As the Los Angeles “chill” continues, it’s only natural to crave the comforting foods in which we take refuge. Luckily, there’s Bar Pinxto, a tapas place that has reinvigorated the Spanish traditions behind the term that was once disgracefully applied to all “small plates.” The place has the most mom and pop feel of anywhere in the tourist hub of Santa Monica, and the reasonable price points, accommodating happy hour specials and prix fixe menu options clinch its status as a neighborhood favorite.
There’s enjoying wine, and there’s enjoying wine with food. And maybe you live or are near Melrose just for the moment, but you probably were looking for something a little less bro-tastic. While pairings have gotten increasingly more attention as of late, it’s hard to come by an expert without the expectation of spending an exorbitant amount as a result of access to that expertise. Thankfully, Colonial Wine Bar brings that luxury to Melrose diners at neighborhood prices.
Chef de Cuisine Ryan Otey, who has all of Patina, Tasting Kitchen and Villetta on his resume, is serving up some rustic dishes in the intimate wine bar. The bar itself lines the wall as your eye is caught by the glass-encased wine cellar in the back. The overall feel of the crown-molding-adorned place is casual with plenty of play available towards getting as serious about the food and wine as needed.
You’ll find familiar dishes such as deviled eggs, bone marrow, flatbreads, burrata and heirloom tomatoes on the menu, but not-to-miss is their lamb – whether as meatballs or a burger. Their mushrom risotto is also solid, appropriately buttressing the definition of “comforting wine bar” as Colonial stands. There are a few beer taps behind the bar, as well, where I pleasantly found Hitachino White Ale on draft.
If you live in Pasadena or the surrounding San Gabriel Valley, it will be worth your while to drop into Vertical Bistro tomorrow night between 7 – 10 PM. Chef Laurent Quenioux has some new dishes up his sleeve that he would very much like to share with you. And for $25, you can taste a few ofÂ them as well as wash them down with some new beers and/or cocktails.
Not a bad open house for the locals.
Make sure you RSVP to the appropriate email address below to reserve your spot. I expect there to be some real tasty French bitesÂ awaiting you tomorrow inside the newly renovated Vertical Bistro. There is even a new “library” for you to check out. Now there’sÂ bookshelves in this wine bar thanks toÂ the new addition, which is a 60-seat dining room. The space now overlooks historic Raymond Avenue. This open house sounds like a great opportunity to try the renovation on for size.
Hollywood is an awesome place to live. Not because of the bottle service and certainly not because everyone drives in from The Valley and Orange County on the weekends for the purposes of said bottle service.
It’s a great place because of the very spots that are overlooked in favor of bottle service and bass. Currently entering the second month of its operation, Wood & Vine is a two-story, neighborhood spot at which you can meet up with your friends and enjoy wine, beer, cocktails and/or food in a pleasant setting with wood furnishings and sage interior. There’s also a beautiful patio in the back – complete with lighting, ambiance and open flame – that may give you inklings of New York City thanks to the surrounding Hollywood “skyscrapers.”
The food is created by Gavin Mills, who was last sous at Bastide under Joseph Mahon (see previous post). As done in more and more eateries out there, he employs snout to tail and locally sourcing philosophies in that small kitchen and does a great job doing so. All the charcuterie, pates and rillette are made in-house, and together with cheese, start at $8 for three, $12 for five and $15 for seven.
I sampled about half of the small, manageable menu (I’m all for quality execution over spreading oneself thin while indulging indecisiveness) and, of everything I tried, came up with a handful of favorites. The chicken and waffles was a refreshing rendition, with fluffy breading surrounding a sparingly syruped quarter-chicken over a bona fide, house-made Belgian waffle. The maple-roasted squash was delicious, too, with the $14 serving being none-too-sweet. Just perfect, actually.
The gnocchi were savory pillows, accompanied by pea tendrils, spring garlic, confit onionsÂ and just a touch of truffle. Beautifully simple and delicious. And if you want a little twist on traditional lasagna, Wood & Vine’s oxtail variety comes in its own, adorable Pyrex glass with horseradish and house-made ricotta – and packs a subtle, but muchÂ appreciated,Â kick.
But oh, those scallops. Granted, you have to screw things up really bad if you turn out bad scallops, but not only are these huge babies perfectly seared (with that crispy,Â barely-charred exterior), they come accompanied with Jerusalem artichokes uponÂ some deliciouslyÂ truffled grits. There was nothing left on the plate when I was finished – not even a smear of grits.
I have yet to go back and try more cocktails (headed up by Jason McBeth)Â on for size.Â The Manhattan I ordered was good once I requested that it be served straight up (since it was initially served on-the-rocks), but I’m thinking that since I went early, they’re still getting their program squared away. However, their brown (whiskeys, ryes, bourbons, what have you) selection looks somewhatÂ extensive, so I can’t wait to take a closer look. The dessert menu looks enticing, too, if also humanitarian, with proceeds from the sales of profiteroles going directly to the Los Angeles Youth Network – a cause that the owners care about. Another dessert that caught my eye: Butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel ice-cream. Mmm.
The guys behind Wood & Vine, despite the big space, did a great job at creating a warm ambiance and concentrated food and cocktail menu with only the necessities. It’s the place that nightclub birds walk past on their way to Hi-NRG spicy tuna wonderland while you’re inside, cozy while nibbling cheese and sipping on your Aviation – perhaps alone, perhaps in a group (because it’s big enough for that).
Please, keep walking.
All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.
There could be an general acceptance that wine bars getÂ a passÂ on offeringÂ good food since diners would be expected to focus on theÂ wine. Well, no more.
CorkBar was a pleasant surprise, however, in that almost everything I had to eatÂ I genuinely enjoyed. Of course, the guys there have a few suggestions as to which California wine they would pair with your food order – and I’d surelyÂ recommend taking their advice. In fact, they’re rather adventurous in the kitchen, too. Every Tuesday night is “Test Kitchen Tuesday,” when Chef Albert Aviles makes a market-inspired dish that sells for $2 until they run out. In fact, the Ballpark Sliders are a Test Kitchen Tuesday success story, and you can now find it on their regular menu. Be ready to try out some creative bites on these days.
The Cheddar Cheese Gougeres are flavorful poofs that come to your table warm and fluffy. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Rose and Sparkling Wine are suggested on the menu to pair with them. The other things that came to our table, like theÂ Curried Mussels andÂ my extra refreshing Root Vegetable Salad were delicious. But the tastes that basically hit it out of the park had to be the Root BeerÂ Braised Short Ribs and (perfectly) Seared (super big)Â Sea Scallops.
But don’t forget dessert. Apparently Chef Albert is just as creative with his sweet dishes as with his appetizers. Lo and behold,Â he brought outÂ an off-the-menu bacon chocolate cake for us lucky diners. (Or, you can always stick with the creme brulee.)
Regardless of what you order off the menu, you’ll always be treated to theirÂ fabulous selection of California wines and locally-sourced, farm-fresh fare. They also alwaysÂ have a few interesting brews on tap (mostly Californian) and in the bottle (some German). Plus, their selections are always changing, keeping theÂ culinary vibe alive and breathing.Â The decor is appropriately “downtown” contemporary, so you can be sure that you’ll always have an enjoyable, modernÂ experience wining and dining in Downtown LA at CorkBar.
I’ll see you there.
All food and wine were hosted.
If “November” and “turkey” have become a little too synonymous for you, you’re lucky to have the option of some good ol’ fried chicken at Cube. It’s available only until Wednesday, November 24 – and if you don’t catch it now, you can expect to see it again in about a year.
The recipe is of the Tuscan variety and for $23 you get a a half-chicken chock with lemon wedge, Maple Roasted windrose Farm White Acorn Squash and sauteed McGrath Pea Tendrils. This isn’t your usual, butter-filled entree but rather a zesty, juicy bird that packs a punch; red pepper flakes are in the batter. The fluffy breading crumbles beautifully under the weight of your knife (should you feel like sharing) and between your jowls to reveal an extremely tender, semi-boneless masterpiece by Executive Chef Erin Eastland.
While you’re at Cube, don’t forget a custom cheese-salumi plate of your choosing and glass of wine to start. It’s always a delightful experience whenever I’ve dined there; tryingÂ the limited edition fried chicken plate was no exception. To finish it off, go seasonal andÂ try their Warm Hachiya Persimmon Pudding or satisfy your chocolate craving with Dark Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake.
All food and wine were hosted.
I used to frequent that strip near the legendary Guitar Center in that incognito stretch on Sunset Boulevard. Post-college it was late night snacks (or entrees) at Bossa Nova eating what they dubbed “Brazilian food.” I’m not saying it’s not; I’m just saying that it was the widest and most diverse cuisine I ever got to know based on Bossa Nova’s menu, alone. And then there’s Toi, with their sit-down, fast food Thai. That favorite shirt imported from Japan that I still wear from Pop Killer. Never did get to try Cheebo.
But my reasons for revisiting the area have been renewed. Vintage Enoteca is now on the block offering small bites ($5), bruschettas ($6), paninis ($10), salads ($8), flatbreads ($10) and of course cheese and salumi (3 for $10, 5 for $13) to pair with your wine. The prices won’t make you wince and they offer wifi so your laptop, not just your wine, can keep you cozy. La Brea Bakery bread provides the foundation to their bruschettas and paninis, so you can rest assured they’ve proper foundation.
But the best news is, the eats are comforting. Ask for the appropriate pairings for each bite – such as the Walter Hansel ’09 Sauvignon Blac, which compliments the White Bean Hummus Bruschetta beautifully. Or try the Charles Smith ’07 Cabernet to wash down your Medjool Dates.
Despite the unfortunate deli and lunch meat stigma tuna salad gets, it was astonishing how good their Italian Tuna salad was, with spiral fusilli tossed with artichokes and cherry tomatoes in a lemon mustard vinaigrette, topped with pecorino. It’s a vibrant dish with much thanks to its fresh ingredients – the pecorino accented the tuna perfectly.
If you’re looking for something with a little more weight and spice to it, try the Spanish Grilled Cheese, made with chorizo, fontina cheese and piquillo pepper. Pair it with the ’08 “Les Chevrefeuilles” Grenache/Syrah from CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne.
The flatbreads Vintage Enoteca offers aren’t so shabby, either. My favorites were the Cauliflower, topped with prosciutto, bÃ©chamel and gruyere; and Mushroom, with its perfectly roasted variety of mushrooms, fontina and thyme.
Thankfully, next week Tuesday on July 13, 2010 from 7 – 9 PM, you’ll have your own opportunity to try Vintage Enoteca for their kick-off wine tasting featuring the wines and food of Alto Adige (Northern Italy), presented by Italian Wine Import Specialist Giuseppe Cossu. You’ll get to taste all of the following for $25:
Pinot Bianco: Elena Walch, “Kastelaz,” alt Adige, 2009
Moscato Giallo: Alois Lageder, “Vogelmaier,” Alto Adige, 2009
Schiava: Alois Lageder, “Romigberg,” Kalterersee Classico, Alto Adige, 2009
Lagrein: Elena Walch, Alto Adige, 2008
Flatbread with Arugula, Duck Confit and Sour Cherries
Bruschetta with Sauerkraut, Apples, and Lardons
Whatever your occasion to drink wine at Vintage Enoteca, it’ll be pleasantly casual and yet perfectly delicious.
P.S. – Purse hooks are welded underneath and to the right of each metal table place setting.
All food and wine were hosted.
Last week, Vintage Enoteca opened on Sunset Blvd., introducing an chic yet understated style to the strip between Fairfax and La Brea – nearby Cheebo, Japanese vintage clothing store Pop Killer and the famed Guitar Center.
Enjoy wines from all over with a focus on Italy, France, Spain, Austria, California, and Washington – including Lopez de Heredia ViÃ±a Tondonia Rioja Reserva, Rioja, Spain, 2000; Ameztoi Txakoli Rubentis, Basque, Spain, 2009; and the KÃ¶fererhof Kerner, Alto Adige, Italy, 2008. Domestic picks include Kunin Viognier, Stolpman Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California, 2006; Figge Chardonnay, Pelio Vineyard, Monterey, California, 2008; Roar Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, 2008. Vintage Enoteca has availableÂ more than a dozen by-the-glass offerings – so you can visit without a whole lot of commitment.
Chef Paul Dozois heads up the Italian-inspired menu and though he has had no formal training, has studied in the kitchens of culinary masters such as Tom Colicchio, Wolfgang Puck, and Jose Andres. Five bruschettas are offered, including Goat Cheese with Carmelized Onion and Crispy Prosciutto or Blue Crab with Mint & Lemon. Flatbreads are topped with Mushroom and Fontina Cheese and Arugula with Carmelized Onion. Paninis are filled with Spanish Grilled Cheese with Chorizo & Piquillo Pepper; Spicy Tuna with Calabrese Chili; and Crispy Pancetta and Bagna Cauda. Looking for smaller bites? The pickles are house-made and the Medjool dates are stuffed with Parmesan. Delightful.
Breakfast will also be served, featuring Groundwork Coffee, bagels, and assorted pastries – just so your visit a wine bar isn’t restricted to lunch or dinner. Black and white photographs adorn the walls while hanging Edison bulbs provide the lighting to a modernized rustic ambiance. Distressed metal tables buttress your wine and food selections. I’ll see you there – wine glass in hand.
Open 7 Days a Week
8 AM – Midnight
7554 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Photo credit to Mr. T in DC on Flickr
Pourtal in Santa Monica is a must-visit for all vinos (even aspiring ones). Equipped with Enomatic machines designed to keep each bottle of wine fresh, Pourtal is able to let their visitors sample far more wines at their own pace, which are priced according to 1 oz. pours.
And what better time to visit than tonight: Pourtal will donate 25% of its wine tasting sales (7 PM – closing) to Haitian relief efforts via the Santa Monica chapter of American Red Cross. What a great way to help out while discovering your new favorite wine.
While you’re there: Pourtal is featuring a “Made in Malibu” Wine Tour and Tasting Series for the month of January, which is available any time during regular business hours. Each wine at the machines is priced per 1 oz. pour so you can sample at your own pace:
2006 Hoyt Family Vineyards Chardonnay
2008 Republic of Malibu Pink Lady RosÃ©
2007 Cielo Malibu Rouge
2001 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release
2005 Semler Syrah
2005 Rosenthal Malibu Newton Canyon Merlot
2004 Rosenthal Surfrider Red
2007 Griffin Family Vineyard Malbec
2007 Malibu Vineyards “Vortex” Sangiovese
2008 Malibu Sanity Pinot Noir, Schetter Malibu Vineyard
Can’t make it tonight? Check out the special hand-poured tastings with the Malibu winemakers – free with the purchase of a $15 Pourtal tasting card:
Jan. 20, 7-9 PM â€“ Special hand-poured tasting with Cielo
Jan. 21, 7-9 PM â€“ Special hand-poured tasting with Rosenthal
Jan. 27, 7-9 PM â€“ Special hand-poured tasting with Hoyt and Malibu Sanity
Jan. 28, 7-9 PM â€“ Special hand-poured tasting with Malibu Vineyards and Griffin Family Vineyards
Oh! And I can’t forget their happy hour. Every Monday through Friday from 4 – 7 PM, $3 appetizers are available to help soak up your wine. From January 1 – 15, 15% of proceeds during happy hour go to Heal the Bay and from January 16 – 30, those proceeds go to the Surfrider Foundation West Los Angeles/Malibu Chapter. What can I say? It’s good to support businesses that incorporate humanitarian efforts in their business model.
So whether it’s tonight (hopefully – for Haitian relief!) or later on, be sure to visit Pourtal and make a night of it. Your wine palate will thank you!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010Â (7 PM – closing): 25% of salesÂ to Haitian relief
Happy Hour: M – F, 4 – 7 PM with 3% appetizers, 15% proceeds to charity
January: “Made in Malibu” Wine Tour, Hand-poured tastings on scheduled dates
104 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Photo credit to Velo Steve on Flickr
Let’s start this countdown to Christmas, shall we? (That is – if you celebrate.) Starting this Saturday,Â the â€œWine Dudeâ€ over at Vertical Bistro in Pasadena,Â David Haskell, will select a different sparkling wine every day (with the exception of Mondays) to be featured in the bar and lounge for just $5 per glass.Â Be sure to use Haskell’s expertise while you’re there – he’ll be on hand to offer pairing suggestions from the barâ€™s new California bistro-inspired small plates selection, including rare and hard-to-find artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.
Also, if you’re not in the mood for bubbly, you can stop in any time at their Tuesday – Thursday happy hour from 5 – 7Â PMÂ and 10 PM – 12 AM, featuring 25 % off the bar menu and select drink specials for $6.
Peep the menu below to see what’s available to enjoy with your sparkling (or unsparkling) wine: