LABOR DAY COOK-OUT circa 1950
IN THIS ISSUE
ST. PAUL DE VENCE
By David Lincoln Ross
NEW YORK CORNER
LA PANETIÈRE and VALBELLA
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
ST. PAUL DE VENCE
Where Fine Art Meets Les Arts de la Table à la Provençale
David Lincoln Ross
Photos by Bess Reynolds ©
Le Vieux Moulin
esteemed by film icons like François Truffaut,
legendary artists like Pablo Picasso, and literary
lions like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Le Colombe d’Or
hotel boasts the privacy these celebrities craved
along with a singular private art collection dating
back to the 1920s, an era when the hotel’s founder,
Paul Roux—a Provençal native with a fondness for art who
owned the quirky bar-auberge—befriended,
boarded for free and spotted money to an assortment
of talented but poor artists in exchange for their
paintings. So came to be a remarkable museum-quality
collection of paintings that may be freely viewed in the
dining rooms, bedrooms, pool area and its outdoor
garden restaurant, where you are as likely to see a
brilliant canvas by Miró, Picasso or Braque, or
sculpture by Chagall, Calder or Matisse. Today
Paul’s grandson, François, and his wife, Danièle,
run La Colombe d’Or.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
LA PANETIÈRE and VALBELLA
By John Mariani
530 Milton Road
Since opening La Panetière in 1985, the ever deferential proprietor Jacques Loupiac (right) has shown just how much dedication and hard work goes into maintaining a restaurant of this stripe while keeping the ambiance fresh. The entrance way still has the antique pantry that gives the restaurant its Provençal name; the arched dining room still has its original beams and bright frescoes; pots of flowers adorn every table, set with two thick damask cloths; the Austrian china is as pretty as the Pierre Deux curtain fabrics; the staff’s tuxedos are gone, but La Panetière’s captains are well dressed and well versed in the traditions of French politeness.
Also wholly intact is a 12,000-bottle, 1,000-label wine cellar whose breadth and depth is matched in the region only by Valbella’s in nearby Connecticut and La Crémaillière’s in Banksville, N.Y. It would be easy enough for Loupiac merely to keep older vintages of wines that haven’t sold just to build up the size of his list, but, in fact, aside from some grand trophy wines and large format bottlings (including a 1914 Château Latour), the selections are very much current, with white wines largely from 2010 to the present. There is also an impressive collection of Cognacs, Armagnacs, Calvados, Ports, Madeiras, Scotches and Bourbons.
Chef Dean Loupiac (left), Jacques’s nephew, is not about to radicalize a menu that has proved so successful over so many years, but neither is his seasonal selection of dishes in any way stuck in the past. Thus, while he pays homage to one of La Panetière’s former chefs, Yves Gonnachon, by keeping his duck terrine with pistachios, truffles, cornichons, relish and pearl onions ($19), he will also do a thoroughly modern carpaccio of sea scallops with domestic caviar, grapefruit aspic and a sprinkling of celery, tomato, chive and black salt ($19). There is always foie gras on the menu, and I enjoyed a light flan of it with simmered wild mushrooms and a jus scented with Madeira ($24).
Next came a sizzling, fragrant casserole of Maine lobster with pequillo peppers, fresh almonds and herbed beurre blanc ($42), which captain/sommelier Nicholas Charbonneau matched with a Trimbach Riesling 2012 in magnum to provide an acidic cut to the richness of the dish. Sweetbreads always need help to prevent them from being bland, but La Panetière’s gain only minor interest from the addition of chanterelles and a veal jus, served with peas, scallions and a lettuce chiffonade ($36).
A mild curry sauce perked up a juicy medallion of veal with layers of quinoa, ratatouille and Chinese cabbage ($44), a dish that showed that the kitchen can marry tradition and contemporary ideas.
There is an extensive selection of rare cheeses ($16) that has always been part of La Panetière’s modus operandi, so that dessert becomes a question of temperance. At a set tasting menu I was served summer’s cherries in Greek yogurt with mimosa jelly, the crunch of granola and Kirschwasser-spiked cappuccino—very light and refreshing, much more so than a very rich caranoix sable cake of pecan nougat, Nutella mousse, lemon ganache and caramel ice cream ($16), which seems like three desserts on one plate and each should be enjoyed on its own. Of course, a restaurant like this will always have a choice of soufflés ($16).
Petits fours follow and you are presented
with a farewell bag of chocolates.
VALBELLA1300 Putnam Avenue
In the case of Valbella, which opened in 1992, the parking lot is still full most nights of the week with an inordinate number of Maseratis and Mercedes-Benzes, and the extraordinary 1,400-label, 15,000-bottle wine cellar (below) is still the site of many private dinners season after season. There are also two younger branches of Valbella in Manhattan, completely different in look, one in the Meat Packing District and the other in midtown.
Owners David Ghatanfard and Valerie Malfetano have succeeded at all three largely by changing very little, least of all the unquestioned quality of the meats and seafood. They also maintain a crew of professionals who get to treat their often demanding clientele as honored guests: favorite cocktails and wines are remembered, preferences in seating, duration of meals, all are known to general manager Nick Zherka and conveyed to his waitstaff. If there is a fault in their manner, it is only in their recitation of so many specials each night that no one could possibly remember most by the time the spiel is over, but it’s all part of the shtick.
Pastas are all made in house, and a whole portion can easily be split for two as an appetizer. The pappardelle Bolognese ($32. for a main course) in a ruddy veal ragù takes on the added luxury of cream-rich burrata, while linguine teems with abundant lobster, crabmeat and shrimp in a chile-spiked fra diavolo sauce ($42).
Because of the impeccable quality of the meats, it’s highly recommended you go for the superb dry-aged shell steak in a demi-glace tinged with rosemary served with sautéed baby spinach, roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables ($50). You will want to gnaw right down to the bone of the juicy, well-fatted baby rack of lamb, which comes with mashed potatoes ($50). And, of course, the gloriously flavorful veal chop ($55) is a double cut. The fish on the menu is not described beyond letting you know it’s all dependent on what species the chef bought in the market that morning. All the main courses come with seasonal vegetables, which is fine, except that some variety, dish by dish, would be even better.
Desserts are not Valbella’s strong point, but, after a meal so grand, you may not want to do more than share a good piece of cheesecake or some fresh fruit with whipped cream. Still, ordering a perfectly rendered souffle is always a good idea.
People who live in lower Connecticut or Westchester, Putnam or Duchess counties can readily drive over to Riverside for a fine night out, and those who already enjoy the two Valbellas in Manhattan, whose menus are very similar, will be very happy to find the same quality of food and service in a beautiful suburban setting about an hour’s drive north.
Valbella is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
"Autumn Landscape" (1890) by Vincent Van Gogh
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And full all fruit with ripeness to the core.
Of course, a lot of winemakers overdo that ripeness, letting their grapes hang on the vine far into October in the hope of building up the sugars and, through fermentation, the alcohol to give more body and bounce to their wines. Such winery creations are of little interest to me because they are out of balance and sometimes don’t even taste like wine. Here are some I think strike the proper balance of fruit, sugar and alcohol. along with some fine spirits, as we ease into autumn.
DIERBERG STAR LANE SANTA RITA HILLS DRUM CANYON ROAD PINOT NOIR 2013 ($52)—California wine label verbiage is beginning to be as encyclopedic as that on German wines, and Dierberg tells you a lot about provenance for this fine example of a nicely ripened pinot noir, at 14.1% alcohol. The vintage had a warm, dry spring, so ripening and picking was earlier, making the fruit bright with an earthiness of the terroir. Dierberg also makes a Dierberg Vineyard pinot ($44) at 14.8% that gets into plummy territory, and its 2013 Chardonnay ($32), barrel aged in 15% new French oak and with 14.6% alcohol, is way out of touch with what chardonnay should taste like.
CONDE DE VIMIOSO VINHO REGIONAL TEJO 2014 ($8)—Pioneering Portuguese winemaker João Portugal Ramos was among the first to see real potential in Tejo, building a state-of-the-art sustainable winery in the region in 2004 specifically to produce wines for a global market. This is a surprisingly complex blend of cabernet sauvignon, aragonez, alicante bouschet, touriga nacional, and syrah, and, for the levels of flavor, and a good 13.5% alcohol, it is really a remarkable buy for eight bucks and an easy to drink red wine any night of the week.
EMILIANA COYAM VALLE COLCHAGUA 2010 ($30)—This biodynamic Chilean blend of 38% syrah, 27% carménère, 21% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 1% petit verdot, and 1% mourvèdre has real structure, aged for 13 months in 80% French and 20% American oak (“Coyam” is an Indian word for “oak”). The 14.5% alcohol level is on the high side, but the wine shows off dark berry fruit that is ideal with beef or lamb.
LINEAGE 2011 ($165)—See, California can make an outstanding Bordeaux-stye blend— cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and malbec. Which makes sense when the Mirassou family has been in the wine business since 1857, and their Lineage is considered one of the finest wines coming out of Livermore Valley. After pressing, the wines spend a year in 50% French oak, then individual barrels are racked, then re-barreled for another 6-8 months. This softens up the tannins and allows the fruit to emerge at a appealing 14.1% alcohol. Yes, it is very pricey, but this is among California’s finest red wines.
MICHTER’S LIMITED RELEASE BARREL STRENGTH KENTUCKY STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY ($67)—Just released in May, the bottle tells you the barrel number, which is a tad too much info than you need, except that this is just the second time Michter’s has produced this 110.2 proof item, which is much sought after. It’s a rye (Michter’s makes a similar bourbon) and may come as a surprise to those who remember rye as that cheap Canadian stuff you mixed with ginger ale. The personality of the grain is distinctive here, the burn just good enough to remind you it’s American through and through.
DISTILLERS ESTATE GIN ($30)—Anyone can
make gin—and many did it in bathtubs during
Prohibition—but this Boston-made example,
distilled from apples and grain at 94 proof, has
an admirable flavor without being overpowering,
so that sipping it on its own, even without ice,
is something of a revelation. On the rocks it is
terrific, and if you must mix it with vermouth,
keep the latter a whisper. It’s a fine Indian
CRUZAN BLACK STRAP RUM ($14)—The term “blackstrap” derives from a New England mixture of rum and molasses, dating in print to 1724, further defined as being the third strike of molasses after the extraction of sugar crystals. (The first strike was considered the finest, but the third was good for making rum.) Cruzan, with its distillery in St. Croix, makes this very dark, pungent rum both to be sipped on the rocks or as real ballast to a drink with citrus, though I would not try to make a daiquiri out of it. It’s also a delight as a float on top of a cocktail. It’s been in the market for a while now, but I just tasted it for the first time and found it to be more than a mere curiosity, and it packs some punch at 80 proof.
MONKEY SHOULDER BATCH 27 BLENDED MALT SCOTCH WHISKY ($30)—Made by William Grant & Sons, this is a Speyside whisky that is a blend of three single malts—Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie—mixed into 27 batches and released at 94 proof. At this price it’s a good intro to single malts and makes a good mixer, too, with the touch of a sweet undertone, a modest burn, and a balance of the grassy and robust that characterizes Speyside examples.
GREAT ADVANCES IN A
GREAT ADVANCES IN
Along-term, large-scale study by Syracuse University found that "Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests," and that "More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on [these tests]." Also, researchers at Tel Aviv University reported that eating chocolate every morning was found to help people lose weight, because, according to study leader Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, eating a higher-calorie breakfast in the morning reduces cravings throughout the day and prevents late-night snacking. Experts contend that a nutrient called a flavonoid represents up to 20 percent of the compounds present in cocoa beans.
AND IF YOU DRINK BOOZE WITH YOUR
CHOCOLATE YOU WILL NEVER
GO TO BED ANGRY
According to a study of 2,767 older couples (50 or over) published in The Journals of Gerontology, couples who drink may have "decreased negative marital quality over time." Couples who reported drinking even just one drink a year were more likely to report that their partner doesn't get on their nerves, get overly critical, or let them down. The study highlighted that what's most important isn't how much couples drink but whether they both drink. If both partners drank, they were more likely to have a happier marriage than if just one of them drank.
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Eating Las Vegas
JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
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He can also be seen every Friday morning as
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nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
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