Roberts in the film "Eat Pray Love" (2010)
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Doing the Charleston Chew by Suzanne Wright
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: LOIRE VALLEY WINES GET PUMPED UP by John Mariani
MAN ABOUT TOWN: A Long Haul to Singapore Requires Sheer Luxury by Christopher Mariani
Doing the Charleston Chew
"La Tête de Porc" by Charleston Artist William McCullough
It’s a sweltering summer day, and I am trudging across cobblestones, my legs heavy as anchors, mopping the sweat from my forehead.
I am a woman on a culinary mission. Heat, humidity, mosquitoes—I won’t be daunted. Meals await in air-conditioned comfort.
According to the Convention & Visitor Bureau, Charleston is “where history lives.” But from a culinary perspective, history is being made, every day, on plates throughout the city. The vibrant scene has long attracted national attention, with a string of local chefs achieving acclaim.
I’ve checked into Restoration on King. Built as condos before the recession, it is now a boutique hotel (left) with a privileged location half a block off King Street, the city’s main pedestrian artery. Room 306 is a corner suite suspended over the street, with floor to ceiling windows and contemporary interiors; it’s like staying at an artist friend’s hip loft. The service exemplifies Southern hospitality: continental breakfast is brought in a picnic basket, wine and cheese is served nightly at 5 p.m., followed by milk and cookies at 8.
Caviar & Bananas is Charleston’s version of Manhattan’s Zabar’s. I grab a tub of pimento cheese and a to-go container of zucchini, cranberry, pecan and feta salad and I’m off to Wadmalaw Island. Cross the bridge (or was it two?) and a lonesome ribbon of asphalt unfurls over the famously picturesque marsh land, Spanish-draped live oaks providing a canopy of shade. This is farmland; hand-lettered signs for tomatoes, corn and peaches punctuate the road’s shoulder.
First stop: the Charleston Tea Plantation (below), America’s only commercial tea farm. Even if I don’t, tea loves heat and humidity; 150 years ago planters brought bushes from China to the island where they’ve thrived. The tour includes a trolley ride through the fields, a glimpse of the processing and a tasting. I’ve arrived at the moment of “first flush,” when tea goes from field to cup in just 20 hours; the result is a rich, aromatic brew. I stock up on the popular Charleston Breakfast and Governor’s Gray.
Next, I’m headed for the “hard stuff.” Husband and wife Jim and Ann Irvin have a funky compound (once used as carriage storage) that comprises their two operations: Firefly Vodka Distillery and Irvin House Vineyards. (South Carolina law prohibits signage and I didn’t have cell service, so be sure to ask for directions as you depart the tea plantation.)
Created in 2007, sweet tea vodka is the signature product of the state’s first distillery and a nationally popular Southern spirit, but there are seven others, including peach tea. Brags Jim, “You can smell the fuzz on the peach.” Also in the works, java rhum made with Colombian coffee. It, too, had a powerful nose, though I was partial to the infusion made with Buffalo Trace bourbon. At Charleston’s only winery, the wines tend toward the sweet (muscadine grapes are the varietal), though I think Mullet Hall red is irresistibly named.
Dinner at the Fat Hen (right) on neighboring John Island is, quite simply, life-affirming. In an unpretentious setting, Chef Fred Neuville is serious about farm-to-table; he has a farmer’s market in his parking lot during Sunay brunch. Vegetarians will be very, very happy: fried green tomatoes maintain their texture with a light panko crust and a smear of goat cheese, a dab of pepper relish and a puddle of tomato jam; the roasted corn and oven-dried tomato salad has the one-two surprise of boiled peanuts and Green Goddess dressing. Oysters—twice the size of my thumb, yet firm, not flabby—are sautéed with country ham and wild mushrooms and served over grilled bread. There’s so much more: an interesting charcuterie plate, perfectly crispy pommes frites, butter bean cake with avocado chipotle cream. The special of the day was truly inspired: meaty wreckfish paired with mesclun, fresh corn, wax beans, heirloom tomatoes and lemon cucumbers, goosed with a citrus vinaigrette—summer’s bounty on a plate. Do not miss the "pluff mudd pie" (ask your server to explain the name), a fluffy chocolate mousse with an Oreo crust and Chantilly cream. Hands-down, this was my favorite meal of the trip.
Back in Charleston the following day, I had another praiseworthy meal
Street, open just since November
2009. Chef Todd Garrigan has reinvented fried calamari by tossing
corn, tomatoes and green onions, along with bacon for smokiness.
are served with local honey; his mussels with garlic, tomatoes, white
herbs have a pleasant sweetness.
At FISH (left)
the desserts were most
memorable, perhaps because of the menu’s engaging copywriting: “It’s
if the juice doesn’t drip off of your elbow. That’s what my mom
told me about a strawberry,” which captures the spirit of the
parfait with yuzu lime syrup,
sitting between two star anise
grown-up ice cream sandwich. Cheesecake lollipops were rolled in
chocolate gingersnaps served with strawberry lemon curd. Among
the standout was Chef Nico Romo’s bouillabaisse with trout, scallops,
clams, potatoes, bok choy, mushrooms, carrots and coconut lemongrass
refreshing Asian twist on a classic. The bacon pork loin
pig was fed with special compost the restaurants prepares—were
flavorful but a bit
heavy for a summer supper.
McKee is also behind O-Ku, an upscale sushi restaurant which has been likened to Nobe. It may be culinary sacrilege to admit, but I am not a big sushi or sake devotee. Chef Sean Park and his gracious staff are working hard to create demand for sushi beyond bargain rolls. I enjoyed sipping refined, chilled sakes—some milky, some clear—with mellifluous names like Snow Maiden and Bride of the Fox, while noshing on mandoo, delicious dumplings stuffed with kimchee. The bar also makes an award-winning passionfruit mojito, sour and refreshing and a steamy Southern night. The presentation is impeccable, the attention to detail graceful, from escolar to otoros, big eye and yellow carpaccio. Ask your server for wasabi stems to enliven everything. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, steer toward the pineapple crème brûlée.
NEW YORK CORNER
ANTIPASTI, PASTA, E
and Jimmy Stewart at Alfredo's in Rome, c. 1956.
had a soft spot for Pò, primarily
because it was one of the first of a new, more authentic-style
trattorias in a pretty street in the West Village and because it was
where Mario Batali
first worked to
develop the style he later manifested big time at Babbo. His partner
Steve Crane is still owner, now with Lee McGrath in the kitchen,
and Pò, whose name derives from the northern Italy river,
still maintains that sweet sense of smallness and minimalism. Pò
is not decorous and it can get loud (I should note that Americans are
much louder than anyone else in restaurants), but it is also convivial
with people who are obvious regulars, and Mr. Crane is there to take
care of everyone. (Unfortunately, on the night I visited recently, he
was under the weather and not in attendance, so service was a bit slack
and Po lacked the spirit of his personality.)
Pò offers Lunch, Wed-Sun; Dinner, nightly. Antipasti are $9-$13, full pastas $15-$18, main courses $19-$23
Il Matto means "mad man" in Italian, and things do get a little crazy on Tuscan chef Matteo Boglione's main course menu. But before that there are some wonderful dishes without any eccentrics. He leaves the pre-meal fun to mixologist Christina Bini, who comes up with exotic cocktails like the Buffalo 66 with rosemary-infused vodka, Worcestershire sauce and beet juice, and the La Signoria, a blend of gin, lemon, strawberry, balsamic reduction, and lettuce leaves.
knock-out space of modernity all'italiana,
an S-shaped, mosaic glass-topped bar on an
tall windows, rosy colors and lighting, and very cool, rolling
teacup banquettes under a large portrait of Boglione depicted as a mad
octopus by graffiti
artist Doze Green.
pasta with black olive essence then lavishes it with buffalo
mozzarella and tomato sauce, topped with fried eggplant for sweetness
and texture. The Tuscan pasta called pici comes over a celeriac puree
and tomato concasse with
clams and the saline flavor of bottarga
roe. Very good indeed was a dish of saffron pappardelle with a ragù of osso bucco and bone marrow-laced
sabayon, while gnocchetti (a
little too soft one night) was made with squid ink, a crabmeat ragù and fried artichokes--a
dish that gave a hint of the elaborations to follow.
by John Mariani
The average winedrinker’s familiarity with Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and a few wines from the Rhone and Alsace usually does not extend very far into France’s Loire Valley. Grape varieties with names like folle blanche, melon de bourgogne, pineau d’Aunis, and grolleau do not leap to mind when considering what to have with dinner.
Given a few hints and nudges, one might come up with muscadet, sancerre, and vouvray, perhaps rosé d’Anjou, as Loire Valley wines, but bottlings from quarts de chaume, saumur champigny, and côtes du Forez don’t often make it onto the world’s winelists.
Ignoring a region’s wines is not the same thing as ignorance of them, but an increase in Loire exports gives me reason to think more winelovers in search of well-priced, terroir-specific red and white wines will be ferreting out the best examples now coming into the market.
chenin blanc (25 percent), and sauvignon blanc (22). Of red
cabernet franc makes up 51 percent, gamay 20. Only 20 percent of total
production is exported; currently the UK receives 34 percent of that,
19, and the USA 13.
That abundance of melon de bourgogne goes into making Muscadet in the western Valley around Nantes, about 600,00 hectoliters, of which the best, from Sévre et Maine, Côteaux de Grandlieu, and Côteaux de la Loire, are categorized “sur lie” (“on the lees”), meaning the white wines are kept in contact with the barrel yeasts and sediment, imparting richer flavor and sometimes a little sparkle.
Since the 1970s muscadet has since largely been considered a pleasant, highly acidic, low-alcohol (around 12 percent), moderately priced white wine to be drunk upon release and with abandon. Its citrus flavors can often overwhelm its fruit, which makes it a good choice with shellfish. But a recent tasting of some of the finer examples now available showed me that Muscadet can have considerably more substance than I’d realized.
Just four years ago enologist Eric Chevalier took over his family’s estate, Domaine l’Aujardière, located in terroir closest to the Atlantic Ocean. His Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu sur Lie 2008 ($14) spent the winter on the lees, and the wine had excellent body along with aromatic and mineral qualities that balanced the acid notes. It went perfectly with an Alsatian cheese tart with bacon and onions at DB Bistro Moderne in New York.
Far more amazing was a 1999 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie from Domaine Luneau-Papin Le Lion d’Or ($25). Prior to that first sip, I would never dream of drinking a Muscadet 11 years old, assuming its best days ended about three years ago. Oxidation should have set in five years ago and a decade ago the wine should have been undrinkable.
Instead it was a revelation. Eighth generation winemakers Pierre et Monique Luneau-Papin head this 30-hectare estate in Le Landreau since the early 18th century. They make small cuvees to reflect particular vineyards’ terroir; harvesting is by hand, with an immediate light débourbage (separation of juice from gross lees), followed by a 4-week fermentation, then six months of aging in stainless steel on the lees.
The process is nothing really out of the ordinary, but the steps taken together somehow produce a Muscadet that not only has grown in body and beauty over 15 years but taken on complexity I never would have expected. Because of that richness, it was ideal with a steamy choucroute whose own aromas of pork fat, juniper, and the tartness of sauerkraut needed that boldness from a white wine.
I have never been an enthusiastic fan of the red Loire Valley wine chinon, finding most examples simplistic, sometimes a little bitter. But a single vineyard chinon from Philippe Alliet, who with Bernard Baudry, is considered one of the region’s finest vignerons, changed my mind. Dedicated to producing only small yields, mostly from old vines, Alliet makes a chinon called L'Huisserie 2007 ($34), with a bit more flesh on its bones than I’d been led to expect of the 2007 vintage. The characteristic light tannins of chinon and the ripeness of the older vines’ fruit showed further nuance.
On the other hand, Thierry Germain’s Domaine des Roches Neuves La Marginale 2005 ($40)f from Saumur Champigny in the Loire Valley was fairly raw and inky, but with the charming scent and flavor of wild fennel, making it a wine with an affinity for herb-rich grilled foods of the Mediterranean.
The Loire Valley wines now coming into the market from smaller producers show yet again how hard French vignerons are working to improve image by making better wines and keeping them at a price most people will readily accept.
John Mariani's 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.
A Long Haul to Singapore
Requires a Whole Lotta Luxury
Since returning from Singapore recently, I have been asked the same two questions more times than I can say: "How long was the flight?” and, “How could you sit on a plane for that long?” as opposed what I would like to be asked, “What was Singapore like?” and “What interesting things did you see?” OK, my answer to the two most-asked questions are, 19 hours direct from Newark, and I did sit some of the time, but lay down most of the time and slept on Singapore Airlines’ all new Business Class, an A340-500 fitted with just 100 seats that recline into fully flat beds.
Of course I, too, was concerned about what I would do for almost a full day on an airplane, so I overpacked my carry-on with seven books, an iPod, my laptop, magazines, and multiple newspapers. I mean, really, who can gauge what to do with that much free time?
Airlines check-in where I was immediately greeted by a beautiful,
check-in representative who quickly confirmed my flight
asked if she could carry my bag to the lounge. Acting the
declined, but she personally escorted me to the SIA lounge where she
a wonderful flight and left me in the hands of their welcoming
first impression of the service before I even stepped foot on the
plane--something I personally place a tremendous value on--was highly
professional, by far the best I have ever experienced when dealing with
staff. Right then and there, I knew my flight was going to be far from
where I was instantly offered a
glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, various
seats were commodious and reminded me at once of a La-Z-Boy recliner. Straight ahead of me
was my very own 15.4 inch LCD television screen offering 120 movies,
170 television shows, 20 music stations, and video
which could easily have kept me entertained for a flight three
long as the one I was on.
quite remarkable: the recipes are
first created by the ICP’s chefs, then sent to the Inflight
Centre, which determines whether or not the dishes can realistically
prepared at 35,000 feet. When I
of SIA’s head chefs, he
explained that fried crispy dishes are pretty
of the question, since the planes are only equipped with dry heat
steam ovens, and microwaves, and,
the recipes and dishes are finally approved, the next step in the
process is to test them out in a giant pressure chamber that replicates
altitude and was shaped identically to a plane’s
preparation kitchen. Here the food and
are rigorously tasted, because at high altitudes, passengers'
taste buds do not
same as at sea level and people may find some food very bland. The pressure chamber offers SIA’s testers
a chance to slightly alter the dishes and recipes by adding more
salt if need be. Children's meals are also
developed and offered onboard. I was impressed by this level of
forethought, especially when I thought about every tasteless airline
meal I have had over the years.
my first in-flight meal, I began with marinated lobster and saffron
couscous, dried fruit, pistachios and watercress accompanied by a glass
Geyser Peak 2007 Chardonnay, paired
wine panel experts Steven Spurrier, Michael Hill-Smith, and Jeannie
Cho Lee. For my main course I had the
black cod covered by a garlic sauce served with vegetables and steamed
rice, all very
appetizing, the piece of cod thick, moist, flavorful, and
fresh tasting. After the cod, I was
offered a cheese plate of Camembert, California Vella dry jack, and
Blue paired with a glass of Offley LBV 2005 Port. After
had a bowl of Häagen Dazs chocolate-peanut butter ice cream
chocolate sauce and topped with roasted almonds. Life can be good at
I awoke, sat up, and was
immediately approached by my beautiful attendant, who asked if I would
some coffee or juice before she brought me my breakfast, which
of Raisin Bran
with milk, followed by an order of braised egg noodles with beef,
leafy greens. After breakfast and
an espresso, I relaxed and breezed through an Elmore Leonard novel,
catching up on some work, and before I knew it, we were just
Singapore worth a mention. One
a fresh chunky
tomato sauce with olive oil-flavored mashed potatoes, the other,
light bites section, a steamed dim sum selection with lotus leaf
rice, siew mai, bean curd roll and har
So how does one
survive a 19-hour flight? If it's to Asia, you may well want to
consider taking Singapore's new service, Otherwise,
treat the flight like an entire day and try to act as if you would
sleep a full night’s worth, if at all possible work from your laptop,
book that you have been dying to read, watch a great movie, or just sit
back, overeat and drink. And no pills! Works for
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
In Oregon, people who bought pink shrimp at some local stores reported that it glows in the dark. Marine food experts told the Register-Guard the luminescence was due to certain marine bacteria but that it's not a health risk and does not indicate mishandling during processing.
And Now a Word from Our Corporate Pinheads
On Tesco's Tiramisù dessert (printed on bottom) -- "Do not turn upside down."
On Sainsbury's peanuts -- "Warning: contains nuts."
On Marks &Spencer Bread Pudding -- "Product will be hot after heating."
On an American Airlines packet of nuts -- "Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts."
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* On Aug. 22 in Atlanta, 4th & Swift will host a Homegrown Sunday Supper to kickoff Taste of Atlanta 2010. Chef Jay Swift will prepare a menu of modern American classics featuring local produce and cheeses, Blue Ridge Rainbow trout and Niman Ranch lamb. $60 pp. Visit http://www.4thandswift.com or call 678-904-0160.
* From Aug.
23-28, Chef-owner Aaron May of Iruña,
AZ, re-mixes the Tomatina Festival in Pamplona, Spain, offering
tapas and classic Basque dishes built around summer tomatoes.
menu changes daily; prices from $30-$40 per person. Visit http://www.irunaaz.com or call
offering bookings on the Sizzlin’
Sampler Promotional Package, incl. $350 instant credit on ea
booking of 5 nights or more at participating hotels; $50 shopping
certi; $50 attractions certif $50
dining certi; Details on www.visitusvi.com/package_and_promotions.
* On Aug. 25 in Roanoke, VA, Local Roots restaurant will be kicking off their Guest Chef Dinner Series with a dinner featuring Chefs Sean Brock, Bryan Voltaggio, Ashley Christensen, and Tarver King. $90 pp. Call 540-206-2610.
Malibu Canyon, Los
Angeles, Saddle Peak Lodge
presents the wines of Qupe Wine Cellars at a
four-course dinner with the
winemaker Bob Lindquist with menu by Chef Adam Horton and Chef de
Kufek. $95 pp. Call 818-222-3888
* From Sept. 6 – Nov. 23, in New Paltz, N.Y., Mohonk Mountain House is offering Seasonal Bounty packages that celebrate America's favorite fruit, the apple, in September and the pumpkin. Guests will enjoy culinary treats, seasonal bounty spa treatments, and discounts at midweek rates starting at $199 pp, per night. Call 800-772-6646 or visit http://www.mohonk.com.
* From Sept. 10-19, the second annual Denver Beer Fest, a citywide brew-centric experience leading up to the marquee event: America’s most prestigious beer festival and competition, the Brewers Association’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), held September 16-18. Call 303-571-9450.
* On Sept. 11 in Duxbury, MA, Island Creek Oysters will host it's fifth annual Island Creek Oyster Festival featuring over 20 of Boston’s most notable Chefs. Event passes range from $50-$150 pp. Visit www.islandcreekfoundation.org/festival or call 781-934-2028.
* On Sept. 11
Elum, WA, Swiftwater Cellars will
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: La Tour d'Argent; Cape Hatteras.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor 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).
business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
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