Category Archives: Wine

Napa’s Compline — Your One Stop for Everything

Discovering some new interesting affordable wines is half the fun at Napa's Compline.

Discovering some new interesting affordable wines is half the fun at Napa’s Compline.

 

For most folks, a trip to the Napa Valley means stops at a tasting room, a restaurant, and perhaps a wine education center.

Downtown Napa’s Compline makes that effortless by combining all three into one.

Master Sommelier Matt Stamp, formerly of the French Laundry in Yountville, and Ryan Stetins, former wine director at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, opened this intriguing concept in 2017 in the First Street Napa development of shops, restaurants and the Archer Hotel.

Fun sculptures just outside the doors of Compline.

Fun sculptures just outside the doors of Compline.

A tribute to the late-great Anthony Bourdain by Napa's Chalk Riot just steps away from the restaurant.

A tribute to the late-great Anthony Bourdain by Napa’s Chalk Riot just steps from the restaurant.

The name is from the Latin for “completion,” a term used by monks who would come together at the end of the day to break bread.

As Stamp explained on a recent Saturday evening when I was invited in to dine as a guest, “Wine bars where you get some cheese and charcuterie just always felt like something was missing. I wanted to offer a more full experience.”

Chalkboards tell the story at the bar.

Chalkboards tell the story at the bar.

He certainly has by offering a bit of everything: a wine shop offering interesting varieties from producers from around the globe, with most bottles priced between $10 to $40; wine education classes led by Stamp; a fun “blind wine” night on Sundays in which patrons can test their own acumen; and a restaurant led by Chef Yancy Windsperger, who cooked previously at Morimoto, Spago, and Jose Andres’ Bazaar, which even features a late-night $10 taco special (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.).

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Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta

Whipped ricotta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil finish this lamb ragu with rigatoni.

Whipped ricotta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil finish this lamb ragu with rigatoni.

 

Winter’s chill begs for a robust dish.

One that demands an equally powerful wine alongside, too.

So stir up a big pot of “Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta” and pop open a bottle of Italian Barolo — and you can’t go wrong.

The recipe — and pairing — is from the new “Wine Food: New Adventures in Drinking and Cooking” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Dana Frank, a Portland sommelier who co-owns the wine bar Bar Norman and urban winery Bow & Arrow; and cookbook writer Andrea Slonecker.

Wine Food Cookbook

Packed with more than 75 recipes, this book makes pairing easy and understandable, by not only suggesting the best wine for each dish, but giving recommended producers, too.

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What’s Cooking At Cin-Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant

 

Spicy Korean-style fried chicken snuggled inside steamed buns at Cin-Cin.

Spicy Korean-style fried chicken snuggled inside steamed buns at Cin-Cin.

A lot of changes have been underfoot in the past year or so at the ever-popular Cin-Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant in Los Gatos.

First, founder Lisa Rhorer, a former marketing professional-turned-sommelier, sold the restaurant that she opened in 2008 to husband-and-wife Pasquale and Andrea Romano. With Pasquale already a co-founder of her second Los Gatos restaurant, Centenove, it was a fitting choice.

Second, a new chef came on board in May. Executive Chef Chris Velasquez is a familiar face in the South Bay, having worked at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, Plumed Horse in Saratoga, The Table in San Jose, and Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell.

On his “free time,” Velasquez also teams with Chef John Shelsta (who’s especially famed for his kouign-amann and other buttery pastry delights) on pop-up Sunday brunches at Zola in Palo Alto, where Shelsta is manning the kitchen.

Head Chef Chris Velasquez.

Head Chef Chris Velasquez.

Velasquez invited me in as a guest of the restaurant recently to see what he’s been up to. He revamped the menu, which used to be primarily centered around small plates. Now, he’s added more entrees and larger portions all around.

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Get To Know Spokane Part I: Sips, Doritos Ceviche, Original Crab Louis & More

The Skyride tram at Riverfront Park in downtown Seattle.

The Skyride tram at Riverfront Park in downtown Seattle.

SPOKANE, WA — Sure, Seattle may have the Mariners, Seahawks, Amazon headquarters, and James Beard Award-winning chefs and restaurants. But Spokane has a spectacular waterfall in the center of the city. Take that.

Seattle may get more attention, but Spokane definitely deserves its own fanfare for attractions and attributes all its own. That’s what I discovered when I was invited to visit the state’s second largest city recently by Visit Spokane.

It’s a most livable city — with home prices not surprisingly a fraction of those in Silicon Valley — a revitalized downtown that’s safe to walk around in at night, a renovated waterfront, a thriving convention scene, fabulous bakeries, and cool restaurants opening in repurposed old buildings.

What’s more, it gets less rain than Seattle.

And it’s the birth place of Father’s Day.

Get to know what else there is to love about Spokane.

It Takes Bread & Beer Seriously

Does it ever, especially at the newly opened The Grain Shed, a bakery and brewery all in one.

At The Grain Shed, they revere local, heirloom grains, but keep their sense of humor about it all.

At The Grain Shed, they revere local, heirloom grains, but keep their sense of humor about it all.

Yes, come for a pint and a loaf. And for Pizza Mondays.

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The Oasis of Ambience

Ostrich mousse with black truffle at Ambience.

Ostrich mousse with black truffle at Ambience.

 

The elegant Ambience in downtown Los Altos may have opened more than four years ago, yet it still flies relatively under the radar.

But thankfully, more people are finding out about this fine-dining gem on the Peninsula, as evidenced a few weeks ago when I was invited in for a repeat visit as a guest of the restaurant. The first time I dined there in 2015 on a weeknight, I have to admit I wondered how it managed to stay in business. I think my party of two was only one of three tables filled that night in what albeit is a small restaurant. But on the return visit, I was happy to see that about two-thirds of the restaurant was filled on a weeknight.

Cobalt water glasses.

Cobalt water glasses.

A sip of warm almond tea to get in the mood.

A sip of warm almond tea to get in the mood.

A tasting menu-only restaurant can be a gamble, especially in too-impatient-to-wait-for-anything Silicon Valley. It’s one thing to devote 2 hours or more to a meal on a weekend or special occasion. But on a Wednesday night after work? For a lot of people, that’s a big ask.

Chef-Owner Morgan Song makes it worth your while, though. Song, who cooked for years in Sacramento and San Francisco, most notably at Kiss restaurant, and his wife, who manages the front of house and greets guests warmly when they arrive, have created a subdued restaurant, cloistered from the stresses and vagaries of the day with a candlelit dining room with smoky glass windows that seems to make the outside world disappear.

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