The Liquid Diet: California Saga, Part II

This Week in THE LIQUID DIET: California Saga, Part II.

I’m from San Diego and quick to make fun of Los Angeles, but when I’m home and want to splurge on a serious foodie meal, I drive up to L.A. every time. San Diego is all about the amazing hole in the wall spots, but I was looking for something a bit more refined, high end, and over the top. I was looking for Venice Beach!

Friday January 21, 2012 at 7:15PM PST:

A quick jaunt around the Venice Beach strip to watch all the Crazies running around and I know I’m back in Cali. Venice Beach is home to some of the most interesting people watching in the world—never a dull moment! Just off this strip of madness lies some of L.A.’s best restaurants. A few of these spots beckoned, but Joe’s Restaurant won out. Joe’s is a stylish hotspot with a coveted Michelin Star; a multi-course tasting along with some serious juice was in order.

Despite its Michelin Star and all its accolades, the appeal of Joe’s is the ambience: you can show up in jeans or sand-covered gear and nobody bats an eye. It has that chill SoCal vibe where it’s about the experience, not the attire.

I insist on the table that sits right in front of the kitchen so I can keep an eye on the action. Then, in an attempt to plan out a meal paired well with a bottle of wine, I simultaneously scan both the wine list and the menu. A few heavier seafood dishes catch my fancy and I know that we are going Rhone. It’s like going buckwild except with a French accent. A bit of bubbly and sashimi, then on to some red.

The 2008 Domaine Jean Royer Chateauneuf du Pape has such a stunningly Old World feel to the labeling. A powerful yet restrained finesse that I’ve always admired about this classic style of French labels. The script invokes a confidence that its contents are prized and will be cherished. I know not to always judge a book by its cover, but this wine was a beast! Rich and velvety; it started strong and finished strong; the structure didn’t overpower any of the seafood I inhaled; with just enough age that the terroir was poking through, but the fruit was still present and accounted for. It cruised right along from course to course (which were carefully chosen to stand a chance against this wine), daring the dish not to pair well with it, yet every time the dish would relent and meld perfectly with each sip.

I powered through dishes such as Grilled Octopus with baby turnips, shaved fennel, and sweet radishes; then on to Seared Diver Scallops over Okinawa sweet purple potato puree with peanut gremolata (Italian style condiment of parsley, lemon, garlic and olive oil), and then we came to dessert.

I was not in the mood for something too sweet and I knew the Chateauneuf did not want any part of dessert; I opted for Foie Gras. Seared and then topped with a grapefruit sorbet and a juniper berry crumble. Holy shit! The Foie was seared perfectly and its overwhelming richness was brought right back down to earth from the ever-food-friendly acidity of Rhone blends.

Half way through, I realized I had not taken a breath, but continued in this fashion until every bite was gone. Breathing is overrated when you can eat Foie Gras and suck down French wine. I’m as quick as many to throw a rip or two at the snooty French and their highbrow wine, but they really know how to bring out the perfect balance in a wine-food pairing. It’s so natural and matter of fact that their wine should be enjoyed alongside food. To have one without the other is…well, it’s downright…American…damn!

Quite a week in the life of THE LIQUID DIET. What will this week hold in store? Stay tuned!

“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

About Jensen Cummings


Jensen Cummings (@JensenDCummings) is the Executive Chef at Row 14 in downtown Denver. He calls his food "Pangean Cuisine" and his teaching style "Fortune Cookie Philosophy" so you know he's a little off his rocker! His side passion project is to collaborate with brewers on chef/food inspired beers meant to be paired with high end cuisine. Jensen is an avid beer collector, student of spirits, soon to be Certified Cicerone and a sommelier in training. Basically, he is just really into adult beverages and super geeky!