Shift Drinks & Eats

When I work as sommelier at Terroni, I usually have dinner around 11:15-11:30pm. Yeah, I know. But, that’s normal for restaurant peeps. It’s also normal for everyone to mention how starving they are at least 3 times between 9:30 and 11:00. Cause they are and I definitely am. I’m thirsty too. [dimly lit Instagram photo stream alert!]

The things I like to eat and drink after a shift: cold things and a lot of carbs, respectively. I sometimes go for a lighter dish like a salad, but it’s usually the pizza or pasta the guys in the kitchen feel like making for us. I also dip into red wine territory, but not often. The photo above was taken a few nights ago. I decided on a little 2011 Tenute Sella Majoli Rosato and a generous sip of my co-worker’s Aperol spritz.

COS Pithos Rosso (Nero d’Avola and Frappato), which is fermented and aged in anfora/amphora. Shout out to my sparkly nails.

This is what stares me in the face for hours before I can actually even think about eating it or something like it. The patience! The restraint! The longing…

Salad with Italian tuna packed in oil (my favorite kind of canned tuna), kidney beans, tomato, lettuce, little slivers of red onion. It’s my salad of choice from our menu, if I decide to forgo the carbs. A glass of Tedeschi Pignoletto was my liquid companion that evening.

Rigatoni with tomatoes, basil, zucchini and creamy mozzarella. I love this dish at the end of the night. No meat, simple flavors, comforting. Throw in some of the Tenute Sella Rosato again and I’ll forget about the jerk on table 23.

Maybe I just eat a bunch of Nutella for dinner. Don’t tell my mom.

A Boy Genius & An Amateur Gourmet

I’m gonna tell you a story. One of the first food blogs I ever read was Amateur Gourmet. I was living in New York and doing the whole “struggling actor” routine. Over the course of several years, I walked dogs, I worked at an ice cream shop, I was a bartender/cocktail waitress, a personal assistant, a hostess at a restaurant…you get the point. In 2005, I was working at a real estate office on the Upper West Side by day and acting in a Shakespeare play (performed in the underbelly of an old lightship called The Frying Pan docked near Chelsea Pier…) by night.

I got through each remarkably boring day in that office knowing I would have lunch hour blog reading time. That was the year food became a real passion of mine. And my passion for food and restaurants introduced me to my true love- wine. 7 years ago, I would’ve never guessed I’d be doing what I do now. And never in a million years would I have thought I’d be at a dinner party in Los Angeles with Adam Roberts, the writer of Amateur Gourmet.

Enter my buddy Andy, the boy genius.

He is a boy genius because he is: a) young and b) a genius. Duh. Honestly, he is a self-taught cook, incredibly intelligent and intuitive in the kitchen and is a relentlessly inquisitive student of food. AND he made this meeting possible! Andy dreamed up a fantastical 4 course feast and invited us over for dinner. I, of course, brought the wine.

Andy sent me the menu ahead of time, so I had a few days to think about what I wanted to pair with each course. I just HAD to bring my current favorite rosé from Vinya Sanfeliu.

What better to pair with a salad of wild fermented vegetables than a wild ferment wine with no added sulfites? Delicioso! Adam proclaimed this “the best rosé I’ve ever had.” It’s like a slightly funky, lees-y, tangy watermelon juice. Pure and gulpable.

Next up? 2009 COS “Rami” with, get this, a mac ‘n cheese stuffed raviolo with lobster and fresh peas.  Carbs stuffed inside a pocket of more carbs…with lobster on top.

And you know what? It didn’t feel heavy at all! PS- served in bowls Andy made in college. As if we didn’t love him enough already.

The third course, aka the one I still have daydreams about 2 days later- Coq Au Vin chilaquiles with duck fat fried tortilla chips, fried egg, mushrooms, ricotta salata and fire roasted chili salsa. SHUT YO MOUTH! No, wait. Open your mouth!

This dish screamed for something cold and refreshing to cut through all the fat but still stand up to the savory and semi-spicy flavors. Grotta del Sole Gragnano to the rescue! I like this stuff, clearly.

Our final course consisted of one of life’s most beautiful, edible gifts. Brioche.

A big hunk of buttery, flaky, warm, soft, eat-with-your-hands brioche. Amazing. This was served with a variety of honeys and creamy brie. To be eaten as we wished. I brought some ’06 Pithon “Les 4 Villages” chenin de botrytis to sip on.

It’s always so wonderful to sit around a table with good people, good food and good wine. Thank you Andy for sharing all your fantastic creations. And Adam and Craig for not thinking I’m some weird stalker. So very nice to (finally) meet you two!

Maceration Nation

A few weeks ago several wine peeps in LA gathered in the back room of Terroni, as usually happens with any cool tasting in LA. We arrived with notebooks and eager palates, thirsty for that of the unfiltered variety. We were there to taste skin contact aka extended maceration aka orange wines.

Lou was acting as MC with Max from Terroni as host, Stetson from Blue Danube as organizer and Jay Latham and Ben Andersen as bottle contributors. The wine was at the ready; decanters, funnels, ice buckets and thermometers on hand.

We tasted 16 wines in 4 flights, arranged according to length of skin maceration. Basically, all the wines are fermented without temperature control or commercial yeasts, some with oak (usually older oak) and some in steel, cement or amphora or a combination and little to no sulfur additions.

I’ll list all of my notes as I wrote them that day…

Flight 1: Baby orange wines. A few days of contact with skins or less (many of us noted that they pretty much looked like chardonnay.)

2004 Movia “Veliko (pinot grigio and rebula/ribolla gialla, Slovenia)- lees-y, yeasty orange ice. *One wine rep, a newly minted Master Sommelier, dubbed this wine “undrinkable” because of the yeasty/bacterial finish. Lou loved the wine and I enjoyed it as well. This started a good discussion on how we judge wines in this style, if some people are prone to love them and hate them no matter what, etc. The discussion continues…

2009 Monstero Suore Cistercensi “Coenobium” (trebbiano, malvasia and verdicchio, Lazio, Italy)- dirty flowers, high minerality, touch of smoke, good acidity, fresh.

2008 Brkic “Greda” (indigenous grape zilavka, Bosnia Herzegovina)- oak more perceptible, smoke spice, savory tang.

2008 Zidarich Malvasia (malvasia, Friuli, Italy)- corked or off-bottle. not presented.

2008 Batic Pinela (pinela, Slovenia)-  spicy, has the most weight of the flight, pine resin.

Flight 2: 2-3 week macerations. When the tannins finally come out to play.

2009 Monastero Suore Cistercensi “Coenobium Rusticum” (trebbiano, malvasia and verdicchio, Lazio, Italy)- no oak, tobacco, orange pith, tannin, acid=mouth water

2009 Paolo Bea “Santa Chiara” (grechetto, malvasia, garganega, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, Umbria, Italy) – chew, tangerine spice, touch of petrol. delish!

2006 Paolo Bea “Arboreus” (trebbiano, Umbria, Italy)- body, salinity, spice, dusty grip. the energy of the wine matches the color- golden copper.

2008 Zidarich “Prulke” (malvasia, sauvignon blanc, vitovska, Friuli, Italy)- smoky peach, petrol, limestone, salt water, savory essence of wood, cool climate.

2009 COS “Rami” (insolia/inzolia and grecanico, Sicily, Italy)- lactic quality, bruléed grapefruit, tannin.

Flight 3: Maceration until fermentation complete or around 1 month.

2008 Terzavia “Occidens” (grecanico, catarratto, grillo and zibibbo, Sicily, Italy)- better than i remember. *Sorry for the rather unilluminating tasting note. See the link above to get more in depth and spot on notes.

2008 Zidarich Vitovska (vitovska!, Friuli, Italy)- very aromatic, sauvignon blanc element, smells like weed or hoppy IPA in a bright and fruity way, spice crunch, little bitter on finish, velvet tannin.

2008 Kabaj Rebula (rebula, Slovenia)- celery, rocks, lemonade.

2009 Batic “Zaria” (pinela, zelen, rebula, vitovska, klarniza, chardonnay and yellow muscat, Slovenia)- Flinstone vitamins and weed.

2007 Dettori Bianco (vermentino, Sardegna, Italy)- preserved lemon, stone, a purity and focus in texture and visually.

Flight 4: the Amphora/Qvevri flight. 2 to 10 months maceration.

2004 Radikon “Jacot” (tocai, Slovenia)- sweet whiskey, coconut undertones.  *The only one not in amphora.

2009 Foradori “Fontanasanta” Nosiola (nosiola, Trentino, Italy)- i love this wine. *And that was my complete tasting note…

2006 Vinoterra Khakheti Kisi (kisi, Georgia)- leaves, band-aid, warmth, musk, savory.

2007 Kabaj “Amfora” (rebula, malvasia and tocai, Slovenia)- dusty tannic chew, masculine, tar, oxidation.

We’re not the only (or the first) geeks to gather and drink orange wine. For further reading, please do yourself a favor and read this from Levi Dalton and Dr. Vino. And if you want to go even deeper, check out Mr. Thor Iverson’s account of Levi’s epic Orange wine tasting back in 2009.

Bottom photos of the full lineup from Ben Andersen.