Wine Poster by L. Gadoud (1925)
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NEW YORK CORNER: Macelleria by John Mariani
FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Up in Michigan Vineyards
WHAT'S NEW AROUND THE BAY AREA? Part One
by John Mariani
There’s nothing wrong with
the restaurants in San Francisco, except
that so many of them serve pretty much the same Northern
Cal-Mediterranean menu. Indeed, it would be hard to find a non-Asian
restaurant in the city not serving beet salads with goat’s cheese,
mussels in white wine, and grilled salmon.
San Fran restaurant to open this year is Luce, in the Intercontinental
near the Moscone Center in SoMa. I know it seems an unlikely venue for
dining, but the designers have created a smart-looking, airy restaurant
whose tall windows reflect light off black-and-gold mosaics and silver
globes, giving the room a shimmer both day and night.
Roasthouse is a vast place on the
Embarcadero, and when I visited at twilight, the romantic view of the
Bay Bridge played counterpoint to the dark, timbered, industrial
ambiance of the dining room, dominated by a huge water pump and
flywheel of a kind used to fight the city’s 1906 earthquake fire. It's
one of restaurateur/designer Pat Kuleto's quirkier designs, more
Disneyland-ish, in contrast to the cool sleekness of his next-door
Waterbar, which is also quite large. Kuleto has done more than 175
restaurants, and his own best efforts have included Boulevard and
Farallon in San Francisco and Martini House in the Napa Valley.
Appetizers $6-$18, main
For its 3-story wine cellar alone (right)—encased in thick glass that includes the floor you walk on—this is a unique place, and the list itself of more than 2,000 selections is, in a West Coast way, awesome.
The restaurant is a series of finely crafted rooms, with more glass walls, an onyx bar, and chandeliers that slowly change color throughout the meal. It all has a kind of swanky posh that nods towards Vegas but retains a fine elegance.
The menu is all frills: Chef-partner Peter Armellino (most recently at Aqua Restaurant in San Francisco) starts you off with three kinds of caviar, or perhaps a heart-unstopping rich fondue of melted Camembert, into which you dip slices of potatoes cooked in duck fat then dusted with black truffles. Wonderfully tender Monterey abalone shares a plate with sweet Sharlyn melon, acquiring a salty-smoky edge from bacon. Armellino doesn’t let up: There’s a foie gras and onion soufflé with prunes soaked in Armagnac. There’s more foie gras married to the roast breast of duck, with ripe white peaches and walnuts. The juicy, well-fatted Colorado rib-eye of Colorado lamb with shallot-stuffed ravioli and a truffle jus is a great dish, too. And for dessert, what the hell, go crazy with the “2010” banana split with chocolate, banana ice cream, candied almonds, and a cherry gel.
Prices here are high but not outrageous, with appetizers starting at $9 and going up to $25 for that abalone, and main courses $32-$44. The best way to appreciate Armellino’s range is with the 7-course $115 tasting menu ($80 for vegetarians).
You might consider having an early or late dinner at get tix for a concert at the nearby Mountain Winery—Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Steely Dan, and so on--and go back to Plumed Horse for an after-dinner drink from a stock of first-rate brandies and spirits. Unless, of course, you're driving back to SFO yourself.
This article was adapted from
Mariani's weekly column in Bloomberg Muse News.
Part Two of this article will appear on
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
48 Gansevoort Street
Has it really been almost a decade ago that Macelleria opened?NEW FEATURE: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up with three excellent travel sites:
And how has this unassuming restaurant been able to outlast so many of the flash-in-the-pan trendier places that have flopped in the Meat Market District?
The answers are, I think, pretty obvious: First, the quality of this Tuscan-style steakhouse/trattoria has never wavered, and second, owner Sergio Bitici and his lovely daughter Violetta (below) have never treated a single patron as anything less than a welcome guest. While other restaurants in the area have their pecking order guest lists and clueless hostesses at the door, Macelleria opens its arms wide and does all its staff can to make people happy. Ergo, a decade in business, and that business is never flagging.
On a recent, beautiful evening, Macelleria's tables were packed, as were those inside the brick-walled dining room, downstairs and up, in a building that was once a meat warehouse. Butcher tables, meat lockers, wine bottles set on ledges, simple china and napery, and a semi-open kitchen give the place a faux-rusticity within city limits, and a ceramic bull's head is the centerpiece for it all. These days you'll hear as much Italian, French, German, and Spanish spoken here as English, because Macelleria has a strong European following. The Italians especially--and Tuscans most of all--feel right at home here, for the steaks are as close as you'll come to bistecca alla fiorentina in America.
But there is, in fact, much more on the menu worth considering aside from the superb USDA Prime beef. By all means begin with a big platter of fried zucchini, slim ribbons cooked in good oil till perfectly crisp and sweet. The mixed salumi are wonderful, as is the bread you place them on, and the pastas--half a dozen plus specials--taste exactly the way they would at your favorite trattoria in Florence or Siena: Garganelli comes with a rich oxtail ragù; spinach ravioli is done in a bright, lush tomato sauce with the last of summer's basil; pappardelle with wild boar sauce is sensationally good, but be prepared to take some home if you plan on having a main course. As a special that night, shrimp and linguine fra diavolo was delicious, light, with a little zip of pepper, and fragrant aromas of the Mediterranean in the sauce. I was chagrined to find the spaghetti alla carbonara here has heavy cream in it ("Americans ask for it," sighs Sergio), but just ask the kithchen to leave it out.
It would be ridiculous to dissuade you from going for the beef here, but if your tablemates want something else, they should be extremely happy with dishes like the golden crisp veal alla milanese with arugula, or the impeccably roasted chicken alla diavola. One of the dishes I will always order at Macelleria is the fabulous eggplant baked with mozzarella and tomatoes--so sweet, so creamy, so decadently rich.
Okay, how about the beef? Well, since Macelleria--which means "butcher shop"--is smack in the (quickly diminishing) Meat Market District, its access to the finest beef is a no-brainer. (Though not a given, for despite the excellence of the meats served at the Old Homestead, Valbella, and Craftsteak down here, plenty of other restaurants buy second-rate beef.)
There are five cuts, including a porterhouse (for two), a rib-eye, a New York strip, and chopped steak--all of the best quality. But if you love bistecca alla fiorentina, whose cut is called a lombata, order Macelleria's T-bone, which is cut nice and thick, lightly charred on the outside, and cooked rare or medium-rare (anything beyond that is criminal). It exudes all sorts of flavors--mineral, salt, sweetness--along with textures and resilience. Its is a beautiful piece of meat.
There are some good desserts here, including a New York style cheesecake, though the apple strüdel needs some work.
The winelist, a simple two-page screed, has a lot of the big names along with unfamiliar smaller estates with very rational prices, and plenty of options under $50.
Indian summer makes dining al fresco at Macelleria a New York reverie, but you could as easily think you were on the Via Palchetti in Florence feasting of bistecca at Il Latini, or Via Rosina at Trattoria Mario. Macelleria is as close as you'll come this side of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Macelleria is open daily for lunch and dinner. Appetizers run $8-$12, pastas as full portions $$17-$9, and main courses $18-$45.
FROM THE WINE CELLAR
in Michigan Vineyards Take Root
Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News,
from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from
art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and
some of its articles play on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.
Certainly, Count, We Have a Wonderful Table for You
and Your Blood Brides Right Over Here!
A restaurant in the Ukraine named Eternity is serving dinner in a coffin 20 meters long, six meters wide and six meters high, decorated with wreaths. The menu includes a dish called "Let's meet in paradise." The owner says he hopes it will bring tourists to the town of Truskavets.
BEAUTIFUL B-B-B-BLUE EYES YOU HAVE!
“Soon after I sat down on my first visit my Hooters girl came over to take our order and promptly took a seat next to my friend. I call this move the `sit and reveal.' I saw the same technique practiced at other tables and again on a subsequent visit. It appears to be standard operating procedure and it provides a better vantage point from which to scope out your Hooters girl. It's quite effective. I confess I have a Mayberry-like habit of looking at the girls in the eyes. But I'm trying to do better.”—Stett Holbrook, “Hooters," Metroactive (8/27/08).
* On Sept. 24,-26, and Oct. 1 & 3, a Bavarian Oktober
Fest will be held by chef Kurt Gutenbrunner at Blaue Gans in NYC
with "The Adlers" musicians. Call 212-571-8880.
* On Sept. 26 & 27 “Discover Wine with Robert
Mondavi” at the Charlotte Shout Culinary Experience, at Johnson
& Wales University Campus in Charlotte, NC, where wine experts will
discuss affordable entertaining and the basics of wine and
entertaining; cooking demonstrations and competitions.
* Now until Sept. 30th Taberna
del Alabardero, Washington, DC, will host its annual Paella
Festival at $28 pp.
* Share Our
Strength¹s Great American Dine Out, presented by American
Express®, is a new national campaign that rallies the entire
restaurant industry to make sure no kid in America grows up
hungry. From September 21 to 28, thousands of restaurants
across the country to raise money. For info visit
* On Oct. 1 Texas is hosting its first-ever statewide
dine-out day called the GO TEXAN
Restaurant Round-Up with more than 200 restaurants across the
state will offering special Texas menu items, food and wine pairings
and Texas wine tastings. Many restaurants will donate proceeds to
Texas food banks. Texas singer/songwriters Kelly Willis and
Bruce Robison are celebrity ambassadors. Visit www.GOTEXAN.org.
* On Oct. 2, at Seasons restaurant at Four Seasons
Hotel San Francisco , Chef Mark Richardson will feature
a 5-course tasting menu paired with Shafer wines; Doug
Shafer, president of Shafer Vineyards, will guide guests through a
tasting tour of their wines. $150 pp. Call 415- 633-3838 or visit
* From Oct. 17-19 the 4th
Annual Nevis International Culinary Heritage Exposition (NICHE)
will be held on the island of Nevis. Activities incl. cooking
demos, seminars at Old Manor Plantation with members of the
Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis Culinary Team; Gourmet
lunches, cheese and wine tastings, rum and chocolate pairings, table
décor and theme party presentations, cigar rolling, and a
tasting of fine aged rums compliments of Rhum Clement Martinique;
island-style beach barbeque with dancing and music at the Four Seasons
Resort Nevis. Pascal Bony of Moet Hennessy will offer samplings of
Hennessy Cognacs and a special cooking demonstration by celebrity chef,
Carmen Gonzalez. Events individually priced or in an all-inclusive
package. Accommodations provided at special NICHE rates.
* On Oct. 7 in San Francisco, McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant
holds its 15th annual Shuck & Swallow Oyster Challenge, with an
oyster and wine pairing benefit event immediately following the
competition, to benefit the The Marine Mammal Center. $30 pp.
* On Oct. 9 in Louisville, KY, chef and owner Dean
Corbett and chef Chris Howerton will present a 4-course “Meet the
Farmers Dinner” at Corbett’s “An
American Place.” $55 pp. Call 502-327-5058. Visit
* On Oct. 12 La Cachette
in Los Angeles hosts a Chateau Le Puy
Organic Food & Bio Dynamic Wine Tasting 9-course dinner by
chef/owner Jean Francois Meteigner. $160 pp. Call 310-470-2510.
* On Oct. 12 Spenger’s
Fresh Fish in Berkeley, California,holds their 8th annual Crabby
Chefs Seafood Festival, to benefit the Berkeley Cal Recreational Sports
Development Fund’s Camp Scholarship Program. Incl. an “Iron Chef” style
culinary competition; outdoor food booths; musical entertainment. The
competition is free. Also he Pacific Seafood “roadshow,” a mobile
retail fish and shellfish store. Call Spenger’s at 510- 845-7771.
* On Oct. 16 the annual fundraising benefit of the Seattle Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier
International will celebrate the Seattle debut of the brand-new,
Dames-branded cookbook entitled, Cooking
with Les Dames d'Escoffier: At Home with the Women Who Shape the Way We
Eat and Drink edited by Marcella Rosene with San Antonio Dame
Pat Mozersky. The fundraiser will be held at Kathy
Casey Food Studios with a walk-around reception of dishes created by
the Seattle Dames whose recipes are incl. in the book. $110 pp, incl. a
copy of the book. Visit www.lesdamesseattle.com/Oct2008fundraiser.htm.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: RIO DE JANEIRO
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contrinbutor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK: On the Road: Tamoa-Sarasota
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Brian Freedman, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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