The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2014

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4  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2014 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I recently ate at one of the most "exclusive" restaurants in L.A., a town known for exclusive restau- rants. Back in the 1980s, it was Ma Maison, Patrick Terrail's French place, which was so exclusive it had an unlisted phone number— good luck getting in unless you knew someone who knew Warren Beatty. This was also the place that launched the career of a young Austrian chef named Wolfgang Puck, who went on, of course, to found a restaurant empire based around his flagship Beverly Hills power spot, Spago. Some people consider Spago exclusive, but the fact is that anyone—yes, even you—can call up for a reservation and usually get one without much trouble. At a party once, someone spotted Wolfgang and approached him: "Hey, you own Spago? I guess you have to know someone to get in there, right?" Without a beat, Wolfgang shot back: "The only person you have to know is yourself." That pretty much sums it up. Spago happens to be one of the best-run restaurants on the planet, and everyone who goes through the door is treated as if they belong there. So, not so "exclusive," after all. But there's a new breed of exclusivity in L.A. and other foodie towns: the invitation- only restaurant. I've been to a few of these recently; they all happened to be Japanese, although that's not always the case. Sometimes, getting "invited" means no more than "applying" for an invitation online and waiting for a callback. Other times, you really do have to know someone—kind of like applying for membership in a posh private club. Yes, it may seem snooty. But I happen to like this kind of exclusiv- ity—not because it makes me feel like a bigshot to "get in," but because to dine at restaurants like these, which are invariably small and seat fewer than 20 people, is to develop an intimate relationship with the chef and his cuisine. This interpersonal exchange is key to all of Japan's great sushi restaurants, and I'm happy to see that it's becoming the trend here in the States. The exclusive nature of these restaurants (and their generally pricy tab) assures that everyone who winds up there is serious about food, and their open BYOB policy means that you can haul out great bottles of wine and spirits from your cellar, not only for your own party to enjoy but to share with the chef and other diners. Dining at these "exclusive" venues becomes a gustatory celebration at which the invitees bond over food and drink. Isn't that what dining should be? CONTRIBUTORS Jade Helm is the primary author of Tasting Pour and a freelance contributor to several print and online wine publica- tions. Jade believes in real food, good wine, and the importance of sharing both with friends. Her expertise is evidenced by credentials from the Society of Wine Educators (Certified Specialist in Wine) and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (Diploma in Wine and Spirits). Jade is located in the Willamette Valley. Matthew Lorton started working in restaurants in 2007, studying wine under wine guru Stephen Asprinio at Forte in West Palm Beach. After graduating college in 2010, he went on to build several wine programs and write web copy for premier restaurants in Boston and Miami before settling down to forge a career as a writer in Los Angeles. Randy Caparoso is a multi-award winning restaurateur (founding partner and wine director of the Roy's restaurant group), longtime wine journalist and Lodi, California resident. He is currently a contributing editor to The SOMM Journal. He has been commended by the Academy of Wine Communications for Excellence in Wine Writing and Encouragement of Higher Industry Standards and is an Electoral College Member of the annual Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. Michael Cervin has been writing about wine for over a decade from his Santa Barbara home. Notable publications include Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Santa Barbara Magazine and Wine & Spirits. His weekly radio show, "Cervin It Straight; No ratings, no scores, just straight talk about wine, spirits and beer," can be heard on AM-1290 in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and online at What "Exclusive" Should Mean

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