Saturday, August 23, 2014

Japanese Sansho Herb Ale

At the newly opened Oshinae Japanese-American restaurant in Millbrae I knew I was in for something hot and spicy so I came prepared. There isn't a more perfect beverage to go with hot, spicy pork bulgogi than Iwate Kura Beer's Japanese Sansho Herb Ale. Its bright herbal flavors cool down the burn of this home-style bulgogi. To say this beer refreshes is an understatement. It's a lifesaver. I demolished the mound of bulgogi with gusto and minimal distress.

Vineyard Gate is one of the few sources of this unique Japanese craft beer from Iwate Prefecture made by Sekinoichi Shuzo or Iwate Kura Brewery. Only mountain water from Ichinoseki and locally sourced ingredients (except for the hops which are imported from Europe) are used for its beers. This is not a big beer like an IPA, it's more delicate and offers complex herbal and spicy flavors that I find similar to wine. Make sure to try it!

Japanese Herb Ale Sansho, Iwate Kura Beer Sekinoichi Shuzo 11.5 oz. $7.00

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Château Falfas

Veronique Cochran and her late husband John Cochran visiting Vineyard Gate in 2007. They were one of the earliest to practice biodynamic viticulture in Bordeaux, when they took over the ancient estate of Château Falfas in the Côtes de Bourg in 1988. The vineyards lie on southfacing hillside slopes with a limestone asterie bedrock, longtime recognized as one of the best for grape growing. Vines are quite old, averaging 35 years, with some over 75 years, used for the flagship wine, Le Chevalier.

In the cellar Falfas' work is unmanipulated: fermenting with indigenous yeasts, never adding anything extraneous, not chaptalizing, and bottling unfiltered.

Château Falfas is a source for true Bordeaux.

Friday, August 8, 2014

David Posey Cooks At Commonwealth SF

Commonwealth SF guest chef David Posey at the pass last Monday 5th August. He and the Commonwealth kitchen staff orchestrated a well-timed, compact dinner that featured dishes that were layered and refined and beautifully composed on the plate. Seemingly inspired by the new Nordic cuisine and Australian fusion cooking, the courses highlighted the purity of local ingredients in an intricate composition often inspired by nature's views.

Posey's posse (sorry) of line cooks exhibited a calm energy, executing the dishes with precision.

I brought with me three bottles, all whites, as I anticipated--this being Commonwealth SF--they would go best with the food. One was Didier Dagueneau's 2005 Buisson Renard Blanc Fume de Pouilly. I also deliberately dug up from my cellar a 2001 Meursault from Lafon simply because I'm tired of hearing the shrill premox reports on this wine. More on this later.

To start, an amuse of ratatouile with a spicy kick in a cylindrical toast, and raw albacore with tomato sabayon.

From the Commonwealth staff. The most beautiful dish I've ever seen done with oysters. A marinescape. Devastatingly good as it looks. Sous-vide oysters in cucumber (poured table side) with ice plant and tapioca pearls of coconut water, garnished with borage. Tremendous with Dagueneau's 05 Buisson Renard.

From David Posey. Confit of trout with smoked trout roe, served with zucchini, tomatillo, and purslane. With this dish, the vibrant richness of Lafon's 01 Meursault Clos de la Barre was brilliant.

From the Commonwealth staff. The evening's biggest surprise and most satisfying course . Okra encased in a crispy, thin, filigree crust; with caviar, velvety sweet corn pudding, and whipped creme fraiche, garnished with five kinds of tiny basil leaves. I was so blown away, I ordered this course again at the end of the dinner prior to dessert. Lafon's 01 Meursault worked well with it the first time; while on the second time, another Lafon, his 04 Macon Clos de la Crochette, was equally terrific.

A break. Perfectly timed bread service. Tartine bread, rightfully served on a cedar plank, with butter from Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. The butter knife is Oneida.

From David Posey. Roasted lobster with coffee-braised lobster mushroom draped with thinly sliced gunde's pickles.

From David Posey. Tender aged lamb loin, with turnips and sunflower pesto. The wedges of peaches were brilliant, providing a sweet contrast--a chutney-like effect with the turnips and pesto--and making the dish more lively.

So, as I mentioned, I specifically pulled a bottle of 2001 Lafon Meursault because I'm exasperated by widespread social media premox claims on these wines. I love 2001 Lafons, but then again, I love all vintages from Lafon. I have some 2001 bottles stored in my temperature-controlled storage since release. All imported by Beaune Imports, of course. The bottle I chose to bring was the Clos de la Barre, as this seems to be the main premox culprit. I can tell you that from the get-go and 3-plus hours later, the bottle performed stupefyingly fresh and youthful. I shared the wine with people I was dining with, and I poured a glass for the Commonwealth staff and even gave them the rest of the bottle that still had another good pour left. Everyone loved the wine. Nothing was wrong; on the contrary, it was everything one would expect from Lafon. What can I say?

The other wine alongside the Meursault was Didier Dagueneau's 2005 Buisson Renard. Wow! If forced to choose at gunpoint between the Meursault and the Pouilly, I would choose the Pouilly. The acidity on this wine was numbing at first, but I warmed up to it. Still a very young Sauvignon Blanc at almost ten years on, it offered herbal and spice layers that are a dream to pair with food, especially the kind that Commonwealth serves. If you're wondering what kind of wine to bring at Commonwealth, bring a Dagueneau.

A third bottle I opened was another Lafon, but from south of the Cote d'Or-Mâconnais line. Everyone on our table decided to go for the gusto and order the okra course again, just before the dessert. That was how much we loved this dish. This 2004 Mâcon was a godsend for the dish, as it evoked herbal and vegetal flavors with its fresh citrus and minerality. On a previous visit to Commonwealth I brought a 2003 Lafon Mâcon; what a perfect choice that was, too.

This dinner only bolstered my admiration for Commonwealth SF. The restaurant is usually described by restaurant critics as being "California" and "progressive", which don't really mean anything. But that's the story of Commonwealth, its approach to food defies being conveniently pigeon-holed. You have to go there and experience it. Then you decide if you like it or not. I've already made my mind up on my first visit two years ago.

Footnote: An unexpected bonus when going out in the Mission on a Monday night is running into a brass band. Mission Delirium's klezmer-like thumping and seemingly dissonant beat and the animated energy of its brass players and drummers were electric. They had me shaking and thrashing about late in the night--a great aid for digestion.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer Reading

(Here's a notable excerpt from one of my summer readings, "The Island of Crimea" by the late Vassily Aksyonov, translated from the Russian by Michael Henry Heim (Aventura 1984))

Uchan-Su waterfall, Crimea (image from Wikipedia uploaded by Amaga)

The two tall elderly gentlemen--one in his usual faded jeans, the other in the latest Parisian designer overalls--found a table in the shade of the trees and ordered the local specialty, water from the nearby waterfall of Uchan-su.

The sun had almost completed its daily arc above the daily carnival of Yalta. It was nearing the dark-blue side of the mountains and Yalta's glistening climatic screens at their crest.

"What do they put in this water?" asked Baxter. "What makes it so lively?"

"Not a thing. It's completely natural."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movia Brda Ribolla 2006

Andrew Jefford on today's Weekend FT wrote something nice about Ribolla from Brda like this one from Movia: "the most ancient and most provocatively rewarding of collio's and brda's wines are the golden whites based on the ribolla gialla (or, in slovenian, rebula) variety: they can smell of cheese, fungus, straw or honey, and seem to taste flat and torpid at first. however, then comes a set of compelling aromas and flavours, and great gastronomic aptitude."

if these words don't make you frantically crave for a Brda Ribolla then nothing would.
Movia's Ribolla comes from biodynamically farmed vines that are over 60 years-old. The grapes are vinified with native yeasts, without additives and no sulfites added until bottling. Movia says: "thus the wine has gone through all natural processes and becomes sound and stable naturally, ready to last one lifetime of ours."

The 2006 Movia Brda Ribolla is drinking beautifully, should you decide not to wait a lifetime.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Glou-Glou Summer Tasting: sixth series

Vineyard Gate summer tasting series continue with more gulpable wines.

1 & 2 August, Friday & Saturday. Walk-in tasting from 12pm-5pm. Tasting is complimentary.

Featuring two Georgian wines.

2011 Pheasant's Tears Georgia Shavkapito
Pheasant's Tears makes a 2011 red from the indigenous Shavkapito grape. Intense red, almost Rhone-like in fullness and broadness of flavors. I think it's absolutely marvelous. An enjoyable summer red.

2010 Antadze Winery Georgia Mtsvane
Another Georgian wine that's wowed me is the 2010 Antadze Winery Mtsvane, a native white grape made in the traditional maceration. The luscious flavors and textures are bright and refreshing. A perfect white for the summer

238 Broadway
Millbrae, CA 94030

Go Southwest

There are two Southwests that I love, the French Southwest and the American Southwest. I've taken road trips through both; they were beautiful experiences that I won't forget. In the French Southwest I traveled below the immense gaze of the Pyrenees mountains. In the American Southwest I was constantly below the sky's infinite landscape.

Here are a few road trip photos of the American Southwest. When I look at these, the road beckons again. Nature's awesome beauty always inspires me to live and dream.

Note: all photos taken prior to Instagram with a manual camera and Kodachrome 64 film.