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Oregon Wine shares a Tasty, New Release, with Winemaker Aaron Lieberman from Iris Vineyards

Oregon Wine shares a Tasty, New Release, with Winemaker Aaron Lieberman from Iris Vineyards

Sure, Oregon Wine is world-famous for its Pinot Noir.  And rightly so, as the area produces incredible expressions of the varietal.  But that’s not all they can do. 

Award-winning winemaker Aaron Lieberman wants the world to taste and discover all of the incredible wines from the area including Iris Vineyards’s new Pinot Gris which has won acclaim several years in a row.

Oregon Wine

 

Today, Winemaker Aaron Lieberman from Iris Vineyards sits down over zoom to talk about his inspirations, his favorite wines, food pairings and what’s next for Oregon Wine.

 

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  Find the whole conversation on our YouTube channel.

 

There’s so much to go over with you because you’re in a great area of Oregon.

Last year we had the privilege of covering the 2022 McMinnville Wine Classic, your Pinot Gris won Best in Show and Best White varietal.

 

According to press announcements it’s the first time ever for a Pinot Gris. What was it about that bottle and that year that brought you so much acclaim?

 

The vintage we won that on was the 2020, and I think our Pinot Gris is fairly consistent. So I actually personally felt that the 2021 vintage was better than the 2020. What I think is going on there is that in our growing area Southwest of Eugene we have our vineyard in what’s called the Lorane Valley. We’re a relatively high elevation vineyard compared to the rest of the Willamette Valley. We get a lot more hang time on our Pinot Gris, which allows more flavor development and preservation of acidity, as well as slower and lower accumulation of sugar.

So we ended up with a higher acid, lower alcohol wine that’s very expressive in terms of fruit flavors.

 

I wanna let our audience know a little bit about your background and what brought you to where you are today. Your education in soil and winemaking, but I hope you’ll touch on your Peace Corps time, and your work in Guatemala with soil education.

 

As I was finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree at Oregon State University, I became involved with a couple of different grad students, helping them with their research projects, basically. At the beginning of my junior year [I had already] switched my major from Pre-Vet to Crop and Soil Science.

So the projects I was working on with these grad students involved soil research. One of these grad students had been in the Peace Corps and talked about it frequently and also had a professor who had been in the Peace Corps. They both inspired me to look into it and do it.

I ended up going to Guatemala. The project I worked on was called Corn and Bean Seed Improvement and Post Harvest Management. We were trying to counteract the invasion of commercial corn seed into Guatemala and Latin America. It’s replacing the land raise varietals or the traditional varietals of corn. We were working with those traditional varietals to improve their performance in the field by selecting the plants that were growing well and were the most disease resistant.

The program started four years before I got to Guatemala, so I was the third volunteer and we were really showing some really good results.

 

Something I love about winemaking is such a mix of science and magic, or science and artistry. And it sounds like science is very strong with your background and the magic that you bring to the bottle.

 

Yes, I would agree with that.

 

 

So let’s switch back from Guatemala. You’ve got some great soil types. Let’s talk about how you use the soils in your region to bring such delicious flavor, characteristics and aromas.

 

In our vineyard, we do have some Jory soils, and I think most people who know about the Willamette Valley know that Jory is the preferred soil in the region particularly for Pinot Noir.

Our vineyard is dominated by Bellpine soil. Bellpine is kind of an analog of Jory, but it’s formed in sedimentary rock rather than basaltic rock or volcanic rock. So there’s some significant differences in the chemical makeup of the soil that contributes to the flavor difference in our Pinot Gris compared to some others.

 

The last time I visited, what I heard overwhelmingly from the winemakers is you have to be okay with inconsistency year after year.

 

I want my wines to represent the area that they’re from and the varietal from which they’re made and different weather during each growing season as part of that representation.

So based on the weather and the level of ripeness of the fruit and what we’re tasting in the grapes before we bring them in, we will make some adjustments to how we do the vinification to try to push it in one direction or another, to be at least somewhat consistent.

 

 

Let’s talk about the wines themselves. 

 

Let’s start with the Pinot Gris. The comment I hear the most is white peach. That’s new. I usually hear pear, red apple peel, quite a bit of citrus.

iris vineyards

 

Commonly I get stone fruit comments on our Chardonnay. Whether it’s our still Chardonnay or our Blanc de Blanc.

 

Then there’s the Brut Rose, the Pinot Noir 2021, the House Red Blend. A lot of people will remember 2020 and how that vintage went for us. I refer to that year as the worst year of my life.

 

Let’s talk a little bit about what made it such a bad year.

 

We had beautiful weather during bloom. I started to feel like it was going to be a really great vintage. We’re seeing a really modest crop load and smallish berries, which leads to more fruit forward. Right around Labor Day, the major fires started. Smoke came into the valley for about two weeks which was extremely disheartening.

 

In the Willamette Valley that was really our first experience with that level of damage to the fruit. So a lot of people were scrambling, worried, and ultimately didn’t produce Pinot Noir in 2020.

We made less than we had planned. We applied some techniques to mitigate the smoke effect.

 

Can we talk about what you did to mitigate?

 

Well, there are two things that helped the most. One, we sent some grapes to California to go through a process called flash.  It’s a kind of thermovinification method where the must is heated to 80 degrees celsius and then pumped into a vacuum chamber that boils at a much lower temperature. The water and the skins of the grapes “flashes” to steam in the the vacuum chamber. That steam carries away a lot of bad things. Those things are responsible for the bulk of the smoke effect that you might find in a wine.

 

Then following vintage and some aging, we did some reverse osmosis to remove the smoke effect from the rest of our wine.

 

At the tail end of vintage, I had surgery for appendicitis. As I was about recovered from that, I got covid right at the end of 2020.

 

Fortunately ’21 and ’22 were very similar to 2020 and how the vintage started and ended up, we had some really beautiful fruit and beautiful wines. I’m really excited about ’22 based on what we have in barrel right now.

 

Some people approach wine from a food and wine pairing point of view. I’m not sure if you are a chef or a home cook, but do you have any suggestions for great food pairings for some of your bottles?

I think with our Pinot Gris, I really enjoy seafood.

It’s really good with salad. Brut Rose, I always say if you’re making a dinner and you’re not quite sure what wine to serve with your dinners sparkling wine is always a a crowd pleaser. It’ll go with dishes from salad to steak or pizza. The acidity of sparkling wines makes them really versatile in any kind of food. Fatty foods in particular pair well with more acidic wines, kind of a palette cleansing.

For our Pinot Noir, traditional pairings like salmon and chicken.

 

When you’re going through a year, from growth to harvest, what are the traits or elements that get you excited saying it’s gonna be a good year?

 

Last spring we had a couple of fairly severe frosts after bud break and it was an interesting year because of that. We ended up, to everyone’s surprise, with a vintage that was quite nice and yields that were not really affected by the frost. The vines bounced back with their secondary and tertiary buds set fruit, set a really good crop. We got a nice batch of wine out of it.

If we get into harvest in the rainy season, sometimes your hand is forced and the grapes start to get ripe, the skin softens an they become more susceptible to botrytis and other bad things that you don’t want.

 

But ’22 was nice. We weren’t really forced right up until the end. Around October 20, we had the first big rainstorm come in. 20% of our fruit still hanging. We brought most of it in before that big rain.

But I think we had really good ripeness even at that point.

You’ve been doing in-person and zoom wine tastings, do you have a favorite part of that wine tasting process?

 

My favorite part, without a doubt, is just when I see somebody tasting my wine and the look on their face shows me that they’re really enjoying it. That’s a big reason why I’m in this industry, what we do makes people happy.

 

Do you have a certain memory of including either your wine or someone else’s wine in a great celebration?

 

Several memories. My father and I had a wine business of our own from 2002 to 2015. [A few years in] we had a celebration at a steakhouse in Portland. I ordered a Puligny Montrachet off the menu. I still remember that wine quite vividly and how impressive it was. That changed my mind about chardonnay in some ways.

 

In Oregon, there’s a lot more chardonnay coming out of the Willamette Valley now is a good thing, but it’s still been an uphill battle for producers to get that chardonnay wine passed the gatekeepers, the distributors.

You go to a distributor and they’re like, “Everybody drinks California Chardonnay or white burgundy. They don’t know about Oregon Chardonnay. And when you say Willamette Valley, everybody thinks Pinot Noir, which is great. But we’ve kind of pigeonholed ourselves with that. There are a lot of other nice things that can come out of this valley like Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. So we have some work to do on the marketing and publicity to let people know.

 

Any lessons your winemaking team has learned this past vintage that you can share?

 

 I think that happens every year. Let’s not assume that I know everything because I learn stuff every year as well.

One of the things that I really stress with people who are working for me during harvest, is the importance of fermentation temperature.

 

It’s with white wine, with aromatic whites in particular. You really have to keep the temperature under control. Yeast likes to get hot and ferment fast, so you have to keep those ferments cool, whatever the method is if you’re in stainless with jacketed tanks or if you’re in barrel and you’re taking the barrels outside at night or wetting them down to keep the temperature down. It’s super, super important.

 

With the white wines, you get a temperature or a fermentation that’s too hot and you end up with a wine that’s like generic white wine. It doesn’t have varietal character left in it, that’s something I stress a lot.

 

Then when you talk about red wines, the style of red wine that you’re making is so dependent on a lot of things, but temperature is a big thing. So if you do a cool ferment on a red wine, you’re going to have a red wine that’s fruit forward and aromatic, but it’s not going to be very extracted. It’s not gonna have a big tannic backbone to it. In that way it would be out of balance.

 

Like with our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, we do a couple of different fermentation methods that end up having different peak fermentation temperatures and then we blend them together to get a wine that is crowd pleasing, easy balanced. So one of my big things is temperature.

 

Are there any topics in winemaking that you wish got more attention? 

 

The fact that I don’t do this alone. If I didn’t have a team behind me doing the right thing and supporting production in the winery, starting with our vineyard and our vineyard manager, who is amazing, grows amazing fruit, all the way through to the marketing team selling the wine or promoting the wine and the sales team selling the wine. I think it’s really important for people to understand that it’s really a team effort. I’m the winemaker, I get the publicity, I get the recognition but there’s no way I could do it by myself.

 

I’m sure you talk to young winemakers all the time. Is there one huge piece of advice you would give a young winemaker from all your experience?

 

A big thing would be, and I’ve made this mistake when I was a young winemaker, if you’re about to do something to a wine and you think you know what you’re doing, but you’ve never done it before, make a phone call.

 

Ask another winemaker that maybe has had the experience and has done that. You’ve got a 5,000 gallon tank of wine and you’re gonna do some kind of adjustment that you’ve never done before. Get some information first.

Building network, building community, reaching out to those with either more experience or more diverse experience.

 

Yes. And in most wine regions, it is a community and people are happy to share their information to help the next guy out. Because ultimately, if we’re all making really good wine in the Willamette Valley, that enhances our reputation as a region. So I think it would be a big mistake for us not to share information.

 

Let’s talk about where people can find more information. 

 

On Iris Vineyards website and social media. Our website is IrisVineyards.com and our handle on every social site is @IrisVineyards.

So thank you again for your time, and it was, it was great to have this conversation. 

Thank you, Joe. I really appreciate your time.

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Performance and Spirit:  ‘Lovers and Other Strangers’ at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio Fri-Sat nights only thru Feb 2024

 

Performance and Spirit Stand out with  “Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio.“Lovers and Other Strangers” runs at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio Fri-Sat nights only through February 2024.  The Taylor Acting Studio is an indie theater that hosts actors workshops, classes and shows at 2401 W. Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, CA.  

Cast attends Grand Opening of play “Lovers and Other Strangers” at The Taylor Studio, Los Angeles, CA, February 17th, 2024

 

Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Starring cast of Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

For those unaware of “indie theater”, it’s a typical “black box” theater.  What it lacks in production budget, it makes up for in spirit and talent.  It’s a place where you discover hidden gems.  And tonight, we found several.

Singer Vanessa Bejine attends Grand Opening of play "Lovers and Other Strangers" at The Taylor Studio, Los Angeles, CA, February 17th, 2024

Singer Vanessa Bejine attends Grand Opening of play “Lovers and Other Strangers” at The Taylor Studio, Los Angeles, CA, February 17th, 2024

The concern was how well would a risque 1970s sex comedy play in LA’s woke 2024.

Let’s find out… 

Lovers and Other Strangers at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

I didn’t walk into the show thinking of it as a “Girls Night Out”, but tonight it definitely played in that direction.    The packed theater was 70% women, who laughed, giggled and gasped throughout.

“Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Charly Taylor, Bradley Holzer, “Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Scene 1: Brenda & Jerry

Starring Charly Taylor, Bradley Holzer

What if your best and worst date was the same date?  Holzer’s “Jerry” tries to make his date night a little sexier while Taylor’s Brenda terrorizes him with naive or not-so-much wishy-washy responses.   

Taylor’s Brenda is electric as she walks on stage against Holzer’s kinetic energy.  It’s a high energy, flirty scene that stays fresh thanks to the performer’s chemistry. 

Painfully relatable.  Hilarious.  And it sets the tone for the night.  Laughing. Squirming. Following these characters through a maze of love, romance, disgust, bitterness.  

Phillip Latini, Elizabeth Kyokwijuka

Scene 2: Hal & Cathay

Starring Phillip Latini, Elizabeth Kyokwijuka

Do you love dialogue?  Phillip Latini and Elizabeth Kyokwijuka clearly love their dialogue and are having so much fun.  

Like a tennis match where they volley their bleeding hearts (and heartache) back and forth.  Heartbreak, swing, betrayal, swing, jealousy, embrace. Then repeat.  Latini offers a sneering performance demanding Kyokwijuka’s intensity and delicious she delivers. Great scene!

Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Scene 3: Johnny & Wilma

Starring Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina

If you’ve seen Kuzmina’s work on the big screen before you know how easily she holds her stage presence.  

Tonight Kuzmina’s “Wilma” steals the scene in the first few moments with a quiet confidence and a misbehaving perfume bottle. Then like a cat and mouse game, she taunts, teases and plays Santoro’s Johnny until he can’t take it anymore.  He’s a mountain of a guy who’s gentle until he’s not.  When Santoro fires back it becomes a chess match. Physically, emotionally, psychologically.  Tossing and turning – the more they fight, the more their chemistry builds and what does that say about love?

Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt

Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt

Scene 4: Susan & Mike

 

Starring Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt

In tonight’s opening scene, Taylor is electric.  Now she visits us again. In this scene she shows another side  – calmly keeping pace while Wyatt takes the spotlight burning through his dialogue.   He bares his soul with vulnerability, angst, anger, desperation. 

Nathaniel Wyatt has leading man relatability.  Think Tom Hanks in 1984’s massive hit “Splash”.  If he and Charly Taylor aren’t pitching themselves (Hanks and Darryl Hannah, respectively) to the studios for a remake, the movie-loving world is missing out.

 

Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney

Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney

Scene 5: Bea, Frank, Rickie & Joan

 

Starring Eugenia Kuzmina, Sergio Lanza, Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney.

Throughout the night we’ve seen couples wrestling with every quirk and detail of relationships, healthy and not.  Here we see two married couples, one older, one younger – and how both couples are dealing with all of romance’s issues.

Sergio Lopez should win acclaim for his performance in this scene.  In a room full of bombastic characters, your eyes keep going back to him as he makes the subtlest of feelings quake the entire theater.

Sergio Lanza brings heart to the room and a baseline to Lopez’s reactions.  Lopez and Lanza should work together more often.  As Lanza’s internal boiling builds, he fills the room with emotion that all of the actors play off in the second half of the scene. The ensemble harmony is so flavorful and fun.  

Cue Jordan Whitney’s entrance who brings sunshine on a cloudy day.  Moments later, she informs Kuzmina’s performance in one of the highlights of the evening.

Eugenia Kuzmina reveals herself as a character actress

Eugenia Kuzmina reveals herself as a character actress. You know her best from several turns in Hollywood blockbusters, most notably gangsters and spies in big-budget Guy Ritchie movies.

But tonight she’s having a blast playing against type.  She’s moody and vulnerable.  Playing a lowly housewife with a lifetime of regrets. A woman in the audience goes from sobbing to full-on guffawing within seconds thanks to Kuzmina’s heartbreaking monologue in the second half of the scene.

One specific beat is so raw, honest, yet bitterly funny.  Kuzmina captures the mood.

It’s the perfect scene to end the show on.  

Eugenia Kuzmina

Eugenia Kuzmina

 

Indie Theater at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio is a fun date night

Why is indie theater important? Because in a town like LA, you can be sure these guys aren’t doing it for the money or the fame.  They’re performing for you tonight because they love it.

Director Jennifer Taylor Acting Studio

Director Jennifer Taylor from Taylor Acting Studio

Years ago, I was sitting in a black box theater and after the show I noticed an Oscar-winning filmmaker getting up from his seat in the back row.  On the walk out, I nudged him about why he was there.  He replied, “Eh, I had a tough week.  Got me cynical.  These kids helped remind me that I love storytelling.”  

Joe Winger at the premiere weekend

Joe Winger at the premiere weekend

If you love storytelling, give indie theater a try.  Pick a restaurant within walking distance.  Make it as date night.

Los Angeles’ A.O.C. Welcomes Celebrated Guest Sommelier Bobby Stuckey MS Feb 28

Los Angeles’ A.O.C. Welcomes Celebrated Guest Sommelier Bobby Stuckey MS Feb 28

Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin welcome the co-owner of Frasca Food & Wine and Scarpetta Wines to A.O.C. on 3rd Street for an evening showcasing his boutique wines.

Caroline Styne and Chef Suzanne Goin will host a special evening at A.O.C. on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, featuring James Beard Foundation award-winner Bobby Stuckey of Boulder’s Frasca Food & Wine and Scarpetta Wines.

Bobby will serve as Guest Sommelier, showcasing the imported wines of Murva and his own Scarpetta Wines.

Caroline Styne has curated wine flights to be enjoyed during dinner, and guests can also choose from featured bottles from Murva or the Scarpetta wine library.

Additionally, A.O.C. will offer a selection of Italian cheeses for wine pairings. The menu will be à la carte, and reservations for the event are encouraged.

“I am beyond excited to have my idol,

Bobby Stuckey, working the floor with us at A.O.C.”

Caroline Styne

“His charisma and dedication to outstanding hospitality are inspirational.”

This evening presents a rare opportunity to meet Bobby Stuckey, a highly talented and charismatic figure in the hospitality industry.

WHEN:

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

5:30 – 10:00 p.m.

WHERE: A.O.C., 8700 W. 3rd Street Los Angeles, California 90049

Phone: 310.859.9859

Bobby Stuckey began his distinguished career in restaurants in his home state of Arizona, working his way from dishwasher to management, establishing his position as one of the leaders in the hospitality industry.

He joined the staff of The Little Nell restaurant in Aspen as a sommelier in 1995. During his five-year tenure, The Little Nell received numerous awards for wine and service, including Gourmet’s “Best Wine Service” Award; Mobile Travel Guide’s Five Star Hotel and Restaurant Rating; Wine Spectator’s Grand Award; and a nomination from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine Service.

In 2000, Stuckey moved west to work with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California.

Within his first year, Stuckey led the acclaimed restaurant’s team to earn the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine Service award and San Francisco Magazine recognized him as “Wine Director of the Year.”

The French Laundry received the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Service in 2003. It was during his tenure at The French Laundry where Bobby met his future business partner, chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson.

With the vision of opening a neighborhood restaurant reminiscent of the Italian frascas they had visited in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, Stuckey and Mackinnon Patterson opened their first restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, in August 2004, in Boulder, Colorado. Having researched and traveled throughout Italy many times, both were deeply inspired by this region in particular — the international influences of its cuisine, the profusion of local ingredients in its rustic yet elegant dishes, its passionate relationship between food and wine, and the gracious hospitality of the locals. Receiving his Master Sommelier Diploma in 2004, Stuckey has been bestowed with some of the restaurant and wine industrys’ highest honors such as James Beard Foundation nominations for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional, Outstanding Wine Service, and won the prestigious award for Outstanding Wine Service in 2013.

In 2007, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson launched Scarpetta Wines to produce Friulian white wines. They now produce over eight varietals. In January 2011, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson opened Pizzeria Locale Boulder, a full-service, contemporary pizzeria inspired by the traditional pizzerias of Naples, Italy located adjacent to sister restaurant Frasca with a similar attention to hospitality in a contemporary, laid back, interactive atmosphere. The partners also own and operate fast-fine versions of Pizzeria Locale Denver, with four locations in the Denver Metro area.

In the fall of 2017, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson, along with partners Peter Hoglund, and Continuum Partners’ Mark Falcone, opened Tavernetta in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood. Located directly off the Union Station train platform, Tavernetta is inspired by Italy’s vast culinary traditions, with a menu that celebrates authentic regional classics from across the entire country in an approachable and welcoming environment. In December 2019, they opened Sunday Vinyl, a European-inspired wine bar & restaurant dedicated to providing the highest quality analog listening experience, adjacent to Tavernetta in downtown Denver.

Frasca Food and Wine celebrated 15 years in 2019 and the same year, under Bobby’s direction, the restaurant won the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Service (changed to Outstanding Hospitality for the 2020 Awards thanks to Bobby’s recommendation).

ABOUT SCARPETTA WINES:

Scarpetta — The drivers of Scarpetta Wine are Bobby Stuckey M.S. and Lachlan Patterson former chef de partie at The French Laundry. They conspired to open a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado and thanks to a fateful trip to the Alpine region of Italy they had their inspiration… the cuisine and culture of Friuli. Always digging deeper for Friulian inspiration, Bobby and Lachlan travel to the region several times a year, even taking their entire staff along for a week of eating, wine tasting and general Friuli-worship every summer. It was only natural that when Bobby and Lachlan dreamt about starting their own wine label they looked first to the beautiful whites of Friuli, and Scarpetta was born. Murva – Moraro and Mariano del Friuli, Isonzo – The wines produced by Alberto Pelos at Murva are pure and vibrant.  Alberto, who spent many years as winemaker at Vie di Romans, describes the vineyard soils that comprise Murva’s vineyards as dolomitic, with small pebbles rich in iron and aluminum, and a high sand and clay content (feretto). He farms 4 hectares of vineyards that he owns, and 1 hectare that he farms in the center of town which is part of a community outreach program to support troubled youth.  The Murva wines have distinct salinity and energy that are not to be missed by any lover of Northern Italian whites.

ABOUT THE LUCQUES GROUP:

With the opening of Lucques, their flagship restaurant, in 1998, James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef/Author Suzanne Goinand award-winning Restaurateur Caroline Styne planted the seeds for The Lucques Group, a Los Angeles hospitality company that comprises two fine dining restaurants – A.O.C. in both Los Angeles and Brentwood. Along with these culinary enterprises, the company also owns the Larder Baking Company and oversees Hollywood Bowl Food + Wine, which curates all the food and beverage outlets at L.A.’s iconic music venue. The duo also operates two new restaurants – Caldo Verde and Cara Cara, and the new Dahlia cocktail bar at the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel. The Lucques Group is dedicated to seasonally influenced cooking and focuses on sourcing local, organic produce from which Goin creates soulful dishes that are bold in flavor, vibrant, layered and complex.

Pasadena’s Newest: Pez Coastal Kitchen Brings Incredible Taste and Romance with Upscale sea and farm-to-table, seasonal California cuisine

Pasadena Newest Pez Coastal Kitchen brings Taste and Romance with upscale sea and farm-to-table, seasonal California cuisine

Executive Chef & Proprietor Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez proudly announce the official Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen, their new upscale seafood focused eatery in Pasadena on Thursday, February 15th, 2024!

Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen Thursday, February 15th

Executive Chef Proprietor Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez proudly announce the official Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen

Executive Chef Proprietor Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez proudly announce the official Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Located on the corner of Union Street and North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena’s hottest culinary spot, Pez Coastal Kitchen promises a lively and innovative dining experience with a focus on sea and farm-to-table, seasonal California cuisine.

Pez Coastal Kitchen's Oysters on the Half Shell

Pez Coastal Kitchen’s Oysters on the Half Shell // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez are a dynamic husband and wife team that have made a significant impact in the hospitality industry. With their passion for culinary excellence and warm hospitality, they have created a signature name for themselves in the Los Angeles dining scene and beyond and they are now joined at Pez Coastal Kitchen in Pasadena with their magnetic team of top industry professionals Director of Operations Chris Mesa, Chef Joe Gillard, General Manager Brittany Player, and Bar Manager Mike Dane.

Pez Coastal Kitchen's Bar

Pez Coastal Kitchen’s Bar // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Chef Bret Thompson’s culinary journey began at the renowned California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he then honed his skills at esteemed establishments such as Aqua in San Francisco, Roy’s in Hawaii, and Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, California.

Seeking international inspiration, Bret traveled to Spain to study under Chef Martin Berasategui at Restaurante Martin Berasategui, a Michelin 2-star establishment in Lasarte, Spain.

He further expanded his culinary repertoire in Lebanon at Atlas Café, then studied under Chef Bernard Loiseau at La Cote d’Or his Michelin 3-star restaurant in Saulieu, France, and then L’Arpege, Chef Alain Passard’s Michelin 3-star restaurant in Paris.

Throughout his career, Bret also had an extensive tenure with The Patina Group, working at multiple restaurants, running catering operations and ultimately becoming the Corporate Executive Chef overseeing all restaurant operations for the entire group.

Pez Coastal Kitchen's Dining Room

Pez Coastal Kitchen’s Dining Room // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

In 2007 to 2022, Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez owned Milk Ice Cream, and in 2015 they decided to embark on a new culinary adventure together as the proud owners of Pez Cantina, their seasonal, modern, coastal-inspired Mexican restaurant and bar, located in downtown Los Angeles which quickly became a beloved dining destination and in October 2021, they expanded with a new location in Montebello, California, LA Burrito Co.

Thompson and Thompson-Ramirez’s newest venture will continue their commitment to sea-to-table and farm-to-table cuisine, but as Chef Joe Gillard joins Executive Chef Bret Thompson in the kitchen, the focus at Pez Coastal Kitchen will be on innovative techniques such as curing, smoking, and the specialized dry-aging of seafood which will be a distinctive feature.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Rosemary Paloma

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Rosemary Paloma // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

This new concept will focus on seafood, but will also extend beyond, encompassing meat, poultry, and a unique emphasis on the curing and smoking of meats and seafood, known as Sea-cuterie.

Executive Chef Bret Thompson is excited to go back to his European roots.

“I’m excited to serve seasonal cuisine with a big seafood nuance.”

Executive Chef Bret Thompson

“We will be showcasing shellfish towers like you might see in the streets of Paris at the brasseries. We’ll also be doing whole fish fries, and we have a massive open ice area where guests can see all the fresh seafood, we will be serving each night including whole fish, shrimp, oysters, sea urchin, and whatever is in season.”

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Seafood Tower

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Seafood Tower // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

The Pez Coastal Kitchen Menu starts off with Appetizers which include Chilled Beets with hazelnuts, burrata, winter greens and a hibiscus vinaigrette, the Pez Caesar prepared with gem lettuce, black kale, pepitas, colossal nori crisp, and white anchovies, Black Mussels a la Bouillabaisse with smoked pepper rouille and sesame griddle cake, and Crispy Sweetbreads Fritto Misto with a black lime aioli.

The Chilled Seafood and Crudos decadently spotlight Pez Coastal Kitchen’s seafood at its finest starting with a Chilled Seafood Tower for Two showcasing a ½ lobster, six jumbo shrimp, twelve oysters, four crab claws, and two scallop aguachile shooters, with a selection of sauces – black garlic aioli, mignonette, and salsa macha, Daily Oysters on the Half Shell, Dry-Aged Kingfish Crudo, Hokkaido Scallop Tartare, and Steelhead Trout Rillette served with American sturgeon caviar, forbidden rice cake, and pickled shallots.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Spaghetti alla Chitarra // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Pez Coastal Kitchen Entrees

The Entrees are recommended to be enjoyed family-style featuring Whole Fried Fish, Alaskan Halibut, Seared Jumbo Scallops served with a smoked ham-celery fritter and truffled apple salad, Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Prime Center Cut Filet of Ribeye with a green peppercorn demi and Pez fries, Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Manila clams, mussels, and uni nage, and Crispy Half-Chicken with chicken “lule”, petite roasted carrots and radish, apricot, sage, and carrot demi.

Pez Coastal Kitchen Veggies and Sides

And finally, a selection of exceptional Veggies and SidesPotato Gratin with bacon, gruyere, and cippolini onions, Yam Skins with green tahini, whipped feta and Marcona almonds, Hickory Smoked Cauliflower Steak with a spicy kumquat glaze, and shallot yogurt, and Brussels Sprouts with Red Boat caramel, seed crunch, and black garlic vinegar.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Citrus Olive Oil Cake

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Citrus Olive Oil Cake // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Dessert

Dessert is equally exciting with innovative delights such as Warm Chocolate Butterscotch Peanut Butter Cake with honeycomb ice cream, Citrus Olive Oil Cake served with mascarpone pistachio cream, limoncello granité, and strawberry, Mint Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sundae with Chocolate Strings, and Chai Spice Poached Pear with hazelnut crunch, tart yogurt, and blackberry compote.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Mint Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sundae

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Mint Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sundae // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Bar

Complementing the mouthwatering menu is the well-stocked Pez Coastal Kitchen Bar, a long contemporary bar with a stunning emerald marble bar top, high ceiling, and magnificent fans making it a haven for cocktail enthusiasts and diners alike.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Matcha Sour

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Matcha Sour // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Bar Manager Mike Dane has curated an exceptional cocktail program, featuring the Rosemary Paloma, Matcha Sour, Chartreuse Colada, and the signature Happy Wife, Happy Life comprised of Redemption High-Rye bourbon and Liquid Alchemist Apple Spice with a sugared apple crisp, along with an extensive selection of Premier Spirits, Wines, and Beers

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Lounge & Bar

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Lounge, Bar // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

 

Pez Coastal Kitchen sits in a historical building that was built in 1896 and was completely transformed and redesigned by Margee Drews Design to exude a California-Mediterranean coastal feel across multiple spaces.

Guests enter a beautiful light and airy dining room with a stunning feature wall, large plush booths and banquettes with sleek wood tables surrounded by plush greenery, warm and welcoming lounge separated from the dining room by grand Mediterranean arches with high industrial ceilings and romantic Havana-style fans, a prominently placed cocktail bar and open kitchen.

drinks with friends, intimate dinners, group gatherings, or special events

Whether for drinks with friends, intimate dinners, group gatherings, or special events, Pez Coastal Kitchen promises an exceptional experience for all who walk through its doors!

 

As Co-Owners Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez continue to innovate and reinvent themselves, and Pez Coastal Kitchen in Pasadena promises a unique blend of California coastal cuisine, thoughtfully crafted cocktails, specially curated wines, and their dedication to excellence ensures an unforgettable dining experience that celebrates vibrant flavors and genuine hospitality.

The Pez Coastal Kitchen official Grand Opening is Thursday, February 15th, 2024.

Pez Coastal Kitchen will be open for Dinnerevery Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and every Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

For more information about Pez Coastal Kitchen or to make reservations, please call 626.210.0775 directly or visit www.PezPasadena.com.

About the Author
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: Joe@FlavRReport.com

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