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"Interior in Open Air" (1892) by Ramon Casas Carbo
IN THIS ISSUE
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
IT TAKES A FARMER TO BE A GOOD WINEMAKER:
AN INTERVIEW WITH TOM GAMBLE
By John Mariani
By John Mariani
Place de la Palud, Lausanne
Photo: Swiss Tourism: Christof Scheurpf
Caressing one the loveliest curves of Lake Leman and conveniently located between Paris and the French Riviera, Lausanne was once a principal stop along the Grand Tour, when wealthy young British men and women of the 18th and 19th centuries spent at least a year on the Continent, learning French, polishing their manners and absorbing whatever culture they could while sowing their wild oats.
Lausanne was usually the next stop after Paris—carriages were often dismantled to get them through the Alps—and few cities have such a long literary history. It was in Lausanne that Edward Gibbons, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, lived for five years as a youth and in 1783 to finish the last volume of that monumental work. His house—now a post office—became a requisite visit for tourists like the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron (left), who wrote one of his most famous poems, “The Prisoner of Chillon” in Lausanne in 1816. Charles Dickens wrote parts of Dombey and Son (1846-1848) there, and in the next century T.S. Eliot, while under psychiatric care in Lausanne, composed most of his poem “The Waste Land,” with the sad line, “By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept ….”
In the 19th century the city was central to what became known as “Alpinism,” the climbing of mountains for sport and wonderment—a new idea in contrast to a previous view that mountains were forbidding, gloomy places best left to hunters. Skiing came later and the resorts Champery and Les Diablerets are only about an hour’s drive.
Lausanne is a city of steeply angled hills, divided into 18 quartiers, and at this point its population of 140,000 is composed of 42% foreign nationals. Once an important city of the Protestant Reformation, it later became a far more Catholic city, owing to an influx of late 20th century immigrants.
The 13th century Cathedral of Notre-Dame (right), on Lausanne’s highest point, is one of the city’s principal cultural sites, with a belltower that has always been a look-out point for the city’s defenders. Its religious images, once removed by the iconoclastic Protestants, were restored over two centuries, with a grand 7,000-pipe organ built over ten years by an American company, and a façade with a statue of a horned Moses looking like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
Though spread out over 16 square miles, the city is made for walking, although its quiet, always-on-time rubber-tire metro system, now eleven years old, makes navigating any part of the city very easy. One of the prettiest sections is the Place de la Palud, with a tower clock whose figures emerge and move each hour, and an array of food shops and stalls selling scores of cheeses and dairy products, chocolates and other distinctly Swiss products. Nearby is the charmingly small Durig Chocolaterie (left) on the Rue Mercerie, where you can attend demos and classes in chocolate-making. All the chocolates are made from organic and fair-traded beans, and their variety is geared to the holidays.
Lausanne is rife with fine museums, including ones devoted to the arts, zoology, archaeology, contemporary design, money, and even the typewriter. But the two attractions not to be missed are the Olympic Museum, with numerous interactive exhibitions, dozens of medal winners’ uniforms, videos of all previous summer and winter games and hundreds of items of memorabilia, from ticket stubs and programs to toboggans and boxing gloves. It is also a center for studies of the games. On premises is a bright, colorful TOM café (below) where you can get soups, salads, sandwiches and pastas at very good prices.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
Since my last report on Gabriel Kreuther and his restaurant, two significant events have occurred. First, he and pastry chef Marc Aumont opened a wildly successful chocolate shop next door, and, second, the Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant two stars (which, in the tire company’s archaic jargon, means “Worth a detour”). I might also mention that prices for a four-course dinner have gone up, from $125 to $155 (with supplements), which is on a par with Le Bernardin ($157) and Daniel ($158) but still well below La Grénouille’s three-course menu ($172).
Kreuther first made his mark at his fellow Alsatian chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s namesake restaurant, then at The Modern, before becoming chef-partner at his own eponymous 100-seat restaurant across from Bryant Park in 2015.
The décor of the main dining room and bar evoke Kreuther’s Alsatian background via street lamp light fixtures, huge wooden beams, an etched-glass wall adorned with stork imagery, and a stainless-steel bar top, but all of it with a glowing modernity. The kitchen staff can be seen working behind a wide glass wall.
The retro-style chairs are extremely comfortable and the lamp-lighted tables are set with thick linens and napkins, so civilized conversation is possible. I’m still not in love with the long fondue-like silverware, which will be forever awkward to handle.
The Bar, by the way, with its own lighter menu ranging from snacks ($12-$24) to tartes flambées ($18-$24) and large plates ($18-$34), is immensely popular after six p.m., and it’s a very comfortable spot to meet friends for drinks before or after theater. Now added to all the menus is the option of cinco jotas ham from patas negras pigs, deftly carved into square slices by an expert at your table ($42). If you must have caviar, there are two expensive options (neither from the Caspian Sea, where sturgeon fishing is now banned).
Bread is an essential part of Kreuther’s service, so you get wonderful kinds throughout the meal, all with delicious butters and spreads. Everyone also receives at least one amuse.
Many dishes from the original menu have become signatures, while new additions prove that Kreuther, Chef de Cuisine Joe Anthony and his crew continue to refine what has become a cuisine that is uniquely his. Of the former there is still the remarkable course of sturgeon and sauerkraut with American caviar mousseline set within a smoking bell jar (right). Perennially available is the lush langoustine tartare with flying fish roe, cauliflower, and macadamia puree (left). I’ll always love the terrine of creamy foie gras with brittle black truffled praline, now served with cider-poached quince, pomegranate and chestnut cornbread. The hamachi is also treated to the luxury of black truffles and foie gras in a delicate millefeulle pastry.
Among the second courses there is more foie gras, this time seared and served with a sweet apricot preserve, smoked prosciutto and an amaretto gastrique that helps cut the richness of the dish.
A marvelous new item is emmer pasta, perfectly cooked, mixed with a confit egg yolk, pancetta bacon and given texture and chewiness with sunflower seeds. Right now white asparagus are in season and Kreuther does them and green asparagus en papilotte (for two people)—along with a pretty green asparagus soup.
The third courses begin with buckwheat-roasted black bass with briny bouchot mussels (farm raised in France by a technique with a history dating to the 13th century), whose hot spicing of chorizo and a harissa rouille enhances the fish without compromising it. Kreuther has managed to find some of the most flavorful, well-fatted heritage pork available, served with grilled cabbage, apple brown butter and grits.
Cause for the most applause at our table was duck breast for two (right), baked with salted celeriac, eucalyptus and a truffle coulis. It was one of those rare moments when I thought I’d never before had duck this flavorful, this juicy, this beautifully cooked and presented. The oddest dish is a rack of Australian lamb, inferior by far to American lamb, demanding a $15 surcharge. It comes in a haystack with lamb bacon and roasted barley.
I should add that my descriptions of these dishes does not include an array of additions and sauces explained in detail by the first-rate staff. Wine director Philippe Sauriat stocks a list to match, with 1,800 selections.
last course you may have cheese or dessert,
and the cheese selections are
always superb. But I take personal pride in
the very sophisticated desserts
because my enchanting daughter-in-law
Priscilla is the restaurant's Pastry Chef,
under Executive Pastry Chef Marc Aumont.
too, are even better than I remember, from a caramel-chocolate
parfait with halvah
and yuzu sorbet to poached rhubarb
with milk sorbet and Turkish tea
gelée. Lighter is a plate of wild
strawberries—and I emphasize the word “wild”
because they are so rare in this country—with
a buttermilk panna cotta and
almond biscuit. And. of course, you'll receive
chocolates of the kind sold next door at the
There is also available a 6-course tasting menu at $195, nine courses at $235, and wine pairings available between $85 and $230.
In just four years Gabriel Kreuther has shown that the market for fine dining remains at a very high and consistent level, and he does so by stretching his well-honed talents to embrace new ideas that, as in all great restaurants, reflect his own personal history and a devotion to what is enduring, without ever giving in to the next fleeting trend.
Open for lunch Mon.-Fri.; Dinner Mon.-Sat.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
IT TAKES A GOOD FARMER TO
BE A GOOD WINEMAKER:
AN INTERVIEW WITH TOM GAMBLE
By John Mariani
The kind of conversation I usually have with most winemakers revolves around mind-numbingly arcane terms like pH levels, Brix, grape genomes and phenolic maturity. But when I sit down with Tom Gamble of Gamble Family Vineyards, the word I am most likely to hear, repeatedly, is “farmer”—spoken with equal weight given to pride and grit.
For, while he is as knowledgeable as any vintner I’ve ever met about grape growing and wine making, he does not come off as a homespun hayseed, suffer delusions of being a “gentleman farmer” and certainly does not pose as one of those zillionaires who thinks it would be such fun to buy a Napa Valley vineyard and make Cabernets designed to win awards from Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator.
Gamble is a third-generation Napa farmer, with a hundred years of both cattle and agriculture history behind him. Gamble’s mother, Mary Ann McGuire, was active in establishing1968’s Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, which protects vineyards and wineries from commercial development and ensures that the land is used strictly for agricultural purposes. A century in the same spot has allowed Gamble to know intimately the distinctions of the valley’s microclimates and terroirs, so that his winery’s 75 acres include several of the most respected AVAs, like Oakville, Mt. Veeder, Rutherford and Yountville. He also knows undiscovered plots he can maximize.
“My most lasting memory of childhood is dirt,” says Gamble, who is tall, robust and looks a bit like a younger Bob Newhart. “Playing in dirt. Walking in dust behind the tractor. Wandering aimlessly on foot, horseback and mini-bike all summer long—enjoying everything the dirt and our climate gives to life.”
Still, Gamble Family Vineyards was founded only fourteen years ago, the winery built in 2012. He has never sought to be the biggest grower or vintner in the valley, and even now he produces only about 10,000 cases a year, much of it sold at the winery or through subscription (about a thousand). His wines are now sold in 30 states.
From the start Gamble knew he didn’t want to make wines in the Napa blockbuster style. As for those wines with high alcohol levels, Gamble contends, “Don’t let them tell you that such levels are due to the kind of weather and sun we get in Napa. That’s just b.s. They deliberately make them that way, just to win 90-plus points from the wine media.”
Gamble’s wines are made closer to the Bordeaux style, using both French and California grape clones he believes thrive best in one plot or another, aiming for “vivacity, richness and lift,” rather than high tannins and oaky flavors. He and winemaker Jim Close (right), a Brit who’s been at the estate since the beginning, age in “neutral oak barrels,” aiming for a balance of fruit, tannin and acidity that will go well with food.
I am among many who are big fans of Gamble’s Cabernet Sauvignons, which I shared with him over dinner in New York at Gabriel Kreuther, but I was yet again particularly impressed with his Sauvignon Blanc, which has none of that cloying fruit punch taste you find in New Zealand and West Coast examples, or the overly grassy flavors other wineries produce.
“You have to remember Sauvignon Blanc used to be a cash crop in California,” he said, “with big tonnage for optimum sales to people who liked that sweet, grassy style. And farmers love to follow a trend to death. When I bought 12 acres of Heart Block, I used two French clones, one from the Loire Valley, spaced out the vines and trellised them to sunlight, pruned them back and adopted Cabernet Sauvignon techniques as of 1977. The grapes were hand harvested, gently pressed using native yeast and aged for 18 months. Others use oak too aggressively to make it smoky, but I want a fresh, citrus acidity that will keep the wine maturing for the next several years.” The 2017 sells for $25.
Gamble names two of his Cabernets after his parents—G. Thomas and MaryAnn. Cairo is a Cab named after his rescue dog (no longer alive). What I love about Gamble’s Cabs is that they can be bold, at least on first tasting, but that levels of flavor are released on the palate and show that blending judicious amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot gives the Cabernet Sauvignon base far more complexity. The percentages vary widely: the 2015 Family Home ($120) is 100% Cab Sauvignons; the 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) is 83% Cab Sauvignon; the 2015 Paramount ($90) is only 32%. He also makes a 100% Cabernet Franc from four different appellations.
I also feel that by keeping his Cabs at alcohol levels just above 14% and less than 14.5%, they are far easier to enjoy with a meal rather than overpower it and cause both literal and palate fatigue over a long meal.
I asked Gamble his opinions on global warming in California and, while he believes wholly that it is happening, he also takes a farmer’s approach to combating it, or even using it to his benefit. He’s already hired a climatologist.
“We’re seeing disturbing spikes in the weather,” he said. “I’m more concerned with what the night time temperatures will be, because Napa can get very hot during the day but historically cools off at night. Ironically, if the sea levels rise, that may have a moderating effect on the wines. It only makes sense to start placing the vines farther above ground to help cool them.”
Gamble thinks a lot about all this, not to mention payroll, machinery, animal husbandry and sales, which is why he works 80-hour weeks and gets up at 4:30 in the morning.
“Daybreak in Napa is very special,” he said, “and it never gets old for me when it’s quiet, the animals are awake and the Valley is cool—the way it’s always been and the way I want it to stay.”
FROM THE MAN WHO
Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Wine is a joy year-round but
in cooler weather 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.
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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❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK:
Eating Las Vegas
JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is
the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50
Essential Restaurants (as well as
the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas.
He can also be seen every Friday morning as
the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the
Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3 in
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
Robert Mariani, Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish,
and Brian Freedman. Contributing
Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical
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