Monday, February 28, 2011

A Horny for Food Farewell

The time has come, a little more than five years to the day of my first post, to retire Horny for Food.

It has served its purpose as a proving ground for my experiments in ways to intimately, passionately and aggressively express my opinions, observations and research in the world of food, wine, dining--always with an undercurrent of sex.

The good news is, the proving ground worked and I'm able to happily retire this blog knowing that I have other outlets for my writing.

You can continue following me every Thursday at The Satellite Show pop culture blog, where I write a weekly column on (usually) food and wine.

And in even bigger news, you can follow me as a regular featured wine blogger at The Huffington Post in the Food Section. Right now I'm posting once a week and intend to do at least 2-3 posts a month into the future.

To my very few loyal readers, thank you for all of your support. Please continue reading through these archives. I may periodically repost some older entries and definitely look for past topics to be reexamined and expanded upon in my new outlets. And maybe Horny for Food will return in the future.

To any food and wine enthusiast or professional I may have offended by my writings here, know that it's not personal and that my only objective is to elevate discourse and stimulate discussion. Too much food and wine writing is equivocating, unadventurous and dull. I attempted to be provocative and humorous. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed, but hopefully each time I failed, I failed better.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Eagle Rock Brewery - Los Angles, CA

Slowly, Los Angeles is integrating itself into the California craft brew scene. I wrote a few months back about Craftsman Brewery in Pasadena and now it's time for Eagle Rock Brewery (and soon the relocated Angel City Brewery!). Eagle Rock Brewery's been in business for a few years in LA and finally opened up a taproom about a year ago.

Located not quite in Eagle Rock but in the decidedly less gentrified Glassell Park neighborhood, the modern brewery and taproom is located in a nondescript warehouse that can only be identified by the food truck parked in the driveway and the string of hipsters coming and going, lending the whole building the mystique of a speakeasy or secret indie brothel.

The taproom typically serves 5-6 Eagle Rock brews, including their staple Revolution XPA, Manifesto Witbier, Populist IPA and Solidarity English Ale plus 1-2 limited seasonal releases. They also have three guest-taps featuring beers from other tiny California craft breweries. Beers are available on-site by the taste or pint and available to-go in refillable growlers.

What I love about Eagle Rock Brewery (and about Craftsman) is that in a California microbrew scene that has become dominated by aggressive high-gravity high-bitterness beers, Eagle Rock produces a pair of excellent sub-5% abv beers including the Solidarity, one of the best true "session beers" I've had from California. The Revolution XPA is full-bodied with a nice dose of hops that should please the Arrogant Bastard drinker even though it clocks in at only 4.8% abv.

Even the higher gravity beers are well-balanced, with the Populist a fine example of a medium bodied moderately-hopped IPA that's more in the English style then in the bitter quintuple-hopped style that has become prevalent in California.

(Oh, and the beers are served in proper pint glasses for a mere $5--guest drafts are usually a buck or two more--bonus!)

There's no food for sale in the brewery, but there are complimentary peanuts and pretzels. A rotating cast of food trucks can be found in the parking lot almost every night Eagle Rock Brewery's open (Thursday-Saturday, 4-10PM, Sunday 12-8PM) and unique beer pairings are suggested for every truck's offerings. It's a laid-back and inexpensive way to enjoy great beer and great food in a friendly, convivial space.

Eagle Rock Brewery
3056 Roswell St.
Los Angeles, Ca 90065

Friday, January 14, 2011

HFF Quickie: Pelayo's Burgers - Long Beach, CA

Because of its mix of density and sprawl and its position as the birthplace (or at least homeland) of modern American fast food, not even the biggest fast food chains can penetrate every corner of Los Angeles. As a result, there are many unusual local mini fast-food chains and one-off restaurants. Often they're idiosyncratic (Cowboys & Turbans, anyone?) and often they're quite excellent for the price.

I visited such an establishment down in Long Beach this week, Pelayo's Burgers. It's an archetypal LA burger joint/taqueria hybrid located on PCH right where Signal Hill meets the LBC. Was it great? No. Was it good? Yes. Was it fresh? Yes. Was it cheap? Absolutely.

I had the Huevos Rancheros and it was a delightfully trashy mashup of refried beans, rice, respectably good eggs, a crisp-fried tortilla and a very good spicy homemade ranchero sauce. A few dashes of Tapatio and some additional tortillas and it was hangover-curing heaven. It was also less than six bucks and rivaled any bourgie brunch version I've had for twice the price.

The Boss Man had a half roast chicken with beans, rice AND french fries for not much more than $6 and by all reports it was delicious. Did the fries come pre-cut from the freezer? They did. But that's not always a bad thing in the world of cheap eats.

So it was nice to support a local business and get a fresh, filling meal for two for well under $20. And we were in, out and on our way in about twenty minutes.

So here's to ethnic dives, neighborhood one-offs and taco trucks. They're the best thing about LA dining.

Pelayo's Burgers
2300 E Pacific Coast Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90804

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Points of Reference; or James Suckling Doesn't Get It

I watched the documentary Blood Into Wine recently. It's a very good and funny film about the efforts of Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski to produce serious wine out of Arizona. One of the featured parts of the film is when then-Wine Spectator writer James Suckling comes out to Jerome and tastes through Keenan's Caduceus Cellars line-up.

Now I have not tasted nearly as many wines as James Suckling has, particularly the wines of Northern Italy which some of the initial Caduceus wines drew from for inspiration, so I'll defer to his palate on flavors and nuance. Or for the sake of this article I will.

What pissed me off about Suckling's commentary is that virtually every comment he made was referencing the Arizona wines against wines from France and Italy--wines which are made thousands of miles away in very different places by very different people.

So I ask, what's the value in that?

Let me frame this argument with one basic conceit: the reason that certain wine regions of the world command a premium is largely a product of historical accident. In the United States, the eastern half of the country couldn't grow vitis vinifera grapes meaning that the established and entrenched wine making tradition had to begin in the West and Southwest. And even then, prior to Prohibition it was New Mexico that had the most land under vine, not California. California benefited from shrewd businessmen and a wealth of immigrants from wine-friendly regions of the world like Italy and Eastern Europe.

Globally, both the Middle East (probably the birthplace of the wine grape) and Eastern Europe (the home of some of its earliest and most significant varietal mutations) suffered under very wine-unfriendly regimes. In the Middle East, Islam's alcohol-prohibitions severely stifled growth of the industry, while under Communist rule in Eastern Europe, ancient vineyards and distinctive varietals were torn up and replanted with high-yielding vines to maximize production.

Or sometimes something as simple as a particular Champagne being acclaimed by a particular ruler, as was the case with Veuve Clicquot in the court of Tsar Alexander I, can catapult a wine's reputation. Alternately, flooding the market with a cheap little wine like Blue Nun can damage a wine's reputation for decades.

But these aren't products of deliberate effort or inherent quality--they're historical accidents. The English like wine. They can't (or at least couldn't) make wine in England so they purchased wine from abroad. Both historical ties and proximity meant that most of that wine was coming from France. This esteem for French wines transferred to the New World and as global demand increased, prices went up.

Are there some wineries which produce better wine than other wineries in the same region? Sure there are. Are there some countries which produce better wines, on aggregate, than others? Probably. But I would argue that there is no inherent reason that any region of the world within the grape-growing latitudes produces better wine than any other region. All it takes is finding the right combination of land, grapes and talent. The countries of Western and Southern Europe are the most esteemed and established wine producers largely because their wine industries have been allowed to develop relatively unfettered for a couple thousand years and have spent most of the modern era without either prohibition or centralization. We haven't even had 100 years of unfettered wine production in the United States.

Which is a long way of saying that it's pointless to refer to a wine produced in Arizona against a wine produced in the Northern Rhone or Tuscany. It's indicative, I think, of the out-of-date mindset of major wine writers. They still write from the reference point that wines, regardless of where they are produced, should be striving toward a perfection that is defined against a standard that is largely shaped by the big red wines of France, Italy and the Napa Valley.

And that's plainly absurd. These are wines that are produced in these places for specific reasons. Northern Arizona has about as much in common with Tuscany in terms of terroir as James Suckling has in common in terms of physique with LL Cool J and to continue to privilege these old-guard wines is foolish, counterproductive, and out-of-touch.

We live in a global wine world where great wines from every corner are readily available. The wine drinker who grew up without privilege and without reading Wine Spectator doesn't believe in the cult of the Esteemed Taster. Instead this drinker wants the raw data which, when coupled with personal recommendations, facilitates his or her individual decision making.

So we need to look at every wine region as aspiring to something unique to its location--not aspiring to Bordeaux. Tell me about the land, the grapes, the climate. Tell me how the wine tastes--is it balanced? Fruit-forward? Earthy? Don't give me some bullshit about how this wine isn't achieving something it never set out to achieve. What does that accomplish besides showing off how many fancy northern Italian wines you've tasted?

Continuing to privilege these specific wines and specific styles as if they're an aspirational goal for all wine regions is ridiculous. Anyone who continues to do so should, kindly, stop.