Showing posts with label tasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tasting. Show all posts

Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter Cocktail Pairing at Trattoria Neapolis (Pasadena, CA)

Ken Baranda has left the bar at Trattoria Neapolis, but his successor, Chris Doyle, is doing just fine, as exemplified by his winter cocktails.

The first cocktail I tried during a recent tasting was a warm one, a variation of hot buttered rum: Fireside (Appleton dark rum, Matusalem light rum, butter, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest)
Not too heavy, warm, and would be perfect on chilly nights.
The cocktails were paired with some bites. The Fireside was paired with some Beef short rib "manwiches" on house focaccia
Darling Clementine (Tito's vodka, fresh clementine juice, housemade cranberry ginger chutney, Combier, fresh orange and lemon juices)
Clementines are a great citrus alternative for cocktails! This drink was so refreshing but with some spice from the ginger chutney. We all loved this one. Despite my usual snobby tendency to avoid vodka cocktails, this was my favorite.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

For the Downtown Beer and Wine Geeks: Buzz Wine Beer Shop

We know plenty of watering holes in Downtown LA, but where do downtowners go to buy beer and wine for their homes? Well, now they should all be going to Buzz, the new wine and beer shop on Spring Street.

Buzz is not only about the eclectic selection of wine and beer (a fairly large collection of beers at that), they also have a tasting room in the back where you can get flights, taste beers on tap, and attend special tastings.
I was invited to a tasting party there along with other media, wine distributors, and the wine producers. The tasting showcases some of the more interesting (some rare) wines they have at Buzz, like Eastern European wines from Blue Danube Wines, and La Clarine Farm wines from the Sierra Nevada foothills. Sierra what? It's apparently a region east of Sacramento - a growing wine region that had escaped my radar thus far.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Chef at Roy's Downtown, and a $20 Giveaway!

Roy's Restaurant in downtown LA recently brought in a new chef. Blaine Villasin is a Hawaiian-born Filipino who started his career as a line cook at Roy's in La Jolla after training at the Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena.

We were invited to try out the new chef's own creations (instead of Chef Roy Yamaguchi's signature dishes) with a tasting menu, which started with a plate of Striped Bass Sashimi, tamari chimichurri, black lava salt

Striped Bass
The fish was fresh and I certainly liked the intense flavors from the tamari and the black salt, but the chimichurri might be a little overwhelming for the delicate sashimi. The dish was paired with a glass of Le Colture Fagher Prosecco, Veneto, NV. A nice glass of bubbly to start off the night.

5 Spice Seared Scallop Salad with tangerine, baby mache, kumquat, orange vanilla vinaigrette
The scallops were tender though they could be fresher, and I liked the addition of kumquats here.
This was paired with a semi-sweet wine, a 2009 Pfeffingen Riesling, Pfalz.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Luksusowa Vodka Seminar & Tasting: Can You Taste the Difference?

"Vodka is colorless, odorless, tasteless." I pretty much believed that too, so when an invitation to a vodka seminar and tasting set up by Luksusowa vodka came along, I was intrigued. Will I really be able to taste the difference between different vodkas? I wanted to see.

The vodka seminar is appropriately held at at Nic's Martini Lounge, a shrine to vodka in Beverly Hills and the home of the "vodbox" where you can enjoy their extensive vodka collection in a private chilled room while wearing their stash of fur coats.

Luksusowa Vodka. Photo courtesy of Shelley Buck

The seminar portion started with the history of vodka. Believed to originate from Poland (the first written evidence is a 1405 Polish manuscript), potato vodka became more popular in the 18th century because it is believed to be superior although the filtration method is more difficult. Charcoal filtration was started in Russia and is now believed to be the best method. (Luksusowa is supposed to be the highest rated potato vodka in the world, with a score of 94 from the Beverage Tasting Inst.).

The World War II destroyed the economy in Poland and Russia and many distilleries came to be sold to independent owners.

Vodka originally wasn't very popular in the US and they had to market it as the "white whiskey". It was apparently all thanks to Smirnoff that really popularized "vodka" and made it what it is here today. In 1975 Smirnoff outsold American whiskey.

Leading the tasting was the owner of Nic's himself, Larry Nicola a.k.a. "The Vodkateur."

On each table were a variety of items/nibbles meant to represent the more common flavor profiles of vodka (I was hungry and thought they were apps so I'd been eating them. Oops!).
Anyway, there were rye bread, potato chips, sour cream (acidity), pop corn (representing butteriness of some vodka), dark and white chocolate chunks (bitterness), and "licorice."
The British bartender Charles Vexenat who was making our cocktails was talking about these flavors, and he was looking for the licorice - which here came in the form of Red Vines. "That's licorice? Why is it red???". Beats me, Charles ...

We sniffed and sipped six different vodkas at room temperature (since chilling it often masks the underlying nose and flavor - this way you can more easily tell the differences).
Some of the vodkas we tasted you are probably already very familiar with:
  1. Smirnoff (beet root, Russia). Nose: licorice. Pretty harsh going down, and tasted like licorice too. Maybe it's trauma but I still don't like it ...
  2. Svedka (wheat, Sweden). This smells more subtle and also tasted creamier, smoother.
  3. SKYY (wheat, USA). Odorless, tasted clean. Pretty much tasteless but went down pretty smoothly.
  4. Sobieski (rye, Poland). Smells slightly sweet. Had a nice flavor profile but harsh.
  5. Finlandia (barley, Finland - obviously). I was surprised that it does actually taste like barley. This had a full bodied flavor.
  6. Luksusowa (potato, Poland). Smells ... like water, really. Clean, without a harsh finish. Definitely the best of the bunch, and I'm not saying that because they're sponsoring this event.

Charles Vexenat, author of Mixellany's Annotated Bariana: A Practical Compendium of All American and British Drinks and a London-based bartender, was behind the bar making cocktails for us.
The first cocktail I tried (left) was made with vodka, OJ, fig jam and lime juice. A sweet cocktail, but not cloyingly so. It's actually pretty good and balanced. The other drink was made with strawberry and basil. Less sweet with more depth.

After we finished the tasting, Nic's provided some appetizers, all of which were supposed to complement vodka. You'd notice ingredients like rye and potato over and over again and if you're lucky, caviar.
A nicely crispy roasted potato with sauerkraut and kielbasa sausage, "vodka salmon" on rye bread, potato latke topped with apple compote and caviar - and can't remember exactly what the last one was.

Vodka definitely gets a bad rap among my cocktailian/bar-regulars friends, but this ended up being a pretty cool seminar and taught me that I knew so little about vodka and I can't just dismiss it without learning more. I learnt a lot of about the history of vodka and I was surprised at how distinct the different vodkas tasted. Among the six, Luksusowa was definitely the crowd favorite and I was pleasantly surprised at the prices I found online, but I really need to have Larry guide me through more different vodkas in the vodbox.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Balblair: Tasting The World's Only Vintage Single Malt Scotch

Balblair scotch distillery has been around since 1790 but the name is fairly new to the American audience. Two of their products have finally made their way into the American market.

They claim to be the only distillery which bottles their scotch in vintages, just like wine.

Balblair 1991 ($129.99) and Balblair 1997 ($64.99) are the first two vintages that are available for purchase in the U.S. Distillery Manager John MacDonald handpicks the casks that he deems to have reached the peak of maturation each year and releases them as the single malt vintages.
To introduce these two vintages, Balblair recently invited some media and scotch lovers to a tasting party at The Edison (the ambiance there is a perfect fit with the bottle's design), where I sipped scotch and ate bruschetta with other bloggers and members of the LA Scotch club. I started the night out big with the 1991.

Balblair 1991 just received a rating of “Excellent Highly Recommend” in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. Reminds me a bit of butterscotch and has a smooth and long finish.

The Balblair 1997, on the other hand, is spicier, has more bite but not as smooth and the finish isn't as long. I personally prefer the smoother 1991, but the characteristics of the two bottles are quite distinct and worth separate considerations.

By the way, the gorgeous picture on the gift box is supposed to be a hill behind the distillery. Makes you want to go visit, doesn't it?

At the tasting, a bowl of chocolates was prepared for us to pair our scotch with, starting from milk chocolate to 55% to 61% to 73% dark. Of course, I stuck with 61% and above :)
Dark chocolate and scotch? Yes, please. I will definitely keep that in mind next time I pop open my bottle of scotch.

*Photos courtesy of Balblair, bcs they look so much nicer than the ones I took.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Discount Alert! Wine,Cheese&Chocolate Tasting

After meeting Ian Blackburn from LearnAboutWine during the beer tasting on Sunday, he offered to give my blog readers a special discount for the upcoming Wine, Cheese & Chocolate (!!!) tasting event on October 12.

Let's see ... I <3 wine, I <3 <3 cheese, and I <3 <3 <3 chocolates!! Can't go wrong with this event :P

This deal will get you a 20% discount off the advance registration price of $50. It's a code that you have to apply in the "Discount Code" space when you register. Just to make it harder on you, I'm putting the code at the very bottom of the post ...

Date: Oct 12, 2008 (Sunday)
Time: 3-5:30 PM

Loft 218
530 Molino St #218
Los Angeles, California 90013
(310) 451-7600


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