Travel Poster (1934) by Alex Diggelmann
IN THIS ISSUE
MINNEAPOLIS BEFORE OR
AFTER THE SUPER BOWL
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
VIVE LE CIRQUE!
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A TASTING OF GREAT BORDEAUX
AT CHÂTEAU LATOUR
By John Mariani
MINNEAPOLIS BEFORE OR
AFTER THE SUPER BOWL
BY JOHN MARIANI
U.S. Bank Stadium
(in warmer weather)
Photo: Krivit Photography, courtesy Meet Minneapolis
Minneapolis and St. Paul may be called Twin Cities populated by Minnesotans, but each has its own character. As a casual visitor last month it was not something I had time to discern on my own, but inquiries of the natives suggested that the latter is more laid back than the former, whose population is 100,000 larger. What was easy to see is that Minneapolis is on a building boom along its broad avenues, quickly filling up with scores of nearly identical glass condos. As one local said, “St. Paul is the last city of the East and Minneapolis is the first city of the West.”
Whether or not
you’re actually attending the Super Bowl LII—whose
current average ticket price is $4,320—which as of
this writing still hasn’t come down to the final
two teams, winter becomes Minneapolis in the ways
only American cities settled by Scandinavians and
For while the excitement builds around the
Super Bowl, the lead-up is a festival week called
the annual Great Northern from January 26 to
Its boosters believe it’s a good way to
beat the cold the locals are used to. As
people in the Southwest insist that 110 degrees
isn’t all that terrible because it’s dry heat,
Minnesotans insist once the temperature drops
below zero, any further drop really isn’t all that
The Great Northern will host the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis, which is as expressive of the city’s winter character as is the City of Lakes Loppet Ski festival, which includes an ice pyramid, fire dancers, and an enchanted forest, and the Columbia Sportswear Skate Marathon that snakes 26 miles through the icebound city. And what would a winter festival be without a fast and furious curling exhibition at the Frogtown Curling Club?
Food events will dot the Twin Cities, including a Saint Paul’s Chef’s Experience, an outdoor feast held by the restaurants Saint Dinette and Corner Table and Revival at the Saint Paul's Farmer's Market in Lowertown. The Surly Brewing Co. will also hold an outdoor party with music and a bonfire.
At any time of the year Minneapolis has a remarkable array of cultural activities and institutions, most strikingly the Minneapolis Institute of Art, spread over eight acres. With nearly 90,00 artworks the Institute’s departments include Africa and the Americas; Chinese and Southeast Asia; Japanese and Korean, Photography; Contemporary Art; Decorative Textiles, and 900 European and American paintings from the 14th century to the present.
The Walker Art Center of contemporary art, founded in 1940, has now greatly expanded to a new building designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre Meuron made of aluminum mesh panels and a connecting glass hallway, with the restoration two years ago of the outdoor Sculpture Garden set on what was once marshland. From now until March 18, Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 looks at 65 years of revolutionary Cuban art (left) through more than 100 works of painting, graphic design, photography, video, installation, and performance created by more than 50 Cuban artists and designers. Nothing of this breadth and depth has been shown in the U.S. since 1944, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented Modern Cuban Painters.
Since 1963 the Guthrie Theater has been one of America’s most respected venues for repertory performing arts, cast in the spirit of founder Sir Tyrone Guthrie (who passed away in 1971), who envisioned regional theater as a Midwestern alternative to the brash, ever-more commercial character of Broadway.
Hamlet was its first production, when the Guthrie was only a summer theater. Since then the Theater has gone through artistic, managerial and financial troughs, but it had a resurgence in the 1970s and became nearly self-sufficient by the end of the decade. No longer a repertory theater, by 2000 the organization had outgrown itself and a new Theater (right) was to be built at a cost of $125 million on the banks of the Mississippi River on the east side of downtown, debuting in June, 2006, reviving Tyrone Guthrie’s original belief that “The river itself was what most charmed and amazed us. . . . Eventually the Twin Cities will realize that their river can be, and ought to be, a wonderful life-giving amenity.”
One of the best things about the new Theater is that anyone can visit it throughout the day without attending a performance, walking through its vast spaces and up the fourth level “Endless Bridge” that overlooks St. Anthony Falls (above).
I certainly would not miss a visit to the beautiful American Swedish Institute (left), located in the former Turnblad Mansion attached to the modern Nelson Cultural Center. The mansion, which has been rightly compared with the Gardner Museum in Boston and the Frick in New York, was built by Swan Turnblad, publisher of Svenska Amerikanska Posten, the largest Swedish language newspaper in the U.S.; he and his family lived in the house until 1929, when he donated it to what is now called the American Swedish Institute. The mansion’s interior was done in exquisite woodwork, with eleven Swedish tile stoves. Dining rooms and bedrooms look much the way they were, but the grandeur of it never spills over into ostentation, which would be an affront to Swedes.
The Cultural Center includes more than 7,000 museum objects (right) that express the best of contemporary Swedish culture and the history of immigrants who settled Minnesota, whose DNA can readily be seen in the faces of the people who work in or visit the Center. There is also a café inside called FIKA, after the Swedish term for a coffee break, serving specialties like Swedish meatballs ($12), gravlax ($12), smörgasår open-faced sandwiches ($13), and lingonberry rice pudding ($8).
The Museum was clearly a labor of love by Ali, but
I do hope you meet the remarkable young curator
named Sarah Larsson—her name is clearly of Swedish
heritage—whose love and dedication to the Museum
is palpable. Trained as an anthropologist and
community advocate, with an M.A. from Yale
University, Sarah is also a touring folk singer of
Eastern European song. It is rare to meet someone
of her background, intelligence and sheer
exuberance anywhere, but to meet her in
Minneapolis is to find just how international this
splendid Midwestern city has become.
Photo credits: Great Northern:
Photo credits: Great Northern:courtesy of BLT WLF Photography; Walker Art Center: courtesy of Walker Art Center; Guthrie Theater: courtesy of Meet Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association; American Swedish Institute: courtesy of American Swedish Institute; Somali Museum: courtesy of Somali Museum; US Bank Stadium: courtesy of US Bank Stadium.
VIVE LE CIRQUE!
By John Mariani
Mario, Marco, Sirio and Mauro Maccioni. (photo: Melissa Hom)
about to write an elegy for the New Year’s Eve
closing of Le Cirque, I would lament the demise
of not only one of the great restaurants in NYC
but also one of the most important. Fortunately,
I do not need to do so because, despite its
closing on East 58th Street, Le Cirque will
re-open elsewhere—word is it will be this
spring—and, I trust, be better than ever.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
THE GRAND TIER
30 Lincoln Center Plaza
When I went for Sunday brunch recently at The Grand Tier Restaurant, set atop a grand staircase at the Metropolitan Opera, and I looked around at the gleaming, beautifully restored Lincoln Center campus, I sighed for the thousandth time at just how wondrous New York City truly is.
Below us our panorama on the plaza widened to include the Henry Moore sculpture set in a pool of water, the dramatic wedge of glass that houses Lincoln Ristorante, the Juilliard School of Music and the array of theaters within the Center. Beyond that is brash Broadway, always streaming and teeming with people and cars, taxis and buses in both directions. No matter how many times I experience such a New York moment, I am always reminded of Little Orphan Annie singing, “To think that I've lived here all of my life and never seen these things!”
The vast space of The Grand Tier, beneath gleaming chandeliers, is in itself an astonishment, flanked on either side by Marc Chagall murals—“The Triumph of Music” and “The Sources of Music.” (One of the Met’s secrets is that the paintings were mistakenly installed opposite of the way Chagall intended them, but the artist eventually decided the mistake was a good one, because the trumpet players in each painting now face each other, as if welcoming visitors with a fanfare.)
The restaurant’s tables are widely spaced, the linens glow in the noontime sunshine, the flowers flourish, and on Sundays a singer from the Met ‘s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program comes to serenade diners. On the Sunday I went it was an extraordinary basso named David Leigh, whose un-amplified renditions of Verdi, Mussorgsky and Cole Porter boomed through the huge dining room to a chorus of bravos.
The Grand Tier is unique beyond its décor. Pre-opera, it serves dinner ($74 prix fixe or à la carte), though you need not be attending a performance to dine there. To save time, you can even pre-order cocktails and food before the performance. Two hours before the curtain goes up, guests sit down to a two-course meal, then, during the opera’s half-hour intermission, they return to their table, where dessert is waiting for them. After 8 p.m., the restaurant functions as does any other, depending on the tables available.
There is also a Saturday matinee menu, at $48. At Sunday brunch ($45 prix fixe or à la carte) guests also have free access to Gallery Met, which presents contemporary art exhibitions on operatic themes. The Revlon Bar at The Grand Tier offers a full beverage selection, including a Champagne and Prosecco Bar, and signature sandwiches and desserts.
Executive Chef Richard Diamonte, who previously was with Jean-Georges, offers an extensive brunch—not a pre-made buffet—and you get “Endless Grand Tier Bellinis.” The menu mimics the one at dinner to some degree, so by all means have the crab cake with a rich lobster beurre blanc, celery root rémoulade avocado mousse and citrus ($22). The wild mushroom risotto ($28) is excellent, tender and melded with truffle butter, while Benedict Royale ($25) is one of the most sumptuous versions in the city, layered with Niman Ranch jamon royal and Gruyère atop cornbread, all of it lavished with an impeccable Hollandaise sauce and accompanied by roasted potatoes.
The dinner menu has some unusual items, like a velouté of sweet cardoons with toasted almonds, persimmons, celery root and chervil ($22) and veal tenderloin with roasted squash, caramelized gnocchi, Parmesan, pancetta and sage ($48). There are also five cheeses available. And to finish, there’s a fine rendering of an often mis-rendered dessert, baked Alaska ($16), and a Valrhona chocolate soufflé with crème anglaise ($18), perfect for two people. A dense chocolate mousse cake ($16) comes with a praline glaze and hazelnut cream, while a delightful torrone maringue parfait ($16) is a lovely dessert atop a pistachio cake lavished with a rich zabaglione foam, sour cherries and poached figs.
The wine list is formidable and well-balanced, not least for the number of Champagnes carried, and it is not unusual to see an icy bucket of bubbly on most tables every night.
Dining at The Grand Tier has become such a ritual for so many guests that they return as regularly as churchgoers each week, and now, with Sunday brunch, that is even more the case.
Lincoln Center, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center, is a quintessential part of NYC’s cultural landscape, and The Grand Tier is a very special place right in the midst of all in which to savor its delicious glory.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A TASTING OF GREAT BORDEAUX
AT CHÂTEAU LATOUR
By John Mariani
Invitations to dinner at the illustrious Château Latour in Pauillac do not come along often, so my acceptance was immediate and my anticipation heightened by the added incentive that an array of great Bordeaux was to accompany a menu created by master chef Michel Guérard.
Château Latour is, of course, one of the Premiers Crus of Bordeaux and has been since the Classification of 1855 that ranked the various wines of the region in quality categories. The château itself dates to 1331, and the tower (left) that gives Latour its name to1453, although that one was destroyed during the Hundred Years’ War, replaced by the current one (actually built as a pigeon roost) in the 1620s.
Uninterrupted ownership by the Ségur family ended only in 1963, when the estate was acquired by the British Pearson Group, then in 1989 sold to the international corporation Allied-Lyons, which in turn sold it to Francois Pinault in 1993 at a value of £86 million, which seems like a steal now. Today Latour produces about 300,000 bottles (25,000 case)s of its three wines (the second, Les Forts de Latour, the third sold as Pauillac), set on 93 hectares on the Left Bank of the Gironde River and modernizing the château in the current century.
The dinner at the estate, attended by about 400 people, most from within the wine community but with a good number of celebrities and French politicians, also offered a tasting of the Grand Crus of Sauternes and Barsac from 2012 to 2014. What was so remarkable was the timing of the meal, which took place last June, by a service staff and kitchen that turned out superb French cuisine with military timing, plates put down with dispatch and removed when everyone was terminé. Within minutes the next course arrived, accompanied at the same moment by sommeliers pouring the wines, all at the perfect temperature.
The meal began with potatoes cooked in parchment paper and ennobled by caviar, accompanied by Château Haut-Brion Blanc 2009 in magnum, which showed wonderful structure and that identifying clay and limestone of the terroir. For the next course, morel mushrooms and local asparagus atop a pillow of mushroom foam, each table received a different Grand Cru of Médoc, in the case of our table, Brane-Cantenac 2009, a Second Growth in Margaux that was very sophisticated and a true expression of everything Bordeaux manifests in its balance of fruit, acid and soft tannins.
The next course was a tart of chicken with foie gras and wild cabbage, with which we enjoyed a 1982 vintage of Château La Lagune (Third Growth), owned by the Frey family and run by Caroline Frey. It had a lush, blossoming bouquet, softened tannins and a velvety texture that comes from 30 percent Merlot.
Curiously enough, the host wine of the evening, Château Latour, served its 1975 in magnum with a cheese course of Brie de Meaux and truffles. Not out of the ordinary, but I find that dry red wines, though often served with cheese, do not show as well with examples as rich as Brie de Meaux, which I would have preferred with the Haut-Brion Blanc 2009. Nevertheless, the wine showed astonishing freshness for one so old, peppery still, its fruit emerging beneath the tannins, with a very long, satisfying finish.
But, for me, the best was yet to come. A dessert of mascarpone with a confit of apricots and scented with verveine was accompanied by a Château d’Yquem 2005, as perfect as any wine I’ve ever had. The distinguishing mark of Yquem has always been the backbone of botrytis and oak behind the intensity of sweetness from a blend of 80 percent Semillon and 20 percent Sauvignon Blanc. It proved again why it is considered one of the greatest wines in the world.
Paris, O’naturel (left),
founded by twin brothers Mike and Stéphane Saada, is the
city's first nudist restaurants. The restaurant debuted
with members of the the Association des Naturistes de
Paris. The owners have outfitted the restaurant windows
and entryway with thick blackout curtains to ensure
customers’ privacy. The restaurant also has a cloakroom
where customers can shed their clothes before sitting
down to dinner.
ODDEST ROMANTIC METAPHOR OF THE YEAR
ODDEST ROMANTIC METAPHOR OF THE YEAR
“[Julia Child’s] touching depiction of their pleasure driven creative collaboration makes it clear that in Paul Julia had found the lid to her 6-feet-2-inch pot.”—Christine Muhlke, “Francophiles,” NY Time Book Review (Dec. 3, 2017).
Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
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.
Here 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 budget. We 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 all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation. Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.
Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal 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. The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky. Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red. The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut. It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note. It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.
SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet. An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine.
Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.
Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table.
Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti. An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes. This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.
Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining.
Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.
Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice. It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.
Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.
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JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
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