EDS719 was pretty good but now its time for the August edition. And oh August, how I have a love-hate relationship with you! It can be brutally hot as evidenced by the continuous slate of 100+ degree days we had here in Houston. And my A/C had the audacity to go out in the middle of said heat wave which caused all sorts of disruption for my wine cellars! I thought I might have to check the wine into a hotel! But I’m happy to report that it was fixed to the tune of several bottles of first growth Bordeaux. Gotta do what ya gotta do. August is also our back to school month where I gleefully send Thing 1 and Thing 2 back to school and get some structure back in my life. Whether I readily admit it, structure is my friend. But before the structure set in, August gave us plenty of eats, drinks, and things to see.
Hamburger at Hitching Post 2, Buellton, CA
So August found me visiting Santa Barbara County in California’s Central Coast for the first time, where I can’t say enough about how great a time I had. I’m sure y’all remember the Hitching Post restaurant in Buellton from the Sideways movie. While known for its “World’s Best BBQ Steaks”1 they make something that I’ll contend is even better. I don’t even know how I found out about their “secret” off-menu burger but I’m thankful I did. Available only on Monday-Wednesday nights (and only in the bar area), it was a sublime experience. House ground filet mignon and ribeye grilled over an open fire, house smoked bacon, house made cheese buns, perfectly oozing juices…oh my. This was perfection in a burger. I paired with one of their very own Hitching Post Pinot Noir wines. All I can say is, I would be in trouble if I lived closer.
King Crab from Industrial Eats, Buellton, CA
So the entire time I was in Solvang last month, practically every person I came across insisted I dine at a place called Industrial Eats in nearby Buellton. So on my last night in town, I finally made my way there and what an interesting dining experience. In what could only be described as an industrial warehouse is a pizza joint cum wine bar cum tapas bar cum I don’t know what. It’s an eclectic restaurant that serves whatever is fresh and local and let me tell you, I was there for it! At my communal table I noshed on all sorts of things but this king crab with garlic butter, cherry tomatoes, and basil was drip down my arm, finger licking good. These people are like my soulmates as they put garlic (and lots of it) in everything!
Wagyu Meatball from Shula’s Steakhouse, Houston, TX
So Shula’s Steakhouse has revamped its menu to go beyond the regular old steakhouse. With its new corporate chef, Demetrio Zavala, of Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay fame, they have stepped up their menu. Chef Zavala has created an amazing menu that creates new twists on old favorites as well as introduces entirely new concepts to the restaurant. With past experiences that found him cooking with Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, Charlie Palmer of Aureole, and Gordon Ramsey of Cielo amongst others, you can be sure he brought his ‘A’ game to Shula’s. I was invited to a media event and have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.2 One of the highlights of the evening – that saw me rolling out of there a few hours later – was a wagyu beef meatball with parmesan, whipped ricotta, and basil persillade. Talk about the mother of all cheese pulls! This was ooey, gooey deliciousness!
Butcher’s Cut Pork Belly from Georgia James, Houston, TX
I was tardy to the party (do people even still say that?) but I finally made my way to Chris Shepherd’s Georgia James Steak. We took Mr. Corkscrew to dinner for his birthday and did the damn thing. Even Thing 1 and Thing 2 got to go (they are really getting into the fine dining thing)3 and were pretty excited to see white tablecloths. I’m still amused at the whole concept of pork belly as my grandmother cooked plenty of meat with fat on it when I was a kid cause it was cheap. Now it’s a delicacy! Who the hell knew?! So Chris knew what he was doing and served this up with proper cheese grits and a sweet grape sauce (I’m sure there was a fancy name) and there was a fight at the table for this! Yeah, I think the kids won, but this may have been the tastiest bite of the entire meal.
Panéed Halibut at 1751 Sea and Bar, Houston, TX
I have a thing for halibut and I have a thing for mirliton so I was pretty stoked to see them together in one dish. This was one of those things that Mr. Corkscrew and I were supposed to eat family style while trying a variety of other things. After threatening to stab him with my fork, he finally handed over some of the halibut and (sorta) embraced the whole sharing concept. Shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked pan-sauce (hell I don’t know what it is but it was damn good!) and chilies rounded out the dish. It was one of those times that I wish I was at home as I would have slid my finger across the plate to get the rest of the sauce. The mirliton was so flavorful which can be tricky as its a pretty clean slate and the fish cooked to flaky perfection. I’m sure a proper food writer could describe it better but wow!
Given that I was on a short wine trip, it only seems fitting to share some of the highlights from the trip. All I can say is that there is so much good wine out there!
2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards Le Bon Climat Chardonnay
On my drive up from LAX to Solvang, I of course had to stop and do a little wine tasting in Santa Barbara. And I must say that I loved this charming town and wish I had more time to explore it. Next time for sure. My first stop was Au Bon Climat winery. And right out of the gate I had a damn near ethereal Chardonnay! I’d had lots of Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir in the past, but had no idea that the Chardonnay was up to this level. A beautiful walked tightrope of opulence and richness balanced by tingly acidity. I was all in after this one.
Kaena Wine Company Grenache
While still in the CA Central Coast, I made a last minute decision to visit Kaena Wine Company in Los Olivos when I saw the “Grenache is Queen” sign in the window. I’d read about many of the area’s wineries and knew a little bit about Kaena, but still hadn’t quite committed to visiting when serendipity found me standing next to it. It was a sign and thank goodness I followed the signals. I just list ‘Grenache’ as I tasted several of winemaker Mikael’s Grenache wines and every.single.one.of.them. was fantastic. Like seriously. You’ll have to wait for more from the upcoming blog post but wow, as a fan of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I was mightily impressed!
2016 Dragonette Cellars “Fiddlestix Vineyard” Pinot Noir
I feel like I’m giving away all of my Central Coast goodies before the blog post but hey, some things have to be recognized. This is also my attempt at living in the moment and dealing with my “control” issues. LOL! We could be here a minute. Anywho…I can’t recall who even suggested I visit (sorry for the lack of props…it will come to me) but I’m so happy they did. This was one of those places where I was like “I’ll take one of those, and one of those and…” You get the point. Of the case I purchased there, three of the wines were of this particular Pinot Noir.4 Located in the famed transverse ranges of the area,5 Fiddlestix Vineyard is located on the western edge of the Santa Ynez Valley about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Tasting this wine (and many others in the region) I totally get the whole cool-climate, acid retaining, yet ripe, rich fruit thing for which the region is known. Y’all I’m all in!
2014 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dalla Valle wine has been on my wine bucket list for a while to try. It remained on the list cause I couldn’t find any! Which is why I tend to splurge and try these things out in restaurants when they present themselves. Case in point, Mr. Corkscrew’s birthday. This is Napa elegance personified and certainly lived up to my expectations. Gustav and Naoko Dalla Valle began planting vines on the hillside of Oakville in 1983. These are wines of great intensity yet are still elegant, and are highly sought after. Even after Gustav passed away in 1995, Naoko Dalla Valle continued the legacy of Dalla Valle wines that she and her husband had started. Y’all know I love girl power in wine!
2013 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino, Italy
I’ve had several vintages of this wine and they have all delivered. It comes from the famed Antinori family of Florence, one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished wine producers. Yes this 2013 could go longer in the bottle but it was drinking beautifully now. A little wound up in the beginning, it opened up to reveal rich flavors of black cherry and plum along with spice, smokiness, and earth. Smooth and nicely integrated tannins. I guess you’d call the Pian delle Vigne a more of a modern style Brunello, but I’ll just call it delicious. Everyone I’ve introduced it to has really appreciated it.
So I guess since I have a CA Central Coast theme going here, I will share some of the fun. But do come back for the official blog post. I’ll say it again, I absolutely loved the area and can’t wait to go back. Mr. Corkscrew and I flew into LAX and then drove north, first stopping in Santa Barbara and then heading on up to Solvang, where we based ourselves for the duration of the trip. From there, we hiked, biked, and or course did lots of wine tasting. We also relaxed a lot.
My first time in Santa Barbara found me absolutely loving this city. Scenic beauty all around.
Solvang & Los Olivos
While we were based in Solvang, we spent time in all of the towns in the area and I’d have to say that Solvang and Los Olivos were my faves. Very different, but each charming in its own way.
This cute little inn in Solvang was awesome. I loved sitting out in the courtyard each morning with coffee and each evening with a glass of wine. The fire pits and blankets were such a nice touch. One of my most relaxing trips ever.
Yeah, I saw and bought a whole lot of school supplies.
Well, that’s it for August. See y’all next next time.
- As someone from Texas that knows her way around a good steak and BBQ – separately, I was intrigued by the combo of the two. I mean, what is a BBQ steak? Well, long story short, it’s the seasoning that they use for the steaks which I can attest are quite tasty.
- More from dinner here.
- I’m pretty sure that I didn’t do any fine dining when I was seven or eleven so how nice for them. I think.
- Already kicking myself that I didn’t get more.
- More on that here. (link)