Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper at the Ritz Paris in "Love in the Afternoon" (1957)
IN THIS ISSUE
By Geoff Kalish
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
By Geoff Kalish
Inspired by a lecture on “Great Museums of the World” by art historian Joan Jacobs that included the Condé Museum in Chantilly, my wife and I recently visited the city, located less than an hour’s car ride from Paris. The trip unexpectedly brought some outstanding dining as well as an unforgettable art experience.
First the art, then the food and wine. Briefly, the Condé Museum (www.domainedechantilly), built in the late 19th Century to house the private collection of Henri de Bourbon, son of the last king of France, Louis Philippe, is situated in the midst of a picturesque 285-acre park abutting a historic horse racing course. The museum owns three Raphaels and room after room after room of paintings by Delacroix, Watteau, Géricault, Van Dyck, Ingres, Corot and other notable artists, all hung, as stipulated in Henri’s will, side by side in rows, regardless of their period or subject. In addition, there’s display after display of exceptional furniture, ceiling murals, sculpture, stained glass (over 40 panels) enamels, miniatures, “illuminations,” silverware and dishes.
The grounds also contain a Museum of the Horse, with equine-related displays and a daily dressage demonstration; just a ten-minute walk from the entrance of the museum there’s another park, Le Potager des Princes, loaded with plants, flowers and farm animals.
Now for the food and wine.
Le Jardin d’Hiver
4 Rue du Connetable
Located within the ultra-luxurious 18th Century-style Relais & Château Auberge Du Jeu De Paume Hotel, built five years ago by the Aga Khan alongside the museum park ground, there are two dining options there, both overseen by Clément LeRoy, this year named a Gault & Millau “Future Grand Chef of the World.” The hotel’s Michelin-starred Rue de Connetable restaurant was closed for August vacation, so we had to make do at the more casual Le Jardin d’Hiver. And make do we did, at what we found to be one of the most outstanding, sensibly priced upscale hotel eateries in this region France. Seating is in beautifully upholstered chairs at polished beige wooden tables situated around a central courtyard. Also, our table afforded us a view of chef de cuisine Charles Benôit-Lacour and his staff at a long prep table putting the finishing touches on many of the plates.
From a choice of five appetizers we
chose a classic cut of foie gras terrine
accompanied by a confit of sweet wild
blackberries, and an assortment of ripe heirloom
tomatoes drizzled with a zesty
vinaigrette, sprinkled with bits of green scallion
all topped by a puff of decadently
rich mozzarella cream that provided just the right
of the tomatoes and vinaigrette.
For dessert we opted for a creamy chocolate mousse topped with black currants and, of course, Chantilly cream, and an order of puff pastries loaded with fresh berries and more Chantilly cream. For wine, from a short but well-chosen list of French offerings, we selected a 2014 Domaine Bachelot-Monnot “Les Patrons” Santenay that showed a bouquet and flavor of ripe cranberries, raspberries and cherries with a smooth finish that complimented the fare quite well.
restaurant is open daily for breakfast,
lunch and dinner; expect dinner to cost $105 for
two, including service but not
wine or tax, which we felt was quite reasonable
considering the setting and
quality of the fare and service.)
Auberge Le Vertugadin
44 rue Connetable
Located on the main street of Chantilly and less than a ten-minute walk from the Condé Museum, this restaurant features well-prepared classic French fare made with fresh local ingredients as well as high quality, friendly yet professional service. Dining is at well-spaced, dark wood tables in a number of small wood-beamed rooms featuring statues of horses and white walls adorned with books. Also there’s a small garden out back for dining in dry mild weather, which was not the situation on the evening of our visit.
Appetizers range from a salad of shrimps, salmon and crayfish, to a terrine of rabbit with hazelnuts and onion jam, to a delicious salad of crisp lettuce adorned by two small, slightly oven-roasted plump tomatoes stuffed with local goat’s cheese. For main courses (from a choice of ten), we enjoyed the moist, grilled sea bream with a tangy pesto-based coating and simply grilled fillets of red mullet doused in a tasty sauce laced with Provençal herbs.
The bread pudding dessert with ice cream came and a generous portion of Chantilly cream, as did a dessert of two puff pastries with strawberries. As to wine, we drank a light, pleasant 2014 Domaine Michel Joillet Mercurey with a bouquet and flavor of raspberries and strawberries, which had more than adequate acidity to complement the fish main courses.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday through Sunday; expect a 3-course dinner to cost an extremely modest $70 for two, including “service,” but not tax or wine.
La Grange Aux Loups
8 rue du 11 Novembre, Aprémont
Situated along a rural road-- a ten-minute car ride from the Condé Museum --this is your typical upscale “French country restaurant.” Dining takes place at white-clothed tables in an elegant rectangular room with grey wainscoting above which one wall shows exposed stone and the others gray wallpaper. Service is provided by a maître d' and two rather harried but quite efficient waitresses.
addition to à la carte dining, three
separate menus are available: three courses ($38),
five courses ($66) and
three-course lobster menu ($82).
Main course choices ranged from a thin mackerel tart accompanied by roasted squid, chorizo and a smooth ratatouille, to a roasted veal fillet
with a pungent pepper sauce, to a serving of large prawns, with saffron-infused risotto and an assortment of vegetables. For dessert we chose a selection of regional cheeses and an apple tart with vanilla ice cream coated with Calvados-laced Chantilly cream (left). Our choice of wine was a 2014 Bouchard Chambolle-Musigny, which was a bit light but filled with flavors of ripe cranberries and herbs and mated quite well with the fare.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Also, there are two luncheon dining spots at the Condé Museum itself: Le Hameau offers indoor and outdoor seating for French regional cuisine, a large choice of salads and desserts topped with Chantilly cream; La Capitainerie (right), located inside the Museum, “celebrates” the cooking of the 17th Century chef at Condé, François Vatel, and offers a range of fare from hamburgers to roast veal with chestnut gnocchi, and, of course, coffee topped with a mound of Chantilly cream.
And a note about Chantilly cream and lace. The cream, created by François Vatel in the 17th century on his appointment as chef to the original Condé Castle, is crème fraȋche beaten with a dash of vanilla and light brown sugar, and like the similar schlag of Vienna, it’s piled high on ice cream, coffee and most desserts.
The famous black lace of Chantilly isn’t manufactured any more, but there’s a small museum in town on the rue d’Aumale that provides examples and explaining the process.
NEW YORK CORNER
99 East 52nd Street
It was the big restaurant story of the year when Major Food Group, headed by chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone with partner Jeff Zalaznick (below), took over the lease of what had been The Four Seasons restaurant and turned it into two separate restaurants, The Grill and The Pool. It seemed an odd choice by the landlords, German real estate developer Aby J. Rosen and Michael Fuchs, to sign on Major Food Group, which up until then had been doing much smaller, much less extravagant restaurants around NYC that included the Parm sandwich shop and the retro Italian-American Carbone.
the NYC Historic Landmarks Commission had long
ago granted protected status to
the interior, which was located in Mies van der
Rohe’s Seagram Building and
designed by Restaurant Associates and architect
Philip Johnson. When it opened
in 1959, there was never a restaurant as
spectacular, both for its look and for
its role in the city’s social history, which I,
along with managing partner
Alex von Bidder,
compiled in the book The
Fours Seasons: A History of America’s
Premier Restaurant (1997). Thus,
new owners could do little but polish the
premises, which included 20-foot-tall
beaded metal curtains, a Richard Lippold bronze
sculpture above the bar, and a
babbling pool in the middle of the dining room.
There had been a Picasso
tapestry in the hallway connecting the two
dining rooms, but that is now safely
at the New-York Historical Society.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
NOBILO WINES AMONG THE VERY BEST
FROM NEW ZEALAND
By John Mariani
David Edmonds, Nobilo Wines
is, New Zealand’s finest maker of Sauvignon
get out and about. He’s never been to France’s
Loire Valley, where the
standard for the varietal is set in wine like
Sancerre, nor has he seen much
of California’s Sauvignon Blanc vineyards. Maybe
that’s worked in David
Edmonds’ favor. As winemaker at New Zealand’s
Nobilo Wines, he has
managed to focus all his energies on improving
Sauvignon Blanc’s image
as a varietal in the shadow of Chardonnay.
YOU CAN FIND USED COPIES ON
EBAY FOR FIVE BUCKS.
Peach issues [originally] cost $12 at newsstands,
excluding the flagship issue, which sold
for $10. An annual subscription to the magazine cost
$28 per year. This means
that collecting all 24 issues of LP would have cost $274 at the
newsstand and $168 by
subscription during its run: That’s a steal
considering that a full collection
is currently worth between two and
seven times its initial value. For
the most avid fans seeking pristine copies of each
issue, buying individual
copies to make a complete Lucky Peach collection costs as much as $1,109.60,
total, on eBay (as of this writing). Meanwhile,
buying used copies of each issue will cost as little
AND THAT DOESN'T EVEN BEGIN TO COUNT
AND THAT DOESN'T EVEN BEGIN TO COUNT
Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Wine is a joy year-round but in this month in particular, one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino.
First, we are approaching the days when the first Sangiovese grapes will be harvested. From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines will be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines. That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello. Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello. The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.
What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura? Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi. When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard. But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research. So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research.
We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones. We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.
It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature! Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites. Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop. Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.
Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefitted from this work. And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn! One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot. We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.
If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate. As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north. Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone. It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends.
is a smattering of Sangiovese-based
wines that you may wish to get to know better,
reflecting a spectrum that
appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every
can assure you that the conversation
will never become boring.
Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese
BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites.
Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage.
Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish.
Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of
research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape. Estate bottled from the
splendidly sun drenched vineyards
surrounding the medieval Castello from which it
takes its name.
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JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
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