NEW RECIPES COOKBOOK
NEW YORK CORNER: Ribot by John Mariani
MICHELIN GUIDE France, Great Britain, and Ireland Updates by John Mariani
Chocolate, With Attitude~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
by Denise Harrigan
In financially savvy
Swiss chocolate is integral to Swiss hospitality, as I discovered aboard my flight from
The cocoa bean's original transport to Europe took somewhat more time, arriving from the
Juliette Binoche in "Chocolat" (2000)
In the early 1800s, the cocoa bean finally found its way to
Just a few miles outside
Tourist may, however, visit the museum beside the Lindt & Sprüngli factory (www.lindtsprungli.com), where you may be taught to taste chocolate like fine wine. Between sips of rosehip tea (to cleanse the palate) I worked my way through various Excellence bars, from milk chocolate to Lindt's new 99% bar--that's one percent sugar--not for the timid palate. I learned that fine chocolate snaps when you break it, flirts with the taste buds when it first enters the mouth, liquefies on the back of the tongue and finally reveals itself in layers with undertones like honey, cherry, tobacco. A lower sugar content means more complex (and assertive) flavors and a more audible snap when you break the chocolate.
Despite their reputation for milk chocolate, the Swiss (along with the French and Germans) prefer their chocolate on the dark side. Americans are gradually following their lead, inspired, surely, by clinical studies that suggest bitter chocolate is filled with heart-friendly flavenols. The medical journal Lancet recently reported that
The stylish yet sensible citizens of
Adopting the Swiss attitude of absolution, I relished every morsel of chocolate Zurich offered: the flaky chocolate croissants at the exquisite Hotel Widder (click); the rich chocolate buffet that followed the rich Zurich-style veal in cream and crisp potato rösti at Zunfthaus Zur Waag (right), the former guild hall (Münsterhof 8; Tel. 044 216 99 66; click), where, many years ago, Marcel Chardon, then owner of a cake shop, gave away the recipe for his chocolate mousse to the host of the guild hall; the recipe has been safeguarded ever since and only few know it. The crisp chocolate butterfly atop pomegranate sorbet at the pristine Buhlegg restaurant in Weggis; and the autumn-spiced chocolate mousse with orange salad at Jasper, a sleek, modern outpost in Lucerne's ornate Palace Hotel (click).
Fortunately, my Swiss mentors also shared their antidote for such chocolate indulgence: long, brisk walks up and down the charming cobblestone streets of
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
780 Third Ave. at 48th Street
Hope springs eternal in the brutally competitive restaurant biz, and I am always rooting for anyone who undertakes an enterprise and tries both to be distinctive and to please a neighborhood in need of fine food without attitude. That is a good description of Ribot, whose affable owner, Marco Verciani, and managing director Ratha Chau have taken the leap of faith that they can make a mark in a part of town without many restaurants of this stripe--the East Side in midtown, which has been dominated by steakhouses and sushi bars for ages.
Ribot takes its name from a beloved Italian racehorse of the post-World War II era who was often considered the underdog but who remained unbeaten in 16 races. It's a name meant to inspire the restaurant's staff, including Chef Jeremy Griffiths, a Welschman with an impressive résumé that includes stints at the Oak Room in London, the Queen Elizabeth II, 18 months in
The interior of Ribot is a bit awkward--an L-shape that hides the main part of the 50-seat dining room (left) from the bar area, and the ceilings are very tall, with windows looking out over Third Avenue. But the decor works comfortably, with leather banquettes, sepia prints of the equestrian world, a nicely back-lighted lounge area, and a 12-foot, blown-glass Murano chandelier at its center. It is one of the rare new restaurants these days that actually has--God bless 'em--tablecloths. In summer, Ribot offers an al fresco sidewalk terrace.
The winelist is of an ideal size for a restaurant with 50 seats, a screed of 270 labels, 16 by the glass, and pricing is for the most part pretty fair-minded. On Mondays featured wine flights are priced between $10 and $15 and--I love this!--half-off all wines by the bottle.
Griffiths has learned all his lessons well, and his style in international buoyed by Mediterranean flavors. So you may begin with a luminous butternut and acorn squash soup enriched with sour cream and dotted with chives, or perhaps a delicious three-cheese soufflé--Parmesan, pecorino, and goat's--with baby greens and olives. Chargrilled portobello mushroom was enlivened with roasted scallions, fingerling potatoes, and chorizo, making it slightly more interesting than most of its kind. Two pastas we tried passed the taste test admirable--potato gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms glossed with truffle butter, and trofie, a Genoese rolled pasta with pesto authentically made with green beans and new potatoes.
Our favorite main dish was roasted rack of lamb with a mint-pesto crust, accompanied by couscous and Moroccan-spiced dates, while roasted Berkshire suckling pig perfumed with rosemary and served with black cabbage was good though, as often happens throughout an evening, a bit overcooked. Seared red snapper came with softly roasted eggplant, pine nuts, tomato confit and herb chips for a fine massing of textures, while seared branzino was well complemented by fennel potato gratin and shaved fennel salad with its lovely anise flavor.
Pastry chef Maria Lindstrend has "Heidi" as a nickname, which she may well have earned from her work with chocolate, as borne out by her warm Valrhona chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream, and a frozen hazelnut parfait with phyllo crisp and chocolate cream. Also very good was a winter fruit crumble lavished with vanilla ice cream, and an apple crostata with cinnamon ice cream. Isn't it delightful how every restaurant these days can so easily make its own ice cream daily?
Allow me an extended, if obvious metaphor, by saying that Ribot is coming from behind and its location might be a long stretch, but I think they've got a winner on their hands.
Ribot is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., with a $25 prix fixe option, and for dinner Mon.-Sat., both a la carte, with appetizers $9-$15 and entrees $21-$34; $42 prix fixe option (which is the price of a steak alone at any of the nearby steakhouses).
MICHELIN GUIDES TO FRANCE, GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND PUBLISHED
by John Mariani
The new, always highly anticipated Michelin Red Guide to France's hotels and restaurants has just been published, as it has been since 1900, and though it officially hits the bookstalls March 1 in France and March 15 in the USA ($26), the usual buzz and whispers are being heard in the land.
Of last year's 26 three-star restaurant recipients, one lost its rating, for reasons entirely O.K. with its owner, Alain Senderens, who actually closed the deluxe Lucas Carton in Paris in order to downscale it, make it more affordable, and accessible. Michelin 2006 awarded Senderens new place two stars. Chef Joël Robuchon, who himself years ago gave up his own three-star restaurant, now has two stars each for Table de Joël Robuchon and the very casual counter eatery Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris, and one for his namesake restaurant in Monaco.
Les Maisons de Bricourt in Cancale, Brittany, a restaurant owned by Olivier Roellinger, was the only new three-star appointment this year, having for the previous 18 years enjoyed two stars. Six new two-star restaurants (70 in all) have been added, including six named "hopes" to achieve three stars in the future. The venerable (a kind word) Tour D'Argent in
The appearance of the France guide follows that of the controversial New York Guide (for a review click) that came out last fall. A Great Britain and Ireland volume appeared last month, awarding 17 new one-star ratings, which included two pubs--The Hand & Flowers in Marlow and the Masons Arms at Knowstone. There are now 17 one-star restaurants in the guide, and one new two-star, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Auchterarder. Also listed are the ‘Rising star’ establishments in their category that "have the potential to develop further and already have an element of superior quality," which included Fraiche in
THEY GET THAT FROM WALKING ON BROKEN BEER BOTTLES AT THE BEACH
"Spending time on the North Shore of Oahu, just 30 miles from the urban sprawl of Honolulu, provides a crash course in the hang-10 lifestyle. . . There is hardly a waiter, store clerk or bartender around who doesn't have a ripped physique, a sunburned nose and flip flops barely encasing scraped-up feet."--Julia Chaplin, "For Surfers, All Waves Lead to Hawaii," NY Times (Jan. 29, 2005).
AND HE'S NOT TOO CRAZY ABOUT THEIR RABBITS EITHER!
The Welsh wine industry was not happy with remarks by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (right) after he sent 24 bottles of Italian wine to the Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, saying it was to help him recover from having to drink Welsh and English wines the week before at the European Union summit. Mr. Berlusconi, who's believed not to have even tasted the Welsh wine, told reporters that Persson was "so aghast at the wines at the summit that I promised to send him some of our wines."
"THE SWEET LIFE" CRUISE
This fall, from Sept. 29-Oct. 6 John Mariani (left), publisher of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet and food & travel columnist for Esquire Magazine, will host and lead a 7-day cruise called "The Sweet Life," aboard Silverseas' Millennium Class Silver Whisper, with days visiting Barcelona, Tunis, Naples, Milazzo (Sicily), Rome, Livorno, and Villfranche. There will be a welcoming cocktail party, gourmet dinners with wines, cooking demos by John and Galina Mariani, co-authors of The Italian-American Cookbook). Optional shore excursions will include a tour of the Amalfi Coast, dinner at the great Don Alfonso 1890 (2 Michelin stars), a private tour of the Vatican, dinner at La Pergola (3 Michelin stars) in Rome, a Night Cruise to Hôtel de Paris and dinner at Louis XV (3 Michelin stars) in Monaco, and much more. Rates (a 20% savings) range from $4,411 to $5,771. For complete information click.
* On Feb. 28 NYC’s Pair of 8’s will host a 4-course wine dinner featuring Italian wines from the T. Edward Wines portfolio, chosen by Wine Director Tiffaney Prewitt focusing on wines made from grapes native to Italy, e.g., Falaghina, Barbera, Sangiovese, et al. $65 pp. Call 212-874-2742.
* During the month of March Four Seasons Hotel* On March 2 Carmen the Restaurant in Coral Gables, FL, presents a Chef's Table featuring the cuisine of Chef Carmen paired with "Gems from
* For the month of March
* On March 3, the Hotel Bel-Air will hold a Château Pichon-Lallande Dinner, with 5 vintages, prepared by chef Chef Douglas Dodd, with discussion by Gildas d'Ollone, the Château's Managing Director. $299 pp. Call 310-475-0606.
* On March 6 Naomi Daguid re-traces her travels through Asia’s subcontinent collecting the recipes and experiences documented in the newly released and highly praised Mangoes & Curry Leaves, hosted by the
To celebrate their March "St.
Patrick's Madness Burger," O’Neill’s
Irish Pub in NYC is offering one lucky diner a trip to
copyright John Mariani 2006