Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" (1939)
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NEW YORK CORNER: Lucy of Gramercy by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: New Book Shows Winemaking is Serious Business,
Not Romance, a Review by John Mariani
WHAT'S NEW IS OLD IN DUBLIN. . .
AND A WEE VISIT TO CORK
by Robert Mariani
DespiteThe Pub Crawl begins on Trinity's historic Common with readings and stories by the actors. As students drifted by, books in hand, our guides read passages from Oscar Wilde's letters, then verses from Yeats's poems, after which we walked briskly to a nearby pub, where our guides donned derbies and performed a hilariously enigmatic scene from Beckett's Waiting For Godot. Each bit lasts just long enough to imbibe a few fingers of whiskey or a pint of Guinness before moving on.
A great way to soak up some of this literary atmosphere is to join the
In keeping with
I spent my first night in
The guest rooms are all different but done in the same vein of textured wallpapers, leather detailing, and repro-antique furnishings. The tile bathroom floors are radiant heated--a sensuous antidote to a foggy
Room rates are US$200-US$400.
The Dylan Hotel
My first meal in
Chapter One's list of starters that night included Jerusalem artichoke soup with leeks and hazelnut cream; langoustine with smoked bacon and a red pepper basquaise purée; and duck sausage with a rich cassoulet of lentils, apple and horseradish purée. I was delighted with a flavorful terrine of veal topped with pear and mustard purée and a crisp watercress and hazelnut salad.
The entrees were also nicely balanced in taste and textures, with everything here based on Irish ingredients from the seas and farms. Thus, there is hake with braised squid, roast fennel, tomato and shellfish sauce; an Aberdeen Angus fillet of beef with braised mushrooms, red wine essence and a béarnaise sauce; and a loin of venison with creamed savoy cabbage, roast organic beets, stuffed white onion, and pickled walnut vinaigrette.
I chose an exquisitely composed guinea hen, delicately wrapped in a mild Parma ham and modified by a garlic emulsion and peas à la francaise. There were no strident flavors here: the blending of ingredients and preparations was simply, almost poetically, balanced.
Desserts, too, were a simple but eloquent statement of flavors that fit together like a well-crafted sentence--a soft glazed pear worked perfectly with a sesame tuile and pear cream accompanied by a small helping of licorice ice cream and a palmier bisquit.
Chapter One has an exceptionally good winelist, with a mostly French selection but with plenty of New World bottlings too from South Africa, New Zealand, the U.S. and elsewhere.
Chapter One is open Tues.-Sat. for lunch and dinner, Prices for appetizers run 10-22 euros, entrees 34-37.50 euros, with a pre-theater dinner at 35 euros.
During my visit to Dublin this time, I was invited to drive up to the Jameson Whiskey distillery in County Cork for the introduction of their newest "old whiskey," Jameson "Rarest Vintage Reserve." The trip itself from
The Distillery may be visited. (Go to: www.jamesonwhiskey.com). Here you'll get a good history of distillation, see the giant waterwheel that once powered all of the distillery machinery and today still turns the cogs and wheels in the
I must admit I found some of the verbal descriptions of this Rarest Vintage a bit effusive and consequently somewhat vague. Terms like "ripe fruit notes of melon and dark fleshy plums" and "toasted wood with a touch of creamy fudge" are all very poetic, but everyone's taste buds are different. And besides, I find it more enjoyable simply to savor the complexity of a spirit this nuanced without having to name each note as it's struck.
That said, Jameson's Rarest Vintage Reserve is definitely among the most interesting and satisfying whiskeys I've ever tasted. There's a little something new in every sip, from start to finish. One of the main characteristics of Irish whiskey that distinguishes it from Scotch blends and single malts in general, is the absence of the smoky, peat flavor, which some Scotch connoisseurs prize but others find overwhelming.
In the long tradition of Irish whiskey-making, Jameson air-dries its barley as opposed to spreading it over peat smoke to keep the flavor pure. A great many subtleties are added to each Jameson whiskey along the way by the choice of aging sherry casks from
This year Jameson unveiled its "Rarest Vintage Reserve" in a special limited edition, which will hit shelves in March of '07. It contains some of the oldest and rarest whiskeys stored at the Midleton Distillery in County
O'Connor came on stage looking and sounding uncharacteristically diminutive. Gone from the singer's haunted voice were the shrill, angry cries and diatribes of her early career. She opened with an almost timid version of the beautiful ballad "Love Letters." Her performance was rather brief-- she only sang about six tunes--and none had the fire and flash she's known for. Perhaps, just like the rest of
Bottles of the new Rarest Vintage Reserve were at all the tables and just a few sips tell you this is indeed a masterpiece. Only a limited number of cases will be available to the
I found myself reflecting on what had transpired in the world while this soon-to-be-famous 18-Year-Old Whiskey was being distilled in copper vats and blended in the darkness of its oaken casks. Eighteen years ago 'The Troubles' between Northern and
While attending the Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve unveiling ceremony, I was staying overnight at the luxurious new hotel, Capella Castlemartyr (353 0-21 464-4050) in
The Capella's rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed and there is an Auriga Spa and a large indoor pool. Guests can also enjoy carriage ride tours of the meticulously kept grounds. In season there is easy-access deep sea fishing just outside of the
Although I was only there one day, it seemed pretty clear that the
But a visit to just about anywhere in
Robert Mariani is a freelance writer living in Bristol, Rhode Island, an co-author of the memoir, Almost Golden.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
35 East 18th Street/ near Park Avenue South
I'm hoping--begging, really--that owner Phil Suarez will soon change the name of Lucy of Gramercy to Carmen of Gramercy, because the unique and brilliant chef Carmen Gonzalez deserves it. The reason for the current name is because the aforesaid Lucy is Suarez's wife, which is lovely. But give credit where credit is due.
I have known Carmen since she opened her namesake restaurant in Coral Gables, Florida, four years ago, and I knew from my first meal that she was immediately the finest chef in the Miami area, unique in that she was taking the cooking of her native Puerto Rico and sublimating it to haute cuisine, with all the dash, color, and bright flavors of the Isla Encantada and all the modernity and precision of a 21st century chef. The restaurant, Carmen, was one of my picks for Esquire's
Photo: Hayes & Hayes Best New Restaurants of 2003.
Sadly, a fire in the hotel that housed Carmen destroyed the restaurant last year, and Coral Gables' loss is New York's gain. Ms. Gonzalez is a fireball, sweet but intense, serious but adventuresome, and what Michael Psilakis has done to revolutionize Greek food in America at Anthos, Carmen (below) has done for Puerto Rican food here. Only a handful of restaurants in San Juan do food of this style, and Carmen does it better than any of them.
The space itself, which has seemed jinxed after so many restaurants opened and closed here, is now very inviting, the lighting warmer, the tables both spacious and well-spaced, with good napery and glassware, and the touches of old beams and some splendid large food paintings seem evocatively removed from Manhattan. Excellent modern Latin music plays softly in the background.
You begin here with picadera, Puerto Rican street food, fritters of cod, manchego cheese, and other options; grated yuca and chicken with pique salsa; creamy potatoes stuffed with sirloin piqadillo; and crispy little bites of fried pork with plenty of garlic with a lemon juice relish. The grated green plantains are addictive too.
Photo: Claudia Goetzelman
"First Plates" are beautifully thought out appetizers (although you could almost make a meal of the picaderas), like seared yellowfin tuna with malanga mash and a remarkably inventive coconut gastrique; Fat Key West shrimp come with plantain piñon and a sweet-tangy sofrito of sautéed ham, garlic, and peppers (below), and a beautiful and creamy lobster and avocado terrine is laced with a lime mayonnaise and little plantain patties called arañitas.
Main Plates are carefully composed to incorporate Puerto Rican ideas and richness, but I never find Carmen's food cloying or heavy, as I often have with other Latino chefs who just pile on the carbs and the sweetness. Thus, lightly cooked black grouper is drizzled with a sour orange gastrique and sided with smoked calabaza risotto--terrific concept. Chilean sea bass (not usually my favorite fish) is creamy and sweet, bobbing in a corn broth with fingerling potato croquettes, while a three-inch thick Berkshire pork chop is cooked just to the pink, accompanied by sweet plantains, goat's cheese piñon, and a reduction of pork juices. I'm not sure Carmen needs wagyu beef to ensure her slowly braised shortribs with funche (a kind of polenta) and Island mojito have such depth of flavor, but the beef flavor comes through forcefully as well. On the side, the arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and the plantain fufu porridge (originally an African dish) will bring a smile to anyone who's eaten the comfort food of Puerto Rico outside of the main drag of touristy Condado.
Carmen doesn't let up with desserts: They are as imaginative and lovable as the rest of the menu, from a perfectly creamy flan with caramel sauce and warm coconut rice pudding tamal with cajeta cheese sauce to a sour orange mango strudel with white cheese sorbet and fruit salad and an oozy chocolate cake with chocolate sorbet and devastatingly rich dulce de leche foam.
The winelist at Lucy is very well thought out to stress Spanish and South American bottlings, from revelations like Viña Jaraba Crianza 2003 to Viñedos de los Vientos "Angel's Cuvee" 2005 (a ripasso style of the Photo: Hayes & Hayes tannat grape), all compiled by new sommelier Gary Dusek.
If you can find Latino food like this anywhere in or out of New York at this high level of balanced flavor and textures, let me know. There have been several attempts in the past, some tasty, some hearty, some just plain fun. But Carmen brings it all into sharp focus, not only as an expression of what is possible within the Latino genre but what is a very personalized vision of a great chef.
Lucy of Gramercy is open nightly for dinner. Picadera run $5.50-$10, appetizers $9-$17, and main courses $24-$32.
Shows Winemaking is Serious
Business, Not Romance
Put off by the oxymoronic title of Steve Heimoff’s new book, New Classic Winemakers of California (
Debates rage within the industry about high alcohol levels, pricing, the global market, promotion, public relations, and selling. As Heimoff, west coast editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, warns that after the success of
This, then, is not a book about salmon roasts at twilight in the vineyards or lavish charity auctions held under white tents on green lawns. The winemakers in this book are farmers first, and marketers second, and they worry about soil, climate, rot, fungus, and the same things tomato and apple farmers lose sleep over. “I’m not favorable to watering down Pinot Noir,” says Bill Wathen of Foxen Winery & Vineyard, “it’s something I hate to do. But [in] winemaking, you do what you have to do.”
Heimoff tries to steer clear of too much technical jargon—-bâttonage, cap management, heat summation, reverse osmosis, and so on (there is a good glossary at the end, however)--but these are really the tools of the trade, and there are enlightening passages about the reasons a winemaker like Dan Morgan Lee of Morgan Winery uses “a good chunk of Dijon [clones] 115, 667, 777” along with Wadenswil 2A, clone 12, clone 23, and Pommard. Such discussions dispel the myths of gentleman farmers in
If such topics do not seem engaging to the average winedrinker, I believe it is requisite to understand how even the mavericks in the California wine industry are not dreamers but hardworking, dedicated farmer-scientists who must also operate under the directives of owners and corporations.
When winegrower Andy Beckstoffer lost most of his Napa Valley vineyards and couldn’t pay his debts, the giant firm Heublein bought them back. “I personally guaranteed everything,” he said, “They had the right to the house, my car, my wedding ring. . . and they made me sign a personal servitude contract that said I’d farm for them as long as they wanted, I would do everything they told me to do.”
Heimoff also exposes how difficult it was early on for women to enter the industry. When Merry Edwards (right), now with her own Merry Edwards Wines, interviewed with the late Jack Davies of Schramsberg Vineyards, he “practically lost his teeth when I walked in,” and told her he never would have interviewed her if he’d known she was a woman. (She’d put her formal first name, Meredith, on her résumé.) Edwards was finally hired by
There are also anecdotes about how wineries fool the wine media once they know the critic’s predilections. When, for instance, wine writer Robert M. Parker, Jr., who dislikes filtration of wines, visits, winemakers hide their filters out of sight.
Still, while the book clearly proves winemaking to be an agricultural endeavor backed by hard-nosed marketing decisions and buoyed by outrageously expensive, glamorous cult wines, every one of the winemakers included here exudes a passion for what he or she does that strikes me as somewhat different from the pronouncements of garlic or potato farmers. As Gina Gallo of the huge Gallo Family Vineyards tells Heimoff, ”I sometimes think that being able to touch more people with your family wines is a greater value than making the most iconic wine that only three people in the world can have.”
DEPARTMENT OF WRETCHED EXCESS, #3,772
BREAST OR THIGH?
TO ALL PUBLICISTS: Owing to the amount of material sent to this newsletter regarding Christmas, and New Year's dinners--many of which are only announcements as to price fixed dinners--it is impossible for me to include any but the most unusual of events for those holidays in Quick Bytes. --John Mariani
* In Washington DC, from now until the end of December, former President of Washington Sports and Entertainment Susan O’Malley teams up with The Oceanaire Seafood Room’s Executive Chef Rob Klink, to create “Susan’s Sassy Maryland Crab Soup” to raise funds and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The soup will be available for $5.50 a cup or $6.95 for a bowl and the proceeds will be donated. Call (202) 347-2277; Visit www.theoceanaire.com.
* Sun. thru Thurs. in December the two Mercadito locations (179 Avenue B; (212-529-6490), and
* Beginning Dec. 5 in NYC, La Carne Grill celebrates the 8 days of Hanukkah with their traditional latkes, in addition to their regular menu, to commemorate the festival of lights. Call (212) 490-7172; www.lacarnegrill.com
* From Dec. 7-22 in
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below:
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). Click on the logo below to go to the site.
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