AOC is A-OK for wine, cuisine, and Cali fun
October 8, 2010
LOS ANGELES, USA – In French, AOC stands for “appellation d’origine contrôlée,” the certification granted to wines from specific regions. But at LA’s chic, petite wine bar AOC, the only French you need to know is “bon appétit.”
This ode to the good life pairs a stellar selection of 50 wines by the glass with a menu of Mediterranean-kissed small plates. It’s a graceful pas de deux between chef Susanne Goin and sommelier Caroline Styne, who are also collaborators at sister restaurants Lucques and Tavern. Prepare to be wined AND dined.
It’s difficult to choose what you’re drinking before you know what you’re eating, so start with the food menu. Cheese, charcuterie, and other specialties hop the border from France to Spain to Italy, offering a road map for wine pairings courtesy of vintners in these respective countries. If you’re feeling a little Spanish inspiration, try the jamon serrano, romao la mancha sheep’s milk cheese, and the arroz negro with squid (warning: it will turn your tongue and teeth a little black!). A more French foray might include pork rillettes with pickled onions (I love pickled vegetables!), some of that selles-sur-cher Loire Valley goat cheese, and a hangar steak with shallots and red wine butter. Err on the side of ordering more than you think you can eat, because they’re not lying when they say “small plates”; portion sizes on some items are way too small!
No matter which western European flavor you favor (and don’t be shy about mixing it up), the vibe here is decidedly California cool. The minimalist design has a loft-like feel, with quirky elements like a real wood burning oven that keep it from edging towards corporate. While some in the crowd are serious wine-and-cheese connoisseurs, most just come to soak up the chic atmosphere of well-heeled Hollywood cool cats mingling, chattering, and nibbling. There’s no need to be too formal; just throw on something schmancy enough to keep up with trendsetters, especially on weekends (hip label jeans will do).
The see-and-be-seeners are known to pack the place nightly, so reservations are a must (at least a week in advance). Even with a reservation, we had to wait a bit for our table, so don’t arrive so famished that you can’t hold out if needed. When booking attempts fail, you can always try the first come, first served seats at the bar.
If you really want to enhance your AOC experience, don’t study French…study wine. Sommelier Caroline Styne writes a fun, informative blog called Styne on Wine (styneonwine.blogspot.com)–also known as “Woman on the Verge of a Glass of Wine”–that’ll up your quotient of knowledge on everything from perfect pairings to terroir. C’est magnifique!
RL contributed to this post.
Read more on AOC at The Purple Passport.