Stay Puff from the movie "Ghostbusters" (1984)
by John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
NOTES FROM THE WINE
Recently a friend in Houston boasted about the breadth and depth of her city's restaurant scene, and I said that I thought Houston could easily compete with Boston on that score. Her eyebrows shot upwards: "Boston? Where would you eat in Boston?"
Right now, here's where.
Koval (left) spit-roasts his chicken, giving it a perfect golden crisp skin all over, and he serves it with chanterelles, green beans, bacon, pearl onions, a little thyme, and potatoes to soak up the chicken drippings. He glazes a thick Berkshire pork chop with cider then buoys it with mustard-flavored spätzle, sauerkraut and a Courtland apple puree--a dish that reminds you that sauerkraut and apples, along with cider, are the perfect complements to pork. The French fries here are well worth the extra six bucks.
This summer, the desserts include butterscotch and passion fruit pudding with warm pound cake croutons; chocolate fondant, caramel glaze, hazelnut streusel and banana coulis; and a vanilla Coke float with braised cherries and peppermint.
Over the last three
decades, the dining options at The Four Seasons, whose
main restaurant used to be called Aujourd'hui, has
gone through plenty of changes of décor, style
and chefs. Right now it is called the Bristol
Lounge, and they have hit upon what I think is the
right balance of the casual and the sophisticated,
and, under exec chef Brooke Vosika, the menu
reflects an ideal
combination of superb New England and global cuisines
within an amiable dining room set against the sunny
backdrop of the Boston Commons in full bloom right
now. The restaurant is also known for having the
most lavish Sunday brunch in the city.
The Bristol Lounge is open for
breakfast, lunch and dinner. At lunch starters run
$12-$20, sandwiches $20-$30, main courses $27-$39.
Few chefs in New England
have the enduring respect of her colleagues as does
Jody Adams, known for her wonderful Italian restaurant
Rialto in Cambridge. Now, downtown, she has has
provided Boston with a big, sprawling, bustling place
specializing in small plates with a Mediterranean
slant, and a counter/bar and communal table that’s
become very popular everyday and night of the week. TRADE has one of Boston’s best-value
global wine lists, with bottles chosen to go with the
spicy food here.
waterfront is nowhere better appreciated than from a
table at Miel Brasserie in the five-year-old
InterContinental Hotel, located on the site where the
Boston Tea Party took place in 1773 (a brand new
Museum celebrating the event has just opened there).
In fact, the hotel is offering a Boston Tea Party
Experience package from now through December at $329 a
night for a deluxe room and museum tickets, among
other amenities. The hotel is also ideally
located within steps of the Boston Children's Museum,
the new developments at Five Point Channel, and most
of the other historic sites along the
waterfront. The hotel's spacious rooms are
extremely well situated and the glass walls throughout
give them several panoramas from different
angles. There is also a pool and 6,600-square
foot spa here.
is open for lunch and dinner daily, with brunch on
Sat. & Sun.Lunch appetizers run $8-$16, entrees
NEW YORK CORNER
Missouri-born, McCoy garnered his love of food from his Sicilian grandfather and trips throughout Europe. After working at others' restaurants in Philly, McCoy moved to NYC, where he became wine director at Esca, and now, his own dream has been realized at Gwynnett St. His chef is Justin Hilbert (below), whose résumé includes stints on the Isle of Wight, Mugaritz in Spain and WD-50 in Manhattan; Owen Clark is sous-chef, and the bar manager is Brooklyn native Doug Mancini, who offers a slew of signature cocktails with punning names like Kingston Trio, Thick as Thieves, and Rye Thai.
In so many ways Gwynnett St. typifies and goes beyond the idea of a neighborhood restaurant whose patrons might all be locals just looking for a good burger and a few brewskis. The exterior is nothing to get your hopes up, but once inside you'll feel very much at home. The music is not loud--and it's good jazz--the signature cocktails are of interest, the service staff well-informed but never in that over-explanatory, recitative style so wonderfully satirized by Joel Stein in a comic piece in this week's New Yorker: “Welcome. Have you dined with us before?” “No. It’s our first time.” “Oh, that’s adorable. Well, I’m sure you’ve been to other restaurants, right?” “Uh, sure. Yes.” “Great. Well, none of that restaurant experience will help you tonight. Because we do things a little differently here.” “That’s OK. We like different.” “I’ll guide you through the process. First of all, we ask a lot of questions designed to make you feel insecure. Is everyone at the table O.K. with feeling insecure?” “That’s why we go out to eat!”
The dinner menu lists seven starters and six entrees, with nightly specials. There is a tasting menu at a very reasonable $85, with wines $110. The first item on the appetizer list is a little off-putting: whiskey bread and cultured butter, which is sensationally delicious, but it'll cost you five bucks, and no other bread is offered. (Yeah, but it's worth it.) A soy bean and pistachio soup with rhubarb and butter is an ideal summer savory, each element in balance with the rest. "Pea Shoots and Leaves" is an equally delightful mélange of snap peas, radishes, curds and whey, so homey you want to keep repeating its name and ingredients like a nursery rhyme. Calf's tongue, so hard to find on menus, is velvety and full of flavor, served with summer's beans, cucumber and watercress. There seems a touch of the much ballyhooed new forage-driven Nordic cuisine here, although no one really knows just what that is.
Given the simple goodness of Hilbert's dishes, our table of three was torn over whether to order an Amish chicken with buttermilk and ash, or a duck breast with wild rice, bell pepper and gooseberries. We chose the latter and found it absolutely perfect in its idea and resolution: the duck breast was cooked to medium rare, the skin crisp, and the addition of the rice (though I think they might spare a few more grains on the plate), the sweet pepper and juicy berries was a triumph. On the same par was a plate of perfect scallops (which can can be pretty boring if not in peak seasonal sweetness) served with bright zucchini, sorrel and the surprise of sweet blue crab. A bavette steak (right) had just the right chewiness this underutilized cut should have, and it was enriched with bone marrow and alliums, that is, onion and garlic shoots and bulbs to add a bouquet and sharp flavor.
Gwynnett St.'s desserts keep impeccably to the style of what goes before them: cherry sorbet with foam and candied cherries and coffee sponge cake with almond toffee coffee sauce; milk chocolate ganache with peanut butter crumble praline and foam, candied black currants and black currant sorbet; and cashew cream with apricot sorbet, and a meringue (odd, really) of birch bark and granules.
Gwynnett St.'s wine list is printed on one page, so every bottle is carefully chosen to go with Hilbert's food, and the staff cheerfully encourages you to sample a glass for under $10. Otherwise, there are many bottle options under $50.
What I enjoyed was a decidedly summer menu, and it makes me wonder what autumnal enchantments await. Restaurants in Brooklyn have found it easy enough to be lovable, but Gwynnett St. is doing distinguished food without a whit of pretense and at prices that make a trip out there well worth it.
Gwynnett Street is open for dinner nightly. Appetizers run $5-$16; entrees $20-$29.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
France’s Third Best White
Wine Is Perfect for Summer
If that comes as a surprise to those devotees of Alsatian rieslings and Rhône Valley viogniers, I will vigorously argue my point with you over a glass of each. But for me, good Sancerre—and there is a lot of bad Sancerre—gives me a greater degree of sheer happiness than the rest of those fine white bottlings, and, unlike them, Sancerre can be drunk with just about anything shy of charcoal-grilled steak or lamb.
With any seafood, Sancerre’s brisk, vegetal and mineral flavors marry impeccably. With most appetizers, even foie gras, it is a worthy complement. With chicken, there are few wines to match it. And as an aperitif before dinner, it’s a wine that perks up the appetite and may be carried to the dinner table with ease.
This is certainly not the case with sauvignon blancs in most other parts of the world, especially New Zealand, where the varietal is a major export, and California and Oregon examples range so widely in style that they are hard to say anything definitive.
Good Sancerre has the fruit most people love in a white wine, the acid to keep it bright and fresh, the minerals to give it complexity, and the price to make it affordable for just about any size gathering.
Sancerre is a very large appellation in France’s Loire Valley region, and there is considerable variation in the vineyards and terroirs. Those around the town of Sancerre have the flintiest soil, while vineyards to the west produce more delicate wines, and those farthest west make the richest wines. The mix of flint and chalky soils gives the wines what the French called “pierre au fusil.”
Traditionally, Sancerre was vinified bone dry, buoyed by the minerality and herbaceous flavors, but in the last decade, with global warming in play, the wines have taken on more fruitiness from increased sugars. Still their alcohol by volume is rarely much above 13 percent. The Valley also produces red and rose Sancerres but they are typically modest wines.
I rounded up a passel of Sancerres and drank them with everything from a Cobb salad to beer-battered shrimp. Here are my notes on them:
Fournier Sancerre “Cuvée Silex” 2008
($40)— Between them, Éliane and Claude Fournier
share 13 generations of viniculture, and, with 150
acres of vineyards, tradition and expertise show. Can
Sancerre age well? This four-year old vintage proves
it can when made by Fournier. Its elements are subtle,
but they add up to a wine that is French sunshine in a
glass, with beautiful color and nose, and long-lasting
on the palate.
Père & Fils Grande Cuvée Vielles
Vignes 2008 ($27)–This “old vines” Sancerre
shares the Cuvée Silex’s richness and adds to
it. They cool down the must before fermentation and
let it sit on the lees for half a day to impart
richness. It is in impeccable shape right now and
makes for a fine wine with creamy cheeses like
Camembert and Brie.
Domaine Fournier Sancerre
“Les Belles Vignes” 2010 ($20-$23)— Fourier’s
bargain Sancerre—made from 15 to 20 year old vines--a
splendid mix of flinty minerals and lush fruit, a wine
ideal for chicken dishes and wild salmon.
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2010 ($16-22)—For a winery only founded in 1987, Pascal Jolivet makes enchanting, very versatile Sancerre from an ideal soil mixture of 50 percent limestone, 30 percent chalky clay, and 20 percent flint, all of which give it a fresh, spicy nose and green spring flavors like new grass. It’s always sold at a very decent price, too.
Picard Sancerre 2010 ($20-$22)—Since
the 17th century the Picard family has made
wines in the Loire Valley, and they continue to
produce a limited amount of wine of which their
Sancerre is an elegant example, with light ginger
Baron de Ladoucette
Sancerre “Comte Lafond” 2010 ($28-$36)—Long a
champion of the modern style in the Loire,
the estate’s Sancerres are known for their well-knit
spices and acids, along with flowery bouquet and long
finish at the back of the palate. With shellfish, it
is superb. His Château de Nozet is
shown in the photo at right.
His Château de Nozet is shown in the photo at right.
Clos de la Poussie 2010 ($32)—If
you like bone dry wine of the old school, this is your
Sancerre. The vineyards were until recently in
terrible shape, when this vintage was produced, but
now appear to be much healthier. I found the wine’s
only virtue was its crisp, citrusy acids but beyond
that its dryness was merely bland.
Domaine Thomas Sancerre
La Crele 2010 ($25)—Its very pale color may
fool you, for this is a big, full-fruited wine, made
from old vines, with 13.5 percent alcohol. It’s what
they should be aiming for in New Zealand and
California, and if you like that style, try this for a
lot more finesse.
Le Mont 2010 ($15)—What a bargain for a bold,
floral example of Sancerre from a small producer, with
a perfect balance of fruit and acid and a refreshingly
ANNALS OF THE ELITE
FRENCH POLICE-- SARTRE SAYS, 'EAT THIS!"
ANNALS OF THE ELITE
FRENCH POLICE-- SARTRE SAYS, 'EAT THIS!"
“Jean-Paul] Sartre (right) was a straight-out fellow traveler with the P.C.F., the Parti Comministe Français, and Albert Camus was not. Sartre was outraged on behalf of the Party by such episodes as the `affair of the carrier pigeons,’ in which the Party Secretary was found with pigeons in his car and was accused by the police of using them, like a good revolutionary, to coordinate illegal demonstrations. (It turned out that, like a good Frenchman, he was merely planning a squab casserole.)”—Adam Gopnick, “Facing History,” The New Yorker (4/9).
IS BUILDING A SECRET LAB TO PRODUCE
IS BUILDING A SECRET LAB TO PRODUCE
Dr. Scott Commins of the
Dr. Scott Commins of theU. of Virginia has linked the bite of the lone star tick to the sudden onset of severe meat allergies. His research suggests that people break out in hives a few hours after eating meat.
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