Founded in 1996
Roy Rogers Lunch Box, 1953
IN THIS ISSUE
EATING AROUND TUSCANY'S
By Geoff Kalish
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
NEW AND VARIED WHITE WINES
OF THE RHÔNE VALLEY
By John Mariani
EATING AROUND TUSCANY'S
By Geoff Kalish
Colle Bereta Estate olives
Along with its enhanced wine quality, Italy’s Chianti Classico area, between Florence in the north and Siena in the south, is witnessing a further refinement of its excellent cuisine. As has been the situation for years, at most of the region’s better restaurants sauces are made from fresh, local ingredients. But now they seem more flavorful. And while the fare in this area has never featured dishes that will jump out at you with big, bold flavors or pungent spice, it will more than please the palate with multiple levels of rather delicate seasoning, perfect to mate with the plummy, cherry tones of the area’s best wines. In fact, the rather recent improvement in bottles of Chianti Classico might well be a reflection of the need to better match the flavors of the wine with the seasoning of the fare. And, as prime evidence of this continuing trend towards farm-to-table food with multiple flavor levels, discussed briefly below are some meals enjoyed at five of the area’s recently visited dining establishments, and one just outside the Classico boundaries, in Siena.
(Vat 20% tax and service are included in the bill.)
Via Cassia per Siena 133
San Casciano Val di Pesa
(in the Antinori Winery)
Situated on the rooftop of the modern, showplace Antinori winery (left) that affords expansive views of the surrounding vineyards, this restaurant offers a range of fare, perfect for a mid-day splurge (and best accompanied with a visit to the winery, which requires advance reservations at www.antinori.it ). Appetizers run the gamut from tasty Tuscan ham served with greaseless grilled eggplant to an assortment of artisan cheeses (younger, milder aged and aromatic) that mate perfectly with 2017 Peppoli Chianti Classico and/or the 2015 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, that shows memorable flavors of ripe plums and cherries.
There’s a range of pasta selections like short macaroni with a heady duck ragù and delicate ravioli filled with eggplant, burrata and arugula (right). Main courses run the gamut from lamb chops with green peppers to Florentine T-bone steak (for two) and daily specials such as a roasted, stuffed young guinea fowl. For dessert be sure to try the cantuccini (crunchy, golden almond biscuits), served with honey-scented vin santo.
Lunch only is served daily; expect a meal for two to cost about $100 for two, excluding wine.
Colle Bereto Wine Bar
Plaza IV Novembre 5
Radda in Chianti
Located at the eastern edge of a plaza in the ancient town of Radda in Chianti (approximately midway between Florence and Siena), this very small restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, serves a small selection well-made, rather simple fare, with a selection of bottles from its winery. An appetizer of freshly made burrata cheese, accompanied by an assortment of tomatoes dressed in good oil and balsamic, and one of “Chianti Ham” served with a large slice of mozzarella were perfect starters for a warm summer’s evening.
A main course of spaghetti with truffles and truffle cream was a pasta loaded with earthy-tasting white and black varieties with an earthy sauce, and a grilled medium-rare, beefy entrecôte steak came with arugula topped with thin slices of Parmesan. A rich chocolate torta made an excellent finish.
All dishes (even the chocolate) married perfectly with the ripe plum and cherry flavors of a 2013 Colle Bereto Chianti Classico.
Of note, Radda offers a number of historic sites and local shops within its walls, and if you should stay overnight, a good choice would be the CDH Radda Hotel. It’s situated on a hillside, a two-minute car ride from the center of town, with clean, cozy rooms, most having a scenic view of the vineyards below and a spa as well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a very friendly, helpful front desk staff. Rooms currently go for about $124.
Open daily for lunch and dinner; expect to pay a very reasonable $75 for dinner for two, excluding wine.
Localita Volpaia 53017
Radda in Chianti
The ancient building is in what is now part of the Castello di Volpaia winery and small hotel, where this restaurant offers à la carte and tasting menus of artistically presented, whimsically named seasonal dishes. We started with “A pheasant at Volpaia” (left), which was a a thick slice of pressed meat of the bird topped with small portions of red fruits, corn and wild flowers, so that each bite had a unique taste—ranging from sweet to lemony. Next we chose “Countryside Paths,” a heady mix of risotto, asparagus and porcini mushrooms, and concluded with “They used to call her Sarah,” a pastry topped with apples and pears cooked in Chianti and served with spiced ice cream.
We accompanied the meal with the excellent 2016 Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva that showed complex flavors of ripe plums, strawberries and oak, with hints of almonds in its finish.
Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch and Thursday-Tuesday for dinner. Expect dinner for two to cost $90-$100, excluding wine.
Osteria Le Panzanelle
Localita Lucarelli, 29 53017
Radda in Chianti
Very popular with locals in the small hamlet of Lucarelli between the towns of Castellina and Panzano, this establishment offers flavorful, regional fare in an informal setting inside and outside of a restored 19th-century structure.
From a menu that changes monthly, depending on what’s in season, we chose salads of ripe tomatoes, their simultaneous sweet and acidic taste made memorable by a simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic. And for main courses, from a variety of grilled meats and game birds we choose medium rare steak, its slices bursting with beefy flavor, that was served with a mound of just picked arugula.
We accompanied the meal with an excellent bottle of 2016 Poggerino Chianti Classico ($32) that had a hint of anise in its bouquet and taste of plums and raspberries and we concluded the meal with a rich vin santo gelato.
Open for lunch and dinner daily, except Monday; expect dinner for two to cost $80- $100, excluding wine.
Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Via XX Luglio 11
Panzano in Chianti
Not everyone’s cup of tea, this carnivore haven offers seating for lunch and dinner daily at communal tables on three levels. The chef and owner is the effusive Dario Cecchini, whose family have been butchers for over 250 years and who gained fame by holding a mock funeral for the “mad cow” at the end of the epidemic in 2001. Forget the brown gravy that accompanied much of the Italian beef of years past, because served here is a fixed price menu ($55 a person) of five courses of unadorned beef ranging from a pile of tartare adorned with a lemon wedge to four cuts of barely cooked beef from different parts of cows raised in Catalunya, Spain. Yes, there’s a vegetarian menu for “beef-a-phobics” but few order it. And, while “house wine” is served on a complimentary basis, there’s no corkage fee for those who bring their own.
Salefina Vino & Cucina
Via degli Umailati 1
Situated on a plaza at the edge of Siena, this restaurant run by a young, amiable couple, Claudio di Sante, the chef, and Alice Dandosso, the manager. It offers seating outdoors as well as indoors in a white-walled room decorated with photos of the area. The extremely reasonably priced fare, with selections from a menu and daily changing blackboard of specials, provides a range of deftly made local fare.
For appetizers we enjoyed a light lettuce wrap of dewy shrimp and one of silky slices of tuna tartare and for main courses we chose a special of roasted pheasant and artichoke dusted with a mix of peppery spice and one of thick pork ribs served with roasted potatoes. We accompanied the meal with a plummy 2015 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico and concluded with a homemade custard topped with berries and a creamy citrus tart.
Open Monday-Friday for lunch and Saturday and Sunday for dinner; expect a meal for two to cost a very reasonable $70 -$80, excluding wine.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
5513 East 6th Street (near Avenue A)
As the story goes,
Ismael Alba couldn't find a restaurant in New
York he felt “captured the true experience and
authentic cuisine of his native Argentina,” so
he opened his own a dozen years ago at a time
when the East Village was not the
well-trammeled, well-lighted, vaguely trendy
place it is now. Indeed, Alba was a pioneer in a
neighborhood now flush with restaurants and
bars. Buenos Aires is still one of the most
colorful and lively, and the food really is
every bit as good as I’ve found it to be in the
city of Buenos Aires itself.
Open daily for lunch and dinner.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARTHE NEW—AND VARIED—WHITE WINES OF
THE RHÔNE VALLEY
By John Mariani
France’s Rhône Valley
produces distinctive red and white wines, but
the former far outweigh the latter for kudos
among wine critics. Even so, before the 1970s,
when most of the valley’s vignerons sold their
wine to negoçiants, and really not until the
next decade was there much interest in Rhone
wines. As John
Livingston-Longmonth wrote in his monumental The
Wines of the Northern Rhône (2005) “the poor
cousin of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne,”
“The northern Rhone faces the twenty-first
century with its tail apparently up.” Comments
on the southern Rhône are less effusive,
although the region, which extends from the Alps
to the Mediterranean Sea, produces the majority
of the wines, mostly red.
DOMAINE DE LA JANASSE BLANC 2017 ($19.99)—The
Cotes du Rhone appellation covers an enormous
amount of territory, and this domaine’s part of it
is 98 acres near the village of Courthezon, owned
by the Sabon family (Aimé oversees the vineyards,
his children Christophe and Isabelle make the
wines). When writing about wines I try to eschew
simple-minded allusions to particular fruit
flavors, but on my first sip of this white Rhone,
I burst out, “Pears! It tastes exactly like ripe
DOMAINE LA MANARINE BLANC 2017 ($19.99)—Since 2001 Gilles Gasq has been making predominantly Grenache red wines in the well-regarded region called the Plan de Dieu (God’s plan), but he also makes a 50-50% blend of Clairette and Bourbelenc. After pressing, the juice ages on the lees for an amazing five months, with ten percent of the grapes vinified and aged in neutral casks to undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine has fine fruitiness and acid with a streak of rocky minerality garnered from both limestone and quartz called galet. It was perfect with sautéed swordfish with summer corn.
DOMAINE LA RÉMÉJEANNE LES ARBOUSIERS BLANC 2016 ($19.99)— A higher altitude and cooler climate around the village of Sabran in the foothills of Cevannes gives the wines of Remy Klein and his son Oliver a refined freshness and balance of elegant fruit and tangy acid. Grapes are hand harvested, using indigenous yeasts and aged on the lees for six months. The blend consists of 30% Roussane, 30% Clairette, 20% Viognier (which gives the wine its flowery aroma) and 20% Bourbelenc.
DOMAINE DES AMPHORES
“ALTITUDE 300” BLANC 2017 ($19.99)—
Although this 25-acre Northern Rhône vineyard
dates back only to 1992 under owners Philippe and
Véronique Grenier, this domaine in Chavanay is in
the forefront of modern winemaking, completely
organic and biodynamic. In this blend of 80%
Roussanne and 20% Marsanne (left) both
grapes are full bodied and it has the heft to go
well with salmon or chicken, as well as cheeses,
either as an apéritif or after the main course.
FETTUCCINE FOR THE REST OF US!
GOD HAS PROBABLY
Ava DuVernay, director of the new movie A Wrinkle in Time, tells how travel changed her life: "Traveling is a spiritual practice for me. It connects me to a higher power in that the very act of roaming the world deepens my sense of life and love and learning and laughter. To me, all of that is God. Traveling is like prayer. An act of gratitude and grace."
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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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