A retrospective look at more than a decade of ThanksGavin turkey plates…
A retrospective look at more than a decade of ThanksGavin turkey plates…
Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555
Date: November 20, 2014
Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy
Rating: Truffley goodness
I’m a bit of a Jose Andres groupie as not only have I been three times to Saam, at least 10 to The Bazaar (REVIEW HERE), but also to brunch at Trés, and even to é by José Andrés (twice) and Jaleo in Vegas and several places in Washington D.C.
For those who don’t know, José Andrés is perhaps America’s leading practitioner of my favorite culinary style: Spanish Molecular Gastronomy. This school of cooking, a radical interpretation of the preparation of food, was begun at El Bulli outside of Barcellona. Andrés cooked and studied there with master chef Ferran Adrià. I first encountered Andrés’s cooking in Washington DC at Cafe Atlantico, and its own restaurant within a restaurant, Minibar.
Saam is the “secret” prix fixe only room within the Bazaar, open Thurs-Sat.
For years I’ve wanted to catch the limited run truffle dinner, and I finally got a chance.
Burg fiends that Erick and I are, we brought out a pair of oldies. First, celebrating its 50th birthday:
1964 Gros Frère et Sœur Clos Vougeot Musigni. Burghound 92. A very fresh and bright nose of spice, earth and an interesting herbal component leads to round, full and intense flavors that still possess a touch of classic Clos de Vougeot austerity on the long finish. This is an excellent wine that still displays a youthful dimension. While there is no reason to hold this further, it can be held without concern.
agavin: plenty of fruit still. Meadows was right about the herbal component. Almost musty. Certainly not corked, but a forest floor kind of thing. A very pretty wine.
1966 Maison Roche de Bellene Volnay 1er Cru Santenots Collection Bellenum. 92 points. Young looking colour. Slightly green nose. Darker, supple fruit profile. Something oddly young and refreshing about it! Seems like it’s had a lot of plastic surgery!
Overall, Saam serves up a tremendous meal, full of creative whimsy, and even if the individual dishes are sometimes a bit “fluffly” it really works. There was a nice solid truffle factor to all the dishes, but it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as at my monster Bistro LQ truffle experience.
Location: 8022 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 323.951.9800
Date: November 18, 2014
Cuisine: Italian Steakhouse
Rating: Tasty good
It’s time for Ron’s birthday, Hedonist style. Last year — and I can’t believe the year has passed so fast — we hit up BOA for awesome steaks and crab. This year we try out the brand new Pistola, an Italian Steakhouse concept by the team that brought us Gusto. It’s taken over the old AOC space but transformed it completely.
1999 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Echezeaux. 94 agavin. This Ech was drinking fabulously tonight. I’ve found a lot of 99s closed and waiting, but this more forward style was in perfect form.
2005 Domaine d’Ardhuy Clos Vougeot. Burghound 92-95. This too displays a touch of wood spice that highlights the backward and still very tight and inexpressive nose that reveals only traces of black fruit and an intense earthiness that continue onto the hugely powerful, intense and full-bodied flavors that are muscled, taut and almost tense on the enormously long finish. This is old school burgundy with the hallmark finishing austerity fashioned in a ‘take no prisoners’ style that will please purists and the patient. Don’t even think about opening this for at least a decade and it will require close to two to really be at its peak.
agavin: I’ve never heard of this producer, although CV has a lot of them. It was obviously a great wine, but despite the 9 years wasn’t even close to ready (although still enjoyable).
Meatballs. On a bed of ricotta. Awesome. These were similar to the similarly awesome ones at Gusto.
1999 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. Burghound 90. Honeysuckle, peach and white flower aromas blend beautifully into fine, elegant, beautifully integrated flavors and a subtle mineral note that continues into the long finish. Surprisingly, this has better acidity than the Folatières and is clearly better balanced. Grand cru quality here in the same open, accessible style of the all of these 99s.
agavin: drinking great! No premox at all.
2005 Soldera (Az. Agr. Case Basse) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. AG 93. A tense, brilliant wine, the 2005 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva stands out for its gorgeous length and impeccable balance. Next to the surrounding vintages, the 2005 is a bit compact, but it nevertheless possesses terrific cut and precision, if not quite the pure seductive powers of the very best years.
2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. IWC 96. Medium-deep bright ruby. Beautiful, profound nose of sweet ripe cherry, pipe tobacco, almond and raspberry jam. Ripe, suave and juicy, with sweet flavors similar to the aromas, this is an absolutely seamless wine with lively harmonious acidity on a suave, never-ending finish. Though extremely concentrated, this is a uniquely refined Brunello with wonderfully suave smooth, classy tannins.
agavin: must be aged in French oak barrels because this is just massively oaky for a Brunello (which is usually aged in big Slovenian casks). Looked it up, apparently 600L casks, which is small for Brunello.
2006 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. AG 95. The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova is an explosive, heady wine endowed with considerable richness in its dark wild cherries, licorice, tobacco, herbs and cedar. This generous, exuberant Brunello shows awesome depth and richness in a style that captures the warmth of the southern reaches of Montalcino. The Tenuta Nuova dazzles with its stunning depth, textural polish and captivating, sensual personality. A round, inviting finish has the last say in this majestic Brunello. The 2006 is easily the best vintage I have tasted of the Tenuta Nuova. The harvest took place between September 29 and October 7. Maceration and fermentation lasted 25 days, after which the wine was racked into 600-liter barrels for 36 months.
From my cellar: 1995 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco Sorì Paitin. IWC 91. Medium red, some amber at the rim. Plum, cherry and enticing smoky, toasty oak on the nose. Smoky, sweet and velvety, with insinuating flavor. Has firm backbone and finishes with some oak tannins but avoids dryness. Rather Pommard-like in its solidity.
2007 Elio Grasso Barolo Riserva Rüncot. AG 96. The flagship 2007 Barolo Riserva Runcot is remarkably fresh for the year. Sweet, perfumed and sensual, the 2007 wraps around the palate with stunning depth and sheer radiance. Layers of expressive red fruit, flowers, spices and mint all come to life as the wine opens up. The Runcot captures the best qualities of the year; deep fruit, expressive aromatics and wonderful nuance, all in a soft, supple wine that should enjoy a long drinking window. I can’t wait to see how the 2007 ages. Today it is seamless and utterly impeccable from the very first taste. This is without question one of the great 2007s. Grasso gave the 2007 40 days on the skins, followed by 45 months in 100% new French oak barrels, all of which the wine handles with grace to burn.
agavin: good wine, but WAY WAY too young for Barolo.
2008 Tenuta Guado al Tasso (Antinori) Bolgheri Superiore. AG 95. The 2008 Guado al Tasso is once again fabulous. In fact, it may be Tuscany’s most improved wine over the last few years. Firm, vibrant tannins support expressive layers of dark fruit, plums, cherries, sage, espresso and mocha. The wine shows fabulous detail and nuance in a translucent, totally seductive style, with tons of focus, drive and verve. It is a striking wine that will be a joy to follow over the coming years. Guado al Tasso is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.
Dry Aged Delmonico.
2007 Peter Michael Les Pavots. Parker 97. The 2007 Les Pavots, a Bordeaux varietal blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot, is brilliant. Its opaque purple color is accompanied by gorgeously complex aromas of melted chocolate, espresso roast, blackberries, and cassis. Full-bodied with a superb texture, a subtle note of oak, and fabulous concentration, it is more reminiscent of a Right Bank Bordeaux than one expects with this much Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. A thirty-year wine, its impeccable balance and the sweetness of its tannins make it accessible already.
2002 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard. Parker 96+. The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard is a massive, youthful blockbuster with an opaque purple color as well as firm tannins (despite the general openness and ripeness of the 2002 Napa Cabernets). Almost overly rich, it has a long evolution ahead of it given its firm tannins and off-the-charts concentration and extract. One has to admire this cuvee for its extraordinary structure and multidimensional personality, but at present, even with airing, the primary aromas of new oak, loamy soil, graphite, incense and black fruits are all one can expect. In the mouth, the wine remains brutally tannic, but there is enough stuffing to easily balance out the wine’s structure. It is a young, possibly great wine for the ages, and I would not hesitate to put my money where my mouth is. This 2002 should be absolutely amazing in 25-30 years.
2000 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. Parker 97. A wine that always does it for me, the 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de La Reine des Bois is open for business and has a sexy, voluptuous texture to go with classic Mordoree spice, licorice, graphite and black cherry and currant-styled fruit. Beautifully complex, full-bodied and with brilliant purity of fruit, drink it over the coming 3-5 years.
agavin: great Syrah.
Overall, Pistola was really solid. We all thought some of the apps and the pastas were a bit better than the meats and sides (although I enjoyed my chop), but it was a very tasty meal. They treated us like kings too. Room is very pretty but a little loud with a bar feel (some love that, some don’t). If I were them, my biggest suggestion foodwise would just be to add some more decadent sides like a “gorgonzola gnocchi” and the like. Not really Italian, but then again, I’ve never actually seen a steakhouse in Italy. Not that Italians, particularly Tuscans don’t love steak, but the steakhouse format is an American thing — which is fine.
Super fun evening though and a great way to celebrate Ron’s birthday. Great wines, company, food and fun.
Title: Furies of Calderon
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 516 pages
Read: November 3-6, 2014
Summary: Solid escapist fantasy that delivers on the fun
Apparently, Jim Butcher started this novel (and series) after being dared to write about Roman Legions and Pokemon. It’s clear from Butcher’s writing that he has a sense of humor, but in running with that “premise,” he certainly brought the story in a direction designed not to give his agent and editor seizures. The Roman element pretty much ends at some Latinate names, sandals, and officers called Centurions. The “Pokemon” manifests itself as a thoughtful but conventional elemental based magic system.
Furies is normal third person past with a number of specific points of view laced through a medium sized cast. The characters vary, include both genders, a kid, and even a villain (who is reasonable enough in his thought processes that his side, while not exactly sympathetic, makes sense). The prose is that kind of deft, workmanlike style that feels like it isn’t a style. It’s not artsy, but it never gets in the way either — nor is it overwritten. There is less humor and casualness here than in The Dresden Files, but it’s still there, giving this a lightish tone for High Fantasy. Not comic, but informal in a way foreign to heavier traditional fantasy authors like Martin, Jordan, or Sanderson. Nor does the book have the edge found in recent entries like Weeks or Abercrombie. To me, it feels like 90s fantasy: generally safe.
But this novel works, and works well. Kind of A- on every front. No real weaknesses. Perhaps the worldbuilding itself is a little thin, but the characters are good (not Abercrombie’s Glotka good, but good) — and certainly likable. The pacing is fast. The action solid. The magic system quite good, falling into the “hard style” of magic where the rules are fairly well defined. Mystery isn’t central here. Nor is a sense of great wonder. But boy do the characters manage to get themselves into a constant series of predicaments. And just as they do, the point of view changes, forcing us to read along furiously (haha) to find out what happens.
So is this great literature? No. Does it redefine the general? No. But it’s really solid escapist fantasy that delivers on the fun. I already downloaded the sequel.
Location: 203 West Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA. (626) 872-6677
Date: November 24, 2014
Cuisine: Cantonese / Chiu Chow Chinese
Rating: Really on point!
New Bay Seafood is a fairly elaborate (big with multiple private rooms) Hong Kong and Chiu Chow palace that took over the late Sham Tseng space in 2013. This is my second trip, for a massive Sauvages win luncheon.
2011 Domaine Jacques Carillon Puligny-Montrachet. Burghound 89. I had a chance to retry this a year later and it hasn’t changed much from the first review as an expressive nose of floral, citrus and pear scents leads to vibrant and beautifully well-detailed flavors that display really lovely precision. The mid-palate offers solid volume and fine depth as well as impressive length on the saline-inflected finish. This moderately forward and classy effort is a lovely villages.
2001 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. AG 92. Pepe’s awesome 2001 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a great introduction to this producer’s wines. Richly colored, it offers an aromatic nose and layers of vibrant, sweet dark fruit that open in the glass, revealing a wine of outstanding purity that is full of life and energy. At once delicate and structured, it is one of the highlights of the afternoon. It should also be another long-lived wine from this estate and I imagine that its aging potential is decades.
From my cellar: 1999 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva. AG 92. The 1999 Taurasi Radici Riserva comes across as surprisingly simple. In 1999 the maceration time was only 15 days and the wine seems to lack the depth and concentration of the best years. Ash, game, spices and dark fruit come together nicely in this accessible, understated Taurasi Radici Riserva. Today, the 1999 looks to be a relatively early drinking vintage.
2008 Château de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Romanée. Burghound 93. Discreet oak notes don’t compromise the expressiveness of the white peach and subtly exotic fruit aromas that introduce concentrated, naturally sweet and textured medium plus weight flavors that possess excellent complexity and fine intensity. This is certainly very pretty and unusually fine as well as slightly more mineral-driven than the typical example of La Romanée. In a word, terrific.
2009 Aubert Chardonnay Larry Hyde & Sons. AG 95. The 2009 Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard comes across as rich, round and layered. Dried apricots, peaches, flowers and tangerine are some of the notes that flow from this sumptuous, well-spoken Chardonnay. The wine turns more and more delicate with time in the glass. I loved it. This is a great showing from Mark Aubert.
2005 Aubert Chardonnay Reuling Vineyard. IWC 95. Pale green-tinged color. Aromas and flavors of dried pineapple, grapefruit, nutmeg and minerals. Hugely rich and dense, with a compellingly pliant, silky texture and great fullness and volume. As rich and chewy as this is, there is no sign of phenolic character on the back end. Subtle vanilla and smoke notes from the oak add complexity.
1998 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle. Parker 90. This estate’s flagship wine, Hermitage La Chapelle, merits its world-renowned reputation. The outstanding, elegant 1998 Hermitage La Chapelle’s dark plum/purple color is followed by scents of new saddle leather, black currants, blackberries, and underbrush. In the mouth, the wine reveals sweet tannin, medium to full body, excellent depth, and an intriguing smokiness.
1990 Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Boisrenard. Parker 95. This wine saw a small amount of aging in new oak cask, resulting in a more international style when released. Still youthful, the dense ruby/purple-colored 1990 exhibits a classy nose of black fruits, spice box, vanillin, and kirsch liqueur. Full-bodied and pure, with a subtle touch of oak, this fleshy, stylized, yet authoritatively flavorful, rich Chateauneuf du Pape has reached its plateau of maturity, where it should remain for 7-8 years.
1998 Domaine Jean Deydier Les Clefs d’Or Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 88. The dark ruby-colored 1998 is dense, with mineral, pepper, and garrigue, but seemed muted when I tasted it. It displayed all the characteristics of a wine that had just been bottled, so I suspect there is more to it. The wine offered a garrigue/spicy-scented nose, medium to full body, obvious notes of kirsch liqueur intermixed with crushed stones and a pleasant earthiness, admirable layers of flavor, and moderate tannin. It requires several years of cellaring before consumption.
2003 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee. Parker 98. Starting with the 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve, this wine showed spectacularly on release, closed down for a few years, and has now emerged, at close to full maturity, and is straight-up fabulous. Out of the entire tasting, it remained my favorite. Giving up gorgeous blackberry, currants, garrigue, pepper and beef blood, it hits the palate with a massive, full-bodied texture that carries layers of sweet fruit, awesome concentration and blockbuster length. Tasting like the essence of both this estate and the terroir, it’s an incredible wine that I’m happy to taste/drink anytime. It will continue to evolve gracefully, but I see no reason to delay gratification.
2000 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard. Parker 94. The saturated blue/purple-colored 2000 Syrah Reva Vineyard exhibits a slightly reduced nose, but with aeration of 60-90 minutes, glorious notes of blackberries, asphalt, singed leather, and wood emerge. Medium to full-bodied and moderately tannic, this young, unevolved, but promising 2000 will be at its finest between 2004-2015.
2002 JC Cellars Syrah Haley’s Reserve Rockpile Vineyard. Parker 94. The blockbuster 2002 Syrah Rockpile Vineyard Haley’s Reserve (from a red soil vineyard planted at 2,000 feet) boasts a gorgeous perfume of boysenberries, blueberries, blackberries, lavender, toast, and licorice. Full-bodied, with a voluptuous texture in addition to dry tannins lurking behind the extravagant fruit and concentration, this terrific Syrah should hit its prime in 1-2 years, and last for a decade.
2002 Raymond-Lafon. Parker 90-92. I suspect most readers will find it hard to get excited about the 2002 vintage for the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes after what appears to be a prodigious 2001. However, 2002 is a very fine year for this region, possibly superior to any of the vintages between 2000 and 1991. The wines possess plenty of botrytis, but neither the impressive definition nor supreme elegance of the 2001s. This is a sweet, full-bodied, fat, concentrated, intense effort that was showing well in September, 2003.
Overall, New Bay Seafood was really good. Being Southern Chinese, it’s not the most exotic of the Chinese sub-regions (foodwise, since so much American Chinese is Cantonese derived) but their execution is really very very good. Every dish was tasty and more than half of them fabulous. If you want an approachable entree into the wonderful world of San Gabriel Valley Chinese, you can’t go wrong with New Bay. And, besides, the owner treated us like kings. They served the dishes one by one, hung out, and we’re generally fabulous.
Afterward, we walked next door to the awesome Sabu Dessert and get some light fluffy “snow.” If you haven’t tried Taiwanese style snow, you are really missing out. This one above was pineapple snow, passionfruit sauce, with almond jelly, and boba (on the bottom). Yum!
Restaurant: Empress Pavilion
Location: 988 N Hill St #201, Los Angeles, CA 90012. (213) 617-9898
Date: November 5, 2014
Cuisine: Cantonese Dimsum
Rating: Like 20 years ago
For decades, Empress Pavilion has been a Grande Dame of LAs Chinatown scene, offering up Cantonese and Cantonese American fare (and dimsum).
Crispy chow mein with shrimp. Not bad, and one of the better dishes, but no where near as good as Elite.
Overall, Empress Pavilion, well sucked. It was nowhere NEAR as good as even the second tier SGV dimsum houses, and probably slightly worse than the Brentwood place I sometimes go to. This shows up the weakness of the “cart system.” Food tasted warmed over and stale compared to the steamed to order system used at all the good SGV places. It’s worth the extra 5-10 minutes drive!
Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA Adventure
Length: 386 pages
Read: October 21-30, 2014
Summary: fun but flawed
Frankly, I picked up The Maze Runner because it was made into a “major motion picture” — academic interest (visa via Untimed kicked in). It was a fun enough little adventure, an easy read, but boy… flaws.
First, there are the good things (and there aren’t many):
Then there is the bad:
Reading it, I often felt like rolling my eyes. But I did manage to finish, and toy with the idea of reading the sequel. Probably mostly because the Sci-fi is okay. Considerably better than most dystopian drivel (like this one). I think the author actually read some Sci-fi. And he’s a guy. I’m generalizing, but female authors are usually better at character and male authors at world building. Big generalization. More like a 40/60 kinda thing.
I’m betting the movie is better than the book — which is a rarity.
Location: 12517 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066 310.391.4222
Date: November 7, 2011
Rating: Really tasty!
Back a couple of years ago I went to Waterloo & City a number of times. For whatever reason it’s dropped off my radar, even though I liked it a lot, but Ron, one of my fellow Hedonists organized a dinner there, providing an excellent opportunity to get back.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. IWC 93. Light yellow-gold. Highly aromatic bouquet of fresh tangerine, candied fig, pear skin and ginger, plus a smoky mineral overtone. Tangy, precise and concentrated, offering a complex blend of citrus and orchard fruit and floral flavors underscored by chalky minerality. Juicy, tightly focused, youthfully angular Champagne, with nervy acidity adding cut to the long, sappy finish. I can see why some long-time Krug fans might be perplexed by this bottling but I think that it will be a really outstanding bottle with another five-plus years of cellaring.
Our special menu for tonight. Unfortunately, while all the dishes look great, it’s a “choose one of” menu so we each only get four course. Now, this ended up being WAY more than enough food, but I find with a ton of wine (and like tonight, a ton of great wine), more small courses is always better.
2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Puligny-Montrachet Le Trézin. Burghound 88-91. Surprisingly, given how cool and elevated this terroir is, there is a trace of exotic fruit present here as well with its notes of dried peach, apricot and honeysuckle. There is fine richness to the stony middle weight flavors that are bigger than is typical, all wrapped in an exuberantly energetic, mouth coating, delicious and complex finish. A fine villages that should be approachable young if desired.
agavin: nice elegant acid bomb, very much in the PYCM house style.
2004 Bouchard Aîné et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. 92 points. Lemony nose. Gives a sense of extremely concentrated but unyielding fruits, lemons,apples – and minerals. A long intense aftertaste. With no experience with aged white burgundy but having read a lot about them, I think I can sense what this would have become with age. We had another bottle of this about a year ago and it was much lighter and ready to go. Wondering about the first bottle caused this one to be opened and checked out. I’m going to assume our remaining two are like this one, hope to not read about premox issues – and let them age for many years and we’ll then experience a great white burgundy.
agavin: our bottle was a bit premoxed, but still pleasant.
From my cellar: 2004 Henri Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. Perhaps the most backward and reserved wine to this point as the nose reveals only hints of white flower and green fruit aromas that are framed in a subtle touch of pain grillé but the flavors explode on the palate as there is a chewy texture to them yet there is ample minerality present, particularly for Bâtard. This too is blessed with abundant dry extract and a finish that won’t quit but for all of the size and weight, this is impeccably balanced. This has that “wow” factor and in terms of style, it’s almost like a muscular Chevalier.
1997 Joseph Drouhin Romanée St. Vivant. 93 points. Garnet color, with light bricking on the rim. Red fruits on the nose, with some spice as well. The red fruits are also present on the palate. Long finish. Very good given the vintage and kept very well.
2002 Thibault Liger-Belair Richebourg. Burghound 92. An attractively spicy nose features aromas of both red and blue pinot fruit, anise and sandalwood that also suffuse the delicious, round and fleshy middle weight flavors that possess good detail and precision on the moderately long, focused and still relatively tight finish. At only 8 years of age, it’s clear that this is still very much of a youngster though it is not forbidding as an hour’s worth of aeration renders it at least approachable. There is good underlying material and this should make for a lovely wine in time.
1985 La Mission Haut Brion. Parker 92. As this wine sat in the glass aerating, I began having some doubts about whether it merited a low-90s point score. I think it does, but the fact that it deteriorated more quickly than some of its siblings (even those from more challenging vintages) gave me pause. Nevertheless, I have to assume that most people will decant all of these wines (as I did) and consume them within an hour of opening. On that basis, this 1985 is clearly a low-90 point wine. The problem is that for the most part, 1985 does not have that extra level of concentration possessed by the great vintages. However, it offers a softness to go along with the fragility of the wines as most 1985s, including this La Mission-Haut-Brion, are fully mature. A dark plum/garnet color reveals a pinkish lightening at the edge, and the bouquet reveals plenty of smoke, camphor, charcoal, graphite, sweet kirsch and blacker fruit aromas intermixed with meaty, sauteed mushroom, cedar and spicy notes. The lovely aromatics are followed by flavors that do not quite match the intensity of the bouquet, a sign of a fully mature wine. This medium-bodied effort has plenty of glycerin, low acidity and not a trace of tannin. While not terribly generous, it is a soft, round, charming, delicious, very good La Mission, but not a great one.
1998 Leoville-Poyferre. Parker 88. The dark ruby-colored, medium-bodied 1998 offers aromas of underbrush, black currants, cherries, minerals, and vanillin. While sweet, rich, and stylish, it lacks the depth necessary to merit an outstanding score.
agavin: our bottle was a bit corked.
2000 Lynch Bages. Parker 97. Beginning to open magnificently, the still dense purple-colored 2000 reveals a blossoming bouquet of blackberries, cassis, graphite and pen ink. Full-bodied with velvety tannins that have resolved themselves beautifully over the last eleven years, this wine is still an adolescent, but it exhibits admirable purity, texture, mouthfeel and power combined with elegance. One of the all-time great examples of Lynch Bages, the 2000 is just beginning to drink well yet promises to last for another 20-25+ years.
2005 Lafite-Rothschild. Parker 96-98. While the 2005 is another brilliantly classic Lafite Rothschild, for my taste, it comes in slightly behind their extraordinarily opulent 2003 as well as the dramatically powerful 2000. A blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Merlot, the 2005 boasts a dark ruby/purple color in addition to that exceptional Lafite perfume of graphite, spring flowers, crushed rocks, and sweet black cherry and black currant fruit that exudes class and nobility. The wine is medium-bodied with extremely high levels of tannin in addition to sensational purity, length, and overall harmony. However, it is exceptionally backward, and even more tannic than either the 1995 or 1996.
2002 Peter Lehmann Shiraz Stonewell. Parker 92. The 2002 Stonewell Shiraz was barrel fermented and aged in new French and American oak hogsheads. The fruit was sourced from several of the Barossa’s top addresses. It offers up aromas of toasty oak, spice box (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), asphalt, blueberry, and blackberry liqueur. This is followed by a structured, tightly wound wine in which black fruits and chocolate make an appearance. It will benefit from another 8-10 years in the cellar and should drink well through 2027.
2007 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata Torriglione. AG 96. The 2007 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata/Torriglione is one of the more reserved wines in this line-up. Stylistically it is a touch leaner and more focused than the rest of Voerzio’s 2007s. Fragrant dark cherries, minerals, mint, pine and spices emerge gracefully from the Rocche. The finish is long, polished and exceptionally elegant, even if the Rocche doesn’t quite reach the level of the finest wines here.
Overall, a great night with some really top notch wines and tasty wine-friendly food. Sadly, and despite being busy, I read in the food news that Waterloo & City is closing at the end of the year to make room for a new concept. Sigh. The trendy restaurant scene moves on, an unstoppable juggernaut.
Blizzard today announced a new franchise, Overwatch. Not only does it look cool, and very Blizzard, but it looks like an interesting take on the FPS. Sort of combining FPS with League of Legends style characters/classes. And perhaps business model? This is an all PVP team play shooter. Probably no “campaign” in the traditional 1 player shooter sense.
The game play is in the above second video. Truth is, the real gameplay looks far cooler than the cartoon-style cinematic. It’s this stuff, and the implied highly differentiated character/classes that gets me excited. I’m just not that into running around in a traditional FPS and grabbing a collection of bigger and bigger guns.
In other news, there is a new Hearthstone expansion, Goblins vs. Gnomes. Well fine, but I’m kinda mostly over Hearthstone. And, BTW, trying really hard to NOT play Warlords of Draenor. We will see if I can hold out. I did pass Paragon 400 in Diablo 3 though. Oh, there’s also a third Starcraft II, Legacy of the Void. Never really got into Starcraft. Too hardcore for me.
Location: 410 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. 310-888-0036
Date: August 26 & October 30, 2014
Rating: Some of the best sushi I’ve had in a while!
Shiki Beverly Hills recently replaced Enoteco Drago in the primo Canon Dr space right in the heart of Beverly Hills. It features extremely Japanese seasonal ingredient focused kaiseki and sushi. The space is elegant and modern, really not that different than it was as Drago.
Chef Shigenori Fujimoto was at Matsuhisa from 94-04 and brings with him both a traditionalist and “new style” sushi vibe. My friend Liz, who has impeccable taste, first brought me when she arranged a Sage Society dinner here. This post represents two similar lunch Omakase blended together, so there are slightly more non-sushi courses represented than you might eat in one meal. Slight, given how large our meals were!
2007 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses Blanc. Burghound 90. As would reasonably be expected, there is just more here in every dimension with a more complex and more elegant nose that is layered and very fresh and this refinement continues onto the nicely concentrated middle weight flavors that display evident minerality on the sappy, intense and mouth coating finish that lingers and lingers. This is a terrific Savigny blanc and recommended.
agavin: This is a nice young Chardonnay that is drinking terrifically.
Wow. LA has lots of great Japanese, and I have good sushi all the time, but this was particularly awesome. Really the sushi itself was as good as it gets. Very traditional style too, which is my favorite. I love the acid washed Nozawa style too, but hand sauced traditional like this is my favorite.
Restaurant: Beijing Tasty House
Location: 172 E Valley Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91776. (626) 573-3062
Date: June 20, 2014
Cuisine: Beijing Chinese
The bounty of Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. They open all the time in almost every type of regional Chinese cuisine. Beijing Tasty House fits in the inclusive style of the capital, which sucks in cuisine not only from right around it but from central and western areas like Szechuan.
2002 Delamotte Champagne Blanc de Blancs Millésimé. IWC 92. Pale yellow-gold. Fresh citrus and orchard fruit aromas are complicated by notes of gingerbread, white flowers and sweet butter. Toasty lees and mineral qualities gain power with air, adding depth to the wine’s gently sweet pear, honey and tangerine flavors. At once rich and lively, finishing with excellent clarity and alluring mineral and floral character. This Champagne, which I’ve tasted from three different disgorgements now, is proving that it’s built for the long haul.
NV Schramsberg Vineyards Mirabelle Brut Rose. 89 points. Soft aromas of apple, pear, citrus, cherry, mushroom, yeast. On the palate, more pronounced citrus – mainly grapefruit – and strawberry. Nicely tart, and a touch saline. Not very deep or complex, but tasty and refreshing.
Spicy Cold Noodles (Dan Dan Mein). Pretty much a classic Szechuan version of the dish. There is sesame and bean paste, chili oil, and cold noodles.
2012 Ojai Sauvignon Blanc McGinley. IWC 91. Light, bright yellow. Musky aromas of yellow apple, grapefruit pith and candied ginger. Sappy, focused and mineral-driven; at once rich and lively, with gentle floral lift to its sappy orchard and citrus fruit flavors. The floral note gains volume with air, adding vibrancy to a dry, gripping, linear finish.
2012 Gilbert Picq & ses Fils Chablis Dessus La Carriere. IWC 92. Bright pale yellow. Aromas of mango, pineapple, crystallized lemon peel and crushed rock; still a touch reduced. Dense, chewy and rich, with citrus zest and iodiney mineral flavors that stimulate the taste buds. Finishes tactile and long, with strong salty minerality. Sexy and elegant. Picq sends a good quantity of this wine to the U.S. and recommends serving it with volaille blanc or grilled sea bass.
2010 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère. IWC 95+. Bright pale yellow. Soil-driven aromas of grapefruit, fresh dill and flinty minerality. Dense and brisk on entry, with outstanding grand cru intensity to the lemon and crushed stone flavors. Conveys a strong impression of silex . This boasts the sappiness of the best 2010s and finishes with outstanding stony, citric persistence. Like a slap in the face today, this wine demands at least several years of bottle aging, at which point it may merit an even higher score.
2009 Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg. 91 points. Medium sweetness, with lots of apple and apricot. Long finish, just a hint of petrol as it aged. Had with strawberry shortcake and then by itself.
2005 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese. IWC 90. Pale yellow. Rich aromas of lichee, lemon oil and pine.Luscious yet piquant tropical fruit flavors accented by smoke. In spite of the wine’s substantial depth, subtle acidity brings spice and finesse to the finish.
Coconut Shrimp. Why they named this dish “coconut shrimp” is beyond me because there was A) no coconut and B) it’s exactly like everyone else’s “walnut shrimp.” But it was a tasty version with large moist shrimp — lots of mayo!
2003 Carl Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Auslese. 89 points. Deeply pitched and complex on the nose, quite forward, offering notes of pineapple custard, mint, allspice, and baked lemon. Medium to full bodied on the palate, there’s a lot of richness here, but the overall feel is one of lightness. A beautiful sweet-sour balance provides interest, but this lacks depth of flavor on the palate.
2005 Aubert Pinot Noir Reuling Vineyard. I’m actually going to post 3 reviews of this wine to illustrate reviewer difference of opinion. It should be noted that Robert Parker has a shit palette for pinot noir
Parker 95. The 2005 Pinot Noir Reuling Vineyard reminds me of a top DRC Richebourg. Of course, this is made from the famed Calera clone of Pinot Noir, which was suitcased in from one of the most renowned vineyards in Burgundy. The wine exhibits that beautiful sweet black currant, flowery nose, with sweet black raspberry and very ripe cherry notes intermixed with spring flowers and some spice from the wood. A wine of considerable opulence, complexity, and tremendously savory, expansive texture, this wine should drink beautifully for at least a decade.
IWC 93+. Deep ruby-red. Deeply pitched aromas of blackberry, smoked meat and underbrush. Dense and thick but with lovely energy to its complex, deep, soil-inflected flavors of dark fruits, smoked meat and black tea. This is about much more than just fruit. Finishes with substantial but essentially gentle tannins. Interestingly, the Vosne-Romanee clones used for the UV have produced an essence of California pinot in ’05, while these Calera clones have yielded a wine in a more Burgundian style.
Burghound 83. A cough syrup and menthol nose leads to moderately vibrant big-bodied flavors that culminate in an edgy, bitter, unbalanced and hot finish. While there is plenty of structure, I would not age it as the alcohol already dominates and aging will only exacerbate that quality.
Steamed Lamb Dumplings. From that western thick skin style of dumpling, but still tasty. Similar to at JYTH.
From my cellar: 1999 Domaine de L’Arlot Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos des Forêts St. Georges. Burghound 89. More serious than the ’99 Clos de l’Arlot though not quite as ripe with color that is almost black as is the fruit with crushed herbs and intense minerality, succulent flavors and excellent pinot character. There are sizeable tannins that are completely wrapped in velvety fruit and this displays a slightly sweet finish. This is really very fine and fresh and while this is not a truly dense wine, it has filled out better on the mid-palate than I originally predicted. It will also need a bit more time as well to really arrive at its prime drinking window.
Lamb Hot Pot. Don’t know the exact dish name. This interesting and tasty broth had a bitt of Szechuan peppercorn, cumin flavors, and a whole bunch of other unidentified herbs. All spice? Star Anise? It was sizzling hot with big boney chunks of lamb. After you left them to cool, they were pretty tasty. The sauce was great over rice.
2001 Domaine Michel Gaunoux Pommard 1er Cru Les Grands Épenots. Burghound 93. Warm nose, pungent, leathery and clay. Touch of brown on the miniscus. Excellent concentration here. Sweet fruit on the palate, the acidity is present but mild but becomes more pronounced on the finish. More strict, not exuberant – graceful but will the future show more fruit or acid?
Domaine Jaeger-Defaix Rully 1er Cru Clos de Chapître. 89 points. Ripe and attractively fresh red currant aromas combines with hints of earth, spice and wood nuances. The spice character continues onto the mildly rustic middle weight flavors that exude a pretty touch of minerality that adds lift to the delicious and complex finish where the wood telegraphed by the nose resurfaces. This will most appeal to those who enjoy evident, if not generous, oak influence with their burgundy.
1998 Fox Creek JSM. IWC 90. Bright, deep ruby. Spicy, lively aromas of cassis, bitter chocolate and mint. Supple, intensely flavored and nicely focused; sappy berry and spice flavors are nicely framed by harmonious acids. Dense and concentrated. Youthfully firm finish features fine tannins and very good length.
2001 Celler Del Pont Priorat Lo Givot. 91 points. Purple/ruby in color. The nose has raisins, black raspberries and a smoked quality. Soft texture. Dark and deep on the palate. Black raspberries. It got a bit funky on the finish, but that seemed to blow off. I don’t believe I ever had this, but I really enjoyed it. Got better as the night went on despite its age.
2004 Outpost Petite Sirah The Other. RJ 92. Quite tannic, but not in a way that’s unpleasant. Concentrated and fruitily tasty with nice PS notes. A real pleasant surprise, this one, given others’ notes. The nose is light, but the mouth is great, and the length is substantially dense and decently long. Nice rd and black fruit notes, good depth, nice feel. Have I mentioned that I like this wine?
Pig Intestine Stew with Tofu. Various bits of tempeh, pig stomach, pig intestine. Yuck. I don’t know why Yarom likes to order this kind of offal. Just giving him s**t. Even a few of the organ lovers who dared try it declared it a “bad dish.”
Overall, I thought this was a great meal and exceedingly reasonable. We ordered about 8 peking ducks, maybe more, and it was still only $42 a person with tax and a huge tip. We could have eaten a massive meal for $30. But I’m all for the overkill. Yarom did a good job ordering (except for the pig guts) and we had some great stuff in all sorts of categories. I like this style of Chinese cooking as it emphasizes flavor. It’s not straight Szechuan, but has many Szechuan dishes, and all sorts of other good stuff too. Not your typical Chinese American. Most dishes were very well executed. The noodles were fabulous. Some of the cumin stuff. The eggplant. Even the goopy sweet and sour fish was great.
A fun night! And if I was going to take a group of friends to the SGV for a “bargain dinner” this would be a great place, as is Beijing Restaurant. Unlike a pure Szechuan place there are dishes for the spice hater. The good Cantonese Banquet houses are great for first timers too, but they are more established and much more expensive with their emphasis on crab, lobster, and other expensive ingredients.
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 35,000 words, 160 (sparse) pages
Read: October 28-19, 2014
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent “normal” high fantasy novels. The brand new Slow Regard is a novella set in the same world, featuring a minor character (Auri, the fey girl at the University). This intriguing little book sits completely aside from the main series of novels. But it should not be read on its own.
Properly, Slow Regard feels like a short story. A long one, but Rothfuss is a verbose writer. Or perhaps it’s a poem. It lacks most of the things that stories (particularly novels) normally have. In Rothfuss’ own words there is no: conflict, dialogue, or action. It has one character. It’s very beautifully written. This isn’t much of a surprise, as Rothfuss is one of fantasy’s most artful prosesmiths. Basically, this is an exploration of Point of View, specifically Auri’s more than a little schizophrenic/OCD POV. It captures that masterfully, being simultaneously beautiful and heart-wrenching. Rothfuss deftly slips us into her strange world view. Pretty much he wrote it for himself, but some of us will enjoy it as well.
Does it work? Mostly. As a portrait of madness? yes. As entertainment? the prose carried me through about 3/4 of the way. I started to falter at the 10-15 page “soap making adventure.” Ultimately I liked it. The story has an ethereal quality that is rare and delicate. But would I if I wasn’t a writer and fond of technique? I’m not sure. It’s not so long that one can’t power through.
I would have liked to see a little more (some) fantasy. As written, Auri’s worldview could be entirely psychological. There is one dark hint that something bad happened to her at some point — but I’m not sure. I would have liked to learn a little more about the world and the “lore.” We don’t. We learn about the basement and the vast collection of empty rooms and small trinkets that Auri “cares for.”
You’ll have to judge for yourself if Slow Regard is for you. If you loved Rothfuss’ other books (as I did) and also have a fondness for arty “plot-light” creatives like David Lynch or Terry Gilliam (as I do) you’ll probably love it. If you require something to actually happen in your stories… well, maybe not.
Location: 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. (310) 362-6115
Date: October 28, 2014
Cuisine: Modern Bistro French
Rating: Nice (loud) space, tasty hip food, great service
Back to Republique again? Well, it seems in 2014 half the serious wine events are here. Possibly it’s because Sommelier Taylor Parsons is so good. In any case, tonight’s tasting is a serious vertical exploration of Trimbach Close St Hune, one of the world’s most rarefied dry Rieslings. This dinner was organized by Sage Society (and Sage’s founder, Liz Lee) for Sage Society clients. Not only did we enjoy 16 vintages of CSH, but Anne Trimbach, ambassador from the winemaker joined us.
Tonight our dinner was in the private room upstairs, but our appetizers began on a little table in the upstairs hall.
NV Jacquart Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru “Mesnil Expérience. 92 points. Light pale color, micro beading. Nose is acute and clean, showing very pleasant saline, schist and lemony/citrus tones. Touch of browned toast as well. Mouth feel is excellent and integrated. On the palate very defined citrus, lemon, grey stone, green apple and hard wood, some secondary weight on the back palate indicating good structure. Mouthwatering in nature, with great acid elements. An excellent value, worth seeking out.
2007 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile. IWC 91+. Good pale color. Rather austere on the nose, hinting at underripe pineapple, crushed stone and menthol. Dense, ripe and dry, with terrific sappiness giving a tactile quality to the dusty flavors of pineapple, grapefruit, lime, spices and stone. There’s something subtly full about this broad, very long riesling. Here, too, the acidity is nearly eight grams, and the residual sugar less than one gram. Still an infant.
agavin: acid bomb!
1997 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile. IWC 93+. Subdued but deep aromas of white flowers and lime. Dry (just three grams per liter r.s.), deep and impressively structured. Slow to evolve but already long on personality. Very densely packed and deep. This should develop in bottle for many years. Very long, adamantly dry finish. Jean Trimbach considers this a great vintage for the Frédéric Emile, perhaps in the class of the ’83.
agavin: the best pairing with the food (of the flight). First bottle was corked, we opened a second and it was great.
1990 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile. 94+ points. Elegant, almost rubbery nose with very delicate and nice fruit aromas. This is actually complex with tender yellow fruit, dried, elegant herbs, and pure citrus fruit. Perfect development. A palate loaded with mineral and grinded stones. Elegant and pure. Absolute balance and a tremendous grip. The acidity and finish goes on and on. Medium-fullish body.
agavin: more Boytritus and my favorite by itself.
Hamachi crudo. Oysters. Oyster gelle. Singapore curry oil. This actually paired very well. You wouldn’t think so, but it did. All three main elements (hamachi, oysters, and curry) were present and in balance.
2007 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 94+. Very pale, clear color. Extremely unevolved aromas of quinine, mint, lime, white flowers and white truffle. Dense and exhilarating, with an oily texture and piquant lime and mineral flavors that saturate the palate. Wonderfully pure and stony riesling, but still a baby. Today this is all about grip. The r.s. here is just 1.7 grams per liter, according to Pierre Trimbach, who compares this wine to the superb 2001 Clos Ste. Hune.
2005 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 93+. Subtle aromas of lime skin, peche de vigne and wet stone, with complicating notes of vanilla and mint. Denser and richer than the Frederic Emile, and a step up in concentration; shows a more glyceral texture to its peach and spice flavors. Round, mouthfilling and horizontal. Finishes dry, broad and very long, with a bracing edge of acidity. This and the Fred were picked in mid-October, and “not too late,” notes Pierre Trimbach, who is certain that these wines will shut down soon.
agavin: good, but in a slightly awkward stage.
2004 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 95. Pale, bright yellow. Ripe pineapple, liquid stone and exotic honey on the nose, with a spicy lift that suggests an oak influence this wine does not possess. On entry, this is sweeter and creamier than the Frederic Emile, but it livens up quickly in the middle, showing powerful minerality and sharply delineated flavors of liquid stone, pineapple and citrus peel. Still, this conveys a distinctly glyceral impression that suggests more sweetness than its 5 grams of residual sugar, no doubt a function of the 20% or so botrytized berries (in contrast to the Frederic Emile, which included no botrytis). Communicates an impression of power with elegance, finishing minerally and long but not austere. Pierre Trimbach compared this wine to the estate’s great 1990. This is already showing more Rosacker terroir than riesling character. About 9,000 bottles were made from 1.5 hectares of vines.
agavin: best of the flight right now
John Dory. Leeks. Potato moussaline. Leek and CSH butter sauce. Caviar. The fish was a little dry but the potatoes and sauce were scrumptious. All that butter balanced beautifully with the acid in the wine.
2001 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 92+. Pale color. Musky aromas of lime and powdered stone, complicated by spring flowers and a hint of marzipan. Densely packed and slightly sweet but with lively acidity framing and lifting the citrus, floral and mineral flavors. A note of baked bread gives this wine plenty of appeal today, but this still-young ’01 has the framework and grip to reward another decade of bottle aging.
2000 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 95+. Wonderfully pure, high-pitched nose melds quinine, pineapple, crushed stone, orange zest, violet and lavender; smells like a current release. Densely packed and very rich, with seamless flavors of crushed wet stone, lichee and grapefruit complicated by notes of baked bread and honey. This is very much like licking a rock, and yet there are complicating hints of tropical fruits here too. Wonderfully classy, pure wine with a tactile, classy, very subtle and long finish. Still a baby, and compellingly vibrant for a wine from the 2000 vintage. The driest wine in this vertical tasting, at just 1.3 grams per liter of residual sugar.
agavin: my favorite of the flight
1999 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 91+. Very pure, subtle aromas of grapefruit, minerals, lemon. Then rather unyielding on the palate, with an almost Chablis-like pepper and grapefruit pith austerity dominating today. Finishes with strong mounting acidity and lingering notes of lime and licorice. Lighter than the 2000 but perhaps more expressive today. Extremely dry at just 1.9 grams per liter r.s. Will this gain in richness with more time in bottle?
agavin: I found this too powerful/acidic.
Chicken. Chicken consume and chicken meat laced with foie gras. Diced vegetables. The broth was amazing, but by itself and in pairing. Who knew simple chicken broth could be so good. The meat itself was nice too.
Taylor does an amazing job. There were backups to every bottle (thanks Liz!). They were opened at the same time, checked. We had (identical) glasses for every pour! Each labeled with the wine and vintage. He poured himself, flawlessly and elegantly working an event pour around the table. Really, this is as good a wine service as I’ve ever seen.
1998 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 92+. Very complex nose melds lime, mint, powdered stone, licorice and a light petrol note. Dense, rich, chewy and firm; supple and ripe but solidly structured for aging. Finishes very long and minerally. Loads of potential. (But the ’97 Clos Ste. Hune, a wine of compelling minerality, is even richer and more layered; I’ll stick with my original score of 94(+?) for the earlier wine, which I retasted in May alongside the ’98.)
agavin: our bottle might have had a little premox
1996 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 95+. Full yellow-gold, deep for its age. Nose began with very ripe suggestions of honeycomb, toffee, maple syrup–even a suggestion of nut skin. Would inexperienced tasters have written this off as prematurely oxidized without giving it a chance to blossom with air? Ten minutes in the glass brought much more vibrant aromas of peach, Christmas spices and orange oil, and an impression of powerful acidity (ten grams per liter, if I recall correctly from my first tasting of this wine from bottle at Trimbach). Densely packed and brisk in the mouth, with lovely sweetness of stone fruit flavors complicated by minerals and a chewy saline quality. This dry, bracing wine began with a slight sour edge but the strong acidity harmonized with air. In the recorked bottle 72 hours later, the wine hummed with citrus and stone fruit flavors and showed no oxidative notes.
1995 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 94+. Bright yellow-gold. Powerful aromas of pineapple, peach, ginger, crushed stone, botanical herbs and lemongrass, with a hint of earthiness quickly blowing off. Moderately sweet on entry, then primary and imploded in the mid-palate, thanks to bracing acidity and a mineral-driven saline quality. Tactile, palate-staining finish displays outstanding grip and length. A brilliant bottle of 1995, but others have shown clear signs of premature oxidation.
1992 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 93. Highly complex, musky nose offers smoky, stony minerality, honey, mocha, mushroom and saline and grassy nuances. Rich and seamless, with an impression of sweetness to its grapefruit and pineapple flavors, but the wine’s fruity acidity gives it shape and life. This very supple Clos Ste. Hune is perfect right now.
1988 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 93+. Good pale, bright yellow. Subdued but very pure aromas of grapefruit and orange peel and crushed stone. Then bracing and remarkably youthful in the mouth, offering highly complex flavors of peach, tarragon, licorice, herbal tea and dried flowers. Wonderfully nuanced and true to its site, and yet this uncompromisingly dry riesling comes across as extremely young today. Blind, I would have guessed this to be no more than ten years old.
agavin: my favorites of the flight and one of my favorites of the night
1986 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. JK 93. had a great nose. There was this dollop of what I would call pungent, mature Riesling . the dried grapefruit along with yellow citrus fruits, a healthy and appealing streak of wood, minerals and tang. The pinch in the nose was super sexy, and the palate was big with youthful acidity, although the flavor profile was on the sour side. Elaine said, ‘it tastes like grapefruit that was picked from the tree too soon,’ and she was also bothered by its ‘stemminess’ as its wood flavors were more pronounced. The wine was still quite layered with the longest acidity of the three by far. It needed a lot more time and started to come around more and more; we ran out of time before it did in the end, and Frans wisely noted that ‘in twenty years, the 1986 will still be here.’
1985 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 94+. Pale bright yellow. Aromas of peach, grapefruit and pineapple, along with a sake-like saline quality. Compellingly youthful and juicy on the palate, with petrol and crushed stone notes lifted by mint and grapefruit zest. I’ve seen reports of advanced bottles of this vintage, but my bottle was pale in color and had plenty of positive evolution ahead of it. Impressively long and brisk on the aftertaste.
Chanterelle mushroom “outmeal.” Hazelnuts. Chef Manzke basically cooked oats in risotto style, slowly cooking them so the starch is drawn out to make them rich and gooey. Oh, there was also probably a ton of butter in there.
1979 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. 94 points. Nice yellow that doesn’t reveal too much age. Delicious nose of motor oil, smoked fruit and intense minerality. In the mouth this is fat yet well-defined with good underlying acidity and the same delicious notes as the nose (the motor oil gradually blows off).
1973 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. IWC 95. Full bright gold. Subdued but not at all tired on the nose, opening slowly to reveal notes of peach syrup, musky pineapple, botanical herbs, coffee, mocha and truffle. Fat, sweet and seamless on first sip, then hugely rich but quite dry in the middle, showing more crushed stone and saline extract than fruit at this point. The chewy finish displays terrific lift and verve, thanks to strong acidity. Nearly 40 years old and still full of life.
Crispy Pork Belly. Cabbage and truffles. One rich cut of fatty pork with a nice crispy skin.
2004 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre. IWC 89+. Subtle but precise nose hints at cured meats, ginger and cinnamon. Sweet, spicy and concentrated, with penetrating cinnamon flavor and noteworthy inner-palate energy. Finishes with a youthful austerity. Not at all overly perfumed. This firmly built gewurztraminer would be perfect with many Asian cuisines.
agavin: too dry for my taste (in a dessert wine) but a good pairing.
1990 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre. 93-96 points. Honeyed nose with baked apple, cucumber peel, fresh herbs, floral notes and warm spices. Nicely dried and balanced palate with rich and pure fruit expression of pear to greenish banana. Honey, spices and liquorice. Good length finish with a bitter bite. Finely aged wine with still many years left.
I’ve now been to Republique 6-7 times and the restaurant is at its best in the private room with a special tasting dinner. Walter really cooked his butt off for this one, carefully pairing each course to the wines. Downstairs, the room is very loud and there are some timing and pacing problems. We had none of these. Each course was brought by an army of 6-7 waiters and dropped elegantly in front of us. All the wine glasses had individual labels for each wine, etc.
Plus, there was the Clos St Hune itself. I have only had a few of these before, but in tasting so many in sequence the unique character of the vineyard (and winemaking) was very evident. Every single bottle was underlined by a strong — no intense — acidic backbone. But incredibly, as this white wine gain in years, past 10, then 20, then 30, toward 40, the fruit, minerality, and acid came together into better balance. Really good stuff, and very food friendly (particularly with butter!).
Sage Society knows how to put on one heck of a dinner!
Restaurant: The Little Door Santa Monica
Location: 246 26th Street. Santa Monica CA 90402. 310-210-8064
Date: October 5, 2014
Cuisine: Vaguely French
Rating: Tasty and Cute
The Little Door has been a midtown institution for around 20 years, and my wife and I even celebrated there the night we got engaged. Now they’ve moved west into my hood, taking over the old Villetta (and before that Chez Mimi) space across from the Brentwood Country Mart.
It’s nice to have another restaurant back in the neighborhood that executes well and isn’t Italian. Brentwood and environs is overrun with Italians. Not that I don’t love Italian food, but a little variety is nice. The Little Door is situated in a lovely space and serves up tasty (if a bit expensive) fair. Interestingly, it isn’t straight french but has strong Moroccan influences, which reminds me a bit of one of my local favorites: Sam’s by the Beach.
Restaurant: 41 Ocean Club
Location: 1541 Ocean Avenue. Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 566 – 3870
Date: October 22, 2014
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Blast of a night
41 Ocean is a members only private club located in a historic 1920s building on Ocean Avenue. The Hedonists took it over in classic style and we were treated like Pharoes (to quote Yarom). After dinner, the gang enjoyed cognac or ports and cigars on their balcony overlooking the ocean. A truly epic night.
1990 Pol Roger Champagne Brut Vintage (in magnum). IWC 88. Bright, lightly leesy aromas of fresh apples, minerals and spices. Fresh, spicy and intensely flavored, but quite austere, almost metallic and not yet demonstrating much personality. But firm, bright and fresh, finishing with good grip. This wine came with an excellent reputation, but I preferred both Pol Roger Rose and Blanc de Chardonnay from this superb vintage.
2001 J.L. Chave Sélection Hermitage Blanche. Parker 92-94. I tasted component parts of the 2001 Hermitage blanc. Aromas of acacia flowers, honeysuckle, and citrus were followed by a medium to full-bodied white with loads of glycerin as well as heady fruit and alcohol. Elegant, medium to full-bodied, and crisper, it is more obviously backward than the 2000.
From my cellar: 2003 Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets. Burghound 91. As it almost always is, this is the class of these 1ers with a nose of pain grillé and spicy baked apples that precede fresh, detailed and mineral-infused flavors and a wonderfully intense and punchy finish that goes on and on. This is not quite as elegant as it usually is but it unusually refined for the vintage.
2007 Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 96. Seemingly like all of Boillot’s wines in this vintage, a strikingly pure nose of green apple, white flower and spice aromas complements perfectly the delicious, intense and stony flavors that are among the ripest in the range yet remain wonderfully vibrant and gorgeously detailed on the taut, transparent and bone dry finish that bathes the palate in dry extract. This is beautifully balanced and among the best wines of the vintage from Corton. In a word, brilliant.
From my cellar: 1997 Louis Jadot Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. IWC 94. Healthy dark red. Superripe aromas of crystallized black raspberry, rose petal, violet, iron, baking spices and meat. Huge entry, then almost painfully intense, with superb extract and great thrust. Exhilarating hints of dark berries, mint, flowers and minerals give this wine great complexity and verve. Would come across as thick if it weren’t so sharply focused. The firm tannins are buried in fruit on the extremely long, tactile finish. Should enjoy a long and spectacular evolution in bottle.
1989 Pichon-Longueville Baron. Parker 94-96. Both the 1989 and 1990 vintages exhibit opaque, dense purple colors that suggest massive wines of considerable extraction and richness. The dense, full-bodied 1989 is brilliantly made with huge, smoky, chocolatey, cassis aromas intermingled with scents of toasty oak. Well-layered, with a sweet inner-core of fruit, this awesomely endowed, backward, tannic, prodigious 1989 needs another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should last for three decades or more. It is unquestionably a great Pichon-Longueville-Baron.
2000 Leoville-Poyferre. Parker 97. The plushest, most ostentatious and dramatic of all the Leovilles in 2000, this wine is already sumptuous, displaying some nuances in its huge nose of vanilla bean, black chocolate, jammy black cherries, cassis, and graphite in a flamboyant style. Opulent, savory, rich, and full-bodied, it is a head-turning, prodigious wine and a complete contrast to the extracted behemoth of Leoville Barton and the backward, classic Leoville Las Cases. The Poyferre’s low acidity, sweet tannin and an already gorgeous mouthfeel make it a wine to drink now as well as over the next 25 or more years.
2005 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 93-95. Medium to deep garnet colour. Aromas of dark cherries, raspberry compote, cardamom, black truffles and a touch of star anise. The palate is full bodied, richly fruited with medium to high acidity and a medium+ level of grainy, slightly chewy tannins. Concentrated with a good compliment of structure to hold it up. Long peppery finish.
The club owner, Jermey brought: 1999 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin. Parker 96-100. The recently released 1999 Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin is closed and less expressive than the 2000, and perhaps more elegant and less weighty. Nevertheless, it is an enormously endowed effort revealing notes of licorice, blackberry and cherry fruit, melted asphalt, tapenade, truffles, and smoke. Chewy, with more minerality than most vintages of this wine possess, it requires a minimum of 6-8 years of cellaring. It should last 35-40 years.
agavin: tons of barny brett on the nose, but a gorgeous middle and finish.
2000 Domaine du Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 91. Slightly more open and supple (which is common when you compare the same wine from these two vintages), the 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape is another mature, balanced and classic Chateauneuf that’s drinking at point. Exhibiting plenty of pepper, Asian spice, herbes de Provence and sweet cherry and raspberry fruit, it too should be consumed over the coming couple of years.
1999 Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac Cuvée de la Reine des Bois. IWC 90-93. Bright deep ruby-violet. Perfumed, very fine aromas of blackberry, cassis, black raspberry, violet and bitter chocolate. Dense, pungent and sharply delineated; intense flavors of cassis, blackberry and bitter chocolate. Finishes with big, mouthcoating tannins and strong flavors of cocoa powder and licorice. The winemaking is impeccable.
1997 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura. Parker 88. The deep ruby/purple-colored 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura displays an international bouquet of red and black fruits, wood, licorice, and earth. There is excellent depth and ripeness, but this monolithic Brunello lacks heart and soul. The long finish reveals moderate tannin. Let’s see what develops.
2005 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard. Parker 98. There are 2,600 cases of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard. As I indicated last year, this is a fabulous effort that manages to conceal its 100% new French oak aging. Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by beautiful aromas of blueberries, black currants, acacia flowers, licorice, and spice. The tannins are softer than I remember, but this is certainly one of the vintage’s most extraordinary wines. Full-bodied with a seamless integration of tannin, acidity, alcohol, and wood, it is exceptionally pure and full as well as impeccably balanced. The impression is one of elegance allied with substantial flavor authority. It can be drunk now or cellared for 25+ years.
2005 Maybach Materium. Parker 96. Named after the super-luxury car of the same name, the extraordinary 2005 Materium (614 cases) has more in common with a first-growth like Chateau Margaux than a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It boasts a deep ruby/purple color along with a striking bouquet of blue and black fruits intermingled with acacia flowers, lead pencil shavings, and licorice, excellent fruit, medium to full body, substantial but sweet tannins, and compelling harmony among its acidity, alcohol, tannin, and extract. This sensational 2005 eclipses even the brilliant 2004. It should easily last 25 or more years.
2004 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 98+. The Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select has been one of Napa’s true first-growths since the early 1990s. The 2004 exhibits a dense opaque purple color along with spectacular, almost surreal levels of fruit that are never heavy, overripe or flawed. Its beautiful notes of creme de cassis, licorice and subtle oak (this cuvee spends 32 months in 100% new French barrels), skyscraper-like texture and extraordinarily long finish are all superb. This is a great wine from a great family who has done everything necessary to produce a world-class wine that can compete with any wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. You can’t say enough positives about the Shafers. Drink this 2004 Hillside Select over the next 20-25 years, although it could be even more stupendous in 40-50 years.
2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 98-99. Still a young wine at age 12, the 2001 Insignia exhibits a dense purple color along with a sweet bouquet of camphor, blackberries, cassis, incense and spring flowers. Full-bodied, rich and heady with sweet tannin, stunning concentration and a fabulous finish, this remarkable Insignia has 25 or more years of life ahead of it.
2004 Hundred Acre Vineyard Shiraz Ancient Way. 93 points. Huge Aussie syrah. Beautiful nose, with lovely secondary baking notes to match impressive fruit levels. Touch of VA in a good way. On the palate the grapes are overripe and extracted, but still a lot to like. Touch of funk. Acids are present but overwhelmed by fruit and alcohol (which is well integrated but present). Fruit is big but lush, not jammie like many big ausies.. Long smooth finish.
2005 Hundred Acre Vineyard Ark. Parker 98. The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Ark Vineyard (the debut vintage of this cuvee) reveals an inky/blue/purple color as well as a sumptuous nose of loamy soil, licorice, graphite, espresso, sweet blackberries, and forest floor. It is a gorgeously proportioned, full-bodied effort with plenty of minerality as well as definition. Already accessible, this big wine should evolve for two decades.
2002 Sean Thackrey Orion Syrah. Parker 96-100. A riveting example of Syrah is the 2002 Orion. It boasts a black/purple color with more mint and blackberry notes intermixed with exotic floral characteristics. With great intensity, full body, multiple dimensions, and superb purity as well as length, this blockbuster is incredibly well-balanced/harmonious. It should drink reasonably well young, yet keep for 12-15 years.
2003 Two Hands Shiraz Ares. Parker 98. One of the most expensive offerings in this portfolio is the 2003 Shiraz Ares, a 230-case cuvee that flirts with perfection. A selection of the best lots of Bella’s Garden, it is a kinky, but fabulous Shiraz fashioned from very old vines, and aged in 100% new French oak (which is barely noticeable given the wine’s concentration). An opaque purple color is accompanied by a flamboyant, riveting bouquet of roasted meats, blackberry liqueur, charcoal, and white flowers. Full-bodied and voluptuous with amazing purity, concentration, and texture, this sensational Australian red should drink well for 15-20 years.
2005 Colgin Cariad Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 100. Performing even better than when I originally tasted it (scored 96+ at that time), the 2005 is composed of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% Petit Verdot. The first vintage where Allison Tauziet had complete control after Mark Aubert left to pursue his own wine venture, the 2005 continues to grow in stature and complexity. It exhibits an opaque purple color, a youthful style (it tastes like a 2-3 year old wine) and abundant notes of black fruits, acacia flowers, espresso, white chocolate, crushed rock and licorice. Full-bodied and velvety textured with fabulous concentration, high but sweet tannin and a 60+ second finish, it needs 4-5 more years of cellaring and should age effortlessly over the following 25-30 years.
2003 Guiraud. Parker 90. Tasted as part of a vertical held at the chateau. This is certainly one of the better wines from the Sauternes 2003 vintage: with fat mango and marmalade aromas on the nose that actually ebb, leaving room for attractive orange blossom scents. The palate is well-balanced with a smooth vanilla opening that demonstrates the precociousness of the vintage, while the exotic finish is nicely handled with hints of almond and peach lingering on the aftertaste. Fine.
Overall, an extremely fun night. Everything was great from service, to atmosphere, to food, to oh-so-much wine!
Location: 5807 Rosemead Blvd. Temple City, CA 91780. (626) 677-6667
Date: October 21, 2014
Cuisine: Szechuan Chinese
Rating: Great flavors, not ultra hot
I love me some Szechuan, and surprisingly, so do a lot of others because Szechuan places have become all the rage lately.
Chuan’s is the latest Chinese chain to open a Southern California output, like Meizhou Dongpo in the Century City Mall.
The menu is super glitzy with big clear pictures of every dish (oh so helpful!).
Chuan’s doesn’t offer liquor yet, and we couldn’t bring ours in really either. But they did have this (non-alcoholic) Sour Plum Juice that was quite delicious. It had a smokey rich flavor. Really smokey.
Chopped Chicken with Fresh Peppercorns. The menu version had a lot more peppercorns. This is always a good dish, and this example was no exception. There was the “boney chicken bits” problem, but, hey, this is authentic Chinese food. It wasn’t that hot.
Chengdu Sour and Spicy Vermicelli. A bit more flavor than the Dan Dan, but still maybe a little bland.
Chili slathered Pork Dumplings. These were great. Better than Chengdu Taste, not as good as this mall food (lol).
Ma Po Tofu. A delicious take on the classic. This version had a nice tang, great texture, and a bit of heat. It didn’t really have enough peppercorn numbness for my taste, but it was still probably the dish of the night.
Special Seafood Dry Hot Pot. Like a Wuhan dish, a mix of dry hot shrimp, potatoes, veggies, fish balls, and the like.
Overall, Chuan’s was extremely tasty. The service was great, and they seemed to use fairly high quality ingredients, on par with Szechuan Impression and better than at Chengdu Taste. The flavors were good too and there is a lot of variety on the menu. But it isn’t that spicy. Really, afterward I was thinking it was about right because the through the night burn was fairly mild, but during, I missed that searing/numbing heat that is found at the hottest examples of Szechuan cuisine. Most dishes were well executed. Almost no bombs. Weakest probably was the fish filets, dan dan, and maybe the duck (a lot of others liked the duck), but there were a lot of very strong dishes too: Ma Po Tofu, dumplings, pork, Lobster.
Restaurant: Daikokuya Santa Monica
Location: 2208 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064. (310) 575-4999
Date: October 13, 2014
Cuisine: Japanese Ramen
Rating: First rate noodles
In LA (and possibly elsewhere), ramen has just exploded. It’s gone from this obscure specialty and grad student food to multiple streets with multiple ramen joints each with hour long lines!
Gyoza. The classic pork and cabbage dumpling, pan fried. Seriously fried in this case. Plenty of green onion. These were good. Quite good.
Daikoku Ramen. The classic pork broth Hakataka ramen. Fatty pork. Bamboo shoots. Bean sprouts. Green onion.
Spicy miso ramen. This variant on the straight up classic has all the works inside, the green onion, the bork belly cuts, the sprouts, the special egg, etc. The sauce is like miso soup with a bit of kick. It’s not super spicy, but just about right. The heat, salt, and spice add up and do clear the sinuses.
The broth is pretty delicious. Rich, but not mega rich like Tsujita (more on that later). I really wanted to keep drinking after I picked out all the bits, but I knew that if I did, the salt (and perhaps garlic) factor would really hit me later. As it was I developed a fairly serious case of heartburn (not unexpected, but worth it).
Overall, this was some solid and traditional ramen. Very good. I need to try the regular one and the dipping noodles. I doubt the latter is as good as at Tsujita, it would be hard to remember, but the regular and miso ramen are different beasts, not neccesarily better or worse, just a bit different.
Location: 4251 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90004. (213) 383-5959
Date: October 15, 2014
Cuisine: Yanbian Chinese
Rating: Great food, incredible deal!
Yanbian is an autonomous prefecture in the borderlands between China and Korea. But like any place, it has its own regional cuisine, and LA, being rich in Asian culture has at least one restaurant specializing in the area. My Hedonist group has been going here 1-2 times a year forever, but this is my second visit.
2012 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese. IWC 89. A subtle honeysuckle aroma blends with hyacinth and lime on the nose. Polished peachy fruit and a refined minerality drift across the palate. Delicate and eminently drinkable.
agavin: I thought this went very well with a lot of the spicy food.
From my cellar: 1996 Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques. IWC 91-94. Very saturated red-ruby. Bright, sweet black raspberry and cassis nose. Very sweet and intensely flavored, but bracing acidity gives the wine great dynamism and cut. Really explosive in the mouth. Very long, vibrant finish. Grand cru quality.
2006 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard. IWC 94+. Glass-staining purple. Blackberry, boysenberry and licorice pastille on the nose, with mounting spice and floral notes and a strong wallop of cracked pepper. Deeply pitched black and blue fruit flavors expand with air and pick up strong spicecake and candied flower notes, along with velvety tannins. More backward than the Lorraine today, and showing a darker profile. The finish completely stains the palate and lingers with intense floral and spicy persistence. This is still a baby.
Overall, Yanbian was great fun, great food, and all of the above was $30 a person! Including tax and a 35% tip! Wow! It’s really really good, and we had so many dishes I was full for the next 12 hours. People carted home some of this stuff.
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Time Travel Romance
Length: 642 pages
Read: October 3-13, 2014
Summary: long but good
I’ve been meaning to read Outlander for years. Part time travel, part historical fiction, big best seller… it’s also fundamentally a Romance (cough). This last gave me pause, but finally, after checking out the show (to be reviewed later) I bit the bullet.
It’s funny how bestselling series drive against the current of writing “shoulds.” This book is long. It’s detailed. The protagonist is often adrift without clear “motivation” or “agency.” The prose can be highly redundant. There are countless scenes that don’t serve the spine of the plot.
But these “problems” also help make for a good read, and a good read it is. Fundamentally this is a novel about interesting, and well developed (if sometimes problematic) characters, caught in an unusual and fascinating blend of setting and situation.
Setup: It’s 1945 and Claire Randall is a happily married nurse. On holiday in Scotland with her husband, a circle of ancient stones mysteriously teleports her to 1743. Stuck there, she meets and falls in love with sexy highlander Jaime Fraser against the backdrop of the coming Jacobite rising.
This sounds fairly trite, and it is, but the historical detailing of 18th century Scotland is very well done. The author clearly did her research, and she builds a cast of interesting characters and a rather fascinating world on the edge of war. There is an intrinsic tension between Claire’s two lives. Her modern husband isn’t a bad guy at all, even if he lacks Jaime’s manly-man energy. But she finds herself in this new place and in love — so what does she do? This dilemma provides for most of the conflict during the first two thirds of the novel.
Let’s back up and discuss prose and voice. Gabaldon is a good writer. Her prose is energetic and descriptive, often erudite. The voice is completely first person from Claire’s POV. She has an engaging, if a bit overly clinical viewpoint. I had small problems with repetition. Gabaldon often repeats words a sentence later without reason of parallelism and has a tendency to elaborate on a point more than necessary. This is a book where a great deal of the subtext is in the text. Claire spells it out. Sometimes twice. Sometimes thrice. This, by the way, is another of those writing “shoulds.” You’re not supposed to “tell,” but “show” (imply). That’s “better writing.” But as far as I can tell, bestsellers don’t tend to be subtle.
There is a lot of Scottish accented dialog in this book, and it’s very well handled.
Claire’s POV is generally excellent, but it does result in a few issues. Occasionally (particularly in the later part of the novel) some events occur “off screen” (when she isn’t there). Gabaldon then results to gratuitous retellings where other characters relate the event to her in unlikely detail. Occasionally, a briefer recounting leads to some reader confusion. Claire is also hyper aware and overly clinical. As the author likes to handhold us through her thought process, it sometimes feels like exactly this, author handholding rather than genuine cognition. This leads to one of my bigger “motivational gripes” with this generally excellent novel, that Claire often feels fairly selfish and overly analytic. Particularly in the middle of the novel, Claire is nominally still plotting to head back to the future, but this tell feels incongruous with the emotions the author has her “show” toward Jaime.
As I mentioned, the historical details are good. The attitudes of the 18th century men and women are well handled and relatively free of anachronism. Things are properly grungy, sexist, and occasionally brutish. It is occasionally a little odd that Claire herself is not terribly discomforted by this. She points out plenty of good stuff, particularly having to do with justice, medicine, and punishment, but she doesn’t really seem to miss toilets, showers, medical care, comfortable clothes, or well preserved food. Perhaps her life as a nurse during WWII was grungy enough to prepare her. She occasionally mentions discomforts flipply, but less than I’d imagine. She never really complains (or seems to suffer) with regard to food, sleeping in haystacks, or walking barefoot across the chilly Scottish moors.
The time travel element is very light SciFi/Fantasy in this first novel at least, but is used to good effect. There is no mumbo-jumbo explanation to gum things up.
Being a romance, and a fairly erotic one, this is also a novel full of sex. Jaime and Claire go at it like rabbits — and things are often fairly explicit, at least in a literary way. I have no problem with most of this, as it’s actually pretty hot, and I imagine that for many women it’s insanely hot (see, word repeated deliberately for effect!). But there are aspects to the sexuality in this novel that are weird. Two huge ones (spoiler alert):
1) In the middle, after Claire disobeys him, Jaime “punishes” her by strapping her bare ass (to put it bluntly). To tell the truth, his reasoning is perfectly typical by 18th century standards, but comes off as a bit twisted by ours. And some readers will be bothered by the otherwise very spunky Claire’s fairly rapid absolution of her wife-beating lover. In fact, it’s clear that Gabaldon has a bit of a “thing” for corporal punishment as it’s a constant theme in the book. Jaime goes way overboard to emphasize how much hiding her turned him on.
2) More disturbingly, Gabaldon probably isn’t the biggest fan of Homosexuality. The novel’s villain (Black Jack) is not only gay, but she goes to great lengths to integrate his evil tendencies and his sexual proclivities. Otherwise, he’s actually a rather excellent villain, but she goes big time overboard in Jaime’s recounting of the intensely odd and twisted “final hours” between Jaime and the menacing Black Jack. It’s pretty darn nasty and twisted. This, along with a retelling of an older encounter between Jaime and a gay Duke feels like an overzealous attempt to demonize… to quote the novel: “poofters.”
Overall, this is an excellent novel. None are perfect, and it’s engaging throughout. The place/time is vividly depicted, and the characters are boldly executed. Both stay with you — which is no small feat for any author.
Restaurant: Sushi Tsujita
Location: 2006 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. 310.231.1177
Date: October 9, 2014
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: Classic Fish
One of the busiest and yummiest spots on the busy Sawtelle Blvd is Tsujita Artisan Noodles (and annex), which serve up an insanely rich and delicious porky ramen. The owner, Takehiro Tsujita, was cooked up a third place just down the street — well actually cooked isn’t the right word since this is a high end, omakase focused, traditional sushi joint helmed by chef Shigeru Kato.
2000 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet La Cabotte. Burghound 95. While discreet, there is a trace of wood that sits atop the ever-so-mildly exotic fruit and wonderfully layered aromas that are still admirably fresh even though they now display some mature notes. The exceptionally rich and overtly muscular flavors are quite forward though powerful as a still firm and prominent acid spine keeps everything in perfect balance on the magnificently persistent finish. This is classy juice that is knocking on the door of its prime drinkability.
agavin: our bottle was unfortunately badly premoxed
A bit of everything. Persimmon with tofu (back in the sub-dish). Sea pike cooked with sake, soy sauce, & ginger (back left). Shrimp cooked with sake and black cod roe (front left). Oyster & baby abalone (front). Ginko nuts. Crispy rice (center back).
Very Japanese, this soup is in a little teapot with the cup (and yuzu) on top.
Scallop with truffle.
1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. 92 points. Tis is medium gold. Nose is very ripe fruit and honey, but not boytritis. Sweet and satiny and weighty, acid is failing. Finishes with baked apples and pastry.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Tsujita, but the meal proved to be quite interesting. Absolutely first rate sushi, and of a somewhat different ilk than most of the less cured or particularly heavy vinegar style places (like Sushi Zo). It wasn’t cheap, offering omakase in the $120, $150, and $180 ranges (above is more or less a $180), but this is pretty comparable to other top sushi houses in LA. It’s also on my favorite lunch street, giving Kiriko some competition in the serious sushi world.