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BARCELONA AND BILBAO GET BETTER AND BETTER by Misha Mariani
MAN ABOUT TOWN by Christopher Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Dolcettos Are Sweet in Price Only by John Mariani
AND BILBAO GET BETTER AND BETTER
that keeps this beautiful city vibrant and always a place to
return to. The grand main street, La Rambla (or Las Ramblas in
Spanish), the Gaudí architecture,
and the fine restaurantes and hotels look fresher than ever, added to
with new entries that keep this a very modern Spanish city.
though you might feel rushed, the food is well worth it. Things to try?
ham and cheese sandwich with black truffles is decadent, or the same
ham as a croqueta (very
traditional to this region) with its light and crunchy outside
and a creamy béchamel inside, with little nuggets of jamon. Papas Bravas is
the sliced bacalao
thinly sliced raw onions, diced tomato, lemon, olive oil and a
In many of these tapas bars, you will be given a
complementary dish of toasted or grilled bread spread with the juices
of fresh tomatoes--pan con tomate--olive
tried on our trip.
by John Mariani
THE MARK RESTAURANT BY JEAN-GEORGES
The Mark Hotel
25 East 77th Street (off Madison Avenue)
So the opening of The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges, in a space that has seemed doomed for years as a restaurant space, is again cause to understand Vongerichten's flexible focus on refinement. Indeed, it's been called "Jean-Georges light," but that really has nothing to do with anything. The dishes may be somewhat less complex than at Jean-Georges but they are no less tasteful and are always beautifully presented.
problem here at the Mark Hotel--requires passage through a small bar
down a dark hall and down a couple of steps to an interconnection of
must cause panic attacks among those who fear they might be seated at a
"B" table. I, for one, can't quite figure out which the
"A" tables might be except that those in the room nearest the steps
are probably the most sought after. Décor has New York
kind of posh moderne as easily found in London or Paris these days, and
the Mondrian lighting and color sof the rooms make it always convivial,
if somewhat loud. Its crowd seems mostly locals from the Upper East
Side, with a lot of pretty, well-bronzed young people just back from
the Hamptons and a lot of others who look like Bernie and Ruth Madoff.
please everyone, from
"Raw" to appetizers, pizza, pasta, fish, meat, "Simply
Cooked" and sides, all under exec chef Pierre Schutz's hand. Nothing
I tasted on two visits was anything but very good and most of it rose
real excellence, beginning with a shooter of well-spiced
gazpacho that I
count as one of the best things I've tasted all year--I'd love a whole
it. Sweet pea soup with parmesan foam almost acts like a balm
jolt of pepper-laced tomato, and it as delicious as summer
Roasted beets might have been a cliché had they not come with a
goat's cheese, the crunch of walnuts, the spurt of grapes and a little
endive. Steamed shrimp salad as tender as any in the finest
restaurant are a good beginning, too, with sweet avocado and an enoki
Foie gras is silky and finely textured, calamari come simply, crisply fried, and a peekytoe crabcake comes with pink grapefruit, avocado and ginger. There are four pizzas and they're all right--try the black truffle and fontina version--if nothing illustrious, and while the angel's hair spaghetti with asparagus, shiitakes and parmesan is a lovely light dish and the three-cheese ravioli with spring peas and basil its equal, they could use more punch. The very best of the pasta was fresh fettuccine with Meyer lemon, parmesan and black pepper, all incorporated in perfect equilibrium.
and so on, with a succulent chicken for two. More interesting is
grilled black sea bass with braised fennel and carrots and Cerignola
while that veal chop can be enhanced with a spring onion fondue of
lightness along with rhubarb and English peas. Hefty juicy
chops (below) come with
roasted vegetables and the sprightly crust of black olive
crumbs. And yes, the French fries are just about perfect.
Desserts, surprisingly, were a tad tame, more classic than anything else, especially the selection of good, if not thrilling, cakes and tarts, along with Grand Marnier soufflé and mandarin sorbet.
The winelist, overseen by the very knowledgeable and cordial Branden McRill, is marked by a judicious selection of good bottles under $50, along with some trophies for those who need them.
The only real disappointment at The Mark is the service staff, which on two occasions neglected to clear tables (cocktail glasses were not removed until dessert), wipe away crumbs, pour wines, or pay attention. One evening I watched as three captains stood on the entryway steps chatting with one another while a full house needed to be taken care of. I said to my wife, "Let's see how long it takes for one of them even to glance to their right to see if our section of the room requires attention." Nearly a minute went by, with all three gaily chatting away.
a very good, very
modern, and very sophisticated place without any of the
might obtain elsewhere. Dress is all too casual, though most
well and appropriately, and the upper east side crowd is here in full
both young and old. If you want to taste how Mr. Vongerichten has
evolved over twenty years, The Mark is an ideal spot to test the waters.
The restaurant does breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Starters at dinner run $11-$27, entrees $18-$46.
``````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Dolcetto Is Only Sweet to the Budget
No wine name seems more of a misnomer than Piedmont’s dolcetto, which in Italian means “little sweet one.” Piedmont does make sweet wines, like Asti Spumante and brachetto d’aqui, but dolcetto is a very dry red wine made from a namesake early-ripening, low acid workhorse grape that grows easily in soil where the more refined nebbiolo does poorly. Dolcetto is sweet only in the colloquial sense of the ripeness of its grapes and softness of its tannins.
References to the grape date to the 15th century, but only in the last decade has the varietal and the wine made from it acquired much of a reputation for real quality. As with Piedmont’s other commercial varietal, barbera, dolcetto is now the focus of the region’s finest and most expensive barolo and barbaresco estates, aware that a quality dolcetto sells well in the international market if priced right.
A stunning example of how a famous barolo vintner can produce a dolcetto of such quality is Aldo Conterno’s Masante 2007 from the Langhe region, where the vineyards were established in 1969. When I tasted the wine last week I was amazed at the depth and complexity that followed the expected deep purple color. It has aged impeccably, its fruit, acids, and tannins in perfect harmony, and at $20 a bottle a wine that represents extraordinary value.
(By the way, there are three other dolcetto-making Conternos in Piedmont—Fantino, Paolo, and Giacomo, who is related to Aldo—but they are completely independent of one another.)
Bruno Giacosa (above) is another of the top guns in Piedmont, famous for its big, bold long-lived barbarescos and barolos, so I was not surprised by the tannic backbone of his Dolcetto d’Alba Falletto ($20), which Giacosa’s website describes as having a “bitterish aftertaste typical of this variety.” Up front, however, is a nice wave of fresh fruit flavors. It’s a wonderful wine to have with a saffron risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Still developing its character, even after nine years, was Pio Cesare’s Dolcetto d’Alba 2000 ($20), whose tannins are still firm but whose flavors blossomed when paired with a thick, rare ribeye scented with a little rosemary. Pio Cesare goes back five generations, to 1881, and while they cling to traditions they themselves pioneered, their winery takes advantage of the most modern technical advances. Their dolcetto is made from grapes from several of the best terroirs in Serralunga d’Alba (The Ornato Estate), Grinzane Cavour (Cascina Gustava), and Treiso (Il Bricco Estate).
The late Pasquale Pelissero, who started making wine in his garage in the 1970s, is self-described as a “very conservative wine producer,” but always open to new technologies. Now, under total control of his daughter Ornella, the winery (left) is still a small boutique winery, which makes only 15,000 bottles annually. The estate’s Dolcetto d`Alba Cascina Crosa 2008 ($15), made in the Langhe region, has a very deep color and rich tannins, but the process of microxygenation enhances the fruit so obvious in the bouquet. At 13 percent alcohol this is a lovely, easy-to-drink expression of 21st century dolcettos.
Stefano Farina, which has holdings in Piedmont, Tuscany, and Puglia, makes Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba 2008 ($10), a remarkable buy, for while it lacks the complexity of others I tasted, it is sturdy, with good dark fruit flavors and becomes looser and more interesting after a half hour in the glass.
Dolcetto is unlikely ever to achieve the status of barolo and barbaresco, but for a dry red wine that complements the complete range of meats in summer and winter, dolcetto has come a long way at a price level that makes perfect sense right now.
John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.
SOUTHERN CAL LUXURY HOTELS OFFER
Education in any form is a very good thing, and I, of course, have a soft spot for food. So it is great to see hotels taking an interest in not just feeding its guests, but enlightening them on what they are eating. Here are two hotels who do just that.
The Montage Laguna Beach hotel has used many of its resources to put together an educational culinary and wine program highlighted throughout the hotel's three restaurants, The Loft, Studio, and the Mosaic Bar and Grille. The Loft (right), headed by chef de cuisine Casey Overton, focuses strictly on American cuisine, but beyond the dining experience, the restaurant offers guests a chance to expand one's palate by hosting an interactive cheese tasting of over 150 selections. The "Artistry of Wine" program is also held in the Loft, and offers guests an opportunity to partake in a tasting of some of the hotel’s 2,200 different wine labels to understand the differences between multiple wine varietals and regions found around the world.
The Studio is run by executive
chef Craig Strong, showcasing modern French cuisine with California
influences, incorporating dishes like sautéed
Hudson Valley Farms duck and roasted Monterey calamari that both re-affirm his claim to a commitment
to local fisherman, growers and farms. The last of the three
is the Mosaic Bar and Grille, located on the bluff-top terrace and
serves nothing more than high-end poolside
dishes like local
halibut tacos and grilled Maine lobster sandwiches.
The Montage also conducts special
programs like the "Epicurean adventure," a thee-night cooking and wine
excursion by way of yacht to Catalina Island for lunch and dinner, and
a private flight to Napa Valley to taste and compare some of its
wineries all for around $25,000 for two, who said education was cheap.
The Petit Ermitage Hotel is a boutique hotel that promotes a Bohemian way of life, and like the Montage, does its fair share of events to culture its guests about food and wine. Executive chef Joseph Antonishek shares all of his culinary talent and knowledge at the hotel's Private Rooftop Club, which is split into two different spaces, the Butterfly Bar and the English Garden, both with a 360-degree view of the Hollywood Hills and focuses around a butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary that is registered with the National Wildlife Federation.
The garden hosts monthly culinary, wine and spirit events like vodka and caviar tastings, sake and scotch tastings paired with food prepared by Chef Antonishek. The Summer Supper Series takes place each Thursday, and offers a limited menu that never repeats, created with separate items never found on the regular lunch and dinner menu, forcing guests to venture out of their comfort zone. The Garden also has special wine dinners that offer the guests a chance to learn a bit more about goes into the decisions involved with pairing the right wine with food.
Chef Antonishek is a firm believer in farm-to-table ingredients and has put together an interestingly diverse menu for the garden with items like oysters on the half-shell, beef carpaccio, terrine of foie gras, coconut-crusted crab cakes, rainbow trout with lentils and wild mushrooms, and a lamb cous cous in coconut milk with fresh mint leaves, candied kumquats, pistachios and cheese.
According to the Petit Ermitage, it looks like the Bohemians truly valued food and wine.
MICHAEL BATTERBERRY, FOOD EDITOR, DIES AT 78
by John Mariani
Back in 1978, Michael Batterberry made me wait interminably to see him in the reception room of Food & Wine Magazine, which he had recently founded. Just as I was about to leave in frustration, Michael came bounding from the office door, his jacket buttoned, apologizing with such sincerity that I knew I was in the presence of that rare thing in publishing, the true gentleman. Not for him the rough house antics of the cynical newspaperman or the effete snobbishness of a style editor. Michael was a man of exceptional intelligence, honed through life experiences (he dropped out of Carnegie Mellon) that included being a painter, an interior designer, and even a saloon singer in Venezuela, Rome, and other international settings where his rich mid-Atlantic baritone fit him as well as his impeccably tailored double-breasted suits and English spread collars.
With his wife Ariane he wrote one of the finest chonicles of New York social life (still in print), On the Town in New York, From 1776 to the Present (1973), and the couple seemed part of a charmed circle that included everyone from New York's fashion industry to Hugh Hefner, who put up some of the money to found what was originally called the International Review of Food & Wine, later Food & Wine, a magazine that took a different tack from other food monthlies, more sophisticated than the supermarket variety but not as elitist as Gourmet at the time. Food & Wine, which they later sold to American Express, was the first to explore and promote Americans' new fascination with foods of all kinds, and it helped make stars of young chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Larry Forgione, Jeremiah Tower, and so many others, while championing good trends and sending up bad ones. I was very proud to write for the magazine on occasion, not least because Michael Batterberry's editorial apporoval was something worth cherishing.
The Batterberrys then went on to publish Food Arts for M. Shanken Communications, a magazine that served the restaurant industry in a way that veered away from competitors whose coverage of food products and restaurant chains was guided wholly by food corporation ads. Food Arts was newsy, gossipy, and full of stories about what was going on in top kitchens around the world, written by the top food writers of the day. The introduction to each issue, which Michael and Ariane wrote, was always an insighful focus on something that was burgeoning and important to restaurateurs, almost always a subject others had yet to notice. The writing was always urbane, the style witty, the level of scrutiny canny.
Which is all that Michael was, for while he always stood out in any room he entered, whether it was an art museum, an opera lobby, or a meatpacking plant, he was professionally curious about everything, seeking both to educate himself as well as provide new information for his readers. And although he could be momentarily off-putting to newcomers, his wit and self-effacement put them all at ease, which is the true mark of a gentleman who is never unintentionally rude. I recall once saying he looked very well and newly slim, and in that low-pitched James Earl Jones voice of his, he replied with Shakesperarean gravity, "Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirriors."
Michael had been ill for some time over the past year but while drained of energy he was never less than himself. Losing his radiance, elegance, and disarming wit is to lose something unique in the true sense of someone whose qualities were nonpareil. Like all the truly good ones, there may well never be another like him.
FOOD WRITING 101: DESCRIPTIONS OF FOOD AND DRINK
SHOULD NOT MAKE READERS SAY "YECCH!'
"We drink down a Tenuta delle Terre Nere, grown in the rocks of the Etna volcano, with an aromatic complexity that boggles the mind and leads to comments along the lines of `the filthiest wine I’ve ever had' and “it tastes like a very dirty child.' Another night, we head for Ristorante Lombardo. . . . The egg-yellow tortelli lucchese are a meaty double threat—there’s beef and pork and bread crumbs inside, and beef and pork (and tons of vegetables) in the sauce. Lombardo’s pillowy specimens are so rich, eating them feels like biting into a Swiss franc."--Gary Shteyngart, "Undiscovered Tusdcany," Travel & Leisure (July 2010).
#%^&* THING TASTES LIKE A @%&*% VERY DIRTY CHILD AND COSTS MORE
THAN TEN $^&%^** SWISS FRANCS!!!
#%^&* THING TASTES LIKE A @%&*% VERY DIRTY CHILD AND COSTS MORE
THAN TEN $^&%^** SWISS FRANCS!!!
✉ 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
* From Aug. 2
– 15, in NYC, El Porron will be offering a Paella
Special. For $30 pp, diners get 1 tapa of their choice from the
Paella Valenciana + a glass of sangria. Call 212-207-8349.
* On August 7 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will host Ted Breaux as he discusses how he brought the American absinthe ban to an end and the history of the potent beverage. Tastings follow the lecture. $10 pp. . . . On Aug. 8 the Museum will hold its third annual fundraiser, Eat! Drink! SoFAB! Tailgating party. Local chefs will prepare sophisticated riffs on tailgating foods and local athletes are invited. Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue will play. $75 pp. Visit http://www.southernfood.org or 504-569-0405.
* On Aug. 9-15 in San Francisco, CA, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and Visa Signature present SF Chefs 2010, to encourage attendees to “Taste,” “Mix, “Pair,” and “Engage”. 25-$125 pp. Visit http://www.sfchefs2010.com. Call 415-781-5700.
From Aug 9-14
and 16-21, restaurant Aquavit
in NYC will host
its annual Crayfish Festival., incl. 1lb. of peel & eat
crayfish and a crayfish smörgåsbord, available in the Bistro
for lunch ($28 pp)
and dinner ($35 pp). Visit www.aquavit.org
* On August 14 in San Diego, Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort will host an On the Farm lunch in the middle of Suzie’s Organic Farm with a reception and 3-course menu by Chef Marc Ehrler and Chef Patrick Ponsaty. $75 pp. Call 619-424-4476.
* On Aug. 19
in Chicago, IL, Chef
Stephen Wambach of Epic
restaurant will host the first of his monthly Epic Table
series, consisting of an in-kitchen demo and multi-course lunch
theme of scallops. $29 pp., call 312)-222-4940.
*On Aug. 25 in New Haven, CT, the New Haven Food & Wine Festival will showcase 20 local award-winning and internationally-diverse restaurants at the 2010 Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale, featuring special guest Chef Jacques Pepin. $125 pp. Call 203-776-7331.
Aug. 27-29 in Napa Valley,
CA, Calistoga Ranch is offering the
exclusive "Ultimate Napa Valley
two nights accommodations in a one-bedroom spa lodge, two spa
treatments, reservation for two at the iconic French Laundry with
paired with wine and private tour and tasting by town car at three Napa
cult wineries. $4,495 per couple.
Call 800-942-4220 or visit http://www.calistogaranch.com.
* From Aug. 28 – 29, the 1st Annual Big Aspen Barbeque Block Party presents pitmasters from across the country for a weekend of BBQ and events. Free admission with live music, educational barbeque seminars, and grilling demos; barbecue for only $8 per plate. Visit www.bigaspenbbq.org <http://www.bigaspenbbq.org> or call 970-920-4600. Proceeds support the Aspen Community Foundation.
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: Walk in the English Countryside with Everett Potter and The Wayfarers
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).
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; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, 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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