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"
"Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page monitor the pulse of the food world like nobody's business. There's a fantastic database of restaurant reviews, too."
— Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma
"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
Andrew Dornenburg and Jimmy Carbone at Jimmy's No. 43
Crostini of mizuna, pickled pistachios, roasted king oyster
mushrooms (and two drops of plum oil!)
Charred Spanish mackerel, pea shoots, sour apricots
Ossabaw hog coppa, pickled green beans
Octopus and Berkshire pig head cheese with green apple
mustard and nasturtium
Charred tomato gazpacho with pan-fried soft-shell crab
The Dupont Pommeau is a cross between Calvados and cider
...and an excellent accompaniment to the plate of cheeses
supplied by Anne Saxelby Cheesemongers
Jimmy's No. 43 is a paradox: It always seems packed, with lots of people who look so interesting that you'd imagine enjoying having a conversation with many of them, yet there always seems to be a table available whenever we're in the mood to eat there. Maybe that's why it's one of our favorite spots to dine when we're undecided what we're in the mood for. The food of chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark (an alum of wd-50) is always dependably delicious, not to mention interesting: We kept tasting one of his dishes over and over the other night to try to identify an elusive ingredient, before giving up and asking, and being told "two drops of plum oil." And the hospitality of owner Jimmy Carbone is always warm and welcoming. What do you mean you haven't been there to check it out yet??
Jimmy's No. 43 at 43 East 7th Street (near Second Avenue) in the East Village was named to New York magazine's list of the 101 Best Buy restaurants and holds a "Snail of Approval" from Slow Food New York. Web: www.jimmysno43.com. Owner Jimmy Carbone writes a blog at jimmydrinkeat.blogspot.com.
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique. If you block it, it will
never exist through any other medium and be
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good
it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares
with other expressions. It is your business to
keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the
You do not even have to believe in yourself or
your work. You have to keep open and aware
directly to the urges that motivate *you*.
Keep the channel open . . .
No artist is pleased . . .
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and
makes us more alive than the others."
For the Thanksgiving table, an assortment of wine options
(Photo credit: Julia Ewan)
Thursday, May 29, 2008 — Congratulations to our colleagues at The Washington Post on this news which we were happy to be forwarded today by Food section editor Joe Yonan: "The American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors (AASFE) has selected The Post as one of the '20 Best Feature Sections' in its annual contest. Our entry consisted of: The debut Style & Arts section of Aug. 26; Travel from Nov. 11; Style from Nov. 12; Style from Nov. 14 and Food from Nov. 14th. This earns us a certificate and bragging rights. During the fall convention, the top 10 will be announced and receive a plaque and more bragging rights."
Our contribution to the Nov. 14th Food section was our Thanksgiving column "With These Strategies, Pick Your Pour," which you can read here.
Bellavitae's Arancini: cheesy fried risotto balls
Bellavitae's Polpettine Fritte – Fried Little Meatballs
Farrotto – Whole-grain farro, cooked in the manner of
risotto, with fresh asparagus and pork sausage
The best Italian cheesecake we've ever tasted, bar none
Our thanks to our friends Susan Dey and Bernard Sofronski for suggesting we all try the restaurant Bellavitae before we attended last night's performance of "Adding Machine" together at the Minetta Lane Theater. The restaurant was an absolute delight. Don't miss the arancini, the fried meatballs, the farro-cooked-in-the-manner-of-risotto...or the desserts!
Bellavitae is at 24 Minetta Lane, east of Sixth Avenue,
in New York City's Greenwich Village. (212) 473-5121.
Our niece Kristen and her field hockey teammate Brynn
Kristen, soldier Micah, and Brynn at FAO Schwartz
During Fleet Week, Brynn and Kristen made friends fast!
The statue of Liberty at sunset, from the Staten Island ferry
M, M, A, K & K, shot by Brynn!
Credit: Julia Ewan
"The UA geochemistry professor is the veteran of three exploratory Mars missions,
only one of which was successful. He has had his fingers crossed all year that
the Phoenix would be another mark in his 'win' column. He got his wish Sunday. 'You'll have to excuse me,' he told the cheering crowd at 4:53 pm, 'but I have an appointment with a bottle of champagne.'"
—Dr. William Boynton, as quoted in the Tucson Citizen (5/26/08)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 — What a week! We're awed by the amazing accomplishments of our family, friends and colleagues. Our niece Kristen Dornenburg made it to New York with her field hockey team the WC Eagles ("World Class West Chester Eagles") to compete with (and, in the first several matches, beat!) other top teams in the region. Our friend Susan Butler's friend Bill Boynton, with whom we've shared great food and wine over the years, landed his historic Phoenix mission on Mars. And, in the world of wine, Le Bernardin sommelier Aldo Sohm, about whom we had the pleasure of writing last year, was just named the Best Sommelier in the World. Perhaps it's no surprise to find ourselves writing this weekabout one of the most amazing wines we've ever tasted in "Uruguay's Sweet Surprise" in today's Washington Post:
The holy trinity of wines for chocolate lovers -- Banyuls from France, port from Portugal and sweet sherry from Spain -- is now a quadrinity. That revelation accompanied our first taste of Alcyone, an extraordinary fortified red dessert wine from Uruguay that is one of the most intriguing beverages we've ever tasted. We might never have tried it if not for a chance tip from a bubbly young employee at the Container Store.
In January, as Andrew was buying our seventh Qube Wine Rack, frowning impatiently at his watch, this smiling employee asked what he was waiting for. "A wine rack?" she repeated. "I had an amazing wine the other night from Uruguay," she said, describing a white blend. Just as Andrew grew intrigued enough to ask its name, the wine rack appeared.
But then, a few days later, so did an e-mail with the subject line "Amazing Wine From Uruguay" from the employee, who provided its name and added, "Hope you get a chance to check it out."
So we did. And we found ourselves enchanted by the 2006 Viñedo de los Vientos Estival ($12), a blend of 60 percent Gewürztraminer, 30 percent chardonnay and 10 percent Moscato Bianco. Had we tasted it blind -- finding clean, floral aromatics and rounded, refreshing fruitiness (clementines and ripe white peaches) -- we might have mistaken it for an Alsatian white.
Then in April, Uruguay Imports' Abel Sosa sent us some wine samples that included the N.V. Viñedo de los Vientos Alcyone Licor de Tannat ($29 for 500 ml). Noting that it hailed from the same winery as the Estival, we chilled and tasted it -- and were floored. Alcyone's mesmerizing aroma, which called to mind marshmallow-topped hot chocolate, preceded a beguiling array of flavors including creamy cocoa and black-cherry confiture.
Sosa said Alcyone is based on a "recipe" from winemaker Pablo Fallabrino's great-grandmother. While declining to share it, Fallabrino acknowledged in an e-mail that this alluringly complex wine is "fortified with brandy and infused with different native roots and herbs during the aging process" and was created by merging "Marsala (Sicilian dessert wine) and Barolo Quinato (Piedmont dessert wine) techniques."
Uruguay's 300 wineries are mostly small, family-owned operations started by Italian and Spanish immigrants. Winemakers such as Fallabrino hope to help Uruguay come into its own as a global player after years of toiling in the shadows of Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Uruguayan wine exports quadrupled from 2005 to 2007, and they can be found on a small but increasing number of U.S. wine lists.
At Cafe Atlantico downtown, the light-bodied 2005 Posada del Virrey Viognier ($39 a bottle, $10 a glass), featuring peach and honey notes, is an easy entry to the world of Uruguayan wines. "Viognier is one of my favorite varietals," said sommelier Jill Zimorski. "Many of our customers find Uruguayan Viognier more straightforward [than its French relatives], with more aromatic and limy characteristics." She pairs it with the restaurant's seared scallops with ginger and coconut rice, or with conch fritters, mostly for adventurous diners who are curious to try something from a country whose wines they've never tasted before. "There's been a huge improvement in quality from Uruguay, so we like to reward the good effort," she said.
Another Uruguayan white is Andrew's pick this week. The 2007 H. Stagnari Gewürztraminer ($12) has the obvious characteristics of its grape varietal -- a floral nose with notes of honey and nutmeg, and flavors of apple, pear and lemon with hints of minerality -- but is much gentler than its Alsatian or German relatives.
But Uruguay is staking its reputation on the red grape tannat (tah-NOT), which is to Uruguay what malbec is to Argentina and accounts for about one-third of the wines Uruguay produces. Previously grown mostly in France's Madiran region and one of the world's most tannic grapes, tannat is made more palatable in two primary ways: through extensive aging (which mellows its tannins) and through blending with other grapes. To best enjoy it, open this concentrated wine with intense blackberry and black-plum flavors an hour or two before serving. Breathing allows tannat's strong tannins (which are gentler in Uruguay than in France) to soften in flavor and texture. Tannat pairs well with hard cheeses, hearty pastas with rich meat sauces, and grilled or roasted beef, lamb and sausages.
Karen's favorite of the tannats we tasted was the 2004 H. Stagnari Tannat Viejo ($15). Though its tannins dominated from the minute the bottle was opened, its fruit shone through even then with such brightness that this dry wine, like some Zinfandels, had a mirage of sweetness. It's on the wine list at Ruth's Chris Steak House, whose vice president, Kevin Boyer, told us in an e-mail that because its D.C. location has more than 100 embassies within a two-mile radius, "We try to carry at least one quality selection from each wine-growing country." Andrew's favorite, the 2005 Dante Irurtia Dante's Red ($11), turned out to be a blend of half tannat and half nebbiolo (another extremely tannic grape), which still managed to produce a wine lighter in body and flavor than the previous one. We both enjoyed the 2004 Don Adelio Ariano Tannat Reserve Oak Barrel ($13), a 100 percent tannat wine aged for 12 months in small oak barrels. Its blackberry and black cherry fruit had notes of vanilla.
There has never been a better time to explore Uruguayan wines, now that they're increasingly available yet still a relative bargain. Red-meat lovers can take advantage of tannat's exceptional aging potential by cellaring these reds to enjoy years, even decades, from now. Anyone lacking such patience can pour an Alcyone to experience a taste of heaven tonight.
Credit: Julia Ewan
Wednesday, May 21, 2008 — While we've had chocolate fondue with guests, we hadn't made cheese fondue in ages — so we're especially grateful to mother-and-son team Joyce and Evan Goldstein for inspiring us to do so the other week, which ended up inspiring our column in today's Washington Post entitled "You Can Have Your Wine and Eat It, Too":
There's a surefire secret to creating synergy between a dish of food and a glass of wine: Make sure the same wine is in each.
Some of the greatest wine and food pairings in history are based on that principle. For example, boeuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine) served with red Burgundy is what we consider a holy grail pairing that all food lovers should experience at least once. Whether it's boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, when the same wine used for slow-cooking the protein also ends up in your glass accompanying the dish, it creates a natural bridge between the two.
Of course, cooking changes a wine's flavor: As it heats up and alcohol evaporates, the flavors intensify. Beware of cooking with wines that are already high in acid; concentrated acidity can prove overwhelming. When you start with a wine that is smooth and fruity, the results can be divine.
Case in point: Inspired by the excellent book "Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine With Food," by Evan Goldstein (with recipes by his mother, San Francisco chef Joyce Goldstein), we recently made a Swiss-style cheese fondue. Slowly melting a pound of Gruyere over a double boiler with one cup of Gewürztraminer, we thickened it with a teaspoon of cornstarch and flavored it with a clove of garlic plus pinches of nutmeg and white pepper. As we dipped cubes of bread into the fondue, we sipped the remaining four glasses of the wine and savored the experience of the same round, fruity flavors in the cheese and in our glass.
With the fondue, our wine of choice was a 2005 Hugel et Fils Gewürztraminer ($19), a deliciously rich, full-bodied white with pear and litchi fruitiness and notes of ginger and cinnamon that is Andrew's pick this week. Anyone who enjoys dipping apples into cheese fondue would find this wine especially refreshing with their next potful. Keep an eye out for the 2006 vintage ($24), which is just starting to hit wine store shelves.
With Karen's pick, the rich and velvety 2006 Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($18), Wente executive chef Jerry Regester recommends serving caramelized scallops with mushroom risotto. Playing off that idea, Andrew decided to test seared scallops with two butter sauces he made using two different wines. One was the Wente chardonnay. The other was the lighter and crisp-as-an-apple 2006 Domaine de la Quilla Sevre et Maine Muscadet ($12). Both wines are aged "sur lie" (on the lees, or yeast and grape sediment) for eight months, when they pick up their creamy textures and complex flavors. Reducing the wines emphasized the chardonnay's light lemon and vanilla flavors and the Muscadet's herbal, almost grassy notes. Again, each version of the scallops showed a remarkable affinity for glasses of the wine it contained, which became even more evident when tasting the two against each other.
For better pairings, consider incorporating wine at any point in the cooking process:
Before, marinate meats in wine-based marinades, which serve to soften tough meat fibers as they add flavor.
During, poach fish in white wine broth, braise red meats in red wine sauce, stew fruit in sweet wine.
After, deglaze the cooking pan with wine and a little stock to create a sauce to pour over the dish.
Knowing to add a dash of the wine you're drinking to a dish can be helpful even if you don't cook: In restaurants, when we've found ourselves up against a less-than-optimal pairing, one of us has dribbled a bit of the wine we're drinking into a sauced dish to help the match along. (Don't add too much, because the alcohol isn't cooked off and can overpower the food.)
The other night, we ordered dinner in: mussels in green curry. Before it arrived, Andrew reduced one-third cup each of two New Zealand sauvignon blancs that we chose for their tropical-fruit profile, which pairs well with mussels and spicy Thai flavors. The green curry was split into two batches, and each was spiked with a couple of tablespoons of one of the reduced wines. When we tasted each version with its respective wine, food and drink seemed magically to melt into one another.
For the aforementioned mussels, reducing the 2005 Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($10) concentrated its green- mango-dominant tropical-fruit flavors, which played beautifully off the coconut-milk-based curry. Reducing the lemon- and grapefruit-dominant 2006 House of Nobilo Icon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($20) brought out its herbal notes and minerality, which played off the brininess of the mussels. Our biggest surprise was seeing how even when pairing similar wines with such a spicy dish, the subtle differences became more evident through this treatment.
You can always tell when you hit upon a wonderful wine and food pairing, because it fills the space between the two. When you can find a way to add a splash of whatever is in your glass to what you're eating, not only does that space disappear, but an entirely new flavor experience replaces it.
Susan Butler with chef Carsten Allen, who told her that
he considers our book CULINARY ARTISTRY his "bible"
Monday, May 19, 2008 — Our dear friend Susan Butler was in Europe earlier this month, and gave us a call one morning with someone else at the other end of the phone: a chef she met who turned out to be a fan of our book CULINARY ARTISTRY. Being Susan, it wasn't enough to tell us that: She put him on the phone, so chef Carsten Allen was able to leave us a voicemail that made our day:
"Hello you guys — I just wanted to say that you're writing some very important books, and from my side, thank you, thank you very much. Looking forward to the next oneS! Keep up the great work!"
Thanks, Carsten — and thanks, Susan!
The rhubarb and strawberry display at ChikaLicious
Chika Tillman's brilliant rhubarb dessert at ChikaLicious
Andrew chats with Christina at Ashley's birthday dinner
Sunday, May 18, 2008 — The month of May to date has been a whirlwind of birthday celebrations. In addition to Karen's birthday, we've been out to celebrate those of Rikki Klieman (May 13th), Cynthia Penney (May 15th), Ashley Garrett (May 18th), and — tonight — Steven Richter (May 18th). Happy birthday to all of our beloved Taurus friends!
And we're delighted that we were able to get together at ChikaLicious with Barbara-jo McIntosh of Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks in Vancouver during her brief visit to Manhattan. After all, you don't always need a birthday as an excuse to indulge....
Credit: Julia Ewan
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 — Inspired by one of the best weeks for tasting great Cabernet Sauvignon we've ever experienced, we share our advice for what to do "When Food Calls for a Big Red" in today's Washington Post:
If cabernet sauvignon is the king of grapes, then cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc, its parents — as 1990s DNA testing proved — are royalty, too. Though its genetic and spiritual home is France's Bordeaux region and specifically the Medoc area within it, the grape cabernet sauvignon is now sanctified by winemakers in all but the chilliest regions on Earth.
In fact, California owes its global fame as a wine-growing region to this grape alone: In the historic blind tasting of 1976 (known as the Judgment of Paris), the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley was deemed superior to all other entries, including some celebrated Bordeaux. Today, you can find other excellent examples coming from Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile and closer to home, including Virginia, New York, Washington state and other parts of California.
Though cabernet sauvignon has different expressions of quality, structure and maturity, it is perhaps the easiest wine grape variety to identify in a blind tasting because it invariably leaves telltale clues for the nose and palate. An aroma of blackberries and black currants introduces this dry, full-bodied, tannic wine and is often accompanied by notes of pepper (either black or green bell), cinnamon, chocolate or even a freshly sharpened pencil.
You can almost taste its flavor profile by its price tag: Less-expensive versions aren't likely to have spent much, if any, time in expensive oak barrels, and they tend to be lighter in weight and simpler in flavor. More-expensive versions typically are greater in body, tannins and complexity, reflecting the benefits to this grape of time spent on wood. Favored by collectors, cabernet is virtually unequaled in its ability to improve with age and can do so for years, even decades, as its powerful flavors and tannins round out into velvety smoothness.
More than almost any other wine, cabernet calls for careful food pairing. A big, powerful cab can obliterate a delicate dish. Its best matches are found in well-marbled red meats, especially grilled or roasted. (See the Tips for more.)
Our cab suggestions this week span the globe and are arranged by region and price:
· Argentina: The 2006 vintage was exceptional, and this deeply flavored red with gentle tannins is an exceptional value to boot. The 2006 El Portillo Cabernet Sauvignon ($11) is earthy and full-bodied yet velvety, loaded with blackberry jam fruitiness and fresh minty notes.
· Washington state: We both loved Karen's pick, the 2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon ($18). Its scents and flavors could be mistaken for those of a mixed-berry cobbler, with concentrated blackberry, black cherry and blueberry fruitiness mingling with cinnamon and vanilla. For a more Italian-noted pour, check out the 2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), which we enjoyed with a pesto-rubbed filet mignon wrapped in prosciutto.
· California: Our first two recommendations, from the Alexander Valley, are lighter in body and tannins than the latter two, from the Napa Valley.
The 2005 Murphy-Goode Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) is a blend dominated by cabernet sauvignon (91 percent) with added petit verdot (for depth), merlot (for sweetness) and malbec (for a hint of blueberry flavor). Its deep blackberry and plum fruitiness has dried-herb notes and is well balanced by acidity and soft tannins.
The black cherry and plum flavors of the 2004 Souverain Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) seem to go as deep as the estate's 120-year-old roots. Winemaker Ed Killian created the 2004 from 84 percent cabernet sauvignon with added merlot, petite sirah, syrah and cabernet franc. He aged the blend for 22 months on American and European oak, a process that contributed notes of vanilla and dark chocolate.
The 2005 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) is a rich, ripe red with concentrated blackberry and black cherry fruitiness and hints of baking spices. Though we relished it this month, winemaker Richard Batchelor says it will continue to evolve over the next seven to 10 years.
Andrew's pick is the creation of a Napa Valley pioneer: the 2004 Trefethen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($50). We first tasted this elegant wine at a James Beard House dinner, where it was partnered with a honey-glazed spring lamb served with mint spaetzle created by chef Bryan Moscatello of Zola restaurant. Its blackberry fruitiness was brought out by the lamb, and its herbal notes of bay leaf by the mint spaetzle. When we tasted it a second time on its own, its earthiness shone through even more, and we were able to discern black pepper notes. The wine's silkiness on the palate ends in a long, lingering cocoa powder finish.
· Italy: Cabernet sauvignon is the grape that elevated some Tuscan wines into the stratosphere of globally celebrated "Super Tuscans." At 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent sangiovese and 5 percent cabernet franc, the 2001 Antinori Solaia ($140 to $200) is the product of what 26th-generation winemaker Piero Antinori tells us is "an excellent vintage." With a hint of mint and eucalyptus on the nose, the wine had tart cherry flavors that mingled with rich, jammy plums and a hint of rosemary. Antinori suggests giving it another four or five years to develop.
As warmer evenings get your grills fired up, you're ahead of the game if you have some of these cabs on hand to turn the occasion of a red-meat meal into a red-letter day.
· What to eat with a cab? Any of the wines recommended this week will come alive with red-meat dishes: beef, lamb or game. The slightly bitter flavors that can result from grilling or roasting can negate the perception of bitterness arising from the tannins in the wine. The fattiness in the meat will also help tame the tannins in the wine, bringing out its fruitiness and smoothness.
Other cab-friendly ingredients include all manner of mushrooms, dry cheeses such as Manchego and Parmesan, and blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola.
· What to avoid? Beware pairing these wines with delicate or spicy dishes, or with any kind of seafood.
Karen's birthday cookie from Amy's Bread in Hell's Kitchen,
as held by Andrew during our drive to the Catskills
Susan prepared a perfect pasta repast on our arrival, and...
...then Susan and Bernard surprised Karen with a decadent
cake from Bread Alone for dessert!
Our backyard view of the Catskills on Karen's birthday
Andrew made Karen's favorite sauce -- Spanish romesco --
topping chicken sauteed to a crisp, with sauteed zucchini
We ended Karen's birthday with conversation (and laughs)
in front of the fire
Credit: Julia Ewan
Saturday, May 10, 2008 — We're back from a fast but fun 48-hour visit to the Catskills to celebrate Karen's birthday with friends at their home. Given the breathtaking view of the mountains, trees, and water, with the frogs' ribbeting lulling us to sleep and the birds' chirping coaxing us awake in the morning, it was remarkably restorative for such a quick getaway. Our heartfelt thanks to our consummate hosts, Susan and Bernard.
We're belatedly sharing our column "A Paean to His Passion" from Wednesday's Washington Post, which was inspired by our recent reading of Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito:
We've never met Alma Tschantret, but in honor of Mother's Day, we salute her. She's the mother of Italian wine merchant Sergio Esposito, author of the hilarious, insightful and moving memoir "Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy" (Broadway, 2008).
After all, if it weren't for Alma, there would be no Sergio, and thus no page-turner to delight our senses and reignite our own passions, as this one did. As Gianfranco Soldera, Italy's most distinguished producer of Brunello di Montalcino, observes in the book, "You know what they say: If they come out right, it's because of the mother."
Following life-altering sips of wine at age 7, Esposito eats and drinks his way through his childhood in Naples, his formative years in Albany, N.Y., and his adulthood in New York City and Italy. He introduces us to renowned and often eccentric characters who populate the Italian-wine world, including Brunello producer Bartolo Mascarello and the late Luigi Veronelli, a philosopher who became the world's foremost expert on Italian wine. Veronelli entrusts to the author a vintage Malvasia literally fit for a prince.
But rarefied wines are the exception in Italy, where, Esposito writes, "Wine is like bread and salt: Without it, dinner is incomplete. . . . If you didn't have wine, you didn't have a meal." He also points out: "Wine didn't get us drunk. It brought out the flavors in our food. It cut the spice, cooled down the heat, heightened the sensations. We needed it as we needed one another."
We agree with Esposito that any afternoon or evening meal — if not life itself -- is incomplete without wine, so this week we share the best of our recent tasting of Italian wines under $15.
Prosecco, Esposito writes, is "certainly good at stimulating the palate." So is the new rosy-hued N.V. Anime Pink sparkling dry rosé wine ($15), which contains a small percentage of prosecco grapes. Made via the same Charmat method used to make prosecco, this charming bubbly is comprised of 40 percent pinot nero (pinot noir), 40 percent Raboso (a red wine grape native to northeastern Italy) and 20 percent blended chardonnay and prosecco, according to Peter Matt, a partner in importer Monarchia Matt International. An elegant sparkling wine with bright pear, peach and raspberry fruitiness and a creamy finish, it pairs beautifully with shellfish and even meat dishes.
Zola in Penn Quarter is one of the first restaurants in the mid-Atlantic to serve Anime Pink. Director of operations Ralph Rosenberg pours it with tuna tartare and grilled shrimp. At a Mother's Day brunch, it could pair with all but the sweetest dishes.
A former restaurant professional himself, Esposito writes of his revelation that wine and food "could work as a team, how they could be synchronized, how I could help create an astounding experience for a diner through the correct combination of flavors." All of this week's recommendations can allow you to do the same.
A perfect partner with anything you'd couple with sauvignon blanc — including vinaigrette-dressed salads and seafood — Karen's pick is the crisp and dry 2006 Villa Antinori Toscana Bianco ($12). This light-bodied, refreshing white made from a blend of four grapes offers an impressive value from a well-known Tuscan producer.
Our other choices will bring out the best of any tomato-sauced pastas or pizza, or heartier dishes featuring mushrooms or meat, including veal Parmesan or those with beef, lamb or sausage.
We both loved the full-bodied, sangiovese-based 2004 Monte Antico Toscana Red Wine ($13), a collaboration between Italian wine importer Neil Empson and Italian winemaker Franco Bernabei. Though the 2006 Bolla Valpolicella ($9) didn't impress us nearly as much on its own, with food this 125-year-old winery's light-bodied, cherry-noted Valpolicella sprang to life.
Esposito quotes winemaker Ales Kristancic as saying that "the key to biodynamic winemaking is to know that in the world there are some forces we can't touch, some great cosmic mysteries. We can't explain them exactly, but we can see their effects. And because of this, we must have faith in their value." With one powerful whiff and then taste of the 2005 Conserva Aglianico ($15), which is certified organic (but not biodynamic), you, too, will believe in the value of sustainable winemaking practices. This wine, which is aged in new oak barrels for 12 months, is as heavy in weight as it is loud and complex in flavor, and it requires an equally robust dish to bring out its best.
Andrew's pick, the 2005 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore "Le Orme" ($13), disproves the notion that quantity and quality can't go hand in hand. Some 42,000 cases of this wine were made in southern Piedmont in the DOC region of Asti. The area generally is believed to produce the best barbera, elegant and complex because of its limestone and clay earth. This well-balanced, velvety-textured red is a pleasure even without food, but why deny yourself the pleasure of both?
Together, food and wine are transformative. The combination of the two "altered my thought process, and if I was feeling a little down, a good meal could pick me up," Esposito writes. "Wine and food -- the scents, the ingredients, my mother's mastery -- pulled me in." Armchair travelers, be advised: "Passion on the Vine" does the same.
Tips: Wine Wisdom from the pages of "Passion on the Vine"
"The first known quality winemakers were priests and alchemists,
men who believed that nature was central to all understanding. . . .
Wine is alive, full of yeasts and ever changing, evolving like a plant
or a person, a divine creation."
"I considered the nature of a great wine. Its value lies in the fact that you can never understand or master it. To begin to see even a small portion of what it is, you must smother your ego, stop trying to win at some mad game, and let yourself become completely engulfed by something bigger than you."
"Get to know the winemaker. . . . Is he steadfast, true to his principles, devoted first to wine and next to profit? This was how I found
the great wines that you could depend on year in and year out --
by finding the great producers."
"If you don't miss a wine after you've drunk it,
don't ever drink it again."
Zola Honey Glazed Spring Lamb, Sweet Pea, Cippolini Onion
and Mint Spaetzle
at the James Beard House
Zola Creme Fraiche Cake with Sweet Corn Ice Cream and
at the James Beard House
Zola team, from right: Bryan Moscatello, Ralph Rosenberg
The bar at South Gate in the Essex House Hotel in NYC pulls
in a four-star crowd (including actor Morgan Freeman)
The addictive seasoned nuts at the bar at South Gate
South Gate's Tarte Flambee is one of our new faves in NYC
Linguicia sausage sandwich with Muenster cheese, avocado,
and tarragon with beet-stained potato chips and salad
Tsubasa, Matsuri's manager, pours another sake to sample;
we were glad to taste the Dewazakura "Tobiroku" sparkling
sake; the Joyo "Kura no Hana" Daiginjo; Dewazakura
Nama Ginjo; Masumi "Arabashiri" Nama
Ginjo; Kokuryu "500 Mangoku" Ginjo; and the Miyasaka
"Yamahai 50 Nama" Nama Ginjo
Sashimi (hamachi, maguro, sake, hirame, tai) at Matsuri
Chunky shrimp and vegetable tempura with dashi at Matsuri
Sliced rare roasted duck breast with wasabi at Matsuri
We shared a table at Matsuri with another happy couple
Lunch at Bar Milano:
Our amuse-bouche at Bar Milano was a mousse en pate
Potato, egg, caviar, fonduta at Bar Milano
Bar Milano's Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese is as good as it looks
Our crispy roast chicken with root vegetables at Bar Milano
Bar Milano's Farina with Hot Milk dessert
Dinner at Bar Milano:
Carpaccio di Langostine with sea urchin and meyer lemon
We all fawned over the cauliflower soup with rosemary
The winning entree: rare squab breast and squab sausage
Our waitress pours us a glass of sparkling Lambrusco
Tasting our way through several desserts...
...our favorite turned out to be our waitress's favorite, too!
Friday, May 2, 2008 — We're catching up on blogging some new discoveries worth knowing about. Today, we're happy to recommend two spots for hotel dining — one downtown (Matsuri in the Maritime Hotel) and one uptown (South Gate in the Essex House) — along with a new Midtown restaurant (Jason Denton's Bar Milano) and a long-time Greenwich Village standby, the James Beard House.
Bar Milano is at 323 Third Avenue (at 24th Street), Manhattan. (212) 682-3035. Web: www.barmilano.com. Restaurateur Jason Denton is also behind our beloved 'ino in Greenwich Village.
The James Beard House is at 167 West 12th Street, Manhattan. (212) 675-4984. Web: www.jamesbeard.org
Matsuri is in the Maritime Hotel at 363 West 16th Street (near Ninth Avenue), New York. (212) 243-6400. Web:
www.themaritimehotel.com/matsuri.html Manager Tsubasa Nagayama is a welcoming host, and chef Tadashi Ono is obviously quite talented.
South Gate is in the Essex House Hotel at 154 Central Park South in Manhattan. (212) 484-5120. Web: jumeirahessexhouse.com. Anyone who has missed chef Kerry Heffernan's magical food at Eleven Madison Park (like us!) will be happy to taste his flavors again here.
World Sake is at www.worldsake.com. President Chris Pearce is a passionate advocate for sake.
Zola is at 800 F St., NW, in Washington, DC. (202) 654-0999. Web: www.zoladc.com. Chef Bryan Moscatello is a former Food & Wine magazine Top 10 chef who cooked at the Beard House on May 1st.
So, what are you doing the evening of Monday, May 12th?
Here are a couple of ideas, fresh from our emailbox:
Fellow bacon lovers, take note!
Restaurateur Jimmy Carbone writes:
"Bacon Night Marks the Start of Bacon and Summer Beer Week at Jimmy's No. 43: On May 12 the editor of New York magazine's Grub Street, Josh Ozersky (aka Mr. Cutlets) will be hosting a bacon tasting in the back room at Jimmy's No. 43. In addition to having hosted several bacon tastings at Jimmy' s No. 43, Josh Ozersky has also authored The Hamburger: A History. He is on a meat mission to introduce chefs and restaurants to quality farms and meat producers. His passion and expertise make him just the right person to host Bacon Night which kicks off Bacon and Summer Beer Week at Jimmy's No. 43.
During the week of May 12- 15 the menu will feature some special bacons and summer beers. Some of the bacons on hand: Benton's from Tennessee, Flying Pigs Farm and Violet Hill Farms from New York state, Summerfield Farms and several others. A sampling of the Summer Beers that will be featured include: Schlenkerla Helles Lager, Reissdorf Kolsch, Troubadour Blond, Allagash (Maine) White, Hitachino White Ale (Japan), and many more."
Thanks, Jimmy — our mouths are watering already!
From Derek Todd (whom we had the pleasure of interviewing in his capacity as sommelier at Blue Hill at Stone Barns for our book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT):
"Hey everyone — This is a reminder for my wife Carol's benefit coming up a week from Monday on May 12th. In case any of you missed the first email: She has written a short screenplay which her production company — STIR — is shooting a month from now. They are holding a benefit at Vig 27 to raise the final funds needed to make this happen. Tix are only $35 and I promise you not a dollar of that will be wasted. You can buy the tix online through the link to STIR's website below or at the door (though they are $40). If you can make it, please come (and bring some friends!) We are also still looking for more raffle prizes — dinners for two / theater, concert, play tix, etc. — if you are feeling especially generous.
On a related note — my mother recently forwarded a link to website for Randy Pausch (click here). He is a professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only 6 months to live. There is a tradition at Carnegie Mellon that when professors retire they give their 'last lecture' (his being unfortunately more final than others). You can watch his lecture where he talks about how to make your dreams come true in life — it's very touching and funny. It struck me that right up there at the top of his list of things to do to make your own dreams come true was 'helping to make other people's dreams come true.'
You can see where I'm going with this....
Anyway, thanks for your time. Derek"
For more info on Derek's wife's Carol's film fundraiser:
Years ago, we bought a sand pendulum that we display like a sculpture on a pedestal in our home. For years, it has typically made designs such as the one above.
Recently, it has begun making ever more intricate designs (shown here), and we have no idea what has prompted its departure from its more typical pattern.
Any sand pendulum experts around to enlighten us?