"Big" (1988) with Tom Hanks
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from around the USA:
city, and the capital of
founded in the 9th century,
never seems exactly bustling. The whole country
only has 300,000 people, and two-thirds of them live around Reykjavik.
traffic means little noise, and wherever you are, you sleep in windy
If, as shown in the photo above, you are there when Nature conspires to
bring up the Northern Lights, you will see something as rare and
wondrous as when Eric the Red arrived here.
with impulses from outside.
● To combine local self-sufficiency with regional exchange of high-quality good cooperate with representatives of consumers, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, fishing industry, food industry, retail and wholesale industry, researchers, teachers, politicians and authorities on this joint project to the benefit and advantage of all in the Nordic countries.
has a Gourmet Restaurant and a more casual
Bistro (right), where I dined
one afternoon. It was a buffet, not my favorite way to
eat, but it did give me a sense of the exceptional range of the kitchen
chef de cuisine Stefán Viðarsson (above, on the far right, with kitchen
brigade), from Nordic-style sushi and sashimi of
unstinting freshness to some well-wrought pastas. There
rémoulade and pickled
cucumbers, and an array of Nordic tapas ,
including shrimp, smoked salmon, herring, caviar, bread. Among the myriad desserts offered, the
one not to miss is the whipped sky, an Icelandic cheese, with meringue, cherries, toffee ice cream.
Lækjarbrekka is a very different kind of restaurant, old-fashioned in the loveliest sense, set within a house that dates to 1834 as the house of Danish ship owner and merchant P.C Knudtzon, who also ran a bakery there. The baker in turn bought the house in 1845 and prospered as the only baker in town for years. The building was used as a dwelling until 1961 and a small shop was there until the time of reconstruction began in 1980, upon being declared a protected historic building, turned into the restaurant in 1979.
It is now very beautiful, evocative of an older time, done in antique furnishings and artwork, quiet, civilized but unpretentious. I recommend either the "Icelandic Langoustine Feast" ($75) or the Icelandic Lamb Feast ($70), both very popular here (there is also à la carte). The first menu features langoustine soup with a taste of cognac and lightly whipped cream; langoustines in three ways, grilled in garlic butter, deep fried in tempura and pan fried with saffron cream; and for dessert, a three-color parfait with crunchy praline base.
The Icelandic Lamb feast begins with a carpaccio of lamb, smoked and herb cured lamb with crispy salad and blueberry vinaigrette, then lamb in two ways, pan fried fillet and slow cooked shoulder served with crunchy potatoes and thyme sauce, with an ending of chocolate special dessert. Linger over the last of the wine or a glass of Cognac, step outside, breathe in the freshest air imaginable, and take a languorous walk back to your hotel. You will sleep as well as any baby that night in Reykjavik.
BARS: An Icelandic tradition is the midnight pub crawl called a runtur, which can end around 4 AM. The 101 Hotel, where I stayed, has a sleek, modern bar. The ten-year-old NASA goes strong as the most popular hangout in Reykjavik for live music. B5 is a hip spot with a light bistro menu and Philippe Starck décor. Thorvaldsen Bar gets a late-night weekend crowd and serves Icelandic-Asian food.
nonstop from New
York to Keflavik International Airport about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. This
summer Air Berlin
fly to Iceland from Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Munich
while Iceland Express will add Chicago and Boston to its destinations.
Air Lines announced its plans to commence direct flights between
New York. A taxi from
the airport , a good 40 minutes from the capital, can cost about $110,
but Reykjavik Excursions runs
To Read Part One of this article, click here.
NEW YORK CORNER
BEDFORD POST INN
954 Old Post
MAN ABOUT TOWN
by Christopher Mariani
An Auction That Bids Down In Price?
Auctions of any sort are typically notorious for their incessant auctioneers speaking in almost unrecognizable tongues, intense emotion among potential buyers and the price of an item increasing until the highest bidder is finally awarded as the victor. Yet, when I attended a fish auction at the market of Fano in the Le Marche region of Italy, the auctioneer barely spoke, buyers sat quietly as trays of seafood from the Mediterranean were presented and the price of the catch decreased during the bid process. I thought to myself, this doesn’t make sense, why does the price drop?
As part of an annual GRI (Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani) educational trip to Italy, hosted by Tony May, owner of NYC’s SD26, I attended a fish auction very early one morning. The phone rang at 3:15 a.m. and I turned over in my bed to answer. The voice on the other end said, “Signore Mariani, this is your wake up call. Would you like a follow up call in 15 minutes?” I responded in a coarse voice, “No thank you,” then hung up the phone. I sat up, rubbed my eyes, then got dressed. After a quick espresso in the lobby of the Hotel Savoy in Pesaro, we headed for the market in the darkness of the young morning.
After a short nap on the bus, we arrived. Fishermen were unloading their fish and placing them neatly on display inside trays layered with shaved ice stacked about four feet high. The tile floor was wet from ice that had melted and the loading room smelled of fish. We then entered the auction room (above). In the center of the room was a conveyor belt presenting tray after tray of fish, a scale that calculated the weight of each tray and around the display a steep semi-circle seating forum that sat no more 70 people that morning. The seats were not all that comfortable. There was an old wooden wrap around desk in front of the seats most men used to lean their elbows on. Underneath the wooden desk were small buttons used to discreetly bid on desired trays of fish.
Trays of gorgeous scampi, triglie (mullet), granchio (crab), sardines and other species of small fish came out on the conveyor belt in no particular order. The process of bidding began when a tray of seafood would make its turn onto the weight scale. The price in Euros, per kilo, would display in red on a large electronic board (below) mounted on the wall. The auctioneer would speak into a microphone to state the type of fish on the scale and its starting price. The price on the board would then slowly begin to drop as a circular sequence of lights surrounding the starting price would move in a counter-clockwise direction. When a potential buyer was happy with the adjusted price, he would then press his discreet button and the tray was his.
The question still remains, why does the price drop? The price drops because the fisherman selling the fish set the initial price very high. They of course hope the set price will be the sell price, but they are well aware the price they have set is inflated. As the price begins to drop, restaurateurs and potential buyers have three questions to ask themselves. What is a reasonable price for the fish by kilo? How many other people in the room desire this same tray of seafood? And, how many trays of this specific fish are there? The first buyer to press the button is the one who gets the fish. So you must be aware of the others buyers in the room and what they are willing to pay for such a catch. There is a strategy to this bid system, far more intricate than just out-bidding your competitor. One obviously does not want to overpay for a tray of fish, but on the other hand, does not want to lose a tray of fish to a fellow bidder if there are a limited amount of that particluar fish in the loading room.
After the auction ends, about two hours later, many of the fisherman and buyers head down the street to a small café for a fisherman drink known as a moretta, made with espresso, sugar, lemon, rum, anisette and either cognac or brandy. I had one moretta and then proceeded back to my hotel for a little sleep before I woke and toured the stunning seaside city of Pesaro, but that’s a story for another time.
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NOTES FROM THE WINE
At Ravenswood, the Godfather of Zinfandel Searches for its Identity
by Brian A.
In a world of so many over-extracted wines whose main selling points are their high alcohol, glass-staining color the opacity of a black hole, and fruit so extracted it’s often perceived as sweet, consumers could be forgiven for assuming that Ravenswood’s wines fit neatly into this category. The name is as close to synonymous with zinfandel--that rich, exuberant grape--as any other producer’s in the world, and their motto, “No Wimpy Wines,” could be perceived to imply that the goal is richness at all costs.
But to assume so would be to miss the point completely. For though Ravenswood does produce a number of show-stoppers, it’s also capable of bottling some of the most nuanced, terroir-expressive zinfandels in the world today. Its Vineyard Series, in particular, demonstrates exactly how detailed these wildly expressive wines can be, and how much more California has to offer than most people give it credit for.
It wasn’t always this way. When Joel Peterson (below), affectionately known as the Godfather of Zinfandel, first started out making wine on the side during his previous career as a researcher in cancer immunology, none of the success he has since seen was a foregone conclusion--or even, for that matter, terribly likely.
“Zinfandel has actually had some ups and downs in its life,” Peterson said. “I keep a framed copy of an article on my wall just to remind me. It’s from The New York Times, and it’s labeled, ‘Zinfandel: Beloved No Longer.’ It’s from, like, 1977, I think. Obviously [now], zinfandel is much more beloved than it was at that particular moment in time.”
That, of course, is a huge understatement, and in the more than three decades since then (the first wines that Peterson ever released were single-vineyard zinfandel bottlings from the 1976 vintage), Peterson has led the way toward the widespread acceptance, and even veneration, of American’s great red grape variety.
It hasn’t always been easy. Peterson stressed to me that, as is the case with so many wines (and spirits and beers), producers tend to chase scores, to craft wines that they believe will make the biggest impact when the critics taste them. “Zinfandel is probably more subject to that than many other varieties, because it doesn't have a referential place from which it’s difficult to differ too much without confounding expectations," he said. "Bordeaux, for example, is generally the benchmark for cabernet, Burgundy for pinot noir, and so on. But zinfandel really doesn’t have anything like that, so it searches for its identity, which I think is getting stronger.”
Peterson noted that, in the 1970s, zinfandels were often produced in a way that was “very high in alcohol, usually had some residual sugar, and had enough tannin in them to preserve [them], and those fell out of favor because once the fruit dropped out, they were just these kind of hollow, harsh-tannin shells,” he said.
From there, as pendulum began to swing in the other stylistic direction, a more balanced style of zinfandel emerged--what Peterson called a “Claret style” that demonstrated “a good balance of acid and tannins and pretty fruit.” There’s been some back and forth over the years, as there is with all grape varieties and regional styles, but these days, Peterson sees zinfandel as finding its sweet spot in this more even-keeled incarnation, which results in wines that are just as delicious on their own as they are paired with food.
“I, of course, have certain prejudices, because that’s the way my wines have always been,” he said. “I’ve been very careful about making wines that I think are balanced, that represent the place that the wines come from.”
I recently had the chance to taste the range of Ravenswood’s 2007 Vineyard Series wines, and they beautifully embody exactly what Peterson is talking about. For despite the fact that you might assume more expensive, smaller-production zinfandels to find their footing on the flashier end of the spectrum, these were surprisingly restrained--each of them, despite their many and obvious differences, a nuanced, finely detailed expression of what the zinfandel grape variety does in a specific vineyard, a particular patch of the planet.
The sophisticated “Belloni” bottling showed cream, cherries, and warm clay on the nose, as well as particularly gentle pink and black peppercorn and a whiff of cigar humidor. These led to sweet notes of blackberry and wild-berry compote kept in check by layers of spice, a touch of flowers, and gorgeous balancing acidity.
The “Dickerson,” on the other hand, was a bit weightier, more muscled on the nose. Wild strawberries and kirsch, with licorice and balsamic in the background, precede a mouth-filling, exuberant palate of chocolate-covered blueberries, other mixed summertime berries, and, thoroughly unexpected, a flavor that reminded me, somehow, of deeply concentrated dark watermelon juice. With its richly expressive ripeness and lingering finish, this is a textbook example of how elegant zinfandel can be.
From the Dry Creek Valley, the “Teldeschi” finds its footing on the other end of the spectrum: It’s at a quiet phase right now, the tannins still dominating strawberry and dark raspberry fruit. There are intriguing hints of thyme-dominated garrigue, oolong tea and peppercorns, and with air the sweetness of the fruit comes out. Still, I’d hold onto this one for another 3+ years to allow it to emerge into a more mature state. Once it gets there, however, it should be delicious.
The “Old Hill” zinfandel will also continue to evolve for another several years, but it’s already showing its stuff beautifully right now with kirsch-filled chocolates, violets, and licorice. This is a wine that wears its power with remarkable elegance, as is the “Barricia,” which was perhaps my favorite among the 2007s, smelling of perfumed, roasted and gently smoked blackberries and blueberries, birch bark, and brown spices, and tastes of sun-warmed wild strawberries, dates, cigar tobacco, and kirsch. The finish, which lasts for well over 30 seconds, nods in the direction of cardamom and sweet dark cherries, and absolutely demands another sip, and another, and another.
Then, finally, there’s the “Big River,” which reminds me of a more sophisticated version of the classic, fleshy California zinfandel with its Sachertorte, cream, and toast notes cut with spice and acid that manages to keep this generous wine in harmony and balance. For zinfandel lovers--and, frankly, simply for fans of well-made wine that express a sense of terroir and varietal specificity—these Single Vineyard Designate, bottlings from Ravenswood are hard to beat. They’re both true to the land from which they come, and to the philosophy that has guided Joel Peterson ever since his maiden voyage with the 1976 vintage. Thank goodness he’s no longer in immunology research; we’re all drinking infinitely better as a result of the chance he took all those years ago.
HONEY, IS THIS PLACE DRESSY?
As a joke
referring to recent rising water levels caused by rain in the Ohio
River, Kathy Kinane and her husband walked into the Waterfront
restaurant (right) on a barge
in Lexington, KY, wearing snorkeling outfits, and soon found the
restaurant had broken from its moorings and floated downriver, carrying
them and 81 others along 30 miles down river before being rescued. "We
were joking about the river," Kathy Kinane told media. "Well, the
joke's on us now."
WELL, EXCEPT FOR THE DOG
Police investigated a possible hazing incident at the University of Virginia after a 19-year-old first year student became sick and was rushed to the hospital after eating dog food, matzo balls, gefilte fish and soy sauce. The student was pledging at Zeta Psi fraternity, had a seizure, and spent four days in the hospital, treated for an electrolyte imbalance caused by the high sodium content of the 12 to 18 ounces of soy sauce consumed. An investigator wrote that a Zeta Psi member said the meal is a tradition for pledges. . . . Meanwhile in Germany: While promoting their film "Marley & Me," stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson ate dog biscuits on the live television show, "Wetten, dass...?" ("Wanna bet?")
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