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Salads are a staple in my life. I make them for lunch. I order them when out for lunch or dinner, sometimes to start a meal and sometimes as the main course. What’s not to love about a big bowl of lettuce, vegetables and more. But, most salads are rather unmemorable. They taste good while you are eating it and then you forget all about it. That was until I had the grilled halloumi salad at The Henry in West Hollywood. Not only did I enjoy it while I ate it, I kept thinking about when I would be back for another one. So, I think that makes sense that the Grilled Halloumi Salad at The Henry is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
The bowl is filled with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, pickled peppers, cauliflower, dried olives and crunchy chickpeas. Tahini is smeared against one side of the bowl. The grilled halloumi is cut into bite size pieces and the salad is tossed with an oregano vinaigrette.
The salad satisfies in so many ways. There is nothing overly complicated or sophisticated about the salad. But, it is so full of flavor. It is filling but not heavy. The combination of the pickled peppers, dried olives and crunchy chickpeas add texture. For those who care, the salad is vegetarian and gluten free. And, it costs $15.
The grilled halloumi salad tastes so good that I am craving it as I write this. Guess I will have to head back to The Henry very soon!
120 N Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
There is never an excuse needed to drink bubbles. And, while you might think of Champagne or Prosecco when it comes to bubbles, do not forget about Cava. I am not talking about the cheap brands in the supermarket. I am talking about beautifully made, classic-method Cava from Codorniu, the brand credited with creating Cava, as I wrote about in a recent column in the Napa Valley Register and am sharing here.
Champagne has been thought to be invented by Benedictine monk Dom Perignon in 1693, but sparkling wine was invented in 1531 by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire in Languedoc, France. Sparkling wine was made in Italy for the first time in 1865 by Carlo Gancia. And in 1872, the Codorníu family created cava in Spain. Cava may not be the sparkling wine that comes to mind if you are thinking of opening a bottle of bubbles. But, after tasting the Codorníu cavas, perhaps it should be.
The Codorníu family is the oldest winemaking family in Spain. A family business founded in 1551, Anna de Codorníu was the last person to carry the Codorníu name, as she married vintner Miguel Raventós in 1659. Learning from their French neighbors, they instituted the traditional method to their winemaking and created the first bottles of Spanish sparkling wine in 1872. Naming it after the cellar where the wines were aged, the sparkling wine became known as cava. By 1897, Codorníu was appointed to the Spanish Royal Household as an official supplier of cava and today is the second largest producer of cava in Spain.
Cava is the name of traditional method Spanish sparkling wine that is produced mainly in the Penedès region of Catalonia. However, Codorníu has vineyards in three regions in Spain, each with a distinct terroir, climate, history and soil. Codorníu is the only producer making cava that articulates the highest expression of each landscape.
The Finca La Fideuera vineyard is located in D.O. Penedes in the Catalan region, south of Barcelona. The vineyard is planted at an altitude of 560 feet. The soil consists of gravely limestone and is rich in phosphorus and low in potassium. The grapes are noted for their acid, aging potential and elegance. The grapes grown at Finca la Fideuera are Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada.
The Finca El Tros Nou vineyard is located in D.O. Conca de Barberà, in the north of the province of Tarragona. The calcareous and slate soils are located in a depression where the soil was eroded by the Francolí River. Surrounded by mountains, the area has a Mediterranean microclimate but with continental influence. Some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Spain are grown in this vineyard.
The Finca La Pleta vineyard is in D.O. Costers del Segre located in the province of Lérida. A mixture of mountains and plains, the area has a continental climate. The soils are poor and shallow with llicorella slate, resulting in grapes with aromatic concentration and good acidity. Chardonnay is grown in this vineyard.
The diversity of the three vineyards is reflected in the extensive range of wines produced by Codorníu. On the high end, only 100 cases are made of the “457” Gran Reserva Brut 2008 ($200). A blend of the best plots from each of the three single vineyards, the wine consists of 45 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir and 10 percent Xarel.lo. The Chardonnay from La Pleta reflects the intensity of the site. The Pinot Noir from El Tros Nou contributes minerality and refinement. The Xarel.lo from La Fideura adds acid and elegance. After cold fermentation, the wine ages for 9 months on the lees and is then blended. The resulting wine has aromas of brioche, white flowers, ripe fresh fruit and almond with chalky notes.
Expressing just one of the vineyards, the Finca La Pleta Cava de Paraje Calificado Brut 2009 ($125) is a single variety from a single region. This Chardonnay based sparkling wine with a little age on it shows a little oxidation with sherry notes, as well as notes of green apple, nuts and oyster shells.
Coming from the oldest vineyards, the Jaume Codorníu Gran Reserva Brut 2013 ($90) is a blend of 42.5 percent Chardonnay, 42.5 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent Xarel.lo and spends four months on the lees. It is a richer style cava with aromas of green apple and lemon and a creamy midpalate.
In 2002, Codorníu was the first to make cava from 100 percent Pinot Noir in 2002. The Gran Codorníu 2015 Pinot Noir Brut ($20) is the utmost expression of Pinot Noir from the original planting. The wine is a salmon pink color and as intense notes of strawberry, raspberry and floral notes.
Working with the same source material, vineyard work and terroir, Codorníu has the very affordable Anna de Codorníu line. These wines that are not barrel aged or lees aged but the quality is the same as the higher-end cavas. The Anna de Codorníu line was launched in 1983 and pays tribute to the heiress and last person in the family to bear the Codorníu name. The Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs Reserva Brut NV ($16) is a blend of 70 percent Chardonnay, 15 percent Parellada, 7.5 percent Xarel.lo and 7.5 percent Macabeo. It is a brilliant yellow color and has notes of citrus and tropical fruit. The Anna de Codorníu Rosé Brut NV ($16) is a blend of 70 percent Pinot Noir and 30 percent Chardonnay and has red fruit aromas.
Cava is more than the cheap stuff you may have purchased in the past, and Codorníu is more than cava producers from Catalonia. They are expressing the terroir of Spain through a diversity of cavas.
Maude has been open for five years! That means 51 menus and 530 Dishes and for me that means 43 menus and 450 dishes. For their fifth anniversary, Maude ventured to Chef Curtis Stone’s homeland with a menu centered around Western Australia. Of course, I did not miss this menu as I have not missed a Maude menu since year one!
Heading to Western Australia covers a large area. Western Australia covers an entire third of the continent and encompasses the Outback, beaches in the south and of course wine country. There are nine wine regions in Western Australia, including Margaret River, Great Southern and Perth.
Per usual, my dining companions pulled wines out of their cellars to share at dinner. But, the wines they brought, while Australian, were not from Western Australia, but rather the well-known regions of Barossa Valley and other areas of Southern Australia. Of course, we enjoyed these during dinner, but we also ordered some gorgeous white wines from Western Australia.
But, before we got into the wine, we started with a glass of Moon Bog Old Mate Pale Ale and house-made chips. Beer and chips definitely let us know that we were heading to Australia.
We then enjoyed the Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2010 Riesling, Margaret River, a gorgeous Riesling with mineral and petrol notes.
The cuisine of Western Australia is not about specific dishes or traditional recipes but rather about local ingredients, as well as influences from other cultures. Our first bite was tasty Spiny Lobster with lime, coconut and a touch of heat, served in a bowl made from recycled ocean refuse.
The Riesling also paired beautifully with the Hiramasa (King fish) served with apple, nasturtium and kombucha.
For the next courses, we enjoyed the Cloudburst Chardonnay from Margaret River.
The Tartare with cornichon, puffed rice and yolk was some of the most tender meat I have ever had. I liked the crunchy texture that the puffed rice added but it was important not to get too many pieces of rice in one bite or it would overpower the delicate meat.
The Potted Rabbit was a small dish of rabbit and a side of a Riesling jelly served with hot flatbread, similar to naan, fresh out of the oven.
For our next courses, we enjoyed the red wines that my companions brought and there were some real treats! We enjoyed Tyrell’s Wines 2001 Pinot Noir form Hunter Valley, Torbreck 2004 RunRig from Barossa Valley, Henschke 2002 Mount Edelstine Shiraz from Eden Valley, and Penfolds Grange 1998 South Australia Shiraz.
Homelessness is a major issue in the United States and especially in Los Angeles County where there are more than 53,195 homeless people. Luckily, there are a number of wonderful organizations that are working to eliminate homelessness and one of them is Union Station Homeless Services, a 501(c)3 organization. To raise money for Union Station Homeless Services, they host a very fun event called Masters of Taste and that is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
I have been involved in charity events where I have heard first hand about people’s stories. Homelessness can really happen to anyone of us. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and it only takes missing a paycheck or two and having no support network locally.
At Union Station Homeless Services, their mission is to help individuals and families rebuild their lives and end homelessness. The organization was founded in 1973 and today they help individuals and families “identify the causes that led to their homelessness, and provide the tools and resources they need to end their cycle of homelessness and lead productive and stable lives.”
Masters of Taste is a food and beverage event that raises money for Union Station Homeless Services. This year will be the fourth year of the event, which has raised more than $1.5 million to date! And, we can all help them raise more by attending the event on Sunday, April 7th from 4:00pm-7:00pm.
Masters of Taste takes place on the field of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena! Chefs, wineries, breweries and spirit brands are stationed around the field and guests wander across the yard lines, eating and drinking for a great cause!
Usually the Please The Palate pick of the week is something that was already experienced and that is no exception this week. That is because I had the privilege to attend a media preview where we got to go inside the locker room at the Rose Bowl (as it was raining outside).
And now I can share this wonderful event for you to still attend! Tickets are $105 and 100% of the event proceeds benefit Union Station Homeless Services, a 501(c)(3) organization. It is time to end homelessness in our community and we can be a part of the solution! So, buy your tickets today and eat and drink for a good cause. If you attend Masters of Taste, you will understand why it is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
To see how fun the event is, check out my post from when I attended the event in 2017.
Studying wine is no task, especially when it comes to studying and really knowing Italian wine! I took a deep dive into Italian wine with Vinitaly International Academy and spent a full week learning about the history, grapes, wines and more. I have studied wine and specifically studied Italian wine in the past but this course proved so much more. To really master Italian wine, it is a life’s worth of study, not just a week of classes. But, taking this course was interesting, educational, inspiring and has me thinking about trying the course again if time permits. Want to know more about studying Italian wine and Vinitaly International, check out the story below that I wrote in the Napa Valley Register.
Studying wine is a lofty task. For the wine professional, or for the passionate wine enthusiast, there are the most well-known certifications through The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and The Court of Master Sommeliers.
There are also the Society of Wine Educators certifications. Each of these programs provide an in-depth study of wine from around the world. And, while Italian wine is a part of each of these programs, the reality is that none of them take a deep dive into the world of Italian wine. And, that is a world unto itself.
Italy is a country made up of 20 regions and 110 provinces. When it comes to wine in Italy, it is about regionality. Each region, even each province, produces wine. Biodiversity is Italy’s greatest asset and one of its biggest challenges.
Most wine courses focus on a handful of key wine varieties, which is fine for other countries. When we talk about winemaking in the United States, 90 percent of the wine comes from nine grape varieties. When we talk about winemaking in France, 90 percent of the wine is produced from 15 grape varieties. But, when we talk about winemaking in Italy, 90 percent of the wine is from 30 different grape varieties. And that is just the beginning.
In 2012, Jancis Robinson published “Wine Grapes,” which was a comprehensive list of all 1,368 vine varieties that were currently making wine in commercial circulation. As of May 2018, in Italy there are 517 varieties listed in the national registry of grape varieties. This means that 28 percent to 35 percent of the world’s grapes are Italian and 15 of the top 20 most planted grapes are native to Italy, with Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Glera (Prosecco) and Pinot Gris at the top of the list before Merlot!
To delve into Italian wine to its fullest, Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) was created in 2014 with the goal to be the gold standard of Italian wine education. In 2015, the VIA Wine Certificate Course was launched. This course is a five-day intensive training that covered every region of Italy, the history, the soils, the grapes, the wines and even touches upon the food of each region. And, this past week, I attended this intensive training, taught by Sarah Heller MW and Henry Davar.
Based in Hong Kong, Sarah Heller is a graduate of Yale University, a Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits and, as of 2017, a Master of Wine. In 2014, Sarah took the Vinitaly International Academy course and earned her title of Certified Italian Wine Ambassador.
Henry Davar is based in Las Vegas where he works for Breakthru Beverage. Previously, Henry worked for Del Posto in New York and Las Vegas and holds certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. In April 2017, Henry took the Vinitaly International Academy course and passed at the highest level, earning him the title of Italian Wine Expert.
Together, their knowledge, passion and ability to communicate the information made for an exceptionally informative week.
The most recent VIA Wine Certificate Course took place at The Line Hotel in Los Angeles. On Day 1, we started with the grape Nebbiolo and then covered the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria and Val d’Aosta.
On Day 2, we started with the sparkling wines of Italy (Prosecco, Moscato, Franciacorta, Otrepo Pavese, Trento DOC, and Alta Langhe) and then covered the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto.
On Day 3, we started with the grape Sangiovese and then covered the regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo and Molise.
On Day 4, we covered Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Sardenga. That was 20 regions covered, in depth, in only four days!
Committing a full week of one’s life to the course is a challenge and this program took up almost every minute of the week. The five-day training started at 8:30 a.m. every day. After we covered the grapes and the regions, we would taste wines and finish by 6 p.m.
As part of the program, we had to also break up into groups of four and create a video. The topic was to argue the merits of sub-zoning in Brunello while considering the history, soil differences, climate difference and topography.
And, then there was finding time to study. In addition to our notes, our other resources were Italian wine unplugged grape by grape by Stevie Kim and Native Wine Grapes of Italy by Ian D’Agata.
The exam took place on Day 5 and comprised a blind tasting of two wines, two short-answer essays and 100 multiple-choice answers.
Passing the exam is not easy. To date, VIA has trained 170 wine ambassadors, of which 13 have also gained the highest level of certification, the Italian Wine Expert title. Of our group of 27, only seven people passed, and I was not one of the seven.
Regardless, it was a wonderful, albeit exhausting, education and experience. Our group was made up of people from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, England, Italy and China. We are now part of a larger community, and I am inspired to continue studying Italian wine and attempting to take the exam again in the future.
I traveled across the country from Los Angeles to New York, only to end up at a restaurant inspired by California cuisine! What does that mean? It means seasonal produce, lots of vegetables and fruits and lean meats and seafood. And that is what Upland NYC is serving in the center of Manhattan.
Upland NYC is built around a California-inspired philosophy that takes heavy cues from the seasons. Chef Justin Smillie was born in rural California and raised in rural New Jersey. His menu honors his background while also showcasing the culinary influences of Tuscany and other places.
Upland NYC is a warm and modern open space with large jars of pickling vegetables that line the walls, as well as wine bottles. The kitchen is open but set back a bit from the dining room. As a diner, you can see the kitchen but it is not dominating the space.
Shortly after we sat down, we were served a fresh loaf of bread, topped with salt, and a pat of creamy butter, topped with herbs. I am definitely a sucker for good bread and butter.
My friend and I decided on a bottle of wine to enjoy throughout dinner and picked the Domaine J Chamonard 2016 Morgon as Beaujolais, with its fruit and earth notes and light body, is a wine that can pair with many foods.
The Whole Crispy Mushroom is a large handful of hen of the wood mushrooms that were crispy but not battered, sitting on a creamy cloumage cheese and herbs.
I really enjoyed this play on Beef Tartare with black trumpet mushroom, puffed farro, anchovy and egg yolk. An earthy dish, the puffed farro added texture to the beef tartare.
The Upland Cioppino is a spicy gochujang broth and filled with clams, red shrimp, mussels, white fish and jumbo lump crab.
The Spaghetti con vongole is made with littleneck clams and spicy chickpeas and topped with breadcrumbs which add another level of texture.
The Salmon was perfectly cooked and tender with crispy skin and served with pickled artichokes, crispy bread, parsley and creme fraiche.
And we ordered a side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts with wafu dressing, made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and vegetable oil, and black sesame.
It’s nice to see California cuisine getting love on the East Coast and Upland NYC is serving up flavorful, seasonal dishes.
For 19 years, World of Pinot Noir has been bringing together Pinot Noir producers and Pinot Noir lovers! Taking place at the Ritz Carlton Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, I attended for my fifth consecutive year and attended seminars, tasted delicious wines, saw lots of familiar friendly faces and met new winemakers. A fun weekend festival, World of Pinot Noir is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
More than 200 Pinot Noir producers from around the world participated in World of Pinot Noir 2019. There were producers from all of the California Pinot regions – Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo County, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey and Napa. There were producers from Oregon. And there were producers from France, Chile, New Zealand and Spain. So, if you like Pinot Noir, this is definitely the event for you!
I had the privilege to attend two incredible seminars. In one seminar, entitled Discovering New World Pinot Noir, we explored four distinct regions around the world, outside of Burgundy, France, that are making Pinot Noir. Moderated by Elaine Chukan Brown, we enjoyed wines from Day Wines in Willamette Valley, Oregon, Native9 wines from Santa Maria Valley, Loveblock Farms wines from Central Otago, New Zealand and Ritual Wines from Casablanca, Chile. Each of these producers has found a home in their regions where they are able to express this place through their wines.
The second seminar I attended was entitled Tasting the Signature Styles of Burgundy and featured the wines from Premier Cru vineyards, as well as regional wines, from Burgundy. Master Sommelier David Glancy of the San Francisco Wine School walked us through a history of the Burgundy region, while Vincent Avenel of Domaine Chanson and Bernard Betornaz of Maison Louis Latour share insight into the region and their specific wines.
Each afternoon was the Grand Tasting featuring more than 100 wineries each day. This was the time to see friends and try to taste as much wine as possible.
I also attended the Stars of the Central Coast dinner.
Journalist Matt Kettmann welcomed Richard Sanford (Alma Rosa Winery), Ryan Beauregard (Beauregard Vineyards), Bibiana Gonzalez Rave (Cattleya Wines), Gianni Abate (Chalone Vineyard), Tyler Russell (Cordant Winery), Rick Longoria (Longoria Wines), Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni Vineyards), Scott Shapley (ROAR Wines), Matt Brady (SAMsARA Wine Co), David Coventry (Talbott Vineyards), Matt Dees (The Hilt Wines), and Nathan Kandler (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards). The dinner started with a winemaker at each table where we enjoyed three wines from that winery and then it was a free-for-all as everyone wandered around the room trying each other’s wines.
The highlight of the night was tasting the 1981 Sanford & Bennedict Pinot Noir with Richard Sanford. This 38 year old wine was showing its age but was still alive with acidity. It just shows the quality of wine produced in Santa Barbara County.
World of Pinot Noir is an event I look forward to each year and without a doubt is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Roberto Stucchi of Badia a Coltibuono. Located in Chianti Classico, in Tuscany, Badia a Coltibuono is a marker of great Chianti Classico. And, if you might be thinking that Chianti Classico is a “traditional” style of Chianti, then read the story I wrote in the Napa Valley Register, which you can read here.
For many people, their first memory of Chianti wine is a bottle in a straw basket that you would put a candle in as soon as you finished drinking the wine. While the baskets have long since disappeared, many people think of Chianti as a grape, not as a region. And Chianti Classico is thought of as a classic style of Chianti. This leads to a lot of misunderstanding about the region.
Chianti Classico is in fact the oldest and most genuine area in the Chianti region in central Tuscany. Chianti Classico has had its own Consorzio since 1924 and became an established subzone of the Chianti DOC in 1967. In 1984, Chianti Classico was promoted from DOC to DOCG status and in 1996, the region became a separate DOCG from Chianti.
It is a rather large area that stretches between Florence and Siena and includes 14 municipalities. Chianti Classico wines consist of a minimum of 80 percent Sangiovese and the remainder can be from native grapes Canaiolo or Colorino or from international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Chianti Classico is often thought of as a more traditional, rather dull wine. But due to the range of characters that Sangiovese provides, as well as a diverse soil and microclimate, Chianti Classic is a rather friendly, drinkable wine. And, one of the wineries that stands out and validates the beauty of Chianti Classico is Badia a Coltibuono.
Located in Gaiole, one of the 14 municipalities in Chianti Classico, Badia a Coltibuono, or the “abbey of good culture,” was established in 1051 by San Giovanni Gualberto, founder of the Vallombrosan order and patron saint of the foresters, rangers and parks. The monastery was active until Napoleon annexed it in 1810. The abbey was purchased by the Stucchi Prinetti family in 1846. By the 1950s, the property was a classic estate, selling wine to the local market and selling in bulk. Then, in the late 1950s, Piero Stucchi Prinetti took charge and began bottling the best vintages of the estate Chianti Classico Riserva and selling them on the domestic and international markets.
Today, Piero’s son, Roberto Stucchi, and his siblings, Emanuela and Paolo, are the owners and managers of the property, which includes an agriturismo and restaurant in the converted monastery. Roberto studied agriculture and worked as a winemaker in Italy before moving to California to study at UC Davis. After graduation, he spent some time in Napa but returned to the family property in 1985.
As soon as he returned to Badia a Coltibuono, Roberto started the process of converting to organic farming. He cut out the use of herbicides and pesticides, and the vineyard was certified organic in 2000. Contrary to his Davis training, Roberto also shifted to using only indigenous yeasts. He has found that due to Sangiovese’s sensitivity, it responds better to natural yeasts.
According to Roberto, the grape Sangiovese does not have a strong or overwhelming varietal character. It produces a wine that is not about big color but rather about nuances. Sitting down for a tasting with Roberto, I was able to taste the beauty of the nuance of Chianti Classico Sangiovese and understand the impact vintage has on the final wine.
— Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2016 – Made from organic grapes, the wine, which spends one year in cask, is 90 percent Sangiovese with 10 percent Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo and Colorino. 2016 was a hot year but it hailed just before bud break. The resulting wine has notes of blackberry, cranberry and bramble and is easy drinking with balanced tannins and acid.
— Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2015 – The same grape blend as the 2016, the 2015 Riserva spends two years in cask and is made for longer aging. 2015 was a warm but easy vintage, with large healthy crops. The wine has a brighter nose than the 2016, with aromas of bramble, wild red fruit, herbs and spices. It is a well-balanced wine that is quite expressive.
— Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 – The 2008 vintage was a variable year. It was not as hot as 2015 but not an easy year. The 2008 wine was grumpy wine when it was young and has mellowed with age. On the nose, brown spices, dried cherry and vanilla can be found and on the palate the wine has intense acidity with drying tannins on mid-palate.
— Badia a Coltibuono Cultus Boni Chianti Classico Riserva 2013– Cultus Boni is the Latin name for the winery. Made with 80 percent Sangiovese, the additional 20 percent consists of indigenous varieties Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Canaiolo, Mammolo, Foglia Tonda, Malvasia Nera, Sanforte and Pugnitello. Aged for two years in oak, the wine has aromas of sweet brown spices, dried flowers, forest floor, chocolate and cranberry with soft drying tannins and a velvety finish.
— Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto IGT (Super Tuscan) 2013 – Originally produced in 1980 as a “statement” about Sangiovese and Super Tuscans, this Super Tuscan is 100 percent Sangiovese from vines that are 25-30 years old. An intense wine that is a dark ruby color and has a nose of violets, red fruit, spices and vanilla. On the palate it is a savory wine with good acidity and supple tannins.
After tasting the wines and experiencing the nuanced quality of Sangiovese, it is understandable why Badia a Coltibuono, is a marker of quality in Chianti Classico.
Driving along Vermont Boulevard in Los Feliz, Atrium is not visible from the street. But if you found the Skylight Theater, you are there. Atrium is adjacent to the theater and to enter, you have to walk down a brick alley-way that can double for cozy outside seating (when the weather is warm).
Inside, Atrium is a stunning warehouse with a cool, youthful, sustainable vibe. Exposed brick walls surround the large space and the bow-truss ceiling opens the space even more. Tables and booths are scattered around the room and no matter where you sit, you will have a view of the large bar that lies in the center with an open kitchen behind it. Live trees and plants fill the space, adding a vibrant freshness to the already clean, modern restaurant.
Chef Hunter Pritchett has created a menu that is an eclectic mix of seasonal ingredients and LA flavors inspired by a mix of ethnic cuisines, ranging form Israeli and Middle Eastern to Mexican to Asian flavors.
We started with a bottle of Ca’ Di Rajo Prosecco, Valdobbiadene, Italy.
And then ordered a bottle of Johan 2017 Farmlands Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon to pair with the rest of the meal.
Hamachi Crudo with passion fruit nuoc cham, chiles, onion, viet herbs is a balanced dish of heat and acidity.
The Grilled Focaccia has a crispy crust with honeyed and nutty flavors. Served with kimchi butter topped with a drizzle of buckwheat honey, it is easy to forget this is butter and to use it more like a dip.
Crispy BBQ Dusted Fingerling Potatoeswith french onion dip are definitely crispy and the French onion dip tempers the tang of the BBQ dust.
Crispy Oyster Mushrooms with eel sauce glaze, smashed cucumbers, sesame and cilantro are quite addictive! The sweetness of the eel sauce and the spice of the chilies stood up to the tempura battered mushrooms.
Beef Carpaccio Carne Asada with salsa macha, avocado crema, crispy potatoes is a play on a classic dish. Even though the carpaccio is buried under the crunchy potato strings, the flavors stood out.
Honey Roasted Beets with straciatella, pistachio, umeboshi vinaigrette, dandelion greens is a dish for all beet lovers. The beets are sweet and balanced beautifully with the tartness of the pickled plum vinaigrette and creamy straciatella cheese.
The Octopus Al Pastor Tostada is served on a crisp tostada and topped with salsa taquero, charred pineapple and shredded cabbage and each bite was meaty with a little spice and a crunch from the tostada.
Maude opened in February 2014 and I have been a local fan ever since. For the first four years, I would eagerly anticipate the new tasting menu that would feature a single ingredient as the inspiration. Every meal, I would marvel how they came up with the selected dishes, especially with such limited time. When Maude shifted to the great wine regions of the world, the team began visiting the regions for inspiration but then they would come home and create a menu based on their interpretations of their experiences. Again, I found myself in awe of the preparations and presentations, curious about the creative process. Well, this week Maude offered an “off-menu” meal, a sort of sneak peek into the next yet-announced wine region. This is the very first time that they offered this backstage pass and lifting the veil on their process. Getting an exclusive look at dishes and pairings as they are created in real time was a true highlight and that is why the Off-Menu Meal at Maude is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
From Rioja to Burgundy to Central Coast to Piedmont to Australia, Maude has traveled the world. And following on the heals of Australia, Sonoma is the next menu. Highlighting fresh seasonal ingredients combined with experiences from their travels, such as visiting biodynamic wine producers and fishing in the river, the tentative Sonoma menu was quite delicious.
The meal started with some tea-based Biodynamic Preparations, inspired by the tea preparations that winemakers do when they are certified biodynamic.
Milk (peas, mustard, sunflower seeds)
White Asparagus (citrus, nasturtium flower, smoked yogurt)