Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

philippe1.jpgDouble-dipped Justice at Philippe's

If you are a criminal defense attorney as I am defending cases in downtown Los Angeles, you will eventually find your way to the tangled skein of ceiling fans, neon soft drink signs, and sawdust floors of a restaurant called “Philippe - The Original The Home of the French dip sandwich Since 1918" in nearby Chinatown. This restaurant and the sandwiches contained within played a central role in defending my first felony trial which took place in 1987.

In that case, my client was twenty years old and stood no more than 5' 4" weighing 110 lbs. It wouldn’t have hurt him to eat a sandwich himself. He had just been released from prison after serving time for burglary. He was told by his parole officer to obey all laws, don’t possess a gun, and stay away from gang members. He did very well in following those directions for the next 24 hours. 

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jordan1If I ask you about your favorite wine, you will probably tell me where you enjoyed it and with whom. Perhaps it was at a picnic on a perfectly sunny day, or on a date with the love of your life. Maybe it was at the winery where the wine was made, but probably not. My point is this, wine, like food, is enjoyed in context. It can be very hard for a winery to create a truly memorable experience with wine, but one winery is giving it a shot.

I'm lucky to have gotten to spend some time at the Jordan winery and to enjoy firsthand the food, wine and hospitality that they are about. I've stayed on their property, had lunch and a full tasting, attended one of their famous halloween parties and gotten to know their talented and creative chef and his wife who heads up hospitality and events. Those experiences have been limited to a privileged few, up till now. And while Jordan uses as many means possible to share the winery experience and lifestyle virtually including photography, videos and even a blog, nothing takes the place of being there.

The soon-to-be-launched Jordan Winery Estate Tour & Tasting is best described as a fully immersive affair. You start at the winery for a little continental breakfast with fresh fruit grown on the property plus fresh baked goods.

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wallys.jpgIf you spent three days driving throughout the Central Coast wineries, from Santa Barbara to Los Pasos, you could not have sampled a fraction of the wines you could have in an hour at Wally’s 8th Annual Central Coast Food and Wine celebration. The event benefits the Michael Bonaccorsi UC Davis Scholarship Fund and the endowment at Allan Hancock College for students who want to pursue careers in Viticulture and Enology. There were over 55 wineries serving 150 unique wines you could sniff, swirl, taste and savor. It was like wandering from room to room in one of your favorite art museums only to discover another gallery filled with astonishing paintings you’ve never seen before.

In addition to such luminaries as Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Melville and The Hitching Post, to name a few, there were dozens of small hands-on wineries. Hard to find wines whose producers grow their own grapes, ferment them, and even drive to local wine stores to sell them. You could chat, query, and get a deeper appreciation of what goes into making unique wines in a market increasingly dominated by wine consultants and corporate ownership. Although the Central Coast is known for its distinctive Pinots and Chardonnays there was a healthy dose of Syrahs and Grenaches. These grapes are poised to make the same kind of impact in California that Cabernets did in the 90’s and Pinots in the 2000’s.

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Old FashionedIt all started with a Napoleon. And a desire for a cocktail after dinner. The Napoleon, uneaten, and so taken away in a box from a late lunch at Petit Trois was the itch, scratching my brain. It’s eggy vanilla aroma permeates the car on the way home and a bottle of newly purchased Bulleit Rye clinks next to me. I get the vision of a vanilla driven rye cocktail sipped along with that Napoleon.

Ludo’s Napoleons aren’t delicate fine things with a slick of sweet white icing across the top. No, they’re robust and sturdy finished off with a perfect shard of bruléed confectioner’s sugar. They are so thick that I’ve never eaten one by cutting down a bite with my fork. Instead I pluck off the top layer of crunchy puff paste and the clinging pastry cream, which leaves another layer of the same to munch later open-face sandwich style. This is the life of the food obsessed.  Upon googling rye and vanilla I found Brandon at Kitchen Konfidence and  a recipe for an Old-Fashioned made with vanilla sugar. I always keep a jar of sugar studded with vanilla beans in the pantry, so his recipe was quick to put together.  Here’s my version. I’m making some vanilla syrup to keep in the fridge for the next one.

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sangriaWhen summer temperatures go up, my appetite goes down. I want less to eat and more to drink. Homemade lemonade with mint is a great favorite. Iced tea in a tall glass filled with cracked ice is a great way to cool down. On a recent trip to Spain, I rediscovered sangria, which might be the best remedy for double and triple digit heat waves.

In the summer, the Iberia Peninsula bakes under an unforgiving sun. Spaniards long ago learned that the best way to beat back the effects of hot weather is to eat small plates ("tapas") and drink wine flavored with fresh fruit.

When I was served a glass of sangria in a bar in San Sebastián, a small resort town on the coast of Northern Spain, I loved the way fresh fruit added flavor to the wine. Fortified with brandy and sugar, sangria goes well with small sandwiches, salads and snacks.

Visit Spain and you'll see sangria pitchers. Wide at the base, the large pitchers have a spout narrowed at the end. When the pitcher is made, the potter gently pinches the spout to narrow the opening, allowing the wine but not the fruit to enter the glass.

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