ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE's Web Log
Named one of GourmetFood.About.com's "Top 10 Food Blogs"
Named to MUG 400 for its "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
Ice cream lovers: This is a must-buy book!
Andrew's inspirations: David's book and a ripe cantaloupe
Andrew's mise en place for the perfect cantaloupe sorbet
The sweet cantaloupe ice that resulted was the best ever,
and we were so excited to eat it that we forgot to shoot it
...so here's a sorbet shot from David's book
...and one of David himself!
"David Lebovitz, a former Chez Panisse pastry chef and author of The Great Chocolate Book, credits his 'first and craziest, most insane summer job' — as an ice cream scooper at a soda fountain — with inspiring his lifelong devotion to ice cream. The author's 25 years of experience as a frozen-dessert maker are put to excellent use in this wittily written, detailed volume. Step-by-step photos and advice on selecting an ice cream machine will reassure ice cream amateurs....Great photos and plenty of practical advice combine to make this an appealing and useful resource for the dessert aficionado."
Sunday, September 30, 2007 — Just because we have to miss this afternoon's get-together with Paris-based culinary author and frozen dessert expert David Lebovitz doesn't mean that you have to: Join him today from 3-4:30 pm at The City Bakery in Manhattan to get your copy of The Perfect Scoop signed!
What do you mean you don't yet have your own copy of The Perfect Scoop?? You love ice cream and/or sorbet and/or granita, don't you? You'll admit that it never tastes better than right-out-of-the-ice-cream-maker, won't you? And even if you don't currently own your own ice cream maker, you've been meaning to get around to buying one or asking for one for the holidays, haven't you? Then you'll definitely want to buy a copy of this book.
Andrew used it just the other week to make the most heavenly cantaloupe sorbet we have ever tasted (photos above). Then again, would you expect anything less from an author who was formerly the pastry chef at Chez Panisse? You can learn more about David Lebovitz, who wins our award for most bellylaugh-inducing food blog, and his books (which include Room for Dessert, Ripe for Dessert, The Great Book of Chocolate and others in addition to The Perfect Scoop) at his Web site at www.davidlebovitz.com.
Soprano Deborah Domanski
We're going to be at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall this afternoon, cheering on our Santa Fe-based friend mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski in the American Symphony Orchestra's U.S. premiere of Dame Ethel Smyth's "The Wreckers" ("perhaps the finest opera written in modern history by a woman before World War
But please tell David we sent you, and that we said hello!
Our friend Purdue trustee Susan Bulkeley Butler called to tell us that when she arrived at Purdue President France Cordova's box to watch this weekend's Purdue-Notre Dame football game (during which Purdue trounced the Fighting Irish, 33-19), she noticed a book on display — and looked closer to see that it was our own WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT!
Left: Dentist Trey Wilson examines a patient in Kenya,
with the goal of creating more happy, healthy smiles
Saturday, September 29, 2007 — We've been following the Blog of our New York friends — including founder Dr. Trey Wilson — who are in Africa this week as part of Tabasamu ("smile" in Swahili), bringing dental services and education to Kenya. You can follow along, too, at operationtabasamu.blogspot.com.
You can also make a contribution to support their work online at searchingforsmiles.net. We just timed it, and it takes less than 120 seconds to make a donation!
Photo: Kevin Clark
Chef John Wabeck pursues sommelier studies
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 — Look around from coast to coast, and you're apt to see more wine glasses in the hands of those wearing white chef's jackets as more professional cooks pursue the serious study of wine. Examples abound on the list we'd posted on our Blog last year:
Stephen Asprinio, a CIA alum, went on to serve as sommelier
at Nob Hill at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Saunders Conroy, sommelier of the Besh Steak House at Harrah's Casino in New Orleans, is a CIA alum
Khai Duong, executive chef at San Francisco's Ana Mandara restaurant, attended the Academie Du Vin in Paris
Paul Ferzacca, chef-owner of La Tour in Vail, CO, holds a sommelier's certificate
Bob Iacovone, chef of Cuvee in New Orleans, has both a degree from the CIA and a sommelier's certificate
Tony Maws, chef/owner of Craigie Street Bistrot in Cambridge, MA, researches and selects his own wine for his 97% organic wine list
Devin McGarry is a CIA alum who's worked for 15 years in the wine industry and is now launching the caterer Wine & Dine at Home
Heidi Noble, a professionally trained chef and sommelier, established Joie Farm Cooking School in British Columbia
Dino Renaerts is both executive chef and sommelier of Crowne Plaza Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, having earned a sommelier's certificate
Carlos Solis, a CIA alum, is both chef and beer sommelier for the Sheraton Four Points/LAX
Didier Virot, chef at Aix and FR.OG in New York City, states in his bio that he "earned a degree in sommelerie"
Sang Yoon, chef, owner and beer sommelier of the restaurant/bar Father's Office in Santa Monica, CA
...and of course Andrew Dornenburg not only studied with Madeleine Kamman at the School for American Chefs, but earned his sommelier certificate from the Sommelier Society of America
This training is helping chefs outpace their customers, whose own knowledge levels have risen as steadily as the viewership of the Food Network. It sometimes ignites such a passion for wine that it has even taken chefs in new career directions.
Christopher Tracy was cooking professionally at the time he earned his sommelier certificate from the Sommelier Society of America — but today, he’s winemaker and partner of Channing Daughters Winery, one of Long Island ’s best wineries.
Tracy has long championed the idea of learning about wine as going on a regional journey, whereby studying wine takes you into a region’s history and cultural traditions — including its foods. “Take the journey,” he advises. “Serve:
- Alsatian Riesling with choucroute garnie,
- red Burgundy with boeuf bourguignon, and
- a great Gruner Veltliner with wiener schnitzel.”
Any fans of Blue Point oysters will find their pleasure heightened when matched with a crisp Long Island white, especially the 2006 Channing Daughters Sauvignon ($24) or the 2006 Channing Daughters Sylvanus ($24). Both are available on www.channingdaughters.com.
You can read more in our wine column this week in The Washington Post:
Chefs have always had the challenge of staying one step ahead of their customers. In years past, this pushed them to improve the variety and quality of their ingredients (think Alice Waters) and, later, to employ more dazzling cooking techniques (think Ferran Adria and Jose Andres). As America's consumption of wine continues to rise, more chefs are pursuing a new strategy: tackling the study of wine with an intensity formerly reserved for their sommeliers.
Barton Seaver, chef of Hook in Georgetown, earned a certificate from the Sommelier Society of America as a way to control the dining experience, as he put it, "from plate to glass."
"To chefs, taste is our craft. Studying wine teaches you to really taste ingredients, something that is necessary for a rounded education," Seaver says. "At Hook, our food is very simple. But if I teach my cooks how wine and food pair, they can then understand not just the simplicity of the dish they're cooking, but its complexity as the diner experiences it."
International Wine Center President Mary Ewing-Mulligan says that over the past 25 years, chefs have been "uncommon" participants in the center's classes, which attract mostly other wine and hospitality professionals and serious consumers. But that's changing, and today there are typically a few chefs among every 100 students. The uptick reflects what's happening in the 18 other U.S. markets offering Wine & Spirits Education Trust courses, she says.
At the Washington Wine Academy, instructor and wine consultant Kelly Magyarics has also seen an increasing number of chefs pursue wine education. She observes that the former "reactive" approach of restaurant sommeliers offering wine suggestions to diners based on their specific orders is being replaced with a more active approach. Today, she notes, chefs are working hand in hand with sommeliers, keeping the restaurants' wine lists in the back of their minds when creating dishes and learning what will pair with their particular cuisines.
Bring up the subject of wine, and chef John Wabeck of New Heights restaurant in Woodley Park is as quick to tell you what he loves ("pinot noir is my first, second and third favorite grape") as what he detests (too much "wood, alcohol and extraction"). Wabeck has passed all but the final exam leading to the elite master sommelier designation, which has been awarded to only 124 people in its two-decade history.
Before setting out to independently taste a number of wines on Hook's and New Heights' wine lists, we turned to their chefs about recommended food pairings. Here are the best of them:
2006 Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore ($22): Under the category "Soft and Mineral," Hook's wine list features the 2004 Bucci Verdicchio, which Seaver deems his "current favorite Italian white" in a category that excites him in general, thanks to the notable variety and value it offers. "It's a great match with our seared bluefish with basil walnut pesto," says Seaver. More adventurous Chardonnay lovers will enjoy the fuller-bodied, mineral-laden 2006 with creamier seafood dishes.
2005 Pegasus Bay Riesling ($27): "I love Riesling with buckwheat," says Wabeck, by way of recommending either smoked trout or salmon over soba noodles in miso dressing. "This New Zealand Riesling, in its purity and linearity, echoes Japanese cuisine and provides a contrast of sweet with salty." With spicy Asian dishes, we endorse Magyarics's budget-conscious recommendation of crisp, peachy 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling ($10) from Washington State.
2006 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25): "Shellfish is great with sauvignon blanc," says Wabeck. "I'd add some cream and pumpkin seeds to counteract the wood" in this lightly oaked wine. We proved him right, pairing it with lobster ravioli with cream sauce, and mussels with white wine, cream and shallots.
NV Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvee Brut ($43): With this finely frothy champagne double, Seaver would pair Hook's wahoo crudo (raw fish) with pumpkinseed oil. In an ode to its Italian heritage, we enjoyed it with prosciutto.
2003 Duckhorn Vineyards Howell Mountain Napa Valley Merlot ($70): Wabeck was passionate about the combination of horseradish and Merlot, recommending a dish of filet mignon, mushrooms and horseradish. We ended up tasting this against a grilled hanger steak with horseradish cream, finding that the wine's tannins stood up beautifully to the rich steak, while its blueberry and cherry fruitiness soothed the pungency of the horseradish perfectly.
The wine lists at both Hook and New Heights feature NV Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut Rose Sauvage ($45), with a robustness we found ideal for rare filet mignon. Rose-loving Wabeck told us he'd pair it with "anything -- pink champagne is a no-brainer with food." Seaver went to the Mediterranean for his recommendation to pair with either a salad of roasted peppers stuffed with goat and cream cheeses and walnuts, or slow-roasted halibut with eggplant, Israeli couscous and mint.
For Wabeck, Seaver and an increasing number of chefs like them, wines have become the equivalent of a seasoning, albeit one with the power to elevate individual dishes and the entire restaurant experience to a whole new level.
Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page are the award-winning authors of "What to Drink With What You Eat." They can be reached through their Web site, http://www.becomingachef.com, or at email@example.com.
Dale (left) and Hung (right)
Monday, September 24, 2007 — Lessons from "Top Chef." Actually, we've never even seen "Top Chef," but that doesn't mean we haven't learned a lesson or two from it.
Back in May, Bravo posted Q&As with the contestants, asking them their favorite books. Three of the 15 contestants — Dale, Hung and Sara N. — cited our book CULINARY ARTISTRY among them, making CULINARY ARTISTRY the #2 most frequently-mentioned book, right behind Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook.
We just received a press release announcing Wednesday's Part I of "Top Chef"'s finale, indicating that the four finalists include both Dale and Hung.
The lesson? You are what you read. Having excellent taste in culinary literature can take you far — including on "Top Chef"!
Of the favorites of just the four finalists — Dale, Hung, Brian and Casey — CULINARY ARTISTRY is tied with the French Laundry Cookbook for the most mentions, while receiving one mention each are Ferran Adria's El Bulli Cookbook, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, Sharon Tyler Herbst's The Food Lover's Companion, and Marcus Samuelson's Soul of a New Cuisine.
Our best wishes to Dale and Hung in the show's Part II live finale on Wednesday, October 3rd.
There's no better reason to pick up a copy of CULINARY ARTISTRY today — so just click here.
9/27/07 Update: It's down to three: Dale (favorite book: CULINARY ARTISTRY), Hung (favorite books: CULINARY ARTISTRY and El Bulli) and Casey. May CULINARY ARTISTRY continue to serve Dale and Hung well — and may the best (wo)man win!
"A Be-In! All Day Saturday! A Love-In for Peace!" read the
flyer handed to our row by an actor during "Hair" -- but first,
a Pre-Theater Dinner Flashback....
Dipping into guacamole at Cafe Frida on Columbus & 77th
Cafe Frida's Chiles en Nogada: This seasonal specialty is
walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds
Cafe Frida's steak: Worth a walk from the West Village?!
Cafe Frida's bass served with a deep, rich mole sauce
The very gracious staff at Cafe Frida pours our port
Cafe Frida's delicious tres leche cake with bananas
"Hair is a remarkable artistic work and a stunning societal document, capturing the counter-culture in all its beauty, utopianism, narcissism, idealism and failure. It was a landmark in the American Theater and a pivotal moment in the Public's history. We're thrilled to bring it to Central Park."
—Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis
Sunday, September 23, 2007 — Good morning, Starshine. Yes, we were among the lucky audience members at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park last night for the premiere 40th anniversary revival performance of "Hair."
Lots of familiar faces in the audience and on stage — especially if you saw "110 in the Shade," starring Audra McDonald (who was in the audience) and Will Swenson (who was on stage, oozing such animal magnetism that he didn't need a fringed suede loincloth — or anything less — to be found sexy), or "In the Heights," whose Karen Olivo performed a moving rendition of "Easy to be Hard."
We had planned to join our friends for a pre-theater picnic on the Great Lawn before the performance, but yesterday's cloudburst pretty much ensured there wouldn't be a dry patch of grass left anywhere in the Park. We're not sure our last-minute Plan B was any less delicious: We had a surprisingly lovely dinner on our first-ever visit to Cafe Frida, the Upper West Side Mexican restaurant that is so committed to the art of beverage matching that it sent three people to our seminar on pairing food and cocktails in December 2006 — and that we've wanted to visit ever since.
After enjoying our guacamole with three margaritas and a beer cocktail (total, not each!), we moved on to Gruner Veltliner with our shrimp ceviche (+2 pairing, our highest rating) and Tempranillo with our huitlacoche empanadas (another great match). Everything we tasted was so impressively good that it's hard to choose a favorite among the bass, the lamb, the steak and the rest. OK, we'll cite the seasonal special of Chiles en Nogado — stuffed poblano chiles with walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds, which chef Zarela Martinez dubbed "one of the the crowning glories" of Mexican cuisine — as a unique standout.
It took "Hair" 40 years for the stars to align to enable its return to the stage last night — we hope it won't take us nearly as long to return to Cafe Frida.
Tip: Cafe Frida is hosting a nine-course food-and-cocktail pairing dinner this month that sounds like a great bargain. Call the restaurant for details.
Cafe Frida is on Columbus Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets, New York City. (212)
712-2929. Web: www.cafefrida.com
"It was a real pleasure to see you at Cafe Frida. Thanks for the blog
and hope to see you very very soon.
"I was very happy to hear that you came to Cafe Frida the other night.
I hope you enjoyed your dinner the same way we enjoyed your
[Women Chefs and Restaurateurs cocktail and food pairing] event.
I hope to see you again soon. Best Regards,"
—Cristina Castaneda, founder
Photo: Nikki Kahn
Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc
at Old Ebbitt Grill
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 — In our column in today's Washington Post, we salute Wine and Spirits magazine, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a Fall 2007 special issue that's a definite keeper. You can pick up your own copy at least through the end of this month:
After six months of writing this column, this week we hit the milestone of 1,000 wines tasted on the job.
That sounded like an impressive benchmark until we learned that the staff of Wine & Spirits magazine, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a special fall issue, had tasted a whopping 129,485 wines over its history, an average of more than 14 wines a day. Clearly outdone, we thought we'd tap the insights of a source that has been at it 50 times as long, covering 130 times as many wines.
Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits editor, publisher and president, says he and his staff share a similar sensibility and taste. "Because we taste wines blind, we're much more interested in how a wine tastes than its label or who's behind it," he explains. He also notes their shared interest in natural farming and winemaking. "If you look at the kinds of wines we recommend, we're looking for fresher, brighter, more elegant wines than some of our competitors. They're wines that go with food." Ah, a philosophy after our own hearts.
The magazine's anniversary issue reports on the winners of three different oyster wine competitions, including last year's Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters event, which declared 2006 Cono Sur Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($12) the grand champion out of nearly 400 wines tasted. The flavors of this light-bodied wine are reminiscent of a softly acidic New Zealand sauvignon blanc with the volume turned down to low. While other, more sharply acidic wines provide a pleasing contrast to briny oysters, this one offers milder, creamier West Coast oysters a perfect match of soft, creamy flavors, making it difficult to tell where the oyster ends and the wine begins.
Surveying the globe, Greene sees Portugal's Douro and Vinho Verde regions as continuing to show tremendous promise, making "incredible" wines that are "probably some of the best values in the world." Another region of tremendous interest to Greene is Western Australia for Riesling. "I adore those wines," he says, while declining to name a favorite: "I think that most people who are planting good vines in the Mount Barker-Porongurup area are making really good wines.
"One of the interesting things that we're seeing now is more red wines from traditionally white wine areas," Greene says, naming Austria, France's Loire Valley and northern Italy's Alto Aldige.
Greene also has his eye on English wines, especially the sparkling wines. "The geological formation that makes Champagne so incredible," which includes the region's chalky soil, "is basically the same chalk they have across the Channel," he says.
The bad news in Champagne? The weak dollar means higher prices. The good news? The warming of Champagne's climate is providing more consistent vintages and "fantastic" quality. Greene is particularly enthusiastic about the best-of-grower -- also known as artisanal or boutique -- champagnes, which "express a lot of the personality of the little villages where they're grown."
Having awarded the 1999 Vilmart & Cie. Champagne Brut Grand Cellier ($71) 94 points, the magazine includes grower Champagne Vilmart & Cie. on its list of the 10 Best Champagne Brands. Also among the 10 is Taittinger, producer of some of the best champagnes we tasted this summer, including NV Champagne Taittinger Brut La Francaise ($40), which stands up to even the brinier East Coast oysters and fried or salty appetizers.
The magazine's picks of the 25 Best Cabernet Producers include Robert Mondavi, the source of a velvety wine exploding with blackberries and dark chocolate -- its 2004 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville ($45) -- that we tasted the other night with lamb and steak. The lamb proved an even more ethereal pairing with the cooked blackberry and black-cherry flavors of 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Maggie's Reserve Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($45). Rosenblum wins a nod from Wine & Spirits as America's Best San Francisco Bay Producer.
If you're more interested in scanning the globe for bargains, note the Value Brands list of the 11 producers that have won the most awards for their price-to-quality ratio and consistent performance since the magazine began that feature in 1997. They consist of five from the United States (Columbia Crest, Fetzer, Forest Glen, Forest Ville and Hogue); and one each from Argentina (Trapiche), Australia (Jacob's Creek), Chile (Concha y Toro), France (Georges Duboeuf), Greece (Kourtakis) and Portugal (Aveleda).
Our recent tastings of offerings from several of them turned up four that we particularly like for the price: the full-bodied and -flavored 2005 Forest Glen Chardonnay ($11), the spiced-blackberry-and-cherry- loaded 2005 Georges Duboeuf Morgon ($12), the refreshing and lighter-on-all-counts 2005 Hogue Chardonnay ($9) and the light-bodied 2005 Hogue Late Harvest White Riesling ($9), with its lush ripe-peach flavor.
What to eat with each? You're bound to get ideas from combing the issue's several "Best Wines for..." features, which list specific wines to drink with salumi, oysters, burgers, Thai food, shawarma, Philly cheese steaks and tacos.
To read more, visit The Washington Post by clicking here.
Wine & Spirits magazine is at wineandspiritsmagazine.com.
This week's Wine Tips:
- Want to blind-taste wines, as the pros often do, in the comfort of home? Famed Austrian crystal maker Riedel (www.riedel.com) has introduced a line of jet-black opaque tasting glasses as part of its Sommeliers line. The stylish glasses are a fun way to execute a blind tasting: Not only will you not know what the wine is, you won't get clues from visual characteristics such as color, clarity, brilliance or effervescence. They're pricey, at $15 to $60 a glass through outlets such as Amazon.com and Wineenhusiast.com, but Crate and Barrel (crateandbarrel.com) has introduced an everyday black stemless wineglass for $3.
- Attention, oyster lovers: Although tickets to this year's Oyster Riot at the Old Ebbitt Grill (Nov. 16-17) sold out in 38 minutes, you can still sample some of the award-winning wines with oysters year-round at the restaurant (675 15th St. NW, www.ebbitt.com).
When you experience the best of the best, you know it. It's visceral. We'd never felt the way we felt after dinner at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, where we experienced the best meal we've ever eaten in our lives. And we'd never felt the way we felt after seeing "The Bicycle Thief," the best movie we've ever seen in our lives.
If you haven't seen this 1949 masterpiece, treat yourself to a feast for the heart, mind and spirit.
Click here for Roger Ebert on "The Bicycle Thief."
The chefs and celebrity sous chefs supporting SHARE
Last night's line-up of celebrity sous chefs at SHARE
Actress Marsha Mason debuts as a celebrity sous chef
Karen Page with Maroons chef Jamie Poole (and crabcakes!)
Karen Page with fellow author Carol Higgins Clark at SHARE
Celebrity sous chef Ruth Reichl with Pearl's Rebecca Charles
Celebrity sous chef actress / poetry advocate Tandy Cronyn
Chef Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread with her ace team
Karen Page, Maroons chef Arlene Weston, Pearl Oyster Bar
Rebecca Charles, and Andrew Dornenburg
Tuesday, September 18, 2007 — "A Second Helping of Life" is an annual event in its 4th year that unites some of New York's best women chefs with an array of women anchors, actresses, and authors as "celebrity sous chefs" to suport SHARE, whose mission is to create and sustain a supportive network and community of women affected by breast or ovarian cancer.
Last night marked Karen's second year of participation in this remarkable event as a "celebrity sous chef." She was delighted to be paired with Maroons' chefs Arlene Weston and Jamie Poole, who served one of the night's most irresistible bites: Mini Crab Cake Burgers on fresh-baked brioche rolls with a spicy remoulade sauce. (The crab cakes, by the way, were a wonderful match with both the Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling and the Kluge Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine poured nearby.)
Toques off to SHARE executive director Alice Yaker and president Linda Rogers for pulling off such a great event for such an important cause!
SHARE is at www.sharecancersupport.org.
Maroons restaurant has locations in Chelsea and Harlem (with the latter due to open October 31st). www.maroonsnyc.com
From SHARE's Web site:
"This year’s event will feature Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar as Executive Chef and Abigail Kirsch and Alison Awerbuch as Culinary Chairs.
Our star-studded roster of “celebrity sous chefs” will include Gourmet Magazine Editor Ruth Reichl; actresses Kathleen Chalfant, Tandy Cronyn, Marsha Mason, Martha Byrne, Carole Shelley, Haviland Stillwell, Jenn Gambatese, Robin Mattson, and Lisa Kron; radio hosts Valerie Smaldone and Claudia Marshall; authors Leslie Bennetts, Carol Higgins Clark, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Marie Brenner, and Karen Page; comedian Judy Gold; New York Post Writer Linda Stasi; New York Times writer Joyce Wadler; TV personality Wendy Kaufman; and Channel 9 news anchor Brenda Blackmon."
Other participating chefs included Jennifer Appel of Buttercup Bake Shop; Lynn Bound of Cafe 2 & Terrace 5 at the MoMA; Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez of Lassi; Ariane Daguin of D'Artagnan; Amanda Freitag of Gusto Ristorante; Carmen Gonzalez of Lucy of Gramercy; Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter; Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune; Emily Isaac of Trois Pommes Patisserie; Patti Jackson of Centovini; Sara Jenkins of Mangia; Nicole Kaplan of Del Posto; Levana Kirschenbaum of Levana; Sarabeth Levine of Sarabeth's Bakery; Anita Lo of Annisa; Rosa Ross of Scrimshaw; Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread; Ivy Stark of Amalia; Arlene Weston and Jamie Poole of Maroons; Patricia Williams of District; and mixologist Julia Reiner of Flatiron Lounge.
Photo: Dan Mills
2005 Etude Pinot Noir
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 — Etude Pinot Noir is a long-time favorite of both of ours, as well as of our friends LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and his CBS legal analyst wife Rikki Klieman — in whose good company we enjoy it even more. So we were surprised when Karen found she preferred the 2005 Buena Vista Pinot Noir Ramal Vineyard to the 2005 Etude Pinot Noir Carneros Estate during a recent blind tasting for today's column in The Washington Post. One caveat: We sampled both bottles again the day after opening them, and the Buena Vista had run out of steam while the Etude was still holding its own. Longevity can be a great thing in wines, as well as in friendships:
When we met Arnold Schwarzenegger-the-movie-star in Los Angeles in the fall of 2002, the three of us were among the dozens gathered to toast the swearing-in of Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton at a backyard celebration. Since his 2003 election to office, Arnold Schwarzenegger-the-governor is no longer merely raising a glass of California wine. For three consecutive years, he's been raising awareness of the state's role in wine history by officially declaring September to be California Wine Month.
Schwarzenegger's proclamation praises the state's "extraordinary wines," the "outstanding contributions" of California vintners and their dedication to "the latest in environmentally friendly technologies." Indeed, the sheer size of the California industry has made it virtually synonymous with American wine in general. California's more than 2,400 wineries shipped 541 million gallons last year -- 90 percent of all wine produced domestically and enough so that, if it were a nation, California would be the fourth-largest wine producer in the world.
In deference to the Governator, we're happy to include several outstanding California bottles in this week's lineup of relatively medium-bodied wines to see you through the still-warm weather projected for the weeks ahead.
The key word is "relatively." The California selections all contain over 14 percent alcohol, which used to lead us to characterize a wine as "full-bodied." In these days of rising alcohol levels, however, they qualify as medium-bodied wines that can hold their own against seafood and lighter red-meat preparations, such as in salads and sandwiches. Although this month's school calendars may read "fall," the farmers markets still say "summer" with their abundance of basil, corn, tomatoes and zucchini making their way into many dishes.
Among the whites we tasted recently, two of our favorites were from California. The 2006 J Pinot Gris ($20) is a beautifully balanced wine with enough soft, lemony acidity to stand up to oysters or to grilled chicken with tart plum salsa. As an alternative made from organically grown grapes, the 2006 Cooper Mountain Vineyards Reserve Pinot Gris ($18) from Oregon's Willamette Valley impressed us with similar, though more assertive, flavors that paired even better with the strongest oysters and pasta with clam sauce.
The second California white, a 2005 Domaine Chandon Chardonnay ($24), is from a maker better known for its sparkling wines. We fell in love with it at first sip for what it wasn't: big and overpowering with oak. Instead, the flavor of ripe, juicy pears with a hint of coconut and vanilla was delicious with a grilled pork chop accompanied by garlicky basil pesto and sauteed zucchini.
Among our favorite reds of the week, California ruled with two impressive pinot noirs from Carneros. Both were bursting with black cherry and plum flavors, balanced by light tannins, and they paired perfectly with lamb and fresh goat cheese. In other ways, however, the two couldn't have been more different.
The 2005 Etude Pinot Noir Appellation Carneros Estate ($42) is lighter and silkier, making Etude a longtime favorite of LAPD Chief Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman, as well as ours. Whenever Andrew uncorks a bottle of pinot noir at this price point, the flavor and texture of the 2005 Etude are what he's hoping for.
The 2005 Buena Vista Pinot Noir Ramal Vineyard ($42), on the other hand, was on the "big" side of the pinot spectrum. As it opened up in the glass over the course of dinner, this rich, elegant wine revealed new layers of flavor complexity, making it Karen's favorite. The oldest premium winemaker in California, Buena Vista is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, not by resting on its laurels but by investing millions in replanting vineyards and taking its winemaking to the next level.
If you'd prefer something slightly lighter on the palate (not to mention on the wallet) than California pinot noir, check out the 2005 Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Cotes du Rhone ($10). It's more characteristically Old World in flavor, with more earthiness than fruit, and balanced with more tannin and spiciness than either pinot noir. However, it's a similarly delicious pairing with grilled lamb chops.
If you're still in the mood for a lighter-bodied rose as a carryover from summer, turn to 2006 Mas Carlot Rose ($9) from the south of France, which offers a bright mouthful of strawberries with a dry finish. It's ideal as an aperitif or paired with virtually any Mediterranean flavors found in Nicoise salads, or in chicken, pork or even lighter lamb dishes.
In Southern California, meanwhile, it's perpetual summer. As friends of the chief and his wife, we're already planning our trip to Los Angeles to toast Bratton's swearing-in Oct. 25 to a history-making second term as chief of the LAPD. In his honor, we're sure to be sipping some Schwarzenegger-approved California pinots. But because October is Virginia Wine Month, we're already contemplating which wines to take along to show the California VIPs that although its industry is a fraction of the size of theirs, the Old Dominion knows a thing or two about winemaking, too.
To read more, visit The Washington Post's Web site here.
From our emailbox:
"Just wanted to say that I enjoyed your Washington Post article on Sept. 12, especially the last paragraph about bringing Virginia wines out to California. I'm a blogger who writes about Virginia wine, and I've been pleased that the Post has been writing favorably about Virginia wines and their potential. Two red wines that I'd recommend: Linden's Boisseau Red and Barbourville's Octagon VII. A white that I've recently enjoyed: Chrysalis' 2005 Viognier. Regards,"
—Warren Richard, www.virginiawinetime.com
Bagpipe player wailing on Murray Hill rooftop on Wed, 9/12:
"God Bless America" to "Marines Hymn" to "Amazing Grace"
The view while lying on one of the metal benches above,
listening to the Clifton, New Jersey, bagpipe player
Photo: Susan Biddle
Iron Horse sparkling wine: American Icon
"The enjoyment of food is one of the things that contributes to the peace and harmony of a society."
Wednesday, September 5, 2007 — With regard to the quote above, we believe Confucius is right. We also believe that the enjoyment of wine can contribute to the peace and harmony of a society. In our column in today's Washington Post, you'll find that it's literally the case with iconic brand Iron Horse's Russian Cuvee:
Gallo. Manischewitz. Iron Horse. In some respects, those three names in wine couldn't be more different. Yet they are united as the only wine brands among 250 American icons — including Cadillac, Coca-Cola and McDonald's — representing the "best-known and most-beloved" consumer brands in the country in a new coffee table reference book.
Because Gallo is the country's best-selling wine brand, with 62 million cases sold in 2006, it's no shock to see a panel of marketing gurus name it one of the best-known brands in Icons of the American Marketplace (American Benchmark Press, 2007). But most beloved? For generations, the winemaker has produced wines more ordinary than extraordinary.
For more than a decade, however, Gallo has been toiling to change that perception. As of its 2006 renaming, the Gallo Family Vineyards line of wines is considered the winery's flagship, with more impressive offerings coming from its Sonoma Reserve, Single Vineyard and Estate (Gallo's self-described "Best of the Best") portfolios. Recently, we enjoyed the refreshingly lemony 2006 Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve Pinot Gris ($15) and the big and toasty French oak-aged 2004 Gallo Family Vineyards Laguna Vineyard Chardonnay ($24) — especially when the former accompanied grilled scallops with a squeeze of lemon, and the latter sauteed scallops over pasta with cream sauce.
Manischewitz, long the best-selling kosher wine in America, with more than 1 million cases sold annually, was once the country's best-known wine brand. Its cloyingly sweet flavor, reminiscent of liquefied grape jelly, precludes our recommending it as anything other than a way for aficionados of offbeat grape varieties to inexpensively (at $4 a bottle!) add Concord grapes, which make up at least 51 percent of the Manischewitz blend, to their life lists.
We found the book's third wine brand choice a surprise, albeit a pleasant one: Iron Horse Vineyards, the small, 170-acre family-owned California winery that has been making our sentimental favorite domestic sparkling wine since 1980. While far less of a household name than the other two, with a production last year of 32,000 cases, Iron Horse has managed to compete impressively against French champagne, winning passionate fans in high places in the process.
In fact, Iron Horse has developed something of a cult following in the hospitality industry. The winery created its first private blend for Disney's Grand Floridian hotel under the moniker Fairy Tale Cuvee. Thereafter, top chefs such as Michael Mina, Bradley Ogden, Charlie Palmer, Norman Van Aken and Roy Yamaguchi have had their own special cuvees produced by Iron Horse.
Even the White House is partial to Iron Horse, pouring its sparkling wines during each of the four most recent presidential administrations. In 1985, Iron Horse created its Russian Cuvee expressly for the summit meetings between the United States and the Soviet Union. Fifteen years later, the official White House millennium celebration had champagne flutes filled with Iron Horse clinking to greet the new century. At the 200th anniversary of the White House on Nov. 1, 2000, Iron Horse was poured for VIP guests who included every living president except the ailing Ronald Reagan.
Iron Horse partner and chief executive Joy Sterling, the daughter of founding partners Audrey and Barry Sterling, characterized Iron Horse's being named one of 250 American icons as "our greatest accolade in 22 years." Her namesake NV Iron Horse Vineyards Joy! ($147 a magnum) is an extraordinary new sparkling cuvee that is aged for 10 to 15 years on the yeast in the bottle and produced only in magnums.
To read the rest, click here.
From our emailbox:
"I enjoyed your column [in The Washington Post] regarding Iron Horse wines. About a dozen years ago
I read the book A Cultivated Life: A Year in a California Vineyard by Joy
Sterling of Iron Horse. Unfortunately, at the time it was difficult to find
Iron Horse wines in northern Virginia.
When I remarried, my husband and I celebrated with a bottle of Iron Horse
Wedding Cuvee and drank a bottle on each anniversary. He's gone now but I
still toast him with it when our anniversary rolls around. I was sorry to
see that Iron Horse redesigned its labels and the Wedding Cuvee no longer
has the festive label depicting orchids.
In April my daughter and I visited Sonoma and Napa. I insisted that we had
to stop at Iron Horse. They sure keep themselves hidden — no sign on the
main road — and then a narrow country lane up a steep hill. I did a
tasting of the sparkling wines and met Joy Sterling. It was a beautiful
day and my only regret was that my husband was no longer here to share the
—Nancy J., Washington Post reader
"Your article this week has elicited such great response. All of us
in the family really very deeply appreciate your professional comments
on our wines and even more exciting to us are your personal feelings
about Iron Horse."
—Joy Sterling, partner and CEO, Iron Horse Vineyards
Andrew shoots tomatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket
...followed by peaches, herbs, and sunflowers
It's not every day Karen spies a dad pulling his two kids
behind him in a little red wagon...crossing Fifth Avenue!
Saturday, September 1, 2007 — Sharing scenes from the long Labor Day weekend here in Manhattan.
From our emailbox:
"First, just picked up a copy of your book, BECOMING A CHEF.
Looking forward to
A quick glance at the book brought me to your web site and then to your blog [see August 26th write-up of Chanterelle].
My wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary there last August (2006). We
actually first went to Chanterelle when they were a very small corner restaurant
on Grand and Green streets in Soho — actually read a review in the now defunct
Soho Weekly News.
It was the most elegant meal we had ever had — we were in our twenties, combined
salaries of less than 18K year. The prixe fixe dinner at the time was about
$28.00 each — I think this was around 1978 or so. We spent nearly 3 hours at the
restaurant — heck, 45 minutes at a meal on our salaries was a lot at the time!
Luscious breads, appetizers, spectacular entrees, sorbet in between, cheese
plates, and even after dessert, a platter of their homemade chocolates, and
sugared fruit. We never felt richer. Karen [Waltuck, the owner-manager] was so attentive and we were all so
young! And David [Waltuck, the chef-owner] was the new young phenom on the scene. We sent so many people
August 2006 was different and slightly more expensive. But every moment was
worth it — especially their stunning 'new' location. Quite a step up from a
rickety storefront on Grand Street.
Just thought I'd share it — and let you know that there are still some couples
going strong — and plan to for many many years to come!"
— Jeff K., New York
We got in touch with "Achewood" cartoonist Chris Onstad after reading a mention of our book CULINARY ARTISTRY on his Blog. He replied:
"I also have BECOMING A CHEF — both books are great,
and I keep them out for re-reading. Thanks!"
— Chris Onstad, cartoonist, "Achewood"