Location: 5620 E 2nd St. Long Beach, CA 90803. (562) 439-7080
Date: August 13, 2015
Rating: A top LA Italian
A couple years ago, we organized our first Hedonist outing to Michael’s on Naples, rated on the Zagat list as #2 best restaurant in all Los Angeles. I co-organized this one with our fearless leader Yarom, myself, coordinating and designing the menu as well as ordering the wines. So many things sounded good that I came up with a 14 course extravaganza. The resulting Hedonistic Italian blowout ended up (with some alternates) as a total feast of great wine and food.
Michael’s is located on Naples Island, a bridge-connected island in Longbeach that looks so much like Florida they use it to film much of Dexter‘s Miami.
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.
First a note on the wine service. I had them put out 1 flute, 2 white glasses and 4 red glasses (2 and 2 of Burgundy and Bordeaux style). Then because of the number of red wines we had and the light, often white oriented first half of the menu, I progressed the white and red wine simultaneously — at least for the first half of the meal — so that people would have both colors in the glass. I tried to progress in varietal bunches, usually in flights of about 2 wines.
Our special menu tonight, designed by me in conjunction with the chef and catering manager.
The pescatarian version for a couple of the ladies, including my lovely wife.
From my cellar: 2013 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis Vigne Sparse. 89 points. Clean and clear, touch of pale green color, with tight aromas of underripe stone fruit. Palate opens nicely, showing white peach, some Bosc pear, along with characteristic background of almond and herb. Bracing acidity, clean moderate fruit intensity, and a nice medium finish make this example a delightful version of an underappreciated noble grape. Very food-friendly.
2013 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis. 90 points. Very pale lemon colored with a nose of citrus and perfume. This wine tastes of lemon zest, other citrus, and almonds. It is light to medium bodied with crisp acidity and a shortish finish. Good food white wine.
agavin: more “oaked” than the Sparse, but quiet delicious.
From my cellar: 2010 Quarticello Rivellino Emilia IGT. 90 points. Terrific Lambrusco, with plenty of earth, cut and cherry fruits. Completely different that what many know as Lambrusco. Not sweet or generic by any means. Superb on a hot spring day. This wine is begging for Prosciutto (which is why I put it with the pizza).
agavin: There was a barnyard vibe to the wine, and it was super “different” for being a deep purple, yet frizante and dry. I liked it, but unusual. Those who prefer their wines clean and over extracted weren’t into it.
Ricotta stuffed squash blossoms with honey basil pesto. They sweetness of the honey really took this to the next level.
Speck, buffalo mozzarella pizza. basil pesto and sweet peppers. This had just the combo of salty, cheesy, and other savory elements (the best) that I really like on my own pizzas.
Italian sausage pizza. roasted peppers, basil pesto and mozzarella. Another fabulous meaty blend.
Forest mushroom pizza. basil pesto and Taleggio cheese. Great for a veggie pizza.
Confit baby artichokes. basil pesto and goat cheese. My least favorite, mostly because of the texture of the artichokes, but still good.
From my cellar: 2007 Venica & Venica Malvasia Collio. 92 points. Great malvasia. Interesting as well as refreshing. A medium-full bodied white. Apricot, green apple and honey on the nose. Fresh tastes of apples, apricots comingle with a vibrant acidity. Would buy again.
2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. VM 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: by itself a great brunello, but paled compared to the “piano”.
Fighi e Prosciutto D’Anatra. Housemade Liberty farm duck prosciutto with Mission fig and goat cheese mousse. A great summery dish. Figs, cheese, and prosciutto have been a favorite since antiquity!
The same thing without the ham.
From my cellar: 2010 Borgo del Tiglio (Nicola Manferrari) Collio Studio di Bianco. VM 95. Weightless, crystalline and pure, the 2010 Studio di Bianco appears to float on the palate. White pear, crushed rocks, oyster shells and lime jump from the glass. A beautifully delineated, vibrant wine, the 2010 captures the best qualities of the year. Stylistically, the 2010 is brighter and more focused than the 2011, with a bit less body but more sheer drive and personality. What a gorgeous wine this is.
agavin: Another great Italian white.
2006 E. Fuligni (Cottimelli) Brunello di Montalcino. VM 96. Bright dark red. Captivating nose shows a medicinal quality to the notes of sandalwood, minerals, graphite and orange peel. At once silky and explosive in the mouth, providing oustanding density without heaviness and saturating the entire mouth with sweet flavor. A wine of incredible aromatic thrust. The floral lift on the extremely long finish gives the wine an almost Lafite-like clarity.
Fegato D’Oca. Hudson Valley foie gras terrine, stone fruit jam and mustard greens. I love foie terrine and this was no exception. It paired nicely with the sweet jam. It was perhaps a touch warm, and so not firm enough, but still tasted great.
From my cellar: 2001 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières. Burghound 91. Stunningly pure fruit laced with citrus and lime notes framed by a deft trace of pain grillé with understated flavors of remarkable precision just oozing a wet stones character. The bright acidity beautifully frames an impressively long finish and this presents itself as a classic Folatières. This is really very fine and classy. I like the style of this immensely.
agavin: Drinking perfectly. Shows how hardass the Burghound reviews are that this is a 91, really drinking like a 96.
1995 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. VM 94. The 1995 is a fresh, vibrant Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano that is just entering its prime drinking window. Expressive, open aromas meld seamlessly into a palate loaded with ripe, perfumed fruit. This full-bodied, delineated wine offers notable inner sweetness and a long, resonating finish. Abbruzzese calls 1995 a “sister vintage” to 1993, but comments that he was better prepared to capture the best qualities of the vintage.
agavin: starting to brick, and full of sediment (unfiltered), but lovely and pruney.
Polipo con Patate. Grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, caperberries, micro celery. A ver mild and fresh summer dish.
Caponata di Melanzane. Grilled crostini with eggplant stew.
1990 Gaja Barbaresco. VM 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 bit 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 a touch rounder and softer than the 1989, with perhaps just a little 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.
agavin: I’ve had better bottles of this wine, but it was still quiet nice.
From my cellar: 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive. VM 94. The 1990 Barbareso Gallina is simply awesome. The wine boasts a seamless core of rich red fruits in a soft, generous style. This opulent Barbaresco possesses impeccable balance and tons of class. Floral notes intermingled with bright red fruits provide lift on the finish, adding lovely balance to the dense fruit. This is the most approachable of Giacosa’s 1990s but has plenty of stuffing to last another twenty years. The 1978 is still going strong.
agavin: a little funky and petro-like for a few minutes. Got better, but still not as good as it should be.
Agnolotti di Mais. Stuffed pasta with corn, ricotta and braised greens. Everyone LOVED this pasta course. The corn was fresh and bright and provided a nice complement to the al dente pasta. It was voted a Hedonist “10”!
1998 Gaja Barbaresco. VM 91. Good deep medium red. Deeply pitched aromas of plum, mocha, licorice and dried flowers. Dense and chewy with extract; compelling, sweet flavors of currant and licorice. Tannins are sweeter than those of the ’99 Barbaresco. Finishes with a suggestion of nutty oak.
From my cellar: 1997 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. VM 96. Giacomo Conterno’s 1997 Barolo Cascina Francia was also fabulous. The 1997 vintage seems to have yielded great wines in some of Piedmont’s poorer soils, as this heroic Barolo amply demonstrated. The 1997 was pure Serralunga Barolo, which is to say roses, tar and licorice galore on a frame of substantial depth and pure breed.
2004 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco. VM 93. Imposing and dark on the palate, the 2004 Barolo Romirasco possesses massive fruit, beguiling aromatics and considerable depth. Today, the 2004 is a bit in an awkward stage, where tertiary aromatics have not yet developed although much of the wine’s youthful exuberance has begun to fade. As such, the 2004 is best cellared for at least another few years. Although some time has passed, I did expect the 2004 Romirasco to be a touch fresher than this.
Casarecce con Agnello. Homemade pasta with Marin County lamb ragu`and burrata. Another good pasta, although if the corn ravioli was a 10, this was more a 9.
1986 Latour Pauillac. Parker 90. Tasted from my cellar, the 1986 has consistently been outstanding, falling short of being sublime. The spicy, peppery bouquet reveals aromas of dried herbs and red currant fruit. Medium-bodied, austere, but youthful, vigorous, and concentrated, this wine still requires 4-5 years of cellaring. It is surpassed in this vintage (which favored the northern Medoc and Cabernet Sauvignon) by its rivals, Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild.
agavin 98. This bottle was drinking PERFECTLY. Really nice.
1997 Angelo Gaja Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 90-94. There are 1,000 cases of the exceptional, black/purple-colored 1997 Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon (3-4% Cabernet Franc was added to the blend). With abundant quantities of smoky, concentrated fruit as well as tannin, the vintage’s low acid, thick, glycerin-imbued character, and a layered, full-bodied finish, it should develop nicely for two decades.
agavin 94: I’ve never had this Gaja cab. I liked it a lot though.
Petto d’Anatra. Seared Liberty Farm duck breast with farrotto, Farm Lot 59 rainbow chard, and bing cherry reduction. A great duck dish. Very smokey and lean.
Branzino alla Griglia. Grilled Mediterranean sea bass with confit artichokes, potatoes and Taggiasche olives.
2003 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT. VM 90. Tua Rita’s 2003 Redigaffi, 100% Merlot, opens with notes of over-ripeness on the nose. An initial suggestion of reduction blows of with air. It presents plenty of fruit, chocolate and toasted oak along with a richly concentrated, opulent personality, yet a note of gaminess and hard, unripe tannins ultimately convey the impression of a less polished version of this wine than is normally the case. My preference is to drink Redigaffi on the young side.
agavin 92: Nice and extracted.
2010 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT. VM 96. I am struck by how light on its feet the 2010 Redigaffi is for such a big wine. Dark red cherries, tobacco, licorice, smoke and anise all flesh out as this layered wine opens up in the glass. Over time, the wine’s intense salinity emerges, adding energy, drive and polish. Hints of dark cherry, plum and smoke reappear on the vibrant finish. Readers will find much to admire in the superb 2010. To be sure, the 2010 is less outwardly opulent than is often the case with Redigaffi, but there is no denying the wine’s absolute beauty.
agavin: Our bottle was open for 4-6 hours in the decanter, but was still a fruit bomb monster.
2008 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia Sassicaia. VM 96. The 2008 Sassicaia is a rich, deep wine imbued with notable class in its black cherries, plums, grilled herbs, minerals and smoke. The 2008 is a decidedly buttoned-up, firm Sassicaia that is currently holding back much of its potential, unlike the 2006 and 2007, both of which were far more obvious wines. Readers who can afford to wait will be treated to a sublime wine once this settles down in bottle. Muscular, firm tannins frame the exquisite finish in this dark, implosive Sassicaia. The 2008 Sassicaia is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 24 months in French oak barrels.
agavin 96: I forgot how much I love Sassicaia, even when it’s young.
Porchetta. Roasted Devil’s Gulch pork loin and belly with eggplant caponata and roasted potatoes. This was super tasty, although a little on the rare side for my pork taste.
The chaos in full swing.
From my cellar: 2008 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito. agavin 97. Pure red raison juice. I love this stuff. All biodynamic. All late harvest ripasso style. An ultra rare dessert wine.
From my cellar: 1997 Fattoria Di Pancole Vin Santo di San Gimignano. This is that kind of Tuscan “dry” vin santo, making it more like a dry sherry. I tend to like the sweeter types.
Torta Di Mandorle. Almond cake with rosemary simple syrup and vanilla whipped cream. I adored this dessert. Between the almond flavor and the icing. I just love that.
Cannoli Con Impastata Alla Frutta. Crispy cannoli shells filled with Ricotta impastata cream, candied orange peels and Valrhona chocolate. I always love a good cannoli. I couldn’t taste the orange peel, which disappointed me, but otherwise they were great.
Ciambelle Dolci. Italian doughnuts served with orange glaze. Love these. Just love ’em.
Panna Cotta con Frutti di Bosco. Panna cotta with seasonal mixed berries.
Overall another fantastic dinner. Different and more varied in wine type than our usual Hedonist fare. I’ll break down the discussion into different components.
Food: The chef and catering manager did a great job working with me to generate not one but two fabulous menus. These were extensive, varied, and highly seasonal. Compare to our last visit here (in December). This was a similar sized, but much lighter more summery menu. Execution was excellent with some dishes being stellar: duck, corn ravioli, squash blossoms, and the rest being just “very good.” A few people didn’t love the octopus but I thought it quiet light and lovely. Course size was small, but given the number of plates really about right for anyone but the most gluttonous of us (which includes me).
Wine: We had a really nice array of wines. The giacosa barbaresco was a little off and the a few people with “unsubtle pallets” thought the Lambrusco and the Sagrantino a little “weird,” but there was consensus that all the whites were fabulous along with the del piano and all the Bordeaux varietals.
Service: The staff did a fabulous job handling a party of this size, starting with a perfect table and a layout of 7 stems per person. Courses arrived with excellent pacing and got down fairly swiftly considering the 15 person count and the difficulty in accessing the back of the room. Not like they do in the Republique private room where it all comes down within 2 seconds of each other, but still great. Attitude and attentiveness was first rate. Silverware was being constantly fixed and reset.
Wine Service: The Somm and lead waiter did a great job. They opened most of the bottles and got a lot of stuff decanted. They even labeled the decanters to avoid confusion. We had a nice separate wine table (badly needed). I had an unusual and taxing wine order with simultaneous progression of white and reds. They were able to understand my cryptic shout outs about what was in what glass with no slip ups. Where wine service fell down slightly (from a very high ideal) was in speed and availability of “pouring.” Now, I’m not really dinging them because there are like 3 restaurants in Southern California that could do better and all of them would charge A LOT just for the wine service. These would handle it by having at least one dedicated wine guy who all the time who didn’t help with food service. Because our Somm and main waiter were also delivering food, busing, and resetting silverware — not even mentioning their duties elsewhere in the restaurant — they didn’t have enough time to be constantly pouring. But a meal like this, with over 25 wines needs constant pouring. It was 3 hours long which means a wine is heading around roughly every 7 minutes and a glass poured every 30 seconds — for the entire dinner! In practice it’s more concentrated than that. Basically this would require someone full time, and someone skilled at pouring bottles 15 ways too. I have a lot of practice pouring (and a Sommelier Cert) so I helped them out by pouring about 40-50% of the flights. I’m fast too and I brought one of my dripless spouts to speed things up. Too bad I didn’t have a couple. Plus it helped that I had the “wine vision” in my head. It would be nice if I hadn’t had to do this, but unrealistic without a 100% dedicated person. So net net I was very pleased.
Value: Tremendous. At $120 per person + tax/tip this was just fabulous value, particularly given the level of service and the lack of corkage. Bravo!
A bunch of the Hedonists also stayed and smoked cigars outside. The staff were very cool about setting this up. We, however, fled home to get to bed :-).
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