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NEW YORK CORNER: Ennio & Michael by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: The 10 Myths of Wine
by John Mariani
Esquire Magazine's first cover, Autumn 1933
If I had to name the tastiest fish in the sea, I would have a hard time deciding among turbot,
A trout is amenable to a fair array of cooking treatments, though not to all. It is superb with buttered almonds, succulent to the bone when stuffed with crabmeat or a mousseline, made tangy with fresh capers, and as good as fried fish can possibly be, especially in bacon fat. And even though we must suspend our belief, in light of game regulations, that the best trout is the one we catch, the flavor and spirit of the wild trout is a magical thing.
As anyone who has ever read Isaak Walton's The Compleat Angler (1653) or Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It (1989) knows, of all the fish gathered by mankind, the trout has always evoked the most romantic associations. Let Jonah and Ahab have their terrifying whales and the Old Man his magnificent marlin. Trout fishing is part patience, part endurance, part boredom, part Zen and part art. As MacLean put it in the beautiful opening line of his short story, "In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." (To order The Compleat Angler click on photo of Isaak Walton at right.)
Most of all, trout fishing requires a man to retreat into the wild, to find a silent stream with no one else around and to spend some time in contemplation. Even when other anglers are included on a trout fishing expedition, there is none of that yahoo camaraderie and machismo that seems essential to bass fishing over the side of a motor boat. No, trout fishing is a solitary act designed to bring pleasure to the angler and unfortunate pain to the fish. As Walton (above) put it, "when the lawyer is swallowed up with business and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip-banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams which we now see glide so quietly by us."
The trout, whose species span two whole genera, Salvelinus and Salmo, is spread throughout the world's rivers, yet it seems the most American of fish. Or at least the most American of American fish. In the colonial era it was everyday food for first settlers, and by the nineteenth century there still seemed little reason to imitate the efforts of the French, who constructed the first public-owned trout hatchery in 1852 to propagate fish commercially. (
Brad Pitt in "A River Runs Through It" (1992)
American anglers merely had to dip their lines in the rivers to come up with large, beautiful fish perfect for pan-frying on the spot. The only dilemma was deciding which tackle to use to catch a particular trout in a particular place. Trout anglers gird for battle and speak a language designed to keep most mortal men at a distance--floaters, sink tips, breaking strain, hatches, and wonderfully fanciful names for flies like Rat-Faced McDougall, Humpy
It was the introduction of the German brown trout (Salmo trutta) to
Protective measures have also helped restore the trout populations, and, since American anglers have become dutifully serious about their sport, efforts have been made to maintain the balance of nature in trout streams.
As with anything that seems lost in an idyllic past, trout fishing took on mythic overtones, and there grew an enormous amount of literature on the subject of casting, lures and the most sensible way to approach the game. The finest literature on trout has come from American authors, from specialists with wondrous names like George Michel Lucien La Branche, Charles Zebulon Southard, Arthur Flick, Sparse Grey Hackle, and Ernest Schwiebert, to outdoorsmen like Zane Grey , who wrote mostly fishing books, not westerns, in his later life, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, whose long short story "Big
Year by year the books on trout keep coming--a check of Amazon.com turns up more than 800 currently in print--and magazines like Sports Afield, Men's Journal and Field and Stream keep the sport more vibrant than it's ever been. Nowhere is this truer than in the West, more specifically in the
Fly fishing is a good thing to learn early on, first, because there's so much to learn; second, because children learn grace effortlessly; and three, because life's too short. You don't need much gear--you can wear everything but the waders out to the hatch--and if you plan to eat what you catch on the spot, you can pretty easily carry the pan, plates, knife and fork you'll need. And a coffee pot. As John Gierach writes in a lovely essay about fishing the headwaters of the western
Letting a trout go after catching it is neither required nor suggested, unless you've been lucky enough to catch more than you could possibly eat. I still believe the difference between a good hunter and a bad one is that the former only eats what he kills and the latter too often kills what he doesn't intend to eat. Trout makes for good eating, though it is far from the tastiest fish in the world. As a matter of fact, there's a whole slew of fish--salmon, turbot, sole, snapper, bluefish, cod, tuna, swordfish, even skate--that have more flavor and lend themselves to more recipes. Few people would make trout stew or trout sashimi or trout soup. But when you do eat trout under the proper circumstances, cooked with precision when the fish is exquisitely fresh, there are few things in the world that taste better.
The classic way to prepare trout is au bleu--poached in a vinegar stock that makes the skin turn a gorgeous blue hue. It is the way it is traditionally cooked in
Our great American gastronome, James Beard, who ate a good deal of truite au bleu in his time, would disagree, however. When friends would bring him just-caught trout from
Trout is far more versatile than one might think, although the simpler the recipe, the better. But first and foremost, the fresher the fish, the better. If you don't have access to really fresh trout, you might as well not even bother cooking it at all. It can taste fishy, its flesh can be mealy, and you might well wonder what all the fuss is about. The only sad part is this: By law, all fish served in a restaurant must come from a game farm. On the one hand, this guarantees a consistent and healthy supply of fish; on the other it guarantees a fairly mild flavor indistinguishable from one source to the next.
There is something special about a well-caught, well dressed, well-cooked wild trout from a good river whose flavor is finer, sweeter, and, well, wilder than those fish that are "tank-bred." I say "good river" because not all trout dwell in pristine waters or eat as well as they do in the
Of trout cooked with bacon over coals in the outdoors, Hemingway wrote, "The trout are crisp on the outside and firm and pink inside and the bacon is well done--but not too done. If there is anything better than that combination the writer has yet to taste it in a lifetime devoted largely and studiously to eating." It's always difficult to disagree with Hemingway.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
ENNIO & MICHAEL RISTORANTE
539 LaGuardia Place
Once upon a time, Greenwich Village was home to dozens of Italian-American restaurants almost indistinguishable from one another in decor and menu. They had names like Enrico & Paglieri, Nino & Nella, Gene's, Luigi's, and Mario's, and they all served dishes whose ingredients were purchased at low prices in order to keep the menu prices cheap. Good olive oil? Real Parmigiano? Arborio rice? Fuggeddabout it!
Then, in the fall of 1978, two former waiters, Ennio Sammarone and Michael Savarese, opened a namesake place, Ennio & Michael Ristorante, on Bleecker Street, where they started serving updated versions of Italian-American classics along with dishes from their native Abruzzo region. And they opened at a time when fine Italian ingredients--balsamico, virgin olive oil, imported pastas, and good wines--had begun to come to New York. Their success was immediate, and people came to the Village eat well, not just to catch a plate of spaghetti or pizza slice before heading off to the Bitter End or Café Wha.
Eighteen years ago Ennio & Michael moved around the corner to larger quarters on LaGuardia Place, with a splendid al fresco patio (above). NYU was expanding, the Village was getting gentrified, and the two men thrived without ever leaping on the uptown Italian bandwagon that sent pasta dishes and veal chops soaring in price. But it was as much the generosity of spirit that imbued E&M as the good food. Ennio, usually up front, and Michael, usually in the dining room, have never become complacent about their work or their regulars, and newcomers are greeted with a warm welcome. There's one wall covered with photos of celebrity guests (below) who have frequented E&M over the years, some, like Bill Cosby, Danny Glover, and Peter Falk, regulars. The late Chairman of the Board, Mr. Sinatra, was a fan early on.
The room is spacious, the tables nicely separated, with white tablecloths. Up front is a curved wood-and-marble bar tended by Ennio, and The winelist is nothing spectacular but serviceable and reasonably priced. Prices for dinner have risen only gently in 28 years, with appetizers $9-$15.75, pastas $16-$22.75, main courses $17-$26.75.
Every time I've dined here I always order two dishes that are consistently among the best of their kind in NYC: Stuffed artichokes, glistening with olive oil and well-seasoned bread crumbs; and linguine with white clam sauce, abundant with small sweet vongole clams, an assertive dose of garlic, a fresh broth, and, if you like, red pepper flakes. The owners bring in very good, creamy mozzarella, served with Prosciutto, asparagus, and peppers, and they also bake asparagus with a coating of Parmigiano that is absolutely terrific. So, too, are the thinly sliced, crisply fried zucchini.
Very sensibly, the kitchen lists only six pasta dishes it can make to order, with perhaps one or two specials each night. Aside from the linguine with clam sauce, I love E&M's rigatoni alla Ennio, lavished with a cheese-tomato sauce, peas, mushrooms, and sausage. For something powerful, order the spaghetti alla puttanesca, ripe with Gaeta olives, plenty of garlic, olive oil, and basil.
For main courses I recommend pollo all'arrabiata, a pungent dish of chicken morsels dashed with garlic and balsamic vinegar, and the eggplant alla parmigiana is fragrant, rich, and restorative. Scaloppini di vitello alla Michael is tender veal with tomato and slices of bufala mozzarella.
Desserts are fairly standard issue and about as good as the better examples of Italian dolci in the neighborhood.
Ennio & Michael are not pushing in new directions, nor do they need to. Their commitment is to the freshness of their food, made to order any way their patrons like it. You come here for favorite dishes, sure that nothing has changed about them, and for a chance to get a warm handshake, maybe a kiss on both cheeks, from these two wonderful, ebullient Abruzzese gentlemen.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
THE TEN MYTHS OF WINE
by John Mariani
For something that is basically just a beverage—albeit one far more delicious than any other—an awful lot of folderol has grown up around the service and consuming of wine. Indeed, wine drinking is fraught with opportunities to show oneself either a naïf or a show-off, usually both at the same moment. I’ve found more people who pretend to know a great deal about wine often go through ridiculous rituals that make about as much sense as waiting 30 minutes after eating before going swimming. Here are ten myths best laid to rest ASAP:
1. Wine is a living thing. On the contrary, once its yeasts have died off after fermentation, it is a dead and decaying thing, which nevertheless, like aged beef, can acquire wonderful flavor and balance. But if there’s anything still living in a wine bottle after fermentation ends, it’s definitely not supposed to be in there and mostly likely is going to cause problems.
2. All wine gets better with age. Well, maybe one percent of all the white wines in the world may (e.g., a white
3. White wines should always be well chilled and red wines served at room temperature. A white wine chilled below 45° F will lose flavors better tasted at temperatures above that. As for “room temperature,” the phrase has no meaning if the room is 67° or 85° degrees. "Cellar temperature" for reds is more like it: Best is between 55 and 70.
4. One should always sniff the cork. Why? Ninety times out of a hundred it will reveal nothing, unless the cork is so visibly rotted that you wouldn’t want to sniff it. The purpose of presenting the cork is wholly unnecessary these days—a holdover from days when an inferior wine was deliberately and unscrupulously mis-labeled as a better one—a scam exposed by looking at the cork, imprinted with the original, real provenance of the wine.
5. Red wines should always be decanted to remove sediment. If a red wine has sediment, fine. If it does not, there’s no necessity. Most red wines do not throw off sediment anyway, and if one does, it will usually take a minimum of at least five years to develop. Some enophiles contend that decanting brings oxygen into the wine—which may help older wines of a kind that did have sediment--but a few swirls of your glass will do the same thing. By the same token, decanting can quicken aeration of both white and red wines, and I must admit I've taken to decanting most of the time.
7. When tasting a wine, you should suck in air and swirl the wine several times in your mouth to bring out the wine’s qualities or defects. Well, if you’re a professional wine taster—who may go through 50 wines at a time and spits the wines out—this can be helpful. But at a dinner table? Uh-uh. You’ll look ridiculous and embarrass your friends.
8. A wine should be set at an angle in a wine cradle when served. The only reason for those silly—if often beautiful—wine cradles is to keep any possible sediment in the bottom of the bottle. But if there is any sediment, the wine should be decanted and rid of it. If there is no sediment (see Myth No. 5 above), why lay the bottle on its side?
9. You should always send back a wine you don’t like. No, you should only send back a wine that has gone bad, either by being oxidized or corked. Just because you don’t care for the taste of the wine is no reason to ask for it to be taken off your bill. The exception is when a wine steward has really pushed a wine on you that you’re unfamiliar with and you find the wine distasteful. Then, back it goes.
10. A screwtop closure indicates an inferior wine. This used to be the case until corks were discovered to cause malodorous corkiness in 5%-10% of all wines so stoppered. Today, however, many top wineries, including many of the best in
DRINK YOUR SOUP BEFORE IT CLOTS!
In Cincinnati a man claiming to be a vampire plans to picket the local White Castle because its new hamburger made with garlic has "angered the undead."
BLOCK THAT METAPHOR!
"No, that isn't the sun glinting off Mariah Carey's toe ring. It's the sparkling Carrera marble powder that stands in for sand at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel and Club."--Sandra Ballentine, "39 Ways to Have a Sand Blast," NY Times (May 24, 2006).
* From July 1-23, to commemorate the Tour De France, Chef Jean Joho of Brasserie Jo in
* On July 13 “Dancing Under the Stars with Midsummer Night Swing” at Lincoln
* On July 14 in
* From July 14-16 The Glenlivet Single will host “The Glenlivet Gathering,” incl. a traditional Scottish dinner aboard a classic steam train, a private tour of The Glenlivet Distillery and tasting of stock with the Master Distiller Jim Cryle, a hike along the famous Smuggler’s Trail, a fitting for at to wear at a traditional caleidh party) in The Glenlivet’s Malt Barn, Scottish dances and Scottish cuisine. Each traveler will receve a vintage of The Glenlivet that will be exclusively bottled for guests attending The Gathering. Rooms at the Aviemore Highland Resort. $3,500 pp. Visit www.theglenlivetgathering.com
* From July13-16, Robert Mondavi Winery celebrates its 40th anniversary with TASTE3, a gathering of 30 professionals in wine, food, and the arts, at Copia: The
* From July 14-16, The Finger Lakes Wine Festival®, supported by The Corning Museum of Glass will be held, with 80 wineries from across the
* On July 14, a Bastille Day Celebration 10:00 p.m. will be held at Carafe in Portland, whose French community will presents a day-long celebration with the 2nd annual Portland Waiters Race, a French marketplace, live music, petanque demonstrations, kid’s activities, and a pig roasted by Pascal Sauton of Carafe. Free admission. www.alliancepdx.org or call 503-223-8388.
* On July 14 Jean Francois Meteigner of La Cachette in L.A. will feature a 5-course “Parisian Bistro Night” for Bastille Day. $90; with wine pairing $125. Call 310-470-4992 or visit www.lacachetterestaurant.com.
* On July 15 The Culinary Vegetable Institute and The Chef's Garden in
"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 Villefranche. 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 Hotel 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.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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