A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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AOC – Suzanne Goin does it again

May 20th, 2004

Suzanne Goin was named the best new chef of the year by Food & Wine in 1999. After honing her craft at Campanille, she opened her first restaurant Lucques (pronounced Luke) on Melrose in West Hollywood. The food is French/Mediterranean, and is exceptional. Their braised Short Ribs were the best I ever tasted. But she did not rest on her laurels, and in December of 2002 she opened AOC with Caroline Styne, her wine savvy partner from Lucques. AOC also serves French/Mediterranean cuisine, but it is much more casual. It is a cross between a wine bar and a tapas bar…and it is fun.

The dishes are all “tastes”, smaller plates that are meant to be shared, like you were in a Chinese restaurant. This concept of offering smaller dishes is unique to LA, and it’s a great way to really experience the chef’s creations. Isn’t it more interesting to sample six dishes than to eat just an appetizer and an entrée? To pair with this exquisite food is an outstanding wine list, and 5o wines are offered by the glass.

AOC is a casual, but very hip scene. The first room has a long bar with a cruvinet, which is used to help preserve the wine after being opened. The room is abuzz, as all the tables are filled, and customers are passing plates. The back room is reasonable small, with tables of 4 or 6, and has the same high energy. To help guide everyone through this unique menu is a very well trained wait staff. They explain this concept of smaller tasting dishes, and highlight the chef’s signature dishes.

The dishes were all extraordinary, but a few that were strongly suggested by our waitress were right on target. A perfect starter was the roasted dates stuffed with parmesan and wrapped in bacon, unique and they melted in your mouth. Next we had a plate of speck (similar to prosciutto) with apples and arugula – a healthy, refreshing combination from the charcuterie section of the menu. The fish and meat dishes were all excellent, most were simply prepared, but were served with interesting, bold sauces. The sea bass was seasoned with lemon and bay, and was roasted to perfection in a wood-burning oven. Another great dish from the oven was arroz negro (black rice) with squid and saffron aioli. The perfect ending to a magnificent meal was a tray with an unbelievable assortment of cheeses, paired with a great dessert wine.

The food was great, but more importantly, AOC is a fun dining experience. AOC is located 8022West 3rd Street, Los Angeles (323)653-6359

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