Just when you think the art of fine dining has reached its peak, a Seal Beach restaurateur has taken it to the next level.
Nick Quiroz gives diners the opportunity to learn the fine art of catering while gaining a better understanding of what the chef’s staff thinks as they prepare the menu.
In an interview, Quiroz said that when his group bought Patty’s Place in 2019, the restaurant had a good reputation, great staff, and enough goodwill to keep it going. Three years later, however, Quiroz began to put his own stamp on the restaurant by going even further in fine dining.
Quiroz is the owner/manager of Patty’s Place, and he’s embarked on an effort to educate and enlighten customers with a series of “Wine&Dine” special events.
These special events combine culinary knowledge with the mind of a master sommelier to provide restaurants with an understanding of wine and its role in menu planning.
“The benefit for us,” Quiroz said, “is being able to have fun creating a menu specifically designed to pair with particular wines.”
Additionally, with over 40 years of experience in the business, Quiroz employs a table-to-table style of management. “I love going from table to table,” Quiroz said, “greeting everyone who comes in. Even when they’re complaining. I don’t hesitate, I go and face the music.
The truth is, however, that there aren’t many complaints at Patty’s Place. Quiroz says business is better than ever. So much so that he has pledged to occasionally invite interested customers to attend special “Wine & Dine” events, featuring master sommelier Michael Jordan.
At the latest Wine & Dine event, Quiroz introduced Jordan to a room full of patrons who had been lucky enough to secure one of thirty-six seats for the private event held in the private dining room out back. .
“We are so honored to have him (Jordan) here,” Quiroz told the cheering guests. Each of the thirty-six guests present at the event was seated around a gourmet setup, with eight glasses of wine, four reds and four whites.
“We can do a blind tasting with a certified wine educator,” Quiroz said.
Additionally, he said Jordan was a “master sommelier,” a rare breed of wine specialist who must endure a series of near-impossible challenges to be inducted into the rank of “master.” They have to go through four levels of testing and then they have to be able to identify everything about a wine, including the grape it was made from before being certified, Jordan said.
According to the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, there are less than 200 “Master Sommeliers” in the United States, of which Jordan, of Costa Mesa, is indeed recognized on the institution’s website.
According to Jordan, master sommeliers must in an instant be able to identify, with just a swirl, sip and smell of wine (known as a “blind test” in wine parlance), to pretty much anything wine related.
They must be able to identify the history of the wine, which country/region it comes from, which grape variety may have been used, in which village it was grown and the vintage year of the wine, among many other characteristics.
Master sommeliers even understand the soils of various regions of the world and how those soils are traceable to the certain tastes and smells they produce.
He provided many wine tips to the public that most never knew. Jordan says you determine the acidity level of a wine simply by judging the amount of juice in your mouth when you drink it.
While wine connoisseurs cling to every drop of information, even average wine drinkers attending the event got more than a bottle of Jordan wine facts and insights.
Participants received a printed Jordan checklist with over fifty characteristics of wine that would soon become part of Jordan wine courses.
For example, Jordan held a glass of white wine up to the light and said, “Look at this light,” pointing to the wine. “It’s brilliant,” he said, “actually it’s kind of starbright, and the deep lights that pass through it are pale straw with a watery edge.”
“In fact, in the light you can see a light green tint,” Jordan said, bringing his audience closer.
“It’s a very important clue,” he tells the group, “because a green tint in a white wine,” Jordan says, “means it’s either a young wine or a cool climate.”
He called the exercise a “deductive tasting.”
First, he said, when you “swirl” the wine around the glass, you’re supposed to look to see how much residue sticks to the glass. “Viscosity” determines volume and texture. More sticking to the glass reveals many of the ingredients there and its residue is a huge clue.
“We don’t swirl the wine around the glass to look cool at a cocktail party,” Jordan said, “we swirl it for two reasons. Firstly we want to see the thickness of the drops on the side and secondly we want to cover a larger area of the glass so that the alcohol evaporates from a larger area it is easier to squeeze out aromas.
Then, another little secret from the Master Sommelier, the greatest aromas are not in the bowl of the wine glass but hover above it.
“Right at the edge of the glass,” he said, simmering over the wine, are delicate smells, perhaps herbs, flowers and spices, which are very helpful in identifying the wine. “If I just put my big old nose in the glass, I miss that whole top thing,” Jordan said.
“So I approach wine very carefully,” he said, because “the deeper, heavier, fruitier flavors sit in the bowl of the glass” and I don’t want to miss the subtle scent notes.
After explaining the different regions of the world where grapes are grown, Jordan also explained how a fine nose can smell wine and know exactly where the grapes are likely to come from by the smells of grass and flowers, the smell of oak barrels, or not.
When it comes to wines, Jordan said there’s just “old world” and “new world,” he said. “Europe is the old world, and the new world is everything else.”
It was soon time for the participants to use the knowledge they had hopefully acquired.
Jordan methodically went through each of the four white and then red wines, allowing each of the thirty-six participants to write down their own thoughts. From time to time, he questioned the guests to make sure that they had understood everything.
“I think I can smell the oak [barrels] in this one,” said Maureen Pabbruwee of Seal Beach, who attended the event with her husband Jerry.
As they marked their choices on the paper he provided, Jordan told Wine&Dine attendees not to worry if they hadn’t mastered the many wine identification skills yet.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world to do,” Jordan said, as customers continued the test, trying to convey their new wine knowledge as they wildly guessed at the four reds and four whites. until they have all been correctly identified.
Following Jordan is a tough act, Quiroz said, but working with chef Jose Navarro, they put together a memorable service where each of the wines was selected specifically for the dish that accompanies it.
“The dishes we serve for Wine & Dine aren’t on our regular menu,” Quiroz said, “so it gives Jose and I time to do a bit of research and be creative with menu development. .”
Quiroz said that for the five-course Wine & Dine dinner, he and Chef Jose worked tirelessly to pair the wines with the dish, especially given the client’s new knowledge of the two.
The arugula salad was served with Capture Sauvignon Blanc, the fresh poached scallop with orzo in a lobster sauce was served with Diatorn Chardonnay, the seared white duck breast was served with Brewer Custom Pinot, the first short rib was served with from Mt. Brave Cabernet sauvignon and sorbet and ice cream came with coffee.
“It was an amazing event,” said Jim Osborn, the former owner of Tustin Grill and a longtime friend of Quiroz. He is still an Orange County restaurateur and praised the presentation of Jordan, a man he says he has known for many years.
With over four decades in the business, Quiroz has gone from bartender to owner/manager. He takes pride in the fact that his employees are well paid and that many have spent their careers at the same restaurant.
For example, Chuck Armstrong, a popular local bartender, recently retired with 25 years of service, Quiroz said. The Wine&Dine events, of which there have been only two so far, are an experience aimed at providing diners with culinary information while giving them a chance to enjoy themselves, he added.
“The end goal, really,” Quiroz said, “is to get anyone interested in good wine or food, to break bread together, maybe learn something, and have a really good evening. .”