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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Restaurants

Eat Here, Not There

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Because I’m so inspired by the Eat This, Not That series, and because I’ve recently found myself in frustrating situations at restaurants that made me feel that, really, I should have gone to that other place on the next block, I’ve decided to start an infrequent series. And I would welcome similar stories from anyone who reads this blog.

Coming soon on Eat Here, Not There: NYC's Lupa vs. Bar Henry.

Events

The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World

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Last night, the ever-excellent Stranger Than Fiction film series at New York City’s IFC Center screened The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World. As the title suggests, the subject was the Guinness World Records–certified West Lake Restaurant, a sprawling 5,000-seat restaurant in China's Hunan province. While the documentary captured the dizzying scale of West Lake—five kitchens, 300 chefs, 1,000 staffers serving 700 chickens, 1,200 ducks, 2,500 pounds of pork and 2,200 pounds of chiles per week—the film, as its editor Jean Tsien said, was really “about democracy in China.” Tsien noted that West Lake's lavish banquets, weddings and celebrations, featuring scores of elaborately prepared dishes, were unimaginable just a generation ago. Even the simple joy of dining out was impossible, since people were rationing cooking oil. Director Weijun Chen's internationally acclaimed, award-winning 2007 documentary Please Vote For Me covered similar territory, albeit inside a primary school in central China. While Ang Lee’s masterwork Eat Drink Man Woman will remain my favorite food film, Biggest is a wonderful documentary, and very much worth watching.

Menus

Shirako (Cod Milt) Season

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© Alessandra Bulow
Shirako (Cod Milt) Sashimi

The morning after a recent menu tasting at Brooklyn, New York’s Zenkichi restaurant, I woke up with a belly full of shirako cod milt (a.k.a. cod sperm) and no regrets. Available only in winter months, shirako is considered a delicacy in Japan and can be eaten raw or cooked.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t initially freaked out when a small bowl of glistening shirako sashimi (pictured, left) was placed in front of me, but I resolved not to be so squeamish when I saw two brawny guys, both former college football players, dig in without hesitation. Topped with thinly sliced scallions and a drizzle of ponzu sauce, the sashimi was slightly sweet and vaguely briny with a smooth custard-like texture that resembled brains.

Then the waiters brought out delicious, lacy clusters of a tempura combining creamy cod milt and crispy green chrysanthemum leaves, topped with a sprinkle of green-tea salt (pictured, below).

Now I’m thinking about going back to Zenkichi for more shirako before the season ends–and I might even bring a friend with me.

© Alessandra Bulow
Shirako (Cod Milt) Tempura

 

Restaurants

AC/BT: Locanda Verde’s Black Truffle Dinner

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© kate krader
Locanda's Ahiram Malveau in His AC/BT Back in Black t-shirt.

Let’s count the reasons why it was awesome to go to the black truffle dinner at Locanda Verde in downtown Manhattan last night (a.k.a. AC/BT, AC for chef Andrew Carmellini). 1) Carmellini's three-course dinner was just $50. 2) It featured black truffles from Primizie Foods’ John Magazino. 3) Reservations sold out within an hour (a haiku won an Eater reader a prime-time res). 4) Among the excellent first courses: oxtail minestrone with foie gras ravioli and truffles and three kinds of truffled crostini; the main course squab came with a terrific truffled duck meatball. 5) Even the desserts included black truffles, our favorite being the black-truffle-filled walnut tart. 6) You could still order off the regular menu. We had sheep’s milk ricotta with our truffled appetizers; the table next to ours had it as a cheese course. 7) The AC/BT Back in Black T-shirts worn by the staff were amazing. And in such high demand that I would suggest that management turn the restaurant's bakery counter into a T-shirt concession stand. 8) Twenty-five percent of the profits from AC/BT went to Doctors Without Borders for Haitian Relief. 9) The after-party was at Boom Boom Room.

Wines Above $40

Tasting 2007 Bordeaux

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Anyone in the NY area and inclined to buy Bordeaux might want to check out the Union des Grands Crus tasting tomorrow, held at The Four Seasons restaurant, a few blocks away from Sherry-Lehmann, which is presenting the event (tickets $75/$125). I stopped by today at the trade version of the same tasting to get a read on the 2007 Bordeaux vintage, which seems to be neither as dire as some reports would have nor as wonderful as the chateau owners might prefer we all thought. 

Basically, the sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac are lovely in '07, with layers of nectar-like flavors and distinct botrytis character (that distinctive honeysuckle-to-bitter-honey note). Standouts at the tasting included Chateau Coutet, Rayne-Vigneau, and Doise-Daëne.

The white wines of Pessac-Leognan also show well in '07, at least more consistently than the reds. Standouts at the tasting included Domaine de Chevalier, Château de Fieuzal, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Château Smith Haut-Lafitte.

The '07 Bordeaux reds that I tasted were a mixed bag. The best—Domaine de Chevalier and de Fieuzal again, Pape Clément, Pontet-Canet, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch-Bages—weren't flashy, but were balanced, appealing wines supported by ripe tannins, with a kind of sneaky depth to their flavors; the not-so-good were marred by green notes and an hollowness in the midpalate that isn't particularly pleasant now and seems unlikely to improve with age, too. Of course, I tasted only a percentage of a percentage of the '07 Bordeauxs as a whole, so take any broad generalizations cautiously. Or, even better, go to the tasting and see what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

On Jan. 23 in New York City, Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, presents the Union Des Grands Crus Bordeaux Tasting. This is a rare opportunity to sample the 2006 and 2007 Vintages from more than 80 of Bordeaux's greatest châteaux. Winemakers and châteaux proprietors themselves will be pouring the wines.  VIP ticket holders will be entered into a Special Raffle in which 6 Signed Magnums from a selection of featured Châteaux will be awarded to 6 lucky winners (Raffle Commences at 2:30pm).  For VIP tickets ($125pp before Jan. 20; $150 after) and Grand Tasting tickets ($75pp before Jan. 20; $95 after); sold online at: http://www.sherry-lehmann.com/events; 212-838-7500. Event takes place at 583 Park Avenue in NYC.

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