This clever little wine lounge on La Brea is doing something that no one else is doing and it’s pretty freakin’ GREAT!
Picture an empty wine glass, a wine charge card and a thirsty palette. The idea is to go around to these different wines (pictured above) from around the world and taste them. Taste wines from Italy to Argentina—over 200 wines.
Ah, springtime. Time for the birds. And the bees. And seasonal menus. Yummy, delicious seasonal menus. I love a good seasonal menu, and had the pleasure of trying out some of the items from the Spring Menu at the Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena.
In the heart of Old Pasadena, nestled amongst the other tiny restaurants that pepper this part of town, you’ll see an awning and a neon sign that announce Vertical Wine Bistro…only to come face to face with an open and empty entryway. Set back from the street, several steps past the entryway, you’ll walk by some small, empty tables and up a set of artisanal-looking stairs, all of which seem to be inside some sort of aviary. You’ll hesitate briefly and wonder if you’re in the right place. It almost looks as if it could be the courtyard of someone’s home. Well, a little investigation will lead you up the stairs and around the elevator to the true entrance.
A dim but warmly lit, modern, and expansive space opens up. As you settle in to your table you begin to scan the HUGE wine menu. Winos unite. This place is legit. They have an outstanding selection of Old and New World wines. Wine not your thing? They also have a full-service bar featuring a good selection of cocktails and a solid list of tasty beers. But honestly c’mon guys, you’re coming here for the wine, and you shan’t be disappointed. By the bottle, by the glass, or by the flight (they have flights!!) there are lots of tasting options.
Don’t forget the food, though! Vertical isn’t only about the wine, as they also have really great eats here. They have just rolled out their Spring Menu, and it all looked so delicious that I couldn’t choose. So I didn’t. I let them choose for me, and I’m so glad that I did. Here come the goods, y’all.
We started off with a charcuterie plate, the highlight of which were the duck rillettes. Next up were mussels with chorizo de españa, saffron, and red peppers. Each of these ingredients perfectly complimented one another. Dee-lish!
After the mussels came the Diver Scallop Salad. Beautiful, plump scallops that were perfectly prepared on a bed of mediterranean couscous pearl salad and drizzled with citrus oil. Light, bright, and succulent.
On to the main course! It was….Duck Confit! Guys, I know a good duck confit, so when this came out I was excited, but trying not to get my hopes up. I’ve been let down before. But, um, well….DAMN. It was really, really good. The duck was tender and not fatty. What’s their secret?Turns out, if you don’t already know, the chef is from France and grew up with dishes like this, so it’s no wonder that they’re so well done. Well played, Vertical. Well played.
Dessert was a molten chocolate cake served with a vanilla gelato, which seems to be a staple out here in L.A. As a chocoholic, I’m a sucker for it every time. This one was really great. Too many times I’ve dug into one of these, had my mouth scalded, and found the cake to taste a little like stale spongy cardboard. Not the case here at all. And it was the perfect portion after all of that Spring Menu goodness.
The verdict on Vertical is: I love finding little gems like this. It’s a great place to meet friends and try a flight of wine or sit down for a romantic dinner. Get out to Vertical; you will enjoy it. Coming up in May, they are rolling out a special brunch menu for Mother’s Day. You can find it here. You should check it out!
Never before have I experienced such a picturesque journey—reminiscent of a romantic love story—in California. Well, aside from San Francisco. We began our journey from Laguna Beach after staying overnight at the Montage and dining at Studio. At this fabulous 5 star hotel everything you dream of is taken care of for you. When it comes to service, the hotel is impeccable and the cuisine is nothing short of immaculate. The evening sunset is truly awe-inspiring, and is a magnificent, romantic beginning to what is in store once you head up the road to historic Temecula wine country.
Some of the culinary delights that you’ll dine on at Studio feature fresh herbs and veggies from Chef Craig Strong’s garden, located right outside of the kitchen.
Marrying French and California cuisine styles, the food is knockout! I dined on the Chef’s tasting menu: a six-course dinner feast with wine pairing. After that absolutely stunning dinner, we rested our heads for the night.
In the morning we made a quick stop at the Sugar Shack in Huntington Beach, CA…
Sugar Shack is a great brunch or breakfast stop. The food is quick, tasty, and in the early morning hours it’s a great spot to watch the surfers come back up from the waves. We enjoyed a fulfilling breakfast here before heading up the road.
Here’s a map of Temecula Wine Country:
We arrived at beautiful Leoness Cellars, just off the 15. The enchanting views of this place will leave you in true awe. We enjoyed a fabulous view even on an overcast day. Speaking of weather, the best time to visit Temecula for ultimate primetime SoCal temps is Spring and late summer. The heat of June-August may be a bit much for you.
Since 2003, Mike Rennie and Gary Winder have built a true experience, providing some of the best wine in the valley accompanied by picturesque views of the rolling hills. The wines here are aged for an extended period of time in a combo of French and American oak barrels. This adds to the softness and complexity of their wines. Very yummy stuff. They also have a full service restaurant open for lunches and dinners with exceptional food—the Salmon wrap was a favorite of mine.
For our next stop we ventured off to a family owned winery that’s been in Temecula since 1998. If you’re looking for more of a low-key, boutiquey feel, Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery is the stop for you.
From their website, Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery is a 13 acre, 2500 case per year family run winery has often been described as “boutique,” but favors the term “artisanal” to describe the involvement and passion that goes into the daily operations. Please note, the vines look a little dead, only because we didn’t visit at the time of harvest. Typically that takes place between August and October. However, we did selectively try some of the grapes and they were crunchy, sweet, and delicious!
Next stop took us to Danza del Sol, where they have the oldest Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the Temecula valley. They were origianlly planted in 1972.
You’ll want to come here and enjoy an array of great wines, and this place was quite the scene when we arrived. Packed with a crowd of delighted wine drinkers, the atmosphere inside the tasting room was very warm and cozy. Our wine extraordinaire was very knowledgeable and helpful. Walter poured up whatever we wanted, whether it was sweet, dry, red or white. Whatever combo you want—it’s a free-for-all with the tasting. I particularly liked the wide variety served here at Danza del Sol.
What a great trip this was… I really enjoy getting away from LA for the weekend, especially if it’s only a quick trip away. You’ll want to enjoy this with a quick stop in Laguna Beach—we had an amazing time there at the Montage. I suggest this trip for any romantic types, or a couple just wanting to get away for a quick escape from the busy city. If you’re planning to wed, don’t let Temecula escape your list either. Most of these wineries are set for weddings, complete with altars and all. What a great way to begin your endless love! Happy wine drinking!
UPDATE: If you haven’t been to the Disneyland Resort in a while, it’s time to go back. Disney’s California Adventure, or “The Other Park,” as it was often groaned in the past, has completely transformed into a place that you want to visit. Indeed, as a frequent visitor myself, I can attest that the changes are almost all for the better—especially concerning the food. Before the renovation, you could find good food (as evidenced in the list below), but the selections were never center-stage. For that reason, the food always felt more like theme park concessions than the carefully curated menu items that you find across the giant compass at Disneyland. That has all changed, and in an upcoming post, we’ll snack our way through the new California Adventure. In the meantime, I wanted to resurface this old post.
This was first published on the old LA Foodie blog in October of 2009. In a way, we get to do a little bit of culinary time-traveling. Some of the foods on the list aren’t there anymore (noted where relevant). There are selections from both parks.
(originally published 10/14/2009)
As I confessed in my earlier post, Top 10 Best Foods at Disneyland, I spend more time at Disneyland than any man in his early 30s should probably ever admit. One of the main reasons for this is that the food is pretty exceptional—and it seems like I make a new culinary discovery every time I go back.
That said, it’s high time I post an addendum to the list I crafted last year. This time, I’ve broadened the scope to include food at Disney’s California Adventure, which sits directly across from Disneyland.
10) Soft-Serve Swirl Cone at Catch a Flave (California Adventure)
NOTE: Catch a Flave is still there, but they no longer serve these beautiful flavor-infused cones. It’s just run-of-the-mill soft serv now.