I was the host and…
It was fitting that Wolfgang Puck was our guest of honor at the first 2017 Royal Order Of The Purple Palate at Spago, Beverly Hills. Spago is our favorite ROPP joint — it is the restaurant that made Los Angeles — not the other way around. Chef Puck and his Spago are still going great, with a new generation coming through — if you travel to Los Angeles, along with some of our great ethnic places (Mexican!, Korean, Thai, Monterey Park Chinese, etc.), Spago is an absolute must go — I have been going to Spago for 37 years — the only DUI i ever got was after a wild Xmas party at the original Spago — that was 36 years ago (and I have never driven after drinking even one glass since then).
SPAGO is, and I think, will always, own Los Angeles high end dining — Chef Wolfgang Puck, because of his love of food, wine, laughter, love and partying, has somehow managed the amazing feat of keeping a restaurant in fickle Los Angeles relevant for almost 50 years.
Chef Wolfgang Puck literally invented the (now everyday) term “superchef” or superstar Chef — he started it all, HE STARTED IT ALL, and every single chef on tv, from Bourdain to Batali should be paying him a royalty.
I have so many stories — literally hundreds — about times spent at Spago. In 2005, I was making a film (“Man Of God”) with Peter Weller and Nikki Reed. It was a friday, it was Halloween, it was storming, my family was in malibu, and we wrapped early and I told Peter and Nikki I was taking them to dinner — where? Peter said: “lets go see my old friend Wolf at Spago.” Peter and Wolfgang used to hang around town looking for girls, according to Peter, when Chef Puck was working at Ma Maison. Anyway, we went, and Wolf was there, and he made us truffles 4 ways — with pizza (the best truffle pizza in America is at Spago), with eggs (you die), with risotto, and then with some pasta. I ordered a bottle of Barolo Monfortino (I believe Kevin was the Somm at that time), and as it stormed and thundered outside Peter Weller told us tales of his adventures with Wolfgang when they were young. That was a memorable night.
One of the greatest things about Chef Puck is he is absolutely fun to eat and drink with — he loves wine and understands it — which is one of the reasons that more than half of our ROPP dinners take place at Spago. Ferdinand Point said “never trust a thin chef” — I say, “never trust a chef that doesn’t love and understand wine.”
Chef Puck is one of the smartest, funniest, charismatic guys to be around — I wish he were at every one of our dinners. I really love Chef Wolfgang Puck. And Chef Pucks philosophy informs his entire team — throughout the years I have had so many great friendships with his staff and particularly the Somms that have come through Spago — some of the greatest Somms in America.
Spago never lets us down — Tetsu, the current head chef, and Eric (along with Reina), our Somm (Spago has had some of the greatest Somms in the history of Los Angeles), along with an incredible wait staff (many of them have been there as long as Spago BH has been open) are fabulous — this is a restaurant in Los Angeles that can compete with any of the grand houses in NY, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Spago is one of the great wine restaurants outside of New York — not just to bring, but to order. As I have mentioned above, the sommelier staff is incredible — as you can imagine, the ROPP is a very high maintain group when it comes to wine service, and for two months in a row, Eric has been as good as there is. Also, if you are not a collector, but want to order a special bottle, Spago may currently have the best wine list in California. And it has been this way for quite a while (previously, before the big quake, Valentino probably had the best list); the restaurant is so successful, it can afford to invest in an incredible cellar.
Highlights of our dinner were the 82/85/89 Haut Brion Blanc course with lobster (although the 89 is the legend of the group, the 82 was an incredible bottle and was the star of the flight), and the 59 Penfolds Grange/59 Jaboulet La Chappelle duo was incredible (served in a flight with 71 La Mouline and Penfolds Grange) — the French won the flight — but the 59 Grange was really a treat — the 59 Grange and La Chappelle were once in a lifetime bottles that I sacrificed to the group. Bipin really enjoyed the 1966 Taittinger. It was interesting to try the 1971 Tiganello, the very first Super Tuscan ever made (and it showed really well — I was surprised!). Shout out to Mr. Fredston for identifying 2-3 of the wines (ROPP is a blind tasting group). The 1967 D yquem was a 50th anniversary finish, and it is quite fantastic.