"Swanky Frank's" by John Dykes
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North Carolina’s Coastal Gem: Beaufort is the capital of the southern Outer Banks—and home to some surprising culinary charms By Suzanne Wright
NEW YORK CORNER:
Steakhouse at Water's Edge by
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Renato Ratti Sees Global Market for Luxury Barolo wines
by John Mariani
North Carolina’s Coastal
It’s all in the pronunciation: when you’re in North Carolina it’s “Bow-fort.”
Residents are understandably sensitive. The lesser known of two towns with the same moniker—in adjoining states no less—will politely, but firmly, correct you if you slip and refer to it as the South Carolina burg.
I was in town for the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend, a five-day event with receptions, tastings and dinners. As festivals goes, this was a small-ish affair, charming, but limited. The best part of the weekend was Beer, Bubbles & BBQ, held under a tent at the Beaufort Historic Site downtown. Eating ‘cue, collards, beans and banana pudding, knocking back a cold one and tapping your toes to live bluegrass is good, honest fun.
The area’s promoters have billed this remote area of the lower Outer Banks as “The Crystal Coast,” referring to the way the Atlantic water sparkles when sunlight hits the surface. Beaufort and the surrounding area (I flew in a small jet into New Bern) are known for saltwater pursuits: superb fishing, unparalleled wreck diving and boating.
The Southern Outer Banks comprise 85 miles of natural barrier coastline studded by quiet beaches and banked by maritime forests. Fifty-six miles are protected Cape Lookout National Seashore, where the famous black and white harlequin-patterned lighthouse is the region’s most photographed icon. Also famous are the wild horses—more than 100 of them—that roam along the length and width of Shackleford Banks Island. Without aid of binoculars, I spied two from the boat. While kayaking, I spotted plenty of snowy osprey and dolphins, while paddling inlets that open into the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway.
On land, there are several worthy attractions. Fort Macon State Park (left) saw Civil War triumph and tragedy, and was a strategic World War II site used to protect nearby facilities. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores features more than 3,000 specimens of North Carolina aquatic life and a touch-tank teaming with velvety stingrays. The North Carolina Maritime Museum is the repository for artifacts discovered on the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship famously captained by the pirate Blackbeard.
From a double-decker bus slowly winding its way through the tree-lined streets of restored colonial homes in downtown Beaufort, I gained a sense of perspective thanks to the costumed guide who narrated points of interest. History comes poignantly alive at The Old Burying Ground, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I liked thoughtfully, silently walking among the graves—some vaulted and bricked to protect from wild animals and high waters, the earliest marked with seas shells—as the afternoon’s light faded to amber. Touchingly heaped with such trinkets as stuffed teddy bears, gloss, hairbrushes and plastic necklaces, the “girl buried in a barrel of rum” marks the resting place of a young Beaufort girl who perished at sea and was preserved in a keg. Azaleas in brilliant pink bloom temper the somber atmosphere. Stay at the 36-room Inlet Inn, and you’re within walking distance of downtown Beaufort’s attractions—and you won’t need designated driver. Ask for a water-facing room with a wood-burning fireplace.
There are plenty of dining options on the Crystal Coast. Folks beat a path to Amos Mosquito’s Swampside Café (right) in Atlantic Beach for its sunset views and creative bar fare; though I usually eschew logo-ed merchandise, I liked the slightly sinister baseball caps embroidered with the blood-sucking insect. Bistro by the Sea, in Morehead City has silky she crab bisque, grouper and prime rib accompanied by live piano music. Charles Park, The Culinary Institute of America-trained chef at The Beaufort Grocery Company, offers tempting salads, sandwiches and desserts in a sweet little downtown cottage.
But my favorite spot of all was the newly opened Queen Anne’s Revenge, named after Blackbeard's ship, where locals and festival-goers were mixing it up with the kind of restrained good cheer that certain southern settlements encourage. This chic little spot has it all: waterfront location, living-room style seating, friendly servers and a tasty menu of small plates. And surprise—the east coast’s first wine station is here (not Boston or New York City or even Atlanta), so you can taste an array of wines by the glass. Here, my notes fail me, but I had a lovely time, solo but not lonesome.
Strolling the waterfront at evening’s end, I paused to admire the water under the moonlight. It did have a crystalline quality.
“This is the only place I know where you can see wild ponies and dolphins from the pier downtown,” offered a gray-ponytailed man as he ambled past. He may or may not have been addressing his comment to me.
Not that it matters. I won’t forget how to pronounce this town’s
Suzanne Wright is a writer living in Atlanta and founder of www.writesquared.com.
River at 44th Drive
limbo, the visual appeal of Water's
Edge, which opened in 1981, becomes unique in New York. Indeed,
there is no lovelier venue in the city to hold a wedding or banquet
than here, looking out
the fast-flowing East
River at the midtown Manhattan skyline. Water's
up to 400 guests for
parties, 60 on the patio, and the 110-seat dining room has the same
effusive décor and visual spectacle
that makes it seem like you're part of a celebration.
Window tables are, of
course, among the favorites, and not a week goes by when one or another
nervous gentleman pops the question with a diamond ring that he's
arranged for the staff to hide somewhere or other. But if you
cannot score a window table, worry not: Every table in the dining room
has a full view of that grand, glittering skyline, with the Empire
State Building, Chrysler Building, and Citycorp all arrayed like
fortress towers against a sky that changes color from twilight through
even neater way to reach Water's Edge is by the
restaurant's own ferry, which plies the East River, departing from Manhattan’s East Twenty-Third
Street Pier/Skyport Marina. Or you can just bring your own yacht into
And a very handsome dining room
it is, with or without that glorious view. It has the look of a
luxury yacht, with polished wood, and good linens and stemware on
the table. There is also a fireplace and baby grand piano
in the lounge. Scalice has been working to improve the winelist
in every category and for any budget. The motto here is “At
Delano Steakhouse at Water’s Edge…The only thing we overlook is
Manhattan.” It's the truth.
"Modern American" describes the menu well enough, beginning with a velvety English pea soup with crisp pork belly and a swirl of white truffle oil, the epitome of springtime fare. Tuna tartare, glistening, not sticky, came with a ginger vinaigrette, sweet soy glaze and the welcome addition of avocado tempura to give it further texture. There was also a very good lamb carpaccio with arugula, green apple, toasted almonds and a dab of mustard; superb foie gras brûlée with pistachio and fruit; and addictive crispy rock shrimp with caramelized pineapple, roasted sweet pepper coulis, and chile. Each dish seemed to have just the right amount of complements on the plate without ever overwhelming the main ingredient.
Main courses begin with a smart combo--seared sea scallops with crisp pork belly--it really works well, helped along with black-eyed peas, turnip, wild mushroom dumplings, and a meat jus. Licorice-dusted duck breast was a delightful creation, with rösti potatoes and green beans, black trumpet mushrooms and a tangy-sweet plum sauce that gave it an Asian touch. Good if not wonderful was a pleasing roasted tenderloin of pork with peppered melon, cantaloupe, sesame seeds and citrus-caramel glaze: here the other ingredients did overwhelm the rather bland pork.
And if you want to stay real simple, there's always the strip steak and a fine grilled lobster that retains its succulence, with a roasted tomato Hollandaise, leek fondue, and tarragon.
banquets, desserts are likely to be
lavish, but they are in fact restrained in the dining room, and also
very good--like the buttermilk panna
cotta with grapefruit gratinée; the cheesecake mousse
almond cracker crumble and blueberries; and a caramel crème brûlée
Delano Steakhouse at Water's Edge is open
for lunch Tues.-Fri. and for dinner Tues.-Sat. Appetizers at
dinner range from $10-$17, main courses $28-$44.
Delano Steakhouse at Water's Edge is open
for lunch Tues.-Fri. and for dinner Tues.-Sat. Appetizers at
dinner range from $10-$17, main courses $28-$44.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Ratti Sees Global Market for Luxury Barolo Wines
As one of Piedmont’s premier winemakers, whose estate-bottled Barolos are considered among the finest and most innovative in Italy, Ratti, 42, says there has been a cultural shift in Europe about wine. “Before, Europeans regarded wine as a food and a part of everyday life. Now, it’s considered an indulgence, and the Italians are especially very trendy when it comes to wine. Anything with bubbles is the big thing now--Champagne if they can afford it or prosecco. And they drink more of their own regions’ wines because, frankly, they have really gotten so much better over the last decade.”
As a result, Ratti’s most expensive wines sell better outside of Italy than inside—70 percent of his barolos are exported—with the U.S. his best market, followed by Scandinavia. Ratti also makes lower-priced nebbiolo, dolcetto, and barbera d’asti, which sell well in Italy but do not show the same profit margins.
As with a handful of Super Tuscan wines, the Ratti barolos, along with star Piedmont names like Angelo Gaja, Scavino, Bruno Giacosa, and Giacomo Conterno, are about as close to “cult wines” as Italy produces, though the prices never get into the $1000 California cult wine stratosphere or those of First Growth bordeaux and Grand Cru burgundies.
Ratti’s 2006 Marcenasco estate barolo, showing all the elegance and balance the winery is renowned for, retails for about $47. The more robust 2006 Rocche, made from 50-year-old vines, is only $87, and the silky, mineral-rich 2006 Conca is $75.
Pietro’s father, born in 1934, was one of the pioneers in Piedmont, who in 1965 bought a small plot in the area called Marcenasco to make the first single vineyard barolo, this, at a time when most wines in the region were made from growers’ grapes, which Ratti also bought. Traditionally barolos were special wines given as gifts to people and not readily sold anywhere else.
Back then the grapes might be macerated for 90 days or more and were highly tannic and took years to smooth out. Ratti wanted to make softer, easier-to-drink, more complex barolos, so he began buying more and more of his own carefully chosen vineyards. The fame of his innovations opened Ratti up to markets outside of Piedmont and eventually globally. Spurred by his success, the growers themselves were fast creating their own labels by the 1990s.
Pietro carried on his father’s work, constructing new state-of-the-art cellars in 2000, relying on gravity for gentler pressing, and using only natural yeasts. “Our workers wear cotton gloves,” he said, “so their fingers never touch the skin of the grapes.”
Like his father, Pietro was, two months ago, elected president of the Barolo Consortium, drafting the rules and regulations governing the appellations of Alba wines to maintain the quality guaranteed by the Italian wine laws’ prestigious D.O.C.G. award for barolo in general.
“By this fall, we shall have in place laws that will guarantee that `single vineyards’ listed on barolo labels truly come from those vineyards,” he said. “Until now a producer could put any name on the bottle he liked but the wine might have come from anywhere in the barolo region.”
The younger Ratti is also intensely involved with the marketing, promotion, and sales of his wines abroad, his reason for having dinner with me that evening in New York. “This is a very tough time for wine selling everywhere. It’s important to keep our less expensive wines like dolcetto, barbera, and nebbiolo always in the market because in some years our customers may have too much barolo in inventory and buy much less or pass.”
As for China and Russia, Pietro sees great possibilities. “China is for the moment buying up the most expensive bordeaux at auction,” he said, “the way Las Vegas used to. I think the markets will open up to more Italian wines, but with China and Russia, you must always ask for the money in advance and in euros.”
AND AS LONG
AS WE’RE AT IT, LET’S NOT FORGET
“Just sitting in those leather and cowhide chairs in the restaurant's makeshift home study, replete with a collection of books ranging from `Meat` to `Art Deco` to `Ad Hoc at Home,"`something lusting and powerful takes over. Call it the American desire to have it all and be it all, but it's there in all the brushed metal and bold wood, in the candy-red brick, and in the open kitchen that spews so much heat, you'd think it powers the entire block. This is the 1950s of Don Draper and Mad Men as much as it is the 1950s of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. Complete, of course, with the tragedy so quietly looming behind it.”--John Linn, “It’s All About Pig at the Office in Delray Beach,” Broward/Palm Beach News (4/15).
✉ Guidelines for submissions: QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below. Thanks. John Mariani
OWING TO THE OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF FATHER'S DAY ANNOUNCEMENTS
AND DINNERS, I AM UNABLE TO INCLUDE ANY IN QUICK BYTES.
* On May 25, BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier in Alexandria, VA will host a Domaine Serene wine dinner. Michelle Farkas, for Domaine Serene, and Leah Dedmon for BRABO will lead guests through each wine selection paired with a five-course menu from Executive Chef Robert Wiedmaier and Chef de Cuisine Chris Watson. $135 pp. Email: email@example.com or Call 571-482-3308.
* On May 26 in Cleveland, OH, The Baricelli Inn will host a five-course wine dinner featuring wines from Sonoma County’s award-winning Selby Winery. Winemaker Susie Selby will be in attendance. $60 pp plus tax and gratuity. Call 216-791-6500.
On May 26 in Larkspur, CA, Left Bank Brasserie hosts a French-German Friendship
three courses, $34 pp. Call 415-927-3331. www.leftbank.com.
May 27, Eola restaurant in DC's Dupont Circle P Street
neighborhood will be
hosting a 'Porktail Party' with Executive Chef Daniel Singhofen feat.
crafted from every part of a 200-pound heritage hog. Ansonia
be feat. as well as produce from The Fresh Link. $125 pp. Call
May 29 in New Orleans the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will
host NOLA Tropical Winery for a tasting of their exotic, non-grape
wines. Free for members, $10 for non-members, call 504-569-0405 or
June 3-6 in Napa Valley, CA,
Ranch is offering the exclusive "Best of the Best
Napa Valley Wine Auction Package," incl. 3
nights accommodations in a
luxurious one-bedroom spa lodge, two treatments in the award-winning
Spa, private "insider" winery tour with tastings and lunch at three
of the region's most iconic and innovative winemaking families, and two
all-access passes to the Napa Valley Wine Auction events. $9,995
per couple, incl. tax and gratuity. Call 800-942-4220.
On June 13, in Scottsdale, AZ, Sassi presents an interactive farm-to-table cooking class including three-course dining and wine pairings, prepared by Sassi Chef Peter DeRuvo and Pat Duncan of Duncan Farms. Recipes provided. $95 pp. Visit www.sassi.biz.
On June 14-20 in Houston, TX, Wine & Food Week brings together
renowned chefs partnered with more than 500 wines at 40+ events
incl. the H-E-B Wine Walk, Sips, Suds & Sliders, and the Wine
Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Texas
Monthly Chef Showcase. $20 to $150 pp. Call 713.557.5732 or visit
* On June 16, StarChefs.com will celebrate its San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Award winners at the Rising Stars Revue at Ghirardelli Square, in partnership with The Fairmont Heritage Place. Hosted by Gary Danko chef de cuisine, Martin Brock, the walk-around tasting gala will feature signature savory dishes, desserts and cocktails presented by the Rising Stars who represent future leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area culinary scene. For a listing of winners visit: http://www.starchefs.com/chefs/rising_stars/2010/san-francisco/index.shtml $95 pp, $150 VIP. Call 212-966-7575.
* On June 17 in San Mateo, CA, Espetus Churrascaria will host Caipi-Hour, a complimentary sampling of hors d' oeuvres, Grgich Hills Estate Winery wines, Cachaça flights and live bossa nova music. Call 650-342-8700. www.espetus.com.
* On June 18 in Louisville, KY, Kentucky author and chef Jonathan Lundy will join The Brown Hotel’s executive chef Laurent Géroli for a “Summer in the Bluegrass” 4-course dinner in the hotel’s English Grill, with Mediterranean wine pairings from Vintner Select. Vintner Select wine expert David DuBou will be introducing each wine. $55 pp. Call 502-736-2998.
* On , June
18 in Las Vegas, Wynn Resorts teams with the Sinatra
Family to host a celebration
in honor of "Come
Fly With Me," the 2007 Sinatra Family Estates Cabernet Sauvignon.
Named for Frank’s first number one album, the limited-edition wine is
collaboration of Danielle Price, Executive Wine Director of Wynn
Sinatra’s children, Tina, Nancy, and Frank Jr., and granddaughter
Erlinger. To be held at Sinatra at Encore Las Vegas, with chef
Theo Schoenegger serving a 4-course menu. $175 per
person. Contact Rustin Jensen at 702-770-2249.
*On June 18-20, in Aspen, CO, the 28th annual FOOD & WINE Classic will take place. The event’s outstanding schedule will feature demos and seminars with culinary masters such as Jacques Pepin, David Chang, Giada DeLaurentiis, and Thomas Keller, as well as a special Classic Quickfire with Top Chef season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio competing against Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless. $1,185 pp. Call 877-900-WINE or visit www.foodandwine.com/classic.
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: 44 YEARS OF FUNKY CLAUDE AND MONTREUX JAZZ FESTIVAL; TWO PARIS BISTROS.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
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). THIS WEEK:
support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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