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Located in the heart of Westwood Village, the Napa Valley Grille is frequented by local business people and those affiliated with UCLA. It is not a new restaurant and will not likely be written up by the local food press sources. But, we should not overlook the Napa Valley Grille. Behind the doors is a restaurant that has been served diners for more than 15 years. General Manager Brian Cousins and Chef Kenny Spost are staying current and with the fall season upon us, they have created a new menu and paired the menu with some unexpected wines. The Napa Valley Grille focuses on California cuisine with an emphasis on wine country. Historically the wine list has been primarily filled with California wines. However, GM Brian Cousins has been adding wines from around the world to the list. While still predominantly California, you can find wines from Italy, France, New Zealand and more. And now, with the new menu, Brian has paired the dishes with wines from Germany and Bordeaux, two distinct destinations, offering surprising styles. Brian invited a group of LA Wine Writers in to try the new pairings. 
Seeking out memorable meals is something that pleases my palate. So, after an amazing week in southern Italy, which included winery visits, historical tours and a boat trip down the Amalfi coast, I capped off the week with a meal in Sorrento at Il Buco, considered one of the best restaurants in Sorrento. Located in the heart of Sorrento, near the sea, Il Buco has been serving food worthy its Michelin Star. Open for more than 20 years, Il Buco has held its Michelin Star for 14 years! I arrived for my 8pm reservation and was taken down a few steps into the the dining room which used to be the wine cellar of an old monastery. My table was waiting for me, set for one person. Unlike in some restaurants where I am given a funny look when I ask for a table for one, the staff at Il Buco made me feel welcome immediately.  I was offered an aperitivo of sparkling wine or a cocktail but decided to pass as had read about the large curated wine cellar and was planning to do a wine pairing. Before I was given the menu, I was presented with an amuse of marinated anchovy with tomatoes and sliced toasted almonds. The sweet fresh tomato against the salty fish woke up my palate and the toasted almonds added a nice touch.