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The Heaven and Hell of Booze Showdowns and THE Best Rum

17 Jun
Pineapple Sesame Daiquiri

Not that I’m dramatic, but sure, I went dramatic with the name of this entry. Last Monday I was running around from 7:30am til 5-ish on 4-minus hours of sleep and still jet-lagged from a trip to Italy, pouring booze I most certainly was not allowed to drink…that could have been hell. But honestly I had a fantastic time as a helper at the LA Spirits Awards. Although I’m a goth masochist so take my pleasure with a grain of Carolina Reaper.

For all the wine adventures I’ve had, I have never judged a contest. Not with wine, and especially not with spirits. So I jumped at the chance to get in behind the scenes. Especially for this competition. It has THE most diverse set of judges around and incorporates the ever-growing categories of lo-no spirits for those who don’t imbibe, as well as ready to drink cocktails.

I spent the day polishing glasses, pouring flight after flight (after flight), delivering said flights, cleaning up when the judges were done (mmmm emptying spit buckets), and doing it all again, all day. This does not sound exhausting, but let me tell you, I got nearly all my 10,000 steps they (who are they?) say you should get in, by the end of the day. Seriously, it was like 15+ flights ranging between 2 and 9 spirits. I DO NOT know how the judges’ palates held up.

I could barely handle my recent experience with 50-ish Barolos. This crew consisted of utter pros who held it together all day although there were a couple of flights I suspected they wouldn’t loved based on what I smelled when pouring and sure enough, the judges were laughing in the way you do after something terrible but not actually tragic has happened, like attending a one-man show in Los Angeles or anywhere.

Honestly though, this panel of judges was the most diverse, the kindest, the most thoughtful (I enjoyed listening in to them as they debated how a spirit should rank) one could hope to find. Here’s how judging worked: each table of judges had a different set of booze they’d be judging. They had to come to a consensus for each. It either got nothing, or qualified as bronze, silver, gold, or platinum. Everything that got a gold or platinum would then be tasted by ALL the judges the following day, before winners were declared.

Meanwhile, as helpers, we were not trying the spirits, so I sniffed the day away–and when I deemed a pour particularly good or bad based on nose alone, and the judges passed similar judgement, I felt quite validated. Not that I need validation from other humans to be happy except I do.

Actually, I might say working the contest was more like limbo, as my nostrils were apparently doing fine work, but my palate wasn’t getting in on the game. Heaven was regained as I was invited not just to supper with the judges, but also sample the Ten to One rum, whose white rum received a Gold and amber rum received a silver medal in the 2021 competition.

The dinner paired three cocktails featuring the rums, and we got samplers of them to boot and whooo-eeee lemme tell you, Ten to One makes complex and aromatic rums. They paired well with the dishes but also with the judges I was sitting with. I learned about everything from roller derby to what it takes to move cats from Argentina to Cambodia that night. Not your average cocktail chat.

Said dinner was held at Caravan Swim Club, the poolside restaurant at the Playa del Rey-ish Hotel June. The welcome cocktail (and the leading picture for this write-up) was a Pineapple Sesame Daiquiri, featuring the Ten to One white rum, pineapple, juice, lime juices and–this was the level-up move–each was dotted with a few drops of sesame oil. The drink did well by what I honestly think is the best chopped salad I’ve ever had. Normally I eat chopped salad and wish I had all the elements separately and in bigger pieces. But this one provided forkful after cartable forkful of satisfaction. I’m not exaggerating. I want this salad again. The Charred Elote salad featured chopped lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, cilantro, cotija, and chipotle dressing. It was savory and slightly spicy so was both complimented and the heat mitigated but the savory and sweet nature of the cocktail.

I missed out on the second course of Crudo, seeing as I’m vegetarian, but everyone else cleared their plates.

The next cocktail was a Blood Orange Daisy using (again) the Ten to One white rum, as well as martini fiero (an orange vermouth), habanero agave, and lime. I loved this. I also love blood oranges and spiciness–although I honestly think (and this is rare for me as I love the heat) the spiciness could have been dialed down just the teensiest to let the other flavors show through more. But as a cocktail making enthusiast it is rare that I taste a drink and have no notes. I promise you I’ll find a way to make any drink just a shade better. Although that Pineapple Sesame Daiquiri would give me a run for my money.

My vegetarian main paired with the Daisy was a Spicy Cauliflower Steak, featuring peppers, smoked paprika, cashew, cilantro, and cream sauce. I’m not sure, but seeing as I didn’t notice any actual cashews and as I think they were trying to make this vegan–is it possible the cream sauce was made of cashews? At any rate as I mentioned I have a love affair with spicy. And creamy. And cauliflower. And the whole thing was topped with a refreshing mix of micro greens that played nicely with the spicy cauliflowernsteak. I was very happy.

The dessert drink was a Rum Old-Fashioned, paired with an Horchata Panna Cotta which sadly, I had to forgo as panna cotta has gelatin in it. But I had zero problems finding a taker who wanted to eat mine seeing as a) they were petite and b) apparently fantabulous. Old-Fashioned ingredients were not listed but given the color, as well as brown-sugar notes, I’m thinking it was made with Ten to One amber rum. It was a delightful way to wind down the dinner, with the luxardo cherry garnish serving as my dessert.

The winners winners cauliflower steak dinners have not been announced yet, so stay tuned. I may need to do a round-up tasting of the best. I’m rooting for Ten to One for another medal or so…and that’s not just the rum talking.

Poe Wine

12 Oct

The wine: Lustau “Los Arcos” Amontillado.

In all honesty I blame my goth predilection on someone giving me the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe when I was seven.

I was into big books. And someone saw fit to fill my mind with telltale hearts and ravens and (personal fave) noir kittens.

Also there is a story called the Cask of Amontillado. It follows the Poe protocol of death and maybe walling in alive people and…you know what?

If someone told me I could not “tell Amontillado from Sherry”, much like the protagonist-ish (?), I’d be angry.

Seeing as AMONTILLADO IS SHERRY. Wall them in!

Just kidding. But as a woman in wine, if I had a walled-in corpse for every man who tried to tell me they knew better about wine than I do…I’d…well I’d either have a lot of secrets or be on the fast track to either death row or/and being institutionalized.

Fortunately I realize that walling in one dude won’t fix systemic toxic masculinity.

Shall we talk about this wine? I’m not even gonna try to explain soleras right now but know that Amontillado is sherry that starts as something aged under a veil of “flor”, a type of yeast that adds all sort of brioche and bruised apple notes THEN gets some oxidative aging happens making it nutty and caramelly EXCEPT! Except it is dry. No residual sugar.

Amontillado is probably my favorite Sherry unless we think of Palo Cortado which is sorta the same but…let’s not get into that. It’s controversial and I don’t want to inspire too many Poe thoughts.

This amontillado is slightly higher on the nuts and brown sugar but there is raw baguette in there.

Crud I thought I didn’t like sherry but…I love some and this is one of the some.

Not just because it’s goth as fuck.

Because it’s goth af and damned delicious.

Good night my goth darlings. May the black lipstick force be with you.

football wine, baseball post

14 Sep

I am a Cardinals baseball girl. But I have yet to stumble on wine made by a Cardinal.

In St. Louis they inject baseball into your veins on birth. For some it is a delayed reaction love. I grew up going to games, but they terrified me because a) it was a lot of screaming adults and b) when you are little you are short and close to the ground and the ground smells like beer and I do not like beer.

Then, a few months before leaving for Los Angeles I was in a play with a bunch of baseball fans. It was 2006, and we made it to the World Series. The cast’s enthusiasm caught me. Last game of the series we did that play (“The Birthday Party” by Harold Pinter) faster than ever before so we could run backstage to our tiny television and see what was happening. We took our bows and RAN off the stage in time to see the final pitch. Oh what a night! Glorious.

Fantasy baseball will be my next step.

But can sports people make wines? I could not help but wanna try a sport person’s vino. I was recently given Intercept Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is made by Charles Woodson–his love of wine started while playing for the Raiders and living in Napa. I decided to give football some damn respect.

Also really liked the fact that while Woodson stilled played he had/has (?) a label called TwentyFour. But the NFL would not allow players to endorse alcoholic bevs. And yet he made wine anyway. Now that he’s not a player he can be totally public about his vinous life.

This is my review. Take from it what you will.

The labels:

Supes into them. I’m a cat person and there is a lion leaping. I am nothing if not a leaping lion fan. you know the leaping lords of the 12 Days of Christmas? Fuck that, I want leaping lions.

Then I smelled and tasted. It smells like California Pinot Noir. It has a bite and a spicy burn and is cherries for days. It looks garnet-ish own the glass. It tastes like cherry preserves but not sweet. It has little tannins and much alcohol. Totally a pleasure. Sometimes a girl needs a ripe Cali Pinot Noir like…I dunno I guess sometimes a girl just needs a ripe Cali Pinot.

Now for the Chard. I am always concerned about California Chardonnay. Will it be an oak bomb? Will there be so much butter I need a piece of bread?*

*trick question I always need bread

But no! It really is quite pleasant. Rather boozy, yes. But that’s okay. The body is full but merely hints at butter and oak and has quite a bit of…quince? Let’s call it quince.

What do you know–football (American football that is) players make tasty vino.

Now I’m off to check my baseball app. Please let me know if there are baseball wines I need.

 

Rosé indoors al fresco

29 Jun

Skip to the end for this entry’s challenge.

Mouton gets the award for lushest swag of the year:

The hearty canvas of the bag they sent me with the accompanying insulated sleeve and picnic throw scream “I am solid! But also pink! So!”

And so.

So I had myself a little indoor picnic because I like to celebrate small goth victories like the clouds of Los Angeles’ June gloom.

Not pictured: pistachio cake with pistachio frosting, lemon curd, and milk crumb topping.

Oh wait here’s a picture. It’s ugly though.

There’s a reason this blog is called Scrumptious GRUEL:

I could go on about the marvelous things I make from the Momofuko Milk Bar cookbook but let’s get to the rosé.

Here’s what you’ll feel in a bottle of Mouton Cadet Rosé:

Raspberries and stones. running streams. Strong love. An embrace with vigor. Which is my favorite type of embrace.

Vigorous.

Damn that’s a great word.

More stony up front perhaps a masquerade of the masculinity assumed with Bordeaux yet label and swag is pink but masculine pink and I do maintain real men wear pink.

And so do real goths.

Humble request for someone to make a Venn diagram of goth, toxic masculinity, pink, mental health, and…last one is your call.

Go!

Blinded

11 Apr

Oh certainly this was not truly blind. I did know I had three Pinot Noirs. But that was it.

Oh wait no I did know one was from Santa Barbara County, one from Russian River Valley, and one from Willamette Valley. So Southern California, Northern California and Oregon.

Oh and they are all from Siduri. These lovely samples.

But I wondered…can I identify Pinots from around the…west coast? I am a Santa Barbara (especially Santa Rita Hills) buff–but would I know it and favor it in a blind tasting?

I braved myself to feel like a bad fan lest I prefer one of the other regions.

Wine one felt extra light. I’d call it discount (that’s not an insult) Bourgogne. Like just wine you’d taste and think “basic Bourgogne but a leeeeeettle lighter” ergo I am thinking Oregon. But before making a call wanted to taste the other two.

Wine two said cherry jam af. It was ripe and bunches fuller. And had oak n things. Like also vanilla and a cough medicine but the tasty kind and I’m so into that so…well let’s look at wine three.

Three! Was fruit rich but not as cooked as two. There was earth there too. Also I liked it best.

I made my decisions. 1) Willamette 2) Russian River 3) Santa Barbara

And I was right! Ran the flight by my bf too who just looking at the wine deduced the answers.

This was a good test. Siduri is a good wine.

Pinot Noir is your friend.

Especially from Santa Barbara. Wow I’m a loyal wine wife.

Cheers sweet babies. Wrap up some pinots and blind test yourself…

I’m back! At least for now

4 Dec

I’ve been very busy with things like frolicking in Griffith Park at night and taking WSET Diploma tests and getting accepted into the Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood and telling stories on stage and making podcasts and things. And writing things for Delectable and going to San Diego for wine festivals and going to St. Louis to make pie for thanksgiving and taking my parents and their friends on wine journey because they were a captive thanksgiving dinner audience. If they wanted to drink the Bea they had to listen to me talk about it dang it! They did not seem to mind after all Bea is BEAtiful.

Anyway I just released a very fun winemaker interview episode of The Wine Situation so tune in here yayyyyyyy

Life has been full of happy things. Please enjoy with me.

Bittersweet love

28 Aug

Hallo! I wrote another lil’ something for Delectable about amaro! You can learn all the fancy fun facts (and lack thereof) and get my tasting notes on them here but in the meantime let me introduce you to my favorite new find of the year: Amaro Dell’Erbolista.

I broke down and got it after numerous people sang it’s praises to me. It’s a big ol’ bottle and once you taste you’ll be glad. It is one of the bitterest if the bitter yet has a backdrop of toasted marshmallow that haunts you. Close your eyes take a sip and see if you don’t see a campfire. Like if you could put a toasted marshmallow on an autumn leaf I imagine it tastes like this bathed in citrus juice.

Granted I haven’t had a toasted marshmallow in a minute, being vegetarian. But I’ve a had a vegan mallow here and there so I think I remember what the genuine article tastes like?

Get some and you be the judge.

Muah, dahlings. Off to shoot an audition then get back to work on my next two Delectable pieces for September. Hope to keep them bitter and sweet as my…personality? I dunno I’m not bitter. Just a little damaged. But hopeful. Okay not gonna get deep here.

Go get some amaro.

I drank a Scotch and I liked it

7 Aug

Oh wow! I’ve been anti-Scotch since the time we met. Which was when I was learning about “tolerance” so…just imagine why the flavor of it triggered icky feelings for some time.

But ample time had passed and while I no longer associated scotch with wacky St Louisans fetching late night White Castle and (ahem) scotch coming up…I still didn’t like it. For the same reason I don’t like a lot of mezcal: I’m not into smokey flavors.

Well, I had a pal determined to turn my head and I’m glad he did. The Glenmorangie Highlands Single Malt Scotch “Nectar D’Or” 12 year whisky with a Sauternes barrel finish is scrumptious enough for a gruel-head like me. I probably phrased the name all wrong but you can’t blame me too much I’m sipping Scotch.

This has just a whiff of smoke at the end that ballasts the honey, vanilla and marmalade that you get up front. It’s that friend who has one slightly annoying quirk but they are so delightful that the quirk becomes endearing. Or it’s the gap in the supermodels’s tooth.

Anyway. I’ll stop saying I hate scotch. Much like I tell people that if you think you hate Los Angeles you just have to find the part you like, it seems you just have to find a scotch that suits you.

I actually am a bit Scottish–me mum’s a Campbell so I feel better knowing I don’t hate a drink that runs in my veins.

American wine idol

31 Jul

My golly. So I started the Diploma program for the Wines and Spirits Educational Trust (WSETs) and the first (of six over two years) segments is…Viticulture and Vinification. And our class on vinification was guest-talk by…Brandon Sparks-Gilles of Dragonette! And I LOVE Dragonette. So life is mighty cool when you suddenly start being taught by the people you look up to.

Sorry I’m probably so not funny right now. I’m just reeling from “what is this wicked awesome wine life I’m living” joy. Oh and I’ve been acting a bunch more so my brain is addled.

So! Today’s wine. From my fave winery aka the winery owned by my home slice Brandon. The 2015 Dragonette John Sebastiano Vineyard Grenache. I promise to never say home slice again unless it’s my own recipe in house made pizza.

Such a sophisticated Grenache. For those needing review Grenache is a big ol’ player in the southern Rhône and it’s the G in GSM (Syrah and Mourvèdre are the other two letters). Even though I know Dragonette wines have oh so much finesse, for a Grenache from California I sorta was expecting a BIG wine. It’s so much better.

Grenache is known for being ridiculously high alcohol but this one’s vineyard is one of the coolest Rhône-varietal sites in this state. And seeing as such this wine (no surprise like its totes Dragonette duh) has oh so much elegance. And a “mere” 13.5% abv.

Smells like a Cali Pinot. Looks a tad ruddy. Light tannins. Tastes of underripe cherries black grapes and maybe…arugula? Something totally refreshing. I love a chilled red and oddly I think this does well as one.

Dragonette you are my darling. Cheers to you being in my life be it in my glass or teaching me. Wine love. So good.

I promise to be funny again someday but for now gonna finish this elegant glassful of fun.

Season deux!

25 Jul

Thank you for helping me pick a new podcast logo! We are up and running again! Granted, we are moving to a twice a month schedule for the moment because life is crazy and so are we but not too crazy.

Check out season two episode one here!

Ps it’s with Farley Elliott editor of Eater LA.

Pps we recorded before Jonathan Gold passed away. Our homage to his genius you’ll hear stands.

Love you too