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A burgeoning culinary scene, chock full of great choices among its many establishments, Culver City is an epicurean’s destination where it is easy to lose sight of all the good ones. Enter Beacon—an eatery with serious acclaim, as the head chef—Kazuto Matsusaka—worked with Wolfgang Puck (for years), after first coming to America to hone his culinary prowess.

I finally made it to Beacon on Sunday evening to try their burger, definitely not the first thing people think about when they go to an Asian fusion restaurant but I have had it on my to-do list since reading about it on AHT.

Very few people were in the sleek and modern confines of Beacon. Our group was one of three groups rounding out the night. We had the ultimate attention of the Master chef.

The Beacon Burger is available on request, no price is given. Is it a gamble? Not really, if you read reviews or ask the waiter they might say as our waiter did “…it rivals Father’s Office burger” as well as tell you the ingredients. For the drink we split a bottle of Tempranillo (an 02 reserve from Rioja).

For me the decision was made easy, Father’s Office was still fresh in my mind and this burger would be a welcomed competitor for the best burger on the block. Beacon’s featured a patty (half-pound) with a miso glaze that is grilled, served with caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese, hearty slabs of bacon, butter lettuce, tomatoes (variety: on the vine) and resting atop slipper bread (ciabatta roll).

The burger came with French fries and a little ramekin filled with ketchup. It was an understated presentation, signifying the burger’s legitimacy. After the first bite my fingers were covered in jus. I examined the charred patty that had a pinkish shimmer. The grind had a good crispness to the outside while yielding the tender inside—perfectly cooked. The bacon became a tad tiresome and could have been left off in favor of showcasing the patty. The roll was firm n’ chewy; it was able to make it through the entire meal without falling apart like the trendy brioche bun.

The Tempranillo presented great aromatics of fresh red berries and spice. The flavor profile was more refined—the berries were predominant but there was a light vanilla flavor that eked through and the taste was rounded out with a sophisticated pepper finish. The Spanish wine married the flavors of the burger and fries well, preserving the sweetness of the onions and miso glaze while cutting through the char on the patty.

Beacon – defined as a source of inspiration (one of four definitions), could be just that; after weeks of failed burger outings and other burger debacles, it was nice to relax and enjoy an outstanding burger. Was it better than Father’s Office? Not sure if I am ready to answer that, but I am positive I will find myself back here enjoying another great hamburger.

Spanish wines are quickly becoming a favorite for me. Tempranillo is especially enthralling. The ability of this wine to pair with the majority of foods I cook makes it even more appealing. The price point is not bad either, often around fifteen dollars for a great bottle though expensive options remain. It can be consumed immediately or be laid down (cellared).

Tempranillo ripens early (believed to be a reason for the name, temprano meaning early in Spanish), thriving in the clay and limestone soils in the slopes of Rioja—a wine growing region in the north of Spain—where it enjoys cooler temperatures.  It is planted in other countries like California, Argentina and Australia, proving it’s worth and growing in popularity.

Certainly not a stranger to press—recently featured in the NY Times where Eric Asimov wrote in length about the value and characteristics of the grape.  S. Irene Virbila of the LA Times, not too long ago made Bodegas Volver (100% Tempranillo from La Mancha) her wine of the week.

This diffident grape stands up to spicy, acidic and greasy foods. Pairing well with hamburgers, baked chicken thighs with sautéed Brussels’ sprouts and finally with homemade enchiladas, potatoes and some zesty tomatillo salsa. Each meal paired with a different producer of Tempranillo. For the hamburger I the Bodegas Volver 2007 ($13) was called upon to match the griddled meat, ), the Protocolo 2007 ($6)  blended the sweetness of the sprouts and chicken while the Crianza* from Sierra Cantabria 2005 ($15) helped coat the palate and subdue the tang of my friend’s tomatillo salsa.

Maybe because of it’s agreeable nature, the wine can be coupled with a lot of dishes (unlike other stubborn grapes that have big personalities—flavor profiles that only mesh with select foods). A Tempranillo’s affable character makes it a versatile, interesting and an affordable choice.

*Crianza is a Spanish term designating that a wine cannot be sold until it’s third year of ageing and must meet the conditions of spending at least six months in oak barrels however in Rioja and other regions that employ the term it must be stored for a minimum of twelve months inside the oak barrels.

Definition is provided by “The Oxford Companion to Wine”

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