When a White Elephant Wine Exchange Results in a Big Steal

Try as we might, my high-powered friends—a cadre of three of O.C.'s best-known food and dining writers and a highly placed publicist—could not get our schedules together to attend a Champagne tasting. We decided instead to enjoy a la-dee-da lunch at Marché Moderne and indulge in a wine exchange. These were the rules: no gift wrapping and the bottle must have cost $39 or less, which is the average price of a California wine according to the Wine Spectator.

Get into the holiday spirit

What do you mean you haven't put the lights up yet? You need to get to work and I'll tell you right now what you need to drink for inspiration before and to celebrate after.    First you need a glass or two of Chambull. Here's the simple nonrecipe. Put an ounce or two of Red Bull in a flute and top with nonvintage Champagne or sparkling wine. I had a dandy the other day:

‘Avec Eric’ Ripert—Going to See a Man About a Fish

Standing around in Whole Foods Huntington Beach waiting for Eric Ripert to arrive is a singular situation already. But when the chef finally does walk in, right through the main door near the produce there, surreality takes over. That’s Eric Ripert and his beautiful, unmistakable hair, walking under the fluorescent lights in the Whole Foods produce section. And, even though planned, expected, not a surprise or chance sighting, the incongruity lingered a bit.

Boat parade party for winos

Have the neighbors invited you to their house for the boat parade yet? Good. Then you won't have to stand out in the freezing cold juggling your bowl of chili and your plastic cup full of budget beer while a million rambunctious kids wreak havoc.

Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto

Seeing her in November at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, it was clear that at 87, Mexican cuisine doyenne Diana Kennedy has mental and physical acuity worthy of envy by those half a century younger—a real-life exemplar of the find-something-you-love-doing-and-then-do-it aphorism. Rare enough! But when that something documents huge swathes of a country’s regionally varied indigenous cuisine, the benefit to all of us quickly outdistances mere role modeldom.

Which wine with your holiday dinner? Serve them all.

Raise your hand if you're tired of reading about which wine goes with turkey. The food ranges so wildly—low-rent green bean casserole and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes to turkey with oyster stuffing—it really should be paired by course.   Last Thursday I got a big lesson on how it should be done as a guest at Hammersky Vineyards in Paso Robles. No, you can't make a reserva

Champagne with a punch

You've got to start thinking "festive" for the holiday season and no wine is more of a party girl than Champagne in all its forms. I love it and in general, the more expensive, the more I love it. But when you're entertaining a crowd you need one that hits the mark in the midprice range. Recently I found a nifty sparkler. It's from Alsace of all places where bubblies are called "cremant d'Alsace." Gustave Lorentz makes the one I like: it's lemony and powerfully effervescent. I like that bec

Noir mystery

I get home last night and there's a $135 bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet on the counter. My first thought is "To Kalon Vineyard? Wonderful!" My second thought is "Damnit! What the hell am I gonna do with this?"

Ugo Allesina

Irvine's a little hard to call home when your old stamping grounds are the rural hills of Italy's Piedmont region. So when chef Ugo...

Dining Solo

All food-loving grownups eventually will have to skip the drive-through and dine alone. That’s right. You. In a restaurant. By yourself. Those soloing for...