Girls on Food

#WineWednesday

Importing A Little La Dolce Vita Into My LA Life!

This post was sponsored by the Italian Trade Agency as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own

A few weeks before my month-long trip to Italy, I learned I had una pagnotta nel forno (translation – a bun in the oven). I was over-the-moon on a personal level but on a self-centered level… how was I going to enjoy all the wine, non-pasteurized cheeses and cured meats Italy is known for? Since Italian wines (red, white and everything in between) happen to be my favorite out of the old world regions, this really hit me hard. With over 20 wine regions, Italy has so much diversity in grape varietals, so much history behind the wines. Plus, I find them to be more budget-friendly.

How could I really spend a month in Italy and not indulge in La Dolce Vita?

The answer: I just indulged differently. I savored every moment with my husband, soaked up all the culture surrounding me, feasted my eyes upon art, roamed historic stairways and devoured an endless supply of pasta.

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Although I felt a little left out during prosecco toasts, I took pictures of all the wine lists from restaurants we dined at, this way, I could catch up responsibly after my baby was born. I found many varietals on menus that I could purchase from my local wine shop. When I stopped breastfeeding, I decided to make up for lost time and see if I could emulate an Italian vacation through my wine tastings.

Even though I wasn’t sipping on the wines while I was in Italy, tasting them at home still reminds me of so many vacation memories. With the right bottle of wine, the type of a varietal can bring you right back to specific places: a glass of Sangiovese reminded me of twirling spaghetti carbonara with my fork in Rimini, a dry Pecorino took me to a beautiful wedding in a small Tuscan town called Pienza, and a Frizzante wine, meaning “effervescent,” transported me to the iconic Portofino harbor. My tastings at home really reminded me that you can actually taste the passion the winemakers add to every bottle. 

After tasting so many different varietals in my own osteria (ok, fine, my kitchen) I decided it could be fun to bring that sense of La Dolce Vita into my own life with California culture-inspired pairings.  

One of the most versatile Italian wines for pairing with LA-centric dishes is definitely Pinot Grigio. Sure, it’s often labeled quaffable by wine snobs, since there are many producers all over the world (in Italy, you’ll find this varietal in multiple regions, but it flourishes particularly in Trentino-Alto Adige.) My challenge to you is to hit up your local wine shop and invest in a DOC labeled Italian Pinot Grigio (usually over $15) for your next dinner party. I guarantee once they get hit with the light fruity and floral notes, you’ll be asked, “what bottle is that?” 

My favorite pairing so far is Pinot Grigio and ceviche. A good Pinot Grigio delivers a punchy acidity that works beautifully with the mix of tart, salt, and seafood flavors that a ceviche packs. A refreshing Pinot Grigio can work well with many other Latin dishes as well, especially items that have a lot of heat to them.

Bonus: if you’re making ceviche at home, try adding a splash of Pinot Grigio to the mixture for a little extra zest.  

Being more experimental with my wine tastings has expanded my foodie horizons. For more information on the Italian wine regions, check out Extraordinary Italian Wines. I encourage you to add a little #LaDolceVita to your meals as well but please, drink responsibly. 

Any upcoming Italian wine pairings you want me to taste? Let me know in the comments below! 

Media Tasting: Los Balcones Brings Mestizo Dishes to Studio City

Spoiler alert: Los Balcones’ new location in Studio City is way worth the drive for a Westsider.

The Hollywood-based Los Balcones team (Brothers Jorge, Eduardo and Walter Rodriguez) recently took over the fine dining Girasol space, a beloved spot that just wasn’t able to make it in the long run. It’s always tough taking over a treasured spot but I believe the Peruvian brothers will win the locals with their diverse dishes. This Los Balcones location features mestizo (Spanish for mixed race) dishes by veteran Girasol chef Polit Castillo, and creative director Ricardo Zarate of Rosaliné.

Upon checking out the menu at Los Balcones prior to dinner, I have to admit I was a little stumped with some of the descriptions of the items. My server, Tomas admitted he learns something new about this modern cuisine daily, so I felt a little less guilty about my lack of mestizo knowledge.

If not just for the fun presentation of it, I recommend starting with a glass of their house white, the 2017 Bodegas Gaintza Txakolina. This Txakolina (pairs well with the seafood-based appetizers) arrives in a porron, a wine pitcher commonly found in Spain. This was a first for me, since I’ve sadly never been to Spain. Tomas pours the Txakolina from the porron (see image below) at your table, which gives the wine a natural effervescence. This is such an Instagramable way to begin dinner!

Fun fact: porrons are often used at Spanish weddings to pour wine directly into guest’s mouths.  

Tomas and the porron service

For those of you on the progressive wine-train, all of the wines by the glass are made from organic grapes. In addition to the boost of girl power from their Somm, Sarah Jones, 40% of the wines by the bottle happen to be produced by female vintners.

Pan de la Chola

I love that Los Balcones focuses on refreshing seafood dishes to start and works their way into meatier, richer dishes for main courses. I started with the Pan de la Chola (a crusty, dense potato bread on a tasting plate), Oysters (1/2 dozen topped with uni ponzu, popped quinoa, charred aji oil, and garlic chips) and Salmon Tiradito (salmon thinly sliced with an orange miso rub in a citrus and beet sauce). All three of these starters were complex but not in a way that’s pretentious. Every unique flavor is robust and feels purposeful. All three of these starters were fantastic but I have to give extra props to the Salmon Tiradito, cause the earthiness of the beets worked so well with the miso and citrus flavors.

Oysters
Salmon Tiradito

For a second course, I went with their Italian-Japanese creation, Quinotto. This one is a quinoa risotto with shimenji shitake, trumpet royale, maitake, pecorino and truffle essence. I am a big fan of quinoa used as a risotto substitute, so this one was a major win for me. The mushrooms are buttery and pack an umami flavor. The use truffle flavor is light, which is a nice change of pace from many LA restaurants.

Quinotto

My compliments to Somm Sarah, who is super knowledgable on the wines but also very approachable. At this Los Balcones location, don’t feel guilty about tasting more than one wine, they want you to be happy with your choice. As you can see from the image below, I tasted 3 wines before choosing a glass of 2014 Celler Pinol “Ludovicus”, a jammy Garnacha with a lingering smoky finish. Those of you who love a strong tannin profile will love this glass, it pairs well with many of their meatier dishes. The house red, 2017 Vinos del Atlantico “Flaco”, a Spanish Tempranillo is juicy with light tannins, a great lighter option to pair with meatier items (and also only $12 a glass).

Wine sampling with Somm Sarah Jones

With my glass of Garnacha in hand, the time came to feast my eyes upon one of Los Balcones unique dishes. The Costilla de Short Ribs comes in a stainless steel box, taking a nod to Korean culture. This concept is known as a Lunch Box and many people shake this container mixing all the flavors together before eating. I decided to keep it intact (for the ‘gram!) and savor each item one by one. The tender braised short ribs are topped with a runny sunny side up egg, paired with a lima bean and rice patty (another Korean-inspired item) and also paired with banana topped with salsa criolla. Those not down for mixing textures and temperatures should steer away this one. But those of you who love to mix foods together, like me, this will be a treat for you.

Costilla de Short Ribs

The final feliz will have me driving from Culver City to Studio City more often! You must order the Lucuma Bundino, a pudding made with lucuma, which is like an avocado mixed with a mango, chantille cream and topped with salted feuilletine (crispy crepe pieces) crumbles. When you order this, tell them to add extra crumbles because the saltiness is so tasty with with sweetness of the pudding and cream. I even told them Tomas they could’ve layered the pudding like a parfait with the crumble and that would be even more delightful. Fingers crossed they listen to me on this before you get there!

Lucuma Bundino

Additional items I’m looking forward to coming back and devouring are the Locro Pappardelle (with pumpkin ragu and goat cheese) and the Seco de Pato (duck two ways, confit and roasted) and the Lomo Saltado. I’m more of a wine drinker but those of you who love cocktails should sip on the Chilcano made with Pisco and ginger.

I am very excited to see watch this Los Balcones location flourish among the Studio City scene. With a unique takes on traditional Peruvian and flavors familiar to LA locals, I have no doubt guests will be coming back for more!

Vino Bistro: Hollywood’s New Destination For Cicchetti

Family-owned-and-operated Osteria Mamma, continues to serve Larchmont with authentic Italian dishes since 2010. Not that I’m aligning myself with the “authenticity police” but every pasta dish I’ve had at Osteria Mamma has legitimately tasted like the house-made pasta I devoured on my trip to Italy. 

The Osteria Mamma family just opened their latest endeavor, Vino Bistro on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. While Osteria Mamma remains the perfect location for a family-style dinner, Vino Bistro is a perfect precursor for a night out in Hollywood. The spacious location has a metropolitan vibe with brick walls and subway tile. There’s lots of bar seating as well as tables, so you have options. 

Somm Filippo Cortivo has curated a diverse wine list, featuring old world and new world wines. Currently, Vino Bistro offers many wines by the glass but the bottle selection is impressive and includes includes an orange wine for those of you who love this trend. 

Vino Bistro specializes in Cicchetti, which translates to Italian tapas with a menu by Alfonso Reyes, Fabio Di Stasi & Osteria Mamma (who’s matriarch-restaurateur Loredana “Mamma” Cecchinato, sadly passed in December 2015). Although Vino Bistro offers bites from a broad range of Italy, I became familiar with Cicchetti in Venice along the touristy canal pubs. And if I’m being totally honest here, I wasn’t really into them at the time. Although I loved the social aspect of these pubs (and I always enjoy an Aperol Spritz) the fried items that were hyped up didn’t knock my socks off. Fast forward to this week when every bite I had at Vino Bistro brought their own improvements on Venetian-style tapas that align with my taste buds.

​​​​​​​The Taglieri, an Italian-style charcuterie board packed with imported meats and cheeses is a fantastic way to start. Unlike many other LA spots, there are 3 different sizes to choose from, depending on the size of your party. A party of 2 can stick with the small at $12.95 and it’s an ample portion size and you get to choose your own cheeses. 

Taglieri 

Those of you trying to keep it light-ish will appreciate the Melone con Branzino e Salmone. This dish is slices of juicy melon and soft Brie topped with branzino and salmon and topped with a light creamy sauce. Fans of sweet and savory will love this items and again, the portion is large enough to share with a group. Those of you looking to indulge in Venetian classics, I recommend ordering the Frittura di Seppie e Sardine. This shared plate is a mix of fried squid, sardine, zucchini and polenta. If you tasted fried sardines in Venice and wasn’t as hyped up on them as you thought you’d be, order them at Vino Bistro to compare. The batter here is so much lighter which makes for a much more crisp sardine. 

Melone con Branzino e Salmone
Frittura di Seppie e Sardine

My favorite item from the menu is the Carbonara di Calamari. This was a first for me! I eat pasta carbonara typically once a week (I know… it’s a problem), I’m obsessed with it. But I have never heard of anyone attempting to create a carb-free carbonara before so I had to give it a shot and it exceeded my expectations. The calamari is lightly pan fried then tossed in the traditional pancetta and egg mixture, coating the calamari evenly, so it’s not drowning in the mixture. Trust me, you’re going to want to taste this one!  

Carbonara di Calamari

It just wouldn’t be an Osteria Mamma endeavor without pasta, so I had to taste the Gnocchi all’Ossobuco. This veal shank is fall-off-the-bone tender,  and the gnocchis are heavenly little pillows in a chunkier but still brothy mix. 

Gnocchi all’Ossobuco

The desserts will be changing daily, so you may not be able to order the Semifreddo Pistachio, that I inhaled. Which is a shame, because it was so rich, frothy and nutty. I have my fingers crossed for you, that you will be able to taste the greatness of this dessert.   

When in Hollywood you must stop into Vino Bistro for a glass of wine and Cicchetti. There are a couple of great deals currently offered on their Yelp page as well, be sure to take advantage of those https://yelp.to/qTKq/ZmdO5JHBCS while you can! 
​​​​​​​Vino Bistro – 6266 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

#girlsonfood Insta-Interview With @trishglasser_

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 13.2K uses on Instagram! 

Thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

I have been looking through all the images and saw that there were so many bloggers/photographers/influencers that I wanted to get to know a little better. So, I created a column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Trish Glasser of @trishglasser_, an OC-local home loan diva by day and wine tour hostess by night. I get to know Trish a little bit better in the interview below.  

Trish Glasser

GOF: Where in OC do you live?

TG: I live in the unincorporated area of Trabuco Canyon, California. It is a very unique area for Orange County. Having grown up in the Midwest, it’s the best of both worlds – country living and the city is right around the corner.

GOF: When you did first fall in love with wine?

TG: When I came to California in 1986 from Kansas and began drinking buttery Chardonnay. Having grown up in the Midwest, I can certainly appreciate the farming process in making wine. I even help some of my local winemaking friends bottle their wine on occasion which has definitely given me a hands-on appreciation for the hard work and craftsmanship that goes into making even a single bottle. With the accessibility of wine (particularly here in California), my taste buds have expanded significantly through the years to include all sorts of sparkling, whites, roses and reds. Since all of my wine education has been self-taught up until now, I’m currently working on obtaining my Level 1 Sommelier designation which I should have by the end of this year.

GOF: How do you conduct your wine tours?

TG: Right now, all of my wine tours are virtual via Instagram and Facebook from personal experiences in checking out wineries and making suggestions. This serves as a launch pad for my next dream and vision of in-person tours beginning here in Orange County and in other areas too such as Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and Napa Valley. Stay tuned for information on my inaugural in-person Orange County tour coming up in January. The Orange County wine tours will start at my home/private wine cellar in Trabuco Canyon. They’ll be comprised of food and wine pairings with hand selected bottles from my private cellar. Then, we will proceed to 3-4 local Orange County wineries. Since I’ve made friends with most of the winemakers here, they’ll be notified of the schedules in advance so tourists will have the opportunity to meet and chat with owners/winemakers.

GOF: Favorite wine valley?

TG: That’s a tough question. There are so many. In California I’d have to say Paso Robles followed by Napa Valley. In Europe, I’m very fond of the Alsatian region of France.

GOF: Any favorite under $15 you can tell us about?

TG: I have a few that I recommend!

  • Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava Sparkling (Spain): $9.00
  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand): $12.00
  • Louis Jadot Rose (Burgundy, France): $14.00
  • Fess Parker Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County, California): $13.00
  • Poppy Pinot Noir (Monterey County, CA): $13.00
  • Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles, CA): $13.00

GOF: Favorite Instagram pages to follow?

TG: Another tough question – in general, local restaurants, chefs and wineries along with:

  • @DonatellaArpaia
  • @guarnaschelli
  • @cheftoddenglish
  • @chef_morimoto
  • @bobbyflay
  • @foodandwine
  • @foodnetwork
  • @thecheesestoreofbeverlyhills
  • @ocwinetrail
  • @pasorobleswineries
  • And of course, @girlsonfoodblog

GOF: Favorite SoCal winery?

TG: With the resurgence of wine here in Orange County over the past 10 years, there are about a dozen options here ranging from actual winery venues in the Orange County Santiago Canyon area to tasting rooms located in the different local cities.

  • Favorite Winery Venue: Giracci Vineyards and Farms and Cowboy Canyon Winery which are both located on the same property in the Santiago Canyon area: beautiful grounds and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. You’re allowed to bring your own picnic to pair with your Giracci/Cowboy Canyon Wine.
  • Favorite Tasting Room: Frisby Cellars located in Lake Forest. The tasting room has a cool, urban vibe and the staff is always very friendly and knowledgeable about the wines. The winemaker, Josh Frisby turns out a consistent, good quality product for a reasonable price. And of course, all of his grapes are sourced from Paso Robles.

Be sure to follow @trishglasser_, and contact her directly about her wine tours. Also follow @girlsonfoodblog and use that hashtag #girlsonfood to be featured someday! 

Marissa A. Ross Talks EastSide Food Festival, Natural Wines And Chugging Wine Straight Outta The Bottle

The 5th Annual EastSide Food Festival is coming up, Sunday, October 21st, 2018 and the line up this year is incredible. Girls on Food will be there tasting and sipping the afternoon away, so come join us!

With over 35 local food establishments will be participating, there will also be guest appearances from Eric Andre and Eric Wareheim but I’m most excited for the discussion with Marissa A. Ross, Bon Appétit’s wine editor and writer of my favorite wine book, Wine. All The Time.: The Casual Guide To Confident DrinkingI love this book because she approaches wine in a non-pretentious but still informative tone. Marissa also writes with a cheeky sense of humor and brings her personal experiences along the way.

Marissa took a break from chugging wine from the bottle on her Instagram stories (you know what I mean if you follow her!) to chat with me below. 

 

GOF: What food vendors for the Eastside Food Festival are you the most excited for?

MR: Oh man, it’s so hard to choose! I’m excited for Kismet because I don’t eat there nearly as often as I’d like to, and Otoño. I love seeing female chefs doing badass work.

 

GOF: I saw on your Instagram stories that you don’t accept unsolicited wines via mail, which I respect because it shows you’re not biased on wines. How many unsolicited wine samples do you receive per month? 

MR: I don’t get any now that I just started returning them to the sender [laughs]. There was a time when I was getting like maybe four wineries a month sending me stuff. I don’t even know how they got my address! I still get at least a dozen emails a day from wine PR companies that want to send me stuff. I used to be nice and politely respond “no thanks” to every one but I’ve given up and just started ghosting that shit [laughs].

 

GOF: Favorite wine region? 

MR: It’s constantly changing, but I’ve been on a big Italian kick for the last year or so. I love Abruzzo and Umbria, but I’m also super intrigued by the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

GOF: Any plans to start your own wine club? 

MR: I’m going to have to since everyone keeps asking me! [laughs] It is something I’ve been toying with for awhile, so we’ll see. Hopefully soon.

 

GOF: I know you’re a big promoter of natural wine, in your opinion, is there one region in the world that is mastering this? 

MR: No. The truly incredible thing about natural wine is that it is proving that fantastic, terroir-driven wines can be made anywhere in the world, versus this old school thinking that certain regions were better than others. I mean, of course there are some regions that are not conducive for making wine but often regions have been dismissed because people were trying to grow grapes that shouldn’t be grown there. You can’t grow Cabernet everywhere! [laughs] But any region can shine with the right grapes in the right hands.

 

GOF: Are there any commercial wines that you can’t help but love, like a guilty pleasure? 

MR: This is going to make me sound snobby, but I don’t. Honestly, after years of drinking natural wine, it just doesn’t taste good to me. That’s not to say I don’t have my own shitty guilty pleasures. I love Coca-Cola, especially Cherry Coke. That’s the ultimate treat for me, besides a bowl of Jeni’s Brambleberry Crisp ice cream topped with their Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt but I don’t feel guilty about that. [laughs]

 

GOF: Do you recall the first time you ditched the glass and drank straight from the bottle? 

MR: Yes. It was June 2008. I had just moved to Los Angeles with $400 to my name and unwittingly moved in with a drug dealer and a Craigslist hooker, hoarder, heroin addict. I had moved in May, but by the time June rolled around, the hoarder had all of our dishes in her room and I was terrified to even leave my room and The Ross Test— chugging out of the bottle, specifically two buck chuck because that’s all I could afford– was born. And is now forever my trademark [laughs]. I think some people think I do it just to be an ass, but for me, it reminds me of where I came from and that everyone starts somewhere with wine.

 

GOF:  What are some of your favorite restaurants with wine programs in LA?

MR: I love Kismet, Elf, Night + Market Song, Cosa Buona, Marvin… there’s so many!

 

GOF: Who are some of your favorite fellow female somms or wine enthusiasts? 

MR: One of the most exciting things happening in the wine industry is how many strong women and non-binary people are now a part of it. I love Courtney Walsh, who does the wine program for Cosa Buona and Alimento, as well as works at Domaine LA— owned by another favorite, Jill Bernheimer–and is a rep for Amy Atwood Selections— owned by surprise, surprise, another favorite, Amy Atwood. I absolutely adore Helen Johannesen of Helen’s Wines, as well as Kae Whalen of Kismet and Roni Ginach of Michael’s. There are so many! I could go on forever, especially if I ventured beyond Los Angeles, and feel really grateful to be a part of such a passionate and hard-working community.

 

GOF: Can you sum up Trump with a bottle of wine? 

MR: Probably his own, which no one in their right mind would ever drink because it’s assumably toxic and disgusting.

 

Be sure to follow her Instagram page or check out her podcast, Natural Disaster, for all of her wine adventures. 

#WineWednesday: Malibu Wines

Welcome to my new weekly column

#WineWednesday!

Here at #WineWednesday, I’ll be sharing my adventures in the world of wine in LA.

10 years ago, I was a server in a small, family-run Italian trattoria in Sacramento called Michelangelo’s. While many Sacramento natives were driving to Napa on the weekends to get their swirl on, I was getting most of my sips on at work, through product tastings. I loved learning about wine this way and didn’t feel left out, even I was missing out on some fun winery tours.

Like Madonna, over the next 10 years my beverage pairing choices were always reinventing themselves: from a classic cocktail phase in Sacramento, to a major craft beer phase in Seattle, and even a cheap liquor and club soda phase when I could barely afford to pay rent in Venice.

Fast forward to July of last year, when I found out I was pregnant, meaning… bye-bye alcohol! I had survived countless media events, a month long trip to Italy, a bachelorette party at Pump in West Hollywood sans alcohol. After the birth of my daughter in April, I waited 6 weeks before my much anticipated glass of wine.

For me wine conjures up so much more than beer and liquor, whether it’s a memory, or even an surprise unexpected flavor. I enjoy allowing wine to open up and breathe, talking about it, comparing flavor notes. I just like it more.

As a new mommy, I usually don’t allow myself to drink more than 1-3 glasses of wine a week (damn you responsibility!) but when I do I make sure I’m experiencing only the very best- and this is my column to showcase that.

This week’s #WineWednesday is a spotlight on one of LA’s most Instagrammable attractions: Malibu Wines.

Malibu Wines
31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, California 90265
https://www.malibuwines.com/

When thinking about California vineyards, Malibu may not come to mind right away. But Malibu actually boasts of over 50 independent vineyards. With the foggy coastal climate in the AM and rich soil from the PM heat, it creates a great environment for deeper red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Malibu Wines, a tasting room and picnic area serves up both Semler and Saddlerock wines. Both brands utilize estate-grown grapes from the Saddlerock Ranch across the street.

On the weekends, their picnic area schedule is packed with food truck events, movie screenings, even yoga and mimosa themed events. If you plan to come here with a group for a weekend, I think your best game plan should be to purchase a bottle. But if you want to sit, chill and really focus on a tasting, I recommend taking a departure from all the craziness and pop by for a weekday tasting flight.

The flights of wine are reasonably priced, a light flight for $15, a red flight for $17, 5 wines per flight. This is an easy one to split with a pal.

After going through both whites and red flights, my top 3 wines were the Saddlerock’s Rosé of Grenache 2017 (very fruity, also candy-like), the Sangiovese 2014 (light bodied red but full on tannins) and the Merlot 2016 (expect cherry with lots of spice).

This is such an iconic place to visit. Whether you’re with a friend from out of town or you want to unwind and relax, Malibu Wines is one of those LA spots that never goes out of style.

Although this wine tasting was comped by Malibu Wines, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.