@JaynesGastropub has never been better

Above: The Jaynes Burger, with house-pickled red onions, Vermont cheddar, aioli, and frites — a sine qua non on any visit to San Diego for me.

It’s predictable, I know, but I just had to have the Jaynes Burger last night at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego, where I checked in with the folks who are like family to me in the town where I grew up.

The burger’s never been better and the Caesar predictably rocked my world but I was also digging the new grilled Moroccan lamb meatballs with chickpea purée and the Québécoise chips and gravy poutine. Jaynes is simply going through one of those moments of grace that devoted, passionate restaurateurs experience — like an athlete in top form or a virtuoso musician at the zenith of a career. And I love how gourmet “comfort food” knows no international boundaries these days.

Jayne and Jon graciously let Giovanni open three bottlings of his Franciacorta to share with our friends but Jon has so many killer wines on his list right now: Venica & Venica, Movia, Valli Unite (one of my favorite Natural whites from Italy), Musar (red), Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette, Massolino (classic) Barolo… such an amazing (and courageous) list in a town where “Napa Cab” and “old vine” Zinfandel generally prevail.

Thanks again, Jayne and Jon, for an awesome evening…

Giovanni’s been blogging about his Texas-California adventure here btw.

Here’s a photo he snapped yesterday from mamma Judy’s window overlooking the Pacific. The photo’s entitled “Three Shades of La Jolla Blue.”

Shepherd’s pie, a wonderful Chinon, and a baby on the way in San Diego!

Doesn’t Jayne look great? (Jon doesn’t look bad either!) Their baby will be arriving sometime next month and Tracie P and I are sending them lots of love and good wishes! We are so excited! :-)

We caught up with them last Saturday at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego where everybody knows your name.

The weather was actually kinda cold last week in not-so-sunny Southern California and so Tracie P ordered the shepherd’s pie. Delicious…

Jon turned us on to the 2008 Pensées du Pallus Chinon, very focused, classic expression of Cabernet Franc. Great pairing on a chilly eve… (Paired well, too, with can’t-live-without-him Yele, whom you can see between the bottle and the glass.) Although I’d love to revisit this excellent wine, slightly chilled, this summer with the legendary Jaynes burger (voted top San Diego burger by a panel of judges on one of my favorite SD food blogs, Food Is My Favorite).

Jayne is a gorgeous mother-to-be and, man, this baby fever sure is contagious, ain’t it? ;-)

Bertani 1986 Amarone della Valpolicella, that’s what friends are for

Tracie P was just reminding me of a time in my life, not so long ago, when I needed a little help from my friends. Well, last night one of those friends, Yele, needed a little help from me and Erickson… I mean, you can’t drink 1986 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella by yourself, now, can you?

What a mind-blowingly amazing bottle, with such bright acidity in a wine more than two decades old! Drank a lot of great, old wine in 2010 but this bottle is a real stand-out: it had that unforgettable “nerviness,” that “backbone” of acidity that Italians use in their canon of wine descriptors. I would have always reached for the 88 with Bertani (also a great and unforgettable wine, tasted most recently in February 2009), but the 86 was better IMHO.

The best part, though, was that wide, familiar, contagious grin on Yele’s face when we were perusing the cellar at Third Corner in Ocean Beach, California, and he pulled me away from the 02 La Turque to show me his find. That’s what friends are for, right? 01 Musar white was stunning as well and the grandfathered retail sales program and corkage policy at Third Corner always make a splurge like this so much more palatable.

Keep smilin’, keep shinin’
Knowin’ you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

In other news…

Just had to share these images from clients and friends Dan and Chrissa who invited me in for some holiday cheer when I dropped off their Do Bianchi Christmas Six-Pack.

Chrissa’s wonderful zuppa maritata (named, btw, not because it is served at Italian weddings, a folkloric etymology, but rather because it is a “marriage” or pairing of ingredients).

Dan’s homemade pork sausage for the meatballs.

Chrissa’s homegrown escarole for the soup.

Chrissa’s lemon cake. Damn, those two can cook!

Rockin the Riviera Supper Club

Tracie P and I capped off our holiday weekend in San Diego with a drive out to La Mesa (quite-a-place-a) to the Riviera Supper Club for some excellent old-school rhythm and blues by the Fairmounts (above).

Really groovy stuff with Jon from Jaynes Gastropub on guitar… Bass player Tom and I figured out that we actually played a bunch of shows together when I was living in NYC and playing with the [CANNOT BE MENTIONED FOR LEGAL REASONS] old French band (remember them?) and he was playing with the Dansettes.

It can be painful to play the blues but I sat in on a number. SO MUCH fun to be playing music again…

Tracie P and Jayne were having some fun, too!

John Yelenosky’s birthday is tomorrow. I love that dude… so many good times and great wines opened together, so many great memories from high school… happy birthday Yele!

La Jolla High Homecoming 2009: Billecart-Salmon Rosé

billecart salmon

It’s that time of year for graduations, commencements, and homecomings and Tracie B and I felt like homecoming queen and king Friday night at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego where our friends lined up a pretty spectacular flight of wines to welcome us back. It’s only been a few months since our last visit but it was just a thrill to see everyone and catch up. Jaynes has always been great and chef Daniel Manrique has really taken the menu up a notch. The food was excellent: I had my favorite, the Jaynes Burger, rare, topped with brined red onions, and Tracie B had the shepherd’s pie (it warmed our bodies on a mild evening during San Diego’s “June gloom,” which generally sees cooler-than-summertime temperatures).

jaynes gastropub

Above, from left: John and Megan Yelenosky, Jayne Battle and Jon Erickson, and Tracie B and me.

My highschool bud John Yelenosky (top San Diego wine professional) and his wife Megan (one of the city’s leading sommeliers) treated us to a stunning bottle of Billecart-Salmon rosé (on the list at Jaynes). The nose on this wine was so thrilling you almost didn’t want to drink it.

Cerbaiona 2002

Above: I was surprised at how well the 2002 Cerbaiona showed. Not a lot of Brunello producers bottled their wine as such in the rainy 2002 vintage but the “Pilot’s Brunello” tasted like Sangiovese through and through.

One of the surprising wines was a 2002 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino. I used to sell those wines back in the day in NYC. They’re one of my “guilty-pleasure” wines: they’re expensive, they lean toward the modern in style, but they can also be lip-smacking delicious. The wines showed nicely with my Jaynes Burger.

Selvapiana

Above: The Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2007 by the glass at Jaynes is awesome.

But the wine that really impressed me that night was the Selvapiana 2007 Chianti Rufina: still a little green around the edges but so powerfully tannic and rich. Similarly to the 2007 bottling of Langhe Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco, Selvapiana’s “entry-level” or “gateway” wine nearly transcends its designation. I haven’t tasted a lot of 2007 from Tuscan yet but anecdotal reports indicate it’s going to be a great vintage for the region, a harvest in which a lot of winemakers were able to make larger quantities of great Sangiovese. It will be interesting to see what this baby does in the bottle.

On deck for tomorrow: CEVICHE PORN!!! Stay tuned…

The endless summer comes to an end

And so the endless summer came to an end… A special thanks to all my friends and the bloggers and fans who came out to see us play on Thursday in San Francisco, Friday in San Jose, and Saturday in Los Angeles at Spaceland. The date at Spaceland on Saturday marked the last show in a string of performances supporting our current release Ménagerie. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see everyone in Paris, New York, and California — especially Talina who flew in from Houston to see us in LA and Jon and John who drove up from San Diego with a magnum of Produttori del Barbaresco 2003 in tow.

Thanks also to Aeronaut Records and our manager John Mastro for putting the tour together and our publicist Brooke Black at Big Hassle for her support.

And an extra special thanks to my super fine lady, Tracie B, for sharing the music with me and making me truly feel like the luckiest guy in the world this weekend.

I love playing music and playing music will always be part of my life but now it’s time for the San Diego Kid to swing that 6-pack of wine across his back and hit the road again with his trusty horse Dinamite.

Mosaic Wine Group (the company I work for), Tracie B, and I will be headed to back to California this week for the Kermit Lynch tasting in San Francisco. Stay tuned…

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Jaynes bids Jar adieu

Above: Erik (Benoit), Nicholas, and Jon Erickson (co-owner with his lovely wife Jayne), at the bar at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego — my “habitat” for the last 12 months. Benoit wrote me this beautiful “farewell” post at his excellent blog, AntiYelp.

Following my 3-day Dantean solo drive halfway across the country (think Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, George Jones, a little Paul Simon, a lot of Willie, and the obligatory Gram — all set to a desert landscape), I am posting today from Austin, Texas, my new home.

On Friday night, I completed my last shift at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego (although I’ll surely make a cameo appearance or two in 2009).

When I clocked out, a few friends joined and they threw me a lil’ going away party (fyi, all of my friends in music and in San Diego call me “Jar” or “the Jar,” my nickname since junior high days)…

In her quest to get me to love Bordeaux, Robin Stark brought this excellent 95 Angelus. We decanted and tasted about an hour later. I was impressed by the wine’s bright acidity (not what you see in modern-style bored-oh). Thanks, Robin!

My high school friend John Yelenosky brought this 99 Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino, which showed beautifully. (Click here and scroll down to see our high school senior pics.) John and I had a great 2008 playing music, drinking Produttori del Barbaresco, and just hanging out — like in the old days… Gonna miss you, bro!

That’s me with Jayne’s dad, the inimitable Frank Battle. In September, I officiated at his daughter’s wedding to my good friend Jon Erickson. Mr. Battle, you’ve got a lovely daughter.

Jayne and Jon and everyone at Jaynes Gastropub: I’m gonna miss you! Thanks for helping me get my pour and my groove back on in 2008!

We met on the internet: the virtual sommelier in realtime

Above: my buddy John Rikkers isn’t always this serious — only when he’s tasting 1999 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino.

“We met on the internet.” It still sounds kinda creepy, doesn’t it? No matter how you euphemize it (we met via the internet?), the expression still retains a note of alienation, a coldness that belies the reification of our lives in this digital age. Maybe this is true only for those of us who still remember rotary dial phones.

Above: of the many Italian wines we opened Thursday night, the 2003 Monleale (Barbera) by Walter Massa and the 1999 Canalicchio di Sopra where my favorites. John bought the Canalicchio for a song in a local wine store where the clientele generally reaches for Bordeaux and California Cabernet.

Thursday night found me in the home of my friends John and Laing Rikkers. We met online in September when John emailed me (after disovering my blog), asking me to recommend some wines for him and his lovely wife Laing for dinner in New York City. We stayed in touch via email, trading tasting notes and restaurant tips. And then, in October we met in realtime at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego and we’ve been friends ever since.

Above: this chicken lives in the stable at their classic Californian 1920s ranch house in North County San Diego.

Jayne and Jon and I were invited to the Rikkers’ holiday party last Thursday at their gorgeous estate in North County San Diego. (They lost their home in the October fires and so they are currently renting a furnished ranch house.) When we arrived, John produced a fantastic flight of Italian wines that he had reserved especially for us. I began pulling corks and pouring wine for his guests and we all traded stories and tasting notes about the wines and our wine experiences. We stayed ’til the very end and the coda of our evening was a rendition of “Let It Be” by Jon (Erickson) on the beautiful grand piano in the living room.

I guess this blogging thing is paying off after all.