Food and Wine Love Affair, Part Three
An outdoor picnic table setup with a variety of wines and paired lunch items

In this, the third installment of my "Food and Wine Love Affair" series reviewing Temecula Valley Wine Country edibles, I present the culinary offerings at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa, at Fazeli Cellars, and at Miramonte Winery.

More than once, after discovering I am familiar with Temecula Valley Wine Country, someone has asked me if I've had the banana pancakes at The Vineyard Rose Restaurant at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. As of this week, I can answer in the affirmative, and also understand why this breakfast item is a widespread topic of conversation. The Rolling Hills Bananas Foster Pancakes, as they are referred to on the menu, are a mouthful to say, as well as to consume. Vanilla bean sauce and bananas Foster sauce combine on top of plate-sized buttermilk pancakes to make a dish that would be just as appropriate on the dessert menu as on the breakfast menu. It's close-your-eyes-while-you-eat-it yummy.

Other conversation-worthy breakfasts fashioned by Executive Chef Loren Lawe include a Brioche French Toast, topped deliciously by apple compote, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. And - for those wanting a less-sweet option - the savory and spicy Chilaquiles, a sophisticated take on a Southwestern classic with corn tortillas, pinto beans, eggs, salsa verde, queso fresco, and green onions.

A trip to Fazeli Cellars is a venture into Persian culture. Bizhan "BJ" Fazeli's grandchildren call him Baba Joon ("Grandpa," in his native Persian tongue). The gregarious family man named his winery restaurant Baba Joon and created a menu that merges ancient Persia with contemporary California. You can keep the flavors somewhat local, yet still detour from the norm a bit, with Cheeseburger Sliders -- Harris Ranch ground beef patties on pretzel buns with aged cheddar and all the usual burger fixin's. Or you can get more exotic with Walnut Panar or Dolma -- grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, served with cucumber yogurt and accompanied by Shirazi Salad.

Fazeli's wine list is ample and varied, which makes it relatively easy to pair the right wine to each of unique menu choices. One highlight among many notable bottles is the 2015 Shiraz, recently lauded in Temecula's People's Choice Awards (see my recent blog on Temecula's 2018 Blind Tasting).

For two years running, Miramonte Winery's Flower Hill Bistro has made USA Today's list of Top Ten Best Winery Restaurants. For two years running, I have made the mistake of not stopping by to see what the hoopla was about. Recently, I fixed that mistake, and fixated on Flower Hill's varied and inspired menu, quickly understanding why this hill-top noshery in Temecula Wine Country deserves national attention.

My party of four made good progress on our apparent goal of sharing everything on the menu. Among many crowd pleasers was the 6 Cheese Mac, which arrogantly claims "Will. Change. Your. Life." Also notable was the Sumac Salmon, which prepares the ubiquitous red swimmer in a way that sets it apart from the school -- glazed with red wine honey sauce, and served with cheesy potatoes and brussels gratin. When your server asks the obligatory, "Did anyone save room for dessert?" the correct answer is "Yes," even if you're stuffed to the gills. Be bad, and share some Sinful Truffles -- little mouthfuls of semi-sweet chocolate dusted with cocoa, and white chocolate truffles coated with pistachio bits, accented with fresh raspberries and cherry drizzle.

Did the mac and cheese really change my life? Hmmm. That might be a bit over the top, even for me. But I will go this far: Delicious food and wine shared with good friends in sunny, scenic Temecula Wine Country... Will. Make. You. Happy.


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

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