Location: 700 Wilshire Blvd (Entrance on, 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Date: June 28, 2021
Cuisine: Italian – ish
Rating: not bad for poolside at a hotel
Calabra is the rooftop restaurant on top of Santa Monica’s Proper Hotel. We met up with some friends for a first dinner since before the pandemic and were looking for an outside place.
The setting is quite nice, but alas I forgot to photo it but so had to use this hotel shot.
Meze plate. Lots of pickles!
Guac and roasted salsa.
Chips! Actually delicious, but ludicrously salty.
Three fish crudo. tuna, salmon, scallop, radish, capers, tarragon.
Seafood Arrabiata. squid ink garganelli pasta, tiger shrimp, manila clams, mussels, spicy tomato sauce, breadcrumbs. My friend who got this didn’t like it at all — but they took it off the bill.
Whole branzino. lentil ragu, fennel, coriander, mint zhoug, salsa verde.
Lamb chops. skordalia, tzatziki, calabrian tapenade, lamb jus.
Calabra was pretty good for what it was, but certainly nothing super memorable.
Restaurant: Dinner at the Borgese’s [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
Location: Santa Monica
Date: June 26, 2021
Cuisine: Italian influenced gourmet home cooking
Dinner at the Borgese’s is a special house dinner in Santa Monica cooked by the stunning pro-level home chef Borgese couple. Today we break (slightly) with tradition for a Lunch at the Borgese’s — specifically a Sauvages lunch with a California Cabernet theme.
The dynamic Borgese team consists of Rocco, his lovely wife (and the main kitchen chef), and his daughter (helping out with service).
Their house has not only a wine cellar, but a cheese and meat larder!
Plus all this incredible wood fired oven set up.
We have this fabulous outside table, perfect for covid ventilation.
Chef Jenny on the left and Rocco on the right at work in the kitchen.
2004 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année. VM 94. Light, bright gold. Powerful orchard and pit fruit aromas are complemented by smoky lees, iodine, chamomile and buttered toast. At once fleshy and energetic, offering deeply pitched poached pear, peach pit and brioche flavors and a suave floral element. Finishes smoky and very long, with mounting spiciness and lingering floral and vanilla notes.
2005 Henriot Champagne Cuvée Hemera. JG 96. The Cuvée Hemera is Henriot’s new name for their Tête de Cuvée bottling, which had previously been known as Cuvée Enchanteleurs. This is the first vintage of the house’s top of the line bottling that has been crafted from beginning to end by Cellar Master Laurent Fresnet. The wine is a fifty-fifty blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, as is the case with their Brut Millésime, but here, only grand cru vineyards are used for the cuvée. The 2005 Cuvée Hemera was aged twelve years sur latte prior to disgorgement and a finishing dosage of five grams per liter. The bouquet is deep, pure and stunning, offering up a very refined blend of pear, apple, a touch of hazelnut, gentle smokiness, a very complex base of soil tones, fresh-baked bread and just a whisper of caraway seed in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, focused and rock solid at the core, with impeccable focus and grip, very refined mousse and outstanding length and grip on the poised, balanced and exquisite finish. This is simply outstanding! (Drink between 2019-2060)
Are special lunch menu.
The wine list.
2018 Aubert Chardonnay UV-SL Vineyard. VM 94-97. The 2018 Chardonnay UV-SL Vineyard is ample, dramatic and textured in the glass, with tons of volume as well as resonance. Lemon peel, pineapple, white flowers, orchard fruit and mint all flesh out in this unabashedly opulent, richly textured Chardonnay. The UV-SL is bold and beautiful to the core.
agavin: in what twisted world do Cal Chards get 94-97 but a Coche will get 89-90?
2010 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard. VM 94. A wine of notable finesse and energy, Marcassin’s 2010 Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard is beautifully focused throughout. Lemon oil, white flowers, orange peel and chamomile are some of the many notes that flesh out in the glass. Overall, this is a fairly restrained style for Marcassin, with richness tempered by the marginal climate of the Sonoma Coast. In this vintage, the Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay is clearly more interesting, complex and pedigreed than the Pinot. (Drink between 2015-2022)
2014 Aubert Chardonnay Russian River.
Branzino e Vongole. Branzino and clams.
1999 Behrens & Hitchcock Cabernet Sauvignon “Ink Grade”. VM 89-91. Deep ruby. Aromas of blackberry, minerals, licorice and herbs. Big and broad in the mouth, with inky blackberry and mineral flavors. A full (15.1%), dense cabernet, finishing with chewy tannins and a note of eucalyptus. “We had a heat spell and some dehydration before the harvest,” noted Behrens, “and the sugars shot up.”
1998 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace. VM 85+. Dark red. Expressive, somewhat leafy aromas of redcurrant, strawberry and mocha, with a distinct note of vegetility. Rather pliant and fairly intense in the mouth, but with its fruit flavors compromised by a noticeable eucalyptus element. Finishes with slightly dry, building tannins.
1997 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 90. Bright ruby-red to the rim. Black fruit aromas are at once a bit roasted and peppery. On the palate, the black fruit and pepper flavors show a slightly rustic leathery component. Finishes with slightly dry, clenched tannins and some exotic berry tones. Retains good energy but this wine is not getting any fresher. My bottle the previous day at the Seavey vertical tasting showed a bit more fruit sweetness and a more satisfying finish. (Drink between 2017-2025)
1997 Fisher Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Lamb Vineyard. VM 91+. Healthy dark red-ruby. The nose conveys slightly wild suggestions of leather and andouillette but not enough to detract from the fresh aromas of cassis, black cherry, licorice, tar, violet and mint. This still shows dark fruit flavors that I would describe as primary but there’s also a savory umami quality as well as an edge of acidity that gives the middle palate a faint bitterness. Impressively energetic for 20-year-old wine but it may yet deliver more sweetness with some additional bottle aging. Finishes with granular, tongue-coating tannins, repeating notes of leather and game and very good length. Lots of flavor here in a slightly medicinal, tannic way. If this were my bottle, I’d still give it a few more years in the cellar. (Drink between 2017-2030)
Quaglia Ripiena Arrosto. Roasted stuffed Quail. Amazing, particularly the polenta with sausage.
Polenta with sausage as “extra.”
1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia. VM 95. Deep bright ruby. Captivating nose combines blackcurrant, crushed-rock minerality, licorice and violet, complemented by notes of cocoa powder, leather and earth. Densely packed and seriously concentrated, showing an almost chocolatey ripeness that’s leavened by integrated acidity. Flavors of dark berries, minerals and flowers saturate the palate and spread out on the very suave, subtly long aftertaste. There’s no easy sweetness here but the wine’s noble tannins and considerable finesse give it great appeal today. This beautiful blend should go on for many more years on its extract and balance. (Drink between 2019-2035)
1996 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain. VM 92. Deep ruby-red. Aromas of smoky roasted plum and cherry cough drop. Full, sweet and thick, with unusual clarity of flavor for the vintage. This retains its compelling sweetness through its very long aftertaste. Lush, unaggressive tannins hit the palate quite late. A superb ’96.
1996 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford. VM 89. Deep ruby-red. Roasted plum, currant and tobacco on the nose, along with a supersweet suggestion of crystallized red berries. Supple, ripe and pliant, with approachable dark berry and mineral flavors. Tannins are in balance with the wine fruit. Finishes with very good but not outstanding length.
1996 Peter Michael Les Pavots. VM 91+. Perfumed aromas of blueberry, kirsch and framboise, with complicating notes of mint and pencil shavings. Sweet and supple, but firm and penetrating, with sharply defined, intense flavors that are complex but unevolved. Strong acids currently clash with huge tannins. Quite dominated by its structure in the early going, but this very dry wine has the concentration of fruit to benefit from extended bottle aging.
Pasta Fatta in casa con Ragu d’Anatra. Homemade pasta with Duck Ragu.
Yarom’s pasta-less pasta.
1999 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 93+. Full red-ruby. Highly nuanced nose combines sappy black raspberry, black cherry, spicy oak, loam and menthol, plus hints of meat and maple syrup. Offers a compelling combination of sweetness and grip. The lush palate is spicy but shapely and nicely delineated; not yet complex but already exudes lovely inner-mouth perfume. Very long, broad finish features substantial tannins that coat the entire mouth and dust the teeth. Shows the hint of austerity that promises a long and graceful evolution in bottle. Should rank among the best cabernets to date from this world-class producer.
1997 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 97. I have always adored Togni’s 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate because it captures both the natural intensity of the year and the vibrancy that makes these wines so compelling. Powerful and explosive, with huge density, the 1997 hits the palate with waves of dark fruit intermingled with savory herb, charcoal, tobacco and grilled herb overtones. Even with all of its intensity, the 1997 has enough textural richness to drink for another 10-15 years, maybe more, as there is still quite a bit of structure and tannin. Hints of cedar, tobacco, crushed leaves and game add the closing shades of nuance. (Drink between 2017-2027)
1999 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 93. Bright, saturated medium ruby. Very ripe, sweet, aromatic nose combines bitter cherry, currant, chocolate, espresso, baking spices and licorice. Expansive, sweet and mouthfilling; almost shockingly large-scaled for this wine. Velvety and seamless, with ripe acids giving the wine shape. Subtle notes of currant leaf, maple syrup and game. Finishes rich and long, with sweet tannins. Seems riper and more textured than recent vintages of this wine. After 24 hours in the recorked bottle, this showed cassis and bitter chocolate flavors, an even firmer structure and compelling sweetness.
1995 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 95. Healthy medium red. Inviting aromas of red berries, spices and balsamic cedar, plus a faintly liqueur-like quality. At once silky-smooth and firmly built, conveying an impression of energy to its flavors of redcurrant, wild herbs and tobacco. Finishes with dusty but harmonious tannins. This is still remarkably youthful and gives the impression that it will continue to unwind with more time in the cellar. (Drink between 2017-2027)
Braciola di Vitello Farcita. Stuffed veal chop.
Verdure cotte a legna. Wood fired vegetables, in this case eggplant.
2005 Alois Kracher Chardonnay/Welschriesling Grande Cuvée TBA #7 Nouvelle Vague. VM 94. Nothing really sticks out in the 2005 #7 Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague, a wine that is first and foremost about total balance. The style is rich, layered and sumptuous. Apricot jam, cloves and orange peel are supported by lovely beams of acidity. I am not sure the 2005 will improve materially from here, but it might very well keep at this gorgeous plateau for a number of years. Today, it is striking. (Drink between 2013-2023)
Torta di Mandorle with gelato by me.
Matchacchio Latte Gelato and Blue Cherry Gelato at @dinnerattheborgeses by @rocco_the_chef and his wife — the gelato was made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #AndyGavinEats #AndyGavinDrinks #torta #almonds #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #amarena #morello #cherry #blueberry #pistachio #matcha
My vague notes.
The wine lineup. Not too shabby.
Overall, this was an amazing lunch, and the Borgese’s just keep amping up the quality.
First of all, the Borgese hospitality was awesome, the house lovely, and the food absolutely incredible. Best “home cooked” meal I’ve had. Maybe ever if you restrict it to chefs cooking in their own home kitchen. Just amazing. Every dish was great. Rustic but extremely delicious style. Superb homemade pastas. My gelato was darn good too :-).
Service was handled by the youngest Borgese (teen daughter) and was better than most restaurant staff. Super friendly and you can tell they do this a lot.
Wines were, as you can, pretty darn impressive!
Restaurant: Guan Dong Da Yuan
Location: 639 W Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754. (626) 545-5555
Date: June 24 and August 1, 2021
Cuisine: North Eastern Chinese
On 6/24/21 Yarom and I ventured into the SGV to try out some experimental places on our vast list, the #3 spot was here. It was good enough that we came back in August with a big 2 table group to try out more dishes.
Guan Dong Da Yuan specializes in regional Chinese cuisine from the area across the bay from Korea.
The interior is fairly cute and they have a private room (not shown).
The extensive menu.
Kimchee. It is near Korea, after all.
Baloon Flower. A different kimchee-like marinated veggie. Excellent.
Hot Stone Eggs with Tofu. Very Korean and good stuff.
3 Types of Dumpling. Ron didn’t like. It thought they were workable Jaozi (boiled dumplings).
Guandong Smoked Chicken Bone.
Yanji Sweet and Sour Pork – mochi-like chewy batter that was actually pretty enjoyable.
Stir-Fried Silk Worm!
Hot Stone Beef with Vegetable.
Spicy Crunchy Chicken Cartilage. It was a boney meal!
Spicy Crispy Chicken Cartilage (different day) — pretty much Kung Pao Cartilage and tasty for it.
Eggplant with Green Pppers and Potato. Excellent as well as colorful.
Sautéed Cabbage. I love this dish.
Stone Fried Pork Slices – like a savory/salty version of Panda Express pork.
Mapo Tofu — pretty close to Sichuan style
Stone Beef with Enoki Mushroom — soft and succulent.
Korean Style Cold Noodle Dish.
Guandong Stewed Spare Ribs with Green Peppers and Rice Noodles. Interesting polenta-like cakes.
Guandong Stewed Pork Belly with Rice Noodles. Great textures.
Guandong Pork Bone. More bones (delicious).
Caramelized Sugar on Sweet Potato.
Mascarpone Coffee Crunch Gelato — A base infused with Mascarpone Cheese then blended with house-made Coffee Crunch — created by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #cheesecake #mascarpone #cheese #coffee #CoffeeCrunch #candy
Blood Orange Campari Sorbetto — Blood Oranges from Avignon with a bit of Campari — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto #BloodOrange #Campari
I really liked this place as it was interesting and regional. A few of our crew who like their Chinese more boring (aka Southern Chinese only) didn’t like it at all, but they were offended by all the bones and silk worms and whatnot — for me that was part of the charm (and flavor).
For more LA dining reviews click here.
For more LA Chinese dining reviews click here.
Right across the street is Sham Tsem and the famous “Hooker Motel Ballroom.”sharethis_button(); ?>
Restaurant: ACC Chinese Fast Food
Location: 38 S Palm Ave, Alhambra, CA 91801. (626) 281-8577
Date: June 24, 2021
Cuisine: Cantonese BBQ
On this particular lovely June day Yarom and I ventured into the SGV to try out some experimental places on our vast list.
Stop #2 was this old school Chinese BBQ joint, which has been going strong since the 80s with the same owner/managers.
Small interior, but cute in its own way.
Menu of BBQ specials. They will even do goose with some notice.
The big takeout menu.
BBQ Pork w/ Honey Sauce — excellent.
Roast Duck with Plum Sauce — very succulent and tasty.
The aforementioned Plum Sauce.
Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli with Garlic — very solid classic veg. The extremely nice “boss lady” (aka the owner) insisted that we get some greens to help with our digestion — I think she was taking us under her wing.
ACC was surprisingly excellent. I suspect that their regular Cantonese dishes are decent but very Chinese American style, but their BBQ was first rate. We are thinking to go back with a big group, take over the whole place, and get a whole bunch of roast meats.
For more LA dining reviews click here.