The first thing I should do is apologize for writing up the 2002 Phelps Insignia last month. I did not know the Wine Spectator was going to give it wine of the year. And boom, we had no wine to sell. The way Pinot Noir is selling lately I might have the same problem this month. I will try to buy enough to last us till the end of January, but who knows these days. The 2002 Willakenzie Pierre Leon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($31.99) is one of the staff’s favorite Pinots in the store. Pierre Lion is a selection of different estate grown Pinot Noir clones, including several Dijon clones. The ’02 Pierre Leon is balanced, fresh and lively in the mouth. The fruit is integrated and juicy. This wine is delicious now and will be excellent to enjoy over the next five years. 91 points from the Wine Spectator doesn’t hurt either. Probably one of the best values in the store, in any category, is the 2000 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir ($14.99). Originally planted in 1969 by David Bruce, the vineyard is entirely Estate owned and operated. For those of you who are looking for a Pinot Noir that is delicate and fresh, this is your wine. It is filled with bright, ripe cherry flavors, and hints of spice and strawberries that linger on the finish. This is a classic example of a wine that is not over-manipulated or extracted. Enjoy it over the next few years. Perfect with your delicate dishes such as salmon or chicken! The last wine I will write up this month is the 2003 Domaine Serene “Yamhill Cuvée” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($29.99). This is the wine I am worried about. The wholesaler is almost out, but I just had to write it up. 2003 in Oregon was a year of record heat. This warm weather can be tasted in most of the 2003s. The 2003 Yamhill Cuvée is loaded with ripe and spicy aromas of dark cherry plum, candied strawberry, sandalwood, beetroot, cola, anise, candle wax and allspice. The Yamhill is a blend of different estate vineyards. This is a wine to enjoy over the next 5 years! —Trey Beffa
There are three Boa restaurants (one in West Hollywood, one in Santa Monica and one in Vegas). Yes, it is a ‘chain’ establishment, but it has about as much in common with Sizzler as a Secretary of State, say, shares with an octopus. To begin with, the restaurants are all quite beautiful. The one in West Hollywood, where we ate on a recent blustery Friday, was clubby and dark with a see-through floor floating above a feng shui assortment of river rocks, and caramel-colored wood paneling on the walls set on a horizontal meant to temper the voices of the diners. And then there are the diners themselves. They are damn hot. Just about all of them. So beautiful are the people eating at Boa, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine a franchise of the place opening in Akron with much success. But here the concept works, well, beautifully. It’s easy to think, as you’re being led through the tightly packed entrance to your table by a host with the most alarming blue Curacao-colored eyes, and around a maze of little tables around which sit an enviable assortment of anorexics and the men who love them, that the food will be anything but good. But good, it certainly is! We were positioned in a corner space in a sort of alcove off the main dining area. My chair in particular was sandwiched between a thick pipe running from floor to ceiling, and the back wall. This preposterous seat had nothing to do with my own beauty, or lackthereof, and this is the story I’m sticking to. All in all, I wouldn’t have minded the table had it not been for a group of hyenas sitting at a six top right behind us, whose ‘voices’ catapulted around the little alcove with enough force to keep us from even attempting conversation. This turned out to be just fine, as our mouths were pretty much full the entire three hours of our dinner with some delicious, unfussy food. The food theme is old fashioned steak house, and the menu includes riffs on Surf and Turf (with an ominous MKT notation where the undoubtedly high dollar amount would appear) and other old-school standbys like Oysters Rockefeller ($14) and The Wedge ($10), an iceberg lettuce wedge under a creamy blue cheese dressing. If the menu makes you nostalgic for the steakhouses of your youth, the prices will zap you squarely back to the present. This place ain’t cheap. Consider, for example, the Dungeness Crab Cake ($15), served with a confit of tomatoes and an herb-flecked aioli. It was full of crab meat, yes, but it was also just one lonely crab cake on a plate. And a pricy crab cake, too. If you started with this and then went on to the Whole Maine Lobster (MKT), as one of my audacious companions did, your dinner could easily reach $75, without wine or dessert. Needless to say, she paid her own tab! Not that it would have made much of a difference if we split the bill evenly, as the appetizers range in price from the soulful and warming Caramelized Onion Soup ($8) to the staid but nicely prepared Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($18), and most of the main courses hover well above $30. The Truffle “Nachos” ($13) were an amusing, decadent take on the white trash standby, but were dolefully absent of truffle flavor. The best starter at the table was definitely the Goat Cheese “Beignet” ($12), a fried breaded hunk of cheese accompanied by a smattering of sautéed eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. It was wonderful with the Verdad Santa Ynez Albariño we ordered (a rounder, richer version than what hails from Galicia). The aforementioned Wedge salad proved that iceberg lettuce can hold its own against mesclun any old day. Even better was the BLT ($12), an addictive breadless combination of bacon, lettuce and tomato doused with an avocado-rich dressing. Entrees are divided between Surf and Turf types, with a much better selection in the cud-chewing category. The well-seasoned Petite Filet Mignon ($32) is the MINI Cooper of steaks, so tiny it would not satisfy someone with a bad case of body dysmorphia. A better choice, even for a light eater might be the “40 Day Dry Aged” New York Strip ($39), not Fred Flintstone in proportion but ample enough and delicious. No one had the nerve or the expense account to order the Kobe Steak of the Day (MKT), but the Free Range Veal Chop ($37) was unanimously decreed the best of the beefs. All meats were on the undersized side, and all were ala carte, making none of then particularly wallet-friendly. They may, however, be ordered with an accompanying sauce or rub (béarnaise, chimichurri, peppercorn, herbed butter, etc), but this will tack on a ridiculous and slightly offensive $1 charge. I know restaurants are a business, but come on. Aside from the overcooked not to mention overpriced lobster, we also ordered the Fish of the Day, which was halibut. For some reason it came with a sauce and no additional charge. It was also the only main course to include a side dish, in this case roasted vegetables, which were—like the big hunk of flaky fish—very very tasty and not too delicate to keep up with our red wine choice, a spicy and high-toned Austrian Blaufankisch. Because we did not have an eating disorder, well not one that results in eating abnormally little, we went whole hog for the side dishes (all $8) and were glad we did! The Creamed Spinach was rich, buttery and thick. The Sautéed Seasonal Mushrooms were the regular old brown kind, but still flavorful with garlic notes and deep woodsy-ness. The Mac-N-Cheese suffered from its Lilliputian dimensions but made up for it in rich cheesy wonder. There was almost more cheese than pasta, which seems just about right. By the time dessert came the table of hyenas had departed. No matter, we were silenced anew by the wonder set before us. It was a cubist rendering of the S’More with a thick spice-covered graham cracker leveraged on a brownie-like hunk of (flourless?) chocolate something and flanked with artisan marshmallows redolent of vanilla. It was rich and complex to the extreme, and so good we were tempted to see what other riches the pastry chef could come up with. Alas, we were finally full, not to mention tapped out! Leaving the still-crowded and still beautiful dining room at 11 o’clock it occurred to us that Boa Steakhouse is the ideal place to bring a hot new date. For starters, you’ll impress them with your munificence. Plus, you’ll leave after a full meal still feeling sexy and lithe enough to hit one of the clubs down the street or, better yet, a hotel room. Got foodie tips on the scene down here? Please post your comments! --Elisabeth Schriber Boa Steakhouse 8462 W. Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069 323.650.8383
If you live in Southern California and have children, or a significant other enjoying a second childhood, you will be forced to go to Disneyland. And if your children or your sig other wear the pants in your family, you will be going there again and again, as I have this past fall. When you find yourself the unhappy owner of an annual pass to the Home of the Rat, it will hit you all at once, the horrible truth: multiple, perhaps even weekly meals at Disneyland. Stale churros, lemonade tasting like a public restroom smells, cookies made of vegetable oil costing four dollars apiece, these are some of the gustatory delights offered at Disneyland, the Most Unsavory Place on Earth. And if that wasn’t enough of a deterrent, there’s the total absence of alcoholic salve. No hard stuff is poured at Disneyland (though at the time of writing this I have begun lobbying the folks at Disney to break ground on the Land of Imbibers, best located behind Tom Sawyer’s Island, across the river Styx). A number of fenced off smoking enclosures aside, it’s clear Walt Disney was never big on sin. Not very smart of ‘ol Walt, if you consider how much he might have charged for a beer! Given the want of booze, the idea of a meal at the destination restaurant in the park is less than appealing. Why wait 40 minutes on hold for a Disney reservationista, or pay through the nose for a bowl of mediocre jambalaya, which you will have to eat while watching obese people float by on their journey through Pirates of the Caribbean, when you can’t even glug a glass of the good stuff to wash it all down? And so, even the food snob that I am, I do not recommend eating at the ‘stared’ venue in Disneyland. I do recommend eating at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, hosted by Ortega. Yes, we too were put off by Ortega reference. Pay it no mind. Ditto the extremely Anglo boys and girls cooking the food. Aside from the sweetened and forgettable jarred Ortega sauces adorning the tables at Rancho Zocalo, it’s easy to forget the restaurant’s host. The service is cafeteria style, but the food is freshly prepared, only a partial rip-off and, best of all, it has taste. While more ambitious items adorn the wall-mounted menu at Zocalo (barbequed meat, chicken and ribs served with sides), our lunch crew of four chose to go the ‘lighter’ route. Feeling piggish I splurged on two dishes, the Taco Salad ($9.99) and the Camarones al mojo de ajo ($9.99). These were assembled at two separate food stations by two different cast members, and while they would not win any awards outside of the theme park category, they were surprisingly tasty. The salad, served in a big fried tortilla bowl, included refried beans, white and yellow cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, very fresh tomato and onion salsa and a small though tasty dollop of guacamole. It also came with my choice of animal, though I opted for neither. The Camarones, which had been marinating in a creamy garlic melange, were cooked right there in front of my eyes on a giant grill and served atop a bed of tasty red-hued rice (food coloring, I suspect. Not saffron), along with a sprightly three bean salad sitting on a leaf of romaine and a partially crumbled though absolutely delicious tamale (without the corn husk). It was very nice! If only it had come with a margarita!! I tasted the Fish Tacos ($7.49), of the fried, soft corn tortilla variety, two to a plate, and yummy as fried fish tacos generally are. The fish was mild, the coating crunchy and the cabbage and salsa fresh. The best thing about them was the sauce… sour cream given a lift with chipotle. Yes, this was not my mother’s Ortega taco! Another fine value is the Enchilada and Taco Special ($8.99), which includes two tightly coiled cheese enchiladas coated in sweet tomato sauce along with a taco of your choosing. In this case, the taco was chicken, again barbequed and nicely seasoned. The enchiladas were Gringo-friendly, tasting mostly of ketchup. But they were good in a nostalgic sense, and filling, too. It is not worth going over the beverage options; the most adult selection was iced tea. And the smattering of chips that accompanied the fish tacos were not among the finest I have sampled in my nearly 35 years. And yet, unless you planned ahead and smuggled some sandwiches through security, this is a top choice for food at Disneyland. I for one, will be going to Rancho Zocalo all the time. Grr. Got foodie tips on the scene down here? Please post your comments! —Elisabeth Schriber Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, hosted by Ortega Frontierland Disneyland Anaheim, Ca
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