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From an exceptional California cheeseburger experience on the shores of Jalama Beach, I thought to keep my momentum going for my next Big City burger foray. A newer eatery piqued my interest after reading a technical and favorable review of their burgers in the LA Times. Setting a good time with a friend, both of us set off to check out the neighborhood gem, visions of Jalama still swirling. Friday night came and a quick drive-by revealed a gastropub with little wiggle room, diners queuing up around the corner for their turn at the vaunted comfort foods. We wanted no part of the wait and scrambled to find an alternative on the Westside—arriving at Steingarten LA. Karma from Jalama?

Not our first choice that evening, but it seemed like a reasonable pick for its proximity. On Pico Boulevard, across the street from Marty’s Hamburger Stand, we had located a beer-friendly establishment that served burgers. Seated immediately, we were ushered to the last table in the house. Steingarten LA was beaming with energy and big parties (six-tops and larger) spread out across the dining room… lulling us into a false sense of security. Given a minute to mull over the menus, it took little time for us to select drink and fare.

I had ordered “The Works,” which was their take on a classic California burger served with tomato, cheddar cheese, lettuce, raw onions, Thousand Island dressing over a half-pound patty of grass-fed beef that I wanted cooked medium-rare. While I was in favor of keeping it simple—or so I thought—my friend found “Golden Prize,” a burger that boasted herb roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Brie and roasted garlic sauce, to be more in line with his palate.

The Clippers were keeping the Lakers down on the big screen; we watched a fraction of the game before the beers found the table and discussion switched to the state of the NHL. In an uncharacteristic move that augured ill, our server spilled a portion of my draft ale over the table. She apologized immediately as I wiped up the white suds that were ejected from the challis. Small annoyance for what was to come… I assured her that everything was okay, no biggie, until the… food arrived.

With her tail between her legs, our server came back, apologetically, and presented us with two cheeseburgers a la the Atkins Diet; embarrassingly enough they had run out of buns!!! In my short time (almost four years) as a burger blogger, and longer as an eater, I have never been to a restaurant that has run out of burger buns. She told us that they would compensate us for the communication breakdown between kitchen and wait staff; in the meantime we were resigned to eating with fork and knife. Life would go on. End of mishaps.

I was even willing to overlook the bun-less sandwich, going European on the first bite before it yielded… an overcooked patty. Somewhere the Burger Gods were laughing hysterically. I tried hard to find the silver lining. It couldn’t get any worse! We were given pretzel buns halfway through the meal as a consolation—a peace offering. Those were as good as useless.

I really don’t like to pan restaurants but there were too many blatant service errors to be ignored, followed by food errors. My friend liked his burger sans bun (to be fair), but wasn’t happy with the late game appearance of a pretzel bun meant to assuage our grief. And we ended up paying full price—our server forgot her earlier words. Keeping our lips sealed as we walked out the door, the night ended filled with an air of “what could have been.” If only we had waited!

I alluded to a tasting in my Bruxië article, one that I would host at my trusty Westside domicile, focusing exclusively on the 2009 vintage of Cru Beaujolais that would hopefully inspire enough of the makeshift tasting group to attend en masse.To my chagrin, one person showed up, other than my roommate—a victim of the tasting happenstance—and my friend who had accompanied me to Orange County. Easy to say that this tasting was limited, only two bottles poured, however they did have a wow factor that enabled them to steal the night.

I am a huge fan of the underdog, finding the charm in Clippers basketball (as opposed to the Goliath—LA Lakers) and wines that have not garnered the same attention as other massive varietals and regions. Thus I decided it was time to peer deeper into the 2009 vintage of Cru Beaujolais, focusing on the ten appellations between St. Armour and the Côtes du Brouilly. Even though there was a blitz of press for this past vintage, it is still a greatly overshadowed region in comparison to the “collector” wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Beaujolais has never been too heavily sought after in the American market place, a myriad of great producers making a lighter bodied style of wine from the Gammay Noir à Jus Blanc grape represent a tremendous value but sit undisturbed on the shelves of wine shops everywhere. Often confused with the floral labels of Beaujolais Noveau, a lot of consumers think of these wines around Thanksgiving and then are content to let them recede once the season has past. The Cru Beaujolais can often be found in your bazaar for less than thirty dollars—that means the greatest appellations of Beaujolais and best pedigreed winemakers in the region are a lot more affordable and easier to gamble on than most of the overpriced California wines with the import costs included! Their food friendliness is enough to make them a sought out necessity.

In the North, Beaujolais is produced in soils of granite, schist and to a lesser extent, some limestone and in the southern terrain Gamay grows in richer clay based soils. Beaujolais can be found on the map in the greater Burgundy region and the soil composition is but one aspect that separates Beaujolais from Burgundy’s heralded grape Pinot Noir that dwells in the predominately limestone rich hills. Another difference is carbonic maceration where whole clusters of grapes undergo intracellular fermentation by breaking down inside an anaerobic environment (one without oxygen). The changes in the grape happen quickly, softening the harsher malic acid in the process, the grapes take on a sleek body and more lifted aromas.

Anxious to get started we were showcasing a Moulin-à-vent from Domaine Diochon (#297), another wonderful wine in the Kermit Lynch portfolio and Jean Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte Du Py (#296)—a wine that had flown under my radar but came highly recommended by the person who brought it. I was happy to see that the wines were almost equal in price, both hovering below the meniscus line of an Andrew Jackson, to see exactly what could be purchased for that money in an exciting vintage.

With an endless amount of buzz pouring out of France about the greatness of the 09 vintage (as a whole), I could easily foresee both wines disappointing, yet the beauty of Beaujolais is its affordability so it was refreshing to know that not too much would be wasted if my fears happened to pan out.

Fortunately for the four of us in attendance neither wine sucked! The Domaine Diochon’s bouquet of lavender, earthy soil and red fruits was excellent on the palate with a hearty structure (more body than I could remember in previous vintages), moderate acidity and a long finish of cherries, raspberries, anise, mushrooms and strawberries. When it came to the Jean Marc Burgaud I thought for sure this would be the clunker but no, the savory and earthy characteristics were up front while the red fruits were happy behind the scenes—present but not at the forefront. The Morgon showed a different composition of the flavor profile that was equally stunning. It has been well documented that these two wines could be aged but at this juncture they performed well, living up to the hype.

It was a shame that this tasting (hard to even call it that) was truncated; the wines were showing the power and finesse, more the potential of the Gamay grape. Though I was skeptical of all the praise, the wines proved equal to the task and did not disappoint our unreal expectations; I would have loved to inch closer to five hundred by drinking some more massively undervalued gems like these.

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