Late last year, I was doing something on the web, maybe was searching for something related to my food craze. By accident, I stumbled upon this website called FoodDigger which was a website that was unique and have interesting collections of reviewers voluntarily giving their takes on the dining experiences all across the country. I noticed a few of the bloggers that I have followed have also submitted reviews on this site. It then got me curious and compelled to "dig" a little further. No puns intended.
The concept of FoodDigger for which users would provide contents in a communal bowl like manner are similar to popular sites like BooRah and Yelp. Some major and subtle differences separate this site from others that came before them. For example, the final score for the restaurants have garnish average ratings from ambiance, service, taste, and the overall impressions where it would spell out the grand score for this restaurant. Just like Zagat, this site are not intending to go after the fast food chains or even mundane take-out places. The goal of their site is to provide valuable sources and insights from major foodies and even gourmets.
Seriously, which types of restaurant diners can provide these types of excellent caveats of info?
Of course, it's the foodies that are willing go out and try out various different places are more likely to participate in submitting these reviews. Hence, I automatically felt like I belong in FoodDigger. I review restaurants, talk about my dining experiences, have some useful tips on which dishes to order, give a fair overview of all these places, and more importantly I have no problem sticking my neck out on giving a score (since I already do so on my blog).
If your reviews have provided useful or cool tips to the readers of FoodDigger, they can reciprocate by giving you a vote of confidence for your review by placing a "Trusted Vote" for the cuisine of your reviews that have shown the most knowledgeable insight. It's a more trusted way than having a beautiful face to gather up undeserved votes. (Trust me, the photo is not big enough to influence your votes or you know the broad with a bikini top will be the most trusted sushi expert)
After participating on FoodDigger for over a month, I got an invite out of the blue for a wine pairing in a sushi joint. (Never knew they had hosted events until someone from the site invited me to an event. A very nice suprise!) Unfortunately, I couldn't make to that sushi event and was a little bummed about the time schedule not being able to fit for that. Luckily, the next go around was a much better fit and I was ready to go.
This lucky go around had taken place at a Shanghai restaurant called Giang Nan in the city of Monterey Park, east of downtown LA. That night I was introduced to the founders, community manager, and content developer of this upstart site. I have so many questions and suggestions for the site in that I was too giddy sharing it with Marshall, one of the co-founder.
I also get to meet some of my fellow bloggers whom some of them I was dying to meet. Joining in on our round table of feast was the mind and soul behind the sites and blogs of Food GPS, Foodie Traveler, kevinEats, LA and OC Foodventures, Only Eat What Feed Your Soul, and Teenage Glutster.
As everyone has finally arrived to the shindig, let the good times roll.
The following is what we were served. If you missed the dinner, tough luck for you. The notes were graciously shared by kevinEats as I did not jot any notes down because....well..I was busy talking and eating while good ol' Kevin dutifully recorded all the happenings. I get to slack off for the night. Yay!
First up on the lazy Susy was the smoke fish and Marinated Jelly Pork Zheng Jiang Style. We paired these two up with a glass of sparkling white wine provided by kevinEats (N.V. Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva Heredad (Spain, Catalunya, Cava) and a bottle opened from (2006 Don Olegario Albariño Rías Baixas (Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas).
Yes, you guessed it. We are pairing Spanish wines with our Shanghai dishes. These two white wines goes well with the savory dishes that started our course. The pork dipped in the ginger sauce worked really well after you took a few sip of the wine.
A couple of Veggie dishes had made its way to our table were the jade celery and the sliced bean curd sheets with vegetable. These two dishes were paired up with pinot noir of (2002 Michel Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay) and (1995 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único (Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero).
If you put a gun in my head, I'll be straight up honest about it. I don't know much about red wines as I'm a total wine novice. Pairing these two different style of red wines with veggie was very intense. The Bodega Vega has this Sherry-type flavors that is very smooth and easy to chuck down. If I wasn't too careful, I can drank that quickly and often. The celery just like the red wines was light, while the bean curds and veggie were small items taking its time while waiting for the main courses to arrive.
My favorite dish of the night was the deep Seaweed Fried Yellowfish. It got sent out concurrently with the Tea Smoke Shrimp and the West Lake Fish with Vinegar Sauce. Of course, we busted it out a different white wine to go along with the dishes (1996 R. López de Heredia Rioja Crianza Viña Gravonia (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja) and also a red wine (N.V. Emilio Lustau Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda Lustau Solera Reserva Manzanilla Papirusa (Spain, Andalucía, Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda).
Coming from a novice, the white wine was an interesting choice because it is very light, but the sherry red wine of N.V. does compliment all of the dishes very well. The Deep fried seaweed yellow fish was probably the most popular item for me because its salty texture that I know I will appreciated with either wine. The shrimp was not battered or seasoned with unnecessary ingredient that was perfect as it is and the fish with vinegar sauce was quite nice when you paired it with the Sherry red wine.
The next four items that was presented were the Stir Fried Vegetables with Bamboo Shoots, Shanghai Spare Ribs, the Squash with Crab, and Shanghai Stir-Fry of Shredded Pork, Celery and Squid. Each of these four dishes enjoyed a duet with a red wine of (1999 R. López de Heredia Rioja Viña Bosconia (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja). Out of the four, I probably enjoyed the stir fried veggie with bamboo shoots. These four are the set up for two upcoming meatier dishes.
The two most anticipated dishes of the night were the Meatball with Duck Egg Yolk and the Braised Pork Knuckle (affectionately called the "Pump"). I did enjoyed the meatball and right off the bat, people around me encouraging me to taste test this item with the wine of the night (2001 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Imperial Reserva (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja). The imperial was a red wine that I think most people in our table was the most giddy when it was finally popped opened.
The Anticipation of this pairing was inevitable, but it was not the show stopper of the night. That would belong to House Special De-Greased and Braised Pork Knuckle. Some of us were saving up the Imperial, which my dining companions are all raving about the depth of flavor and its texture of this red wine. The complexity did get to me on the meatball, but I actually enjoy it on the The Pump. With its fatty skin and slow cook meat, the wine did worked its magic .
As we continued the talk of which of the dish worked well with the Imperial, we decided to order two more dishes and a dessert. Yeah, I thought we were full, but we are just "fooddigging" at this point. Some people can really eat.
I always have room for Xiao Long Bao (Juicy Soup Pork dumplings) as I'm a hound for that. I do have to point out that the XLB lacks the soupiness compared to other places. It's still not bad, but didn't quite whelmed me.
Our final main dish of the night was Shanghai Rice cake with Shredded Pork and Vegetable. After the highlight of some of the dishes, I thought we were going to be on operational shut down with the low lights, but circumstances can proved me wrong as I thoroughly enjoyed the Shanghai Rice cake. So delicious in fact, we commensurate with the last wine of the night (Bodega R. de Ayala Lete e Hijos Rioja Vina Santurnia Gran Reserva (Spain, La Rioja, Rioja). Not bad of a red wine to end the meal.
Now it's time for the dessert, which we ended the entire evening with Sesame Mochi Balls in Soup. Just like the dessert, it was bittersweet to end the night as we all have bonded and shared many of our foodie adventures. The event connected all of us to share this unique opportunity to share insights with the officers of this website and bond with fellow bloggers.
I can only encourage you to check out FoodDigger if you haven't done so. They have collections of reviews from some of the top notch reviewers who went anywhere from fine dining to casual dining. It's not just about the most popular place being shown reviewed, but also some of the top places in each of the cuisine field.
Fine wine. Big Feast. Great Company. Unique wine pairing experiences that is out of this world. Who knew Spanish wines goes well with Shanghai food?
Thanks to everyone at FoodDigger for setting up this dinner and for the wonderful evening!
306 N Garfield Avenue South
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Grade: No Grade (Dinner provided by FoodDigger)