San Sebastian, in Spain, is an upscale lifestyle hang-out for the rich and famous and a lot of “wannabees.” I have never been there, but I came very close when I visited the new look at the Sheraton Carlsbad’s posh Twenty/20 which declares itself to be a San Sebastian style restaurant and wine bar.
The new menu, shaped by Executive Chef Robert Carr, is where the “San Sebastian” spotlight shines. With local produce, fresh seafood, grilling, spicy sauces and lots of Sangria cocktail choices, hanging out and filling up is a Spanish past-time you can easily enjoy at Twenty/20.
Sangria is the house specialty, with a choice of house-made Red, White and Rosé. The Red is a blend of Spanish Garnacha, Torres Brandy, cranberry juice and fruit such as blackberries and red grapes.
If a straight shot of pure Spanish wines is your choice, you will find plenty of favorites by the glass, including Tempranillo from Rioja and Garnache from Calatayud.
I asked Chef Robert what seasonality there was in the menu now as winter winds down. “We use a lot of root vegetables in the current menu. You will see items such as beets, arugula, and tomatoes,” he revealed. “We use braised meats in the entrees, but when the weather turns warmer, we’ll get into grilled meats, crab dishes, sardines and tuna dishes.” He cooks his salmon with the skin on for a crispy effect, and likes an all-organic salmon out of Vancouver.
As in most finer restaurants, Twenty/20 offers a medley of flatbreads for an appetizer. One you won’t find everywhere is the Caramelized Onion flatbread with toppings of Cebrales hot blue cheese and Arugula greens for $12.
The outdoor veranda of Twenty/20 is like a “restaurant within a restaurant” with custom designed fire and water treatments, relaxed and communal seating, state-of-the-art heating elements and an inspiring ocean view. To make reservations, call 760-827-2500.
Wine and the Web: Still a Work in Progress
The total U.S. market for wine sales is somewhere north of 28 billion dollars. Wine shipments direct to the consumer make up just 5% of this amount, at about 1.35 billion dollars, including wine clubs and direct sales. Take away that and the market for direct sales on the web from online companies is less than 1% of the wine market. Meanwhile on-line retail sales of all products is forecast to be about 12% of total sales, up from 3% in 2007.
Clearly wine is stubbornly resistant to the trend of buying online. The problem to point the finger at, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a patchwork of federal and state regulations regarding alcohol sales that makes shipping a “thorny problem.” New York will fine you if you include any type of food with wine. Shipping directly to customers in Utah or Kentucky could land you in jail, and Texas prohibits delivery by mail of beverages over 16% alcohol, killing the port and other dessert wine online business. One leading online wine company had to pay 2 million dollars annually for regulatory compliance.
Two online websites and a winery do a great job of making things easier for the customer. Beringer Winery in Napa Valley has a thoughtfully designed “wine shop” online with good prices, at www.beringer.com.
Independents to try include: www.wineexpress.com and www.hookedonwine.com. And for wine reviews, use www.cellartracker.
•Callaway Winery in Temecula presents Budbreak, a wine and dine event Sat. March 16 6:30 to 9:30pm. The latest Muscat Canelli, Syrah, Dolcetto, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc will be served up with culinary creations. $95. pp. RSVP at 951-676-4001.
•A Saturday in Spain is the theme at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas March 16 from 3 to 6pm. 12 wines with appetizers. Cost is $20. RSVP at 760-479-2500.
•Europa Village in Temecula has its Moulin Rouge Taste of France Thurs. March 21 with their own singing waiters. Call for time and price at 951-506-1818.
•Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula hosts a Black Label Winemakers Dinner Sat. March 23. Meet winemaker Tim Kramer and enjoy Black Label Reserve wines with a gourmet 5 course dinner by Executive Chef Taylor Harris. Tickets are $140. and includes a bottle of reserve wine. RSVP at 951-491-6551 x 115.