Blog of Award-winning authors
ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE
Named one of GourmetFood.About.com's "Top 10 Food Blogs"
Named one of The Fifty Best Links for Epicureans
Named to MUG 400 for "distinctive contribution to life in New York"
"If you asked me what I came into this world to do,
I will tell you: I came to live out loud."
— Critic and novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902)
" There is nothing under the sun better for man than to eat, drink, and be merry. Go, therefore, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with cheer.”
— Ecclesiastes 8:15
Credit: Julia Ewan
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 — Readers and even casual photo scanners of our Blog are already aware that we've been tasting some remarkable Vietti wines of late. In our column "A Young Italian, Nicely Balanced" in today's Washington Post, you can read more about the young winemaker responsible for them:
Fifth-generation Italian winemaker Luca Currado was contrite. After the first hour of our conversation during his visit to the United States this month, a few mornings after a tasting that introduced his winery's impressive new releases, the passionate 38-year-old apologized to us in his charming Italian accent: "You wanted to talk with me about wine, and I know I talk too much about food."
Our response was as impolite as his apology was gracious: We burst out laughing — then quickly explained that we were, in fact, kindred spirits in thinking he had his priorities just right.
On many counts, Currado strikes us as remarkably well balanced. On the spectrums of embracing wine or food, tradition or modernity, you no doubt would find him sitting squarely in the middle of each.
Since making its first wines in 1919, his family's Vietti winery has become a well-regarded producer. Its products include a crisp Roero Arneis — a white varietal virtually lost until Alfredo Currado (Luca's father, considered "the father of Arneis") revived it in 1967 — and the most alluring Moscato d'Asti we have ever tasted. His reds are famously unfiltered, to better balance their fruit with the Piedmont region's distinctive terroir. We had nearly written off the very earthy and tannic 2004 Vietti Dolcetto d'Alba "Tre Vigne" ($16), which we had tasted at room temperature, as too brooding and intense before we realized we had neglected to follow the advice on the back label: "Serving temperature: 63 degrees." We threw it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then tasted it again. The chill miraculously tamed the tannins, bringing out the Dolcetto's delightful cherrylike fruitiness.
But Vietti is arguably best known for its Barbera and its Barolo, which represent yet another spectrum: modesty to nobility. On the latter end, Currado's Barolos shine for special occasions.
At the tasting of Vietti's new releases, we agreed with the assessment of noted wine writer Ed McCarthy, co-author with Mary Ewing-Mulligan of "Italian Wine for Dummies," that Vietti's 2004 Barolos "amazed." McCarthy rated Vietti among the top seven or eight Piedmontese producers of the varietal. The 2004 Vietti Barolo "Brunate" ($120) captivated us with its velvety-smooth texture, well-balanced tannins, cherry fruitiness, chocolate notes and long, lingering finish.
"Barolo is a wine that needs a little more attention, more quiet reflection and the right people," Currado said. "It constantly changes, so you want to be able to taste it the moment you open the bottle, right after you decant it, and again 10, 20 and 60 minutes later," to experience its evolution in the glass.
And Barolo needs the right food, of course. Currado recommends a meat with a bit of gamy character, such as quail or lamb. We tasted it with lamb and a rib-eye steak, both excellent pairings.
During his U.S. visit, Currado was a guest at a private tasting in New York of 25 vintages of Vietti Barolos, from 1961 to the present, for which collectors flew in from as far away as the Cayman Islands and Texas. "It was very emotional," he recalled. "The 1961 was the first single-vineyard cru Barolo ever" — his family is credited with pioneering the practice of showcasing the grapes of a single vineyard — "and the last wine my grandfather made."
Other standouts included the 1978, which Currado characterized as "still young," and the 1982, which he deemed "incredible."
Though he obviously prizes his Barolo, Currado is especially proud of his Barbera. "It's the most important, not in terms of prestige, but because in the 18th century at the table, it's what Italian people would drink. Then, it was a lot more famous than Barolo."
He also loves Barbera for its ability to elevate food. "With its bright red fruit and acidity, without food Barbera is fresh and drinkable," he said. "But with food, it's magic: The wine changes. That's why at dinner you should always try the wine first without food, then taste it again. When it interacts with food, it's completely different. The two become one."
Currado recalled a Wine Spectator wine-and-food-pairing event a few years ago featuring star chefs Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Charlie Trotter that showcased the food-friendliness of his Barbera. "With the merlot and cabernet sauvignon, the chefs paired only red meat dishes. But with my Barbera, they were able to create four different dishes that all went with the wine: from Batali's pasta with tomato sauce to Puck's filet mignon with foie gras to Lagasse's salmon with a red-wine reduction.
"When in doubt, Barbera is an easy pick. That's why you'll see it so often by the glass in restaurants: It goes with everything," Currado said. "Also, Barbera is relaxed, a wine for sharing and enjoying when you're talking loud and laughing with friends, and you don't want to think too much."
At $24 a bottle, the 2005 Vietti Barbera d'Asti "Tre Vigne" offers a gentle entry to Vietti wines, both price-wise and flavor-wise, for those used to a fruitier, New World style who are making the move to an earthier, Old World style.
Another easy pick this week was the 2007 Cascinetta Vietti Moscato d'Asti ($16), the freshest, fruitiest and creamiest example of the variety we have ever tasted. With just 5.5 percent alcohol, Moscato d'Asti is often a Piedmontese's first wine, given the local tradition of dipping a baby's pacifier in it. You don't need to have been born that lucky to develop a taste for it. It is a delight, either solo or poured over sliced fresh strawberries.
"Wine is like food: The best is all about elegance and finesse and balance," Currado said. And as to balance: "In Italy, you order your food first and then the wine. Not like here [in the United States], where some wine drinkers are so serious they do it backwards."
We're glad to know Currado shares our passion for trying to even the scales.
Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, award-winning authors of WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, can be reached through their Web site, www.becomingachef.com, or at email@example.com.
Tips: WINEMAN'S HOLIDAY
At home, Vietti winemaker Luca Currado doesn't drink his own wines; he says he does too much of that at work. "I'll drink other producers' Barolo and Barbaresco," he offered. That still sounded like work — however pleasant — so we pressed further until he admitted:
"I love champagne. I love Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires [made from 100 percent chardonnay] and Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. But Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Rosé is the best in the world to me.
"And I love Côtes du Rhône wines. Two of the most incredible of my life were a 1961 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle and a 1978 Château Rayas [Châteauneuf-du-Pape]. Mama mia, that was a monster!"
You can read more on The Washington Post's Web site here.
An AP photo of a Citymeals volunteer making a delivery
During 2007, more than 23,000 children participated in the
Citymeals program to create handmade cards for recipients
...so that Citymeals recipients are given greeting cards on
their birthdays and over the holidays
In its window facing 38th Street, an original painting by a
Citymeals recipient is on display at Citymeals' office
"Someone once told me, ' You should live each day as if it's your last. One day, you'll be right."
—Citymeals-on-Wheels Board member David Rockwell, in Citymeals' 2007 annual report
Thursday, February 21, 2008 — Before lunch today with executive director Marcia Stein, Karen enjoyed an official tour of Citymeals-on-Wheels' nearby offices (whose art program bears some resemblance to our own!), where she was delighted to have a chance to learn even more about this not-for-profit organization that ensures meals for New York's homebound elderly 365 days a year.
In 2007, Citymeals underwrote the preparation and delivery of more than three million meals to 18,000 disabled elderly New Yorkers. But the organization's ability to coordinate caring volunteers to provide a human connection — through the greeting cards illustrated above to friendly visits — to the most isolated of its recipients is equally impressive, and worthy of support.
Hats off to Marcia Stein and founder Gael Greene for all they do through this important organization.
Citymeals on Wheels is located at 355 Lexington Avenue (near 38th Street), Manhattan. To make a contribution, large or small — 100% of which is used exclusively for the preparation and delivery of meals to New York's homebound elderly — click here: www.citymeals.org.
Photo credit: Julia Ewan
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 — In a cab on our way home at 10:55 pm last night after seeing the Foo Fighters make their debut appearance at Madison Square Garden (note: they were great; experiencing Dave Grohl perform alone on a small circular stage while the sold-out crowd sang along to "Everlong" was worth the price of admission alone), we laughed about the fact that we'd be home from a rock concert before 11 pm while last week's performance of "Macbeth" had us out past 12:30 am.
Please send along your wine questions to us c/o firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll be happy to answer them in a future column. Here's today's:
Last month we promised to devote more time and space to your wine-related questions. This week we make good on our promise.
About two weeks ago, my wife served a 2005 Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir to some houseguests. The wine had been given to us by a guest at an earlier get-together. As my wife and guests really enjoyed the wine, I have been trying to find someone in this area who sells it. Can you help with my search?
Many of the questions we're asked have to do with where to find a particular wine at retail. Our first stop typically is WineSearcher.com, which drew a blank on this pinot but indicated that Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits in the District carries Tortoise Creek's syrah. Another Web site, WineFetch.com, showed that Tortoise Creek's rose is carried by Planet Wine Shop and Gourmet in Alexandria. Either of those stores, or your own local favorite, might be willing to order the winery's pinot noir for you via its local distributor (the Henry Wine Group, http://www.henrywinegroup.com).
Tortoise Creek's importer says its pinot noir is carried by Dupont Market, Hayden's Liquor Store and Rodman's Discount Gourmet & Wine. Those stores confirmed that they indeed have the wine in stock: Dupont has the 2006 for $9.99, Hayden's the 2005 for $8.99 and Rodman's the 2006 for $8.99.
I have 2-year-old twins and have decided to buy them each 12 bottles of wine from their birth year and will ask them to open them at the 12 most important moments in their lives. Today I found 2005 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc — and, as my boy's middle name is Stone and my girl's middle name is Leigh, it seemed meant to be. However, I have read that some wines are not cellar-able. I want to know if this wine would be good 20 or 30 years from now if the bottles are stored properly.
—Lloyd Walters, Winston-Salem, NC
We applaud your sentimentality but caution that buying wines to cellar long-term is not for the faint of heart. Nine out of 10 wines are meant to be drunk fresh — that is, typically within a year or two after purchase. Less than one wine in 100 will benefit from being aged for several years. As for the Stoneleigh, the winery's Web site advises that "this wine is best enjoyed young and exuberant, or may be cellared over the next two years."
Wines with the greatest aging potential tend to be tannic reds, such as cabernet sauvignon. Red wines get their tannins from remaining in contact with the skins of the grapes during the winemaking process, which imparts color as well as flavor and texture. (Tannins make you want to pucker; think of the sensation you get from tasting a strong tea or walnuts.) Among its reds, Stoneleigh advises that its 2005 merlot and 2005 pinot noir be consumed within four and five years, respectively.
The good news is that 2005 was such a great vintage year that you can find both dry (including red Bordeaux and Burgundy) and sweet wines with aging potential. The bad news is that 2005 was such a great vintage year that it's driven prices sky-high. Moreover, despite the experts' best educated guesses, there's never a guarantee that the wines will in fact be good at the time the twins decide to open them.
To cellar wines, you (and they) will want a controlled space that maintains a constant temperature of about 55 degrees and is light-controlled (that is, away from bright light). Even wines with great aging potential don't stand much of a chance of achieving their promise if they are improperly stored.
Have you ever done a feature on the best Virginia wines? There are now some really good ones (Chrysalis Viognier) and some fun ones (Chrysalis Sarah's Patio White/Red, Horton Norton and Eclipse, etc.) to consider.
—Ron Cori, Centreville
In honor of Queen Elizabeth II's historic state visit last year, we wrote about our visit to some Virginia wineries ("Virginia Vintages That Can Hold Their Own," May 9).
We've since mentioned a number of our other favorite Virginia wines, including Barboursville's Bordeaux-style Octagon and Kluge Estate's sparkling wines and chardonnay-based Cru. We're always interested in tasting the best wines coming out of Virginia, which now ranks as America's fifth-most-prolific wine-producing state, behind California, Washington, Oregon and New York.
I believe it is still true that a sparkling wine can be called champagne only if it emanates from the Champagne region of France. (Please correct me if that is no longer the case.) However, I notice that both domestic and foreign sparkling wines incorporate the word "Brut" on their labels. What does that mean?
—Sharon Hyde, Lorton
You're right that only sparkling wine made via the traditional method (that is, with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle) in the Champagne region of France has the right to be called champagne. Otherwise, it can be seized as counterfeit. In fact, there are signs that enforcement of international laws is getting stricter: Last month 3,288 bottles labeled "California Champagne" were seized and destroyed by Belgian customs agents for misuse of the name.
"Brut" means "dry" and refers to a sparkling wine's sweetness level. The levels, in order from driest to sweetest, are: extra brut, brut, extra dry, sec, demi-sec and doux. As non-vintage brut accounts for about nine of every 10 bottles of champagne sold, it's no wonder you're so often seeing it labeled that way.
I'm making cumin-rubbed lamb chops tonight with a garlicky tahini sauce, and spinach and tomatoes on the side. What would be a good wine to drink with this meal?
Karen's wine pick this week is a 2006 Paul Jaboulet Aine Cotes du Rhone "Parallele 45" Rouge ($13). We thought it sounded like such a great match with the meal you described that Andrew made cumin-rubbed lamb chops at home so we could confirm our hunch. Indeed, the earthiness of the cumin played off that of the wine, while the wine's tannin was balanced by the richness of the lamb.
Andrew's pick this week is a splurge 2005 Ferrari-Carano Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($28). From his first sip, he wanted to taste it with pork and applesauce that would echo the chardonnay's ripe apple flavors. He paired pork cutlets with an unsweetened earthy, organic applesauce, which brought out even more apple fruitiness from the wine.
If you have a question you'd like answered in this column, please indicate whether your name and town of residence can be published, and please include a daytime telephone number and address for verification purposes.
Sunday, February 17, 2008 — Our dear friend Cynthia told us over dinner last night that she'd recently attended a writer's seminar on creating a successful blog. One of her key takeaways was that the seminar leader urged bloggers to post blogs at least daily, even several times a day.
Ha! Between finishing our next book THE FLAVOR BIBLE, meeting our weekly wine column deadline for The Washington Post, fighting this long-lingering winter flu, and attempting to keep up with the demands of daily life (often badly), we're lucky to average several posts a month.
Today, we're planning a catch-up blog and to let our photos be worth their proverbial thousands of words so we can get back to our pressing deadlines (a big one this week for THE FLAVOR BIBLE, not to mention our next wine column). Thanks for understanding!
Attending the opening of Relais & Chateaux's new Maison
on 53rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues in NYC
Spying a rainbow-striped "HELL, YES!" on the front of The New
Museum on Bowery en route to the opening of "Macbeth"
...at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Thanks to the generosity
of our hosts, we enjoyed one of the most powerful portrayals
of "Macbeth" imaginable in star Patrick Stewart, not to
mention amazing seats (behind Mikhail Barishnikov, and next
to Bill Irwin, who was across the aisle from Lou Reed and
The Modern's sommelier Belinda Chang, who has been
nominated for the James Beard Award for Wine Service,
isn't shy expressing her enthusiasm for Vietti's Brunate!
Valentine's Day lunch: dim sum at Jing Fong in Chinatown
Our post-lunch stroll to the subway through Chinatown
After returning to Gilt with our friend Rikki Klieman on 2/14
for one of our new favorite dishes in NYC
Lee's grilled cheese with shaved black
truffles and tomato
soup), we discovered yet a newer favorite:
French fries served with smoky bacon dip!
Our fun evening of jazz unexpectedly began by hearing the
Yaz Band perform "Lowdown" in Grand Central's subway
We were excited to pay our first visit to the new Bar Boulud,
which we'll plan to give several weeks to work out service
issues before returning for the impeccable charcuterie. (We
had to send back two too-warm glasses of Alsatian white wine
and switch to sparkling wine to get a cold-enough glass.)
Our charcuterie tasting plate was filled with delights
Karen loved her Boudin Noir at Bar Boulud...
...while Andrew loved his own lemon linguini with cuttlefish
Enjoying Duke Ellington's love songs at Jazz@Lincoln Center,
thanks to our friends (J@LC supporters) who invited us
While walking home from a matinee of "Spring Awakening" to
which a friend gifted us house seats, we spied Christie's
doorman Gill, whom Andrew recognized from 15-plus years ago
on Park Avenue. We stopped to chat and learned that Gill
has been with Christie's for more than three decades!
Sitting down to taste wines that were so delicious we didn't
bother using the beautiful silver spit bucket once
Tasting against lamb, beef, mushrooms, bacon-laced Brussels
sprouts and mashed potatoes, with tasting sheets nearby
Jeff's and Andrew's opinion of the Vietti "Brunate" Barolo
clearly echoes that of
sommelier Belinda Chang (above)!
A special shout-out to Aaron, the sharp-eyed CIA grad working at Murray's Cheese at Grand Central Market, where we stopped to pick up some Parmesan cheese on the way home yesterday afternoon. Aaron recognized Andrew's name from his credit card, then recognized Karen standing next to Andrew, and shared some kind words for our book CULINARY ARTISTRY. Aaron, you made our day....
Bar Boulud is at 1900 Broadway at 64th Street, Manhattan. (212) 595-0303.
Gilt is at The New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. (212) 891-8100.
Maison des Relais & Chateaux is located at 10 East 53rd Street (off Fifth Avenue) in Manhattan. It welcomes the public Monday-Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To contact the Maison des Relais & Chateaux, call 212-319-4880. In addition to being available in the Maisons, gift certificates are also available for purchase online or by calling 877-334-6464.
By the way, friends in L.A. can check out today's Los Angeles Times for a nice mention of our friend Rikki Klieman at the recent opening of the Eli Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA:
...There goes Edward Norton, Michael Milken, Anjelica Huston and musician David Byrne.
Rikki Kleiman, wife of LAPD chief Bill Bratton, wore a spectacular orange dress that came with its own press materials (which she misplaced). "It was designed by Nilatye De Osu," she said later and then confessed that it actually belongs to the wife of the Seattle police chief. "We're exactly the same size and height. I told her once that if I ever had an appropriate event, I'd want to borrow it. She even loaned me a pair of vintage Miriam Haskell earrings."
And don't miss this week's New York magazine for a Big 4-0 tribute to the magazine and to its long-time "Insatiable Critic" Gael Greene. For that matter, don't miss Greene's own blog on the subject "Dinner Begins at Forty" at www.insatiable-critic.com.
Congratulations, Gael — and thank you for all you've contributed to the food world these last 40 years!
From our emailbox from Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema, one of our favorite people to eat with:
"I was recently admonished by a friend for not telling anybody Choice Eats, an event sponsored by the Village Voice featuring dozens of restaurants that I have reviewed and approved of. It's March 11th at the Puck Building, and they've managed to keep the admission price down to $25 in advance or $35 at the door, which is, I think, a really good deal for an all-you-can-eat situation. http://choice-eats.com If you want to attend, I urge you to get tickets in advance via the link on the website — they seem to be selling fast....I'm planning on attending, but I won't be sitting in a booth or anything — I'm getting there early and eating as fast as I can...."
Choice Eats is being held Tuesday, March 11, 2008, from 6:30 - 10:30 pm at the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street (near Houston) in Manhattan. Featuring over 30 restaurants, and representing foods from all nations, this is
a one-of-a-kind opportunity to treat your taste buds to a trip around the world.
In addition, a portion of ticket sales will go to benefit The Academy of
Hospitality & Tourism at Erasmus, a public high school group with a student club dedicated to studying the evolution of world cultures through the history of regional cuisines.
More from our emailbox:
Congratulations to our dear friends Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn, who this week accepted yet another Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award. From this month's GrooveLily e-newsletter:
"Val and Brendan had the great honor of accepting a *second* Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation award this week (the first was 2 years ago). City Theatre of Pittsburgh will utilize the grant specifically for the development of our new 2-person musical 'Long Story Short' (adapted from the David Schulner play 'An Infinite Ache'). The awards luncheon was at the '21' Club in NYC on February 14, where we hobnobbed in our dressy clothes and got to hear amazing performances by the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Anthony Rapp and Mary Testa. The whole Larson family was there, and we were incredibly happy to be part of this warm, supportive, wonderful group once again.
From the Larson website: Jonathan Larson's dream was to infuse musical theatre with a contemporary, joyful urban vitality. After 12 years of struggle as a classic 'starving artist,' his dream came true with the phenomenal success of RENT. To celebrate his creative spirit and honor his memory, Jonathan's family and friends created the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to provide financial support and encouragement to a new generation of musical theatre composers, lyricists and bookwriters. www.jlpaf.org"
Congratulations, Brendan and Valerie!
Credit: Julia Ewan
Thursday, February 13, 2008 — No need to worry if you've put off planning a special evening with a special someone tomorrow night — or if you have no such evening planned. A flute of pink sparkling wine is a celebration in a glass no matter whom you share it with, or when.
Rosés and sparklers are two of the most food-friendly wine styles around: The former can pinch-hit as either whites or reds, while the latter's crisp acidity and bubbles cleanse the palate. Marry the two, and the match creates the world's single food-friendliest wine.
Within the realm of rosé sparkling wines, you'll find variations that run the gamut: from delicate to robust in color, body and flavor, and from dry to off-dry in sweetness. Here you can find a match for virtually any food. Pink sparklers can be as great with "surf," including clams, mussels, oysters, squid, crab, lobster, salmon and tuna, as they are with "turf," such as rare filet mignon, lamb or duck. They also can stand up to creamy mushroom dishes and other rich foods, fried or salty starters and even spicy foods, including chili-laden dishes from Mexican, Hunan, Indian, Sichuan and Thai cuisines.
Over the past few weeks, we sipped our way through dozens of bottles of pink sparkling wines made in the traditional method to bring you the best of the bunch. Because readers often seek a wine in a particular price range, we've listed them in increasing order of price — and into stratospheres that make us blush. (Check out the "Tips" box below for a steal at $11.)
From among our three California sparkling rosé recommendations, Karen netted her pick of the week: The N.V. Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine ($27) is the effort of an offshoot of Champagne's Louis Roederer, maker of famed Cristal Champagne. The nose is strawberry cheesecake: ripe, round strawberries with hints of cream cheese, vanilla and graham cracker crust. With its lush body, constant stream of tiny bubbles and long, creamy finish, this is a sparkler with impressive finesse. We found it all the more impressive that it paired so well with food, especially sauteed salmon, which perfectly echoed its color.
Although our other two California choices hail from Sonoma's Russian River Valley, they could hardly be more different. The N.V. J Brut Rosé ($35) is a relative whisper of a pink sparkler, very delicate in color, body and flavor — so much so that we worried it would be overwhelmed by food. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that it, too, was an ideal complement to delicate sauteed salmon. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 2003 Iron Horse Brut Rosé ($50), from the Green Valley, is deep ruby-pink in color and equally big in flavor, body and even aroma. (Imagine the scent of cherry Jolly Rancher candies nestled in a haystack.) Although this rosé overpowered the same salmon, it stood up beautifully to sliced rare filet mignon.
Those first three choices represented a somewhat narrow flavor band. The N.V. Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé Brut ($60) is lighter-bodied, with bright, refreshing raspberry and strawberry flavors and streams of fine bubbles. Surprisingly, it paired beautifully with the salmon and the filet.
The 2002 Louis Roederer Vintage Rosé Champagne Brut ($75) is drier and more delicate than Karen's pick, its California cousin. It is an elegant sparkler with an abundance of fine bubbles and a rich, creamy finish that underscored the salmon's silkiness.
Andrew's pick, the N.V. Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut Champagne ($80), is a splurge champagne for any occasion that calls for one. He loved its tart red-fruit notes — cherries, raspberries and strawberries — on the nose and palate. This was an extraordinary match with the salmon, both with and without a red-pepper sauce. Its distinctive round-bottomed bottle is modeled after those used in the late 17th century, and its salmon hue is the result of the saignee method, wherein the juice is left in contact with red grape skins, which bleed a pink tinge. (More commonly, a bit of red wine is simply added to the finished blend.)
If you're looking for something even more over the top in flavor and extravagance, look no further. These two are as different from their champagne brethren as cabernet is from pinot: The 2002 Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d'Or Rosé Champagne ($179), which comes in a red velvet gift pouch, is like a big, brooding red with a chocolaty espresso finish. It easily stood up to filet mignon with wild mushrooms. The N.V. Champagne Krug Brut Rosé ($189 for 375 ml), which comes in a pearly-pink gift box, was one of a kind: We had never tasted anything like it before. Rather than pair it with food, we sipped it on its own to marvel at its silky texture and its nuanced flavors that — though some might find this disrespectful — suggested the world's best strawberry Pop-Tart.
With any one of these sparkling selections, you can surprise your date with an all-pink menu: paper-thin slices of smoked salmon, prosciutto or beef carpaccio, or even takeout salmon and tuna sushi. If your date isn't really a date, you can raise a delicious toast to anything you like, such as friendship.
Tips THINKING PINK
Look outside the Champagne region for the best values in pink sparkling wines. Spain makes its famed cava sparklers using the same traditional method of secondary bottle fermentation that is used to make champagne. (In fact, cava — which is Catalan for "cellar" — was called "champan" until use of the term was nixed by the French.) Cava's flavors tend to be a bit more on the earthy, savory side, and the wines are almost invariably great buys.
Our bargain recommendation this week is the N.V. Segura Viudas Brut Rosé Cava ($11) from Spain. This bright-reddish-pink bubbly, aged in the bottle for one to two years, has coffeelike aromas. Its Old World earthiness and toastiness are well balanced by robust strawberry and raspberry flavors.
To enhance the flavor of rose bubbly even further, serve it very cold (about 45 degrees) and keep it on ice after opening.
Thursday, February 7, 2008 — Heed those headlines that warn, "New York gets a flu wakeup call" and "New York City reports spike in flu." Flu season is here, and it is no fun.
Karen's been hit with a double-whammy: After being knocked out last week, she felt fine enough to head out for the day on Friday and to run a four-mile race in Central Park on Saturday — after which her energy started heading downhill again until she was knocked off her feet by the flu again this week. We've both resolved to take as long as it takes to get well before we head out again (i.e. no Bronx Half-Marathon this weekend!).
Our thanks to Manhattan User's Guide editor Charlie Suisman for managing to put a rare smile on Karen's face this week with today's issue, which you can read here.
Manhattan User's Guide is at www.manhattanusersguide.com. You can enter a free subscription to this New York insiders' must-read weekday e-zine here.
Women's Campaign Forum "Parties of Your Choice" will take place on Monday, March 10th, at some of the loveliest private homes in Manhattan. Join Karen at Party #1, which is being prepared by Chanterelle's four-star chef -owner David Waltuck, or attend one of 13 other dinner parties that night described here.
Credit: Julia Ewan
Wednesday, February 6, 2008 — Forget the scientific debates about aphrodisiacs. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and you and your date will want to eat something with your wine. Given their centuries-long associations with heightened sensuality, you might as well take advantage of the placebo effect, if nothing more, of ingredients such as shellfish, strawberries and chocolate.
But any possible aphrodisiac could be rendered not just impotent, but downright unappetizing as a result of the wrong wine pairing. We pity any poor reader in need of menu advice who turned to the December issue of Men's Health magazine, where an article titled "Have Sex for Dessert" recommended a glass of resveratrol-rich red wine followed by an appetizer of shrimp cocktail. Gulp. There's nothing sexy about the clashing flavors of red wine and shellfish.
Don't risk a turnoff. With the right pairing strategy, you'll find pleasure throughout the meal.
It's fine to start with a shrimp cocktail, but serve it with a dry white wine, such as a Muscadet or New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Horseradish is a classic aphrodisiac, and for a horseradish-dominant cocktail sauce we found two excellent pairings: the lighter-bodied, crisp 2007 Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc ($18), from New Zealand's famed Marlborough region, and the more powerfully grapefruit-driven 2007 Seifried Sauvignon Blanc ($18), from the sunnier Nelson region.
Or, better yet, pair that shrimp starter with the most romantic wine around: a classic glass of champagne. Year after year, the N.V. Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut ($55) is consistently impressive. The bottle we enjoyed the other night was characteristically rich and full in body, yet dry and crisp with peachlike fruitiness. (We feel about Bollinger, actually, the way Lily Bollinger felt about champagne in general. As she famously said in 1961: "I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I'm thirsty.")
If the occasion calls for saying it with flowers in a big way, pour the crisp, delicately fruity yet toasty 1999 Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Brut (a true splurge at $140). A bottle of this lighter-bodied, chardonnay-dominant cuvee, launched in 1969, was one of our wedding presents. It was a gift we found all the more apt after we learned that Perrier-Jouët was founded nearly two centuries ago by Nicolas Perrier and Adèle Jouët, who had fallen in love with the Champagne region of France — and with each other. In their honor, artisans hand-paint the distinctive white anemone flowers that decorate each bottle. If you're planning to pop the question and want an equally momentous champagne, consider an even bigger splurge: the superb, apricot-and-pear-noted 2000 Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Blanc de Blancs ($350).
For a main course, serve a few perfect slices of rosy red meat — whether rare filet mignon or lamb T-bone, with its own tender filet on one side and strip loin on the other — accompanied by glasses of lush, velvety red wine.
Take your pick of one of three recommended red blends, listed from lightest to heaviest in body: The N.V. Sokol Blosser Meditrina ($18), named in honor of the little-known Roman goddess of wine and health, is a brightly fruity blend of predominantly pinot noir (contributing cherry flavors) with syrah and zinfandel (adding spice notes). With an herbal pesto sauce, we preferred the 2004 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40), featuring a cinnamon and chocolate aroma and a kiss of merlot (5 percent), or the eucalyptus-noted 2005 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz ($27), which proved a delicious coupling of the two grapes.
Looking to linger over a cheese course? Put out some ripe fresh figs with creamy mascarpone, accompanied by a sweet wine. A honeyed peach elixir, the 2006 Peller Estates Riesling Icewine ($58), pairs as nicely with this combination as it does with blue cheese.
In fact, with the latter you can pour our longtime favorite 2006 Quady Elysium California Black Muscat Dessert Wine ($17 for a half-bottle), a heavenly, sweet wine with dark cherry and blueberry flavors that can do double duty with the chocolate dessert you'll inevitably want to serve.
We know that chocolate releases endorphins and that endorphins make people happy. So a warm dark chocolate fondue into which you dip whole strawberries or, say, bite-size chunks of frozen cheesecake should make you very happy. Paired with a glass of Elysium, which is Greek for "heaven," the combination will have your head in the clouds. No need to find the perfect Valentine's Day card, either; just write your beloved's name in the heart on the label, and present the bottle as a keepsake.
If you don't have a Valentine's Day reservation at your favorite restaurant by now, let's face it: You probably can't get one. So pretend you'd intended all along to surprise your Valentine by creating a meal with some of these wine pairings in the comfort of home. What could be more romantic than that?
TIPS: Appetite Arousal
Raw oysters, another classic aphrodisiac, are even more luscious with a few drops of flavor-heightening Noilly Prat Original French Dry Vermouth ($10) sprinkled on top.
For more ideas, visit the Web site of Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomy Amy Reiley, who maintains an entire aphrodisiac library at http://www.eatsomethingsexy.com.
Monday, February 4, 2008 — Our congratulations to Gary Vaynerchuk, host of the groundbreaking wine vlog Wine Library TV, on his show's 400th episode, which is scheduled to air this afternoon at tv.winelibrary.com.
Park Avenue Winter's $24.08 Restaurant Week lunch menu
kicked off with a first course of prosciutto with Asian pear
Park Avenue Winter's porcini ravioli, Swiss chard, and
gorgonzola cream first course
Park Avenue Winter's kitchen cooked 1000+ cornbread-
crusted red snapper entrees during Restaurant Week
Park Avenue Winter even hits chicken out of the ballpark
Desserts as beautiful as they taste at Park Avenue Winter
Park Avenue Winter's executive chef
Craig Koketsu (center)
flanked by his Chefs de Cuisine Kevin (l.) and Lawrence (r.)
Arriving Lever House, with its honeycomb wine rack (r.), for
the first meeting of its Friday afternoon Wine Tasting Club
The bar at Lever House, with wine tasting stations
Wine tasting station in Lever House's dining room
Lever House GM Arnaud Devulder, Andrew Dornenburg, Mike
Oxxford Clothes & Zac Moseley of Classic Car Club
The best grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo of
our lives, thanks to chef Christopher Lee, in the bar at Gilt
The best filet-o-fish slider (center) of our lives at Gilt
The roasted pineapple pavlova dessert at Gilt
Sunday, February 3, 2008 — As our fellow New Yorkers scream outside with the thrill of victory (Who knew "cava" could ever beat "1982 Bordeaux"?? See our 1/30/08 Blog if you need a translation), we're catching up tonight on blogging our recent visits to Park Avenue Winter (where we were guests of our editor for lunch), Lever House (where we were guests at the kick-off of its new Friday afternoon wine tasting club), and Gilt (where we popped in to get out of the rain for a grilled cheese sandwich and cup of soup in the bar).
Our visit to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was only a pop-in, although it yielded a brief but very enjoyable espresso-fueled conversation with chefs Johanne Killeen and George Germon of Al Forno restaurant and their soon-to-open tiny new spot in Providence.
Park Avenue Winter is at 100 East 63rd Street in Manhattan. (212) 644-1900. Web: www.parkavenyc.com
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is at 57 East 57th Street in Manhattan. (212) 758-5700. Web: www.fourseasons.com
Lever House is at 390 Park Ave. in Manhattan. (212) 888-2700. Every Friday afternoon for the next three months, from 3-7 pm, members of the Lever House Wine Tasting Club will taste some of the most extraordinary wines from around the world. Membership is $1000; single tasting passes are $100. To join or to purchase a single wine tasting pass, contact GM Arnaud Devulder at email@example.com.
Gilt is at The New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. (212) 891-8100.