Monday, October 25, 2010

Tour D'Italia - Tresca in Boston

Traveling again, this time for a corporate client event in Boston at an excellent Italian restaurant called Tresca located in Boston's historic North End. It is owned in part by Bruins Hockey legend Ray Bourque, and run by General Manager Massimo Tiberi, whose enthusiasm and passion for the cuisine and wine is evident from the minute you begin to work with him. A little tour of Italy was the theme, with wines from Friuli, Nebbiolo d'Alba from Piedmont, a Sangiovese/Merlot Super Tuscan blend and a Moscato D'Asti to wind things up, all paired with a menu specifically chosen to work with the wines. Great service from the staff and a little educational background about Italy, the wines, and the menu all combined to make this a fun and informative evening that, judging by the post-dinner comments, everyone enjoyed! Then again as long as the restaurant "gets it" and provides well prepared food, seamless service, and good wine, my job is a joy! Surprising how many can't execute, but Tresca did tonight. The menu and wines are below - and while everything was great, if I had to pick a favorite it was the Bolognese sauced Gnocchi with the Nebbiolo. It just barely edged out the fork tender Osso Bucco that melted in your mouth, served with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a big, muscular Tuscan red. Looking forward to coming back here again! If you are interested in a corporate, private or non-profit wine event please feel free to contact me at 908.310.6127 or visit our web site at  Wine Experts LLC for a detailed outline of services and wine classes provided. Cheers!

~Tour Di Italia~

~Tresca Restaurant~


Choice of:

Crespelle al Forno

Crisp chive crepes stuffed with roasted wild mushrooms and
truffled fresh ricotta

Capesante Veneziane

Cider glazed native sea scallops, roasted parsnip lobster broth,
apple arugala salad

Caesar con Tartufi
Classic Romaine salad with white truffle Caesar dressing

2008 “Tocai” Friulano Bastianich-Friuli

~Pasta Course~

Gnocchi Bolognese
Traditional northern style veal and pork ragout enriched with
pancetta and tomatoes

2008 “100% Nebbiolo” Giacosa Fratelli-

~Piatti Principali~

Choice of:

Filetto di Manzo
Eight ounce Black Angus tenderloin finished with
Tresca’s homemade steak sauce, roasted garlic
mashed potatoes, and
grilled asparagus

Vitello Osso Bucco
Traditional style braised veal shank served roasted
garlic mashed potatoes, finished with a hearty tomato
vegetable ragu

Salmon Genovese

Slow roasted Atlantic salmon filet, served with a
shaved fennel and apple salad, roasted garlic mashed

potatoes, finished with an
apple cider reduction

2007 “Super Tuscan” 70% Sangiovese, 30%
“Poggio Alla Badiola” Castello di Fonterutoli-


North End Classic
Trio of Modern Pastry cannoli filled with chocolate,
ricotta, custard

2008 “Moscato D’Asti” Piazzo- Piemonte

On The Fundraiser Trail

One of the greatest rewards I have experienced as member of the small number of those who have earned the MW designation has been the ability to use my love of wine for the benefit of so many who are less fortunate in life. Both personally, through the shop, with the help of my generous business partners and our own non-profit Grapes For Good, I have participated in thousands of non-profit events. Sometimes it has been as small as a donation of a decanter or set of wine glasses, or a sale of wine at cost, sometimes as involved as donating or hosting a tasting or event to raise funds. Indeed, we are approached daily, sometimes several times a day, for requests to help with one or another charity. We would love to do them all, and as part of our core belief and as a member of our local community, we do everything we can. But unfortunately we have to decline more often than not, and hope for understanding from all as we do have to run our business and hold to our budgets. If we honored them all, or even a fraction, we would would quickly become a charity case ourselves! The list of those we helped is long and has included dozens of local schools, hospitals, and the arts - a partial listing is below, but there have been many more. If you have a cause, you believe in, please feel free to submit it for consideration - all we ask is that you are also be understanding when we have to defer. Meanwhile this week there were a few fun and worthy events, including a fantastic dinner of rare and eclectic wines and guest speaker Antonio Galoni from the Wine Advocate at Il Cappriccio, and the heart warming Canine Companions for Independence. And coming soon on November 21st, our own Annual Champagne tasting! Click for details. A list of the terrific wines from Il Cappriccio are below. 
Stuzzichini M isti

(Assorted Hot & Cold Appetizers Butler Style)
Movia Puro Rosato Undisgorged 2002
Cash Bar

I Primi

Cuore di Carciofi Ripieni

(Stuffed Center Cut Artichokes)
M ovia Lunar (Ribolla Gialla) 2007

La Pasta

Trofiette al Ragu di Anatra al Vino Rosso

(Fresh Trofiette Pasta with Duck Ragu & Fresh Tomato)
Bartolo M ascarello Barolo 1999

Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2003

I l Pesce

Rosetta di Salmone Selvatico allo Zafferano e Semi di Papaveri

(Rose Shaped Salmon in Saffron Sauce)
Gravner Ribolla Gialla Amphora 2003


Coppetta di Feletto di Bue Ripieno ai Quattro Formaggi con Speck

(Filet Mignon Stuffed with Four Cheeses, Walnuts & Speck)
Soldera Case Basse Brunello di M ontalcino Riserva 2002

Poggio di Sotto “I l Decennale” 2001

I nsalata

Nido di Parmiggiano con I nsalatine di Campo

(Mixed Field Salad in Parmiggiano Basket)

Gli Dolce

Cannoli alle M andorle

(Almond Tuille Cannolli)
Guiseppe Quintarelli Amabile del Cere 1990

Canine Companions for Independance
Gil Saint Bernards
The Matheny School and Educational Center
The Midland School
The Children's Home of Easton
The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House
Delbarton School
Oak Knoll School
Somerset hills Education Foundation
Susan G Komen Foundation
Someset Medical Center
The Willowwod Foundation
The Morristown Soup Kitchen
Pingry School
Far Hills Country Day School
Acorn Montesorri
William Annin School
Warren Hospital Foundation
Hunterdon Medical Center
Hunterdon Art Musem
Integrity House
Friend of the Shelter
Overlook Hospital
Special Olympics
Saint John's on the Mountain
The Arc of Somerset and Hunterdon
The Hemophilia Foundationof NJ
The Growing Stage
Orpheus Orchestra
North Hampton Community College
Mansion in May
Westmont Montessori
The Bernards Ski Team
The Tewksbury Education Foundation
Visual Art Center of NJ
Somerset County YMCA
The Summit Speach School
Somerset Hills Little League
Somerset Art Association
Resource Center for Women
Mylestone Equine
NJ Youth Coir

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Union League Club Moves to the Top of the Philly Restautrant List

Well the moveable feast continued on Thursday as we took the the culinary tour south to the City of Brotherly Love for another incredible dinner, this time at The Union League Club. About two years ago, in a pretty audacious move, the powers that be at the 148 year old club were able to entice long time Four Seasons Chef  Martin Hamann to join them to create a new era in dining at this venerable establishment. While I don't have the photos to prove it, there was just something wrong with whipping out the iPhone in a private club, this was another spectacular evening with a delicious fall menu that was as picture perfect in its presentation as it was a joy to consume!

We began at our hosts' palacial condominium in the Liberty Two Tower - stunning views of the city, NJ, the Delaware and Schuylkill - with a little Veuve Clicquot Brut Rose 1985, lovely, still fresh, dry and wine-y with its hints of Pinot, a perfect aperitif. There was also a little taste of a 1998 Tignanello opened the day before - cedary, dark fruits, Bordeaux like with a little Tuscan sun, quite tasty! Then off to dinner at the Club, up the stairs to 1862, the modern, beautiful space tucked away on the second floor of this cavernous old building. In stark contrast to the well worn, time honored, power-broker, clubby feel in the rest of the building, the space for the restaurant has been completey redone room. Modern, elegant, classy, it is tres chic. The kitchen is visible but behind glass so one gets to see the action without the noise, providing a dignified stately ambiance where you can easily converse in normal speaking tones with your guests. We were well armed with wine as they allowed us to BYO. As our server recitied the menu we were glad that we brought the big guns. What followed was an exceptional dinner, and coming the night after our excellent experience at Bouley that's saying something! Very different in style, but right there on quality. Bouley was more etheral, pushing it a little further, maybe a bit more creative and daring. This was comfort food gone way upscale, great ingredients, lovingly prepared, heart-warming, elegant fare. 
First Course: Haddock sliced thin and layered with potatoes and a crisp delicate ring situated on top, with a very generous dollop of paddle fish caviar right through the middle. Almost like a terrine, served warm, very delicate and precise, each element retaining its own texture and identity yet working together to create a whole that transcended the sum of the parts. Absolutely perfect with Raveneau Grand Cru Chablis Blanchots 2001, just now entering phase two of its life, still fresh but with some secondary notes of acacia, hazelnut, and that creamy Raveneau-esque character.

Second Course: Carpaccio of venison with fois gras and crisp. This was good with the Chablis, but we should have opened the Huet here!

Third Course: Ragout of pheasant, some mushrooms, another excellent dish, hearty, with chunks of fork tender game bird and a beautiful sauce - the very essence of fall. Volnay 1er Cru Champans 1999, Marquis D'Angerville Volnay. This was a little funky out of the gate, closed, hint of earthiness bordering on mustiness and I was a bit worried about it. After 10 minutes it cleaned up and began to show old school, well structured dark earth and fruit tones, with solid firm tannins and a deep concentrate core, some spices - still a baby - it really improved in the glass with time. Had another Burgundy, a 2003 Beaune La Montanee, Domaine de la Vougeraie - thought it had a little heat of the vintage and perhaps a little VA and a slightly tingly texture one the palate. Once again, presentation simple and elegant, as with everything we were served, an  absolutely beautiful dish, a perfect match with Pinot.

Fourth Course: Loin of Antelope, perfectly rare, with incredibly deeelish pear sauce swirled on the plate, winter greens - kale I think. Two reds, 1990 Leoville Barton, drinking great, elegant, warm earthy complex, and 1995 Chateau Haut Brion, wet stones, earth, dark fruits - classy, focused and solid, still a bit locked up and ideally could use a few more years. Great wine, even old Burgundian curmudgeon Joe Bembry was smiling after the these two wines!

Finished up with a cheese cart featuring all American cheeses and some really good ones at that with the Vouvray, "Le Mont" Mollieux 1985, Huet. What a wine! Still youthful pale hue, lovely fresh lime, citrus, with a stony cool minerality. Brilliant acidity keeps this wine crisp and laser focused, almost finishing dry. Still fresh and youthful served blind I would never venture a guess that this was 25 years - seems like it could age forever.

I don't get out that often in Philly, but have been to a few of the best eateries in town and this is without doubt amongst the tops on that list. If you haven't been yet, find a friend who is a member and get them to take you as soon as you can! For some more info on 1862, some photos and the Inquirers review click

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The 56 Degree Wine Adventure at Bouley

Wow! The word doesn't really do it justice, but last nights dinner at Bouley was just that. The Chef was very definitely "in the house", creating an exciting menu that was perfectly executed by his impressive team both in the kitchen and at the table, great with the wines, and absolutely delicious. At the beginning of the evening one of our guests asked "Why here?" I think the experience that began when we entered through the apple scented foyer  and didn't end until the petits fours and coffee were served several hours later put paid to that!
The genesis for tonight's soiree began almost two years ago to the day when Chef Bouley offered us a first glimpse of his restaurants new location. We could have the whole venue, just for us and our guests, a couple of days before it opened to the public. We could bring in our own wine, he'd design a menu to compliment. We got an insiders view and first chance to vet the new digs, and a great dinner, he got to do a run through before opening to the masses: win-win! With the Chef coming out after the dinner and spending quite a bit of time with our guests, it was truly a special evening. We vowed to do it again, and last evening marked our return.
As beautiful as the restaurant was on our preview visit, one can now see that it was not quite completed. The bones were there, but last evening we saw the space in all its glory, so much more detail, all the finishing touches long completed and now showing the comfort and warmth of having been lived in for a couple of years. The attention to detail that went into the space is truly astounding, and Chef Bouley is almost as happy talking about the French doors and hardware from 13th century, the tons and tons of stone from the same quarry that is used for the restoration of the Versailles Palace in France (the first to be sold out of the quarry for several hundred years), the ancient restored beams, and the craftsmen and women who came from all over the world to build it, as he about his incredible cuisine.  All that work, he joked, and it will probably be a Citibank branch in 30 years!
While last time we chose the wines and had the Chef create the menu, this time we flipped the order, challenging ourselves to match wines to a menu that Chef would create the day before from whatever fresh, seasonal ingredients inspired him. True to his word he phoned it in at about 4pm the day before -  yipes! No chance to order in if we needed something.  And what a menu it was, with a lot of moving parts in each of the creations - our immediate reaction was love at first sight, but quite a wine challenge! They were multi faceted dishes, hard to really understand how the subtle flavors and textures would express themselves, and how they would work with wine, especially without seeing or sampling in advance.  It occurred to me that wine and food pairing, like cooking and wine making,  is a combination of art and science, where creativity and intuition are best supplemented with real measurable knowledge and experimenting if you want to get it right. The simple stuff is easy - red wine with beef, white with fish! But when we are talking about cooking at this level, it's a whole new ballgame. Nevertheless, we asked for it, so onto the wines we went. I think Joe and I spent more time on this one than any other we have done. Looking at each detail in the description, thinking about what the main flavors would be, parsing each element and thinking how its overall weight, acidity, flavor, texture, and richness will react with the wine, and what the same elements in the wine would bring to the dish. I can assure you we went back an forth for quite a while before making our selections.
Results? I should leave that to our fellow diners, but in my humble opinion we hit it pretty well "spot on". It is also fair to say that we had a little help from our friends in the kitchen. Part of the beauty of working with such a talented Chef and staff is that they actually get it! You would be surprised how many times we have worked with a staff, that as talented as they may be in the kitchen, is quite tone deaf to the wine aspect. Not here! Chef Bouley looked at the wines we chose that day and tweaked the menu with a few deft touches to really knit each dish and wine together, nous vous remercier!
Once again at the end of the dinner Chef Bouley spent a considerable amount of time with us, telling a few stories about his wedding and the celebration of wine, food, and friends that he experienced, about his thoughts on food and cooking and ingredients, and his love of this space. When he talks about the restaurant, he tends to be drawn to its physical presence - the stone, the brick, the doors, the detail of the workmanship, tactile and connected, giving them a pat and caress like you would a thoroughbred horse. It almost seems that he draws strength, creativity and inspiration from the structure of the building. Being downstairs where you see the supporting arches, beams and stonework, firmly rooted to the rock of Manhattan underneath Duane Park, accentuates the feeling - and on that note creative, detailed, precise, hands-on, and rock solid is exactly how I would describe my experience last night.

Passed Canapés (7pm-7:30pm) – NV Pascal Paillard Champagne Brut Bouzy Grand Cru
Fresh Malibu Sea Urchin Terrine with Russian Golden Oscetra Caviar, Fresh Kinome Leaf - NV Pascal Paillard Champagne Brut Bouzy Grand Cru
Butter-Sugar Corn Flan with Live Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi – 2001 Patrick Lesec Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er cru
Organic Connecticut Farm Egg
24 month Prosciutto di Parma, Steamed Polenta, Artichoke,
Coconut and Early Garlic Broth – 2001 Ronchi di Cialla Ciallabianco Colli Orientali del Friuli (MAGNUM)
Chatham Day Boat Lobster
Brown and White Honshimeji Mushrooms, Passion Fruit,
English Peas,Fresh Lychee, Hyssop – 2008 Knoll Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd
Venison Loin Wrapped with a rye and Salt Crust
with Raoster Chestnut Peels, Pruneaux D'Agen, Pennsylvania Chestnut Gnocchi, Baby Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Comté Cloud – 2001 Barbaresco Asili, Bruno Giacosa
Chilled Strawberry Soup with Organic Yogurt Sorbet
Hot Caramelized Anjou Pear
Valrhona Chocolate, Biscuit Breton, Hot Toffee Sauce
Réglisse Sorbet and Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream – 2001 Isole e Olena Vin Santo

Petits Fours and Chocolates

Monday, October 4, 2010

Domaine Robert Jasmin.

The beauty of the Northern Rhone, especially on the gloomy, cold, rainy day I visited in March, is definitely in the wines! This time of year the rocky bones of the incredibly steep vineyards look like a black and white photo, with the schist and granite that form the spine and character of the wines laid bare. In the cellar of Patrick Jasmin, however, the clarity and elegance of his wines and the warm, welcoming hospitality he and his wife Arlette exude dispels the chill pretty quickly. 
Patrick is the fourth generation to run the Domaine, with great grandfather Alexandre arriving from Champagne around 1900 to become a Chef at the Chateau D'Ampuis. He purchased some vineyards and was bottling wine as early as 1909. His son Georges took over and lived a long and hearty life, passing away in 1987 at the ripe old age of 83. Son Robert took over from there and ran the property until his tragic death in 1999 when he was hit by a car during a shooting trip. Enter Patrick, who up until this point was mainly involved in motocross racing, becoming French National Champion in his specialty of "Kart-Cross" in 2000. He took over in the cellars and gave up the traveling motocross life in 2002 to solely concentrate on family and Domaine. A big burly guy, Patrick looks tough enough to man-handle a motocross bike, but in the cellar he is at home among the casks and barrels, a bit of humor and subtle wit obvious below the sturdy exterior.
The Domaine owns or rents about 5.3 ha of vines, in 11 plots in eight lieux-dits both in the north and southern part of the appellations providing a nice balance between schist and granite soils. This range of sites offers not only a balance of different soils, but also of exposure with the higher parcels cooler parcels ripening later and bringing freshness and acidity, the early ripening parcels adding ripeness, weight and fruit to the mix. There is viognier in the mix, between 4-6% with the actual amount varying by vintage. The average vine age is about 25 years, with some parcels planted in the 1960's and some 60+ year old vines in Les Moutonnes and Cote Baudin. 
The winemaking is pretty straight forward, 20-22 days of vinification, all de-stemmed since 1996, cap submerged with wooden boards, and the cap sometime broken up by foot, and occasionally a saignee to concentrate the wines a bit. Part of the wine is matured in 228 liter casks, part in 590 liter demi-muids. There is no formula for new oak, around 20% being the average. No fining, and a light filtration are used. Bottling after about 18 months, sometimes  in several runs but not sure if this is still true.
Domaine Robert Jasmin Cote Rotie 2007. Absolutely beautiful! An elegant, classy, excellent example of what I love about Cote Rotie. A nose of sweet dark fruits, hint of coffee or espresso,  tobacco and dark earth that brings to mind images of the steep hills where these wines were born. Complex, still youthful and firm, this has loads of promise.  This is a selection of the best lots from the parcels scattered throughout his holdings, and Patrick pointed out another advantage besides the diversity of soil and terroir is that in years when there is hail he often will only have several sites affected, sparing the rest. Great effort in a great vintage, I love the elegance and balance of the Jasmin style - more about finesse than power or sheer volume, this wine will definitely find a place in my cellar! To purchase the 2007 click here 56 Degree Wine
We also were treated to a preview of the Cote Rotie 2008, leaner, tighter, more focused and less opulent that the 2007, it nevertheless has elegance, purity, and good depth. We also tasted the 2009. Deep dark saturated. Loads of fruit power, ripe tannins and excellent  structure underneath - Wow!! Best vintage he has ever seen! Finally a taste of the Cote Rotie 2001. Patrick bought back from a private cellar (he sold all of his!) at 2x  the release price from collector in town. Just beginning to show secondary aromas of earth cool elegance tobacco. Lovely sweet earth, leather, tobacco, warm red and dark fruits, silky, almost Burgundian in wieght - Beautiful. Could go another 5-10. References for this post include John Livingston-Learmonth's "The Wines of the Northern Rhone" and "Rhone Renaissance" by Remington Norman, excellent sources if you want to learn a little more about this fantastic region.