JUDY GARLAND AND PETER LAWFORD IN "EASTER PARADE" (1948)
Index: A complete list of restaurants covered in this newsletter
since 2003. Please
NEW YORK CORNER: Two Kellaris by John Mariani
cape town capers
by Mort Hochstein
We’d visited Cape Town's South African National Gallery, a giant hall that is the nation’s premier art museum. We’d toured the Jewish Museum and marveled at its historic synagogue. And we’d strolled through the
“Follow me,” he said, “I’ll take you,” and we trailed after him as he led us to a battered van and proceeded to drive us out of center city. My wife Rollie sat up front and I in the rear on a milk carton. Traffic was murder and we urged our host, an immigrant from
A stranger’s outgoing hospitality is one of our favorite memories of a visit to
The Codfather Seafood & Sushi
37 The Drive
021- 438 0782
Dining at The Codfather, a unique seafood restaurant in
Ask your knowledgeable waiter about how to order, since there is no menu, and he takes you on a tour, calling off familiar names such as tuna, salmon and yellowtail while also pointing out unfamiliar varieties such as red Roman, musselcracker, kingclip, barramundi, Mozambican tiger giant prawns, and an overpowering lineup of exotica from the ocean and fresh water that defies comparison. The temptation is to find links and relationships to more familiar fish. And while it is simple to say that John Dory, also known as St. Pierre, is like talapia and that barramundi, an Australian member of the Perch family, is like orange roughy, many are strictly from Southern waters and do not fit familiar patterns. If you’ve come this far, you have to experiment and sampling is always the best way to fix a taste in memory.
Fortunately, The Codfather makes research easy. Everything is priced by weight and what you see in the showcase--refreshed frequently with new catch--is what you get. You walk the array, identify a fish you’d like, and tell the waiter the size you want. He signals the fishmongers behind the showcase and they cut and cook your order, usually grilled, within minutes.
The restaurant, in
And for those who don’t want whole fish or fillets or crustaceans, there is a lineup of sushi plates that circle around a bar on a conveyor belt at another corner of the room. Each item travels on a colored plate, and the prices are color coded on a board above the bar. The Codfather was an early innovator, and its sushi bar is one of the oldest in the
We wanted our fish straight. My wife's butterfish, unlike the flat and often dry American species, was soft and velvety in texture, moist and tasty, memorable--so good it could convert a fish hater. A guest could not resist a slice of a monster- sized Australian barramundi, about a yard long, which I felt it was cooked perfectly, extremely fresh and spiced deftly with a
The restaurant can be noisy, but not from the soft music from speakers in the bar area, which is drowned out by the crush of customers. Crowded and with servers bustling back and forth between the seafood showcase and their tables, there is a lot going on and a lot of happy eaters hardly shy about expressing their enthusiasm, and there is often a wait at the door.
Proprietor Greg Cooke treats his upmarket crowd generously with a good variety of wines from a large, well-priced cellar, primarily white and South African. I noticed many of the country’s best wines on that list, including some exceptional rare old reds I had not seen elsewhere. Dining at The Codfather gave us the third opportunity in our travels to enjoy Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, possibly the best wine of South Africa and one of the world’s finest chardonnays, hard to find other than in restaurants. It is available in the states at about $30, surprisingly inexpensive for a wine of this quality, and worth seeking.
The Codfather is open till . Dinner can range 70 to 110 rands, depending on size and variety. Shelllfish are more expensive, running 60 to 130.
Azure RestaurantDespite our inability to satisfy either of those pleasant possibilities, our dinner at the Azure, the elegant dining room in
12 Apostles Hotel
27(0)21 437 9000
Our dining companions, Phillip and Suzanne Knowlton, grape growers in
The sommelier, one of
He started by pouring a daring entry, the first vintage from a new winery, a minerally 2005 chardonnay, rich in grapefruit, pear, and almond flavors, a graceful white that could stand with the best of California and Burgundy. It was the maiden offering from Ataraxia Mountain Vineyards, founded by Kevin Grant in 2004. The Ataraxia was delightful with the multi-flavored salads that began our evening. The first was the house Azure salad, crisp baby herb leaves with feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers, green olives, and a tangy blend whose name, Le Cirque Dressing, credited its origin at the famed
We called for a second bottle of Ataraxia to accompany a rich dish of sautéed shiitake, oyster and button mushrooms with chives and shallots, dressed with an oregano cream reduction and delivered on a grilled portobello. Ntezo opened our second Ataraxia and followed up with a silken 2003 chardonnay from Hamilton Russell Vineyards, whose reputation winemaker Grant had helped establish in a ten-year period before going off on his own. This was the finest chardonnay we tasted on our travels, and on returning to
Ltezo was grinning as if he’d been the star batsman in a cricket match when he set a third wine on the table. It was a 2005 Galpin Peak Pinot Noir from another of
The pinot noir and the remaining chardonnay played off our main courses-- an enormous grilled seafood platter for two that Rollie and I enjoyed thoroughly. Phil put away a delicate pan fried sole, dressed in a light Béarnaise sauce, while Suzanne, a former restaurateur who knows her food, marveled at a crisp, slow-roasted duck in a caramelized citrus reduction.. The seafood platter was an overwhelming assembly of prawns, crayfish, langoustines, grilled baby calamari, Kingclip, a local fish, and mussels, basmati rice and a side of green salad, served with garlic butter sauce, lemon butter sauce and the regional specialty, piri-piri sauce, a moderately hot dressing based on chile peppers and garlic.
Happy and sated, we told Luvo we could not handle dessert, but he and Chef Roberto de Carvalho insisted on just one more plate for the four of us. The one plate brimmed over with four of Azure’s most popular desserts; a creamy cheesecake, baked
Azure is open daily, Average check is 200 rands.
Mort Hochstein, former editor and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, and former managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News, has written on wine, food and travel for Wine Spectator, Wine Business Monthly, Saveur and other food and wine publications.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
There are two Greek restaurants in NYC named Kellari and both are ideal examples of how a very warm, very caring management and kitchen constitutes the best old-fashioned sense of hospitality. When you walk in, everything conspires to drop the stress from your bones--the golden lighting, the handshake of the maître d', the smiles of the staff, and the setting of the tables. You sit down, order a cocktail, maybe a glass of ouzo or Greek white wine, nibble on some olives, and you feel like a Hellenic king. Yet the two restaurants are quite different in style, one focused on seafood, the other more varied. Both are well worth your appetite. Above the bar at Kellari, the words "Enter as Strangers, Leave as Friends" are printed. Nothing could be truer of a good restaurant.
Though of good size--300 seats--the two-year-old Kellari Taverna provides intimacy at every table. The cathedral ceilings, ocher-colored walls, straw decorations, tablecloths, and cheerfully shadowy lighting ensures in this, and owner Stavros Aktipis and Chef
There are 300 wines on the list, supposedly the largest cache of Greek viniculture offered in the U.S., and prices are quite easy on the budget for some impressive vintages from every region. The whites are best savored with an array of mezes like the smoked eggplant-and-sesame dip melitzana; some raw, marinated barbounia, a red mullet soaked in vinegar, rosemary and olive oil.
Calamari are simply grilled with lemon and oregano; keftedes are those wonderful Greek meatballs, here made with Angus beef, in an Agiorgitiko wine sauce; garides are jumbo shrimp quickly seared and served with lemon and herbs; and octopus is similarly treated, very tender, very toothsome. But the very best starter--one I would never miss on my return–are plevrakia, slow roasted lamb riblets sprinkled with taygetos oregano that seem braised, succulent, with tremendous flavor. It is a perfect rendering of lamb.
We came for the seafood--displayed in profusion on ice as you pass by the kitchen--and asked for it simply grilled-- lavraki, a bass; tipoura, a royal dorade, and several other species, served with the wild mountain greens called horta, and oven roasted potatoes braced with lemon. Good as they were--though at least one fish was overcooked--they didn't radically differ from one another in texture or flavor, so that the less expensive species like barbounia and lavraki (and prices, by the pound, can mount easily) are the wiser options.
For dessert have the rich, wonderful Greek yogurt with honey or any of the honey-laced pastries, which are not nearly so cloyingly sweet as at other Greek restaurants.
Kellari Taverna is open daily. Pre-Theater menu is $29.95; Business lunch, $24.95; Dinner appetizers $8.95-$16.95, entrees $24.95-$36.95, with whole fish by the pound.
Kellari’s Greek Bistro
36 East 20th Street (near Park Avenue)
Stavros Aktipis and Chef
Kellari's Greek Bistro seems on much firmer, more convivial, and far lovelier in a more rustic, traditional way, with rough columns that remind you of Greek ruins, hanging curtains, backlighted wine bottles, lamps, a red recessed ceiling, wine barrels full of apples, copper utensils, painted pottery, wrought-iron candeliers, candles, and lovely yellow plates on clothed tables.
This is also a
Chef Zapantis and chef de cuisine Jason Morrey serve the whole panoply of traditional Greek cuisine with considerable spark in just about everything, and family-style is the best way to appreciate the mezes, which include
spreads offava beans, taramasalata, and katiskisio saganaki, a sweetened goat's cheese baked with apricots and almonds. Eggplant is stuffed with ground lamb and a wondrous béchamel, and the grilled marinated octopus is, not suprisingly, as good as at the other Kellari. Also delicious are the loukaniko grilled sausages with black-eyed peas.
One of the signature dishes here is "Yesterday's Lamb" (left) meaning it's cooked and cooked and cooked, then left to rest and absorb flavors overnight till it achieves a velvety, caramelized texture suffused with seasonings, served with oregano-lemon potatoes. Unfortunately the fish here, lavraki sea bass, was also slightly overcooked as at Kellari Taverna, which may be a tendency among Greek chefs.
There are daily specials available, from a veal sofrito from Corfu on Monday to braised rabbit with pearl onions on Sunday. We happened to go on a Wednesday and were blessed with an unusual braised rooster in a Xinomavro wine sauce--very, very good. Friday is astakomakaranada, lobster pasta in a tomato-brandy sauce.
For dessert there is a fine baklava with rosewater syrup and really wonderful galaktoboureko custard with phyllo crust and apple syrup. With it order a dark Greek coffee and a tot of ouzo, and you'll be very happy.
There is not a radical difference between the two Kellaris--why should there be? Both are dedicated to good Greek cookery with an abundance of filoxenia--hospitality of a high and rare order.
Kellari’s Greek Bistro is open seven days a week for brunch, lunch, and dinner from - (until on weekends). Call for information on live music on Greek Nights. There is a Family Style Pre-Fixe Lunch Menu at $38.95; Prixe Fixe Lunch/Brunch and Pre-Theater, $24.95.
HOW MUCH WAS THE JUDGE DRINKING THAT DAY?
A Canadian man named Thomas Wood beat the results of a breathalyzer test of 0.13, exceeding the legal limit 0.08 by swearing to Judge Cunliffe Barnett he was too cheap to get drunk. A blood-alcohol expert from
Oh, Spare Us.
“I love stuffed
tomatoes, and Baca's version ($9) is excellent — a baseball-size,
ripe (for February) fruit, opened at the top like a Halloween pumpkin
for a lively
filling of prosciutto, cheese, and basil — but ... a tomato in
basil? Everything is for the best in this, the best of all possible
Voltaire wrote in Candide, except (and I choose to believe this
implicit in the Voltairean text) winter tomatoes.”—by Paul Reidinger in
review of Baca’s in the San Francisco
* On March 25 in NYC, a discussion and food pairing with the 2007 rosé wines of
* On March 28 in Dallas, “Friday Night Flights at The Bar” at Nana will be held between & Wine director Vincent McGrath will host the event. $15 pp. Call 214-761-7470; visit www.nanarestaurant.com.
* On March 27
a 5-course Castello di Ama wine dinner will
be held in the wine cellar at
* On March 29 Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar in
* Beginning in April, NYC’s Rayuela announces its new "Paella Night" featuring 5 paellas every Monday night by Chef Máximo Tejada. $28 each, with a tasting of 3 paellas at $38. Call (212) 253-8840. Visit www.rayuelanyc.com.
* On April 1 in NYC, Sanctuary T owner Dawn Cameron will begin a monthly series featuring tea regions around the globe with a multi-sensory talk and tasting of the Sri Lankan teas and blends that will receive their
* On April 1 Seasons Restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco will hold a 4-course wine dinner with Bacio Divino. $145 pp. Call 415-633-3838.
* Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino on St. Maarten features a "High Rollers Package incl. accommodations, VIP tickets for two to Theater Royale show "Caliente," Royale Relief massage for two at Good Life Spa, dinner for two at The Point, $100 jewelry gift certificate. Priced for two at $1,157 now through April 14, and $1,037 April 15 – Dec. 1. Call 800-223-0757 or visit www.sonesta.com/mahobeach
* On April 4 in
* From April 4 - 6, Combsberry B & B on Island Creek outside of
* From April 6-12 the second annual Vinings Restaurant Week will offer dinner menus for $25 pp, and restaurants with a lower price point will offer $25 for dinner for two. More information and a list of participating restaurants is available at www.viningsrestaurantweek.com.
* On April 7 Louis Fabrice Latour, proprietor of Maison Louis Latour will attend and speak at a 5-course dinner by Chef Chad Martin at at Hotel St Germain in Dallas. $125 pp. Call 214-871-2516.
* On April 7 American Institute of Wine & Food holds its 2008 Champagne Gala Benefit in NYC at the Pierre Hotel, with a 5-course dinner created by chefs Josh Grinker of Stone Park Café, Paul Vicino of Five Front, Bill Telepan of Telepan, David Waltuck of Chanterelle, Stephen Lewandowski of Tribecca Grill, and Elizabeth Katz of BR Guest, paired with tête de cuvée Champagnes and fine wines, hosted by Michael Green, Gourmet Wine Consultant / Liquid Assets Group, presiding over a live and silent auctions. Proceeds to Days of Taste®, scholarship and educational programs. Go to www.ticketweb.com or call 866-468-7619; $250 for AIWF members, $300 for non-members.
* From April 8 - 13, the 30th Annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival will be held, prented by The Arizona Republic, with proceeds benefiting the performing art programs around the Valley. Events incl. the Eat, Drink and Be Pretty party and the “Iron Chef”-like culinary cook-off, the Arizona Picnic at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, “Friends of James Beard” Dinner, ulinary Hall of Fame Awards Dinner, Chef Wine Dinners, the Southwest Festival of Beers, wine country Brunch. Tix from $5-$275. Call 480-945-7193 or visit www.scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org.
NEW FEATURE: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up with two excellent travel sites:
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." THIS WEEK: 10 Reasons to Visit Banff & Lake Louise; Photographing
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.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi Kooker, Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Biran Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin .
John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, Diversion., Fofrbestraveler.com, and Cowboys and Indians. He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.