Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Praise of Wines We Can Afford to Drink Daily

Most wines that we often enjoyed not too long ago are no longer that affordable. Just check out the inflated prices of familiar brands of Napa Cabs and Pinot Noirs, Chateauneuf du Papes, Northern Rhones, Barolos, Bordeaux, and Burgundies. Yet,  instead of commiserating, it made me look further afield.

Today, I'm discovering  many wonderful wines that are not making me miss those wines I coveted. For example, prices of well-known Priorat brands have escalated way beyond what I'd feel comfortable of paying. But the Priorat from Bodegas La Cartuja is less than $20, not $75-$150. When I tasted the 2012 La Cartuja Priorat, I was impressed and satisfied.

Would buying another Priorat that's quadruple the price deliver a vastly superior experience? In decades of drinking wines I can say, I don't think so. This $18 Priorat hits the spot in every way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

offaly good cuisine at b.o.s.

I visited b.o.s. in LA's Little Tokyo district during the recent Labor Day holiday weekend not knowing much what to expect. Delightfully, I encountered some very good offal renditions.

The menu at b.o.s. is clearly cow-centric, allowing just a few entries of vegetable and seafood dishes. Such meat-heavy fare sticks out in this district of sushi bars and tonkotsu ramen shops. But then again the Japanese love offal, not just cow, pig, and chicken parts but also innards of fish and shellfish.

Red meat couldn't be more attention-grabbing than in the first appetizer I ordered. The waiter set a hot plate on the table, then proceeded to arrange on it slices of raw beef tongue marinating in tangy lime chili sauce. The tongue hissed loudly, while smoke rushed from the plate carrying the pungent scent of the sauce. Sizzling plates are a cliche but I find this dish a good intro into what this place is all about. It had gyutan's beefy flavor infused with Thai-inspired spicy seasoning. World cuisine in offal form.

I brought my own bottle of wine, a 2011 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Marlborough Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris made with skin maceration and without any added sulfites. Its wonderful deep amber color could be shocking to the uninitiated drinker of "orange" wine but as you get beyond that the depth of flavors is rich and gorgeous, tingling with energy and with a touch of the exotic. It was perfect with the unique bovine cuisine of this place. I finished the bottle effortlessly during the meal.

I'm sure  b.o.s.'s fried tripe "calamari" and small intestine chicharron is one of the main draws of the menu. Tripe and intestine have been the crown jewels of offal. Deep fried intestine is a natural, but the deep fried tripe, though clever as "calamari", was on the rubbery side. I prefer tripe slow-cooked. I would have enjoyed this dish more if it was all intestine chicharron. Nevertheless, the cool cilantro garlic yogurt dip proved delicious with both.

I understand Chef David Bartnes' background is multicultural; evidently his cuisine is a reflection of his personality. He prepared a plate of calf brains fried in panko presented on a kambocha puree with a side of gremolata arugula and grape compote. Inside its crispy crust, the calf brains was well-cooked, moist and soft, and together with the grape compote, a revelation in flavor pairing.

Throughout the meal I took comfort with the side of curried cauliflower, chickpeas, and potatoes. This alone, perhaps over rice or noodles, would satisfy me. It was also delicious with the Pyramid Valley. I'll remember to recreate it at home.

Finally, I asked Chef Bartnes for a last course to end the meal. I told him I was close to getting full so he suggested uni and lobster pasta, instead of, I guess, a 30 oz prime ribeye. I was glad the portion was modest. The rich and creamy house fettuccine, with morsels of uni and lobster, hit the spot.

A week later after my visit I found out that b.o.s. announced that it is closing its doors on September 27th. The reason cited was poor business: "unfortunately we were not able to generate enough buzz to sustain the high costs of maintaining a nose-to-tail restaurant in this location." It opened on October 2013 so it's been around for barely a year. I was disappointed because I was hoping to return. If the restaurant can't make it in LA's Downtown and Little Tokyo district, then where else can it succeed? I don't know about the East Coast, but it seems that on the West Coast, nose-to-tail fine dining is still struggling to find an audience.

b.o.s. nose to tail
424  E. 2nd Street
Little Tokyo Los Angeles, CA