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Jenise

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So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night...

by Jenise » Tue Jul 16, 2019 4:56 pm

...and I need to write a review about it in which I can only say nice things, so I'm thinking if I bitch up a storm here I might be able to 'get over it' and be a little more positive. This was at a local Italian restaurant who pour balsamic vinegar all over everything cuz that's fancy, so I'll admit to not expecting to be wowed. Featured winery was a small Washington state with viognier, sauv blanc, merlot and cab franc.

Pull up a chair, and sit down.

STARTER: a Prosecco-lemon-mint bubbly with amuse bouche of sun dried tomato cracker topped with three squirts (piping bag) of SDT cream cheese, a slice of strawberry and strands of arugula. We liked: surprisingly good match between the strawberry and the SDT flavor and the prosecco drink was nicely dry.

1st COURSE: Billed as "Fruit salad, tuna poke, sesame, soy caramelized pineapple, jalapeno". This had my uh-oh antennae way up--remember I'm in an Italian restaurant. What I got: overdressed poke, dots of spicy red sauce, a 'smile' of diced melon garnished with arugula and two chunks of strawberry. No sign of sesame (except in the oil in the poke), pineapple, or jalapeno. The best part of the dish were the spicy red dots.

2nd COURSE: Billed as "prawn and sherry grilled cucumber skewer, chimichurri". What I got: three shrimp separated by two slices of cucumber painted with a scant but decent chimichurri sitting on guess what? Arugula! No sign, visually or tastewise, of grilling, let alone sherry.

3rd COURSE: Billed as "pistachio-mustard encrusted lamb, tri-colored quinoa, black cherry chutney, sweet potato coconut curry". What I got: two excellent (mild and tender) double rack chops--over-crusted because the grind on the pistachio nuts was too large but perfectly cooked medium I'll give them that--plopped into a bowl of soupy lukewarm curry with a wad of smashed cherries on top. The quinoa might have been underneath the chops but it was impossible to discern from the pistachio crust. Really hard to eat as we were not given steak knives for proper cutting, just serrated conventional/all purpose knives that sawed more than they actually cut, neither of which is suitable for something served in a bowl. And no spoon with which to eat the curry which was tasty enough but it lost any excitement it might have had with the reduced Fahrenheits of it's service temperature. And finally here was a plate where a single leaf of arugula might have been appreciated, as there was nothing fresh, bright or green on the plate. It was way too sweet and rich. So of course they put the sweetest and richest of the wines, the merlot, with it. :roll:

DESSERT: "Glazed puff pastry, raspberry chocolate meringue, candied pecans". What we got: puff pastry, whipped cream, raspberries, nickel-sized--that's both in height and width--soft/floppy chocolate discs that looked like melanomas, and pecans all drizzled with honey. This, served with a dry cab franc, which of the two reds was by far the liveliest with good acidity. Such a shame to not have served the brighter wine with that rich lamb/curry dish and save the sweeter/fruitier red for last (not that it would matched the dessert, either, but the lamb needed that cab franc!) I get that the chef isn't a wine guy, so to him sweet and rich pairs with sweet and rich, but that's naive and amateurish.

As was, frankly, the entire meal. Thanks for listening.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Barb Downunder

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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Barb Downunder » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:09 am

Whoa, tough gig to have to say only nice, it sounds horrible. You have, however, even whilst venting here, found positive things to say, and you have those to build on. Ac...centuate the positive as the song goes :wink:
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Rahsaan » Wed Jul 17, 2019 10:49 am

But you haven't said why you can only include nice things in the review?! That sounds weird. Surely a few critical notes never hurt anyone.
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Jenise » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:35 am

Rahsaan, it's because I need to post it on the local Facebook page I created for wine and food (restaurant) discussion. What's opening, what's closing, what's coming, and anything nice I can think to say. I can only be lightly critical within the context of a strong review--like a place I really love who has changed their menu to a small plates format--overall everything was great but $18 for three half chicken wings is seriously miscalculated and I had to say so. Anyway, my page is doing a great job if filling in the void created by a lack of local newspaper--there is one, but no one subscribes anymore. So my role there is, has to be, that of friend/promoter, not critic.

Anyway, I solved my problem. Posted five pictures, including one of the four wines with just the caption: "Lovely winemaker dinner at the ____ the other night" and mentioned that I'd purchased the very classic sauvignon blanc for my August tasting. Short and positive, never mind the food failures.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Rahsaan » Thu Jul 18, 2019 3:04 pm

Sounds like a good solution!
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Jenise » Thu Jul 18, 2019 3:08 pm

I'm just irritated. I want local restaurants to do well--we have so few. I certainly want this one to be better than it is.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Bill Spohn » Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:54 pm

They have no inspiration to do better unless they get constructive criticism. I'd be tempted to send them a letter with 1 - what you did say on line, and 2 - what you just said here, maybe tarted up a bit as being constructive.
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Jenise » Sun Aug 11, 2019 2:01 pm

I hear you. BUT:

I went to another event last night where this restaurant was one of several food providers. The chef was there and I complimented him on one of the items which was quite good, and mentioned that I'd been to the dinner described here. He was so elated that I brought that up, I don't think I could say a single critical word to his face. Basically: he doesn't know what he doesn't know. And the restaurant's doing well enough with the locals. Bottom line: they don't need to impress people as picky as you and I.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Bill Spohn » Sun Aug 11, 2019 2:10 pm

Jenise wrote: Bottom line: they don't need to impress people as picky as you and I.


I choose to think of it as being discerning. But you are right, if their customers favour the gourmand over the gourmet, they aren't going to want to hear anything that would make them likely to please fewer people. Tell them they should open a smorgasbord! :twisted:
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Jenise » Sun Aug 11, 2019 5:36 pm

Yes, Discerning R Us!

But the restaurant problem--like the best ballerina in Lubbock, Texas, they think they're awesome. They're the only fine dining restaurant in that two-block town. Oh, they just got the Wine Speck Award of Excellence for their wine list. Very proud of it and the public's impressed, and yes it's a fairly good list if no one checks to make sure that all those wines are really there (last time I ate there I got skunked on my first and second choices). And of course, you and I know that so-called award isn't hard to get.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Bill Spohn » Sun Aug 11, 2019 5:46 pm

Some years ago I had dinner at La Belle Auberge in Ladner, owned by a fellow member of the Commanderie de Bordeaux. They had a very extensive wine list, and all the wine was kept on the top floor of the old house the restaurant was run in (presumably air conditioned, one would hope). I made several choices from the list and each time the waiter had to run upstairs to get the wine. I think he did this about five times without result - they were out of everything I was asking for and hadn't updated their list. I finally called the Maitre'D over and asked if he could save a bunch of time and just tell me what they actually had instead of wearing out his waiters in futile trips to the 'cellar' I was not impressed (and told the owner that later, which probably didn't endear me to him).
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Jenise » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:42 pm

I've heard about that restaurant, which I understand no longer exists. Worst wine list experience ever? I once ordered a Trefethen chardonnay (Napa) at a restaurant that had a pretty nice looking list. Before I ordered the bottle, I asked what they had on the BTG glass list--I wasn't convinced yet that I wanted to stay with white or just order a glass for the salad and something red for the mains. The debonair white haired British somm/restaurant manager offered an inexpensive unoaked French chardonnay instead. Nah, I wanted a richer upper end style. But 2nd choice, 3rd choice, 4th and 5th choice, all the same. I finally had to ask what chardonnays he did have. Just one--that inexpensive unoaked French wine on the BTG list. And it was the ONLY white available, period. After that, we took our own wine and paid corkage.

I later heard from the new somm, a friend of mine, that the guy got fired for stealing, and in fact got fired from two casinos in the Southern area of the state for the same thing. Meanwhile the restaurant brought in a new GM and had half their staff quit in a single day, including my friend. I went shortly after that (with friends, who chose it to celebrate an anniversary), and we were informed that the new GM had taken the corkage option off the table. When it became clear we'd leave, they agreed to let us open the bottle we brought with the admonition never again. Then the totally incompetent waitress emptied our bottle between three glasses on the first pour. To the brims, they were.

Last I heard, not only have things not improved, but out of desperation they actually hired the debonair Brit somm-thief back. Couldn't happen to a nicer restaurant.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Bill Spohn » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:53 pm

Had a similar thing happen with a bottle poured into four glasses leaving two empty. They asked if I wanted another bottl and my reply was that I wanted one bottle poured competently. Called the owner over and said that his waiter clearly had zero clue about wine service and was he able to do better. He did and probably took it out on the waiter later. He deserved it.
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Re: So I went to the crappiest winemaker dinner last night..

by Jeff Grossman » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:29 pm

It's just like, um, er, French Coca-Cola, right? ::hayseed smiley::

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