"Nightlife" (1943) by Archibald Motley
IN THIS ISSUE
TWO FACES OF BARCELONA CUISINE
By Gerry Dawes
NEW YORK CORNER
IL GATTOPARDO and
MOZZARELLA E VINO
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
TWO FACES OF
By Gerry Dawes
Photo: Gerry Dawes
At Asia Madrid Fusión 2017, held in January at Madrid’s Palacio de Congresos, I went to photograph Barcelona Chef Albert Raurich’s presentation and I became interested in the culinary historic timeline for the dishes he serves at his restaurant Dos Pebrots in the up-and-coming neighborhood of el Raval. Raurich´s timeline stretches from the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras to 1929, with many dishes inspired by the foods of ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire.
A few days later in Barcelona I made an 8 o’clock reservation at the restaurant, but my fiancée and I first returned for lunch to an old favorite where I had eaten scores of times, El Quím de la Boquería, one of the world’s greatest market bars. After scoring a couple of taburetes (bar stools), I began to realize that Chef Quím Marquéz (below), his ingredients, cooking style, and his cooking crew, which now includes his son, Yuri, had moved to another dimension. We sat to a multi-course meal of five-star, world class dishes.
Knowing that at Quím I usually drink rosat cava sparkling wine, Quím’s staff immediately poured us flutes of the excellent Cava Juvé y Camps 100% Pinot Noir Rosé Reserva Brut, a delicious methode champenoise wine that makes a fine match for the food you are likely to be served here.
Our first dish, a favorite of mine, was gambas al
ajillo (shrimp with black garlic from China),
at Quím a modernized version of one of Spain's most
ubiquitous dishes; it comes on a plate instead of in
the traditional cazuela
(clay casserole dish), the shrimps spread across a
pepper-flecked pool of addictive, slightly picante seafood,
garlic and Cava juices that sent us to the
breadbasket a couple of times to mop it all up.
A dish new to me here, but one that seems to be making the rounds in Spain, was a superb ceviche de corvina, with passion fruit, mango, onions and aji amarillo. Next was huevos fritos con chanquetes, a classic served in a small paella pan—two fried eggs topped with pan-tossed tiny whitebait, with the yolk of the eggs as a divine sauce.
Believe it or not, Quím also has a place in Hong Kong, so it is not surprising that he has picked up some Chinese cooking skills, as in the crispy fried dumpling filled with rabo de toro (oxtail) with a soy-infused dipping sauce. My weakness for leeks and romesco sauce was indulged with calçots con vieras, chipirones y romesco, young tempura-battered onions resting at an angle atop scallops on a bed of baby squid and julienned carrots and onions, with a romesco schmeer on the side, all served on a thin black slate slab,
On another slab of black slate, Quím served us our last
course, his modernized version of roasted costillas de
ternera (veal ribs) with rounds of roasted
potatoes, Maldon salt with dollops of black Chinese
garlic aïoli alongside. For dessert, with the
last sips of the wine, we enjoyed a cheesecake with
menu is composed of seven columns: elaboración
final (the name of the dish), productos
principales (main ingredients), técnica
principal (roasting, braising, frying, etc.),
origen de la
elaboración (period from which the dish
10th Century/ancient Persia 1500 B.C., etc.), herramiento (utensils,
hands, used to eat the dish: a small carpenter’s
"toolbox" contains silverware, wooden spoons,
chopsticks and skewer) and, finally, precio (the
generally reasonable price in Euros of each dish). A note on
the menu says “If you do not understand this menu,
ask a waiter, who perhaps may
We ordered a bottle of Raventós i Blanc de Nit, a superb Champagne-quality rosat sparkling wine from the newly minted Conca del Rìu Anoia D. O. and I began to zero in on our choices. The menu recommends that if you do not have mucha hambre (are not very hungry), you should order only 5-6 plates, so we figured half a dozen dishes would be perfect.
The parade of dishes began with nicely done but too bland puerros ancestrales, three two-inch sections of leeks roasted with beer and vinegar, purportedly from ancient Egypt. Then came lovely, high quality beberechos con salsa verde, steamed cockles with a green sauce made with parsley, garlic and white wine,said to date “from the first week in May of 1723.” Mollete de Barbate, a David Chang-esque bun stacked with almadraba tuna from the waters off Barbate de Franco (Cádiz province, where the famous tuna roundup takes place), came with cucumber and tomato dressed with Spanish pimentón, garlic, vinegar and cumin.Photo: Gerry Dawes
I was looking forward to the roasted cebolla negra, a Neolithic era-attributed “blackened onion” with garum, the legendary fermented Roman anchovy-fish sauce, but I was disappointed because the dish begged for a more flavorful roasted onion and a more assertive garum. And we didn’t eat the hay underneath the onion because it tasted like, well, hay. I brought the gentrified garum up with Raurich later and he promised the next time he will serve me a “brutal” version.
One of our
best choices was guisantes con
jamón, tender young peas in a jamón Ibérico
broth with a perfect egg yolk spooned into the dish
to further enrich the soup, whose inspiration
supposedly goes back to the time when the wine God
Bacchus was known as “the little pea.”
We were not done, however. Unordered,
but sent out by Raurich, the tetas de cerda
Ibérica Maldonado confitadas arrived, served
on an upturned, feet-to-the-sky, ceramic “Ibérico”
sow with the gelatinous looking rounds of sliced-off grilled
tits confit, four of them, each strategically placed
where they might have been on a real pig.
Maldonado is a quality producer of jamones
Ibéricos de bellota, hams produced from
pata negra pigs
allowed to graze for two months under the oaks in
the Dehesa de Extremadura D. O. of western
Spain. I am sure Maldonado´s jamones
Ibéricos de bellota must be stupendous, but
these were tetas,
acorn-flavored or not. Excepting the Sherry glass
with a side chaser of Ibérico
broth, this dish supposedly dates back to the
Romans, where it must have been the rage at orgies,
sliced off real pig carcasses. Photo: Gerry Dawes
Raurich had been Ferran Adrià´s Chef de Cuisine at el Bulli from 1997 to 2007, and for the past decade he has been doing creative cooking at his Asian food-themed, open-kitchen Dos Palillos (Chopsticks), which he owns with his Japanese wife-sommelier, Tamae Imachi, and is located just around the corner from Dos Pebrots.
Raurich is a serious student of food and the history of food. He is also an amusing, fun-loving guy with a great sense of humor. High on the wall at the exit end of the restaurant, he has placed a photograph of the main players at chef Ferran Adrià’s el Bulli, the famous, now-closed cocina de vanguardia restaurant north of Barcelona that was often touted as the best in the world. Looking like a rather roughshod band of fishermen is the crew of now culinary superstars that made el Bulli into a legend: Raurich, the late el Bulli co-owner Juli Soler, Ferran Adrià, Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch (these last three are chef-owners at one of Barcelona’s best new restaurants, Distfrutar), and Albert Adrià, the genius behind the highly acclaimed Tickets, Bodega 1900, Pakta, Hoja Santa and more.
The sow tetas not withstanding, I found the concept at Dos Pebrots fascinating, a trip down a little-known historical culinary trail that Chef Raurich is blazing and that, no doubt soon, admiring chefs will begin to imitate. Raurich’s ideas and execution are terrific and the history-based dish ideas will continue to grow as he expands his intellectual pursuit of long-lost culinary concepts. Dos Pebrots is indeed a trip back in time, with some very refined modern creative touches from the mind and talent of a great chef.
Open Wed.-Sun. 1 p.m.-11p.m.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
and MOZZARELLA E VINO
To run three
successful restaurants in NYC is remarkable
enough, but when two are very fine dining
and one the epitome of casual chic, all
located on the posher streets of mid-town
Manhattan and the Upper West Side, the
achievement is all the more extraordinary. Il
Gattopardo, in a former Nelson Rockefeller
townhouse across from the Museum of Modern
Art, and The Leopard at Des Artistes near
Lincoln Center rate among the city’s best
Italian restaurants, while Mozzarella e
Vino, just doors from Il Gattopardo, has
been a draw for New Yorkers and
out-of-towners who have just visited the
museum or been buying their Armani and Ralph
Lauren outfits on Fifth Avenue. All are run by
Gianfranco and Paula Sorrentino and Chef
Vito Gnazzo (below), who bound
between the three restaurants daily and
keep a civilized level of familiarity with
their legion of regular guests. I
wrote about The Leopard a few months ago,
so let me now concentrate on Il Gattopardo
and Mozzarella e Vino.
13-15 West 54th Street (near Fifth Avenue)
Named after the great Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s 1958 novel of Sicilian life, Il Gattopardo is spread on two floors of the Rockefeller Beaux Art townhouse; upstairs is the main dining room, downstairs a vast party room, and in their streamlined minimalist décor both make good stylistic neighbors to MOMA across the street. The lighting is soft and glowing in the dining room, the walls free of artwork, and the comfortable chairs, double tablecloths, thin wineglasses, fine china and fresh flowers maintain the metropolitan level of sophistication.
The mostly Italian wine list exceeds 300, all selected by the affable
Gianfranco himself, and you’ll find plenty of well-priced wines under $50. Vito Gnazzo, from Salerno, had worked at the renowned Antica Osteria del Ponte outside Milan, then at the equally esteemed Rex in Los Angeles. At Il Gattopardo he shows a further refinement of cucina Italiana, beginning with lustrous crudo of branzino (right) with cucumber, celery and lemon-olive oil dressing ($24) that is perfect for these springtime evenings. He also does a very southern salad of pickled eggplant, cherry tomatoes, spring onions and toasted croutons ($18). Particularly imaginative is Gnazzo’s finely sliced silky veal loin that has been smoked in house and set over organic greens with asparagus tips and oven roasted tomatoes in a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing ($24).
The winsome star-shaped fagottini pasta covers organic spring greens and buffalo ricotta in a fresh tomato sauce seasoned with fresh marjoram ($26), while plump potato gnocchi shares the bowl with sweet chunks of penniolo tomatoes from the area around Vesuvius and nubbins of scamorza cheese ($26). My favorite pasta on a recent evening was firm little cavatelli (left) with grains and herbs in a deeply flavorful shellfish broth ($28).
For main courses, it would be difficult to find a better rendering of pan-seared veal loin (right), here scented with wild fennel pollen (from Gnazzo’s own farm) served with buttery fingerling potatoes and woodsy porcini mushrooms, graced with a light reduction of the meat’s juices ($50). If you like rabbit, you will be enthralled by the braised leg with roasted artichokes and fingerling potatoes ($43). One main course that never leaves the menu is the very popular Neapolitan meatloaf ($30), suffused with flavors of long-cooked vegetables and seasonings, served with chive-dotted mashed potato and garlic-rich spinach.
There is no reduction of quality and creativity in desserts at Il Gattopardo, by Pietro Macellaro, which goes way beyond the usual with a semifreddo of pear and ricotta di bufala with hazelnut biscotto ($14); mousse di cioccolato with a Aglianico wine heart jelly ($14) and marvelous rum-soaked “Babbá del Re” with fresh panna montata and strawberries ($14). Pastiera, the homey traditional Neapolitan cheese cake ($14), never leaves the menu for good reason.
Ristoranti serving alta cucina of this quality are rare even in Florence, Rome and Naples, so to have Il Gattopardo and its sister restaurant, The Leopard, within a mile of one another is exemplary of NYC’s Italian restaurants at their finest.
Open for lunch, Mon – Fri.; brunch Sat & Sun; dinner nightly
MOZZARELLA E VINO
West 54th Street (near Fifth Avenue)
You should also consider the items from the friggitoria list—fried dishes, including rice ball arancini, fat panzarotti pasta filled with potato, mozzarella and salami, and golden fried zucchini. You won’t find them better anywhere.
Pastas and other main courses have increased since M&V opened four years ago, and, on a night when Chef Gnazzo plucked victory from the prospect of defeat—a holiday in Italy delayed a shipment of mozzarella and other cheeses!—he served us as splendid an array of dishes as you’d find anywhere around town, starting with an abundant seafood salad of calamari, mussels and shrimp over organic friseé and arugula with oven-dried cherry tomatoes and an extra virgin olive oil, lemon and parsley dressing.
Also bright and seasonal was a citrus and avocado salad with fennel and Gaeta olives, with a fresh mint dressing; then came a lavish plate of the day’s ravioli, filled with ricotta and served with organic tomatoes. Rarely am I impressed with buckwheat pasta, but M&E’s buckwheat fettucine with cherry tomatoes and basil sauce had just the right tenderness along with a true nutty flavor that went well with the dressing. So, too, a warm organic farro salad with roasted vegetables and prosciutto di Parma was the kind of homey dish you’d come across in a tiny mom-and-pop trattoria in Naples.
We ended off with a rich torta di mascarpone “tiramisu” style.
Drop in for a snack and glass of wine, stay for a meal of cheese and meats, or spend the night feasting. M&V aims to please on any and every count, and with spring in fill bloom an outdoor table is pretty sublime.
Mozzarella & Vino is open Mon.-Sat from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays from 11:30 to 5.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
WHAT I'M DRINKING NOW
By John Mariani
"Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy."--Sir Alexander Fleming, English Bacteriologist
STONESTREET ESTATE VINEYARDS ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 ($45)—A very vibrant wine on all counts—bold fruit, moderate tannins, non-invasive acids and admirable alcohol level (13.5%)—that shows how refinement is reached at higher altitudes in Sonoma’s Mayacamas Mountains, up to 2,400 feet. Aging is in 32% new French oak for 18 months, in bottle for another year. Winemaker Lisa Valtenbergs and the Jackson family that owns Stonestreet (the family’s middle name) should be very happy with achieving this kind of elegant balance in their Cab.
CLOS DU VAL ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2015 ($32)—Clos du Val won my affections long ago as a California producer whose French bloodline showed in the finesse of its Cabernets. And while I am not a big fan of their current Pinot Noir, I was delighted to find their Chardonnay ripe without being cloying, with just a touch of oak, so that it may remind you of the better Chablis now being made in Burgundy. The grapes are all from Carneros, where fickle weather in 2015 made for a small crop but also helped concentrate the flavors that evolved into good sugar and complexity.
CASTELLO DI ALBOLA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2012 ($17 )—Chianti Classico has no bigger fan than I, and this Riserva proves why. The estate, in Radda, dates back to the 1840s and breeding shows in the layers of flavor, that wonderful Chianti fruit, the little bite of acid and the softening backbone. There is a fine bouquet when opened and sniffed, and the wine lasts a long while on the palate. It’s made to be drunk with just about anything that lives on land.
EMBLEM CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 ($35)—“Emblem is the latest chapter in our family story that spans for generations crafting world-class wine in the Napa Valley.” So reads the back of the bottle of this stellar wine, which really shows that the inspirational example of Robert Mondavi lives on in his son Michael’s vineyard. A high percentage of new French oak and 15 months aging helps emphasize the dark fruit and subtle sweetness, added to by blending with Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot. The wholly sensible 14.4% alcohol also makes this a splendidly adaptable wine for a wide range of summer’s dishes, and at $35, you won’t find a better Cabernet.
ASKOS MASSERIA LE VELI SUSUMANIELLO 2015 ($20)—This IGT red from Salento in Puglia indicates the fast-rising level of quality wines in Southern Italy. Puglia has a temperate climate and breezes from the sea, which the Falvo family takes advantage of to produce this soft, charming non-traditional wine made in an air-conditioned ancient storage cellar, where the wine spends 9 months in barrel and three in bottle, with 14% alcohol. Susumaniello is a native variety believed to be of Dalmatian origins, and this is a rare example, very good with very simple grilled food this summer.
ETUDE PINOT NOIR 2014 ($30)—Grown on the cool Carneros estate of Grace Benoist Ranch, this Pinot Noir has the velvetiness and acid that helps define the varietal, as opposed to the hot, treacly stuff that comes from so many other estates in California. Sixteen different clones go into the blend, and, as winemaker Jon Priest notes, “There’s no better vehicle with which to study or practice the craft of winemaking than Pinot Noir. It is the most challenging, unforgiving and quixotic of all wine grapes, and yet the most delicate and transparent.” It takes a lot of effort and care to make a fine Pinot Noir, and Etude has long experience in doing just that.
CULTIVATE PINOT NOIR 2014 ($28)—I am equally impressed with this lesser-known estate’s Pinot Noir from grapes grown 49% in Santa Barbara County, 47% in Monterey County and 4% in Sonoma, where Pinots can get way too hot. Instead this is a very fruit but not cloying example, ideal fort summer, light to medium in body and has a pleasing alcohol level of 14.1%. I might nitpick and ask for a tad more acid, but I could drink this all summer long with delight.
LA MANELLA ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2012 ($30)—I’m not sure I’d pay much more than $30 for a Rosso di Montalcino (Brunello’s little sister), made from 100% Sangiovese, but this is one of those solidly made, well-knit, extremely versatile Tuscan reds that is as good a match for pizza and pasta as it is for beef, pork and veal. The Cortonesi family began its winery in the 1970s but didn’t bottle its first vintage till 1990, and it makes a good, if not truly great, Brunello, so this Rosso di Montalcino is a real feather in their cap.
KTRK reported that A
Houston, TX, woman allegedly shot her boyfriend because
he told her to "cam down" after she was served a cold
taco from a truck and asked to have the taco reheated.
When the employee refused, she flew into a rage and
pulled out a gun and, intentionally or not, shot her
boyfriend, who is expected to survive the gunshot wound.
DUMBEST FOODIE IDEA OF 2017 (SO FAR)
“How to Make Homemade Ice Cream with a BBQ Smoker,” Esquire.com, 4/10/17.
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JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
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