eat: Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Burrata, Sea Bass, Orange Kumquat Tart
sip: Bailly Quincy '10, Poderi San Lazzaro Pecorino '10, Viña Zanata Listán Blanco '10, De Bartoli Cataratto '09
Three years ago, I discovered Lou Amdur and his eponymous wine bar. After one visit and many glasses, I was hooked. First, by Lou's infectious love & knowledge of all things oenological and the esoteric wine list (with non-traditional, yet evocative descriptions like "unfucked up" and "ephemeral"). Then, the seasonally-driven menu of DJ Olsen, a chef who frequents the Santa Monica Farmers Market so often he's a regular on KCRW's Good Food. An awesome waitstaff and friendly regulars create a convivial vibe. At Lou, one is never lonely dining alone; one night, a conversation amongst strangers at the communal table lead to a Seder invitation.
Two weeks ago, Amdur announced (sniff) he had sold Lou. My initial sadness was soothed by two things: 1. According to his blog, there will be a Lou 2.0 at an undetermined time and place. (This just in: Lou Wine & Provisions now open In East Hollywood. Stop in for Lou's stellar selection of unusual and natural wines.) 2. The new owner has hopes to keep the same staff, menu, and a similarly, styled wine list. Upon discovering that the transfer of ownership will happen April 16th, I brought my friend, Jo, last Friday to celebrate her birthday and bid adieu to Lou. If you've never been or been meaning to return, I urge you to do the same.
In honor of Lou's educational bent, I opt for Orange Wine 101 while Jo chooses crisp whites. I never knew wine came in orange, but our waitress breaks it down simply: orange wines are white wine grapes left longer on the skins. Pictured left, the Poderi San Lazzaro Pecorino '10, is both refreshing and rich with orange blossom undertones. Jo's Bailly Quincy '10 is a bright, mineral-y Sauvignon Blanc. My 2nd orange, the Sicilian De Bartoli Catarratto '10, is as complex and unique as its homeland. A fan of the obscure, Lou offers wine from the Canary Islands (!): a dry, citrus-y Viña Zatana Listán Blanco '10
Moving on to food, we start with the Brussels Sprouts, which really show their cabbage side when shaved raw. They make for a delectable winter salad when brightened with vinaigrette and tossed with crunchy filberts (aka hazelnuts), juicy apple, and salty prosciutto.
Just as a fine-tailored suit is spiffier with a tie and pocket square, the burrata is elevated by tasty accoutrements: speck, slivered almonds, arugula, aged balsamic vinegar, and roasted grapes. Who knew a simple stint in the oven could take grapes to a whole new level of scrumptious?
The wild, local sea bass is prepared perfectly: moist & tender with a pan-seared crunch. My friend, Jo, aptly exclaims "I've never had fish taste so comforting, like Mom's home-cooking". Served atop a fabulous bed of fennel-leek confit, salsa verde, and red carrots that are equally adorable and delicious.
I always partake in Chef Olsen's yummy, farmers market-inspired desserts. In honor of citrus season, we savor an
orange kumquat tart
. As with cocktails, I like my dessert bitter, hence my affection for this confection. With the rinds intact, the orange's tartness is in full force, yet is tempered by whipped cream and candied kumquats.
As on this night, each visit to Lou informs and enlightens. Behind those floral curtains, I have sampled new grapes (Jasnières), re-discovered old (Madeira), expanded my cheese vernacular (Hooks 10-year cheddar) and garnered inspiration for my own cooking (Olsen's sausage,egg,lentils,harissa is a staple in my home). While I'm saddened to see Lou go, I eagerly await his next chapter.