Tonight, we’ll take a break from legal and business writing and just have fun with discussing wine, restaurants, and books.
This restaurant evokes the coveted review of “damn!” Let’s start with our entry into the restaurant … this is a modern steakhouse, but unlike places such as STK, which has a great décor but middling food, Guard and Grace has sterling food and service to live up to its inviting bright setting. Forget the cherished dark woods of traditional steakhouses such as the sainted Bones – which admittedly have facilitated many a deal for me. The setting is bright, open, and welcoming – and somehow it’s not noisy – a must for me. And the guests were young, cool, successful, and basically the opposite of me. In other words, fun to watch.
Those who read my work know that I am too efficient to devote a paragraph to the setting, so that tells you how much I enjoyed the atmosphere. I’d sit at this bar every night and type away on my computer if this place was near me.
The bar staff is outstanding – and consider that I’m spoiled by the bar staff at Atlanta’s Il Giallo and Brooklyn Café, so my praise is not easily earned. The staff coordinates unusually well, with all of them attending to you. At one point, the Wine Muse Kelly Cleary and bartenders Jason and Jacob were educating me on wines, while bartender Alex was working with my son, William on appetizers and the raw bar selections. Incidentally, the Burrata was great and the oysters were solid. I am not an octopus fan, and I do not understand folk’s fascination with tentacle beasties, but this octopus relied on meaty texture and oak grilling – only way I’d eat it.
The bar staff were more knowledgeable about wine than even the “better” bar staff, but what I really liked was their involvement of Kelly Cleary, whose title of Wine Locker Coordinator, is cool – who wouldn’t want this job – but really understates her sommelier knowledge. I have a good cellar but I choose wine based on taste and the recommendations of people whom I trust and who know my tasteI simply am not urbane enough to describe wine in the proper terminology despite having been to the wine regions in Europe, South Africa, California and even the Middle East. So I listed wines that I am currently enjoying – Prisoner, Caymus, Turley, etc.
Kelly and her bar staff partners were in a Spanish mood and showed me multiple Spanish choices and finally pushed me to try Clio,”a 2015 Spanish vintage of Monastrell grapes (and 30% cab) from El Nido winery. The price was reasonable for a restaurant wine and the taste bold, jammy and delightful – at least to me – and wine is about what the individual likes. I am wowed by this wine. To me, it punches above its weight – great wine for the price.
Based on my taste, the group also suggested the Alto Moncayo, or the Brega by Bodegas Breca. For my second round, I drank the Black Tears by Tapiz, a 2012 Malbec which has none of the blandness of many Malbecs. It’s a bit more mature. Kelly described it as darker, deeper and more complex than most Malbecs – there is substance and content – its “pensive,” which to her meant complexity and layers – not just one note – Syrah-like. I’m a North Georgia redneck and preferred Clio, but this Malbec is damned good.
The steak lives up to its rep, but great steak is great steak. On the other hand, the sides are different from the usual steakhouse sides – I’m a connoisseur of Gnocchi, and it was some of the best I’ve had – and these guys are wizards at roasting carrots.
This is the longest review I’ve written but these guys were incredibly hospitable to me and my sense is that they do this with all customers. Hats off to their management.
As Arnold said, I’ll be back … probably this week while in Denver.
I’ve got quite a bit to say about books. No surprise.
Go Like Hell is the rare book that may appeal to everyone. The author, A.J. Baime is a solid historian whose other works include The Arsenal of Democracy. Baime has a deep affection for Detroit and for writing about the interplay of industry and politics.
What distinguishes Baime’s work is that he writes books about history that you cannot put down. He seizes upon real stories that are so colorful and off the wall that a fiction writer would reject as incredible. Put simply, fun reads!
I recently attended the amazing car show and auction, Concours d’ Elegance at Amelia Island, and learned more about the battle between European and US race cars in the 60’s. Did you know that Henry Ford II, Henry Ford’s grandson, was one of the most brilliant American industrialists ever? Did you know that he was the one who first recognized the post WW II U.S. population shifts from stalwart reliable cars to “fast cars?” Did you know about the greatest corporate battle of all time between Ford and GM for supremacy? You’ll never again see its like. And most of all, did you know when Henry Ford II, “the Deuce,” decided to spend whatever was necessary to defeat Ferrari at the then most important race in the world, the grueling 24 hour Le Mans. You do not have to be a car person to enjoy this book.
I was so impressed by Baime’s Go Like Hell that I immediately read The Arsenal of Democracy. You can tell that Baime deeply loves Detroit and its pre-80s grandeur. Prior to its stunning meltdown, Detroit was the third largest city in America, an un-paralleled economic titan, and even the U.S.’s choice of cities’ to repeatedly bid for the Olympics in the 50s and 60s. Read Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.
My son and I are history buffs. We’ve travelled to Europe, Africa, Turkey and most recently a exploration of the WW II and Communist era Poland and Berlin. Arsenal explains in easily understandable exciting terms how the U.S. went from an isolationist economy devastated by the depression to a Country that produced tens of thousands of planes and tanks. ANY reasonable analysis of the 1941 U.S. would have concluded that we were doomed. You hold your breath as you read about the production battle that arguably won the war. And you’ll detest Henry Ford and respect Edsel Ford when you complete the book. The story resembles a Game of Thrones in the industrial era.
- Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story, by Clive Barker.
I strongly recommend this book but with caveats. The book is a great thriller with supernatural aspects, and anyone who loves movies and Hollywood history will enjoy the setting and shout outs about golden age actors. The book also bluntly describes the egos and brutal behavior of Hollywood agents, producers, and other power players. However, I am a 58 year old guy and I was a bit put off by the graphic wild sexuality, but the sex is not gratuitous – it was essential to establish the debauchery and soul stealing setting. It’s a good read, but be prepared.
That’s all for tonight. I hope that you enjoyed my peculiar tastes … and a break from business and legal discussion.
Book Stores Par Excellence.
My son, William and I feasted on Denver-based Tattered Covers Book Stores today when prevented front hiking by freezing rain and snow (William and I have paid our dues hiking in such weather and defaulted to exploring Denver. We encountered Tattered Covers independent book stores which rank up there with Portland’s Powells and LA’s The Last Book Store. Stores like Tattered Covers are a destination and therefore are not rendered obsolete by Amazon’s admitted convenience. We especially loved the hundreds of notes by staffers recommending books and the website’s Very Impressive Books (VIB). It’s worth following these guys just to see the evolving VIB list. I bought so many books that I had to buy an extra suitcase. These purchases were my act of rebellion against Jeff Bezos and Amazon. I appreciate the ease of buying from Amazon but book stores are a part of culture – they must survive. Tattered Covers has expanded to four locations and shows the survivability of this concept.