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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

Wine Wednesday

Ray Isle's Favorite Wines for Lobster

Steamed Lobster with Lemon Thyme Butter

There’s been a fair amount of news about the unexpectedly low price of lobster this summer. Due to warming waters and, apparently, a whole lot of randy lobsters as a result, we are in the midst of a lobster glut. The current wholesale price for the things is about $3 a pound, give or take. While your local restaurant’s so-called “market price” for a lobster may not remotely resemble that number, retail prices are good in fish markets and grocery stores, and in Maine, where I visit every summer, they’re absurdly low.

So what wine goes best with these happily hypnotizable crustaceans? (Seriously: If you stand a lobster on its head with its claws out in front, and stroke its back, it will just balance there, motionless, for quite some time. Excellent party trick.) To get an answer to that question, I stopped by to see Scott Worcester, who runs Sawyer’s Specialties, a bizarrely good wine store in Southwest Harbor, Maine; bizarrely good, because he stocks several hundred terrific wines in a town with only 1,700 people or so.

“With lobsters? I like Chenin,” Worcester said immediately. “Chenin Blanc. Particularly a Chenin that’s a little bit off-dry and has four to five years aging in neutral barrels.”

This is very specific. For those who don’t happen to have an off-dry Chenin Blanc with four to five years aging in neutral oak barrels sitting by their elbow, he also suggested Chenin Blanc in general, as well as Grillo (a white variety from Sicily), and Chignin (an obscure white from France’s Savoy region). The key thing is that none of these suggestions feature new oak. People often suggest big, buttery Chardonnays as a partner for lobster, but in my experience oak and shellfish aren’t friends; if you do go with Chardonnay with your lobster, go oakless. And I’d also suggest Muscadet—as always, it goes brilliantly with anything that comes from the sea.

A few great lobster wines:

2012 The Curator White ($12) A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Sémillon from the talented South African winemaker Adi Badenhorst, this medium-bodied white has a juicy apple-ginger character.

2011 Feudo Maccari Grillo ($13) This Sicilian white is pineapple-citrusy and impressively crisp; a buy-it-by-the-case summer wine.

2012 Yalumba Unwooded Y Series Chardonnay ($13) From one of southern Australia’s oldest producers, this melony, full-bodied wine retains a lot of zippy freshness.

2011 Domaine de la Fruitière Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie “Petit M” ($13) Though it bears a lengthy name, this white isn’t heavy in the slightest—instead it’s lemony, stony, ebulliently crisp and light in alcohol.

2011 Denis et Didier Berthollier Chignin ($16) Chignin, a tiny subappellation of France’s Savoy region, is the source of this impressive, lemon-creamy white.

2012 Pascal Janvier Coteaux de Loir ($17) From an often-overlooked appellation in the Loire Valley that was once the favorite of King Henri IV (how can you argue with that?), this surprisingly complex Chenin Blanc has a focused, minerally appeal.

America’s Best Lobster Rolls
Delicious Lobster Recipes
Affordable Summer White Wines

Dr. Vino's Verdict

High-Proof Pinot: Brilliant or Bogus?

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think Pinot Noir with more than 14 percent alcohol is an abomination? A few years ago, star sommelier Rajat Parr incited controversy by banning Pinots above that threshold from the list at his San Francisco restaurant RN74. Some interpreted this as an across-the-board indictment of higher-alcohol wines, but Parr has said that the rule was simply put in place to pay homage to Burgundy, the French region where the weather is cool and the reds mostly range from 12.5 to 13.5 percent alcohol. In New World regions like Sonoma, where growing seasons can be warmer and grapes harvested later, Pinots can climb easily above 14 percent. Those wines have plenty of fans as well, and many experts would say that Pinots with that much alcohol can certainly be balanced and delicious.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
Wine 101: Pinot Noir
Fantastic Pinot Noir Pairings

America's Most Wanted

Over-the-Top Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi with Foie Gras

Barbara Lynch's Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi

“It’s one of those dishes that I don’t think anyone has ever done,” says Boston empire builder Barbara Lynch of her signature prune-stuffed gnocchi at No. 9 Park. Lynch first soaks the prunes in the sweet Italian dessert wine Vin Santo, then wraps each one in potato gnocchi dough. She finishes the already rich dish with an incredible sauce that's “equal parts butter and foie gras—a beurre monté that gets whisked into a reduction of Vin Santo and shallots.” Lynch tops the whole thing with seared foie gras and toasted almonds so the result is sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy.

Related: Incredible Gnocchi Recipes
More Recipes from Barbara Lynch
Recipes from Boston Chefs

Chefs Make Change

Food World Supports Somali Restaurateur

Ahmed Jama of The Village in Somalia.

The world's most passionate young chefs, including René Redzepi and David Chang, are rallying around a Somali restaurateur who continues to rebuild his restaurant after it has been repeatedly destroyed by bombs in war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia. The latest attack occurred on Saturday, killing fifteen and injuring twenty more. Owner Ahmed Jama, who now has five area branches of The Village, released a statement declaring: “I won’t let this stop me. I will start clean up tomorrow.”

So how does a chef with a few local restaurants capture the attention of the most famous chef on the planet? Redzepi first read about Jama via CNN (tied to previous bombings) and invited him to speak at last month's summit for food-world luminaries, MAD3 Symposium in Copenhagen. "Given that Ahmed is a chef and the bombing took place in his restaurant, his story naturally hit close to home," explains MAD’s director Ali Kurshat Altinsoy. Knowing they wanted him there was one thing, getting in touch was another: “It was difficult to even make contact—in Somalia, the internet still remains restricted to land-based dial up and the telephones simply don't ring.”

They did make contact, and Jama shared his story with a large crowd in August: “In 2008, I closed my restaurant in London and moved back to my homeland to open a restaurant in Mogadishu. They thought I was crazy to do it in a war zone,” he said. “We only have a negative history in Somalia. I want my restaurant to change the history of my country, I want it to add a positive message to the world’s perception of Somalia.”

Jama opened The Village to serve Somali dishes like wood-grilled kingfish with green-chili sauce and camel meat with warmly-spiced rice, carrots, and raisins. The recipes reflect the country's heritage as a crossroads for Italians, Ethiopians, Persians and Middle Easterners. But his goal goes far beyond preserving culinary traditions. "It’s the place to come together to build an understanding amongst people,” said Jama. His clientele includes politicians, academics and journalists.

Following last week's tragic events, the friends he made in Denmark have established a $12,500 crowdfunding campaign to raise money for rebuilding efforts. Donations pouring in from around the world, including those from culinary favorites like David Chang, Daniel Patterson of San Francisco's Coi and writer Francis Lam, have already fulfilled over seventy percent of the fundraising goal.

Altinsoy says, “We hope that this small effort can result in something positive for him and those around him.” As Jama undertakes the painful rebuilding process once more, his statement at MAD, “I always believed that food can change society. Often, it is the only way,” seems more poignant than ever.

Related: More Chefs Make Change

Expert Guide to Drinking

Jim Meehan's Top 10 New Bars in the U.S.

The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog

Last year when barman extraordinaire Jim Meehan did his list of the Top 10 New Bars around the country, I said it was one of the best times in recent memory to be drinking great cocktails.

I was wrong. This is the best time in recent memory to be drinking great cocktails, whether it's a perfectly stirred Negroni or a Cosmo that you ordered after putting on your best shoulder-padded jacket. Drinking is more fun than it's been in a long time.

Here to tell you more is Jim Meehan, the manager of Manhattan's outstanding bar PDT and the editor of F&W's cocktail books. To see more about what he's drinking, follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @mixography.

The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog (New York City)
Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry spent years researching for the Dead Rabbit, a multilevel tavern that seems to have time traveled to the heart of Manhattan's Financial District straight from the 1850s. The downstairs Taproom is the place for beers and whiskeys. The second floor Parlor has a menu with dozens of über-classic cocktails and communal punches; when you sit down, you're served an “appetizer”: a teacup of a featured punch. The assortment of cool old-school cups even includes ones with mustache guards. @deadrabbitNYC

Pouring Ribbons (New York City)
Over on Avenue B in Manhattan's East Village, Joaquín Simó, Troy Sidle and Toby Maloney opened this second-floor bar. The menu features 15 house drinks and 15 classics; they're arranged on a grid that lets you figure out your cocktail profile, from Refreshing to Spirituous and Comforting to Adventurous. The Two Trick Pony, made with whiskey, bourbon and the Champagne of beers is one of the more Adventurous drinks here. @pouringribbons

Range (Washington, DC)
Chef Bryan Voltaggio's sprawling 300-seat restaurant has eight separate, fully functional kitchen stations that produce everything in-house for the adventurous menu. Barman Owen Thomson uses the restaurant's very cool resources to make the 25 house cocktails (he and his team choose spirits by blind tasting). Another thing I love about this place: It's one of the country's best new restaurants and best new bars. And it's in a mall. @volt_range

Barmini (Washington, DC)
For his first cocktail-centric spot, renowned chef José Andrés employs many of the avant-garde techniques that made his neighboring restaurant Minibar famous. (Don't forget he pioneered the Salt Air margarita, too.) Head bartender Juan Coronado scours the globe for antique glassware—some dates to the 1920s—for his classic and modern day concoctions. The table behind the bar, where bartenders work as chefs do, is genius. @barminibyjose

Paper Plane (Decatur, GA)
Behind Victory Sandwich Bar, a place that's known for it's Jack & Coke frozen slushies, is this sort-of hidden lounge with walnut veneer paneling and black vinyl booths. Local hero bartender Paul Calvert has a short, well-chosen cocktail list that ranges from sherry-based drinks to the Bottle of Smoke. It's a mix of mezcal, house-made raspberry syrup, lemon, Cynar and sparkling wine, and it's delicious with the wild striped bass panzanella, made with hunks of brioche seared in duck fat, from Paper Plane's food menu.

No Vacancy (Hollywood)
Jonnie and Mark Houston spent three years restoring a century-old Victorian-era Hollywood house, then transformed it into an early 20th-century club that blends Wild West saloon with a gentlemen's club. The gin- and whiskey-forward cocktail list was curated by barman Sean Hamilton. He chose a dozen bartenders to contribute recipes for the opening menu. I gave them a white rum, lemon and ginger liqueur drink with a hit of curry. The entrance is the single greatest bar experience ever, but I won't ruin it for you. I will say that if you're going to have aerialist “dancers” at a bar, you might as well have it in L.A., where they know what they're doing.

Trick Dog (San Francisco)
In the Mission, San Francisco's hottest new bar shares the same space as a couple of the city's other cool spots, Sightglass Coffee and Central Kitchen. The two-story bar, the handiwork of Scott Baird and Josh Harris, features 25 house creations listed on a menu formatted like a 45 rpm record book (The Clash's “Bankrobber” is a Wild Turkey rye–based drink). Chef Chester Watson's concise bar menu—cracklins, shrimp cocktail with house Bloody Mary mix—is available late into the evening. @trickdogbar

Polite Provisions (San Diego)
Behind the bar here is San Francisco drinks expert Erick Castro. The place is a craft cocktail bar with a beverage program modeled after an early 19th-century neighborhood soda fountain. The bar shares the same trendy address as Soda & Swine, a meat-focused concept by the Michelin-starred chef Jason McLeod. I'm not big on happy hours, but I'd hit this one, which runs from Monday through Thursdays. @politeSanDiego

Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago)
Guests entering the alley of this bar can follow a thin trail of blue lights to the entrance. Barman Paul McGee and chef Doug Psaltis headline the team behind this glammed up modern tiki bar, named after an old Don the Beachcomber cocktail. The beautifully illustrated menu features classic and modern tiki cocktails (including its namesake, made with aged rhum agricole, Guyanese rum, honey and falernum), along with large-format offerings that serve three to 12. A small food menu of island fare (luau chips, beef negimaki) is available, next to tikis gathered from former Trader Vic's outposts in Chicago. @ThreeDotsCHI

Broken Shaker (Miami)
Initially opened as a pop-up, Elad Zvi and Gabe Orta's Bar Lab team has made this South Beach's most soulful bar. Not that hard, but this is an all-time great bar. Located in the Freehand hostel, the Broken Shaker serves handcrafted cocktails prepared from ingredients grown in its own garden. The space is indoors/outdoors; you can sit by the pool and drink the Rhum and Funk, made with Cocoa Puffs–infused rhum agricole.

Related: World's Best Bars
America's Best Margarita Bars
Best Hotel Bars

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