"Figuring out where to eat is no easy feat in L.A. — with so many options, settling on a spot (especially when dealing with picky friends) can make any Angeleno's head spin. Add in the fact that most wine and mixology lists are miles long, and suddenly your low-key dinner plans are just as stressful as a high-school calc exam. Well, take a deep breath, dear foodies. We've tapped vino vixen Whitney Adams ofdomaineLA for a little 411 on the best bottles to pair with the yummiest plates out there.
Taking into consideration ingredients, tradition, and atmosphere, Adams explains why a bit of bubbly goes well with Tex-Mex, how citrus notes can amp up that kale salad, and so much more. Plus, we convinced a handful of local chefs to dish up the recipes for each plate we mention, so you can master these pairings at home. Now, go on, snag these expert tips, and prepare to become the hostess with the mostest (or the most knowledgeable guest at any table) in the new year and well beyond."
Dish: Wood-Grilled Grass-Fed Beef with Smokey Romesco Sauce from Short Order
Wine: 2009 Leon Barral Faugeres, $29, available at domaineLA
Tip: "This Carignan blend from Southern France is earthy, funky, and inky. It will punch up all of the smoky, charred flavors of the steak and romesco and give you something else to chew on," says Adams. Added bonus: Bring this bottle of vino in, order the steak, and corkage is on the house! How cool is that?
Grilled or Pan Seared Steak:
1 steak (cut of choice)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Set steak on counter to reach room temp.
2. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper (pinch may vary to your taste).
3. Heat grill or pan 350 degrees, and make sure your grill is seasoned if using one. For a pan sear, add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
4. Set steak in pan or grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side and longer if you want a more well-done steak.
5. Remove steak from pan or grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before you cut into it. Resting your steak is the most important step for a juicy steak.
Smokey Romesco Sauce:
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2" sections (you can put a skewer through them to help hold together on the grill)
1 poblano or pasilla chile
2 red bell peppers
1 lb ripe tomatoes, any variety
1 head garlic
1/2 cup toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or any combination)
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Spanish paprika
1 tbsp salt
1. Brush all vegetables lightly with olive oil and char on the grill until they are thoroughly cooked. Cut the top off of the garlic, place the remaiining bulb in tin foil, pour a little olive oil on it, then wrap in the foil. This should be grilled until soft. If using a wood or charcoal grill you can do it directly in the fire. Just pay attention because it is easy to burn when cooking directly in the coals.
2. The peppers should then be placed in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. When cool, remove, destem, deseed, and scrape off the skins.
3. The tomatoes, peppers, and onions should be chopped or pulsed in a food processor. They should not be pureed, but they should be finely chopped to leave some texture. The nuts should also be finely choppped by hand or in a food processor.
4. Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasonings using salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil.
Beer-Battered Onion Rings:
3 red onions
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup corn starch
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
3 tsp paprika
1-2 cups dark beer
1 cup soda water
1 cup canola oil
1. Mix dry ingredients together, making sure you break up all the clumps of paprika and other spices.
2. Add soda water and beer until you get a pancake-batter-like consistency (you can use more beer to reach that goal).
3. Next, cut your onions into 1/2 inch rings and coat lightly in plain flour.
4. Heat canola oil in a deep frying pan to 325 degrees.
5. Dip your rings in beer batter, letting excess batter drip off.
6. Fry in oil until golden brown. This process will need to be done in batches. You may need to add more oil.
Dish: Arcobaleno Pasta from Terroni
Wine: 2011 Tenute Sella Majoli Rosato, $20, available at domaineLA
Tip: "Tomato and rosé are a great match. This 100% Nebbiolo rosé from Piedmont in Northern Italy is deep in color, robust with red fruit, aromatic, and super dry. It's lovely with this lighter, herbacious pasta dish," says Adams.
4.5 oz rigatoni
2.5 oz zucchini
2.5 oz cherry tomato
1 tsp chopped onion
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 oz burratta cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
1. Saute all ingredients except for pasta and burrata in a sauce pan.
2. Add cooked pasta to sauce pan and continue to add more grated parmesan to thicken and season.
3. Cut up chunks of burrata and place atop pasta when plating.
Dish: Ceviche Mixto from Picca
Wine: 2011 Urki Txakolina, $23, available at domaineLA
Tip: "The Basque region of Spain is all about seafood and sunny seaside days. Naturally, so is its wine. This Txakolina is characteristically bright and light, but with great mineral depth. Refreshing and highly drinkable! The bottle will be empty before you know it," says Adams.
Leche de Tigre Amarillo:
1.75 oz sea bass, chopped
.5 oz celery, chopped
1.25 oz red onion, roughly chopped
.25 oz ginger peeled, roughly chopped
.25 oz garlic cloves
.5 oz salt
200 ml lime juice
.75 oz blanched Peruvian aji amarillo pepper
2.5 oz ice cubes, small size
1. Clean aji amarillo of veins and seeds and blanch 3 times or until desired heat. If a different pepper will be used, like yellow jalapeno pepper, use the same procedure of blanching until reaching desired heat. Blanch more times for hotter peppers.
2. Place all ingredients in a blender except salt, lime juice, and ice. Start blending by adding lime juice bit by bit on high speed. Finally add the ice and salt to taste until emulsified.
3. This will make enough leche de tigre juice for 6 portions.
12 pc shrimp, blanched
24 pc calamari, blanched pieces 1.5” x 0.5” size
6 pc scallops, blanched
24 pc sea bass, cubed 1” x 1”
1 tbs cilantro, minced
6 oz red onion, shaved
1/2 tbs garlic puree
1tbs aji amarillo paste
12 oz leche de tigre amarillo
1 pinch sea salt
1. In a bowl, mix leche de tigre, garlic, and aji amarillo paste using a spoon.
2. Incorporate all the sea food, red onion, and cilantro.
3. Season with sea salt to taste.