Saturday, January 9, 2010

Three Restaurant Finds in NYC: Cafe Luxembourg, Momofuku Milk Bar, and Centolire

Another quick overnight jaunt to NYC has come and gone.  I write these lines as I travel on the BoltBus, our preferred method of transportation to and from Manhattan.  It's the most convenient and cheapest mode of travel that I know of for these short getaways from our modest stedtle to the big city.  In Boston, you catch it in the South Station Bus Terminal and it drops you off right near Penn Station in NYC between 8th and 9th on 34th.  Usually it's about a $40 round trip, but if you catch it early, you can book for far less.  Travel time is usually between 4 and 5 hours from beginning to end, but because of the electrical outlets and free wifi, your time isn't wasted.  In transit, I usually catch up on email, listen to music, surf the internet, and lately blogging. The time always passes very quickly and I manage to get a lot done.

Der Rosenkavelier at the Met, NYC

This trip to the Met exceeded all expectations that were set by my last visit in November.  The Zeffirelli staging of Turandot was what got us back to NYC so quickly, but we couldn't have anticipated the greatness of what we saw this afternoon.  Der Rosenkavalier was a true tour de force for the opera company and is probably the best all around stage production I have ever seen.  The cast included some real all-stars: RenĂ©e Fleming played the Marschallin and Susan Graham played Octavian.  Bass-Baritone Kristinn Sigmundsson's Baron von Ochs was also pretty fantastic.  He made a terrific villain.  I overheard the couple behind us say, "It feels like being in a theme park ride!" when they returned to their seats after the first intermission.  If you asked me, it was better!

CQ's Wine Guide to France Part 3: The Loire


The Loire Valley is one of France’s largest and most diverse wine producing regions. Every year it seems new appellations are added and/or redefined. Still the dominant wines are from the Eastern most Loire, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. There is no “cru” system in place, however, producers now more so than ever are adding vineyard names to their wines to indicate a higher quality level to the consumer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cauliflower Mimosa

I love Cauliflower... there I said it.  You can call me crazy, but I think it's a really delicious vegetable.  The added bonus is that it's in season in the winter.  There aren't too many vegetables that naturally grow in the winter months and Cauliflower is actually best from December to March.  Besides feeling good about adhering to the whole "locavore" way of life, you can also enjoy the fact that if you eat this wonderful brassica, you are doing yourself a favor since it has so many potential healthful benefits.

CQ's Wine Guide to France Part 2: Champagne

  1. 17 Grand Cru vineyards
  2. Tete de Cuvee is the top quality wine for each producer
  3. Grower bottlers v. Grand Marques
Five areas of major production
  1. Montagne de Reims – mostly Pinot Noir
  2. Cote de Sezanne – mostly Chardonnay
  3. Cote de Blancs – mostly Chardonnay
  4. Valley of the Marne – all three grapes, but mostly Pinot Meunier
  5. Aube – mostly Pinot Noir

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CQ's Wine Guide to France Part 1: Alsace


There are 50 Grand Cru vineyards. The system was developed in the 1970’s and made official in 1983. Many prominent producers are against the grand cru system claiming that the sites are arbitrarily defined and do not take in to account the terroir of the specific regions. Historically traded hands between German and French government for generations. The German influence lies in the choice of varietals planted in the vineyards, but French wine-making techniques are employed for white wines. Whites are higher alcohol than German counterparts. The amount of residual sugar in the finished wine is largely a choice of the winemaker. It is a myth that Alsace whites are always dry.

CQ's Wine Guide Series

It occurred to me this morning after re-reading my article on Alsace wine that I should publish a series of documents that I produced for my friends at work.  About a year ago, I lead a seminar in six parts of wine-tasting to help identify major varietals and characteristics of each major region of France.  I distributed, each week, a handout that had all of the "quick and dirty" basic facts necessary to understand the region on a basic level from a waiter's point of view.

Wines of Alsace: To Blend or Not to Blend

The wines of Alsace were some of the first ones that I fell in love with when I began working at Legal Sea Food during graduate school years ago. I latched on to them quickly because they are immediately enjoyable, go great with food, and are a very easy sell being mostly varietally labeled. Trimbach's popular Pinot Gris seemed to flow from the faucet at Legal and I would guess still does several years later despite vintage roll-overs.  I'm sure I made hundreds of extra dollars over the course of a year just from being familiar with it and suggesting it to my guests.  It never failed that folks would love it and order that ever important second glass, or just get the bottle on their next visit. Obviously a fan, I would add that in general Trimbach makes some of the most interesting, complex, and age worthy wines in Alsace that happen to be varietally labeled. The purpose of this article is not to bash established and respected producers, but to raise some questions that might spark curiosity of a region that seems straightforward, and to increase awareness of some styles of wine from Alsace that might otherwise go unappreciated.  Alsace wine-making tradition, in fact, is filled with some of the most controversy in terms of labeling laws, vineyard practices, and philosophy of any region in France today. Disclaimer: this one is for wine geeks!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Fabulous Lunch at Vlora

The last 24 hours have been filled with some pretty wonderful eating.  After my dinner last night at The Reagle Beagle, I had lunch today at Vlora on Boylston Street near the Copley T stop.  I've been there a few times for lunch now, and every time has been great.  The food is consistently good and I can always find something interesting to drink from the wine list.  I love the lightness of the  ingredients and the way they are flavored so brightly, very simply plated, and lovingly prepared.  The wine list has some expected choices, but being the wine geek that I am, I often opt for some of the more unusual selections from Greece or Hungary for example.  A standout from a past lunch was an inexpensive Moscofilero from Greece with floral "grapey" aromas and a light clean finish.  It was brilliant with the food.  Today's "Gentil" by Hugel that I had by the glass is an example of an oldie, but a goodie also to be found there.

The Very Regal Beagle in Coolidge Corner

As luck would have it, I ended up getting the night off from work last night.  Thanks to the inevitable slow-down of business in January, we were a tad overstaffed, so I decided to take the cut.  Dan was coming home from his Christmas vacation with his family, so it worked out to be a really nice evening for us to go out for a bite to eat at a new neighborhood place that just opened a couple of months ago, The Regal Beagle in Coolidge Corner.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Study of Beets with Goat Cheese Croquettes

I've read a couple of blog posts on beets lately, so I thought I would throw my hat into the ring with an idea for a study of beets with goat cheese croquettes.  One large bunch of beets will serve four people with this recipe as an elegant first course.  It will take some time to prepare all of the various components, but once the mise-en-place is done, plating should be easy and is sure to impress your friends at a dinner party.  Red, golden, or striped beets work fine for this recipe, or you can use a mixture of the three if you want to be really fancy.

In Praise of Loire Valley Reds

When you think of the wines of the Loire Valley, the color red doesn't come to mind right away for most folks.  I remember when I began learning about wine, I fell in love with the bracing acid of Muscadet, the lovely citrus-lemongrass flavor of Sancerre, and the earthy apple notes of Vouvray Sec.  It was some amount of time, however before I even knew about the lake of cheap sparkling wines and rare reds produced in the same region.  In past decades the climate has been too cold to produce anything more than a light fruity Gamay or a vegetal and thin Cabernet Franc, thus perpetuating the stigma against reds from the Loire.

Cochon, Quest for the Perfect Pork

The New York Times "Food and Wine" section is printed every Wednesday.  It's required reading for all employees where I work.  Usually, there are plenty of interesting articles on wine, cheese, and a restaurant review on one of the many restaurants in NYC, but imagine my surprise to read a review of a New Orleans restaurant a few years ago in one of the Wednesday papers. Cochon, a relatively new restaurant at the time, was featured that week.  After reading about how fantastic it was, I had to go on my next trip home.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Eagle Rare Bourbon, a good drink for a cold night

I write this entry while I lay in bed under a stack of 3 comforters and a couple of blankets listening to a playlist of Bach 'cello suites, violin partitas, and preludes and fugues for the piano. The snow is falling outside my window in "Nor'eastah" style; the large, wet flakes blown by the wind almost perpendicular to the ground.  I'm very glad to be inside enjoying my night of reading while I sip on one of my favorite Bourbons, Eagle Rare.  It's the last of a bottle that I shared with friends at The Majestic on Christmas Eve.  It inspired some pretty fabulously frenzied frippery on that evening and tonight it's doing a good job of keeping my warm and toasty in my drafty Boston apartment.