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"
“The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”
—Zen Buddhist text
Gina DePalma, Martha Stewart, Lidia Bastianich, Odette Fada
Friday, November 30, 2007 at 5 pm — NEWS FLASH! You can catch three of New York's (read: America's, if not the world's!) best restaurant chefs on "Italian Chef Day" on "The Martha Stewart Show" on Monday, December 3rd:
"...First, chef Odette Fada of San Domenico, shares the restaurant's signature recipe for truly decadent ravioli with egg yolk and truffle butter. Next, phenomenal chef Lidia Bastianich returns to the show to prepare sweet Italian sausage with fennel and olives — an authentic Italian meal you'll want to try tonight. Then, pastry chef Gina DePalma of the famed Babbo restaurant shows you how to use an enticing mixture of fruit, nuts, and spices to make a sweet Italian pastry that’s perfect for the holidays — it's a show you won't want to miss...."
Check local listings for time and station. Host: Martha Stewart. Producer: Greta Anthony. Publicist: Lindsay Gallagher / FerenComm.
"101 Gift Ideas....For the Drinker: 29) Reference books. Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson; The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson; WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, and Michael Sofronski [photographer]; Making Sense of Wine by Matt Kramer; The Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver."
—— Alexandra Stafford, The (Philadelphia) Bulletin
(November 30, 2007)
Credit: Bill O'Leary
"Holiday Pours Priced to Please Even Scrooges"
by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Depending on the crowd, a contrarian attitude doesn't necessarily make for effective cocktail-party conversation. But if you're trying to find wines to complement a range of foods at a holiday get-together, at a price point that won't rob you of the seasonal spirit, that's just the mind-set you need.
The best wines to serve to crowds are lighter-bodied, fruit-forward and food-friendly. And one way to find affordable versions of them is to forget for a moment about the wines that particular reputable regions are known for and investigate their other varietals instead.
Take Gascony, which has traditionally been known for its Armagnac, often made from Ugni Blanc, the most widely planted white grape in France, and Colombard. Three decades ago, Yves Grassa decided to prove its exceptional potential for winemaking, and it clearly has succeeded. The only thing we found lacking in the vibrantly flavored and crisply refreshing 2006 Domaine du Tariquet Ugni-Blanc Colombard Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne ($8), for instance, is a name that rolls off your tongue.
Two of Grassa's other offerings also provide outstanding quality for the price. The 2006 Domaine du Tariquet Chardonnay ($12) is not a big, obvious chardonnay; it is more quietly elegant, with tart pear and mild vanilla flavors. The 2006 Domaine du Tariquet Sauvignon ($10) proved our favorite of the three, beautifully balanced between grapefruitlike acidity and lingering minerality. Both are even better with food, the former with roast chicken and the latter with lighter seafood.
Another region where the contrarian's approach yields success is Australia, better known for shiraz than merlot. While searching for a merlot to recommend, we tasted our way through a dozen humdrum offerings from around the world before pouring ourselves a glass of the 2006 De Bortoli "dB Selection" Merlot ($9), whose impressive first sip made it clear that our quest was over. The light- to medium-bodied wine from one of the best-value and fastest-improving wine producers in Australia features the juicy fruitiness of mixed berries and plums with a mellow dark chocolate finish.
Savor the fuller-bodied 2005 De Bortoli Deen Vat 1 Petite Sirah ($10) and even bigger and fruitier 2005 De Bortoli Deen Vat 4 Petit Verdot ($11) over a sit-down meal of braised beef or roast lamb.
The 2006 De Bortoli "dB Selection" Chardonnay ($9) tastes like a juicy peach accented with a hint of caramel, and it shows off chicken or crab cakes.
Don't overlook Australia as a source of other well-priced wines. The 2006 Wolf Blass Chardonnay ($10) has a creamy texture and quieter stone-fruit and melonlike flavors, along with a refreshing hint of acidity.
If that doesn't fit your definition of "affordable," check out the 2006 Banrock Station Chardonnay ($6) from southeastern Australia, which is a bigger, more tropical-flavored wine with assertive grapefruit and pineapple fruitiness and honeysuckle notes.
With heavier dishes, such as rare roast beef or lamb, the 2005 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Cabernet Merlot ($10) is a smooth and well-balanced red wine with bright, rich blackberry and plum fruitiness and a velvety texture that's just as delicious with or without food.
At the mention of Riesling, many wine lovers still think of Germany or Alsace before Washington state. But Washington is the source of the delicious 2006 Genesis by Hogue Cellars Riesling ($12), produced from grapes from the winery's top vineyards. This light-bodied wine tastes like crisp apples tossed with ripe peaches and pears.
More price-sensitive holiday shoppers can opt for the 2005 Hogue Cellars Riesling ($9). While Washington state's Pacific Rim Winemakers have the motto "Riesling Rules," we enjoyed their 2006 Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc ($12) even more. It's dry but well balanced, and terrific with foods spanning the globe.
When it comes to bubbles, a natural choice during the holidays, France has a lock on the namesake region and the reputation that goes with it. But if you've got champagne taste and a beer budget for your party, look for sparkling wines from elsewhere, such as cava from Spain (NV Cristalino Brut , $9), prosecco from Italy (NV Zardetto Prosecco Brut , $12), sekt from Germany, or even a brut sparkler from New Mexico (NV Gruet Brut, $14).
From California, the NV Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($20) is a gorgeous pinot-noir-dominant sparkling wine that will complement virtually any food you're likely to put out for guests in the weeks to come. It's only a small splurge, compared with the under-$15 wines recommended this week, but trust us: It has all the flavor of a big one.
Tip: Finding Bargains:
Those who typically head straight to the California aisle of the wine store to check out Napa Valley offerings might want to veer toward wines from other parts of California, or from other states — such as Washington state's Barnard Griffin, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Fetzer and Hogue.
Explore non-U.S. wines, such as those from Argentina (Alamos, Norton, Trapiche), Australia (De Bortoli; Greg Norman, who hits a hole-in-one with his 2005 Greg Norman Victoria Chardonnay, $13; Jacob's Creek; Wolf Blass; and, yes, even Yellow Tail — check out the 2006 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz, $11), Chile (Casa Lapostolle, Concha y Toro, Viña Santa Rita, Viñedos Emiliana), France (E. Guigal, Georges Duboeuf, J&F Lurton, La Vieille Ferme, Perrin & Fils) and South Africa (Goats do Roam).
To read more, visit The Washington Post here.
Our trio of Indian-inspired amuses bouches, Devi-style
One of our favorite cauliflower dishes of all time at Devi
One of our favorite lamb chops of all time at Devi
Our favorite fried okra of all time at Devi
Pastry chef Surbhi Sahni's desserts always surprise....
...and delight at the end of dinner at Devi
Friday, November 30, 2007 — After so many days of subsisting on Andrew's homemade ginger tea (based on Joe Yonan's magical recipe that soothed her sore throat), Karen is looking forward to sipping some quite different beverages tonight. In the meantime, we wanted to share some photos from our lovely dinner of the other night with Jessica and Drew at the newly-reopened Devi, where the kitchen — which features the talents of co-chefs (and now co-owners) Hemant Mathur and Suvir Saran (author of American Masala and Indian Home Cooking) and pastry chef Surbhi Sahni — still works its magic with Indian flavors and techniques.
Devi is at 8 East 18th Street, New York City. (212) 691-1300. Web: www.devinyc.com
Former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and poet
Dr. Robert Muller (b. 1923), playing the harmonica
Wednesday, November 21, 2007 — This morning we opened an email from Barbara Gaughan-Muller and Robert Muller, which featured this wonderful photo of Robert and the following poem, which couldn't help but put us in a thankful spirit for tomorrow:
Decide to be Thankful
by Robert Muller
Render others thankful
Start every day with overflowing
thanks to God
Be thankful for every moment
_____ of your life
Never complain, never be bitter
_____ or ungrateful
Switch on and keep on in you
_____ the greateful buttons
_____ those marked, thanks, joy, love,
_____ happiness, kindness, generosity
Make your entire being and life
_____ a feast of thanksgiving
Rejoice immensely and jubilantly
_____ at the prodigy of life
Be the miracle God intended you to be
Thank God for your wonderful body,
_____ mind, heart and soul
Thank God for our beautiful planet
_____ for the stars and the sky
_____ the mountains and the seas
_____ our human brethren and sisters
_____ our friends the animals
_____ our sisters the plants and flowers
Thank God for the seasons of your life
Repay God with your best deeds,
_____ thoughts, feelings and prayers
And be convinced of your divine,
_____ eternal, cosmic nature
Dr. Robert Muller is the author of a number of books, including Most of All They Taught Me Happiness, which can be purchased at 800-727-2782. Deepak Chopra described it as "a compelling reminder that all of us are responsible for creating the happiness of the human family and of the Planet that sustains us — and in so doing we may bring about our own fulfillment and highest bliss." His Web site is www.robertmuller.org.
"As Confucius is quoted as saying in Chapter 5, 'The enjoyment of food is one of the things that contributes to the peace and harmony of a society.' Indeed, good, healthy food is a main factor in the happiness of a person. Preparing good food is an act of love, which comes through on every page of THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF ."
— Dr. Robert Muller, Retired Asst. Secretary General of the United Nations, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and author of 6000 Ideas and Dreams for a Better World
San Domenico's Tony May
welcomes us to truffle season,
and provides an update on the Italian Culinary Institute
A waiter shaves truffles on our Antica Tartra: Ancient
Piedmontese savory custard, served
2006 Gavi Le Lune Marchesi di Barolo
A waiter shaves truffles on our Uovo in Raviolo Bergese,
homemade soft egg yolk-filled raviolo, which we enjoyed with
2006 Dolcetto d'Alba Madonna di Como Marchesi di Barolo
The Regione Piemonte, Enoteca Regionale del Barolo and San Domenico restaurant sure know how to celebrate the new Garden Pavillion addendum to the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreign Professionals (ICIF) — as they did this week with a truffle- and Barolo-filled luncheon at San Domenico that was graciously hosted by San Domenico owner Tony May and his daughter Marisa May.
The ICIF describes itself as "a non-profit association founded in 1991 for the purpose of improving and promoting the image of Italian cuisine and products among professionals working in the food service industry abroad....In 1997, ICIF turned a new page in its history by moving its headquarters to the prestigious Castle of Costigliole d'Asti....In 2008, ICIP enlarges its headquarters with the construction of a new building in the park of the Castle [the Garden Pavillon]."
In addition to bringing non-natives to Italy for an introduction to Italian cooking and products, the ICIF has recently opened two new seats in Brazil and China.
If its events elsewhere are as delicious as this week's lunch in New York — which showcased the talents of chef Odette Fada, sommelier Piero Trotta, and maitre d' Stefano Lombardozzi — we suspect visitors will be tasting more Italian influences during their travels around the globe, doubtless prompting a future book (beyond The New American Chef) entitled The New World Chef on the successful integration of these ingredients and techniques.
You can read more about the ICIF at www.icif.com.
ABC News' Lynn Sherr, Edie Falco, and Gael Greene at the
21st Annual Citymeals-on-Wheels Power Lunch for Women
Karen Page, CBS legal analyst Rikki Klieman, and Jill Koplik
Laura Day & Karen Page spot restaurateur Barbara Lazaroff
Judy Robinson looks on as Karen poses with Lauren Day....
...who shows off her engagement ring from Bob Roberts
Karen chats with fellow Harvard Business School alumnae
Judy Robinson, Wendy Stahl, and Susan Bishop
Karen with CUNY professor Dr. Cynthia Fuchs Epstein
Karen Page with actress and spokeswoman
Saturday, November 17, 2007 — Citymeals-on-Wheels is an organization that practices alchemy: Starting with the pressing problem of feeding New York's homebound elderly, Citymeals galvanizes support through events that do such an impressive job of not only raising money and spotlighting its work but adding value to participants (whether networking the city's most powerful women, or showcasing America's most talented chefs) that everyone looks forward to participating again, year after year.
Yesterday's 21st Annual Power Lunch for Women, held at The Rainbow Room, is a case in point: Citymeals co-founder Gael Greene (whose mother's meatloaf recipe in her memoir Insatiable was featured at lunch) and executive director Marcia Stein gathered 300 of the city's most powerful women for yet another not-to-be-missed lunch that raised more than $1 million for the cause.
The fun starts at the elevators, as attendees queue up for the ride to the 65th floor of the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. That's where Karen had her annual catch-up with fellow Harvard MBA Donna Zaccaro, as we kept an eye out for her mom Geraldine Ferraro (finally spotting her on the opposite end of the elevator bank). The half-hour reception that precedes the lunch has one of the highest decibel levels of any New York City gathering, as arrivals (including those to whom Karen had the pleasure of saying hello, such as executive recruiter Susan Bishop, newly-engaged Lauren Day, actress Jill Eikenberry, professor Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, political consultant Suri Kasirer, attorney Isabelle Kirshner, Court TV's Rikki Klieman, jewelry designer Jill Koplik, designer Adrienne Landau, restaurateur and Spago co-founder Barbara Lazaroff, Citymeals Board member Ellen Marram, Gourmet magazine's Ruth Reichl, Wells Fargo's Judy Robinson, actress Kathleen Turner, and several others) meet and greet one another, are photographed, and select a random table number from a huge silver bowl.
This year, Karen landed at Table 22, along with fellow author and dear friend Laura Day — who had to leave early, but thoughtfully turned over her seat to her own dear friend ABC News Now executive producer Jessica Stedman Guff; Children for Children executive director Maggie Jones, photographer Blanche Mackey, Democratic State Committeewoman Trudy Mason, and Daffy's CEO and President Marcia Wilson. Her seat put her back-to-back with screenwriter Vicki Polon and retired Estee Lauder Vice Chair Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner (who, at 78, wins Karen's nod for "most fashionably dressed"), and near special events producer Pamela Morgan and New York's First Lady Silda Wall, who stopped by to say hello to our table (and in particular Maggie Jones, who runs the non-profit she founded).
On the way out, Karen was introduced by Rikki Klieman to her friend actress Linda Fiorentino, a first-time Power Luncher who was seduced by yesterday's event into having so much fun that she's sure to be back again with the other 299 of us next year.
Citymeals-on-Wheels appreciates your support this holiday season, and you can made a donation online to help feed the homebound elderly at www.citymeals.org.
NOTE: There is a wonderful tribute to Citymeals-on-Wheels co-founder Gael Greene and more photos from Friday's lunch on the November 19th New York Social Diary.
Photo credit: Julia Ewan
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 — Around this time of year, we're invariably asked, "What's the best wine to serve on Thanksgiving?" and shortly thereafter, "What wine are you guys having on Thanksgiving?" We will post a blog next week for the latter questioners, but we wrote today's column "With These Strategies, Pick Your Pour" in The Washington Post for the former:
Even avid wine lovers can be struck with a temporary case of oenophobia -- fear of wine -- around Thanksgiving. The prospect of choosing a bottle that will please all of your guests and complement all of your dishes can perplex the most confident holiday host.
Last November we approached the matter by uncorking a Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with a Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett and a Lorikeet Sparkling Shiraz and a Cline Zinfandel. Each style of wine had been recommended by top sommeliers as among the best to accompany roast turkey with all the trimmings, and rather than think "either/or," we employed a "both/and" strategy.
Here are a few other ideas to help calm any oenophobic tendencies this Thanksgiving:
- Begin with bubbles. Offering guests champagne flutes along with well-paired hors d'oeuvres (from smoked fish to popcorn) helps get everyone in a festive holiday spirit. On this all-American holiday, there's no better time to uncork an all-American wine, such as a sparkler from Iron Horse or Schramsberg.
A 1969 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, in fact, made headlines 35 years ago when President Nixon served it in Beijing for his "Toast to Peace" with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The 2004 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut ($35), with its crisp green-apple flavors and abundance of bubbles, is an ideal wine for your own "Toast of Gratitude" next week -- as is the delightful Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut ($20), a blend of 71 percent chardonnay and 29 percent pinot noir, a quarter of it barrel-aged, with lemony acidity and honey notes.
- Pick fruity wines for the table. Fruit-forward reds -- such as Beaujolais, pinot noir, syrah and zinfandel -- and unoaked whites provide the most food-pairing flexibility. Among whites, look to Riesling, which goes especially well with white meat, sausage stuffing and anything with its own sweetness. Choose a style typified by the 2004 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett ($15) and 2006 St. Urbans-Hof Piesporter Goldtr-pfchen Riesling Kabinett ($20). Each of those elegant, focused and well-balanced wines boasts Germany's Mosel region's characteristic low alcohol (at 8.5 percent each), notable minerality (due to slate soil) and honeyed apple-peach fruitiness.
Because Beaujolais nouveau is released annually on the third Thursday of November -- exactly one week before Thanksgiving -- the two have become as inextricably linked as champagne and New Year's Eve. Tomorrow, you can proclaim "Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!" just in time to serve as a classic and reasonably priced (the 2007 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is $10) accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner, plus any buttery cheeses such as brie or Camembert that you might set out before or after the meal.
Zinfandel still trades on its long reputation as a native American varietal (although more recent DNA research suggests Croatian origins), making it another traditional Thanksgiving wine. Indeed, we enjoyed the 2005 Rancho Zabaco Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($35), with its lush, bright red-berry flavors and dark-chocolate notes. But, truth be told, we adored the similarly jammy 2004 Bishop's Peak Edna Valley Syrah ($16) from California's renowned Talley Vineyards, at less than half the price.
The sleeper 2004 Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot ($22) also surprised us: While a fine wine on its own, when paired with savory dark turkey meat and walnut stuffing it came alive with impressive blackberry and tart cherry flavors.
In Australia, sparkling reds are traditional with holiday turkey, and the Rumball Sparkling Shiraz Coonawarra Cuvee "SB17" ($28) -- a full-bodied wine bursting with berries and bubbles -- provides an ideal introduction to this Down Under delight. A provocative choice for Thanksgiving, it pairs the palate-refreshing properties and pleasure of a sparkling wine with the power of a shiraz, enabling it to stand up to the strongest flavors on the table, whether dark turkey meat, smoked ham or blue cheese.
- Serve both a white and a red. You can't please all of the people all of the time. However, some guests invariably drink only one or the other, so with two well-chosen wines you could please most of the people most of the time. If you've already decided on a wine, add another in the other color.
A caveat: If you're adamant about simplifying your life with an "either/or" strategy, serving only one wine, there's always ros-. No, it's not just for summer. The deliciously dry 2006 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone Rose ($15) has the body and flavor to stand up to your Thanksgiving buffet, as would a ros- sparkler.
- Plan a happy ending. Pour a memorable dessert wine: If you're serving traditional pumpkin pie, serve a tawny port. That choice also would shine with a chocolate dessert, as would an all-American pour such as the dark-berry-flavored Heitz Cellars Ink Grade Port ($30) from California, which has such a delightful, lingering finish that it just might accompany your guests all the way home.
- After all is said and done, don't sweat it. Thanksgiving ultimately is not about the wine, but about being grateful for the love of those you're with.
We remember each of the wines we enjoyed last Thanksgiving because we ran photos of them on our blog. However, we recall none of those from the year before that (our exciting first Thanksgiving abroad, with restaurant critic Gael Greene and photographer Steven Richter in Paris), nor the year before that (a bittersweet gathering around the table in California with relatives and friends the night after Andrew's father died). It's most important to give thanks for being in good company, no matter what's in your glass.
TIP: For a Happy Table
Two strategies to make you and your guests happy around the Thanksgiving table:
Choose fruitier light- to medium-bodied wines with balanced acidity, such as Beaujolais nouveau, champagne and other sparkling wines, Gewurztraminer, pinot noir, Riesling, syrah and zinfandel.
Avoid big, bad whites, such as an overly acidic sauvignon blanc or an overly oaked chardonnay, and big, bad reds (high-alcohol and/or tannic wines), such as Amarone, Barolo, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah; they can overwhelm food.
Note: The Washington Post's Food editor Joe Yonan and his able team have created a truly terrific Thanksgiving section today. Check out the rest of it here.
New Yorkers can take advantage of the Broadway strike to check out the Theatre District hot spots (including some of our favorites, e.g. DB Bistro Moderne, Esca, and even Virgil's Real BBQ) recommended by Steve Cuozzo in today's New York Post. And after what he suggested about New York magazine's Gael Greene, we wonder what Cipriani will now claim The New York Times' Frank Bruni had covering his tongue after reading today's "Poor" review of Cipriani?
Park Avenue Autumn: Hamachi, jalapeno, honey crisp apple
The Autumn Haystack with crispy shrimp
Maple French Toast with butterscotch apples
Fried Chicken 'n Waffle Sandwich at Park Avenue Autumn
Jim, Andrew, and Ken at Park Avenue Autumn in NYC
Roseann, Karen and Gerry at Park Avenue Autumn in NYC
Monday, November 12, 2007 — Park Avenue Autumn isn't going to be around much longer — just a few weeks — so we're glad we made it in before it morphs into Park Avenue Winter. Actually, we're just glad we made it back to the restaurant, period, as we've looked forward to returning since our first visit to Park Avenue Summer during Restaurant Week. And what better excuse to indulge in an elegant brunch than the coincidental arrival in Manhattan of not one but two second cousins and their respective spouses over the same weekend?
Chef Craig Koketsu (who divides his time between this restaurant and Quality Meats) thoughtfully came out to say hello, and introduced us to his trusted #2 in the kitchen of the past several years (who also did a stint with chef John Campbell at the Michelin two-star The Vineyard at Stockcross outside London). We got to talking about his chicken 'n waffle sandwich, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in L.A., and the not-to-be-missed John Cusack / Tim Robbins comedy "Tapeheads." [Want a preview? Here's a hilarious faux ad for Roscoe's that Cusack's and Robbins' characters' company Video Aces made in the movie on YouTube.com.]
Also under the category of not-to-be-missed: our brunch (esp. that amazingly decadent French toast) — and Park Avenue Autumn.
Park Avenue Autumn is at 100 East 63rd Street (off Park Avenue), New York City. (212)
644-1900. Web: www.parkavenyc.com
Casaville is on Second Avenue bet. 34th & 35th Streets
A trio of vegetable salads at Casaville
Grilled octopus at Casaville on Second Avenue
Casaville's Couscous Royale with spicy sausage
Attention Midtown lovers of Moroccan cuisine and/or Kips Bay movie-goers in search of an ideal spot for a pre- or post-film bite: Check out the brand-new Casaville, which had a lively bar scene the other night yet a calm, welcoming dining room serving delicious couscous. Wine-wise, we'd recommend the Cote de Provence rose and/or the Moroccan red by the glass.
Casaville is at 633 Second Avenue bet. 34th and 35th Streets in Manhattan. (212) 685-8558. Web: www.casaville.com
Sunday, November 11, 2007 — We can't tell you much about Chuck (Charles) Siegel of Charles Chocolates who, according to his Web site, "has been a part of the San Francisco chocolate scene
since 1987 when he started his first premium chocolate company, Attivo
Confections, at the age of 25." However, we can tell you with certainty that we don't like him one bit.
After all, completely unsolicited, he recently sent us a tempting selection of his chocolate creations. We do not need or desire such temptations. We assure you, after our five-mile run in Central Park earlier today, that it is hard enough to keep the extra pounds off as it is.
Begrudgingly, we sampled one of Charles' Caramel Almond Sticks ($11), whose label states it consists of the following ingredients: Bittersweet chocolate (cacao beans, pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, vanilla beans), sugar, cream, butter, almonds, glucose, Tahitian vanilla beans, and fleur de sel. Each 2.5-inch log of caramel is coated in dark chocolate and rolled in chopped almonds. Then we tasted another. And another. Damned if the things aren't completely addictive.
We did not want or need a new addiction. Can you see why we do not like Chuck (Charles) Siegel one bit?
Charles Chocolates is at 6529 Hollis Street,
Emeryville, CA 94608. Phone: 510.652.4412. Toll-free phone number: 888.652.4412. Web: www.charleschocolates.com.
NOTE: We apologize in advance for telling you this. We realize that it is almost as mean as Charles sending us his completely unsolicited, addictive chocolates — especially those damned Caramel Almond Sticks, which he has the nerve to describe enticingly thusly: "Our Fleur de Sel Caramels are made with one of the most expensive salts in the
world for a decadent caramel experience. We’ve taken our Fleur de Sel Caramel, enrobed it in 65% bittersweet chocolate, and coated them in toasted almonds. 4 oz."
Charles' Triple Chocolate Almonds
P.S. We've had just about enough of Chuck (Charles) Siegel of Charles Chocolates, who slipped some of his bestselling Triple Chocolate Almonds ($12) in the same box that was sent to us. It's hard to say whether they're just as or even more addictive than his aforementioned Caramel Almond Sticks because we're too busy wolfing them down to think much.
Re-added November 30, 2007: A few shots from our lovely breakfast in the sun-filled lobby of the gorgeous Park Hyatt in Washington, DC:
Pancakes with real maple syrup, and tea brewing in a clear pot
Scrapple never looked as good as it did in this copper pot!
Park Hyatt Washington is at
1201 24th Street, NW (near M Street), Washington, DC. (202) 789-1234. Web: parkwashington.hyatt.com
Westend Bistro in Washington, DC, which opened Nov. 8th
The hard-working kitchen at Westend Bistro
Andrew's Dish of the Year: Eric Ripert's crab cake
Westend Bistro's perfect tuna carpaccio
Le Bernardin's classic salmon rillettes a la Westend Bistro
Westend Bistro's version of Eric's favorite fish: halibut
Westend Bistro's flawless salmon with asparagus
Westend Bistro's truly killer macaroni and cheese
LAPD Chief Bill Bratton's celebratory reappointment ring
Our sweet waitress Cristina was a proud native Californian!
Pastry chef Michael Laiskonis's spin on Tarte Tatin was a hit
...as was his pineapple dessert with coconut gelato...
...not to mention his chocolate, malt, and banana creation!
WB's wine cellar was kept under lock and key for the night,
giving us yet another reason to want to return
C200 founder Susan Davis (whose b'day is
in Chicago last month
Virtual (Ecuadorian) flowers for Susan!
Friday, November 9, 2007 — Happy Birthday (and a big bouquet of virtual flowers!) to our friend Susan Davis, whom Karen has known for more than a quarter-century — ever since assisting her with the founding research for The Committee of 200 (C200), the elite organization of more than 200 of the world's most powerful women in business, 26 years ago.
And Happy Birthday to Westend Bistro, which was officially born just yesterday. We enjoyed a preview of coming attractions while in Washington, DC, on Tuesday night with our friends CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, who are — like us — long-time admirers of chef-partner Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin in Manhattan. We've also been fans of pastry chef Michael Laiskonis (a fellow native of Sterling Heights, Michigan who took home the 2007 James Beard Award as Outstanding Pastry Chef earlier this year) since his days at Tribute in Detroit.
After our dinner and chatting with fellow out-of-towners, we told Westend Bistro GM Gonzague Muchery that we enjoyed dinner so much that we guessed he wouldn't be getting much sleep over the next six months as all of Washington discovered its pleasures. "I haven't slept much the past six months," he admitted. The same is probably true of Ripert and Laiskonis, who dashed to catch a 10 pm train home to New York City (and his lovely wife Heather Ronan of our beloved Spigolo restaurant at 81st and Second Ave. in Manhattan). Their efforts showed — deliciously.
Westend Bistro is at 24 & M Streets, NW, in Washington, DC. (202) 789-1234. Web: www.WestendBistroDC.com.
For photos from the Old Ebbitt Grill's Oyster Riot wine competition and Capital Food Fight benefitting DC Central Kitchen, click here.
Congratulations to Robert Wiedmaier, fellow dyslexic and accomplished chef/owner of Washington’s Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck restaurants, who will be honored on November 12th at The Lab School’s Awards Ceremony and Black Tie Gala Dinner at the Hilton Washington:
"Since 1985, The Lab School has annually chosen four individuals...to speak about their past challenges and how they overcame their own learning disability to become successful individuals...Past honorees [include] Tom Cruise, Cher, James Carville, David Copperfield, Fannie Flagg, Danny Glover, Charles Schwab, Anthony A. Williams, David Yurman and Greg Louganis, to name a few.
"Robert Wiedmaier will be the first in the culinary field to be honored. Wiedmaier first met The Lab School founder and director Sally L. Smith while she was dining at Marcel’s. A friendship soon emerged and Smith invited Robert to visit her school, talk to students and help in various fundraisers. Wiedmaier, who was born and raised in Germany, attended an American school on a military base. ' Reading, writing and math subjects were absolutely painful for me. I remember sitting in class and watching the numbers and letters just swirl on the blackboard,' says Wiedmiaer. 'My favorite subjects were ones I could learn by listening and hands-on subjects like philosophy, sports and arts.' As soon as Wiedmaier turned 16 he started apprenticing in a nearby restaurant...It was not until later in life, living in the United States, that Wiedmaier finally realized he was dyslexic. 'It’s a relief to know why school was so hard for me when I was young, but still, I live with it, and what is easy to most is still hard for me today.'"
The Lab School of Washington is at www.labschool.org.
To read Andrew's 2004 first-person essay "Dyslexic Chefs of America, Untie!" on ChefTalk.com or GlobalChefs.com simply click the name of either publication.
Credit: Bill O'leary
Matches made in heaven: chocolate with wine
Wednesday, November 7, 2007 — There are few things we enjoy more than the combination of chocolate and wine, with the caveat that we mean the right chocolate and the right wine. You can learn more in our column in today's Washington Post and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Chocolate and Wine, Sweet on Each Other":
We have loved chocolate for a couple of decades longer than we have loved wine. For much of that time, in fact, we thought great chocolate to be superior to everything else -- wine included.
We were wrong. At that point, we had never tasted the right chocolate paired with the right wine. Once we did, experiencing how the ideal combination somehow made chocolate taste even better by bringing another flavor dimension to the experience, we couldn't go back. Now we rarely take a bite of chocolate without following with a sip of wine, or at least envisioning which wine that particular chocolate makes us crave.
Chocolate is a year-round pleasure, but the pairing secrets we have learned come in particularly handy now that the season of entertaining and gift giving is around the corner.
First, it's important to know your chocolate. It offers a range of sweetness and richness represented by dark chocolate (from bittersweet to semisweet, it typically contains 45 to 85 percent cocoa), milk chocolate (which is creamier, as it must contain at least 12 percent milk solids) and white chocolate (which contains no cocoa, just cocoa butter), with different pairing implications.
Few things are as bittersweet as a perfect chocolate dessert paired with the wrong wine, as you know if you have ever been served such a dessert with a glass of dry champagne and suffered through the resulting harsh, almost metallic taste. Select a wine that is just as sweet as, if not sweeter than, the chocolate -- obviously easier to do with dark chocolate than with sweeter milk chocolate. For maximum pairing flexibility, opt for fuller-bodied and fuller-flavored wines.
Chocolate coats the tongue, so choose wines with enough acidity to cut through it and refresh the palate. The type of chocolate used is primary, but if there are secondary flavors in a dessert -- such as caramel, fruit or nuts -- consider them, too, in your choice of wine (see TIPS).
Banyuls, the red dessert wine, is France's gift to chocolate lovers, as it pairs better with chocolate than virtually any other. We've long enjoyed the version of this naturally sweet wine made from Grenache Noir grapes produced by Ey, including the delicate 2001 Ey "Vigne d'en Traginer" Banyuls ($23 for 375 ml). However, in a recent blind tasting of three, it came in only a close third, allowing us to discover new favorites in the slightly richer 2004 M. Chapoutier Banyuls ($25 for 500 ml) and especially the 2005 Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls Rimage ($26 for 500 ml), which is as complex as it is fruity. Because of its preponderance of berry flavors, Banyuls pairs especially well with chocolate desserts that have berry notes, such as a flourless chocolate torte served with raspberry coulis.
If you prefer your chocolate dessert with nuts rather than berries, try it with sherry. Pedro Ximinez sherry, known as PX, is Spain's gift to chocolate lovers. Domecq has been perfecting the art of making sherry for more than three centuries, a history that comes through in your first taste of the extraordinarily concentrated Domecq Venerable Very Rare Pedro Ximinez 30 Years V.O.R.S. Sherry ($79), which has the consistency of chocolate syrup, with flavors of chocolate and caramel, providing a decadent echo of intense richness on intense richness. (The abbreviation in the name, by the way, is short for Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum; just think "Very Old Rare Sherry.") You're not likely to find a sweeter, fuller-bodied wine with this kind of stunning balance.
We recommended ports -- Portugal's gift to chocolate lovers -- in another recent column ("Not Just Any Old Port," Oct. 10). Lovers of fruitier Banyuls will want to revisit our ruby port recommendations, plus a luscious California port we've fallen for since then: Heitz Cellars Ink Grade Port ($30) from Napa Valley, which boasts bright berry fruitiness. Those who prefer the nuttier flavors of PX sherry can revisit our tips on tawny ports or pour a Broadbent Madeira Reserve 5 Years Old ($20), a caramel-nut elixir we recently enjoyed with milk chocolate.
More-adventurous chocolate lovers should check out the Torres Aqua d'Or ($20 for 500 ml), made with Moscatel grapes. This new favorite boasts delicate flavors of orange and orange zest balanced by caramel notes. It is light-bodied enough to serve as an aperitif with almonds, yet rich enough to pair with chocolate biscotti after a meal.
Raspberry addicts will find themselves awed by Bonny Doon Vineyard Framboise ($14 for 375 ml), which has the intense aroma and flavor of the raspberries it's made from (with additional grape spirits), captured as if they had been cooked down to jammy preserves. Its sweetness is beautifully balanced by firm acidity, making it a memorable foil for milk-chocolate desserts, though not as reliably for dark chocolate. It is also ideal with white chocolate, which we are not typically big on, although we love this combination.
A whole camp of dry red wine lovers enjoys cabernet sauvignon and the like with chocolate, but we had never pitched our tents there before. However, we recently discovered that the 2005 Tapestry Bakers Gully Vineyard Shiraz ($16) can serve double duty, as it is robust enough to accompany beef or lamb yet jam-packed full of enough fruitiness to pair nicely with a dark chocolate dessert.
Who says you can't teach a chocolate lover new tricks?
To read more tips on pairing wine with chocolate, visit The Washington Post here.
The drive to DC, with turning leaves and a radiant sky
Arriving at the historic Morrison-Clark Inn in DC...
...the only DC inn on the National Register of Historic Places
Andrew, Connie & Marcel Desaulniers, and Karen at the NPC
We received a warm welcome from the manager at Zaytinya
— plus free advice: "WALK TALL"
We enjoyed this perfectly-cooked swordfish kebab, and...
...a spin on our long-time favorite: tiny homemade pasta
Andrew's favoirte dish at Zaytinya: snails with fried parsley
Zaytinya's chef Mike Isabella sports a "guardian angel," who
doubtless inspires his heavenly grilled octopus
The light-filled restaurant at the Morrison-Clark Inn...
...is a lovely setting to enjoy its housemade granola...
...and fresh-baked muffins and biscuits
Saturday, November 3, 2007 — Our thanks to all of you who were able to stop by the National Press Club Book Fair in Washington, DC, on Thursday night, and who made our participation in this year's Book Fair such a pleasure. We drove in just in time to check into the charming Morrison-Clark Inn and dash to the Book Fair before it began — and managed to stay awake long enough for just a few delicious sips and bites at Zaytinya before we returned to the Morrison-Clark to crash!
We're looking forward to helping to judge Monday night's Oyster Riot oyster wine competition — the results of which will be showcased at this year's Oyster Riot on Nov. 16-17 at the Old Ebbitt Grill. (If you don't already have your tickets, you're sadly out of luck — as this year's Oyster Riot sold out in 38 minutes flat!)
Morrison-Clark Inn is at Massachusetts Avenue & 11th Street, NW in Washington, DC. (202) 898-1200. Web: morrisonclark.com
Zaytinya is at 701 9th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. (202) 638-0800. Web: www.zaytinya.com
Thursday, November 1, 2007 — If you find yourself in Washington, DC, tonight between 5:30 - 8:30 pm, we hope you'll stop by the 30th Annual National Press Club Book Fair and Authors Night in the Ballroom of the National Press Club at 529 14th St. NW, where we'll be signing copies of WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT. Admission is free for NPC members and just $5 for the general public, and you'll have the opportunity to meet an impressive array of authors, including (we recently learned!) James Beard Award-winning chef Marcel Desaulniers and Thomas Edison's great-grand-niece (and co-author with our friend Michael Gelb of Innovate Like Edison) Sarah Miller Caldicott.
We'll hope to have the pleasure of seeing you there!
Our Current Blog
Our October 2007 Blog
Our September 2007 Blog
Our August 2007 Blog
Our July 2007 Blog
Our June 2007 Blog
Our May 2007 Blog
Our April 2007 Blog
Our March 2007 Blog
Our February 2007 Blog
Our January 2007 Blog
Our December 2006 Blog
Our November 2006 Blog
Our October 2006 Blog
Our September 2006 Blog
Our August 2006 Blog
Our July 2006 Blog
Our June 2006 Blog
Our May 2006 Blog
Our April 2006 Blog
Our March 2006 Blog
Our February 2006 Blog
Our January 2006 Blog
Our December 2005 Blog
Our November 2005 Blog
Our October 2005 Blog
Our September 2005 Blog
Our August 2005 Blog
Our July 2005 Blog
Our June 2005 Blog
Our May 2005 Blog
Our April 2005 Blog
Our 1st Quarter 2005 Blog
Our 2004 Blog
Want to subscribe to Andrew's and Karen's monthly e-Newsletter? Click here to forward your email address.