a cardamom pod. 

You can tell how much I like pepper by my Thanksgiving dinner, which in the end looks like an old sweat sock.  Nope, just a lot of pepper on top there. 

KILLER meal:

Spaghetti squash roasted with garlic, thyme and black pepper...

topped by a generous slice of mozzarella cheese...

topped by a curried tomato sauce from heirloom tomatoes with onion, jalapeno, garlic, and green matter...

topped with an egg gently fried in butter with salt and a generous bit of pepper.  The salsa is a simple fuyu persimmons, pomegranate, jalapeno, and lemon. If I had cilantro around, I'd have used it.

Delicious despite the sweat sock presentation the pepper gives it.  I like pepper more this week than I did last week, if that's possible, because of this:

Back story: wine from Armenia is getting good, Max went to Armenia, Max gave me some Armenian wine when he got back, and I've been not entirely convinced about these wines.  The white was first and it lacked a certain elegance but it was nice and competent.  The ArmAs 2012 Dry Red blend and I did not get along at all.  Then Max proffered aNOTHER wine from somewhere else it was terrible.  So I had with Max a friendly troglodyto-a-mano about wine, his advanced palate versus my unfortunate palate, filled with deep and great apologies.  What was the quote he used? Something about all wine leading to Burgundy.  (Again with the Burgundy!)  My comments to him were that I understand the obvious and know there is a Burgundy, but I'm missing the middle wines that lead there.

After that conversation, then trying to decide what to open last weekend, I thought, Well, (sigh), let's get this over with. I opened the last of it, this ArmAs 2012 Areni. 

Now, the blend was deeply unusual, that's the point of these grapes, they are indigenous to Armenia and they will be something to experience.  This, the Areni, was seriously interesting.  This wine had a generous fruit front, but it was followed by a strong black pepper finish.  And not the heat of pepper, just the fruit if it. I was like, Wha?  I tried some more and some more and it was what it was: the most unusual thing I've ever tasted.  How do they DO that?  How does a grape do that?  Suddenly pepper is mysterious, but so is this wine. I definitely need to need to try that again.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Boxes, alas.


Once upon a time there was this place called The Cave, and it is awesome!  It's a public wine storage facility. Wine in. Wine out.  Repeat. 

Often, when people take wine out, they are pulling random bottles from several locations, and now they have three or four or more bottles they are trying to manage and maneuver and carry without breaking any.  DIFFICULT! 

So I keep a collection of empty wine boxes on hand for just this sort of thing.  When I ran low, I'd do a wine box run over to Trader Joe's and this was an all-around jaunty task.  After close I could walk over there and say, Do you have any wine boxes?, and they'd say How many and I'd respond All of them, and they'd put them outside for me.  I'd carry armloads across the parking lot to The Cave, six or seven trips worth, and everybody was happy: I was able to provide a service and my customers had at hand an endless supply of Charles Shaw boxes to class up their otherwise lousy plonk, ease and generosity courtesy of Trader Joe's. 

Then they moved, grrrrrr.  

The boxes dried up. 

Holidays loomed.

I needed a Plan B. 

First I needed to figure out how to accomplish the multi-box transport minus a multi-box carrying vehicle.  Then I woke up early. 

With an old school luggage carrier, the sort if thing you one day appreciate never having thrown away, I walked over to Ralph's.  No luck.  Next, Cost Plus.  2 boxes!  And it was easy.  Third, Whole Foods.  NO LUCK.  People get very protected about their boxes around the holidays.  I wheeled my two boxes home.

I had maybe just enough time to make one more try.  I put the piece of wood that I use to haul things like broken Cave computers to the repair shop onto the back of my bike and quickly screwed onto it four screws with washers so the bungees could wrap around them easily.  I was OFF, me and my Brilliant Box Carrying Machine, to the newly re-opened Mission Wine and beer and alcohol and chewing gum. They were crowded, good for them.  I was like, no way am I getting any boxes from these guys.  I figured I could get four on the bike, so only asked for four, bashfully, and they gave me four, easily! 

The Brilliant Box Carrying Machine does NOT have a kickstand.  Flaw #1 quickly became many other flaws in my design, like the bungees were too short, or maybe I couldn't balance everything and get the right torque at the same time.  If you are a fan of clown cars and Keystone Cops, you'd have enjoyed this. In the end we managed to get home alive by gently walking the Not-So-Brilliant Box Carrying Machine.  The victory was the boxes stayed on there, barely. 

During the walk I reworked the blueprints and I think I've got it.  Worse case, it may take a village and everyone is going to have to pitch in to the contribution of the boxes.

Just look at all those beautiful boxes! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I: troglodyte, residence: Cave.  Turns out I share it with about 300 Others.

301: Last week began with a visit from a gentleman who closed his locker late 2012.  THAT'S LIKE TWO YEARS AGO. He came in to ask about a bit of product I'd given him then. This very special product is not available in California, could I get it again?  Well, sure, anyone can, just order some, here's the link.    He didn't want to order some, he wanted me to order some. And because this is The Cave, I did.

When he came in this week to get the order, I again asked him if he wanted the necessary links for future endeavors.  He said, "No, this way I get to visit you." Aaawwwwww, *sniff*.  Anytime, Mr. M.

Then The Deanster came into town.
 This is The Deanster.  He's like a new piece of furniture.  He's been here daily for the week. DAILY.

Last (my weekend) we went on the Tour de Wine Stores.  We managed to hit six wine stores from West LA to Glendale.

OH! and BevMo.  Seven.  Ish. (meaning BevMo is to wine what ... Bevmo is to... wine.) 

After he dropped me off, I went to Some Thing and VOILA!  There were two more customers!

Thursday not-really-morning, I was lolling in bed and had the epiphany that maybe M. kept telling me he was sleeping through the farmers market in hopes I would figure out to offer, " I go there every week, what can I pick up for you?"  (Troglodyte,  raised by wolves.)  A few texts on the bat phone and he would later come in to pick up his strawberries and blueberries.  Then he and The Deanster would peer over my shoulder for an hour looking at wine menus for restaurants I'll never go.  Did you know some wine menus are 70 and 80 pages?  I do now.

(PS: The Glendale farmers market closed at end of day Thursday, as in D-O-A. Not my fault?)

Since The Deanster was in town, we examined some new ideas, all generously proffered by above-said M.   The 1998 Capcanes Vall del Calas Tarragonawas was initially considered, and I'd tried it before...with better results, it appears.  Two years later, this stuff, to me, tasted like drinking Lavoris while chewing on lemons. No way, Lavoris still exists?  I haven't seen it since I was in my grandparents bathroom.  Okay, so get a lemon, throw it into a glass of Lavoris, and you've got wine. 

What I wasn't understanding was, Dean was saying, It's flat.  Flat?  That's all?  Brother, this thing has worst problems than mere flat.  Is it a desirable quality for wine to sometimes taste like Lavoris and lemons?  Is this a goal of some wine and I'm just not getting it? But you know how furniture is: unmovable. So I don't know the answer to this one. 

Instead we entertained the idea of the 2012 ArmAs  Dry Red Wine.  This wine is 92% Karmrahyut, 5% Areni, 2% Kakhet, and 1% Macguyver.  WAIT, that's 1% Meghrabuyr.  No merlot or pinot noir crap here, these are grapes all indigenous to Armenia.  After all I've been reading recently, I was deeply curious.

Last weekend I took advantage of a lingering summer to open the white.  It was crisp, apple-y, other fruity things, a bit heavy-handed but solid.  Last night I tried the dry red.  Really unusual, very prune-y and otherwise not grape-y in pedestrian ways.  I was intrigued.  The Deanster merely said it was "sweet."  Today, I confess, it tastes exactly like lemon flavored artificial iced-tea.

I'm not sure what's going on with all the lemony stuff, but I can tell you Dean has finally moved out.  We called in a van and some guys.  They were gentle.

Shipping season has begun, and Thanksgiving is soon. After many quiet, sleepy days at The Cave, it's good to see people I've not seen in months. It turns out there is LIFE here after all.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mission Wine and Spirits, redux.

Trader Joe's, those rats, (for leaving us for a bigger and farther location) opened their first store in Pasadena.  Now look at them!   Porto's Bakery and Cafe started in Echo Park, moved to Glendale, and has a store in Downey and Burbank.  Bob's Big Boy and Baskin-Robbins got their starts in Glendale.

You may also recall Glendale was home to one of the great-named businesses of all time, Hammered Liquor Store.  When they closed, Mission Wine and Spirits did a quick move-in while working out all the red tape Glendale has to offer.  They closed in May for remodeling.


Occasionally I'd stop in at their Glenoaks store to see when they were EVER going to reopen this location. Inside stories about The City of Glendale are always entertaining!  Today I was in there again and they said, "It's open." 

I said, "What am I doing here?  See ya."

Look!  Now open on Glendale @ Maple. 

An entire WALL of beer.  As of two hours ago that stuff on the right is on my bucket list.

Their separate wine room and still-in-progress wine tasting station.

Gary wasn't there, the store comes with a Gary.   Nice bit of fortune, he was driving in as I was riding out.
"Is it everything you hoped for?"

He was so happy.  He said, the beer isn't even close to what it will be, and of course the wine room is still in progress.  Yes, it will be everything he hoped for.

Nice guys, welcome (back) to the neighborhood.