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  April 18, 2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


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Claude Monet, "Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe avec Gustave Courbet" (1863)


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IN THIS ISSUE
The Master Ham Carvers of Spain Part One
By Gerry Dawes



NEW YORK CORNER
JUNG SIK
By John Mariani


CAPONE'S GOLD
Chapter Three
By John  Mariani


NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
CHAMPAGNE GOES GREEN
By John Mariani




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On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. April 21 at 11AM EST, I will be interviewing Blake Bailey, author of the new biography of author Philip Roth. Go to: WVOX.com. The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.




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The Master Ham Carvers of Spain

Spain’s Ibérico Knife Artists

Part One

Text and Photos By Gerry Dawes


 


        Maestros Cortadores de Jamón are men (and a few women cortadoras) who actually specialize in carving Spanish jamón Ibérico de bellota hams—costing $600 to $800 apiece—into paper-thin slices that literally melt in your mouth.  The jamones they so expertly carve come from free-range pata negra (black hoof) Ibérico pigs that fatten themselves on acorns in the vast oak tree-endowed dehesas in southwestern Spain.  These hams are Spain’s gastronomic equivalent of the best foie-gras from France and caviar from the Caspian Sea. At special events, food fairs, private parties and even weddings, Spain’s cortadores de jamón, literally ham cutters, or ham carvers as I prefer to call them, may earn from $250 to $4,000 for slowly slicing a ham by hand over a couple of hours into thin, sometimes almost translucent serving pieces, one exquisite slice at a time.  
    The cortadores are professionals employed by the producers of the high-ticket Ibérico hams and many work for the same producer until they retire. The pigs’ acorn diet marbles the hams with a luxurious kind of ivory fat that tastes of nuttiness from the acorns and consists of mono-unsaturated oleic acid, which actually lowers evil LDL cholesterol and boosts the  levels of the more benign HDL cholesterol. In fact, the promoters of jamón Ibérico de bellota are so enthusiastic about the healthful qualities of the oleic fatty acids that they sometimes refer to the Ibérico pigs as “olive trees on the hoof.”
        Sometimes, if there is a bumper crop of acorns, the pigs can engorge themselves to the point that this vegetable-like oil actually pools between layers of their muscles and can cause problems for the pigs. One day a few years ago during a lull when he was cutting jamones at the Pedroches stand at Barcelona’s sprawling biennial Alimentaria food fair, Pedroches Maestro Cortador Clemente Gómez pointed out a pool of oil seeping out from the muscles of a ham he was cutting and told me: “If these pigs eat too many acorns during la montanera, the two to three months they are allowed to roam free-range in the hills of Extremadura and northern Andalucía, foraging on grass, plants, herbs and a slew of acorns—the oleic acid they produce from the nuts can seep out from their muscles and make it painful for them to walk.”
           I longed for a spoon and a small container to take away some of the oil from the ham Gómez was cutting (right). At Madrid Fusión 2018, one of the world’s top gastronomic conferences, I saw that someone had finally packaged this oil for use in kitchens, but the aceite de jamón Ibérico they were offering was actually ham fat melted in olive and/or sunflower oil and was not the real pure essence that Gómez showed me.
        A fenómeno who stands apart from other ham carvers is Florencio “Flores” Sanchidrián, a 59-year old force-of-nature from the historic provincial capital of Ávila (Sanchidrián is a village north of Ávila) in the mountains northwest of Madrid.  Sanchidrián is Spain’s—and the world’s—consummate Maestro Cortador.  Upon watching his unique ham-cutting flourishes, one senses that within Flores Sanchidrián there is the soul of a bullfighter and/or flamenco dancer. When he lines up to slice a ham, Sanchidrián torques his body like a flamenco dancer and at times profiles like a matador getting in position for the kill.  Usually he also dons garb complete with a headband that brings to mind a samurai maestro.
           In addition to his unique distinctive style, Sanchidrián (left) is a born storyteller who entertains as he slices, talking about what makes each particular ham special. He claims that to perfect his craft he locked himself in a convent with his knives and five hams and water.
        Iberian ham speaks of the countryside, pasture, nature and freedom,” Sanchidrián in his poetic mode says. “Acorn-fed Ibérico ham is nourished by the four elemental forces of life—earth, water, fire and wind. The earth nourishes the animal’s life, water feeds its soul, fire gives the heat for the secador (drying) process and the air (curing) exempts it from sin! Acorn-fed Ibérico hams are like wines; depending upon the year, good years come like wine vintages and, like wines, gran reserva hams are made.”
        Wielding in each hand two long thin flexible slicing blades with pointed tips, Sanchidrián somehow manages to carve paper-thin slivers of ham and cajole them into a line of curls along the blade he is not using for cutting.  With a deft flick of his wrist, he spins each slice around the blade, and then nudges them into the line along the other blade holding half a dozen other freshly sliced “without sin” pieces of jamón Ibérico.  With the sharp pointed tip of one of the long knives, he skewers any recalcitrant, presumably sinful slices, flips them into curls and adds them to the row on the other blade.  Sanchidrián does the same with the second blade until both knives have a row of curled jamón slices, artistically arranged in a single layering.  In his native Ávila, at the Restaurante Rincón de Jabugo, which he owns with working partner Benjamín Rodríguez, he demonstrated this for me, letting me sample some of the slices.  (He is also a partner at Restaurante El Matadero, across from Madrid’s former matadero (slaughterhouse) in the Arganzuela barrio of Madrid.)
      The first hams that come out each year have the taste of green almonds. The same ham three months later now tastes like ripe almonds,” Sanchidrián told me. “In a good year, the pig has eaten acorns and had a good diet, so the hams taste of hazelnut and wild herbs; gran reserva hams have the taste of walnuts and wild mountain herbs.”
           Sanchidrián has his detractors, some of whom consider him as the cortador de jamón equivalent of Manuel Benitez “El Cordobés,” the famous tremendista, multi-millionaire “Beatle bullfighter” of the 1960s and 1970s.  Jesús González (right), the Dehesa de Extremadura Cortador, mentioned no names, but says he does not like what he calls los malabaristas del jamón (ham jugglers) and said that “the star should be the ham and not the carver.”  Echoing González, Joselito’s Maestro Cortador Ernesto Soriano told me, “I am a professional who thinks that a carver cannot be above the ham, which unfortunately today happens a lot, and that cannot be.”  (Of course, both González and Soriano are ham carver employees of major ham producers; Sanchidrián is not.)
         Carrasco Ibéricos’ official cortador, Pedro Seco, has been cutting ham for 37 years, professionally for more than 25 years, beginning “in a high-end restaurant in Madrid, where I was working as a waiter. Between periods of waiting on customers, I began cutting the hams to serve my colleagues and they told me that I did a great job of carving the ham for them, so it evolved into a profession and I was chosen to be the cortador for Carrasco Ibéricos.”
        All of the Maestros Cortadores de Jamón may take several hours to whittle down a ham one slice at a time. Seco guesses he has cut 37,000 hams in his career.
       Jesús González León carves hams for the D. O. P.  Dehesa de Extremadura at shows and official functions.  González cuts quite a figure himself in his custom-made cortador’s tunic and his sleek shaved bald dome and gray-streaked fine-line Imperial goatee. He also has a consulting business that deals in all aspects of ham procurement and ham carving.  In 2018, at the Madrid Fusión gastronomic summit, he told me he is self-taught and began carving hams at Restaurante el Clavo in the out-back Extremaduran town of Valencia de Alcántara in 1988.   When González began carving hams, the profession of cortador de jamones was scarcely a knife-gleam in the eyes of fledgling ham carvers. The designation cortador de jamones did not exist, let alone the lofty title of Maestro Cortador.  As ham carving came to be more appreciated it became an event at trade shows like the Salón de Gourmets in Madrid.  In 1998, Jesús González began entering ham cutting contests and won five of them. (The first jamón Ibérico Denominación de Origen Protegida, Guijuelo, was not recognized until 1986 and la Dehesa de Extremadura, which is in González’s home region, did not attain D. O. P. status until 1990.)
        For the Dehesa de Extremadura D. O. P., González estimates he carves 500 to 600 hams per year. When asked whether he ever got codo de tenista, (tennis elbow) from cutting hams, he said, “No, ham carvers get tendonitis of the shoulder, not the elbow.”


This article is  excerpted from Gerry Dawes’s upcoming book, Sunset in a Glass:  Adventures of a Food and Wine Road Warrior in Spain.  

 





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NEW YORK CORNER

JUNG SIK
2 Harrison Street (at Franklin Street)
212-219-0900

By John Mariani
Photos by Dan Ahn




    Somehow I missed eating at Jung Sik when it opened in 2012 without much fanfare, and then, as time went on, I never got around to it, despite its receiving two Michelin stars. Now that I have, I could kick myself for not getting to Jung Sik sooner, because the cuisine of owner Jung Sik Yim, whose first restaurant, Jung Sik Dang, debuted in Seoul in 2009, is among the most refined and sensibly creative in New York right now. Not for him are modernist fantasies or molecular lab experiments. His food is beautifully crafted but, overall, possesses flavor combinations that one has never thought of, much less thought would work. And they really do.
      Yim’s opening in Seoul was, from all reports, a shot across the bow, bringing an entirely new style of cooking to South Korea, though it would be difficult to puzzle out what makes much of it Korean. His sensibilities are not like the overelaborated razzle-dazzle intentions of David Chang. Yim is more interested in a minimalism that is actually complex, whereby to look at his dishes is not to know how much thought went into them. Sometimes all that work still comes out as a rather bland reality, but in most the results can be wondrous.
     The TriBeCa premises used to be the warm-hearted Chanterelle festooned with sprays of flowers. Now, Jung Sik is basically one long room with a picture window, a slatted polished wood wall, and exceptionally comfortable cream-colored banquettes and booths set with double tablecloths and first-rate stemware for each kind of wine. Lighting is amiable and allows you to see the beauty on the plates; the eclectic mix of music is played nice and low. When we dined there, when New York restaurants were allowed 50% capacity, only four tables were taken (along with a few claustrophobic-looking huts outside), so the noise level was very pleasant, but even with more tables, I can’t imagine it really being much louder.
     There are two menus offered at Jung Sik.  The five-course menu is $165, with an optional wine pairing for $110, and the seven-course menu is $200, with an optional wine pairing for $140, making this one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. And be aware that, if you are a table of two or four, everyone must take one or the other option, meaning you can’t order seven courses and your friend five, because it would “interrupt the flow.”
     Yim apparently is biding his time back in Seoul, and the night I visited the executive chef was off and the sous-chef who cooked that night “left early.” The heralded pastry chef left the restaurant three weeks earlier. This was all a bit off-putting, but nevertheless the kitchen staff (all women) seems well trained to deliver exquisite cuisine, as is the wait staff, whose every member knows every detail about every dish.
      Apparently they once served bread at Jung Sik but no longer, so you will be ravenous by the time the lovely little charabanc (amuses) arrive, set on individual ceramic stools, including a paper crisp tuile of tuna loin  with cucumber, chive and sesame aïoli; a steamed egg finished with a gamte (seaweed) and shellfish foam; wagyu beef tartare seasoned with truffle cream, served on toasted brioche, with Parmesan and black pepper; velvety foie gras mousse in a Berber brik tartlet, with apple jam garnished with toasted shaved hazelnut; and “compressed” Chilean peach topped with lime zest, sour cream, bacon chip and candied pecans that would have been better as a dessert.
     Then came the various savory and sweet courses, beginning with luscious bluefin tuna belly layered with slow-cooked egg yolk and insipid Bulgarian sturgeon roe, which had a nice textural contrast of crispy quinoa. Next up was a lightly grilled langoustine served with smoky sabayon and hyssop oil, making for delectably complementary flavors. One of the signature dishes for good reason at Jung Sik is the octopus braised for an hour in dashima kelp broth, then fast-seared till crisp, served over gochujang (chili paste) aïoli and finished with fine herbs.
    Mandoo are Korean dumplings, here stuffed with foie gras and kimchi, topped with a sheer sheet of wagyu and swimming in a beef broth (left) known as gom-tang—a good dish, but the broth, by any name, was dreary, despite its three-day preparation time. An elaborate dish that paid off was myeong ran (cod roe) atop  seaweed rice and pearl barley, finished with more seaweed, slow-cooked egg yolk and crispy quinoa, delicious if a bit too similar to the tuna tuile.
      Alaskan black cod is a marvelous fish, often cloyed with sweet sauces, but here its essential flavor is unmasked, served in a delicate  clam stock foam. Branzino is first steamed, then charcoal-grilled and served over a bed of white kimchi, with a vial of sesame oil. (These tiny vials are a leitmotif at Jung Sik.)  Kimbap sushi is stuffed with woodsy truffled rice, bluefin tuna belly, and kimchi, finished with a tangy mustard sauce (right).
      Next come the meat dishes. You won’t find a cook-it-yourself brazier at Jung Sik, and the traditional galbi marinated shortribs of beef are wagyu here, lightly grilled and served over a bed of seasoned mushroom rice with kakdugi radish kimchi and sesame leaf. Superb  Iberico Pluma de Bellota pork came with white asparagus—too early in the season to be very sweet—a sunchoke puree, micro mizuna and mustard salad with calamansi vinaigrette, crosne, and kalchi (beltfish) jus.
      This was a lot of courses, but my wife and I were still ready for some delicate desserts. “NY Seoul” was choux pastry filled with brown rice cream and pecan praline, caramel, corn dough and vanilla ice cream. A signature “trick of the eye” dessert was a very soft, almost pudding-like baby banana, with a cannoli made from a white chocolate shell filled with dulcey cream, banana cremeux. A Bailey’s banana cake was accompanied by coffee ice cream and chocolate hazelnut crumble.  Strawberries, both cultivated and wild, are topped with an aloe sorbet served on a corn sable cookie and finished with black pepper and strawberry juice. Of course, there are delightful petit-fours and rich buttery chocolates. It‘s a tour de force at the end of such a splendid meal.
     Jung Sik’s has a trophy wine list that may well be of interest to Korean billionaires who think nothing of dropping $14,000 for a Romanée-Conti, but for the rest of us there is precious little under $150 that is appealing, which may be why the other tables that night seemed to be nursing a wine by the glass or none at all. The cheapest wine by the glass is a dessert wine for $24, the most expensive, an Opus One 2016, is $90. Curiously enough, the best buys on the list are the magnums, like Bois de Boursan “Tradition” for $200.
      The prices at Jung Sik are arguably justified by the superior cuisine, though some of the ingredients from such far-flung sources, like wagyu, might not be all that necessary when used only in such minuscule amounts. You will have a serene evening at Jung Sik, and as long as you know what you’re paying for it, it will be uniquely wonderful.

             
 



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CAPONE’S GOLD


By John Mariani

CHAPTER THREE

     Katie Cavuto and David Greco agreed to start work immediately on the Capone project, so she booked a room at a local motel and was at his door the next morning by nine, to find him yet again out in the yard killing hogweed.
         “I know, I know, don’t shake hands,” she said.

         “Hey. You look chipper this morning,” he said, immediately regretting his choice of words.  “Had breakfast?”
         “I just grabbed a cup of coffee in the motel lobby.”
         David shook his head and said, “You can’t go all day on that.  I haven’t eaten yet either.  I’ll make us breakfast.”                 They entered his house, a split-level ranch that appeared to have been emptied by its last residents without taking much of the well-worn furniture: sofa, two arm chairs, coffee table, TV in front of the fireplace. But it smelled clean, no animal aromas.  So did the kitchen, which was of a good size, with a table and a counter, with an old professional stove and stainless steel canopy.
         
David went to wash up and returned in a fresh tennis shirt and shorts.  Looked like he also put a comb through his hair.  Katie was in jeans and a t-shirt, carrying a bag of note pads and books.
       
“Eggs, okay with you? I’m known for my scrambled eggs.”
        
“Gee, being a detective, I would have thought you make them hard-boiled.”
        
David pinched his paunch and said, “I’m more soft-boiled, but I break eggs really well. And the eggs are fantastic. I get them from a farm about a mile away.  They are very happy chickens. You’ll taste it.”
        
He began by chopping some onions fine and sautéing them in butter till they started turning golden brown. Then he cracked four eggs into a saucepan—not a skillet—whisking them with salt and pepper, then put them over low heat with some butter, a big spoonful of ricotta, and then grated pecorino.  Stirring constantly to meld the ingredients, he added the cooked onions just as the eggs began to come together.
        
David had already heated two plates and dropped two slices of Italian bread into the toaster. “Can you get some knives and forks out of that third drawer on the left? That one, yeah.  Okay if we sit at the counter?”
        
Katie shrugged and placed the cutlery on the counter just as the toast popped up.  David portioned out the eggs onto the warm plates.
        
“Let me know what you think,” he said.
        
Katie tasted the eggs, which were a brilliant yellow and very moist, closed her eyes and said, “My God, they are really delicious. They’re so creamy and light!”
        
“Never make eggs in a skillet. They cook too fast and get hard. You want espresso or cappuccino?”
        
“Cappuccino, if it’s not too much trouble.”
        
“Not at all,” he said and put a cup under the espresso machine, then steamed the milk.  “I apologize. I don’t make those little heart shapes in the foam.”  Then he made himself a double espresso.
        
Two eggs each don’t take long to finish, so David wiped his mouth, made himself another espresso and said, “So, let’s get to work.”

         Katie seated herself across from David and started unpacking her bag: one legal pad, two reporter’s notebooks, a thick manila folder, two biographies of Al Capone and a copy of Jay Robert Nash’s 1973 book, Bloodletters and Badmen: A Narrative Encyclopedia of American Criminals from the Pilgrims to the Present.
         “The Nash book is very comprehensive but has a lot of errors,” said David. “He tried to cover everyone from Billy the Kid to Sam Giancana.”
          “Have you read either of these Capone bios?” asked Katie, pulling them from the pile.
         “I read the Schoenberg book when it came out a few years ago,” said David, picking up the author’s 1993 bio, Mr. Capone: The Real—and Complete—Story of Al Capone.  “Top-notch researcher.  He spoke to a lot of Chicago and Miami cops who were around when Capone was operating. Of course, if we find Capone’s gold, he’ll have to add a chapter.”
         “And then he’ll have to credit my article and your assistance.”
         “And interview us.”
         David had started to assess the brown-eyed journalist at his kitchen counter. Good looking woman, about thirty, a difference of, say, fifteen to twenty years between them.  Nice chest, Italian-American hips.  Slightly olive skin tone. Hair in a ponytail, nails not too long, no polish. No face makeup except for a slight blush of lipstick and eyeliner. No designer jeans, simple white t-shirt, probably GAP. Flats, not sneakers. Two silver rings, no wedding ring, small round silver earrings.  The nose was strong, pretty little bump on the bridge.  He had to admit, her eyes were sexy.
         At the same time, Katie was sizing up the detective, thinking he fit the mold pretty well of what she’d thought he’d be like from his official photo she’d seen in the newspaper.  Stocky, five-ten, strong eyebrows on a large forehead.  The haircut was a cop’s cut, clean at the neck and around the ears, starting to get a little sparse at the top. His tennis shirt revealed quite muscular arms but not overdeveloped the way the younger cops went for.
         Katie had never really been a crime reporter, though in her early years  she’d cover whatever the assignment desk editor at Bronx News gave her, and that included spending days in criminal courtrooms trying to get a story out of the arrest of a local drug dealer or car thief.
         Later on, when she went freelance, she wrote for some of the city magazines, then broke into national ones like McClure’s, which was named after a quite famous muckraking magazine of the 1920s that had published authors like Willa Cather, Jack London, Mark Twain, and Lincoln Steffens.
The original McClure’s went out of business in 1929, but a wealthy New York publisher with a passion for solid investigative reporting titillating enough to sell to a large audience started up the new McClure’s in 1990 in homage to the mission of the first.  Hence, the Capone story, which, if it panned out, would make banner headlines and garner TV coverage.
         Katie Cavuto had certainly proven herself a dogged reporter on many stories.  She’d had some nominations and won some prizes along the way for stories like her exposé of a congressman with financial ties to a corrupt HMO in Florida. She also got the last interview with a major British movie star before he died of alcoholism. 
        
David had never heard of Katie Cavuto and was still waiting to hear what new research she had before going further with the Capone project.  As the lead detective in New York investigating mob activities, he knew enough history of organized crime and had enough files of his own on modern day gangsters that he wondered how this nice Italian-American girl with the dark eyes and great hips could have come up with something novel about Capone. 
         
Then again, David had never spent much time delving into Capone’s dealings—the mobster had died three years before David was born—except how his associates took over the rackets upon his demise.  Those were the tentacles that still needed to be regularly lopped off.
         Being Italian-American himself, David Greco hated the way gangsters with names like Capone, Genovese, Bonano, and Gallo had so indelibly tainted his ancestors’ and contemporaries’ reputation, so that early on when he joined the police force, he swore that his mission would be to cripple the Italian-led mobs and put the top bosses away.
          His zeal for the job, which got him his detective’s badge and many citations, also brought him to the attention of Italian-American Rudy Giuliani, first when he was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, then as Mayor of New York.  As a prosecutor Giuliani always sought out high profile cases like Wall Street crooks Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken along with drug lords and the heads of organized crime. Giuliani loved the spotlight.
         Longtime New York City D.A. Robert M. Morgenthau competed for publicity with Giuliani, who’d invented the “perp walk”—the parading of handcuffed “perpetrators” past well-placed TV cameras. Also publicity hungry were the Police Commissioners, first Ray Kelly, then Bill Bratton, whose job it was to face the press on a daily basis. David Greco was more than content to be on the streets getting the dirty work done on their behalf.  When he saw he could rise no higher, and after falling out with Giuliani, David Greco retired after 20 years on the force.
        David had won all their respect, as he did from his closest cop friends, though, as ever, he was too often frustrated by higher ups shutting down  investigations and sting operations without any official reason given.
Perhaps more importantly, David Greco had won respect for his professionalism from the very people he was arresting.  The mobsters felt he played fair, and, while it was far from the case with other cops, Greco could not be bought. If he were ever present at one of those perp walks, he never gloated in front of those he had arrested. Sometimes he’d even get a wink from the perp.
        Of course, the age-old understanding between the police and the mob  still persisted: The latter never ordered a hit on the former, lest the full, concentrated wrath of the NYPD would crash down on them, resulting in the immediate and wholesale arrest of scores of mobsters, high and low, thereby decimating and upending their secret criminal enterprises. Indeed, David Greco and his colleagues always thought it was a bullshit part of The Godfather when young Mafioso Michael Corleone murdered the corrupt police captain over a plate of spaghetti.  Other than that, though, he loved the movie.         


© John Mariani, 2015





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NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR

CHAMPAGNE GOES GREEN
By John Mariani
Photos courtesy of
Comité Champagne.


    It seems probable that the wine industry, more than any other agricultural industry, is going green in environmental terms.  Growing grapes in historically prestigious vineyards and the need to preserve the integrity of the soil has become in particular a mission for the producers in France’s Champagne region of 16,100 winegrowers, 360 houses and 140 cooperatives. Their goal is to eliminate all herbicides by 2025.
    C
hampagne is also working to invent new grape varieties by breeding hybrids, thereby creating varieties with effective and sustainable resistance, improving the vines’ growing capability and the quality of the wine produced in the face of a changing climate. To find out the details I interviewed Arnaud Descotes (below), director of the viticulture and environment department at the Comité Champagne.


 

How has local warming already affected Champagne region?


Compared to the 30-year baseline average from 1961-1990, the average temperature in Champagne has risen by 1.3°C over the past 30 years, while average rainfall has remained steady at 700mm/year. Damage caused by spring frosts has slightly increased due to earlier bud bursts, despite a drop in the number of frosty nights. Harvest in Champagne also starts 18 days earlier than it did 30 years ago. In 2020, the region recorded its earliest harvest start date in history, and it was the sixth to start in August over the past 15 years.


Is harvesting earlier a detriment to the traditional taste of the Champagnes?


These effects of local warming have actually been beneficial for the quality of grape musts produced in the region. The beneficial effects are likely to continue if global warming is limited to a 2°C rise. However, the Champagne region is now exploring ideas that would enable the inherent characteristics of its wines to be preserved in less optimistic climate change scenarios.


Has warming affected the microbes in the soil that have been there for millions of years?

No, at this stage we have not noticed any changes.
 


What are some of the other specific ways the goal will be reached?

Champagne was the first wine-growing region in the world to equip itself with an ambitious plan to cut carbon emissions. Reducing bottle weight, recycling waste products, and converting biomass are among the most significant initiatives. The region is also focusing on supplies and is seeking to replace fossil fuel-based supplies with bio-sourced supplies from agricultural resources produced in the region. From 2003-2020, the region successfully decreased the carbon footprint of every bottle by 20 percent, cut its use of herbicides in half, treated and recycled 100 percent of its wine effluents and 90 percent of its industrial waste. The goal is to achieve a 75 percent decrease by 2050.


Champagne sales were down last year by 20%. What was this due to? 
                                                                                                        
                                                                                                    Lighter glass bottles help reduce Champagne's carbon footprint.


We do not have information about Champagne sales within the United States. However, the closure of primary consumption and sales hubs, along with the cancellation of many events, put the business under pressure and led to an 18.8 percent year-over-year decline in Champagne shipments to the United States in 2020. Globally, Champagne shipped 17.9 percent fewer bottles in 2020 compared to the previous year, lower than the 30 percent anticipated loss that was initially expected.

Mating disruption of insects reduces the need for insecticides.


During Covid and with restaurants closed, are restaurateurs still stocking Champagnes when they still have so much in inventory?


In 2020 we saw that many importers and other wine professionals reduced their stock to lower their storage costs and/or improve their cash flow. That led to a decrease in shipments for 2020. However, we have received information from U.S. importers that Champagne consumption has been higher than what shipments show. Even with this 18.8 percent loss, the United States market represented 15.8 percent of all Champagne shipments in 2020. It remained the second highest export market in terms of volume, only surpassed by the United Kingdom.
 




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“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.


“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.




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The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.


"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.




Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.


"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross, thedailybeast.com

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily Meal.com.

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe,  The Modern, and Maialino.

                                                                             






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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 Las Vegas.



              



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 Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 

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© copyright John Mariani 2021