‘Great Chef’ winner leads Pala Mesa Resort upgrade

Homemade recipes, high-quality ingredients and management/leadership skills are driving Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook to a new level of dining with its revamped Aqua Terra Restaurant.
Executive Chef Sean Sullivan has placed his hand on a lovely restaurant format that underlines seafood and fine wines. It hasn’t been too long since his graduation from the School of Culinary Arts in Denver in 1998 and he’s been running kitchens ever since. From Italian, Asian fusion, Latin fusion and a top seafood operation in Pacific Beach, Sean has bundled his skills to be the executive chef that he is today.
When he got to Aqua Terra, Sean added a sushi bar and a menu that shows cuisine from around the globe. He has a great time in the kitchen. I recommend the Shrimp Stuffed Artichokes for an appetizer, a beet and goat cheese salad with baby arugula and for the entrée, a vanilla scented Chilean seabass is sure to please.
The wine menu needs more selections, but I found a brilliantly crafted Zinfandel selection from Clos LaChance, a Central California wine from 2005, with a rare 12.5 percent alcohol. The lower alcohol content allowed it to pair beautifully with the fish and beef menu selections. I thought so much of it, the wine became one of the Top Ten Wine Tastings for 2008.
Pala Mesa has a Wine Appreciation Club top heavy with member benefits including six wine tasting events per year, discounted wines and wine dinner events and other unique offerings. Food and Beverage Director Kevin Poorbaugh has crafted this special wine club to feature the most rewards available for the wine aficionado.
The resort is a great escape with its oversized guest rooms, golf and country environment. For more information, call (760) 728-5881 or visit www.palamesa.com.
Wine and the Economy
Although it’s true that wine and other spirits are somewhat resistant to the bad economy, and sales have held up when other consumption has faltered, some cracks have started to show. Wine shops and wineries have noted slumping “traffic” and high-end wine sales slipping. The Wall Street Journal’s wine columnists Gaiter and Brecher headlined their latest column “It’s a Great Time for Bargain Priced Wines.” The first one they listed was a 2005 Sicilian Nero D’Avola from Rossetti for under $10. I heartily agreed with that choice.
On their Web sites some vineyards are spotlighting “One Day Sales Alerts” with free shipping for quantities, so you may want to “Google up” some of your favorites. Locally, wine shops are sending out e-mails on storewide discounts.
One even had a sale celebrating the “repeal of prohibition,” even though that event occurred 75 years ago!
Wine Bytes
— A Zinfandel tasting is the feature at Bacchus Wine Market downtown San Diego from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 16. Zins are from Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso, Lodi and the Central Coast. Cost is $15 per person. Call (619) 236-0005 for details.
— Wine Spot in Carlsbad and five domestic and Italian Sangiovese, Barbera, Primitivo and Pinot Grigios to pour from noon to 9 p.m. Jan. 16 to Jan. 18. The cost is $20. Call (760) 434-9463.
— Vino 100 in San Marcos spotlights blends, both red and white Jan. 16 and Jan 17. Taste Meritages, Bordeauxs and Clarets. Cost is $15 per person. Details by calling (760) 591-9113.
— Firefly in Encinitas brings in the legendary Darioush wines from Napa Valley to pair with his fine dining Jan. 21.
A Soups & Stews Cooking Class begins the 2009 series at Thornton Winery in Temecula Wine Country starting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22. Emphasis will be on the relationships between food and wine. This is hands-on and learn and try.
Reservations are available by calling (951) 699-0099 or online at www.thorntonwine. com.

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