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Fifteen Wines for Lunch

on November 13th, 2008
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Palate Food + Wine

By Jeff Hoyt

It’s hard for me to visit Glendale without an old song popping in my head, “Somebody robbed the Glendale train, this morning at half past nine…” I wish I could have taken mass transit, as I washed down a fine lunch at Palate Food + Wine with 15 wines from France.  As more and more people want value wines, you’ll be happy to hear that 13 of them retail for $20 or less, with the most expensive topping the scale at $27. I raised a glass to Jay Fiondella, the owner of Chez Jay, who recently passed on. I used to hang at his bar often when I lived a block away from the classic dive restaurant, and after I moved, was pleasantly surprised to find Jay living in my building. (As did actor Evan Handler from Sex and the City, but that’s another story.) Jay’s presence and his greeting, “Hi, neighbor!” will be missed.

Palate Food + Wine is definitely worth a visit, despite its unique location in a wine storage facility on Brand Avenue surrounded by car dealers. Since it’s in the same building that housed Cinnabar, I had to ask what had happened to the historic ornate carved wooden Chinese bar that I remembered. Chef Octavio Becerra told me that the bar, which once graced Yee Mee Loo in Chinatown, is still on the premises, but not on display. That’s one work of art that should be shared with the public. While we’re on the subject of works of art, the chef has the largest tattoo of a knife I’ve ever seen displayed on his arm.  Another eccentricity: on the menu, where people’s names and title are printed, his entry states “octavio becerra – ob1.” For a Star Wars fan, he makes a great sous-vide pork tenderloin.

Among the attendees were Joel Stein, whose writings I enjoy in the LA Times, and Barbara Marie, the General manager of Water Grill downtown, one of my top seafood restaurants in LA. She raved about her Smart Car, and we talked about her chef David LeFevre. When I mentioned that I had written an article about him when he first took over for Michael Cimarusti, she told me that my piece was hanging on her office wall.

After all that wine, I still had a Cachaça event to attend at Beso that evening. More to come….

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