Thursday, December 26, 2013

Spread the Warmth Gift Idea #3: Alexander Valley Vineyards

Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean that you're done with the gift giving!   There's all those people on the list you missed, New Year's Eve parties to attend, and any other excuse you can come up with to avoid your family!

Which leads us to Spread the Warmth Gift Idea #3: Alexander Valley Vineyards Wines.  I came across this vineyard almost six months ago as part of a wine tasting at Catch at Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, and Holey Moley and Boy Oh Boy all in one!

Alexander Valley Vineyards is located on Highway 128 in northern Sonoma County, 75 miles north of San Francisco.  AVV was started in 1963 by the Wetzel Family who boldly planted premium grape varieties in Sonoma (one of the first in the are).  The Wetzels sold the grapes for a number of years to other wineries and often produced a little homemade wine in the estate's adobe as a family project.  In 1975 the Wetzel family built a small winery and Hank Wetzel, oldest son of Maggie and Harry, produced Alexander Valley Vineyard’s first wine in 1975.

Alexander Valley Vineyards is best know for its Zin Trilogy: Temptation Zinfandel, Sin Zin, and Redemption Zinfandel (prices run in the $20 range).  In the beginning the Wetzel Family made four wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.  During this time their estate grapes, including a small section of Zinfandel, were sold to other wineries.  In 1978 the pickers came and harvested the ripe primary clusters of their Zinfandel.  AVV founder Hank Wetzel noticed that the estate had a large secondary crop of Zinfandel grapes on their hillside vines that ripened some time after the pickers had finished.  Frugal winemaker that he was, he mentioned this “free” crop one evening to the rest of the family after sharing a few bottles of wine over a meal.  It was decided that the Weztel Family would pick this later crop and make a little homemade wine for friends and family.

When it came time to bottle and label the wine, family friend and employee Dennis Hill browsed through an old art history book and found a 17th German etching, titled “Des Knabben Wunderhorn”, meaning “The Horn of Plenty.”  Katie Wetzel thought the image looked perfect for a wine label, and its bacchanalian character inspired her to name their rich and robust wine: Sin Zin. 

My absolute favorite wine I tasted from the Alexander Valley Vineyards is their CYRUS, which is their tribute to the Alexander Valley and Bordeaux grapes (these bottles are still a great buy in the $50-$60 range!).  AVV takes the best of lot to make this luscious blend.  CYRUS is named for Cyrus Alexander, a 19th century adventurer, rancher, gold miner, and founder of the Alexander Valley.  The staff of AVV say that he overseas aging operations since he’s buried on hill over AVV's wine coves. 

Alexander Valley Vineyard's 2006 CYRUS received 92 Points in Wine Enthusiast Magazine and was Grand Champion, Best of Show at the 2011 Houston Rodeo Wine Competition.  The wine is aged in French Oak for a year, 2 years in the bottle, and then AVV has a release party closest weekend to March 15th (which was Cyrus Alexander's birthday).  Its taste includes intense aromas of black cherry, plum, cassis, and chocolate combine with rich complex fruit, spicy oak, and velvety mouth feel.  This year Cyrus was 206 years old!

One last reason to explore AVV is they're green (always a great excuse to drink wine)! Alexander Valley Vineyards has been certified as a Green Business in recognition for the steps they've taken to follow the best environmental practices and conserve resources (1 of only 14 in Sonoma).  As planet do-gooders they've installed solar panels to generate power for winery operations from pumps to computers to bottling equipment, constructed 25,000 square feet of wine caves, using natural insulation properties to age and store their wine and eliminating the need to build an energy gulping air-conditioned warehouse for that purpose, and they plant cover crops like rye grass and peas, preventing erosion and providing nutrients for the soil while eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.

All reasons to grab a bottle to taste out 2013 and toast in 2014!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Spread the Warmth Gift Idea #2: The Veggie Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook

Since I met Randy Clemens at a party last year he has been an absolute Auh-Mazing friend to Edible Skinny.  Smart, funny, generous, Randy is also absolutely gaga in regards to Sriracha (he has a license plate that reads "SIRACHA"), which is why he written two cookbook about the infamous Rooster Sauce.  (And he's not alone Huy Fong Foods has never advertised its sauce, and its sales have increased by almost 20% each year so Srirachapocalypse, Schmapocalypse!!!)

Randy's latest, the Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook, is a Vegan/Vegetarian companion to the successful Sriracha Cookbook, featuring 50 inventive, vegetable-based recipes with gluten-free variations.  Despite what the City of Irwindale might say, devoted Sriracha addicts know that this fiery red condiment adds the perfect spicy kick to their favorite foods.

California Benedict with Sriracha-Chive Hollandaise.  Photo Leo Gong

So for those who want to take it to the next level, Mister Randy Clemens shows how versatile this garlicky, pungent sauce can be when paired with the almighty veggie in everything from breakfast to dessert, appetizers to entrées.  Delicious plant-based recipes include California Benedict with Sriracha-Chive Hollandaise, Cajun Quinoa Cakes with Lemon-Dill Sriracha Rémoulade, and Maple-Sriracha Doughnuts.  Featuring 50 flavor-packed, inventive combinations of vegetables and Sriracha that showcase an exciting range of fruits, grains, and veggies, without the processed fake meat found in many vegan recipes.

The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook will take your rooster sauce obsession to bold, new heights!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spread the Warmth Gift Idea #1: Sorella: Recipes, Cocktails & True Stories From Our New York Restaurant

Living a delicious life is more than the just ingredients; it's knowing how to pair each element perfectly together. This holiday season the Edible Skinny wants to spread the warmth (and secrets) of New York foodie goddesses, Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen and their delectable lifestyle. 

These culinary beauties recently made their cookbook debut with Sorella: Recipes, Cocktails & True Stories From Our New York Restaurant. As the perfect holiday companion, Sorella features over 100 recipes adapted from the restaurant’s Piemontese Italian menu, guided by the narrative of how Emma and Sarah went from culinary school friends to budding business partners, driven by a shared dream of opening a restaurant.
“Sorella,”which means sister in Italian, is a tribute to the deep bond created between friends when they create something delicious together. These foodie femmes, known for their feisty Northern Italian fare, fetching good looks and family-style spirit, make eating (and cooking) well, look elegant and effortless. Besides the book being coffee table centerpiece with “full-color photographs, visual vignettes and unforgettable anecdotes,” it also offers insider secretes on how to recreate Sorella’s old-world glamour, taste by taste, in your very own home. 
From the passed down wisdom of grandmothers to a starring role on Iron Chef, this cookbook shows living a flavorful life takes courage and creativity. With a focus on hospitality, through recipe and renditions, Sorella gives chefs the tool they need to make every meal more beautiful from the next.  

Spread the Warmth!

Miss Kat and Kelly Thomas
Hello Holidays!!!! 

This month the Edible Skinny is doing a feature entitled "Spread the Warmth."  It is focused around foodie education and appreciation gifts and activities during the holiday season. 

From wines to drink to gift ideas to ways to help those in need, it's just our way to spread a little bit of holiday cheer!!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fancy Hats, Etiquette, and Victorian Tea at 600 Main!

 With the fourth season of Downton Abbey upon us we are reminded of our want for civility.  Of a yearning for yesteryears, of a time of fancy feathered hats, fine china teacups, and the art of etiquette.  A few weeks ago the Edible Skinny found such refinement at 600 Main. 

For nearly 120 years the Mathis House has occupied an elegant, tree-lined block in Toms River, New Jersey where it has stood out as an exquisite example of period architecture.   In the last few years 600 Main has become a Bed and Breakfast owned by Susan and John Notte, but before that, for a brief period of time in its past, my mother, her three sisters, and parents resided at this Colonial Revival mansion.  So for my Mom’s birthday this year, my aunt and I treated her to Victorian Afternoon Tea at the Mathis House so she could revisit 600 Main, to reenter the world of poise, polish, and pots of tea.   

The Tea Room was awash in warm earth tones and dainty décor with an array of teacups placed on every flat surface.  “Walking through the front door I found myself magically transported back in time,” noted my mom Letty Thomas.  “We picked charming hats, put them on our heads and the fun began.”
Crisp linens, fine china, and tiered luncheon servers were all part of the festivities of this presentation that is hosted Wednesday through Saturday, from 12:00pm to 4:00pm at 600 Main.  Service includes a freshly brewed pot of tea of your choice from a list that is longer than the Dowager Countess social playbook, soup of the day, salad of the day, a homemade scone with clotted cream and lemon curd, and an assortment of tea sandwiches and savories. 

Traditionally tea in Britain would be served in the afternoon, such as 4pm, at intimate small gatherings of specially invited guests.  This “afternoon tea,” was also known as “low tea,” is actually what most people (read: Americans) think of when they hear the words “high tea.” The Brits called it “low tea” because it was traditionally served on low tables.  (High tea was actually a working class meal served on a high table at the end of the workday, shortly after 5pm; it was really more of a working class family meal than an elite social gathering).

There are many ideas about tea etiquette and the when and how tea was first made popular in England.  Charles the II grew up in exile at The Hague and was thus exposed to the custom of drinking tea.  He married Catharine of Braganza who had grown up in Portugal, also a tea drinking nation at that time.  It is said that when she arrived in England to marry Charles II in 1662, she brought with her a casket of tea.  She became known as the tea-drinking queen, England’s first.  Catharine would invite her friends into her bedroom chamber to share tea with her for in the 18th century it was custom for highborn ladies to receive callers with their morning tea while still lounging in bed

It is said that the afternoon tea tradition was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford.  She requested that light sandwiches be brought to her in the late afternoon because she had a “sinking feeling” during that time because of the long gap between meals.  She began to invite others to join her and thus it became the tradition we now know it to be. 

In regards to preparation, the best tea is only as good as the water with which it is prepared.  Start with fresh, cold, good-tasting water.  It’s best to use filtered or bottled spring water with a natural mineral content that is neither too hard nor too soft.  Distilled water is not recommended since water purified of its mineral content produces a flat tasting infusion.  Never use hot tap water or water that has already boiled for a long time as this will result in a flat and dull tasting tea with little aroma.

It is important to preheat the pot or cup in which the tea will be steeped.  If hot water is poured into a cold vessel, the temperature of the water will drop too quickly and the full flavor of the tea will not be extracted.  To preheat the pot: pour a little of the boiling water from the kettle into the pot and then pour this water off into the drinking cups to warm them.

The etiquette of the tea table itself has many ins and outs.  Sugar is placed in your teacup first, then thinly sliced lemon.  There is much debate over when you should pour the milk (and yes I did just write that sentence!).  At one time it was tradition to add the milk in first before pouring your tea from its teapot (this piece of tea etiquette is so embedded in British culture that there is a runner in the upcoming Disney comedy “Saving Mr. Banks” about it).  This was done to prevent the glaze on delicate teacups from cracking.  Though others say that since we do not have that problem today, you should add the milk after the tea so that you can judge how much to use based on the color change.  Either way one rule reminds steadfast: never use milk and lemon together. 

There is even etiquette to picking the cup up.  You must hold the handle of the teacup using your thumb and your first one or two fingers.  There is no need to stick out your pinky (people who erroneously do this have really only picked up an exaggeration of how people sometimes tilt their pinky upwards to balance the cup).  Do not loop your fingers through the teacup handle or cradle the side or bottom of the cup with your hands.   A guest should look into the teacup when drinking, never over it.

The sound of the spoon hitting the sides is considered a major faux pas! (Another sentence I never expected to write!)  One should stir their tea without any sound, moving the spoon in a gentle, back and forth arch motion making it really more of swish more than a common stir.  When through stirring, remove the spoon and place it on the saucer behind the teacup and to the right of the handle.   Of course, never take a drink of your tea without removing the spoon first, and please never, ever sip from the spoon.  When you are not drinking tea, place the cup on the saucer.   If seated at a table, never pick up the saucer.   If standing, you may lift the saucer with the cup.
Scones are a traditional part of a proper British tea.  To enjoy you should first split the scone with a knife.  Since the knife is now used, either place it on your knife rest, or lay it gently on the side of your plate.  Jam or curds is usually placed on the scone and then top off with a dollop of clotted cream.  Simply spoon a small amount of jam or curds onto your plate, as well as some of the clotted cream.  Spread the jam, curds, and clotted cream onto your scone.  Never use the serving spoon for this task.

Now all of these Emily Post rules were interesting to learn, but they in no way hindered the festivities, instead they only augmented the fun of drinking tea like a queen!  From soup to teacakes this day was all about the fun of being refined, of a grand event, Victoria Afternoon Tea, in a grand house, 600 Main. 

Afterwards owner Susan Notte took us on a tour of the property.  Having purchased it in December 2011, Susan and John took a year to renovate the mansion and in November 2012, they opened for business.  “I really enjoyed seeing my old home again.  Even at age ten in 1963 I knew the house was something special and very grand,” noted my aunt Kathy Berry.  “The new owner has restored the house beautifully and was so proud to show it off to us!”

In a few weeks we will all reenter the highbrow posh of the Crawleys on the small screen but for anyone looking to experience that world in the here and now look no further than 600 Main. 

Congratulations to Our Desert Essence Contest Winners!

Congratulations to Miss Shea Puskas for winning Edible Skinny's first contest:  Bundled Up and Ready to Glow!  

This Barnegat Light, New Jersey native wrote her best Wintertime beauty secret to be, "coconut oil is my wintertime savior! I put it in my hair and on my skin before bed. It looks and feels as oily as you can imagine, but after a morning shower my skin and hair feel renewed."  She will receive a Healthy Holiday Glow Gift Pack courtesy of Desert Essence. 

As for our runner up Miss Erin Breen Kelly from West Haven, Connecticut, it turns out that sometimes the best advice is the simplest.  Her advice of "Drink lots of water!!!" might seem like common knowledge, but it is one of the soundest pieces of advice to stay hydrated during the dry winter season.  Erin will receive a Mini Healthy Holiday Glow Gift Pack courtesy of Desert Essence. 

Thank you so much for everyone who participated in this contest and for making our Life Delicious!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks for Making Life Delicious!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Whether you're a Paleo, Vegan, Pesca, or Omni we wanted to thank you for being an awesome awesome reader to Edible Skinny!

It's been a crazy year with so many edible (and technical) adventures and we're so happy to have you along for the ride!  We wouldn't want it any other way!  As the great sage Dr. Seuss once said: "Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You!"

So from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for being You and for making our Life Delicious!


Edible Skinny

PS  Our Desert Essence contest ends on December 1st so if you were thinking of entering today's the day (with all that down time after dinner)!  All you have to do is like Edible Skinny on Facebook and post your best wintertime secret to our wall!  It's worth it with $80 of organic skincare product up for grabs!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Supperclub The Restaurant Los Angeles: A Delicious Get Away

Supperclub The Restaurant Los Angeles: A Delicious Get Away 

By Kelly Grace Thomas
At supperclub The Restaurant Los Angeles, talent takes the main stage. With delicious food and mouth-dropping entertainment, nothing that supperclub does is ordinary. From gorgeous bikini-clad women crawling out of corners, to acrobatic artists hanging thirty feet from the ceiling, to steak so tender that you can cut it with a butter knife, this dining experience is the perfect cocktail of unique and elegant.
Throughout the evening, patrons are served four mouth-watering courses while watching a choreographed show where talented dancers’ and gymnasts’ twists and turns shock and stun the audience, all the while the culinary staff is hard at work to create a menu of perfect pairings. In the kitchen, hands rush to plate entrées add the finishing touches, and move effortlessly from one course to another as they cook in a large, open-air kitchen, center stage for everyone to see.

The kitchen is headed by Executive Chef Guus Wickenhagen who joined supperclub The Restaurant Amsterdam to pursue his interest in contemporary global cuisine, eventually rising to the position of Executive Chef and helping cement the restaurant’s reputation for innovative menus. This culinary pedigree inspires startling presentations designed to surprise the eye and delight the palate. Wickenhagen opened the San Francisco supperclub dinner business before moving on to the Los Angeles flagship. And while the food is fabulous, supperclub offers so much more.
Supperclub The Restaurant Los Angeles takes luxury to a whole new level, this isn’t just dinner, it is a dining experience like no other, it transports patrons to another world, as beauties dance with snakes and goddesses swing from a hoop suspended in the air, making it all look like one effortless, poetic movement. 
This international establishment with locations in Amsterdam, London, and many other cities across the world changes both their menu and shows monthly to showcase the personality and produce of the changing seasons.
On November 9, the Edible Skinny was invited to come sample supperclub The Restaurant Los Angeles’ new November menu.  With delectable delights and aerial acrobatics, supperclub The Restaurant LA was, and always promises to be, an unforgettable experience from start to finish.
As guests arrive at supperclub, located in the historic Hollywood Vogue Theatre the lit up marquee is the first hint that you are in for a show. As patrons slowly trickle in, the hostess hands them their table assignment for the only seating of the night. With ticket in hand and surprises in store, guests walk into a world of wonder. 
With any entrance into extravagance, guests need a proper introduction. On this particular Saturday night, supperclub greeted us with a sake and black berry lemonade welcome shot, an obvious sign that tonight, fun was also on the menu. After our welcome shot, diners were ushered into the Bar Rouge, where they are encouraged to get a cocktail before the show begins. Within seconds, supperclub begins its first wave of surprises as our host, dressed in a campy “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter costume,” begins to dance with two other stunning beauties by her side. 
After a short intro guests are ushered into a white-on-white room, which looks more lounge than dining room. Herein lies of second surprise of the night, at supperclub, you don’t eat at tables, you enjoy your food as you lounge on a large white bed. Soon the lights dim and the music cues, and the main act is revealed: a rising curtain shows the kitchen preparing our first course.
Since supperclub provides only one seating per night, every diner receives the same course at the same time, meaning good timing is imperative, and supperclub is nothing short of impeccable. There is always something to nibble on, entertain, or watch.
Our first course was an Asian duck and shrimp salad with organic bean sprouts, shaved cabbage, fresh spring onion with a soya and sesame dressing. This light first dish was the perfect way to engage your taste buds without anything too heavy or overpowering. The flavors were fresh and rich, a very difficult combination to pull off. We paired our first course with a glass of Crusher Chardonnay, with hints of cream and butter; this wine was the perfect compliment to our salad.
After the first course the lights dimmed and the music rose. Our host twirled on stage, as she invited diners to get up out of their seats and dance between courses. “I love it because you can either dance and party, or sit back and observe, and you get to eat delicious food in between,” said a first time visitor to supperclub, Meg Minder. “It’s the best of both worlds.” After a catchy song or two the lights darkened and one of the many talented acts took the stage.
Most performances at supperclub dance on the edge of Avant-garde and elegant. As we watched these talented dancers swing through the air or do back bends with six foot snakes wrapped around their taut bodies, we knew it would be a challenge to find words to describe this unique experience. Supperclub The Restaurant Los Angeles and all its facets is something that must be experienced in person. As we watched three women hang from silks suspended from the ceiling, our second course arrived. This roasted butternut squash soup with goat cheese, herb oil and locally grown granny smith apples was the perfect seasonal dish. Rich and warm, our second course had layered textures of cream and tart, which provided the perfect early winter example of guiltless and organic comfort food.
While we were mesmerized as the movement of dancer and snake became one, our third course came out. While all the food at supperclub was delectable, the main course is the one we’re still thinking about today. This outstanding dish was seared beef tenderloin, with potatoes gratin, cherry tomatoes, roasted asparagus and a red wine sauce. This course was the definition of decadent, from the paper thin layers of potatoes sandwiched with cheese and cream, to the melt in your mouth beef, that can be cut with a butter knife.  This rich and hearty course would be enough to bring us back over and over again. This course was the perfect showcase of Executive Chef Guus Wickenhagen’s talent.
And just when we thought we couldn’t eat anymore, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we were served a pecan tart with vanilla and chocolate gelato and salted caramel sauce. As the perfect finishing note, we agreed that a visit to supperclub felt more like a week vacation than a two and half hour away getaway. This display of elegance and awe takes patrons to a different place, one where they are pampered and amused. 
Supperclub is the perfect place to getaway for the night and tastes all the deliciousness life has to offer. “There’s always something to see, the kitchen, the DJ, the performances. It’s like dining inside a moving experimental art exhibit,” added Minder. “And every bite is delicious.”
supperclub The Restaurant is located at 6675 Hollywood Boulevard, please call for reservations @ 323.466.1900 or visit for more info

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Something To Check Out: Pavan Liqueur's Sangria-Off

This Sunday, from 4-6 pm Santa Monica’s 41 Ocean Club hosts what might be the world’s coolest event: a Sangria-off!
Hosted by France’s Pavan Liqueur, a select group of international bartenders will compete for the title in the Pavan Sangria Challenge. This battle of creative mixology asks participants to create original Pavan sangria recipes inspired by the dream escape destination of their choice. The Challenge’s winner will receive, you guessed it, an all expense paid to vacation to the desired destination of their choosing. And if that’s not enough, the public gets to join in the fun with FREE samplings of each carefully crafted concoction from 4-6pm.
Pavan Liqueur by
The Los Angeles’ round of this international competition will chose semifinalists by a panel of expert judges, including cocktail writer, author and spirits industry legend Gaz Regan; and Pavan Master Blender Pascal Ribes.
Participants will prepare their flavor-forward batches for industry professionals and consumer guests. Judges will evaluate these lucky five contestants based on: quality and taste, visual presentation, and creativity and representation of dream destination. In LA, the panel of judges includes: Aidan Demarest, owner of Neat spirits bar in Glendale, board member of the Sporting Life LA and judge at the San Francisco World Spirits competition; and cocktail blogger Caroline on Crack, winner of the 2012 LA Weekly Web Award for Best Bar Blogger and cocktail blogger for Los Angeles Magazine.
However these industry standouts are not the only ones who get a say. After sampling each sweet and sassy sangria, the public will also be asked to cast their ballot to determine who will move on to the Finals. While choosing a favorite might be hard, we’re sure the people of Santa Monica are up to the challenge!
In the final round five finalists will advance to New York on February 8, 2014 to present their prized sangria creations. While one entrant from each event will progress to the finals, an additional wildcard will also be chosen to compete in the People’s Choice round on Pavan’s Facebook page:  The wildcard with the most votes will proceed to the Pavan Sangria Challenge finals.  Consumers who vote on Facebook for their favorite wildcard semifinalist are also entered to win a trip for two to the finals in New York. The Facebook People’s Choice voting will be held from January 6 – 20.

The Los Angeles Semifinal for the Pavan Sangria Challenge will be held this Sunday from 4-6 at 41Ocean Club. The club will also serve their own featured Pavan cocktail and some of their signature dishes.  The Edible Skinny would love to see you all there and as always, hopes life is delicious!

Friday, November 8, 2013

ES's First Contest! Bundled Up and Ready to Glow!

Bundled Up and Ready to Glow!  As we approach the Holiday season, Edible Skinny is happy to announce our first contest!  With the help of Dessert Essence, we want to know what is your best Wintertime beauty secret?

All you have to do is like Edible Skinny on Facebook and post your best wintertime secret to our wall!

As a natural products purveyor for the past 36 years, Dessert Essence was the first brand to introduce tea tree oil to the United States.   The company has a complete line of innovative personal care, spa, and active sport products as well as an organics collection which is paraben, wheat, and gluten free.  Their mission is to deliver quality, natural-based products that improve the lifestyles of today's most health-conscious consumer. 

Additionally, the company has taken steps to further reduce their carbon footprint by utilizing windmill power in the manufacturing of their products as well as recycled packaging and soy based inks in all printed materials. 

First Prize - Healthy Holiday Glow Gift Pack 
(Over a $50 Value)
Soothe sensitive and dehydrated skin with succulent Aloe Vera, moisture-packed Argan Oil and nourishing extracts like Cucumber and Chamomile that provide gentle relief to sensitive skin.

Runner Up - Mini Healthy Holiday Glow Gift Pack
(Over a $30 Value)

Again, all you have to do is like Edible Skinny on Facebook and post your best wintertime secret to our wall!

Entries need to be submitted by December 1st, 2103.  They will be judged the Edible Skinny staff.  A winner will be announced on December 5th, 2013!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Esterel: Delectable Elegance from the Foodie Gods

The French know how to make everything an art form: romance, fashion, music.  However, most culinary connoisseurs will agree the French’s true calling shines brightest in the kitchen. 
Simply put, the French are foodie gods. 

Their mix of subtle tastes and textures blend perfectly in dishes developed with such a rich roundedness that even the tiniest bite has diners talking for years to come. 

Lucky for Angelenos, Esterel, housed in Beverly Hill’s Sofitel Hotel, has brought all the delicious French decadence and culinary creativity a little closer to home.  The Sofitel Hotels are an international chain of luxury and boutique hotels dedicated to pampering their guest with every ounce of elegance and indulgence.  Everything, from the plush carpet beneath your feet, to the traveling art exhibition lining the hallways, screams beauty.  But you haven’t experienced half of what makes Sofitel so amazing, until you taste the food.  Esterel has put Sofitel on the map with perfected dishes that combine the right amount of simple complexity through a blend of overseas accents and backyard organics. 
Esterel has spent the last year crafting and creating its identity, bringing European influence to California dining.  “We are using our French roots and culture while embracing the local culture.  We are applying this philosophy to our guests experience,” said Esterel’s Executive Chef Marius Blin, who was voted Chef of the year in 2010 by the Chefs and Members of the French Club Culinaire of Southern California.  

Esterel uses local California ingredients to create a simple twist on French staples.  “The vision of Esterel is Mediterranean South of France food.  Easy to understand, not pretentious, using local ingredients, and with a good influence of fish and seafood,” added Blin. 

Blin drew inspiration from his past experience where he honed his culinary skills working with some of France’s most renowned and Michelin star awarded chefs, including Guy Savoy, Jacques Le Divellec, and Guy Martin.  Blin, who puts an emphasis on the use of local ingredients to draw from regional inspiration works closely with local farmers and suppliers. His favorite past time is to go to farmers markets and teach his daughter and other kids how simple and good, healthy food can be. 

While Esterel has always been aimed at bringing luxury to every experience around the clock, much of their earlier energy was focused on their evening menu.  With success established, Blin decided to shift some of the focus to the early morning crowd, perfecting a brunch and breakfast menu that simply states: Esterel is elegant at any hour.

“Since the opening of Esterel late last year, a lot of focus was made toward dinner and creating our identity. We incorporated our menu and dishes to our new and now famous Riviera 31 lounge.  It was of course time for breakfast to follow the same treatment.”  Esterel has added and enhanced their brunch selection to cater to the specific needs of their health conscious cliental.  “We enhanced our breakfast offering with a breakfast table including omelet station, De-Light low calorie items, cocktail juices, and much more while adding a touch of Mediterranean cuisine.  Brunch was the natural transition.  Our neighborhood clientele has been demanding for it.” And what Esterel offers are the perfect ingredients to make Sunday morning as scrumptious as possible.  “For Brunch, I wanted to create generous, flavorful, and hearty dishes that I would prepare for my friends and family,” added Blin.

  Sunday brunch at Esterel includes choice of one entrée, fresh fruit, cheese, charcuterie, cereal, French pastry, omelet prepared to order
 classic breakfast favorites and juice, French pressed coffee or tea.  Entrée choices include: Toasted Croque Monsieur, a traditional French staple with ham, Swiss cheese on country bread, seasonal green salad, Crab Claws served with
cocktail sauce, seasonal coleslaw, Eggs Benedict Florentine English muffin, Canadian bacon sautéed spinach, hollandaise and many other various dishes.

But lucky for the Edible Skinny we got our own private tour of the restaurant’s standout out dishes and exceptional service.  Here’s a little bit of our experience, bite by bite.
The first thing you notice about Esterel, besides the charming “Bonjours” as you enter, is the calming atmosphere.  Walking into Esterel is like walking into a mystical forest of calm and quiet.  Banqueted tables and booths washed in softened colors of sand and sage are filled with guests quietly reading the newspaper and sipping coffee.  Within seconds of sitting, we were greeted by our server, offered a variety of coffee beverages and water.  We were also given a sampling of the smoothie of the day, a creamy pineapple and banana concoction, sweet and robust.  As soon as the drinks arrived, our server dropped off various pastries made fresh daily and served with all breakfasts and brunches.  The various baguettes and croissants embodied Esterel’s effort to blend the there and here. Traditional treats like chocolate croissants and baguettes are part of the selection, however Esterel also uses local ingredients like orange and agave to diversify the selection and honor the natural treasures of California cuisine.

Next we were severed an egg white vegetable frittata, layered with garden herbs ricotta cheese and assorted vegetable, asparagus, tomato, bell pepper, zucchini, squash flower, basil, from Esterel’s newest De-Light menu.  This full-flavored dish has all the richness of a decadent dish with none of the guilt.  The De-Light menu is described as,  “A gastronomic adventure in healthy eating, De–Light by Sofitel is a pleasurable surprise of refined tastes with the freshest ingredients. De–Light by Sofitel reflects the innovative array of well–balanced, low–calorie meals to help you meet your health and weight goals in delicious style.”  Other items offered on the De-Light menu are a Protein Scramble and McCann’s Irish Oatmeal.  All items are the De-Light menu are flavor forward and under 200 calories.

For those with more of a sweet tooth, Esterel’s French toast is perhaps one of their most decadent signature dishes on the menu.  Made on a Mini croissant, with vanilla whipped cream, Vermont maple syrup and marinated berries this dish showcases the idea that a simple twist can turn a staple into a standout.  Not only is Esterel’s French toast swimming in the rich, buttery overtones of the croissant, but the flakiness offers a lightness to this dish that is traditionally on the heavier side.

Blin then prepared dishes that represented what we could expect when leaning more towards the late morning or lunch side of the menu.  The first was a mouth-watering steak and eggs.  While steak and eggs usually attracts a heartier, meat-eater crowd, this dish had an elegance that was both surprising and delicate. Esterel’s steak and eggs features a grilled prime flat iron steak topped with an over easy egg, truffle celery puree, red wine sauce.  This is hands down one of Esterel’s most creative culinary creations, the simple additions of truffle and red wine, bring out deep complex flavors, making it one of the best dishes on the menu and arguably the best steak and eggs in all of Los Angeles.

 Next we found that there is more than one way to cook an egg, but something this daring takes skill and delicate touch of a master.  Served on top of a bed of wild arugula, prosciutto, fresh Burrata cheese we enjoyed a twice-cooked free range eggs topped roasted sun chokes “en robe des champs” (en robe des champs is a poetic way to describe unpeeled potatoes or other root vegetables).  The twice-cooked egg was first poached and then breaded; its perfect presentation is a testament to the meticulous skill and attention to detail that goes into every dish at Esterel.

For those looking to make brunch a little more fun, Esterel has a list of fun and flirty cocktails.  We enjoyed a light and refreshing Bellini, a mixture of
 sparkling wine, white peach which was the perfect compliment to the Egg White Frittata.  On the sweeter side the Kir Royal, sparking wine and Chambord, paired perfectly to Esterel’s French toast or twice-cooked egg.

Esterel, and its varied menu of expressive and layered dishes, speaks highly of Blin’s dedication to perfection, the Sofitel’s definition of luxury and Los Angeles' ability to bring the best and the brightest of the culinary world to show diners just how delicious life can be.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Capturing Elegance with the Macallan Masters

The Scottish culture has always been a delicate blend of tradition and class. So what better way to capture the essence of Scotland than through black and white photography and a well-crafted drink?
 On Thursday October 24, 2013, the Hollywood Elite and luminaries from the photography world focused their lenses on a noteworthy event, The Macallan Masters of Photography: Elliot Erwin Edition. 

With a Macallan drink in hand, crowds of up-and-comers and well-known glitterati, toured the Leica gallery in West Hollywood, being the first to experience the fourth edition of the award-winning Masters of Photography series, ‘Great Scottish Adventure.’ Notable attendees included photography star Elliot Erwin himself, as well as Matthew McConaughey, Camila Alves, and many other aficionados and collectors.

The Elliot Erwin Edition is the newest edition of these unique limited collections, dedicated to honoring the precise art of whiskey making through the artists’ interpretation of the world of Macallan.  The past three editions have featured photographers such as Rankin, Albert Watson, and Annie Leibovitz.

In the fourth of the series, Macallan decided to commission Erwin, because of his ability to capture the candid complexities of Scotland through its warm and humorous glimpses.  His skill in making a moment speak, slowing it down to capture the glances, whispers and inside secrets, seems the perfect the companion to these distinguished single malt whiskeys, that has an ability to do the same. 

Erwin, known for capturing moments of honesty before they are be born, is most recognized for intimate portraits such as Jackie Kennedy at her husband’s funeral, and shots of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits.  Erwin gives his audience a glimpse into both an unapologetic intimacy and an overly publicized life. The Macallan Masters was an unusual contrast from Erwin's previous work because of Scotland’s diverse and commonplace range of subjects and backgrounds.

As Macallan’s mostextensive and ambitious exhibit to date, Macallan created 58 unique single cask whiskies to be individually paired with a different signed 11” x 14” photographs by Erwin. Among Macallan’s featured beverages were, The Macallan Sherry Oak, aged 12 years, The Macallan Fine Oak, aged 15 years and The Macallan Limited Edition, aged a ripe 18 years. The event also featured a signature cocktail appropriately named “The Perfect Ten” which was a mix of Macallan 10 and ginger beer.

Though each equally crafted, the Limited Edition 18, took the spotlight in the eyes of whiskey lovers.  While it shared similarities to the Fine Oak, which was only a few years younger, the Limited Edition had a developed and added complexity that can only come with age.  Perfected in specialized Sherry barrels, the Limited Edition is hinted with deep layers of honey and caramel that surfaced with time.  “It’s crazy to consider that this Scotch has been sitting in a barrel since I was in kindergarten,” said Scotch enthusiast and attendee, John Batoha.

Whisky and art seem to create the perfect environment for class and appreciation.  Erwin’s art and Macallan’s craft, as placed side by side, are the perfect compliment for a fall evening, as though the experience would be incomplete with either one missing.  It seems Erwin, himself, couldn’t agree more. 

“Photography is an art of observation – it’s about creating something extraordinary out of the ordinary. You choose a frame and then wait until the right time for something magical to come along and fill it.  I realized while working on this project that this is exactly the way Bob, the Whisky Maker, works when creating The Macallan.  He envisages how he wants a particular whisky to taste, selects the perfect cask to create it, and then he waitsTiming is everything,” comments Elliott Erwin.
“Selecting 58 individual single cask malt whiskies to bring to life Elliott’s 58 favorite images of his Great Scottish Adventure was wonderfully challenging – tasting the image through the whisky and the whisky through the image on such an unprecedented scale was inspiring,” remarks Bob Dalgarno, Whisky Maker, The Macallan.  
The Macallan Masters of Photography: Elliot Erwin Edition shows that fine craftsmanship comes in many forms. But sometimes it is easier to appreciate the nuances of one when it is sweetened by the other.