K&L Wine Merchants will soon be opening a retail store in Los Angeles. This marks K&L’s first foray into the Southland. As K&L’s emissary down here, I will be posting a weekly blog on the food of Los Angeles and Orange County, along with recommendations on a few of my current favorite wines. October 19, 2005 Long Beach… home to Snoop Dogg, Boeing’s corporate headquarters and what may be the most abysmal food scene of any major city in the western reaches of the U.S. Many consider this port town to be a mere suburb of the sprawl that is Los Angeles, but Long Beach is actually the fifth largest city in California. As befits a major American metropolis there are many dining establishments here, some of them pricey too. And most should be very very ashamed of themselves. In an effort to keep this, my first K&L post, on a somewhat positive note, I will let you in on the best food in Long Beach. It is not that spendy Italian place downtown (although it’s good, and will get its own review in time), or that newish fusian eatery in Long Beach’s toniest strip mall (I kid you not). The best food in Long Beach is not served at a restaurant per se. There is no wine list, for one. No servers, and only about eight tables, if you count the three or four outside on the sidewalk. Hole Mole is the name, and it is a taqueria unlike any in San Francisco. Pay no attention to the “Mole” on all of the brightly colored signage. There is no mole offered on the menu, which is fine by me. The focus here is piscine, though many basics in the turf category can also be procured. By all means order one of them if you are allergic to fish. The chicken tacos and burritos, as well as the carne asada are all serviceable versions of their type. They are good. Sometimes really good. But in comparison to the fish and shrimp burritos they are nothing at all. And compared to the fish tacos, well nothing at Hole Mole, and nothing edible in all of Long Beach can compare to those. I am almost rendered speechless by the beauty of these fish tacos. Almost. I will write a poem, since prose is too limited, too structured for such sensory perfection. Taco taco. Fry of fish (fried fish!). Here, gilded by green cabbage, pungent salsa, tangiest of sour cream-based sauces. Soft and gummy doubled corn tortilla. Crisp, salty fish. Are you tilapia? I do not know. And then the cabbage, crunchy delight. I can eat four fish tacos. They are not big, but they sneak up on you. This might be due to the fry grease or the fat of the creamy sauce. They are not healthy, though they do contain fish. And cabbage! Rather than eat them in the exceedingly cramped though cheerful establishment or outside on the depressing street (most in Long Beach fall under this category), take your tacos home (count them first, they sometimes short change you, though I am sure this is not purposeful…see how positive I am??). Eat them in front of the TV (living in Long Beach will turn you into a TV junkie), and wash them down with rosé or a crisp, totally unoaked and very straight-forward French or Spanish white. Minerals are good, but you don’t need them here, not with these tacos. A few suggestions currently on offer at K&L are the classic 2004 Viña Sila Naia Rueda ($10.99) or the 2004 Vincent Raimbault Vouvray Sec ($13.99) in the white category, and the 2004 Bodegas Aldeanueva Cortijo Iii Rosé ($8.99) and the very juicy 2004 Saint Chinian Domaine Rimbert Rosé ($9.99) for pinks. If you ever find yourself in Long Beach you should definitely check out the fish tacos at Hole Mole. It may even be worth the detour off the 405 if you find yourself en route from L.A. to Orange County. Hole Mole 421 Obispo Ave. Long Beach, CA 90814 (562) 439-2555 1 Fish Taco $1.45 Got foodie tips on the scene down here? Please post your comments! —Elisabeth Schriber
2004 Palladino Gavi del Commune di Gavi ($17.99) Okay, the grape is cortese, and this wine is from Serralunga D’Alba. One of this producer’s most popular wines. Low temperature fermentation in stainless steel and then aged for 18 months in Slovenian oak. Beautifully balanced you will find peaches, pear and minerality and a chalky finish. Will work as an aperitif or with light fish dishes and fresh cheeses. 2002 Savese Picchieri “Le Petrose” Primitivo del Taranto IGT ($15.99) Primitivo and zinfandel share the same DNA, as one Puglian put it, “They are like twins separated at birth.” This wine’s bouquet has plum and currant and the palate brings plum jam, blackberries and raspberries notes with under tones of hay and oriental spice. This full-bodied wine will show best with red meats, game and stews. Poggiarellino is one of those small boutique wineries in the town of Montalcino. Small production, HUGH values. 2003 Poggiarellino Rosso di Montalcino ($13.99) Baby Brunello at its best! This rosso is aromatic, balanced with the terroir of Montalcino. Bright fruit jumps out on the palate, raspberries and black cherries rounded off with touches of leather, spice and a cherry stone bitterness on the finish. Try with aged Pecorino or a Tri-tip steak. Yum! 2000 Poggiarellino Brunello di Montalcino ($29.99) Yes, that’s right, $29.99 for a Brunello! Needs a couple of hours of decanting, and this baby is good to go. On this full-bodied wine you will find plum, chocolate and cherries dancing with smooth and silky tannins. This Brunello will age well for another four to five years, but no need to wait. Prefect accompaniment to hearty pork dishes or the classic accompaniment: wild boar! Salute! —Mike Parres
I have been looking for a Prosecco producer that we could import directly for a few years. Last April in Italy I met with the very young bother-and-sister team of Silvano and Alberta Follador. We didn’t even taste their wines when we first met. They just wanted to meet me before we even thought about the wine. We liked each other immediately. In today’s world of fast-paced business it was very refreshing to see that producers were more interested in who was going to take care of their wines rather than how much we were going to buy. I walked away hoping that they made wine that was at the very least good. A month later we tasted the samples and YOWSA! We were stunned by the quality; I have never tasted better Prosecco than these. Dumfounded by the quality, humbly I asked for the price list knowing the quality and the stunning package would demand some outrageous price. The prices matched their personalities, however, humble and honest. Prosecco, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, is a grape, just like chardonnay or cabernet. As a grape, it can be made into sparkling, semi-sparkling, still or sweet wine. The towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano are the center of the DOC production and lay about an hour to the northwest of Venice. In the Silvano Follador Prosecco Valdobbiadene Brut ($10.99), the first thing you notice is the incredibly perfumed nose. Beautifully balanced and delicate, it is followed by refined fruits with hints of yeasty complexity without being ponderous. This sparkling wine is a perfect aperitivo—long, pure and refreshing. It makes you want to drink glass after glass. The Silvano Follador Prosecco Valdobbiadene Extra Dry ($10.99) has a slightly higher dosage, and that gives this wine a slight more heft on the palate. Prosecco is generally made at the Extra Dry level, where its creamier feel gives more body to the generally slightly lower alcohol levels of 11.5%. It is truly an exceptionally versatile food wine! The Silvano Follador Prosecco Valdobbiadene “Superiore di Cartizze” ($17.99) comes from the most famous “vineyard zone” in the region, a 266-acre slope framed by the villages of San Pietro Barbozza, Saccol and Santo Stefano (from where the Folladors hail). Cartizze traditionally has a higher dosage than the rest of the wines, but its increased power carries it off well. More complexity, broader on the palate, richer flavors, this is certainly a marvelous match for spicy cuisine. Although we weren’t originally given any samples of the Silvano Follador Prosecco Valdobbiadene “Sui Lieviti” Frizzante ($10.99), when I saw it in their catalog I had to ask about it. Silvano said, “Oh that’s just what we drink locally here.” I said that’s what I’d like to drink here! It is Prosecco fermented in the bottle and not disgorged, so there are still some dead yeast cells in the wine that make it a little cloudy. If you are a beer drinker, it is sort of like a Hefe-Weizen Prosecco! Enjoy! —Greg St.Clair
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