Down and out in Beverly Hills (but still drinking well)

Above: chefs shop at the Cheese Store in Beverly Hills, arguably the top fromagerie in Los Angeles.

Last night found David Schachter and me at his place up Coldwater Canyon, drinking label-damaged 1996 Giacosa Barbaresco (David’s contribution) and munching charcuterie and cheese from the Cheese Store in Beverly Hills (I stopped in the flats on my way up).

Above: life’s too short not to drink well.

The Giacosa was a little cloudy and had begun to sherryize slightly (possibly because damaged?). This wine should have had many, many years ahead of it. But even in the twilight of its life, this powerful Barbaresco from one of the greatest and most classic vintages in recent memory showed admirably well.

I really liked the aged taleggio from the Cheese Shop but I was a little disappointed to find that the prosciutto and bresaola was a bit dry and not sliced as well as it could have been. But who’s complaining?

In other news…

Legendary Italian winemaker Giacomo Tachis weighs in on the appellation system debate. Read more here.


This old town is filled with sin
It’ll swallow you in
If you’ve got some money to burn
Take it home right away
You’ve got three years to pay
And Satan is waiting his turn
The scientists say it’ll all wash away
But we don’t believe anymore
‘Cause we’ve got our recruits
In their green mohair suits
So please show your I.D. at the door

This old earthquake’s gonna
leave me in the poorhouse
It seems like this whole town’s insane
On the thirty-first floor your gold-plated door
Won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain

— “Sin City,” Flying Burrito Brothers

Un sabato da leoni (Big Saturday)

Does anyone remember the film Big Wednesday? Arguably, one of the greatest surf movies ever made. In Italian the title was translated as Un mercoledì da leoni, literally, a Wednesday for lions.

This weekend I had a Saturday for lions of sorts: I was invited to take part in a birthday celebration for a friend, an Angeleno wine collector.

Here’s a little photo essay and some notes and highlights: a window into a rarefied world of raw hamachi flown in from Tokyo, served as sashimi and tartare, dressed with colatura di alici (the juice of white anchovy), and paired with R.D. 1975 Dom Perignon and 1982 Krug; Nova Scotia lobster soufflé paired with Grand Cru white Burgundy; and creamy risotto and semolina gnocchi topped with shaved white truffles from Piedmont and old Nebbiolo — 13 dishes in all and a flight of 20 wines.

The celebrant’s mother, who lives in New York, hand-polished the family silver and had it sent it to him for the occasion.

In Los Angeles, it’s even harder than in NYC to get great truffles. These were among the best I’ve ever had, with aromatics comparable to those I’ve eaten in situ. Look at the size of that sucka!

Not every course was as photogenic as the garganelli but each dish (and only one serving was allowed per Bacchanalian) inspired orgasmic oohs and aahs among the all-male crowd. Chef Angelo Auriana’s ragù was ethereal and the pasta sublimely light yet firm and rich (my camera didn’t do justice to its egg-yolk color). But the risotto mantecato alla fonduta di cipolla bianca (onion fondue risotto) topped with shaved white truffles was my personal favorite.

My top wines (but, then again, I’m pretty predictable) were: Krug 1982, Lafon 1989 Mersault-Charmes, Giovannini Moresco 1979 Barbaresco, Robert Arnoux 1993 Romanée-Saint Vivant, Giacosa 1989 Santo Stefano Riserva, Giuseppe Rinaldi 1989 Barolo Riserva (magnum).

Some found this 1979 Barbaresco by Giovannini Moresco tired but I thought it was drinking great. The vineyard where the fruit for this wine was grown now belongs to another winemaker who blends Nebbiolo from this famed growing site with Merlot and Cabernet. Quel dommage! (If you don’t get the joke, click here.) This was the wine that intrigued me the most.

I was blown away by the youth and power of this 1989 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva. Barbaresco at its best — and this was one of the greatest expressions I’ve ever tasted — combines grace and strength. Diana never pleased her lover more…*

At the end of the night, I felt like Rubens’ Bacchus. It’s kinda like the old joke about the Rabbi, the Priest, and the ham sandwich: the 1992 Krug was one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted but I don’t need to drink it — well, at least not every day!

Click the image to read a label on the painting, which resides at the Hermitage. Note the color of the wine — white not red.

* Petrarch, RVF, madrigal 52 (translation by Mark Musa)

Diana never pleased her lover more,
when just by chance all of her naked body
he saw bathing within the chilly waters,

than did the simple mountain shepherdess
please me, the while she bathed the pretty veil
that holds her lovely blonde hair in the breeze.

So that even now in the hot sunlight she makes me
tremble all over with the chill of love.

De urbe angelorum primum scriptum: Osteria Angelini

Do Bianchi adds a new category: de urbe angelorum. Here beginneth a cycle of posts on the City of Angeles. And what better way to begin than a post on Osteria Angelini and Chef Gino Angelini, who couldn’t have found a better city to call his home…

Above: like me, this old Rolls has seen better days but still retains its dignity in the City of Angels.

Alduous Huxley, Thomas Mann, Raymond Bradbury — they’ve lived in Los Angeles. But perhaps no great writer is more closely associated with Lotusland than Raymond Chandler and his alter ego Philip Marlowe:

    “I used to like this town,” I said, just to be saying something and not to be thinking too hard. “A long time ago. There were trees along Wilshire Boulevard. Beverly Hills was a country town. Westwood was bare hills and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars and no takers. Hollywood was a bunch of frame houses on the interurban line. Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but goodhearted and peaceful. It had the climate they just yap about now. People used to sleep ou on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America. It wasn’t that, but it wasn’t a neon-lighted slum either.”

    We crossed La Cienega and went into the curve of the Strip. The Dancers was a blaze of light. The terrace was packed. The parking lot was like ants on a piece of overripe fruit.

    “Now we get characters like this Steelgrave owning restaurants. We get guys like that fat boy that bawled me out back there. We’ve got the big money, the sharp shooters, the percentage workers, the fast-dollar boys, the hoodlums out of New York and Chicago and Detroit — and Cleveland. We’ve got the flash restaurants and night clubs they run, and the hotels and apartment houses they own, and the grifters and con men and female bandits that live in them. The luxury trades, the pansy decorators, the Lesbian dress designers, the riffraff of a big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup. …

    —Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister

Above: contributors to the Squires bulletin board would cringe. Open a 96 Giacosa Barolo Falletto Riserva at a puerile 12 years of age? Pshah, I say. This wine was fantastic, powerful, meaty, with earthy Langa flavors. It paired exquisitely with our seared wild boar loin (rare in the middle, see below).

Not so long ago, I was chastised by my lawyer, a Brit and wine lover, a friend who demands the truth and only the truth and pulls no punches (and a great litigator, I might add): “Stop complaining, you twit,” he said, “you’re poor and you still get to drink amazing wines!”

Case in point: the other night, I was treated to a bottle of 1996 Giacosa Barolo Falletto Riserva — one of Italy’s most coveted wines, in one of its greatest vintages — by Italian wine collector extraordinaire and fellow Nebbiolophile David Schachter (pictured above, with Chef Gino Angelini of Osteria Angelini on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood). David knows me through mutual friends and through Do Bianchi and we met a few months ago at Lou on Vine on the occasion Alice Feiring’s book reading.

David is a huge fan of the octopus and baby arugula antipasto at Angelini. It paired beautifully with a 2006 Venica & Venica Malvasia.

While Gino’s menu is primarily traditional Italian, he selected gnocchi with lobster — a very untraditional combination — as one of our primi: these were the best gnocchi I’ve had in a long time, delicate and light but consistent in mouthfeel. The tomato lobster sauce (more typically served over long noodles) was ethereal… We also enjoyed very traditional spaghetti alla chitarra topped with shaved black truffles and a gorgeous and decadent nido (pasta “nest”) with béchamel. David paired with a 2004 Giacosa Barbera Superiore (also splendid).

The seared wild boar loin and 1996 Barolo made for one of those sublime pairings: a seemingly divine confluence of aromas, flavors, and textures.

All the waitstaff at Angelini is Italian. Although the restaurant’s decor is humble Angelino trattoria chic and the prices are more than reasonable, Captain Gino Rindone performs four-star service nightly at Angelini: to see him debone a branzino tableside, you’d think you were at Da Vittorio in Bergamo.

Reader Christopher writes that “everyone calls Gino Rindone ‘Ginetto’ to distinguish him from Gino” Angelini.

All in all, I must say, my Angelino experience is off to an auspicious start… Not bad for a big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup. Stay tuned…


“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”
Less than Zero
—Bret Easton Ellis