Monday, June 28, 2010

Tallula on Thames

Just had an incredible dinner at a restaurant called Tallula on Thames
(464 Thames Street Newport RI). We were looking for someplace fun,
local and not "baked stuffed". So I "yelped" local restaurants, it
came up at the top of the list where it had only a few reviews, having
only been opened a few months, but all were excellent and describing a
place that sounded worth a try. Kate and Kevin, who live in town, had
heard good things, so we gave it a go.

We were not let down, and were treated to one of the best dinners I
have had this year. We ordered a bunch of things off the concise, well
thought out, locally and seasonally inspired menu. Apps included blue
hill bay mussels (smoked tomato, chourico, garlic rouille and grilled
country bread to sop up the sauce), local heirloom tomato (watermelon,
basil vinaigrette, radish balsamic), roasted beets (orange
vinaigrette, hannabelles, lavender bud and hazel nut a BIG fav, every
bite savored!), and black bird farms 145 degree poached egg (Allen
farms pea greens, brioche, bacon, black truffle vinaigrette - wow!).

The best moment was my eight year old nephew rating the deconstructed
clam chowdah "10,000" points: potato and bacon diced, clams in their
shell, some herbs, all presented in a bowl, then enveloped with warm,
rich, heart-stoppingly creamy soup poured over top at the table. It's
more than a good show, it allows each of the parts to be perfectly
cooked, their textural integrity intact, so they retain their own
essence and character instead of swimming, over cooked, in soup for
maybe hours or more - pure love!

Entrees of Georges Bank day boat scallops (schartner farms carrot
purée, ramps, peas, bacon, brioche), baffoini farms breast of chicken
(sumac, teenie artichokes, meyer lemon, cousous, chick peas, nocoise
olives - perfectly done, savory and bright at the same time with
gentle hints of the meyer lemon really giving it a lovely natural
lift), perfectly done fillet of beef (horse radish potato purée,
spring onion, local carrots, king trumpet mushrooms, asparagus and
bearnaise mousseline), bloomsdale spinach raviloi (spring onions,
great hill blue cheese, pignoli, sherry cream).

Dessert rocked with chocolate fendant (molten inside, dusted with
nutella and toasted hazelnuts and cool vanilla gelato) blueberry tart,
incredible strawberry shortcake with micro lemon basil, Japanese Zula
(?) sauce was otherworldly. Light and airy but sooo much flavor.
Served with "pop rocks" and came out crackling.

Chef Jake Rojas came to the table and talked a bit about the
restaurant, how much he is loving changing seasons, having come from
southern California and their commitment to seasonal, local,
sustainable and fresh where ever possible. The menu tonight reflected
the end of his late spring/early summer influence, with full summer
menu just around the corner. But he really can't wait til fall to
explore game and squash and savory rich colder weather cuisine. I for
one would like to come back and try it!

Wine list was good, short but concise, and had some creative
selections. We had 2009 Pepiere Muscadet and a Bourgogne Rouge 2007
that I don't recall the producer but was quite nice. Could be a little
deeper and if I were them I wouldn't be afraid of going even further
outside the box than they have already. The food is so well thought
out and beautifully balanced I'd like more old world diversity in the
reds (some Rhone, Languedoc, Chinon or Bourgeuil, country French like
Marcillac, some Spanish like Lopez de Heredia would perfect), but
anyone who knows my palate won't be suprised by that. They plan to
change the wine list like they do the menu keeping it current and
seasonally focused on the food, an idea I whole heartedly endorse. All
in all a great experience, the service spot on, friendly, casual and
attentive, the atmosphere great, the food the way I like it, focused
on great fresh local ingredients, thoughtfully and perfectly done in
an understated, balanced composed and elegant style. Each and every
dish beautiful and delineated and pure in presentation and taste. Just
wish we lived closer!

Christopher Cree M.W.
56 Degree Wine/Wine Experts LLC
40 Quimby Lane, Bernardsville NJ 07924
tel: 908.953.0900
cell: 908.310.6127
Wine Events/Classes/Education:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bordeaux Update- New Arrivals and Complete List

 The 2009 futures campaign continues to roll along (click below for our list of new arrivals and current offers), and we will certainly see some of the top properties coming out in the near future. The vintage has in large part been labeled one of the "best ever", and I have to agree that is is certainly great, with potentially some Chateaux making wines that will rank amongst their finest efforts ever. But like all vintages there is variation, and there are some wines that are clearly better than others. As is the norm with nearly every wine we stock, we at 56 Degree wine prefer to taste for ourselves, make our selections, and offer a specialized culling of what we think is the best on offer rather than the shot gun "whatever-got-90-points-or-higher" approach. 
 I spent a week in Bordeaux back in March tasting the promising but tough young wines, and have made my selections on what I think will be the best in quality and value. Both at the very top of the price range, and even more importantly in the value category, we are committed to putting our money (literally) where our mouth is and selecting and offering only those wine we feel are superb examples in this vintage. Even in a hyped-up high quality vintage like 2009 there is value to be had, as many the the smaller properties "step it up", producing wines above their pedigree. One the high end, there are classics that will have their place in the history of great vintages.

 For a complete list and more info 56 Degree Wine Bordeaux 2009. Questions? Email me at Chris Cree MW

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summertime means Rosé!

One of my favorite signs of summer is the arrival in the shop of the newest vintage of dry, crisp rosés. Practically a summer ritual in Cafés and Bistros from the Cote D’Azur to the Costa Brava, these quintessential summer wines were initially met with some resistance here in the States. Yet each year more people shed their fear of “drinking pink” and discover the beauty of these versatile summer wines.

Generally inexpensive, rosés are perfect partners to summer’s more casual entertaining and cuisine. They are great with appetizers of all kinds, grilled tuna, salmon, snapper, chicken salad, salad niçoise, tapenades, grilled summer vegetables, olives, cured meats - all work exceptionally well. They are also great all on their own on a warm summer afternoon!

While there are several methods of production, rosé wines are basically made by leaving the juice of red grapes--almost all grapes, even red ones, have white juice-- macerating on their skins just long enough to develop their signature pink hue rather than the multiple days or even weeks for full bore red wines. The grapes are then pressed or the juice is run off and they finish fermenting much like white wines. Another method, called saignee, (to bleed), is done by siphoning off some portion of juice of red wines early on in the fermentation when it just has a feint hue, and vinifying it like a white wine. The juice, skins, grapes left begin continue on as a red wine for fermentation, except that it is now more concentrated by virtue of having less juice to skin, making for deeper fuller red as well the benefit of having a lovely fresh rosé. The third method, used mainly for inexpensive bulk rosé, is done by blending white and red together, with the notable exception of Rosé Champagne, which is made in this method, and a lovely Basque Rosé called Txakoli that, among others make beautiful wines in this method.

Somewhere between reds and whites, rosés are typically light to medium in body, crisp and wonderfully refreshing--with a trace of tannin from their red lineage. Contrary to popular belief, almost all are actually bone dry! Rosés can range in color from pale pink to brick/salmon to a light ruby red, and often subtle hints of raspberry and strawberry are found both in the aroma and on the palate. Their individual styles are determined in large part by the grapes from which they are made and the regions where they are grown.

While rosés don’t strictly have a season, they are more likely to be found in shops from early April through Labor Day and are generally best consumed young to capture their vibrant youthful freshness. A few exceptions include the Rosé wines of Bandol and those from Lopez de Heredia (who don’t even release them until they have many years of bottle age) that can actually improve for up to a decade and more. Enjoy – but don’t wait! The selection tends to dwindle as the summer winds down and shops begin to look to falls fuller bodied flavors.
For our current offering of Summer Rosé click 56 Degree Wine.