Prosperity on Tap: The Draft Wines at Lucky Devil’s

Lucky Devils Bar 01

Amidst the City of Angels there resides a persuasive creature known as Lucky Devil’s.  This classy bistro first won my heart two years ago with their succulent ribs.  But when it was brought to my attention that they had tap wine, I decided it was time to pay them a long overdue visit.  Located on Hollywood Boulevard, it is the elegant red building pictured below.  (One  can’t helped but be charmed by the cute devil illustration on the marquee. )

Lucky Devils

Keg, or draft wine has been popular in Europe for centuries, and although it’s been introduced to America from time to time, it never really caught on until 2011.  And it’s still a relatively new concept for the Los Angeles market.  The benefits of keg wine versus bottled wine are quite extensive.   Wine barrels are completely reusable, either continuing their original life purpose as kegs, or being crafted into furniture or garden planters.   The keg storage of the wine preserves every single drop of the libation, whereas when it goes into bottles, some wine gets splashed around, thus wasting product.  Kegs also weigh less than bottles per unit, therefore less energy is used in distribution.   Not to mention the excess use of corks, and glass to make the bottles.  There is also the matter of taste.  The wood from the barrels influences wine in a highly auspicious manner.  Most wine looses some of this elemental influence when it is stored in glass vessels for long periods of time.   Wine from a barrel will have a more genuine taste to it than its bottled counterparts.   Not that I’m disparaging bottled wine in the slightest – I love both kinds.  However, keg wine has that beneficial wood element more directly connected to the liquid, which bottled wine lacks.   (When visiting wineries in Temecula or Santa Barbara, some of my fellow wine connoisseurs and I like to have our tastings in the barrel room, as one can usually try things right out of the keg.  Not all wineries offer this, but many do; they just don’t advertise.)

One would think that all of these prosperous attributes would make keg wine less expensive to purchase by the glass.  However, I have found most places serving draft wine in Los Angeles mark the cost up even more than wine out of the bottle.   Lucky Devil’s, however, does not do this.  Reasonably priced,  their wine is available in four different sizes, with 3 ounce and 6 ounce pours if one wants a glass, or the 16 ounce and 32 ounce servings ideal for sharing.   For a 6 ounce pour, most wines run $8.00 – $9.00.  Pictured below is a glass of the Fulton Lane Cabernet Franc ’08.   This luscious red has mellow suggestions of black raspberry, vanilla and cherry.  Lovely and sophisticated.

Lucky Devils Cab Franc

Of their sixteen offerings, I sampled a total of eight.  Here are my opinions of the other seven I tried:

  • Baileyana Chardonnay ’11 – This sweet wine was wonderful!  Hints of pineapple and oak are highly prevalent.  I could easily drink a whole carafe of this on a hot summer day.
  • Silvertap Chardonnay ’11 – Much more savory than the above.  This would be ideal  paired with pork or turkey.  Smooth and classy.
  • Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc ’11 – An appealing white that enhanced the flavors of the goat cheese monumentally, with hints of pear.  Crisp and lively.
  • Boat Dock Rose of Grenache ’10 – Quite different from most blush wines, this had an almost creamy essence to it, without being overly sweet.  Although it’s not a dessert wine, I would have this at the end of dinner.  Intriguing and unique.
  • Pop-Chiles Sangiovese ’09 – Citrus and black pepper are the commanding influences in this balmy red.  Bold and contemporary.
  • Pardi Cabernet Sauvignon ’09 – A curious cab blend with hints of spice and orange.  Cool and complex.
  • Parducci Wine Cellars Pinot Noir ’10 – This is that pinot noir dream that every wine lover seeks out, with suggestions of cranberry and cherry.  Smooth and sophisticated.

Truffle Chips

Truffle Parmesan Chips – A perfect appetizer for any meal, although one may want to order two of these if the party is more than three people.  Alluring truffle sea salt and grated parmesan are the beneficial influences over these fresh-cut chips.  Dangerously good and very addictive.  This went very well with the Fulton Lane.

Flaming Goat Half Order

The Flaming Goat – Those born under the Goat, the eighth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, are said to possess many virtuous qualities including creativity, kindness, and a keen business sense.  The Flaming Goat here possesses a great virtue in taste.  Grilled bread covered with Laura Chenel goat cheese and red bell pepper.  The flaming aspect comes from a hint of habanero chile.  This is a little spicy, and I loved it!  Pictured above is half of a full order.  Fiery and decadent.

Tandoori Pizza

Tandoori Chicken and Goat Cheese Pizza – All of the pizzas here are served on a delicious and savory flat bread.  The mixture of the sweetness of the tandoori, mint and chutney combined with the spice of jalapeno, cilantro and onion provide that ideal taste balance of yin and yang.  Mozzarella and goat cheese are both used, and help to draw out the mellow red curry influences in the tomato sauce.  The flat breads are a generous personal size and perfect for sharing or as a stand alone meal.   Exotic and excellent.

Ribs and Sweet Potato Fries

Ribs and Sweet Potato Fries – The legendary ribs I mentioned earlier.  Enshrouded in a piquant bbq sauce, and then slow roasted for seven hours.  Simply wondrous.  The sweet potato fries alongside were good in bringing out the subtlety of the flavors in the hickory marinade.  A pleasingly sumptuous aioli is served with the fries.  Both of these items went extremely well with the Parducci.

Steelhead and Kennebec Fries

Steelhead and Wedge-Cut Fries – For those unfamiliar with Steelhead, it is a variety of rainbow trout.  Lucky Devil’s uses Steelhead in a few of their creations, including the sandwich above.  Cooked to perfection, and served on a delicious role with homemade slaw.  Delicious and tantalizing.  (If trout could be velvet, this would be it.)  Accompanying the Steelhead are wedge-cut fries.  Kennebec potatoes roasted to a golden hue.  Tasty and impressive.

I also tried two other items that are not pictured.

  • Short Rib Sliders – Two soft, Hawaiian roles generously filled with short ribs, wild arugula and a languid horseradish sauce.  I loved every morsel, and devoured them before I could snap a picture.  The Pardi Cab paired perfectly with the short rib.  Irresistible and filling.
  • Smoked Cheddar Grilled Cheese – Comfort food at it’s finest.  Smoked cheddar and a homemade chutney grilled between two toasted pieces of bread.  Perfect for vegetarians.  Partnered alongside the sandwich was a delicious salad of mixed greens with a mildly tangy dressing.  Enticing and opulent.

I had the chance to speak to Lucky Vanous, the owner and creator of this fine establishment.  I was really impressed with his passion for wine and food, and how the two can influence each other in different ways.  One can tell that he absolutely loves what he does, and this type of positive energy is released into the environment.  This is especially vital in making things people absorb – like food and wine – because this chi, or energy, is carried within these items.  An example of this would be Laura Esquivel’s novel Like Water for Chocolate.  The main character of the novel can only express how she truly feels when cooking – by putting her emotions into her food.  Those who ingest the food are then consumed with her feelings.  Some of the situations in the book are a little extreme, but I really like how emotions and energy, and their connection to food, are illustrated.  I feel the positive energy by Lucky and his employees influence the cuisine in a highly beneficial manner.   My server, Brad, took expert care of me.  He was very knowledgeable about wine and wine culture.  The few other employees I also spoke with were helpful and cordial.

Lucky Devils Bar 02

Another winsome trait of Lucky Devil’s is the environment.  They had remodeled some since my last meal here, and the changes are brilliant.  First, there is the color red.  Red is the most auspicious color in the palette.  The element attached to it is fire, and it signifies prosperity, abundance, fame, passion, love, and luck.  In feng shui folklore, many would use red string on items to draw more luck and wealth to their personal areas.  This practice is still used by some today.  From a color science perspective, it’s the hue most people take notice of instantly – hence why it is used symbolically in films more so than other color (such as in The Matrix or Schindler’s List).  A beautiful shade of cardinal covers the outside of the building, with various shades of red and scarlet covering two of the inside walls.  The cool, yin darkness of the tables, upholstery, and ceiling make a perfect balance with the yang of the red hues.  And all five elements are represented here  perfectly:

  • Wood – The trees outside, both along the sidewalk, and in planters lining the patio dining area.
  • Fire – The color red everywhere (including the red wine).
  • Earth – The stone and brick work along the walls, and the brown shades of the furniture.
  • Metal – The wine and beer taps themselves.
  • Water – The black of the upholstery, and the wavy lines along the red walls.

They also solved the beam issue!  As I’ve said before, I am not a fan of ceiling beams.  They can cause many health, financial and emotional issues for those occupying the space.  Here, however, they did exactly what  I would have suggested as the fastest “fix” – paint the ceiling beams the same color as the ceiling, thus making them symbolically “disappear.”  I also really like the height of the ceilings and the way the tables are spread out.  It makes for an easy flow of air and energy (chi).   And I liked the bathrooms.  I laughed out loud when I saw the male and female “sign demons” acting as sentries to the toilets.

Lucky Devils Bathrooms

As for parking, it is Hollywood, so it can be a challenge at times.  There are many pay lots around, and convenient public parking is located right off of Cherokee.  (Although I did find one of the coveted free spaces on the street)   Or one can take the red line and disembark at  Hollywood and Highland, and walk the remaining four blocks.  For beer lovers, there is the Lucky 7 Happy Hour where seven select brews are offered at lower prices (They have a total of twenty-four beers on tap.)  It has been a week since my excursion and I am dying to go back!   I never thought a devil could be so appealing, but this one most assuredly is.  Lucky Devil’s is indeed a place to indulge in heavenly good food and choice wine.

Lucky Devils Sidewalk

Lucky Devil’s

6613 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

323 465-8259

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday  11:30 am – 10:00 pm,  Friday – Saturday 11:30 am – 10:00 pm,  Lucky Seven Happy Hour:  Monday – Friday 4:00 – 7:00

http://www.luckydevils-la.com/index.php

Descanso Gardens and the Camellia Lounge

Outside the hustle and bustle of the City of Angels lies a heavenly oasis known as Descanso Gardens.  This fine estate was once the home of E. Manchester Boddy, the newspaper publisher of the popular Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News.  After purchasing a one-hundred and sixty acre tract in La Canada, he hired James E. Dolena, the then architect-of-the-stars, to design an impressive twenty-two room home for him, his wife, and his two sons.   The beautiful house, constructed in 1937, encompassed many luxurious amenities of the era, including a built-in sound system, and a separate foyer for Boddy’s private office where he conducted business.  The three bedrooms of the home each had their own bathroom and sitting room as well.

From a feng shui perspective, the house is beautiful designed.  James E. Dolena used geothermal principles when planning the layout of the home.  Not only does this aid in creating a temperate climate within, it also helps air flow (and chi) move around freely.   In addition to the high ceilings, built-in bookcases, and enormous kitchen, the home offers a glimpse into a vintage way of life.  Although the furniture showcased is not original to the home,  each piece is of the era, and remarkably preserved. This includes a gorgeous grand piano which my friend Andrea was dying to play – but the velvet ropes guarding the display dissuaded us from touching.   Further information on the house, gardens, and the Boddy family is displayed throughout, including many historical photographs.  Only the downstairs level is open to the public, but I do hope they make some of the upstairs available soon.  I would love to see the whole house in all of its preserved glory.  Friendly docents are available, should one have questions while walking about the house.  Boddy and his family resided here until 1953 when he sold the estate to Los Angeles County.  Shortly thereafter, Descanso Gardens became open to the public.

Across the driveway from the main house is the original garage, which has been converted into the Sturt Haaga Gallery.  Unfortunately, on the day we visited, the gallery was closed for installation of a new exhibit.  But we did explore the outside of the structure.  I was most taken with the grand vertical garden along one wall of the gallery.  I would estimate it to be about fifteen feet tall, with a variety of rich, thriving plants.  I would love to have a smaller version of this in my own home environment.  I was a little disturbed by the statue on the right, until I realized those orbs on the sculpture were pomegranates.   The pomegranate, in feng shui folklore, is an auspicious symbol of fertility because it’s full of ripe seeds.  It’s also symbolic of familial happiness, and luck for one’s descendents.  This fruit is also rich in antioxidants.  A good way to get more pomegranate energy into one’s life is to eat the seeds raw, or toss them into a salad or smoothie.   Pomegranates also grow on the property.

This cooling waterfall was hidden down a garden path we found.  Metal, earth, water, and wood are all alive here, with the fiery energy of the sun radiating down.

Throughout the grounds there were all sorts of beautiful, open spaces like the lawn above.  I could sit underneath the shade of those trees all day, reading a Stephen King novel.

For the young (and young-at-heart), there is a hedge maze of miniature proportion.  Known as The Children’s Secret Garden, this lavish area was funded by a secret admirer of Descanso.  The walls of the hedges are about three feet high.  In the center of the maze is an opening complete with miniature wooden benches and chairs; child-sized models of similar ones found throughout the park.  As charming as those were, I was taken with the stone statues of friendly animals, two of which are pictured above.

Descanso is also home to the largest collection of Irises in Southern California.  Being that we visited the gardens in August, many of these were out of season.  But these vibrant purple ones continue to thrive.

We also visited Cafe Descanso, a casual eatery located by the front entrance.  Operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, the cafe offers sandwiches and salads.  The seating is all outside, either on comfy cafe chairs, or brick benches.   On this rather hot day, I opted for the following:

  • Bottled water.
  • Chardonnay – I had one glass of their house white, which is Crane Lake Chardonnay.  Although more of a low-brow selection, this delicious chard is crisp and refreshing.  In stores, bottles of this usually run $3:00 – $6.00.  An excellent wine for the price.  A generous glass here is about $7.00.
  • Mushroom Panini – Served on a role with Portobello mushrooms, light pesto, and white cheese (I think it was fontina).  The sandwich was good and quite filling.

Later in the day, we paused for some cocktails at The Camellia Lounge.  Hidden in a tea house next to the Japanese Garden, this quaint hideaway offers a select Japanese menu, as well as beer, wine, and refreshing summer libations.  It has very limited hours, being only open three days a week, but definitely worth a visit.  Although we did not sample any of the food here, the aromas drifting on the air were mouth-watering.  Here’s what we had:

  • Camellia Collins – A take on the classic Tom Collins.  But here, they add chamomile tea to the composition, which was exquisite combined with the gin.  The beverage was cool, refreshing, and generous in size.  I could drink these all day.
  • Green Hornet – Andrea ordered this, and it was not to our liking, chiefly because sweet-and-sour mix was used in lieu of lime juice.  Not only is this a major faux pas from a taste perspective, it’s also bad feng shui.  When the option to use a natural ingredient over a not-so-natural alternative, it is always preferable to select the natural choice.  When we consume items into our body, we absorb the energy of that item.  Therefore, natural or organic ingredients are preferable to chemical or sugary alternatives.  Had the required lime juice been used, I’m sure the drink would have been wonderful.

Descanso also has a great gift shop, and offers a variety of events for the whole family, including live jazz concerts, tai chi classes, and story-time for kids.  I will most assuredly be coming back here, probably in March, when their lilac garden is in full bloom.   The grounds are also used as film locations for many television series and movies.  A large paved lot is provided for ample, free parking.  If you are looking to escape into a Secret Garden, and add some more creative and rejuvenating wood energy into your life, visit Descanso.

Descanso Gardens

1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge 91011

818 949-4200

Admission:  General $8.00   Senior/Students $6.00   Children (5 to 12 years) $3.00    Garden members and children under 5 are free.

Hours:  Open Daily from 9:00 to 5:00.  Closed Christmas.   (Hours extended during the summer and for special events – call ahead)

Boddy House and Sturt Haaga Gallery:  Open Tuesdays –  Sundays 10:00 to 4:00.   House tours given Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00.

Cafe Descanso:  Open Daily from 9:00 to 4:30.

Camellia Lounge:  Open Tuesdays – Thursdays 3:00 – 8:00, during the summer months.  (Call ahead to verify hours of operation.)

http://www.descansogardens.org/

The Road to Melville

Herman Melville was one of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century.  His most popular book, Moby Dick, illustrates the adventures of a sailor called Ishmael and his experiences aboard the ship Pequod.  Bent on revenge, the captain of the ship, Ahab, relentlessly pursues  a large whale who destroyed his last boat and bit off his leg.  While I have never read Moby Dick, I can understand Ahab being somewhat angry at the whale.  I also appreciate his tenacity at the continual hunt for this grand creature, Moby.  It reminds me of my never-ending exploration for good wine (without the revenge or blood-loss).   On my recent travels, my friends and I stopped at Melville Winery in Lompoc  to sample their vineyard creations.  The main tasting room is in the rotunda-esque portion of the building (above), with beautiful grounds perfect for picnics and relaxation.

This winery is rich with color!  On the day we visited, elegant wisteria was in full bloom, adding a beautiful wood element to the front of the building.  This flowery plant also adds  a little fire energy with its calming violet color.  The mustard hue of the stuccoed walls and the reddish tile add a lively earth element to the environment.  Most shades of yellow are symbolic of earth or mountains, and tend to put one immediately at-ease.  This, I found, continued as we journeyed inside.

An expansive tasting bar lined the back wall of the room that I now call “the tasting rotunda.”  I fell in love with the beautiful marble that covered the bar.  Marble, real or faux,  is a stylish and tactile way of adding an earth element to any environment.  This specific marble takes it one step further.  Notice how the patterns on the stone almost looks like a map of some sort; maps and globes are another way of how earth can be introduced symbolically into ones surroundings.

Another auspicious aspect of the environment are the potted trees inside.  An example of this is pictured below.  Living trees and plants indoors can add a beneficial wood element to the area, as well as improving air quality.  Faux plants are also good, but they will not aid in improving the indoor air as real plants.   Notice also at the top of the picture there are beams on the ceiling.  Beams, from a feng shui perspective, can greatly affect the health and emotional relationships of an area in a negative fashion.  They can  symbolically apply pressure to those in the room, and can cause quarrels or discord among people as well.  Being that this is a business, it’s not as bad as if it were a residence, but I’m not fond of it.  This was the only negative I noticed in the surroundings.  I love how all the windows let in natural sunlight, bringing more nature in from the outside.

And now on to the delicious wines:  Here’s what I tasted:

  • 2009 Estate Chardonnay – Now, while I am a red lover by heart, there is nothing like a white wine on a warm California day.  Referred to as their core chardonnay, this was my favorite of all the wines we tried.  Pineapple, lemon, and sage are very evident in the aroma.   Truly excellent and crowd pleasing.
  • 2010 Estate Viognier – A crisp white wine with hints of pear and ginger.  Not as sweet as other viogniers, but I quite enjoyed it.  Would be great with Chinese food.
  • 2010 Estate Syrah – A sultry red with suggestions of plum and elderberry.  Very tasty.
  • 2010 Estate Pinot Noir – A deep, rich pinot full of spices.  One can taste black pepper, cumin, and ginger among others.  I loved the ruby color of this wine.  Sophisticated and complex.

The grounds of Melville are well-manicured and pleasing to the eye.  My friends and I took advantage of this and brought a picnic lunch to savor the gorgeous day.  We also purchased a bottle of the 2009 Chardonnay to accompany the meal.  Definitely one of the best picnics I’ve had in a long time.   I will definitely be visiting Melville again when I’m in the Lompoc area.

Justina Cross, Shaun-Mathieu Smith, Wendy Cross and Andres Acevedo. Photo courtesy of J. Cross.

Melville Vineyards and Winery

5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436

805 735-7030

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 4:00.

http://melvillewinery.com/index2.html