December 28, 2009

Michael Symon's Lolita in Cleveland, OH

Well, for the first time since I started this little blog 'o mine, I let almost two weeks lapse between posting new content. I had intended to do some updates with all the time I had while visiting family in Cleveland, OH during the holidays, but laziness begets laziness and I spent my time eating, drinking, keeping kids from killing each other, and drinking some more. Lots of good food and wine during the week, perhaps I'll get my act together and post more about that later. For now, a review of Lolita in Cleveland, a place I was glad to finally get to visit. My brother-in-law had been a few times and had arranged to get us there a couple days before Christmas.

Lolita is one of several restaurants in the Cleveland area owned by Food Network's Iron Chef Michael Symon. Lolita is tucked away on a quaint street corner in the Tremont neighborhood just outside downtown Cleveland. It's a tiny little place, with an open kitchen beside a wood burning stove and cozy little bar, it has the feel of a causal neighborhood joint. It felt homey the moment I walked in the door.
I didn't take a ton of a pics, but here a few with some commentary.

We started off with a few Hot Dirty Birds. The Dirty Bird was basically a dirty martini with a shot of tabasco, but I needed to represent...
For starters, we opted for a couple orders of Roasted Bone Marrow. Veal bones, split open and roasted with scallion butter, and grilled bread for spreading. The roasted bone marrow was heavenly. Salty and gooey, fully of buttery and meaty goodness. We gobbled them up in a hurry. The 2006 Rosso Piceno Boccadigabbia (50% Montepulciano/50% Sangiovese) was really a nice match here. Decent buy at $30 off the list.

The Big Boy-We also went for an order of the Big Boy-an eclectic mound of meat. Everything here was tasty; especially the house cured duck prosciutto.There was also some nice sopressata and pancetta, and a delicious palate-cleansing pickled fennel.

I won't review every entree that was passed around the table, but they were all strong and executed flawlessly. I had a tasty butterflied and roasted chicken with braised fennel, tarragon, and olives that has renewed my love for fennel. It was tasty. My brother-in-law ordered a killer pork chop with poblanos and almonds over mashed butternut squash.

Each entree comes with the choice of one side. The sides are served in these personal pots that I've seen used before, but now am now interesting in getting for home use once again. They are too cool.

The side dish pictured above is a Symon specialty: Deep Fried Brussel Sprouts. I don't quite know how he does it, but these were insanely good. (I tried it at home, mine were just ok). Imagine brussell sprouts transformed into something akin to salt and vinegar potato chips. The sprouts get crunchy, then doused in capers, anchovies, balsamic, garlic, and other goodies. It's a great dish.

All-in-all, Lolita was a kicking experience. Everything I tasted was excellent and exuded personality and flavor. If I lived in the area, I'd be there. A lot.

December 17, 2009

Top Wines of 2009--My List Goes to Eleven

What is it with the end of year best-of-lists? Why is it that every December we get bombarded with lists of the year's bests: best movies, best sports plays, best wines, etc..? Perhaps it has something to do with our human desire to quanitfy and control things in nice, neat little lists. It's like a recognition of accomplishments, regardless of how insignificant that accomplishment may be.

Never one to shy away from bandwagonning, I've decided to contribute to the madness with a list of my top wines for 2009. It is, kidding aside, a good way to look back on wines drank, remember good times and stories shared, and memories made.

This list respresents wines that I found particularly moving throughout the year. Some are blockbuster wines that I was fortunate to taste, some are wines that I owned that showed well on a given night, perhaps due to the situation in which they were consumed. Many I've already discussed here.

You will find that most end of the year best-of lists go to well-rounded numbers like 10, or 25.
Well, in honor of one of the greatest movies of all time, my list of Top Wines of 2009 goes to Eleven.

The wines are in no particular order, but there are eleven.

1976 Hanzell Pinot Noir Sonoma-A 33 yeard old California pinot that showed brief moments of brilliance. It makes the list simply for proving that well-made Cali pinot, at the hands of masters, can age well.

2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow-I love Joe Davis' wines. There, I said it.

1997 Arcadain Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow--see above.

1997 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Couchereax-I testified here a while back to my heading down the dark road that leads to Burgundy. This is one of the wines this year that turned me in that direction. And, its not even a great one.

2001 Colgin Cariad--As brilliant as California Cabernet can be. If I regularly bought $250 bottles of wine, I'd buy plenty of Colgin. Nice to know people who do. Stunning Cabernet that still has a long life ahead.

1992 LaJota Cabernet 11th Anniversary--Textbook California Cabernet at age seventeen. Exactly how I like Cali Cabs with age: Leather, black fruit, sweet tannins soft in the background.

2001 Edmunds St John Los Robles Viejos-this gets on the list because Steve Edmunds cranks out ridiculously tasty and ageworthy Rhone-style wines that one can get for under $20.

1999 Guigal Hermitage--From my brother's cellar and just drinking beautifully back in July.

2001 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf Du Pape--This wine continues to drink well. Almost perfect with Cassoulet back in October.

1990 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf Du Pape--One of the best modern vintages for Chateaunuef du Pape. A brilliant wine still in a great space. Even at midnight, after multiple bottles, it was clear this is a magnificent wine.

1994 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf Du Pape-- Perhaps the single greatest wine I drank this year. 100% Grenache and 100% killer. A Chateauneuf with Burgundian sensibilites. Haunting perfume, feminine beauty, and pure red fruited joy across the palate. My second bottle in the past couple years that has thrilled and excited me. One bottle left in the cellar that I will be sad to say goodbye to one day.

December 14, 2009

2005 Nicholas Potel Savigny Les Beaune Les Hauts Jarrons

Nicolas Potel is a young négociant in Burgundy. With his father, Gérard Potel, who was manager of a well-known domaine in Volnay, he began a négoce house in July 1996. Upon his father's sudden death in October 1997, Nicolas left the domaine and took over the négoce business full time. Potel's wines have some new world leanings. They are perhaps a good way for a new world pinot lover like me to explore Burgundy. Further, 2005 was a bit of a home run for red Burgs.

This 2005 Les Hautes Jarrons is from a premier cru in Savigny Les Beaune. This wine was young, but showed great promise. Very primary on opening. Lots of darkish fruit, almost syrah like. However, that is really short-lived; as the wine gets some air, it stiffens a bit. Nose becomes pleasantly smoky, with dark cherry notes. With food, the palate slowly reveals tea notes and crunchy red fruit, but it clamps down pretty hard on the back side. Nice, but I will revisit again in a couple of years.

December 10, 2009

Making New Friends--South African Syrah

I was fortunate to be invited to paritcipate in another Tastelive event on Tuesday night. This event featured wines represented by Hospice Du Rhone. HdR is an organization the promotes and represent wine made in the spirit of Rhone varities like Syrah, Mouvedre, and Rousanne. There were six Syrahs in the tasting; three were from Australia and three from South Africa.

The stars of the tasting were the three syrahs from South Africa. For my palate, each of the South African Syrahs presented an intersting mix of old and new world sensibilites. It was an eye-opening experience for me. While I love Rhone wines and have consumed my share of Cali Syrah, I had not previously drank South African Syrah. I liked each a great deal and will post separately on each wine.

The first South African Syrah was the 2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Franschhoek. This wine was full of peppery spice, minerality, and dark fruit. Very young, it seemed ready for another 5 years in the cellar. I was impressed by the elegance of the wine. It was not an overripe, throttled up Syrah; rather, it was complex, earthy, and ready to accompany a good meal. Retails for around $40. More notes to come on the other wines.

December 3, 2009

Tasty China in Pictures! Kicking it Szechuan Style in ATL Burbs

Got together with a rather large group of Atlanta winos and foodies for another Szechuan feast at Tasty China in Marietta, GA. Tasty was put on many of our maps a couple of years ago by Dirty, who was with us in spirit Tuesday night. Tasty is an experience unto itself; it's worth seeking out if you are ever in the area. Several of the usual suspects were there, including Rowdy and Broderick.

The food was as ridiculous as always. Just defies description in a lot of ways. We ate and ate and ate. The fried pork belly is perhaps the star.
There was a crapload of wine bottles open, too. I can't begin to list or describe them all. Mostly off-dry whites work here with the crazy level of spiciness in the food.

Rowdy has a nice little video clip of the evening.

Dry Fry Spicy Eggplant

Bbq Duck with Chilies and Peanuts

    Fried Green Beans, Chili Oil, Garlic

                                                                    Spicy Cold Beef Tongue

Insanely Spicy Shin City Chicken

White Fish and Tofu In Chili Oil