Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Afternoon of Champagne, French Fries & Nasty, (in a good way) Burgers

Yesterday Amy and I threw on some "grown up" shoes and headed up to Culver City to taste through the Becky Wasserman Selection Champagnes being offered by Garber & Company, one of our local distributors. I can count on one hand how many of these trade events I attend, they are just too crowded, always in Los Angeles held at just the right time to keep me locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours and to be honest I just hate the whole stand, scribble, spit, shuffle. They sound like so much fun and it can be a good way to taste a bunch of wine under one roof but I just find it too difficult to really get a sense of the wines in that setting. That being said there are a handful of tastings that I will attend and those usually involve a bubbly or two, yesterday there were almost 20!

We wanted to get there right when it started but ended up being about fifteen minutes late, stupid MapQuest.....why have the site if you are just going to give out completely incorrect information to the droves of us that cant find our way out of a paper bag?! (Grumble *&%*#@*!) A quick phone call to the restaurant where the tasting was being held and we were headed in the right direction........the same cannot be said of our post tasting ride home, (I felt like the Griswold's in England, "Look kids, there's Big Ben") I mean I love LAX and all but gliding by it like four times in one day is a tad much.

As we walked up the patio at Beacon,(the afore mentioned restaurant where the event was being held, and mighty fine direction givers might I add) we waved to the our sales rep and made our way right to the table. First up some lovely Cremant de Bourgogne from Parigot & Richard. We tasted both the Blanc de Blancs and the Rose, both clean and refreshing but Amy and I both found just a little more stuffing in the Blanc de Blancs, not cheap but very tasty wines that may just find themselves a home come October. The wines that really stood out, (not that there was really a clunker in the bunch) were those from:

Champagne Marcel Moineaux-2002 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut was stunning, loaded with white flowers and a faint herbiness that made it stand out.

Jose Dhondt- NV and 2004 Vielles Vignes, both wines were elegant and powerful...quite regal.

Camille Saves-Always a knockout producer, look for the 2000 Grand Cru Brut to arrive in October...it stopped us in our tracks!

Champagne Godme-These wines are so serious, not your pound it back bubbly by any means! Sexy fruit, curvy texture and very long on the finish.

Guy de Chassey-I have been wanting to bring in the wines from this estate for years now but it just always seemed not the right time, had too much wine already but yesterday and I flipped out when we tasted the 1999 Brut and I look forward to that wine arriving also in October, very welcome addition I have to say.

Bruno Gobillard-Another delicate style but the balance of minerals and almost sweet upfront fruit in these wines is sublime....look for a couple of these to show, you know....yea...October.
After sipping our way through all those glorious Champagnes we had some serious grumbling in our tummies, we needed food and just our luck, right across the parking structure was Father's Office! I had read all kinds of reviews/rants about this place and even our very own Nancy has proclaimed it, "One of my favorite burger spots" so I was beside myself with excitement. They are known for their amazing beer selection, sweet potato fries and "the" burger and it is that burger that has started many an argument on my favorite food board, Chow Hound. Part of the bickering is the fact that you cannot make any changes or substitutions to said burger, it comes with caramelized onions, blue cheese, arugula and is served on more of a roll than a bun. You want raw onions, no cheese, ketchup, mustard or any other burger-ish toppings you can have them....at another restaurant. I knew the deal going in and alerted Amy, "Just go with it" she was game, we were starving and they were just opening for dinner.

We grabbed a spot at the corner of the bar and quickly glanced over the menu as our server approached, "Can I start you off with something to drink?" she asked to which Amy replied, "Oh man a Martini sounds great". "Inside the menu you will find our list of Gins to choose from" the server said, "Oh no not Gin, do you have Belvedere?" Amy replied "Nope, no Vodka" was the response......long awkward pause as Amy tried to process what this woman was telling her, "I'll have a Plymouth and Tonic" I sang, just to break the tension. Slightly stuttering now Amy asked for a Margarita and was met with a smile and a head shake...no Margaritas either. They make like 4 mixed drinks and that was not one of them, Amy settled on the recommend Tequila and Tonic and looking rather shocked reverted her attention to the menu and just when I thought she had been broken something on the menu turned that frown upside down....Steak Tartare, not that over played Tuna but actual beef, with raw egg even!

We ordered the Tartare and a basket of fries, (not sweet potato as neither of us are fans) and sipped our laced tonic drinks, a quick glance of the menu and I found a tasty white wine and ordered a carafe for us to share, not sure if it was the tonic, tequila or Tartare but Amy was back in form and ready to get her "eat"on. Our fries arrived in a brown paper sack inside a little shopping cart, very cute....made me nervous as cute always does but they were absolutely wonderful, crisp, nicely seasoned and accompanied by a tangy aioli of sorts went through them so quick we ordered another cart full! The Tartare, oh man....raw meat, capers, red onion and gooey egg yolk with a zippy lemon kick served with waffle potatoes, as perfect as I have had it in quite sometime...which is not saying much as this dish is damn near impossible to find anymore, raw beef and raw egg being on the scary food list and all, I glopped up all that uncooked gooey goodness and could have asked for more, if there weren't "that burger" to deal with.
We both went for it, "We will take the hamburger medium rare" I winced wondering if this was one of those offenses that could get us throw out or given the "stink eye" or something but our server said, "very good, I will put it in a rare so with the carry over time it should be perfect"......"RARE?!...I could have gotten it Rare??!!" but I didn't want to change my order, not to mention getting a burger medium rare is in itself a luxury now a days.

We munched away on our second basket of fries and talked a bit about the Champagnes we had just tasted but we were both distracted by the mere idea of the bevy of beefy goodness that was coming our way, the conversation was clearly second on our minds. The main event arrived with very little fanfare, just sitting in a little basket, cut in half with a bunch of green leafy arugala sticking out the back of the roll, I wasn't expecting it to be wearing a party hat or anything but the hours of passionate musings I had encountered reading about this sandwich I just thought it might look a little fancier but whatever, I picked up one half and turned the cut side towards me and that was when I heard the heavens sing! The thin bottom bun was soaked, (but not gooey) with meat juice and just a shiny smattering of grease and atop that glossy meat juice soaked bun was a loosely formed, perfectly seasoned slab of almost rare ground beef, I know one should never get this excited about food but I could have cried....love at first glorious bite! Meaty tasting, soft with just a bit of crunch from the greens and top roll, super subtle blue cheese and caramelized onions, so subtle I don't think I could detect anything specific but the combination was outstanding.

Two girls, Champagne, tonic drinks, white wine, french fries, grown up shoes and one of the best burgers I have ever had.....damn fine afternoon I really must say!

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