Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in "An
Affair to Remember" (1957)
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POTPOURRI by Rob Mariani,
Suzanne Wright, and Edward Brivio
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Israeli Wines—So What’s Not to Love? by John Mariani
This week, a
potpourri of short pieces by Virtual
Gourmet's writers on a variety of
SUPPER IN VERMONT
"Bull Buffalo" by George Caitlin (1846)
It’s the weekend of the infamous Bradford Wild Game Supper. Between the hours of 2:30 pm and 10 pm, traditionally a thousand or more people from nearly every state and several foreign countries appear here to wait patiently in the church pews until their number is called for their seating in the basement.
After several years of ritualistic attendance at The Supper, my buddies and I have come to call it “the beast feast.” None of us quite knows why we drive four hours from Rhode Island to get here. It’s not like you can’t find a good piece of venison where we live. But the Game Supper has become a kind of ceremonial rite with us, just as it has with many others.
Surprisingly, this obscure event has been covered in the New York Times, The Boston Phoenix, Diversion, House & Garden, The Washington Post, Yankee Magazine, Sports Illustrated, the AP and UPI, and many other magazines and papers--not to mention a score of TV shows.
Down inside the church basement, I'm elbow to elbow with local loggers, dairy farmers, politicians, and shade tree auto mechanics; the florescent lighting instantly bleaches all ambiance from the place, accentuating every blemish, every grease circle, every gravy lump. We cue up in an army chow line and a team of 10 or 12 people plop dollops of game onto our plates.
We start with the venison chili--a nice balance of heat and meat. The buffalo jerky, which looks like a wallet that’s been run over by a tour bus, is not bad, but it sure gets in between your teeth. The bear sausage is surprisingly mild and tender. The shredded moose is watery and tasteless. The grilled venison medallions are mild and not too gamy tasting. The wild boar sausage (always a favorite) is a delicious smoky blend of flavors. The goose with rice is moist and one of the tastier items, as is the moose sausage.
My more intrepid friends who like really gamy meat tell me that the beaver is great again this year. (The off-color jokes that go with it of course, are not always conducive to a great culinary experience.) I tried it one year and have not gone back for seconds.
aprons hover around the tables filling our paper cups with
sweet apple cider and de-caf. Dessert is a square of homemade
a swirl of hand-whipped cream. A good finish. The whole meal takes
minutes to consume but you’re still digesting it for a good three hours
afterward. And talking about it for the next twelve months.
Not exactly a religious experience (even though it takes place in a
Beast Feast” is over for another year.
I haven’t snagged a
reservation at the French Laundry in Yountville, CA.
So when I discovered an “underground” supper club cleverly
Four Coursemen operating in Athens, Georgia, I had a sense of
guarded optimism. Seats quickly sell out
once an email is
sent and diners RSVP at the appointed hour. Only
a suggested donation covers
The Four Course men and One Lady: Nancy, Matt, Eddie, Damien, Patrick, Randy
be small and the odds daunting,
but it’s well worth the effort to gain admittance.
Once you are “in,” it’s not nearly such a cloak and dagger
affair. Rather, like the
laid-back college town in which it exists, the Four Coursemen (there
actually more than four culinarians and they are not all men involved
concepting, preparation and serving of the multi-course meal) is a
genial affair, free of pomp and circumstance. Rather,
for feeding food lovers that underpins the operation.
The Four Coursemen is a labor of love in its purest sense. “Love, community and occasional profit,” is the phrase that Damien, one of the founders, uses to describe the effort. An infectious cooking camaraderie exists between these great-looking 20- and 30-somethings and the diners gathered with an air of reverence you might expect at a Baptist church.
The evening was made more endearing because it was not fettered by typical restaurant trappings. The actual location of the meal—a rented shotgun house used for the twice-monthly meals—is not revealed unless you make the cut. We arrived at 7 p.m. on a sultry summer evening, cars lining the road for a third of a mile. Candles flickered on dark-stained picnic-style tables; they burned out before the food and conversation did. Wine flowed during the 30 minutes or so before we were seated.
next to me—a
vegetarian—never revealed herself as the mother of Michael Stipe (lead
of Athens’ beloved REM), but my dining companion cleverly pieced
together later with the aid of the Google. Many of the other diners in
attendance were students, restaurant workers or affiliated with the
of Georgia. Our host, Damien,
praised the conviviality of the group, which chattered easily, bound by
shared appreciation of the cuisine. Sommelier,
like a fresh-scrubbed 13-year
expert, yet down-to-earth advice on pairings.
area with farms
providing the ingredients for our five-course dinner, which
bounty. In fact, the “friend who
provided the lamb” was in attendance. The first course was a terrific
chilled chicken and chanterelle terrine topped with squash blossoms,
with blueberry mostarda and pickled
green beans cutting the terrine’s richness. A
Ximenez Sherry was poured as an
accompaniment. The second course,
a smoked heirloom tomato gazpacho featured
jalapeños and the
brightness of basil pesto—call
it a bowl of summer. A slightly oaked
Pouilly Fumé was an ideal foil for
acidity of the soup. The third
course, while still mighty fine, made less of an impression on my taste
(under-seasoned?) peekytoe crab atop
corn cakes with grilled
shoots. The brown butter,
advertised on the printed menu, somehow was left off the dish and
would have pulled the ingredients into focus. Still,
was so right-on: “pair
fried food with a rosé,” (in this
case, a rosé d’Anjou) that it tempered my slight disappointment.
it was described, served with a roasted sweet and tart cherry tomato
raspberry compote, dusted with truffle salt. The
slight bit of fattiness, benefited
from the surprise of cabbage. A round merlot with a hint of
perfectly complemented the dish.
The “formal” dinner finally ended around 11 p.m. Then various guests shared their own offerings with the remaining patrons, who seemed hesitant to leave: a wedding gift of patxaran, a Spanish liqueur, and homemade watermelon vodka. There was singing, there was dancing.
“This is ridiculously special,” said the young woman to my right, as we said goodnight at a quarter to midnight.
have said it better.
YORK: The Relais &
“Haute cuisine dead?” Not if Thomas
Keller and his équipe at Per Se have anything
to say about
press lunch at the restaurant in the
beautiful Time-Warner building celebrated the publication of the new Relais
& Châteaux Cookbook. For the first time, all 85 of its
chefs in North
America collaborated on a cookbook. Beautifully presented and
very delicious, the meal was a good “trailer” for the book
defining just what contemporary haute cuisine is all about:
sourcing the very best ingredients, as much as
possible locally, minimal manipulation in the kitchen, maximum
to every detail of the dish, the unexpected here and there, and
original, yet still appetizing presentations.
Lavishly illustrated --if the photo of snow-covered Glendorn Inn on of 85 doesn’t give you wanderlust, or the glossy image of chef Christopher Brooks Slow-Roasted Pork in Chefs at Home, inspire you to get up and cook, nothing ever will-- beautifully bound, coffee-table sized, and slip-cased to boot, this is a much better “working” cookbook than any this opulent would lead one to believe. Well laid out, with gorgeous full-page pictures of the properties and of the finished dishes, the volumes also sit flat without damage to the binding (no matter what page you‘ve opened it to), that is, if you can find the 18 inches of spare counter space it requires.
If you’ve ever wondered just what went into or how to achieve the look of those elaborate creations served at some of North America, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean’s finest eateries, all the intricate details and little secrets are laid out for you here. For the most part, these are exquisite set pieces, dramatic enough --some very High Drama indeed-- for very special occasions, or for anytime you want to turn a meal into a feast. Certainly, Maine lobster with sweet pea puree, potato fondant, and a vanilla-grapefruit beurre blanc, from chef Jason Robinson of the Inn at Dos Brisas, in Washington, TX, the Pan-seared Sea Scallop with caramelized endive, leek puree, and shaved black truffle (optional) by chef Patrick O‘Connell from the Inn at Little Washington, or the Lemon Meringue cake by Claire Chapman, pastry chef at the Planters Inn in Charleston are ambitious, elaborate labors of love, designed to be the highlight of any personal or family gala, no matter how grand, or contrived to win the gratitude and perhaps the heart of a diffident significant other. Even in the full-blown, haute cuisine extravaganzas there are a elements: purees, fondants, coulis, emulsions, vinaigrettes, etc. that are easily prepared and could be used regularly to liven up the nightly meal.
Years of hard, occasionally Herculean, work on the part of the chefs, led to the mastery needed to put together these, their most imaginative creations, and here in clear, highly legible recipes, they are laid-out, step by step --albeit often quite a few steps--for anyone who takes the time to read through and then follow the recipes.
The Chefs at Home volume, on the other hand, just as its name suggests, gives you less complex recipes, more or less easily doable, but refined through the inspiration of some of the best chefs around. Butternut squash soup, Slow-roasted Pork, Falafel, Pappardelle alla Bolognese, or White Chocolate and Coconut Mousse are all recipes that are quickly and conveniently prepared, and anyone who screws up Jean-George Vongerichten’s delicious Roast chicken with potatoes should perhaps just avoid kitchens altogether. Ditto for the Olive Oil cake of 85, which is, besides, a great little addition to any cook’s repertoire. (Although, Jean-George must have access to chickens with a lot less fat that what’s available to the average consumer, for unlike him, at least according to the instructions given, I had to drain the roasting pan a few times to keep the potatoes from swimming in grease. And while we‘re on the subject, don’t the sweetbreads in the recipe on page 118 need the usual, requisite, preliminary handling clearly outlined in the recipe on page 168?)
So let these elegant volumes grace your coffee table or book shelf, but remember they’re for more than just vicarious pleasure, and do occasionally expose them to the “heat” --and spatters--of the kitchen.
NEW YORK CORNER
that has gripped cities
like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, exalting the once humble
Neapolitan pie to the culinary sublime is sure to ebb sooner rather
than later, and the debates will, I hope, cease as to who makes the
best. It is refreshing, then, to find a good new pizzeria that has its
own twist to things. NYC's new San
(212-426-6943), located at 1739 Second Avenue at
90th Street--not a neighborhood with great pizza options--is unique, I
believe, for serving a panuozzo
mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, soppressata,
pecorino romano, and
much more. The pizzaiolo and
partner is Giuseppe Paciullo, who came from the well-known Zero Otto Nove in
the Bronx. His cousin, Fabio Casella, worked for years at the equally
famous Mike’s Deli on
Avenue, while their partner Vicenzo Scardino built the
pizza oven for the narrow little corner eatery.
JW MARRIOTT MARQUIS Grabs DB Bistro Moderne, Miami
45 Avenue of the Americas
Two weeks ago I was in Florida, quickly becoming one of my favorite states, for the third time in two months, staying in Miami to check out the brand new JW Marriott Marquis Hotel. My biggest attraction to the hotel was the presence of master chef Daniel Boulud’s latest restaurant, DB Bistro Moderne, but I was also enticed by the opportunity to meet the entire Miami Heat basketball team at their Tip-Off event, along with many other celebrities for a charity event held during the hotel’s grand opening celebrations.
The JW Marriott Marquis looks to be a project that will have a dominant presence in the downtown Miami hotel scene, only 15 minutes from Miami International Airport. I entered my room on the 22nd floor and was instantly impressed with the view overlooking the downtown bay area; of course it helped that it was a perfectly sunny day. The standard guest rooms have a very open feel to them, largely because of the room’s floor to ceiling windows, and the higher the floor the better the view. The rooms are simple in design yet extremely high end, obviously owing to the Marquis brand's influence in terms of quality. The amenities are typical of a deluxe property, with free internet and business friendly services, which nowadays better exist without question when claiming to be a premiere hotel; also worth a mention, the 52-inch plasma television.That evening I was invited to attend the Miami Heat Tip-Off event, held within the hotel’s full-size basketball court on the 19th floor, a clear sign that JW Marriott intends to attract professional athletes staying in Miami, not to mention gaining access to the hotel's gym, the largest and most well-equipped fitness center I have ever seen inside a hotel, with free weights exceeding 50 pounds. The event was put together to offer high-end season ticket holders an intimate, interactive experience with the ball players, a very nice gesture considering I caught wind of the obnoxious figures some pay for season tickets--God bless those making that kind of money; then again, as Dorothy Parker once observed, "If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people He gave it to."
Throughout the night, as the drinks were served in excess, the Heat players split up into the hotel’s multiple entertainment rooms where they casually played Wii bowling, pool and hit golf balls into a simulation driving range screen, quite an entertaining spectacle to watch a seven-footer swing a driver, I must say. Just for the record, it turned out that I am a better bowler than Lebron James and a better putter than Dwayne Wade, possibly because the hotel clubs were not exactly built for 6-foot-4 basketball players who appear like giants when playing with what look like children’s putters; regardless, I did beat two of the world’s most high profile athletes in a sports competition.
I was invited to the hotel’s charity event, where NBA legend Tim
Hardaway, Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, tennis title winners Ana
Venus Williams, and the beautiful Brooke Shields were all in attendance. Shamelessly, I attempted to hit on Ana
Kournikova after a few Grey Goose vodkas on the rocks, which did not
to well but at least I can sleep at night knowing I tried.
is located just off to the side of the hotel’s lobby and is grand in
sense of the word. The bar area is
almost the size of the actual restaurant, filled with giant lounge
sleek lines, dark grey coloring, and a sunken polished black bar that
the length of the room. The
restaurant itself (right) is split
into three rooms where guests dine within a
very chic and elegant atmosphere surrounded by washed oak floors and
walls. Chef Boulud began the
evening with a rich ballotine de caille
et foie gras en crôute served with Brussels sprouts, porcini confit, and
sweet raisins adding a wonderful balance of flavor to the dish. For our mid-course we were served a flavorful
grouper tagine Mediterranean-style, surrounded by
peppers, chickpea panisse and a
refreshing hint of cilantro.
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Israeli Wines—So What’s Not to Love?
by John Mariani
A decade ago I would never have written a sentence like, “On a recent trip to Israel I was very enthusiastic to order Israeli wines with my meals.” For despite the biblical claim (Psalms 104:15) that wine was a gift of God “to gladden the heart of man,” at least two millennia went by before truly good wine came out of Israel. Indeed, when the fourth edition of The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia appeared in 2005, Israeli wines received only one skimpy paragraph.
But there I was this autumn eating “Jacob & Esau’s biblical red lentil stew” and a wild mallow herb called hubeiza “eaten during the ’48 siege on Jerusalem” as part of the “King David’s Feast” at one of Jerusalem’s finest restaurant, The Eucalyptus, happily drinking a 2009 merlot from the Samson Hills made by the Efrat Winery, which started making wines in a Jerusalem alleyway back in 18970, now a leading wine company making more than 100 wines and grape juices.
on after 40 days and nights at sea (Gen.
A day later at the very modern non-kosher restaurant named Segev, located in Tel Aviv’s business district (Microsoft’s new skyscraper is right across the street), I feasted on grilled duck breast with sunflower seeds and ground sesame, and fresh shrimp cooked in butter and green garlic along with a wonderful bottle of Yarden 2007 Katzrin Chardonnay that I’d swear was right out of Napa Valley; it’s actually from the volcanic soil of the Golan Heights.
In 636 A.D. the Muslims conquered Jerusalem and ripped out the vineyards, restored in the Twelfth century by the Crusaders. During the Diaspora the vineyards were abandoned, but upon the Jews’ return to the Holy Land in the nineteenth century, Baron Edmond de Rothschild of France replanted vineyards with European varietals and founded Carmel Winery, and Jewish vintners have continued to make wine, both kosher and non-kosher, ever since. Today Israel now has more than 120 wineries producing wines made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc, semillon, grenache and other varietals.
Overwhelmingly, Israeli wines are made by cooperatives, with 50 percent made by Carmel; the other big players are Barkan Wine Cellars (vineyards shown right) and Golan Heights Winery. The U.S. is the biggest export market.
Kosher wines still must meet stringent requirements, e.g., no wine may be made before the vine is four years old; vineyards within biblical lands must be left fallow every seven years; only vines may be planted in the vineyard land; and the grapes, after arrival at the winery, may only be handled by certified “Sabbath-observant Jews” using approved materials. Non-Jews may not even handle kosher wines unless they’ve been flash pasteurized (a process called mevushal).
Few kosher wines, however, taste anything like the cloyingly sweet Manischewitz that some American Jews still serve on holidays. The wines I tasted in Israel and many more for the purposes of this report were all clean, well-made, and dry. They can also compete with good wines now coming out of Lebanon, Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal.
In my tastings back home I concentrated on red wines, which seemed to offer more distinctive varietal character. Some of the cabernet sauvignons had an assembly line style about them, with no suggestion of terroir beyond being heavy and dense. I preferred the regular cab made by Recanati 2009 ($16), in Upper Galilee, to their intensely inky Special Reserve 2006 ($45). The former was an excellent young cab, with a high 14.5 percent alcohol but none of the burn of similar California examples.
I did enjoy the 2007 Reserve from Bazelet HaGolan ($40), unfiltered and aged for 20 months, which seemed to ameliorate its high 14.9 percent alcohol level, making this a creamy cab. The more modest 13.8 percent of a 2007 Barkan Altitude Series “+720” ($33) brought out its lush fruit, and its medium body goes very well with lamb chops. A very pricey 2006 cab and petit verdot blend by Yatir ($56), a highly regarded vintner in the Judean Hills, had a peppery component that would enhance Middle Eastern-style mezes. The surprisingly named Domaine du Castel Grand Vin 2007 Haute Judee ($76) was a Bordeaux-style blend I found had a rubbery nose, big tannins, and little pleasure about it.
Tishbi is also among Israel’s star boutique wineries, dating back to 1882, run since 1984 by Jonathan Tishbi. Their wines show careful attention to terroir, blending and aging, and I was impressed by their 2006 Estate Merlot, with 5 percent cabernet franc ($17). I would hardly identify Tishbi’s 2006 Estate Pinot Noir ($20) as a pinot noir in a blind tasting, for that fickle grape has many expressions. Theirs is pleasant, well-fruited example, easy enough to drink with any kind of meat.
Of all the varietals I tasted, I think syrah/shiraz has the brightest future in Israel, especially a 2009 Domaine Netofa ($21) from Lower Galilee, a well-wrought Rhone-style red with some mourvedre in it. And if you like your wines plummy, the 2005 Yarden Syrah ($25) with 14.5 percent alcohol is a dead ringer for some of the bolder Australian Shirazes.
breeding will come with time, but the
ancient proverb of Ecclesiastes 9:7 seems truer than ever
holidays, “Eat thy bread with joy,
and drink thy
wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.”
Domaine du Castel Cellars
BUDDHIST PROVERB SAYS, "SHUT UP AND
GO SLICE SOME FISH!"
✉ 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
* On Dec. 16 in Louisville, Ky, The Brown Hotel presents a holiday season dinner featuring the sparkling wines of Mumms. Guests will dine on seasonally inspired food prepared by executive chef Laurent Géroli paired with a variety of sparkling wines. Holiday music will round out this delightful and festive evening. $79 pp. Call 502-736-2998.
* On Dec. 18 – Dec. 21, The Grand Del Mar in San Diego, CA will host the 2nd Annual Nutcracker Holiday Tea in the Elizabeth Ballroom, with a 2- course family service of tea sandwiches and French pastries, followed by a kid-friendly 45 min. performance of “The Nutcracker Suite.” $48 pp. Call 858-314-1988.
* On Dec. 19, Ouray, Colo., will host the “Third Annual Festivus Block Party” modeled after the classic “Seinfeld” television episode. Ouray’s Festivus features food and beverage vendors, “Feats of Strength,” a “Burn Barrel of Grievances,” and the unadorned aluminum “Festivus Pole.” Free to attend. Visit ouraycolorado.com or call 970-325-4746.
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: Beating the High Cost of Airfares; Letter from Paris: Terrific New BistroBeating the High Cost of Airfares
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:
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; 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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