© Quentin Bacon
Last week, I was up in Boston to help host a party with rock-star chef Barbara Lynch and the founders of Fresh beauty, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg. The occasion: To celebrate an article in F& W’s September issue, in which Lynch helped her friends add more flavor to their favorite healthy recipes.
After the party, we headed over to Sportello, one of Barbara's newest restaurants, and the dinner conversation veered to keeping fit. Barbara is on a serious health kick. To keep up her energy (she just finished a new cookbook, Stir, out next month), she’s been obsessively juicing every fruit, vegetable and herb she can get her hands and storing batches in her fridge. Lynch also told me about her new favorite energy bar, Green Vibrance. (Cameron Diaz has been in Boston, filming Wichita with Tom Cruise, and her personal assistant introduced Barbara to the dark-chocolate-covered, vitamin-loaded veggie bar.)
In addition to trail-running with the Sportello staff, Barbara has also taken up boxing. And I don’t mean the cardio-punch classes they offer at fancy fitness centers. Lynch works out at Golden Gloves champion Peter Welch’s super-old-school gym in Southie. After a few drinks, Lev (he actually does the cardio-punch gym classes) and I had agreed to join her in the ring the next day. Lev was a no-show (I think he got scared), but Barbara’s publicist, Sarah Hearn, joined me for an intense hour-long session with a group that looked straight out of Rocky. After throwing uppercuts, jabs and hooks and doing what seemed like endless push-ups, I have a new respect for Barbara Lynch, way beyond her extraordinary skills in the kitchen.
Inaki, Jégo and Camdeborde, head of the line at Shake Shack.
At Shack Shack, Inaki (who is generally considered to be Paris’s rock star chef) dipped his fries in mustard; Camdeborde preferred the Shack-cago Dog to the Shack burger; and Jégo ate everything on the table and called it a tasting menu. Afterward we decamped to the new Ace Hotel, had some Stumptown mochas and got a tour of the upcoming Breslin space from co-owner Ken Friedman. Momofuku chef-owner David Chang, who’s an Inaki groupie, tagged along, too. Their friendship goes back to a sustainable food conference in Copenhagen that, from what little I heard, sounds like it was the basis for The Hangover.
In my October column on 50 of the classic wines of the world, I singled out Castello di Monsanto's renowned Il Poggio bottling as a defining example of Chianti. So it was good fortune, or weird coincidence, or something, that Monsanto's Laura Bianchi happened to swing through town today to do a short retrospective tasting of three decades of Il Poggio.
I'll give her the prefatory remark: "What's important is that the style of the wine does not change. We believe in what my father started forty years ago, and we always try to improve the quality but not change the style."
That seems to me a good approach, if you've got a wine in your portfolio that is as exemplary as Il Poggio. It comes from a single five-and-a-half hectare vineyard on the Monsanto property, and is a blend of 90% Sangiovese with roughly equal parts Colorino and Canaiolo, aged for 18 months in new and one-year-old French oak. And, as this tasting proved (yet again; I've tasted this wine a lot over the years) it ages beautifully.
We tasted five vintages—2004, 2003, 1997, 1982, and 1977—and all of them were in admirable shape, with the '04 and the '82 the standouts of the group. 1997 and 2003 were both hot years, and that showed in both wines' black cherry fruit (more dried black cherries in the '97, and shading to plum paste in the '03) and a dark-roast coffee character in the '97 as well. Yet, even in vintages like these, it's worth noting that superripe for Chianti would still be considered somewhat astringent and austere in, say, Napa or Barossa. That's one lovely thing about good Chianti—even from a hot year it retains a cracked-twig crispness to its tannins and general character that makes it a fantastic partner for food.
The '82 was vividly aromatic, full of floral, leather and black tea. In the mouth it showed game and truffle along with sweet dried raspberry and cherry, and, as it opened up, distinctly fresh mint notes. If you can find this anywhere, and it's been stored carefully, buy it. It's drinking beautifully, and should continue to do so for some time.
The '04 is the current release (it's the one I wrote up for my column) and it's a great vintage of this wine. Dark cherry and raspberry aromas with a slight caramel hint from oak, lightly gamy and intense, loads of black cherry fruit, tea leaf suggested both in the taste and in the tactile tannins, an alluring note of violets... It's young, but after about two hours open it was terrific, and if you're hunting for a top-notch Chianti to cellar for—well, pretty much as long as you'd want to cellar it—this is a great choice.
© Tina Rupp
On my way to the buzzing restaurant scene and surrounding wine regions in Melbourne, Australia, I spent two days in Sydney, tasting through tons of local seafood and Asian dishes of all sorts (more on those later). There haven’t been many exciting new openings in Sydney this year—locals blame the city's taste for flashy restaurants, which are tougher to build in down times. But the economy didn’t stop chef Neil Perry from opening the Sydney location of Rockpool Bar & Grill six months ago. The $35 million restaurant, set in a former bank, has a moody Art Deco style, with soaring ceilings, gorgeous green marble columns and racks upon racks of wineglasses that glitter like chandeliers. The wine list is spectacular, thanks to Perry’s friend and business partner, David Doyle, the American owner of Quest software, who supplied part of his 60,000-bottle collection to the restaurant. (Everyone I met in Australia loved to tell me how Doyle chartered flights to have his wine—which includes some of the world’s rarest bottles—flown to Sydney.) Perry’s menu is inspired by American steak houses, with lots of simply grilled meats and well-prepared, easygoing sides, like potatoes cooked in wagyu-beef fat and mac and cheese. Perfect for letting the wine and space shine.
Obviously, last Wednesday was an epic day (as evidenced by the fact that it's taken me three days to blog about all of its goings on). The day began with New Zealand Riesling and Pinot Gris, shaded into Sauternes and then was pleasantly capped off with a tasting with Tuscan winemaker Duccio Corsini of Principe Corsini.
Corsini was a great surprise at the end of the long day. He's supremely laid back and a terrific storyteller. His account of his time as an exchange student in Utah during high school—in which he seemingly did nothing but ski—was quite funny. And his lineage, which includes a saint and a pope, provided good fodder, too. Not only were his wines good but he kept me entirely enthralled for well over an hour talking about his olive oil production, his picturesque properties in Tuscany and even his love for hunting wild boar at his Maremma estate. Another amazing thing he told me about was how he puts the olive pits from making his oil to good, sustainable use by burning them to heat his entire Chianti estate.
Now about those wines: Corsini's family has two properties in Tuscany. Le Corti, in Chianti Classico, produces Sangiovese-based wines, and the Marsiliana estate turns out reds blended from Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. He also uses the Marsiliana property for testing out other varietals like Petit Verdot, which apparently does particularly well on the property, and Syrah, which Corsini said unfortunately produced bizarrely generic juice. A few highlights from our tasting:
2006 Le Corti Chianti Classio ($21, find this wine) This earthy, tart cherry-flavored Chianti is from Corsini's Le Corti Estate just outside Florence. The wine sees no oak, but rather is aged in cement and concrete.
2005 Cortevecchia Chianti Classico Reserva ($35, find this wine) Also from the Le Corti Estate, this Reserva bottling is smooth with silky tannins and juicy black cherry notes.
2004 Marsiliana ($54, find this wine) This blend comes from Corsini's estate in the coastal Maremma region of Tuscany. The wine is bold with spice and cassis flavors, but is mellowed by well-integrated oak.
Gagnaire and F&W Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin at Asiate
When a friend invited me to a five-course, whiskey-paired dinner at Eleven Madison Park last Wednesday, I hesitated before accepting. I’ve been to plenty of wine- and beer-paired dinners, but sipping whiskey through a meal sounded a little intense. If anyone could pull it off, though, it would certainly be genius chef Daniel Humm. And the whiskeys around which he created the menu weren’t just any whiskeys. We were being treated to six limited-edition Balvenie 17-year-old single-malt scotch whiskeys, including the 2001 Balvenie Islay Cask and the super-rare 2006 Balvenie New Wood. The pairing of the night: The 2007 Balvenie Sherry Cask matched with Humm’s black angus tenderloin with roasted summer beans. Most of these scotches are nearly impossible to find, but the newest limited-edition release, the Balvenie Madeira Cask, will be in stores in early October. This extraordinarily rich scotch, matured in oak and finished in casks that were used to make fortified Madeira, was the nightcap to our feast, with sweet vanilla-oak notes that gave way to spices and dried fruit and a seemingly never-ending finish.
© William Grant & Sons
The Balvenie Madeira Cask 17-Year-Old
If you've ever wondered what wine would be best with red velvet or chocolate cupcakes, James Roth of the wine shop Red, White & Bleu in Falls Church, Virginia, is your man. His motto is, "If you can eat it, you can pair it." So the Falls Church News-Press put him up to the challenge of pairing eight different flavored cupcakes with wines. The results were fascinating-for example, a dark-chocolate ganache with an Argentinean Malbec. Try some cupcake pairings yourself with some of my favorite F&W recipes:
Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Devil's Food Cupcakes with Espresso Meringue
Angel Food Cupcakes with Raspberry Swirl
Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling