Location: 5620 E 2nd St. Long Beach, CA 90803. (562) 439-7080
Date: December 23, 2013
Rating: A top LA Italian
After Michael’s on Naples made this year’s Zagat list as #2 best restaurant in all Los Angeles, it seemed fitting to organize a proper Hedonist outing. I co-organized this one with our fearless leader Yarom, myself, coordinating and designing the menu. So many things sounded good that I came up with a 15 course extravaganza. Well, lots of people thought it looked like too much food (and they were right), so I trimmed it back… slightly. The resulting Hedonistic Italian blowout ended up (with some alternates) as a total feast of great wine and food.
We were set up in this lovely private room. For a table of 15, this was about as perfect as it gets. Not too loud, space to move around and arrange the wines, and a square table that allowed for much better conversation than a long skinny deal.
1998 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. Parker 90. The house’s 1998 La Grande Dame reveals notable clarity and precision. This focused, poised wine emerges from the glass with well-articulated flowers, pears, smoke, crisp apples and minerals in a medium-bodied style. The wine appears to have enough freshness and sheer depth to support another decade or so of aging. La Grand Dame represents a significant step up from the estate’s other wines. In 1998 La Grande Dame is 64% Pinot Noir (Ay, Verzenay, Verzy, Ambonnay and Bouzy) and 36% Chardonnay (Avize, Oger, Mesnil-sur-Oger).
Il Piatto di Salumi con Pane e Olive. Selected traditional Italian cold cuts served with grilled garlic ciabatta, parmesan and marinated olives.
Not all salami is created equal, and this was some of the good stuff!
Tonno Crudo. Yellowtail and Ahi crudo with olive oil, sea salt, and Meyer lemon confit.
This was one of the blander dishes. Nothing wrong with it, and the salt was nice, it just was what it was.
1982 Vietti Dolcetto D’alba. 94 points. Dolcetto is normally consumed young and casually, but for some insane reason, this 30+ year old example was drinking fabulously. It tasted like an old (and good) Bordeaux, complex, smooth, and fairly round and well balanced.
Salsiccia E Polenta. Grilled house made fennel sausage with baked polenta and Amatriciana sauce.
This classic southern Italian dish packed a wallop of flavor and a little bit of kick.
1970 La Gaffeliere. Parker 86. This has always been one of the best La Gaffelieres produced during the sixties and seventies. The wine is still relatively rich and elegant, with a bouquet of smoky, plummy fruit. In the mouth, the wine is round, with a silky texture, and a lush, medium-bodied finish. It has been fully mature for well over a decade, but has lost none of its fruit or charm. Anticipated maturity: Now-may be in decline.
Vongole E Cozze In Brodetto. Manila clams and mussels with spicy tomato broth and grilled crostini.
The broth was the best part, garlicky, with a little heat.
1997 Tenuta Greppo (Biondi-Santi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. 95+ points. The wine makers called this a “100 year wine”. Medium dark color, orange rim. Outstanding nose. Cherry, strawberry. So long, so complex, it will make you cry.
Barbabietole E Caprino. Heirloom beets with goat cheese mousee, farro, hazlenut brittle, and frisee.
1997 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ripe al Convento. 94 points. Saturated, deep red. Sexy black raspberry, tar and smoky, nutty oak on the very ripe nose, with a hint of black walnut. Sweet, superripe and high-toned, with exotic dried fruit character to go with the raspberry and nut flavors. Dense and intense, but my enthusiasm was diminished by a somewhat odd and intrusive vegetal element. Finishes a tad dry, but the tannins show the sweetness of the vintage.
Speck e Buffala Pizza. Grllled pizza with speck, buffala mozzarella and roasted tomatoes.
This was a yummy pseudo pizza.
From my cellar: 2007 Podere Il Cocco Brunello di Montalcino. 95 points. A rare and young Brunello from my friend Giacomo at Podere il Cocco. Brunello di Montalcino was born on the slopes of Poggio Cocco takes its name from the former landowner and leader Cocco Salimbeni (1413). The vineyards, in the center of the production area of Brunello, have a favorable exposure to the south-east, and have fought to the north and south winds that facilitate a microclimate against the proliferation of harmful diseases for grapes. The method of processing biological uses only organic elements, bio and natural products. Fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers are banned Coconut.
Taleggio e Funghi. Grilled flat bread with forest mushrooms and Tallegio cheese.
From my cellar: 1990 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco. Parker 95. The 1990 Barbaresco emerges from the glass with an exotic array of tar, smoke, licorice and grilled herbs. There is wonderful intensity to the fruit and plenty of structure. The tannins are still a touch young and the wine is only now beginning to enter the early part of what looks to be a long drinking window! The 1990 Barbaresco is rounder and softer than the 1989, with perhaps just a touch less aromatic complexity and inner perfume, although that is splitting hairs at this level. The finish is long, intense and deeply satisfying. This is a marvelous bottle of Barbaresco.
Bucatini All’ Aragosta. Fresh, thick spaghetti with half poached lobster in saffron cream sauce.
A mild but very enjoyable pasta. The light saffron cream accented the perfectly al dente pasta and the sweet lobster.
1990 Alfredo Prunotto Barolo Cannubi. Parker 93. Prunotto has followed the gorgeous 1989 Barolos with three superlative performances in 1990. The 1990 Barolo Cannubi is a titanic example of Barolo, with immense structure, massive richness, tremendous length, and a huge, ripe nose of spicy fruitcake, cedar, and red and black fruits. Its sweet innercore of fruit is something to behold. The wine needs at least 3-4 years of cellaring and should last for 25 years.
Our bottle was sadly corked.
Michael’s Pasta. Thick cut spaghetti pasta with plum tomatoes sautéed with garlic, onions and basil.
From my cellar: 2004 San Giusto a Rentennano La Ricolma IGT. Parker 95. The 2004 Ricolma (100% Merlot) possesses stunning aromatics and layers of blackberry liqueur, minerals, chocolate and sweet toasted oak. Vibrant and shimmering on the palate, it shows plenty of Tuscan structure to support the fruit, with phenomenal length and ripe, sweet tannins to round out the finish. It is another stunning wine from San Giusto a Rentennano. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2024.
Agnolotti Di Manzo. House-made pasta stuffed with braised short rib, veal sauce, horseradish and sage bread crumbs.
1994 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia. Parker 89. The 1994 Ornellaia is a decidedly small-scaled, mid-weight effort with attractive, fragrant aromatics and delicate notes of tobacco and spices that add a measure of nuance to the fruit. While the 1994 lacks the complexity of the finest vintages, it nevertheless possesses lovely overall balance and harmony. The 1994 Ornellaia is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc that spent 15 months in French oak, a third of which was new.
We happend to love our bottle.
Agnolotti Di Zucca. House made pasta stuffed with kobacha squash, sage bread crumbs and balsamic reduction.
1998 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia. Parker 93. Made in a relatively structured style for the normally succulent Ornellaia, the dense saturated ruby/purple-colored 1998 offers up aromas of pain grille, spice, smoke, black fruits, and graphite. Full-bodied, concentrated, exceptionally pure, and long, it will be at its finest between 2005-2018. Very impressive, but it requires patience.
Branzino. Whole grilled Mediterranean sea bass with artichokes, potatoes and Taggiasche olives.
2000 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia. Parker 93. The 2000 Ornellaia is a pretty, well-balanced offering with good concentration and complexity. The 2000 lacks some of the visceral thrill of top vintages, but it is an excellent choice for near-term drinking. In 2000 Ornellaia is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 18 months in French oak (70% new) and was lightly fined prior to being bottled.
Cervo al Forno. Broken Arrow ranch venison , quince pureé, kale, and forest mushrooms.
Perfectly cooked and tender.
1999 Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. 91 points. Nice showing. Ripe red berry fruit. In fact quite clean and modern. Lots of lovely spice adding complexity. Nose is reminiscent of rum Christmas cake with juicy sweet cherry liqueur. Alcohol is evident on the nose and plate (15% on label). Still firmly tannic and white sweet on entry it’s drying on the finish. Quite enjoyable!
Ossobuco Di Maiale. Braised pork shank with saffron risotto and pistachio gremolata.
Delicious and classic combo.
We’ve had this Vin Santo from Santorini (Greece) before.
Crostat Alle Ciliege con Gelato. Chocolate and hazelnut tart with salted caramel gelato and Bing cherry preserve.
Cannoli Con Gelato Alla Vaniglia. Crispy cannoli shells filled with Ricotta impastata gelato, candied fruit and Valrhona chocolate.
These were tasty, but I still prefer a really well done CLASSIC Cannoli best. These ones from the Philly Italian market are about as close as you can get without going to Sicily (and I recommend both wholeheartedly).
1985 Coutet. Parker 84. The problem with so many 1985 Barsac/Sauternes is that they come across as monolithic and one-dimensional, particularly when compared with years where there is a great deal more botrytis, such as 1986 and 1988. Nevertheless, for those readers who like to drink these wines as an aperitif, 1985 is the type of vintage where the wines can be drunk early in the meal. The 1985 is fresh, with plenty of fruit, but lacking the complexity one normally associates with this chateau.
Ciambelle Dolci. Italian doughnuts served with orange glaze.
These lovely pastries tasted a bit like Fruit Loops, a fact noted by a number of us!
Cremino Di Zucca. Pumpkin mousse with salted caramel and cream with gingerbread.
Very nice “holiday” flavored pot-a-creme. Tasted like pumpkin pie.
Overall, Michaels we had a really great meal. The food was spot on with almost every dish being awesome (a few were merely good). We had epic volumes of great Italian wine and some seriously fun company! The restaurant did a fantastic job hosting us. We got 5-6 glasses a person, and then when the array of them on the table left them no room for family style plating they dynamically shifted to individual plating. They handled one alternate menu (prearranged) slickly and even adapted another on the fly. Bravo!