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It is no mystery that I revere the hamburger, undoubtedly one of America’s finest comfort foods but I was having an identity crisis, wondering if there was more to the “Maverick Palate” than burgers and wine. I was beginning to feel a little one-dimensional kind of like Iron & Wine, Sam Beam’s folksy music is wonderful (especially “Sleeping Diagonally) but sometimes you just need a change. It was all becoming too predictable, every Friday the same routine and so I thought about shaking things up, attempting to go to one of the most storied Japanese Ramen houses in Los Angeles to embark upon a novel tasting excursion.

When I got home from work it had been decided that Santouka would be the spot for Alexander’s next big adventure; I threw a flûte du Rhin (the giraffe necked bottles of Riesling and Gewürztraminer) of 2008 Boeckel Riesling (#449) from Alsace into the fridge and a couple of flasks into the freezer to chill the transport vessels.

I was briefed by my buddy Mr. Badduck about what to do and eat when I made it into the Japanese food court off of Centinela and Venice, instructed to order a salt-based ramen broth with pork and fixings on the side, a # 7 on the menu.

It was with this intel that I strategically planned to drink a Riesling from Alsace to cut the fat from the pork and leave clean and fresh fruit in its place. The high acidity, I believed, would be capable of refreshing the palate from the salt and richness of the broth.

It was time to put the plan into execution, making the voyage with another friend to test my hypothesis. Inside the shopping center there was a security guard posting by the door, eyeing me for a moment. Not one for drawing any attention to myself but when we arrived I was the only guy packing a camera and two flasks, trying to be as subtle as possible. We ordered our identical meals and were lucky enough to find seating in the busy food court adjacent to the market.

I scanned the surrounding area; teeming with people and bustling little restaurants, diners with their heads deep in their bowls who would angle out quickly to assist with the shoveling motion made with the chopsticks. There were a few other busy eateries but it was clear that the Santouka was the darling of the bunch.

When it came time to eat I grabbed two small Styrofoam cups and filled them with a nominal splash of water and my friend and I downed the contents to begin transferring the Riesling, carefully monitoring the security guard at all times—no pairing complete without a little thrill. I was anxious to get this tasting started as I stared at the bowl of broth and noodles and the side dish of Woodear mushroom, bamboo, finely chopped scallions, thinly sliced and incredibly tender shavings of pork and a few unidentifiable items.

Incorporating all the ingredients and submerging them with the chopsticks, to help each absorb the creamy liquid, I took a couple of slurps of noodles and I reached for my wine. There was an initial spike of alcohol (heat) that immediately dissipated with Riesling’s eraser-like effects on my palate, leaving behind a delicate pear/apple flavor. Quite refreshing.

I decided to try one of the shavings of pork with the Riesling and it was textbook, there were no traces of pork or fat—my tongue left immaculate. The ramen was also a very simple, hearty and well-executed bowl of noodles. Santouka used nice ingredients, charged reasonable fees and were definitely worth every penny. The Riesling worked nearly flawlessly with the ramen, it was an excellent combination of flavors and definitely a rewarding experience to go a bit outside my burgerdom and enjoy something so much.

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Wine of the Month

Roumier Morey St. Denis 'Clos de la Bussiere' 2008

Eatery of the Month

aguachile

Jesse's Camarones Restaurant

Musical Accompaniment

Glenn Kotche’s ‘Ping Pong Fumble Thaw’  by The Brooklyn Rider Almanac