I haven't made it down to Battery Park to check out the brand-new Fatty in the Battery
. Needless to say, I also haven't visited Fatty Crab St. John
in the US Virgin Islands
. But Charles Bieler
, one of F&W’s excellent 40 Big Thinkers Under 40
and one of the Three Thieves
wine founders, has recently been to Fatty's Caribbean outpost. And shares this report.
St. John already had some eating and drinking classics: Who doesn’t love a Painkiller
from the Beach Bar
or a burger from Skinny Legs
? But three months ago, Fatty Crab
began cranking out heady dishes that raise the bar on the island's food considerably. This is the same Fatty Crab that I know and love from New York City, and yes, they brought a lot of their chile-fueled dishes with them. That includes the fiery “salt & pepper” squid, a Thai take on fried calamari with Sriracha sauce. The squid tentacles with fresh house-made cheese and tomato confit is much milder; so is the blackfin tuna tartare with yuzu and sorrel.
Like all Fatty Crabs, pork is the specialty here and the kitchen butchers its own pigs. I went crazy on pulled-pork sliders—a pile of sweet-savory shredded pork with sweet rolls and pickled daikon—as well as the crispy pork with pickled watermelon.
Since I'm a wine guy, I have to shout out importer Michael Skurnik
, who is a partner in the restaurant and designed the list (I don’t think he's directed a wine list since his days with Kevin Zraly
at Windows on the World). I found out it’s possible to buy bottles at Fatty Crab and take them back to your hotel or house rental, so I’d recommend you load up after your meal. And don’t turn down the assorted rum and mezcal cocktails, designed by NYC mixologist Adam Schuman
Wines Above $40
Last summer, divers discovered a cache of incredibly old Champagne in a shipwreck off Finland's Åland islands. Today, someone snatched up part of it. Two 1840s-vintage bottles (one from the long-gone Juglar house, the other from the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot) sold at auction for 54,000 euros (about $39,000 a bottle). That's plenty, but only half of what Champagne expert Richard Juhlin speculated they might sell for, and much less than the $130,000 that someone recently paid for a huge bottle of the so-so (but Jay-Z-approved) Armand de Brignac. So maybe today's winning bidder scored a deal.
What happened to the other 145 bottles? At least one was consumed, immediately, by the divers who discovered it. One told the press: "It had a very sweet taste. You could taste oak and it had a very strong tobacco smell." Sound enticing? You can hope that the Finnish government releases more.
If you missed the chance to bid, console yourself with 10 much more affordable Champagnes (and other excellent sparkling wines), plus pairings like crunchy hush puppies with Tabasco-spiked remoulade.
Wines Under $20
Or at least wine from a French Château owned by an Irishman. A few weeks back on the Today show I semi-predicted that one of the wines served at the royal wedding events would be Château de Fieuzal, a white Bordeaux from a property owned by wealthy Irish fellow named Lochlan Quinn. Well, I was wrong.
But, because evidently I'm more in tune with the doings of royalty than I thought, Fieuzal was poured at a recent dinner for the Queen in Dublin castle. It's a lovely white wine, and the current 2009 vintage can be found here, for about $45.
In fact, white Bordeaux tends to be a bit of a forgotten category. But the combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (typical of these wines) has a subtle fragrance and taste that's easy to become addicted to. A few good ones to try out include those from Château Graville-Lacoste, Clos Floridène, Château Carbonneau, Château Bonnet, Château Ducasse, and Château Rahoul. In the I've-got-money-to-burn-and-I-don't-care category, also look for Domaine de Chevalier blanc and Chateau Smith Haut-Lafite blanc. The 2009s are on shelves, but these wines age well and 2008 was a great vintage for white Bordeaux, so don't shy away from those either.
© Jen Murphy
Apple tart at Castello di Vicarello
Earlier in the year I had a chance to spend a weekend cooking with the amazing Aurora Baccheschi Berti at her dreamy 12th-century castle-turned-hotel, Castello di Vicarello, in Maremma, Tuscany. Staying at Vicarello is like staying at fabulous friend’s home with nonstop food, wine and adventure (Aurora’s husband, Carlo, takes groups wild-boar hunting at his nearby lodge, Valle di Buriano. Aurora and Carlo spent years in the textile business and have quite an eye for design. The seven rooms and villas of Vicarello are outfitted with unique antiques, old issues of Art Forum, oversize bathtubs and quirky touches like a zebra-skin rug. But it’s the kitchen that’s truly the heart of the house, and that’s where guests gravitate. Carlo and Aurora, and often their three charming sons, are the perfect hosts, offering up glasses of Brunello and slices of wild-boar prosciutto. Aurora hosts impromptu cooking lessons, and dinners are a two-hour-plus affair. I got a taste of the Tuscan winter on my visit, but Aurora’s just-released cookbook, Tuscany My Way, gives me a chance to recreate recipes from all four seasons at Vicarello. Inspired by the castle’s gardens, the book has more than 100 recipes organized by season, like carbonara withfava beans and apple tart. It’s one of the most transporting cookbooks I’ve seen and the next best thing to a trip back to Tuscany.
Wines Under $20
I had a great time on the fourth hour of Today today, recommending a few super value wines with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. These were drawn from my February column—essentially, tasty wines that are made in quantities greater than 150,000 cases. That's 1,800,000 bottles, which means that they sure ought to be available somewhere nearby. Check out the clip here.
For fun, here are a couple more that have substantial production, but that didn't quite make my 150,000 case cut-off:
2009 Caposaldo Pinot Grigio ($10) Pinot Grigios labeled with the broad Veneto region classification tend to be less interesting than more pricey wines from regions like Friuli and the Alto Adige, but this crisp, lightly spicy white transcends its pedigree.
2009 Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay ($14) Though Kendall Jackson's iconic Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay remains immensely popular, longtime winemaker Randy Ullom tweaks his successful model-quite effectively with the first vintage of this bottling. The wine is made solely in stainless steel tanks and older oak barrels (which impart no oak flavors), keeping its lemon-citrus flavors lively and crisp.
I had the pleasure of appearing on the 4th hour of Today this morning with Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and my good pal Leslie Sbrocco, doing a fun 'he-said-she-said' Valentine's Day wine segment. Leslie and I each presented our picks in four categories—for a romantic dinner, for popping the question, for lounging around in a bathtub (!), and for pairing with chocolate—and Hoda and Kathie Lee chose a winner in each one. Check out this clip to see whose choices got the nod...
Raclette Night at Anfora.
I was a little bummed watching the BCS Football Championship last night. For starters, Oregon State lost in the final minutes of the game to Auburn. Even sadder was that the loss marked the end of Monday night football, at least until next season. Luckily, the team at NYC’s Anfora wine bar has found a way to fill my Monday night void. Last night, Anfora hosted its first Raclette Cheese Night. Each Monday, the wine bar will serve raclette in true Swiss style, with heat lamps for melting and plates of bread, boiled potatoes, pickles and charcuterie for dipping. Sommelier Joe Campanale will be pouring unusual white wines, from producers like Jacques Puffeney, to pair with the cheese. I can’t think of a better way to shake off my post-Monday-night-football blues—and get excited for my upcoming snowboarding trip to Switzerland.
© Lois Ellen Frank
The Basics for Tomahawking Champagne.
In Part II of my occasional series, Don’t Necessarily Try This at Home (Part I featured two-year-old vintage eggnog
from Jonathon Sawyer
of Greenhouse Tavern
in Cleveland), I’d like to spotlight tomahawking Champagne
as a potential holiday trend. I first heard about this from Holly Arnold Kinney
, who owns the iconic Rocky Mountain restaurant The Fort
, outside of Denver. Instead of the classic, and dramatic, French practice of “sabering” Champagne
—hitting the bottle neck with a saber at just the right angle so the cork pops off—the Fort uses a tomahawk to do the same job.
In her cool new coffee-table book, Shinin’ Times at the Fort
, Kinney goes into even more detail: “My dad taught his pal Julia Child
how to tomahawk a bottle of Champagne, and later that week, she taught Jay Leno
how to do so when she was a guest on The Tonight Show
.... [but] the bottle Julia used was weak and broke all over the set! Although she grabbed a second bottle and tomahawked it perfectly, NBC decided to use the broken-bottle take to promote the show.”
I wrote about these super-excellent beer journals
last June because I think the idea is just so great—they fit in your pocket, and each page has a spot for all the tasting notes you could ever possibly come up with. I was elated to hear that 33 Books has come up with books for wine notes
), too, because I’m always writing notes on gum wrappers or magazine insert cards that I dig out of the depths of my bag when I’m out. These are a smart way to keep it all in one place. Plus, the wine-colored ink on the covers actually contains some wine from the Walla Walla Valley. These little books would make excellent stocking stuffers or accompaniments to a bottle of wine.
Penguin Corkscrew from Terrain
Last Friday, I kicked off my non-wine-bag-focused wine gift guide
with a wine bag—so today, I present you with something more true to my word.
As an unabashed fan of Anthropologie’s dresses
and latte bowls
, I’ve wanted to head to Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, to visit the company's flagship home and garden store, called Terrain, which opened a couple of years ago. I still haven’t made the trek, but in drooling over its website embarrassingly often, I recently discovered this charming penguin corkscrew
. Give it as a gift with a bottle of rich red wine, like the 2007 La Spinetta Pin Monferrato Rosso
(around $43, find this wine
), a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo from Piedmont. It's at once sweet, spicy and aromatic—destined for drinking in front of a fireplace.