Wines Under $20
In a staff meeting recently, we talked about whether there are clear ways to predict if a wine will be just as good, or even better, on the second day after the bottle's been opened. In general, young wines do better than old wines. But young wines that are meant to be consumed, well, young, lose their freshness quickly. (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I’m looking at you.)
Last Thursday, I opened a 2008 Gamay from Clos Roche Blanche (find this wine), a culty natural wine from France's Loire Valley. It’s made from the same grape used in Beaujolais, and it’s a decidedly cerebral version with complex minerality, a great earthy funk and tart berry flavors. Put it this way: If most Beaujolais-Villages is like Vampire Weekend (an immediately likeable band), then Clos Roche Blanche is more like Wilco (a band that initially seems weird, but breeds curiosity and eventually love—or hate).
After a glass or two, I corked the bottle and put it in the fridge…and accidentally forgot about it until Monday night. By then, the wine was softer, more gulpable, with ripe strawberry flavors. It was very much alive. I shouldn’t have been surprised: I’ve heard rumors that this wine can last for over a week in the refrigerator. Extraordinary for a $17 bottle.
When I heard about a trip called Shootin' & Drinkin', I knew I had to check it out. What a wacky combination. The trip to the Hudson Valley is offered by a cool new Manhattan-based outdoor adventure company called Urban Escapes, and combines clay shooting and whiskey tasting—though not at the same time, I was assured by Bram Levy, the director and also one of the guides. The day starts with a two-hour lesson on clay shooting (basically firing a shotgun at clay targets). After riding through the forest in golf carts stopping at various stations to shoot clay discs, the group calms their adrenaline rush with a tasting of artisanal vodkas and whiskeys at Tuthilltown Distillery in nearby Gardiner, New York. Not all of Urban Escapes' trips are so Wild West. River tubing and wine tasting down the Delaware River sounds a lot more low key.
In my world, fried chicken has officially kicked pizza to the curb. I trace my fixation back to Pete Wells's review of the Redhead in the New York Times a year ago and his description of the buttermilk-fried bird as "picnic-ready." (Today, Frank Bruni said it was "never greasy... and unfailingly accessorized by something perfect.") I'm impatiently waiting for Andrew Carmellini to start serving fried chicken at Locanda Verde, with Karen DeMasco pies no less, but meanwhile, I've got the insane fried chicken at Momofuku Noodle Bar. It's already been endlessly documented, but for anyone who doesn't know, here's what you and four-plus friends get for $100: a platter of pieces allegedly from two birds (though, as a friend noted, they must be genetically mutant birds with extra wings, drumsticks and breasts). The white meat has a super-crispy Old Bay–seasoned crust; the dark meat is triple-fried with a Korean-spiced coating. It's all accompanied by a giant bowl of lettuce leaves and assorted vegetables and herbs (I monopolized the shiso leaves); four dipping sauces (I monopolized the jalapeño-garlic); and moo shu pancakes. Alan Richman describes the whole thing beautifully on his GQ blog, including chef-owner David Chang's ideal chicken-sauce-accoutrement combo and a virtually side-by-side comparison with KFC.
Yesterday on WNYC, radio host Leonard Lopate discussed the subject of running a restaurant during this recession with chefs Daniel Boulud of Manhattan’s DBGB Kitchen & Bar and Sosie Hublitz of Brooklyn’s Watty & Meg, as well as Nation’s Restaurant News editor Pamela Parseghian. Parseghian said the biggest trend has been alcohol—and lots of it. Boulud and Hublitz agreed. It’s no secret that tough times lead people to drink; this time, however, they’re drinking excellent cocktails. That’s good news for restaurants, Boulud said, since the profit margins on drinks are greater than they are for food. Of course, he added, you can’t charge $20 for a martini. That would be pushing it.
While researching a piece on the best wineries near beaches for a story that will appear in our October issue, I discovered that there is a die-hard community of surfing winemakers around the world, from Santa Barbara to Basque country. Perhaps the most serious of the bunch are the winemakers in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, including the guys over at Tokara, Beaumont and MAN Vintners. They all showed up for the 10th annual Vintners Surf Classic, held this past weekend. The two-day event attracted 40 to 50 surfers plus family and industry friends who came for the Champagne breakfast and post-contest barbecue. Contest organizer Miles Mossop, the winemaker at Tokara, e-mailed me the highlights, including the winners in the three different categories. I'm pushing for an international competition—pitting together surfing winemakers from around the world—for next year.
1st Gunter Schultz - Kleinood
1st Johan Reyneke - Reyneke Wines
1st Anton Smal - Villiera
© Eben Sadie
When he's not making wine, Eben Sadie is riding waves.
When I drove out to Montauk, New York, last week for all of 16 hours, it was for one reason: to eat at a pop-up restaurant at the Solé East hotel. Our meal, prepared by Jon Shook, one of the two chefs at Los Angeles's Animal (both F&W Best New Chefs 2009), was awesome. After checking out the N.Y. Times Diners Journal blog, I now know that Steven Spielberg and friends ordered all seven items on Animal’s menu, just like my friends and I did. But where has Shook been going to eat during his weeklong stay in Montauk? His favorite spot: Belly’s Sno Balls, for snow cones, which are dispensed from a bright orange truck. Shook has sampled a bunch of flavors, but his favorite is the coconut-watermelon combo (“artificial flavoring all the way,” he says). He’s about to sample the lobster rolls up and down Montauk Highway, so maybe he’ll find something he likes to go with those snow cones.
My morning ritual has always revolved around an oversize mug of really good coffee (usually Peets or LaMill), which I brew at my apartment and drink while reading the paper before work. But now that I'm training for November’s New York City marathon, my morning runs end at my gym near the Food & Wine offices in midtown. As a result, I’ve found myself purchasing questionable-quality Joe so that I can get my morning caffeine fix.
So I was thrilled last month when I saw that a new coffee shop called Gregorys had opened around the corner from our office on 44th Street and even more excited after I tasted their coffee and incredible espresso. After some sleuthing, I discovered that Gregorys gets its freshly roasted beans from Kobricks, a roaster in Jersey City, N.J. Kobricks imports green coffee beans from Central and South America as well as the East Indies and Africa. The family-run roaster also happens to be the exclusive importer of Antica Tostura Triestina, an espresso roasted in Northern Italy using a 100-year-old wood-oven method.
This is actually Gregorys second store. The original, on Park Avenue and 24th Street, is where all the baked goods (like the excellent granola), sandwiches and salads get made. The staff is currently being trained in latte art, so lattes will come delivered with a heart shape swirled into the foam.
The third season of the AMC series Mad Men, which revolves around a cast of hard-drinking ad execs in the 1960s, debuts Sunday night. What to expect, according to the New York Times: more historically accurate booze. For a Mad Men–themed cocktail party, we offer the following drinks:
Vanilla Old-Fashioned A muddled vanilla bean adds a twist to creative director Don Draper's drink of choice.
Limoncello Collins This updated take on one of tortured housewife Betty Draper's favorite cocktails calls for limoncello, an intensely flavored Italian liqueur made from lemon peels.
Mai Tai Department store head Rachel Menken drinks the classic rum cocktail when out with Don. This version borrows from the recipe by Ernest Beaumont-Gantt (a.k.a. "Donn Beach," the father of tiki culture), and calls for dashes of Pernod and Angostura bitters for complexity.
Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey is one of my favorite baking books. So I am totally thrilled that Chronicle Books is publishing a much-needed sequel: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids. Even though the book is aimed at kids, everything looks insanely good. I'm planning to start by trying the Holy Moly! Strawberry Jam Roly-Poly (sort of like a jelly roll but with a more flaky, biscuit-like dough), and then I'll tackle the Wicked Good Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cups. The only downside? I can't share the book with friends until October, when it goes on sale. Until then, I'll be baking these great Food & Wine standbys for my kids:
Chocolate Chip–Pretzel Bars
Cookies & Cream Cupcakes
Chocolate Soufflé Sundae