Wines from the Twenties; Food from the Eighties

September 22, 2016

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Bipin Desai is a physicist, professor and fabled wine collector.  For years he threw wonderful wine tastings at various Los Angeles restaurants.  This series of menus is – as you can see – from the summer of 1989.

The first was held at Michael’s in Santa Monica. Michael’s, which opened in 1979, was a game-changer: Michael’s chefs were all young, educated and American (among the first to cook there were Ken Frank, Jonathan Waxman, Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton), and Michael proudly used American products.

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The second dinner was at Valentino, which was certainly appropriate; Piero Selvaggio had (and has) one of the great wine lists in the city.   One of the first cutting edge Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, it began as a little bar on a nondescript Santa Monica block.  In those days Piero was importing exotic ingredients from Italy – balsamic vinegar, great Parmigiano, true Prosciutto – and you’d go there to learn as much as to eat.

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The next venue was Katsu, an extraordinary sushi bar on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz.  Katsu was famous for the purity of the fish, the minimalism of the room, and the wonderful collection of contemporary art on the walls.

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Judging by the food, I’d guess that this meal was at Patina, the restaurant Joachim Splichal opened after Max au Triangle closed.

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This was not part of the Bipin Desai dinners – or at least I don’t think it was.  As I recall, this was a luncheon held in the Picasso room of the Los Angeles Times in honor of the Vrinat’s, owners of Taillevant.  M. Vrinat was, truly, one of the greatest restaurateurs ever.

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