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Archive for October, 2010

I am a big fan of ramen. Years ago, I went to the original Momofuku location and was impressed how they transformed the dish —  the pork, egg and broth stood out for what has to be the best bowl of ramen I have ever had. I have been back a number of times and infortunaely David Chang’s ramen hasn’t reached the same heights, but it is still a treat. I go to Menkui Tei almost every time I go to New York. The regular ramen is good, but the Jar-Jar Ramen is what keeps me coming back again and again…Ippudo is also another favorite (though the noodle is one of the most important elements of the dish, and I find theirs to be a bit ra-meh-n).

All of the mentioned restaurants are in New York, but I now have a favorite place for ramen in Los Angeles — Daikokuya. The food is great and a very good value — plus the fact that it is a bit of a whole in the wall with great service only adds to its charm.

Sliced Roast Pork
Seared kurobuta pork belly chashu with sweet glaze and green onions. You can tell this dish is delicious just by looking at the picture. The pork belly is tender and flavorful — more than enough for a meal for 1 person for only $5.95.

Daikoku Ramen
Tonkotsu (pork bones) soup with our secret blended soy sauce, chijire style egg noodles, kurobuta pork belly chashu, marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, green onions and sprinkle of sesame seeds. Ask for the richer, kotteri flavor which uses added soup extracted from the back fat. All 3 of us were in agreement that the broth was richer with better flavor. Really like their ramen noodles — some spring, good thickness and texture…plus a great value at $8.95.

I am not the only fan so beware of long lines. Recommended.

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Langer’s has served more than 4 million pounds of pastrami since its inception. The story begins in 1905, with the arrival at Ellis Island of Harry and Rose Langer, from Odessa, Russia. A tailor by trade, Harry settles with Rose in Newark, New Jersey. They have three children — Joe, Al and Morris.

In 1924, Al, now 11 years old, gets a job at a local delicatessen as a busboy, cleaning tables and assisting the waitresses. The waitresses went home at 8 PM, so Al would wait tables on his own until closing. From age 11 to becoming an adult, Al worked in delicatessens throughout the New York area. It was during this time he perfected his ability to hand-slice pastrami, a “lost art” knifing skill that preserves the juicy flavor and tenderness of the meat during cutting. As a result, Al became a highly sought-after delicatessen counter man.

In 1936, Harry, Rose, Joe and Al Langer relocated to Los Angeles, where new opportunities in tailoring work awaited the head of the family. Al began working at a variety of delicatessens around Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, then a thriving Jewish community, as well as locations on Hollywood Boulevard. Eventually, Al purchased The Famous Deli, a small delicatessen near the corner of 7th and Alvarado, a mere 12 seats for patrons. This would become the Langer’s Delicatessen.

Time passed and Al’s success grew along with the deli’s. Space became available south of the original location, allowing the restaurant to expand first to 58 seats and by 1968, to 135 seats (the present configuration). During the 1950s and early 1960s that became famous for its delicious pastrami and hot, crispy-crusted rye bread. Al created the #19 — hot pastrami, cole slaw, a slice of Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on hot rye — and it quickly became the deli’s most popular sandwich, a laurel that it holds to this very day. I’m not sure what the prices was back then, but today it is $14.45. This might seem a little expensive if it weren’t for the fact this might be the best sandwich in the United States.

I went to Langer’s a few years ago. I had a cup of the cabbage soup and immediately sensed I was in for a treat. It only got better once they brought me the #19. It was more than memorable — it is my reference point for all other pastrami — and all other sandwiches for that matter. A few years pass, I am back in LA and we decide we must make a trip to Langer’s. I consider ordering something else for fear that the #19 might disappoint. As time passes it is easy to elevate a food experience to something a little more than it was. With time often comes nostalgia — and a memory or experience can become idealized. You try and recreate the experience and so often it disappoints. It’s difficult to know if it is in fact a lesser experience than the original — or if emotions played a part in distorting the memory of the original experience.

It would have been very easy to pick something else, it was 11 am — so breakfast and lunch were an option and like any great deli, Langer’s menu offers many different items in many different combinations. After deliberating, I knew I had to go with the #19 — hot pastrami, cole slaw, a slice of Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on hot rye.

Truth be told, it was better than last time. The bread’s crust was thicker — it was more like a shell than a crust — and of course the pastrami was delicious. My next trip I might just get a pastrami on rye with mustard — I can’t imagine it could get much better than that and the absence of cole slaw, cheese and dressing might be a better format to let the real stars of the sandwich shine. I left knowing that was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had — and perhaps at the very top of the list.

I am not alone in that opinion. Nora Ephron, in her article that appeared in The New Yorker, wrote the following:

The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.

Ephron goes on to describe the bread (the bread is a key ingredient in the deliciousness of this sandwich):

Today, Langer’s buys its rye bread from a bakery called Fred’s, on South Robertson, which bakes it on bricks until it’s ten minutes from being done. Langer’s bakes the loaf the rest of the way, before slicing it hot for sandwiches. The rye bread, faintly sour, perfumed with caraway seeds, lightly dusted with cornmeal, is as good as any rye bread on the planet, and Langer’s puts about seven ounces of pastrami on it, the proper proportion of meat to bread.

David Sax, author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, had similar praise as posted on JewishJournal.com:

Langers, home of the finest pastrami sandwich in the universe, much less the country…

Langer’s has also received the coveted James Beard Foundation award. David Shaw writing for the James Beard Foundation in commemoration of our America’s Classics award wrote the following:

In Los Angeles, where any business that stays open for more than five years is likely to proclaim itself a “legendary institution,” Langer’s Delicatessen is the real thing. Langer’s is also a living microcosm of the Los Angeles story, from dramatic post-war growth through all the triumphs and tribulations, changes and challenges that have followed.

Opened in 1947 with just 12 seats, almost forced out of business by recession and the urban blight of drugs and gangs in the early 1990s, then rescued by — of all things in Los Angeles, a subway! — Langer’s lives on, serving what many deli aficionados on both coasts consider the best pastrami sandwich in America. Norm Langer started working for his dad, Al, in 1963, and he’s been there virtually every day since. His father, who passed away shortly after the restaurant celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007 — would come in for a few hours three or four days a week to help out with the lunch rush and greet longtime customers, many of whom recognize the children in the family photos on the walls.

Just west of downtown, in a neighborhood more shabby than chic, on a street corner at Seventh and Alvarado in a heavily Latino area, adjacent to a burgeoning Korea Town, it draws an eclectic and loyal clientele — including at least one Korean businessman who calls Langer’s pastrami “Jewish kimchee.”

All very high and well deserved praise, leaving little doubt that a trip to Langer’s is as memorable as it is delicious. Any survey of the world’s best sandwiches or a visit to Los Angeles is simply not complete without a stop at this landmark deli. Highly recommended.

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Arnot-Roberts Wines is a joint project of Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts. Their goal is to make natural wines that express the uniqueness and beauty of their variety and location. To accomplish this, they draw on Duncan’s years of experience in some of California’s greatest wineries, Nathan’s craftsmanship as a cooper and the distinctive vineyards of a few meticulous Northern California grape growers.

All Arnot-Roberts wines are aged in French oak barrels built by Nathan and Duncan. All fermentations occur on native yeast and the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. The California Fuchsia on the label was painted by Margrit Biever Mondavi, Nathan’s grandmother. Production is around 700 total cases per year of five wines.

Last week, I went to a Beaujolais tasting at Dino in Washington, DC. I brought a Morgon Marcel Lapierre 2009 (more on that to come…) and for kicks I also brought the Trousseau from Arnot-Roberts. We planned on tasting some 16-18 wines in a blind tasting and thought the Trousseau would be an interesting twist. Trousseau is also known as Trousseau Noir or Bastardo — and is most commonly known as the grape used on Portugal to make Port.

It was probably the most interesting wine of the evening and certainly the most divisive. I had tasted the wine previously and so it stood out immediately for me, but I think it did for everyone. Some liked it, others did not…

Pale red in color, translucent and a little cloudy — from first blush, this is clearly a unique wine. It was not the most aromatic wine of the evening, but the nose shows a good amount of strawberry, sour cherry and floral notes. Sour cherry on the palate with some cranberry, pomegranate with some funky green leaves, oranges and earth. It reminded me a bit of a light-bodied Pinot.  This is wine that will not have mass appeal, it’s a bit of a nerd wine (ok, it is a total nerd wine) — but I thought it was unique, thought-provoking and enjoyable. 3 barrels produced. 12.5% alcohol.

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Domaine Pierre de la Grange is considered one of the best domaines of the Nantais, a region that marks the most northwestern point of all France’s vineyards. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation (the family has owned the property for more than 200 years) to run Domaine Pierre de la Grange, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name. They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are over seventy.

There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin. The leading cuvées are the L d’Or (a weighty expression of Melon de Bourgogne) and the Semper Excelsior Clos des Noëlles.

L d’Or is sourced from vines more than 45 years old grown on granite and mica terroirs in Vallet, one of the Sèvre et Maine communes. The vines are cared for along the lines of lutte raisonnée, and are nourished with just a little organic manure. The fruit is harvested by hand, pressed using pneumatic equipment, and the juice is then allowed to settle before a four week temperature-controlled fermentation by indigenous yeasts, regulated to 20ºC. There is also a warmer macération pelliculaire, a period of skin contact, at 30ºC. The wine is then stored sur lie for nine months before bottling.

The nose is a bit reserved with some citrus, mineral and floral notes. It’s a bit more revealing on the palate. Stony minerality with citrus, orchard fruit and some creamy almond notes. Rich and broad, good acidity and complexity.  A great example of what some age can do with Muscadet — and I wouldn’t hesitate to sit on this for another 5-7 years (or more). Recommended and an outstanding value at $22 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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Latest episode of Wine Library TV with Peter Weygandt, part 2.

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Latest episode of Wine Library TV with Peter Weygandt, part 1.

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris last September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night. They had Richaud’s ’07 Galets by the glass. I took that as a sign that it would be a great meal — and it was (a wine list can often tell you a great deal about a restaurant).

In the United States, it takes a little bit of work to find his wines. Chambers Street in New York is one of the best bets (they currently offer the ’05 l’Ebrescade and the ’08 Galets) or K&L on the left coast, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find some of his wine at Arrowine in Northern Virginia. Recently, I was very pleased to see Richaud’s ’06 Cairanne at Ripple in DC (and reasonably priced at $40 and change a bottle).

The 2007 Cairanne is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan. 70% is aged in cement tanks, the rest in barriques, some of them new. Deep, dark purple in color. Aromatics of black cherry, violet and some garrigue. Ripe, juicy dark fruit on the palate. Velvety, but with a bit of chew. A wee bit of a brawler this one, weighing in at 15% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Recommended, though if memory serves I slightly prefer the ’06…

Other wines from Domaine Richaud:
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2006

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