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I tend to have Tuesday nights open, and luckily for me they coincide with Palate Food + Wine’s Tuesday Jazz series where I can taste four wines for a meager ten dollar charge and experience some more inspired cuisine for a relatively low cost while being entertained by the Wine Director—Steve Goldun—performing on the bass with an assemblage of touring musicians. How come I do not make it out every Tuesday? I will tell you the real downfall for me is travelling to Glendale, the traffic is interminable and enough to make me weigh the fun that is in store at Palate against the gridlock. This time I decided to rough it, after being prodded by friends from wine class to attend (nice to be wanted), I gently fell like a domino and made the excursion east.

I caught up with my friends Tom and Liz at Palate, arriving deep into the set that promptly began around 8 p.m, catching a drum solo as I A.C Slatered my seat and joined them near the front of the house. They informed me that they were far into the four-flight of wines and they encouraged me to order quickly because they had already done so. Scanning the menu I opted for the grilled quail and the flight of Italian wines.

Everyone’s food arrived together, despite the fact that I had ordered well behind my party; and everything was plated beautifully. No indication of a rush. Tom had ordered the octopus with farm egg and Liz, more familiar with the cuisine and their proclivity for mastering anything Cochon, had the pork belly. The quail I had ordered wore its grill marks proudly. We divided the plates of food, family style; we cut into our respective meals and maneuvered the entrées to each other’s platters while respecting the flavors and integrity of the dishes by carefully distributing the portions in cordons.

As we began to eat, my flight of wine began; I was off the ground with a white wine from Campania—failed to grab the name of bottle number 233 (which will forever have an asterisk by it in this marathon ride to 500…may have to add a bottle to ensure purity when the Hall of Wine calls)—that was crisp and tropical, at least that was my experience. I transitioned into the red wines after the only white wine of the set (almost like an aperitif, though I would give it more credit, but I was in a hurry). The second glass was a 2008 Antichi Vinai Etna Rosso (#232) that was mildly tannic, moderate oak, failing to keep my attention as I was onto my third pour in no time, rushing the process to be caught up with my friends. That may have been a mistake because that was a pedigreed producer and a wine that deserved more careful analysis. Fortunately, my profession has sharpened my spot tasting skills and the alcohol was not an issue either.

Onto the 09 Scarpetta Barbera Monferrato (#231), that seemed to pair well with the quail and was delicious on its own. The wine had moderate acidity and good weight in the mouth, not overpowering the food. The final wine in the lineup was a 2006 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino (#230) that had a tighter, less odorous nose but I was able to pick up a few rose petals and a little cherry. The last two wines really showed well in the set and elevated the dining experience (though the foods did not need much assistance).

The entrées stole the show; my first time tasting quail and it was excellent. Rich white meat that was grilled perfectly and far surpassed the expectation of “gamey” flavors that is always the first adjective for the unfamiliar domesticated fowl. My initial quail experience was eclipsed only by the pork belly that was best in show; the sauce that bathed the crispy vegetables and most likely braised the belly of the porc was savory and vibrant. The octopus on the other hand was okay but did not hit the mark for my taste receptors and the dessert failed to capture my enthusiasm (not what I was expecting for bread pudding), but overall I wasn’t disappointed with the quality or the price.

I see two things happening in the future, making the trek back to Glendale to eat and drink at Palate Food + Wine (even listen to the quality music whether live or recorded) and to eat quail again. I am also happy to report that last Tuesday brought me four wines closer to 500 (230 left) and an asterisk excuse to have one more.

Thursday night tastings at Silverlake Wine are something that I always look forward to, when I am able to attend them, and last Thursday happened to be one of those rare and exciting occasions. I could care little about what I was going to taste, jazzed from leaving my awesome new position and the prospect of getting to hang out with my buddy who would be meeting me there. What is consistent about each trek to Silver Lake is that the tasting, no matter how spectacular, becomes dwarfed in the lineup of the night’s activities. I could hardly wait to see what the cards had in store for me and frankly after the dismal performance of my beloved Anaheim Ducks, I could use another distraction.

Despite ripping through the first two acts of Il Trovatore as conducted by Von Karajan while stopped in traffic, I managed to make it to the wine shop almost on time. The high notes of Maria Callas and the Anvil Chorus distracted me; keeping me calm as the 10, 110 and 101 did everything they could to exhaust my patience yet I knew greater things were bound to come.

The first pleasant surprise was that a young lady, from our wine class joined us for the tasting…putting off the dude fest, it was now time to actively engage in more suitable banter and taste more since there was an excuse to with another opinion on the matter. I selected a flight of red wines—California Syrah; my buddy followed suit and our friend Liz rounded out the flights by picking California’s take on the white Rhone varietals.

California, in most parts, is conducive to mimicking conditions found in the most celebrated old world regions, and the central coast happens to be especially good for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rhone varietals. There was one unexpected wine poured hailing from Malibu—an area picking up steam in the wine world. I would not say that the Syrah found in Santa Barbara screams Northern Rhône, exchanging the expected bacon fat and green olive esters of the red grape for jammier and fruitier expressions, at least that has been my experience. As far as Syrah from Los Angeles County… who knows? I knew what generally to expect like pepper (from white and black peppercorns), smushed fruits and a hint of roasted meat.

The three wines played right into my expectations and the biggest shocker was that the Montage (#284) from LA County, with notes of red berries, a dash of pepper and earth, full in body with the alcohol in check, moderate tannins, medium acidity and a nice finish, it was hard to imagine the proximity to my apartment and a varietally correct product going hand in hand.

The Jelly Roll (#283) also had some vestiges of Los Angeles, with affiliations to the Wine House in some manner—it was not clear. The Martian from Santa Ynez (#282) was another winner in the lineup with blend of black and blue berries, smoked meats on the whiff, with a sinewy body, moderate acidity and the oak in check.

After completing our flights we headed out to Palate Food + Wine, in nearby Glendale for some grub and a chance to meet the director of wine. It was something I relished because not only did we get to satiate our bellies but also our minds, with the best wine service I have had to date. We were served an endless amount of glasses from quality producers around the globe, from Anderson Valley to Piedmont and everywhere in between. It was not enough to taste the wines and determine the nuances betwixt producers (in the case of the Barbaresco), we were orally handed down fact sheets of each vintner, their location on the map signed out visually for us—it was a genuine breakdown on terroir.

As the night got nerdier I was completely enthralled, picking the brain of their director to glean information on the regions rather than focusing strictly on the product before us. I felt truly lucky sitting there (never mind the Ducks not proceeding to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs), I was in the company of great people, with a tremendous selection of foods, a fine array of wines and an exquisite selection of music to complete the scene. It is beginning to feel like bragging if I continue recounting the events of last Thursday but just know that the night continued and I very much look forward to my next time on the Eastside.

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