Monthly Archives: August 2008

Two Restaurants Worthy of Note: Terrapin and Le Canard Enchaine

I consider myself a wine geek first and a semi-foodie second but I feel compelled to mention two spectacular meals from this past week and to highly recommend both restaurants: Terrapin in Rhinebeck, NY and Le Canard Enchaine in Kingston, NY.

I just finished a three-hour lunch of escargot, sole amandine and tarte tatin to rival any Parisian meal I have ever had. Le Canard Enchaine is the creation of Jean-Jacques Carquillat, a Frenchman from Chamoix. He has a long and distinguished career in his home country, London, Portugal and in New York. Before opening his own restaurant, he worked as the Pastry and Sous Chef de Cuisine at La Reserve in New York and then moved to Le Bernadin. My dining companion, my father, is a buon gustaio and a bon vivant, so he went wild and had the fricasse of snail-mushroom & cognac flambe and the roasted Long Island duck with orange sauce and mashed potatoes. We were semi-speechless to have such a delicious meal in Kingston on a gloomy Friday at the end of the Summer.

Le Canard Enchaine is also the name of the weekly satirical newspaper published in France since 1915.

I was also fortunate enough to go to Terrapin in Rhinebeck this week. Chef/owner Josh Kroner has created an incredibly interesting and eclectic menu fusing elements from Asian, Southwestern, French and Italian cooking. I had a number of small plates from the tapas menu including crispy artichokes with wasabi aioli, grilled lamp chops with chimchurri and goat cheese filled wontons. I also tried warm brie with mango on crostini and a mini-hamburger on a brioche. It was all delicious and a nice way to be able to try a number of items. The restaurant is housed in an interesting historic building that looks like a gingerbread church.

Terrapin – 6426 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck, NY 12572 845 876 3330 www.terrapinrestaurant.com

Le Canard Enchaine – 276 Fair Street, Kingston, NY 12401 845 339 2003 www.lw-canardenchaine.com

1 Comment

Filed under Memorable Events

Small Victories in New Paltz, New York

As some may have guessed, I am spending a good part of this summer in the Hudson Valley. It is an interesting experience for me. I went to camp here when I was a teenager and haven’t really been back since. I have discovered a vibrant food and wine scene that many others know well.

New Paltz, the town where I rented a house, is home to three really good wine stores: In Good Taste, Fox and Hound, and  New Paltz Wines & Spirits.  The staff at all three are very knowledgeable and helpful as well. The selections are much vaster than those at my local wine store on broadway.

I’ve hit a few milestones this summer: I did my first handstand in Yoga today after 25 years, I overcame my fear of sleeping in a house in the woods and I tried acupuncture and actually enjoyed it. All that pales with my first pleasurable encounter with a French-American hybrid, Seyval Blanc. It happened this weekend, much to my surprise. Lenn Thompson’s Appellation America gives great information on this and other interesting grapes. I  went to visit the Whitecliff Vineyards winery and found that I liked two  wines, Awosting White made with Seyval Blanc and Vignoles and Traminette 2007, a cross between Joannes Seyve 23.416 and Gewurztraminer.  Wonders never cease. Perhaps it is the magical nature of the New Paltz area. Who knows. My Italian friends will probably say I have been away from Italy for too long.

1 Comment

Filed under wine stores, wines

Italian Varietals in the Hudson Valley

Whenever I come across Italian varietals  in the United States, I am usually a bit skeptical as to  their quality. Often I am proved wrong. This happened recently when I tasted a Tocai Friulano from the Millbrook Winery in the Hudson Valley. The wine was a total surprise to me and was just exquisite. Apparently, the wine was the Gold Medal winner at the 4th Annual Hudson Valley Wine Competition.

The wine was lemon-yellow in color with stone fruit, grass and minerality coming through on the nose. It was long and persistent on the palate with flavors of pear and peach. The acidity and alcohol were extremely well balanced with a touch of sweetness on the finish. I thought the wine was truly lovely and gave it an 89 on my own point scale. I will definitely be interested in tasting the other wines from Millbrook, especially their Cabernet Franc. I wonder if they, like Friuli producers, will change the name of the wine from Tocai Friulano to Friulano.

For more information on the Hudson Valley, this is a useful website.

9 Comments

Filed under wines

Argentina – Tango & Malbec

I went on a pilgrimage last year to Argentina to follow two of my principal hobbies: tango and wine, not necessarily in that order. I spent five days in Mendoza, traveling through the wine country and discovered that Tuscany in the Andes might be an apt description except for the scale of it all. These vines are on the Nieto Senetiner vineyard. I liked many of the wines that I tried during those days in Mendoza, perhaps few as much as the 2001 Malbec from this producer. I found the wood treatment just right, the flavors were big and bold without being overwhelming.

The winery had epoxy resin tanks, small wood barrels and a very clean feel to it that showed in the wines. Sometimes it seems that the wines that come over here are “dusty” but I didn’t find that with this wine. I just bought a bottle of the 2006 Malbec but haven’t yet opened it. I may do so later today although if I want to go tango, it will be difficult.

I was in Argentina with an Italian friend and when the staff heard Italian, they were encantada. A large number of Argentinians have Italian ancestry and everyone is happy to speak Italian. It seemed at times that Italy has not 58 million people but almost 100 million people if the Argentinians are to be counted.

As I left Mendoza, I began to worry about what awaited me in Buenos Aires. I knew I had to go to a Milonga (dance place) but was very nervous. I took a taxi to get to El Beso. When we pulled up to the curb, the door opened and miraculously, it was someone I know from New York’s tango scene, an Argentinian who runs a Milonga in New York at La Nacional.

That was the first and only time I felt comfortable all evening. Tango in Buenos Aires is a very different proposition than it is here in New York. They dance much closer together and in tighter spaces. I was very intimidated and only stayed for a few dances but then promptly left after a semi-humiliating encounter on the dance floor. When I came back to New York, I discovered that many had had similar experiences. My first Argentinian tango teacher had also reassured me that only 5% of Argentinians dance the tango while 95% drink Mate’. I immediately bought a Mate’ cup at the airport on my way home.

When I started dancing tango four years ago, I had fantasies that I would be doing beautiful moves, elegantly floating around the dance floor with a handsome and very talented dance partner. Many tango evenings later, I am much more inclined to hope I get through the moves, have one series of enjoyable dances and make it off the floor with my ankles intact. I, of course, own the requisite ten pairs of beautiful tango shoes that women buy when they first start out. Tango dancing can be a lot like a good wine, everything must be in balance. Each individual component, be it the man or the woman, the music, the rhythm, the right height, etc must be well integrated. This happens very rarely I have found, which I think can be said of many wines as well. You can have lots of wonderful dances and good wines but that perfect pairing can be elusive. Along the way though, it can be lots of fun.

These photos were taken at the Black and White Ball that is held yearly in New York City at the close of the New York Tango Festival. It’s a great event and part of the fun is watching the stars of tango, the teachers, strut their stuff.

3 Comments

Filed under wines

Calabrian Wine – Not just Ciro’

When I see a wine from Calabria that is not Ciro’, I get really excited. The other night, I found one at Accademia di Vino in New York, surprisingly on their by the glass list. It was from the Savuto and I must say, I was really impressed. Savuto is an area between the cities of Cosenza and Catanzaro which boasts a DOC, one of 12 in the region. Located in the toe of the Italian boot and is often overlooked as a wine region. A very small percentage of the region is dedicated to viticulture. Most of their wines are red. This Savuto Odoardi 2003 was immediately big on the palate with black fruit flavors, followed by notes of wood, vanilla, and cedar that then gave way to chocolate and tar. It was very persistent and well-integrated. Definitely a food wine, I wished that I had ordered a delicious pasta with sausage instead of lighter fare. Calabrian food is generally very spicy and can see how this wine would pair very well with the local cuisine. The prinicipal grape in Savuto is gaglioppo with smaller percentages of Greco Nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco Canino and Sangiovese.

The wine was very elegant and when I discovered that it was made by well-known Italian enologist Stefano Chiccioli, I was not surprised. He is a consultant to many wineries in both France and Italy and has a very specific style. I have met Stefano on occasion and tasted a number of wines that he made for the Marchesi Ginori Lisci. My favorite is the Castello Ginori, a Cabernet and Merlot blend from the Maremma. In an effort to be transparent, I must note that I often work with the Ginori importer so I will say no more. Check out Dancing Bear Cellars if you want any further information on that producer.

Calabria often gets a bad rap because it is associated with the Ndrangheta or local organized crime syndicate. I have spent little time in Calabria except to visit two of the most beautiful statues in the world, Le Bronze di Riace. Two larger than life bronze gods that are now housed in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia museum in Reggio Calabria. I could hardly tear myself away from them. In fact, I organized an entire trip around these two stunning examples of greek warriors. The sculptures were found by a scuba diver off the Calabrian coast in the 1970s. What a find! It’s hard to understand why it took so long to undercover these sculptures from 400 BC. If you go there, you’ll see what I mean. The waters off the coast of Reggio, near Scilla, the home of a monster in Greek mythology, were some of the clearest I have seen anywhere in Italy, including Sardegna, no small feat. The sea, the food and wine and those two gods make Reggio an interesting place to visit.

5 Comments

Filed under Italian wineries, Wine Bars, wines

Ferragosto

Today is Ferragosto in Italy. It is a holiday which commemorates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary for those who believe and for others it simply signifies the middle of August, a day when everything is closed and everyone is on vacation. Reading Mondosapore this morning reminded me of those days in Italy when you really must just relax and assume nothing will get done. I miss that in New York, albeit at times, the entire month of August was depressing for those left in the city. True Milanesi love August in the City, when they can drive their scooters around without having to stop for any red lights, not wait in line at the Post office and go to the market without being pushed by short older women with big carts.

My first summer living in Milan, the entire city was shut down for August but I worked at a financial newswire which never closed its doors. Those were the days when Italy’s Central Bank still mattered and as always, most financial crises began in August. At times, being in the office was almost a relief from the hot, empty streets of the city. When I did have to venture out, I looked forward to the one light on the street, a bar called Le Trottoir. I lived in the Corso Garibaldi area and Le Trottoir was the only game in town. It has since changed its location and style but at the time, it was the closest thing to a hippy bar that I could find in my chic Milan neighborhood and it was refreshing. They served popcorn, bad wine and had loud music every night until dawn. When everyone’s tapparelle or sun blinds were down, it was a pleasure to slip into that bar and order whatever they had on the menu, generally a bland Barbera/Croatina from the Oltrepo’ Pavese, an area near the city of Pavia. These wines used to be on every Milanese restaurant and trattoria menu. They were not particularly refined wines but went well with some of the local fare. WInes from the Oltrepo’ aren’t that popular in the US but they do make some good Pinot Nero. Oltrepo’ Pavese Spumante Metodo Classico was awarded the coveted DOCG (denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita) last year. This sparkling wine can be made with a majority of Pinot Nero grapes together with smaller percentages of Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay.

For wines from the Oltrepo’, check out the Consortium Website for Vini d’Oltrepo.

International Wine Merchants of America imports some wines from the Oltrepo’ into the United States.


Leave a comment

Filed under Italian wineries, wines

A Wedding in Zagarolo, Ciambelle al Vino and Lazio

Wines from Lazio have been a big thing for me this summer. I spent the better part of two weeks in the region in June. In addition to a wonderful wedding of a dear friend in Zagarolo, a town south of Rome, I had the opportunity to taste a lot of interesting wines.

These included an Amarasco from the Principe Pallavicini made from Cesanese del Piglio. Cesanese is usually a blend of Cesanese Comune and Cesanese d’Affile. Cesanese gives big, juicy, somewhat spicy wines. Sometimes I find it reminiscent of a Primitivo but I think that is its meaty undertone. I shared a bottle with a friend in Rome and it was delicious. I had tasted the wine three years earlier when I interviewed the Principessa Pallavicini. I liked the wine at the time and I also really enjoyed this newer vintage.

Cesanese del Piglio was recently given DOCG status, the only wine in Lazio to obtain this designation. Vinowire, an informative newswire about Italian wines, reported the event earlier this year. I got a certain amount of pleasure surprising some Roman friends with this news. They had no idea and in fact, a few didn’t believe me. They were quite surprised that Cesanese had been awarded this honor. Many think that the grape is overrated but I was pleased to see Lazio get a bit more play. I think they have made great strides in their viticulture.

I tried a couple of good blends from Castel de Paolis, a few from Paola De Mauro that were noteworthy and the organic wines of Marco Carpineto that were expensive but outstanding. There were many interesting wines and luckily you can sip a large number at a variety of wine bars in town. You can try many wines at the chic Enoteca Regionale Palatium in Via Frattina, just minutes away from the Spanish steps.

In Italy, the bride and the groom usually give out Confetti (sugar coated almonds) at the end of the wedding. My friend, Teresa De Paolis and her husband Filippo Trezzi, decided to also give out Ciambelle di Zagarolo, the local specialty. These Ciambelle al VIno or the Italian equivalent of donuts are best served with the local Cannellino wine made from Malvasia and Trebbiano. The wedding lasted for approximately four days and much wine and many donuts were consumed.

.

Zagarolo is also famous for horse meat, specifically for a delicacy called Tordo Matto. This is a roll of horse meat filled with pig lard, garlic, salt, pepper, coriander and parsley. It sounds so-so and as an animal lover I was and am opposed to eating horse meat. However, in a moment of weakness at a huge barbecue, I tried one. It was exquisite. I feel terrible saying so but it is the truth. There is a very famous restaurant in town where you can try  this delicacy along with many others called Il Tordo Matto.

For further news about wines from Lazio, check out an article I wrote for Alta Cucina Society, an Epicurean Society.

9 Comments

Filed under Italian Delicacies, Italian Restaurants, Italian wineries, wines