Food and Wine Adventures in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Video shot and produced by John Beck.

Last July, I was invited to the incredible Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County for a multi-day excursion in tasting and learning about the region’s wines and the combined food experiences that can be had throughout the area. The wines the region is known for are primarily Zinfandel are Sauvignon Blanc but also some distinct, under-the-radar Rhône style wines.

The experience really changed how I viewed Zinfandel; I now consider it one of my dinner wine candidates — reframing its peppery-ness as an asset. It was so great to hear about the county’s aim to be an entirely sustainable and how the wine-growing region is already 70% there. In the video, I visit 3 vineyards in a day — however, I basically visited 7 overall. It’s hard work, really. Tasting wine.

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Links: e*starLA Elsewhere

Brodard Nem Nuong
Brodard Nem Nuong

Hello, Little Blog;

How are you? I’m so sorry to have neglected you all these months, but the truth is that I’ve been writing elsewhere. It’s been a great experience, so let’s put together some linkage on pieces I’ve written that are floating on the internet.

By the way, I actually have more interesting content to come through on this blog in the very near future. Promise. The blog revival: It will happen. In fact, check back in two days for some wine content from up in Sonoma County.

In the meantime, if you’re curious where else you can find my words, I’m excited to share articles I’ve written for LA Weekly, L.A. Times Food, Eater, and Thrillist:

  • Cool down with some nitro-infused teas made at Rubies + Diamonds — learn about it at LA Weekly:

High-Tech Coffee Shop Rubies + Diamonds Is Pouring “Nitro-Chilled Teas”

  • As it hopefully gets cooler (please pray for rain with me — thanks), you might be able to use this updated list (adding upon Jeff Miller & Zach Brooks’ list) for Thrillist:

Best Ramen in Los Angeles

  • For Eater LA, I waxed on how newcomer Daw Yee Myanmar Corner in Silver Lake could bring Burmese food mainstream:

Taking Burmese Food to the Mainstream

  • For the L.A. Times food section, I’ve been reporting on spotted trends, such as matcha-in-everything, unique sausages, and weed cocktails. My latest is on how you can put together your own Little Saigon food crawl:

This West Hollywood Restaurant is Making Weed Cocktails

Going full matcha: Where to find matcha-infused doughnuts, tiramisu and cocktails

Where to find a chicken Parmesan sausage and more unique links around town

How to have a Little Saigon food crawl complete with pho, spring rolls and plenty of Vietnamese coffee

  • And in non-food-related writing, I had the pleasure of writing for GOOD Magazine‘s sports section on Infinite Flow, a wheelchair dancing group in Sherman Oaks. It’s definitely worth a read, if I may say so myself:

Ballroom Dancing On Wheels: Inside the competitive and beautiful world of wheelchair dance

Gracias Madre
8905 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Roku Sunset
9201 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

8850 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

Rubies + Diamonds
6115 Sunset Blvd #150
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Connie & Ted’s
8171 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046

Ramen Tatsunoya
16 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103

Daw Yee Myanmar Corner
2837 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

2012 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Remembering LudoBites With Mind of a Chef and Ludo Lefebvre

Shooting with Ludo, Krissy & Mind of a Chef Crew

When you get approached to reminisce about a certain time and place, nay, a certain chef and his concept – on-camera – you know you’ve been hit with something very special. In the present age of reality TV, of course, you might have suspicions it could be exploitive, but then you know the show. And multi-Emmy-award-winning Mind of a Chef just so happens to be one of your favorite shows on cooking and the culture of food.

Furthermore, when you hear that the particular episode you’re asked to be a part is about LudoBites, and you’ll get to experience Ludo recreating a few dishes right in his own brand new kitchen. you know that it’s going to be good. There’s just so much to unpack, there.

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Culinary Experiences at Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Valley

Now in its 27th year, the Passport to Dry Creek Valley event this weekend promises to be a great time to visit and taste Pinots, Zinfandels and other Sonoma wines. If you fly to Sonoma (via Alaska Air), you’ll get to take home a case of wine free of charge. And if you wisely decide to take a bottle from a Dry Creek vineyard to dine at one of the participating charter restaurants, you’ll also get free corkage as a part of their culinary cooperative.

While I love wine, food and wine always taste better when together, so I’ve highlighted some culinary-focused opportunities at certain wineries to turn your attention to this weekend:

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February 29: Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske Guest Chef at E.P. & L.P.

E.P. & L.P.

With this year being a leap year, I feel it calls for a special outing of sorts on February 29th. After all, it comes but once every four years, so you might as well make the most of it.

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The Best Things I Ate in 2015

Branzino, Maré

Los Angeles has been a phenomenal place to eat for the duration of 2015. In fact, it’s been really hard to keep up with everything going on in all parts of the city, but what a great problem to have. Better food is available in more neighborhoods, helping raise the standard of dining out in all parts. Hopefully all parts, anyway. We do have our native Roy Choi, doing what he can to make sure such positive change reaches otherwise forgotten neighborhoods, with his and Daniel Patterson’s project, LocaL.

But for all the Fig & Olives of the see-and-be-seen L.A. dining scene, there have been some indisputable favorites of mine to rise to the top. I see 2015 as the year we’ve surpassed the huffing and puffing about authenticity and what that even means for all the history and diversity we have in this city. It’s been exciting to taste how we’ve moved beyond all that to a place and time where chefs can confidently make their mark using flavors from all over the world as their paintbrushes.

So read on, and get to it. 2016 is just around the corner:

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Links: e*starLA Elsewhere in 2015

Catch & Release, Marina del Rey

Apologies for not updating the blog, but here’s a post to push its revival into the New Year. Here I come, 2016! This week, I’ll be posting a round-up of sorts on 2015 and noteworthy dishes at noteworthy restaurants.

In any case, feel free to catch up with a few of my freelance articles, and my comments forthwith, that I wrote for other online publications the latter half of 2015 here. Also, a plug to follow me on other social media channels, which I’ve been updating pretty regularly: Instagram, Twitter, and eventually Snapchat (@estar_la)!

Happy reading. I’ll catch you guys with another 2015 update tomorrow.

Bánh Mì My-Tho
304 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Catch & Release
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Langer’s Delicatessen
704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Wexler’s Deli, GCM
317 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Old Country Cafe
2 E Valley Blvd #1e
Alhambra, CA 91801

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Zankou Chicken
5065 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Lexus Culinary Classic: Q&A With Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy

Youngest Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy

A couple months back, I was able to spend a weekend in Sausalito at the phenomenal Cavallo Point while attending the inaugural Lexus Culinary Classic. To say there was some of the best food prepared by some of the best chefs in the country being served in view of the Golden Gate Bridge would be mostly accurate – and I’m so honored I got to be a part.

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Bolthouse Farms’ #ThirstyThursdays Bartender Series on Periscope and Meerkat

Alex Straus – Photo by Joshua Lurie of

There’s been a #ThirstyThursday weekly broadcast that’s been happening for the past month, but the good news is that we’ve still got the remainder of July left – including today. It’s a great way to tune in live to learn some cocktails as well as overall tips to use at your home bar. We’ve had Josh Goldman, Joseph Brooke, and Vincenzo Marianella so far, and today we’ve got Alex Straus of the Bon Vivants and the brand new Southeast Asian hotspot E.P. & L.P.

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Los Angeles Veteran Barsmith Joe Brooke Lands at The 86 Co.

Joe Brooke’s Shaker Face. Photo by Caroline on Crack

When I first met Joe Brooke at The Edison, it was a whole seven, maybe even eight, years ago. And though I steer more towards food than cocktails on this blog, I hadn’t so much as written about a Vodka-Red Bull by then. My perception of cocktails, as well as as the entire cocktail scene in Los Angeles, was about to get turned upside down. Joe was one of the first craft bartenders I ever met and is one of the most hospitable.

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