Friday, July 17, 2009

Palate Food + Wine

Palate Food + Wine
933 S Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91204-2107
(818) 662-9463

Food people, neighborhood people, bloggers, newspapers and magazines have all been going on and on and on about Palate Food + Wine since the day they opened their doors about a year ago. I went once with a good friend, sat at the bar and had such piss poor service it took me nearly a year to bring myself to go back despite the fact that it is in my neighborhood, I eat out constantly, and blog about eating like I have verbal diarrhea. You would think I would have given it a second shot. Well, I finally did this week, and what a difference a year makes. The food was delicious, the service was excellent (at times maybe too excellent) and even the people sitting next to us contributed to upleveling our enjoyment.

Really nice pEEEEEEople, Maelle.

Supper started off a little slow with one of the busser/support personnel bringing us a delicious plate of wheat bread with radish, sea salt and herb garnished butter. The butter was amazing on its own. It would be great spread over the bread while laying on a red checked blanket under a tree in the park drinking a nice cold rose from stemless glassware. The butter is housemade and has an almost cheesey quality.

After a little bit our server arrived and gave us "the speech". How long Palate has been open, explaining the progressive nature of the plates on the menu in size and complexity, the chef's pedigree, upcoming events, the wine list, restaurant philosophy and so forth. Honestly, it was a little exhaustive, in my opinion. Certainly no fault of the server, I am sure it is a standard spiel. But it kinda wore me out. Bring me some wine before I have to listen to anyone else talk. And that last bit is all me and my job, the majority of which is spent hearing people out patiently. And it is the middle of a busy summer, in the middle of a busy week. I could happily not talk nor listen to talk for several days straight at this point. Things got better after the wine came.

One side of the menu contains an entire selection of pickled veg, which made D's taste buds do handsprings through the restaurant. He ordered pickled cauliflower, which was a little on the sweet side but nice. The pickling did not overtake the integrity of the fresh cauliflower taste.

He also ordered pickled cucumbers. Elsewhere, we simply call these pickles. I love that these, like the cauliflower, were only slightly pickled. Lots of fresh cucumberey flavors popping through the vinegar and herbs. I agreed with the gentleman dining next to me that I somehow prefer Korean pickled veg to American style pickles. I love all that Korean garlic and heat. Both these pickles were nice and summery though.

Every time I go out to eat, shoot and blog lately, my desire for a DSLR is reinforced. I was super happy with my Canon G9 when I first started learning how to really use it. But as a long time photo-hobbyist, I remember the days with my Canon AE-1. I remember the fun I had with composition, choosing the subject of my focus, playing with negative space and so on. These shots of the potted meats bring it home once again that this point-and-shoot girl is ready to step it up equipment-wise. Above is one of Octavio Becerra's infamous potted meats. I chose the potted lamb, which was super generously portioned.

It was very good, although the curing process seemed to take over the flavors of the lamb. Don't get me wrong, it tasted good and the texture was marvelous, but it was not particularly lamby. If I had to guess, I would have said the meat in question was pork. However, I enjoyed both the format of the presentation and the meat itself. I cleared my pot like a good girl.

Another example of point-and-shoot focus gone wrong. I could have played with this more and gotten something better. However, I am trying to go in for the shot when the course comes, put the camera away and enjoy the food. D is working on a little guest blogging piece entitled "The Lament of the Food Blogger's Companion". Look for it at a blog near you.

D's potted meat was shrimps, and they were fantastic. Shrimpy without being fishy, light textured, a hair creamy. I want this again. Planning to revisit at the end of the month for the Cirque du Fromage, I may also order the potted shrimps. Just lovely.

At some point early on during our dinner, our neighbors at the next table accidentally spilled their water glass. I think exactly one drop spilled onto my flip flop clad toes. As an apology, they offered to let me taste some of the Peter Michael 'Belle Cote' chardonnay they brought in and criminally were not going to finish. This is an incredible chardonnay. Rich tasting and fruity, with the flavor of stone fruits like apricots and peach, no wood thank dog, full and nutty tasting with a very slight initial spritz. A high alcohol content at 15.5%, this chard sells online for between $110 and $150. Sharing this with a neighboring table was really treating me to something special. I think the group was mother-father-daughter, and daughter left with a balloon glass almost full of wine. I thought about drinking it before the bus person came, but decided I was feeling too civilized. Sometimes civility is such a wasted behavior.

For a main course, I ate this beautiful and generous arugula salad with summer stone fruit (peaches), haricots verts, red onion and hazelnuts. It was maybe a hair too liberally dressed but the dressing was light in flavor and I could feel the ever so slight crunch of sea salt all the way through. I love salt. I must have been a deer in a previous life. Salt lick.

For a main course, D ordered local halibut with baby artichokes and dragon beans. This was delicious and light, generous with the veg. What the hades is a dragon bean? The Wise Geek says,

"The dragon tongue bean was first raised in the Netherlands, when farmers began to experiment with bean varietals looking for a sweet, waxy bean. The snap beans take around two months to mature, while the shell beans require an extra month or two to fully develop and dry on the vine. People who want to grow dragon tongue beans should plan on finding a sunny spot in the garden and working the soil with lots of compost and mulch to make it congenial for beans. Space the plants well apart so that they have room to grow, and keep them moist but not saturated in water."

Recently I have been playing with an iPhone app called "Flashlight" to try and get better lighting in restaurants for shooting. With very mixed results. If the light is held too close, it blows out the colors and makes weird kind of fluorescent effects. But I think, as in the case here, if held far enough away, it can add a little light (highly artificial looking and somewhat Starship Enterprise-esque) that shows the food fairly accurately.

A little later we headed into the back wine bar. Knowing there was a retail space somewhere in the back nohow informed me this was a beautimous earthy wine bar with food and whatnot.

Loved. Wish it was walking distance to our house.

I sampled a summertime appropriate Torrontes, light and a little more tart than I typically expect from a Torrontes.

And D sipped at a red. I cannot remember the grape, but the label was sweet to look at. Essencia de Monte.

And above is the shill for Tuesday cheese nights. Todd the cheese guy spent as much time at our table in the dining room as our official server and we really enjoyed his attention. I am going to hit the Cirque du Fromage on the very next Tuesday night I am physically in town. I know Sinosoul tried to come on Jour de Bastille, but Palate had closed up shop before 9:30. With my early rising hours, I will probably stop by long before that hour, and am planning on hitting up Melissa from Controlled Burn for some companionship.

Palate Food + Wine in Los Angeles


SinoSoul said...

L, I think the iphone app is helpful. Just have to make sure the camera is setting its exposure correctly while the Flashlight app is on.

Btw, let me know if we can tag along for Cirque du fromage.

Pepsi Monster said...

You're not the only one who got pissed poor service from this service. Ever since NY Times food critic Frank Bruni tore this place a new one regarding about the food and especially the rude service, I had heard they have gotten better.

Maybe now I'll go ever since the initial "OVERhype" about this place. Thanks for the heads up!

Food, she thought. said...

Sinsosoul: I don't even know what setting to put my G9 on appropriate for this weird ass lighting. Maybe you can school me next Tuesday.

Pepsi: Truly, we had a great time. The guy who so fouly disserviced me last time was not in attendance, but I believe he still works there. I recommend it. Food was great & so was service.

Diana said...

So glad you had a much better experience this time! I need to figure out how to use my digital camera better too. I am constantly messing up the flash, focus, etc!

FoodDigger said...

Hey Lizzy, I've always had a great time at Palate. I'm glad this experience was better...they have great deals on wines by the bottle.