Posts Tagged ‘wine’

CIA at Greystone

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Solar flares are so hot right … well more like 2008

“Something…to do with…waiters packing heat? Menu decryptions? Like…we had to code-break the menu in order to order? Its sister restaurant is Hoover’s and it’s a drag club? ‘This is your menu, should you choose to accept it’ you know like Mission Impossible 2 intro?”

These are the jokes that R2 was trying out in the car before arriving at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus/restaurant in Napa Valley. Then Tron came up with “I’d tell you the specials but I’d have to kill you” and R2 was shamed, and then he also came up with “The food is to die for,” which shamed him even further. Which was itself a shame because out of the two, only R2 would have ACTUALLY gone through with it and hassled the poor server.

Yelp says the food is good but the service is shit. I thought the service was fine – a little slow, and our food came way before our wine which wasn’t ideal, but I thought of it as Top Chef Restaurant Wars and all was well. Also, our server reminded me of Jon I Only Speak The Truth Leguizamo.

Before, during, and after Sookie Stackhouse sex

I got a flight of wine that contained both white and red (and a rose that I tolerated) since our appetizer was fish and my entree was beef. The official, unwieldy title of this restaurant is Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant of the Culinary Institute of America, and indeed I thought this flight of wine was lovely, particularly on a gorgeous patio with one’s favorite friends.

Our app was Monterey Bay Sardines with Yukon Gold potatoes, frisée and herb salad, and salsa verde, and it came with a wine pairing – two ounces of Miner Rosato, 2009, local from Mendocino County.

I choked on the dill but that’s not their fault

What a perfect dish for this setting!  Fresh, light, textbook char on the sardine, inventive, interesting textures, utterly yummy. I would eat this again and again, and it’s now almost a month later and it’s still on their “updated weekly” menu so perhaps I should.

R2 got caught, as he always does, in the gravitational pull of the halibut entree, but at the last moment I successfully lured him away by mentally dangling scallops in front of him. Specifically, Day Boat Scallops – pan seared with sweet white corn, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and basil pesto.

Peas are pissed at the corm for being sweeter than they are, despite the “sugar” in their name

The sear here was also textbook, but unforch the scallop was more than raw in the middle. I heart a raw scallop, but not a seared raw scallop, the middle of which made me realize the hard truth that scallops, rather than being marshmallows of the sea, are fishy muscle tissue that giant clams use to open and close their shells. G-ross.

Isn’t this the best part of having a boyfriend? Making them eat the lesser of the two dishes you couldn’t decide between? I promptly forgot all about the scallops and dug into my entree:

The pink flower is an angel heralding oral heaven

So tender. Beyond tender. Daniel calls this “tendyond,” though he uses the term for when people are being schmoopy sweet to each other. I was only provided with a butter knife, which I thought was a student-in-training error, but may have been Greystone just showing off.

This dish sparked a beef revival in me (dirty), and now the protein that I unfailingly used to skip over on every menu now automatically makes it onto my Top 3 contenders list. Also, I understand why spaghetti sauce is so delicious, because it’s basically everything you see in the photo above, just chopped into bits and simmered forever.

I was in a terrible situation, where I wanted to savor the flavor and draw out the pleasure of my entree for as long as possible, but my hands and jaw were in shovel and paku-paku mode, respectively. The net result of this was that no one even noticed my panic because I finished my plate at the same time as everyone around me.

For dessert, we ordered the give-us-whatever dessert, and ended up with:

I only tasted the liquid ones because I thought they might have alcohol

You know me. I’m not a dessert gal. I did, however, deeply enjoy the schmancy root beer float, maybe because it was more beverage than dessert. Also, the panna cotta was liquid-ey-er than it should have been and thus, for the same reasons, pleasing.

This was a great way to start a day of wine tasting – it served the dual function of padding the tum to prevent drunkenness too early and making us feel civilized (to buffer our minds against the truth which is that we were going to drink ourselves silly and perhaps puke on strangers). Greystone has yet to have a mayor, so Foursquare folks – get on it.

Thank you to R2 for being DD.

Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant
2555 Main St
St Helena, CA 94574
707.967.1010

ChaChaCha SF

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Continuing with the small plates love, Shimi took me to Cha Cha Cha on Haight street in SF. Don’t be fooled, though – these plates are not small.

I have been skimping on decor descriptions lately. Soooo I guess I’ll note the bright, funky colors and the Santeria altars (good preparation for the following day, where I would go on a 16-mile bike ride with my friend Jacques who, during our entire first year in college, would constantly sing that blasted Sublime song at the top of his lungs).

I was really tempted by the sangria (which the menu recommended to “share some with your enemy”) but after several classic party hardy nights during my conference, I didn’t think I could hack it at lunchtime.

Instead, I ordered something just as intoxicating – black mussels steamed in saffron broth with garlic, tomatoes, and onions. We might as well have ordered just this, since the french bread was free and we stuffed ourselves to the brim with bread dipped in the mussel sauce. Bliss.

Instead, we also ordered the Jamaican jerk chicken, baked with Scotch Bonnet peppers, raisins, garlic, and tomatoes served over white rice. Shimi is scared of heat so I warned her about this, and reminded her of the Top Chef episode where resident airhead (yet, Asian???) Sarah didn’t know that Scotch Bonnets were the spiciest of all peppers and the other chefs ridiculed her.

This dish, whilst yummy, made me confused about what jerking is. I thought jerk was sweet, but this dish was spicy and salty, with zero sweetness, even with the raisins. It was the kind of spicy that keeps you going back for more, though, and the chicken was super tender.

Finally, we ordered the mushrooms sauteed in sherry, garlic, and olive oil. This was a mistake. The mushrooms were a blend of blandness and then, at times, a really weird/gross flavor that we couldn’t place. Good thing there were TEN THOUSAND of them for us to eat.

Nevertheless, the fun atmosphere and getting to hang out with my oldest (not in age, but in time known) friend was worth a couple funky mushrooms.

Cha Cha Cha
1801 Haight St
San Francisco 94117
415.386.5758

Temecula Wineries~

Monday, August 13th, 2007

I’m not a wine snob! To prove it to you, I went to Temecula to go wine tasting. See?

Sharisa, in her special Sharisa way, found an incredible deal online and booked the three of us (me, her, Debbie) a villa at South Coast Winery for a fucking steal. We wanted a fourth, but after several “Um, I have WORK on weekdays?”-type bitchy responses we gave up trying to add party poopers to our fiesta.

I put an ad up on Facebook to hire a designated driver for $10 an hour. ((Debbie was skeptical that we would need one. When she was totally incoherent later, the only coherent thing she said was, “I’mm glraad weeee gut rrr DD.”)) Amazingly, I got probably a trillion replies. Many were from horny guys who were probably hoping to score with a carful of drunk chicks (I also weeded out a particularly aggressive-looking lesbian). After sorting and sorting, I found the PERFECT d-driver, who was a cute Asian girl from Temecula and offered to get us winery recommendations from her friends and parents. Score! But then she couldn’t do it (Gasp!) but then she got her best friend to do it (Yes!), who was perfectly lovely. She brought a friend (which ended up being a fabulous idea since it would have been awkward for her to stand around while we got sloshed) who had the same name as her. I’ll call them the two Josephines.

So as not to waste time, we met the Josephines at our first winery, VR La Cereza Winery (today I am being lazy and am not giving you addresses – they are all on one street [Ranch California Rd] so it’ll be easy enough to find). I only had one (ONE!) chicken soft taco in my system, so I felt it right away.

LC is famous for its Girlfriends wine, which was inspired by this cigar-smokin’ old lady that the winery owners met in…Mexico? I could have sworn they said Mexico, even though they are a Spanish winery. It was spunky and fruity and perfect, of course, for a girl’s night. I also tried their raspberry sparkling wine, their award-winning Zin, and Summer’s End, which was one of their most expensive and sweet wines. I think my blood sugar was low because I was digging the glucose in it.

The Josephines showed up after we had explored every corner of the gift shop once and one particular corner four times. I was still cogent enough to provide a brief tutorial to Josephine on how to drive a Prius, and we sped off to Hart.

Hart was one of the only Chowhound-approved Temecula wineries according to Sharisa. I suspect this is simple-minded, robotic snobbery because Hart is an anti-sweet wine winery that focuses on reds. I believe this winery (already) was the tipping point where we passed from buzz to drunk, or at least in the car after this winery. I thought all the wines were good, very dry, but I did have to pour out half of my Tempranillo because I just couldn’t handle it.

At some point some folks from Cougar Winery (which was not on any of the main Temecula-area free maps) came to taste the Hart wines. They were debaucherous, and one of them named Michael handed me a card and insisted that we go and find a guy named Brett at Cougar and give him a hard time. He also demanded that we ask Brett “Are you two-fisted?” Which I initially interpreted him to be saying “Are you two-fisting?” but apparently Two-Fisted is his nickname.

[Interim Epilogue - we didn't make it to Cougar; we were far too wasted. But, as I look on the back of Michael's business card I see, in my handwriting, "bring pole for pole dancing." What?!?]

P.S. Why is Hart’s website www.thehartfamilywinery.com when hartfamilywinery.com is available, and even hartwinery.com is available?!??

Okay, after that we were SERIOUSLY in need of some lunch. We decided to stop at Mount Palomar because they had a deli. I was desperate for a sandwich. We stumbled in, only to find the deli abandoned. “Oh, the woman who runs the deli is on lunch,” said some lady. WTF? Why would you go ON lunch, DURING lunch? What irresponsible behavior. We decided to just raid their refrigerated buyables, and put together an okay but completely unsatisfying lunch of crackers, cubed cheese (which even extreme cheese lovers like me and Debbie could not really handle), and hummus. The hummus, at least, was passable.

Mount Palomar is the opposite of Hart – they had an entire dessert wines section. I decided I was going to taste all of the dessert wines, and that would be my dessert for lunch. I started with the Solanus late harvest Semillon, and quickly realized if I went ahead with my plan I would die from sugar overdose and vomit out my entire insides. So I switched to Shorty’s Bistro Red and the Meritage, and then tried again with the medal-winning limited reserve port and, finally, the Cream Sherry. The cream sherry was yummy.

In the confusion at the end of the day, I ended up with the other Josephine’s wine list, and I should report that she has smiley faces next to the Sangiovese, Bistro Red, Zilah late harvest Zin, and the cream sherry. Solanus late harvest Semillon is crossed out vigorously. She also has the words “pretty,” and “bathrooms suck!!” written down.

Incoherence had set in by this point. So I did not appreciate the incredibly bright interior of Ponte Winery (who, by the way, has a very stylish website). Neither did I appreciate the over-the-top smarmy flirtiness of our wine dude. Debbie and I were hurting, and Sharisa started giving us shit, even using the word “pussies.” Meooow.

I couldn’t tell you anything about the wines here, except that I chose by cute names and got: Graciela, Fiorella, Juliet, and Isabel. I cheated and pretended I had had a fifth tasting when I didn’t. I think this later saved my life.

Debbie and I were almost KO-ed, but Sharisa and the Josephines got belligerent and forced us to go to Wilson Creek Winery of almond champagne fame, which if you remember I have blogged before. Throughout the day we kept hearing about the Almond Joy at Wilson Creek, which is chocolate port in a chocolate cup, mixed with the almond champagne. We ordered one each and the lady said, “That’ll be three dollars each.” And then she went away, and then came back and said, “Oh, wait, no, it’s TWO dollars each.” Weird but score! We first got a shot of the champagne, then a shot of the port, and then the almond joy. It was gimmicky but fun, not that I remember any of it.

I do remember stealing a glass off of a table outside on my way out (we got our glasses free at every winery except here since we technically ate ours). Josephine #2 made me do it.

Finally, time to go to the villaaaaaaa~! BUT, we had a free tasting coupon from South Coast since we were staying there, so we parked the car and all dragged ourselves through the grapes to the tasting room across the property. In my haze, I lost everyone but I got to the counter and slapped down my free tasting card. The lady gave me 5 poker chips, one for each tasting. Classy!

I looked to the left and saw the Josephines doing a tasting. I guess they were there the whole time? I chatted with them. Then I called Debbie to see where they hell they were. She said, “We’re in the bafroooooooooooom!” So I went in there and discovered Sharisa lying down on the floor. Of the bathroom. So much for not being a pussy. She said, “I lost the keeeeeeey!” Sigh.

We got another key at the front desk (“Don’t worry, this happens a LOT” said the guy) and ran through the grapes again. I stopped to eat some and they were soooo delicious. I was probably just reacting to the H20 in them, though.

Sweet, sweet bed~! I flopped down, feeling the mother of all headaches coming on. Somewhere from the floor, Sharisa exclaimed “I FOUND THE KEY! IT WAS IN MY BOOOOOOB!” Good one.

Sharisa, feeling victorious, changed into a bikini to check out the jacuzzi. She threw one at me, too, so I put it on. Debbie was rolling around on her bed in nauseous agony, so we left her alone. Then all three of us promptly passed out.

We woke up two hours later. Debbie said, “You two look so sexy lounging around in bed in bikinis.” lol. We were excited to order pizza to the villa, but every place we called was closed or didn’t deliver to us. I called the front desk and discovered that only one pizza place delivers to South Coast, so we ordered from them. I hate monopolies so I’m not going to publish the name of the place we ordered from. It sucked balls anyway.

Our room came with a free bottle of wine, which Sharisa opened and insisted we drink. We didn’t. Debbie was so green she couldn’t even eat any of the pizza (just the carrot slivers on the salad), and my head hurt so bad that I couldn’t see straight. Debbie finally gave up and went into the bathroom to try to vomit. I was ready to puke, not from nausea, but from sheer pain. Debbie came out later, not successful. She said miserably, “I thought of everything gross that I could, like the cubes of cheese at Mount Palomar, but I couldn’t puke!” Sad. I nodded into my wet pillow. I didn’t know if the liquid on my face was tears from my headache or juice from my exploded eyeballs.

The last thing I remember Sharisa saying was, “Well, there was probably an hour in there where we had fun.” Temecula, I never want to see you again.