Monday, February 21, 2005

Wine Woes

Food and wine community, I need your help! We're planning a May trip to France with my sister and brother-in-law. While a good chunk of the trip is allocated for visiting family and Ms. Paris (the city, not the socialite), we're touring the Burgundy wine country as well. Most of my wine education has taken place in Napa, so I've been trying to educate myself on French wines in hopes of selecting good vignerons to visit.

The most inspiring resource I've come by is Kermit Lynch's Adventure's on the Wine Route. It's out-of-date, so while it lacked many recommendations for me, I loved Lynch's philosophy and found the book really educational. To summarize, Lynch prefers buying directly from producers rather than negociants and a complicated wine to the big wines American blindly hold in high esteem. Lynch decries the modern methods that many wineries have adopted to save money and to appeal to the public's unsophisticated palate and fear of natural wines. For someone who has been brainwashed to think that new oak is always the way to go and that big, alcoholic red wines deserve the most praise, I found Lynch's book eye-opening and, well, relieving (I've never had much a palate for big reds).

Back to the subject of this post. I've worked on a preliminary list of producers to visit, many of which Lynch currently imports. The list is below, but I'd love to have you fill in the holes and send me your recommendations. The *'d ones I have yet to determine how to contact. Here's my list:

Vincent Dauvissat*
William Fevre

Cote d’Or
Alex Gambal (Cote de Beaunes)
Louis Jadot (Code de Beaunes)
Maume (Gevrey Chambertin)
Robert Denogent (Maconnais)


N Rhone
Thierry Allemand*
Guy Bernard*

I suppose I should also blog about my weekend's dining experiences. Friday night we went to Luna Park, where I had the worst mussels I've ever had, which certainly doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them. I like going to Luna Park because it has pretty good food, good prices, is fun for a group, and has a good bananas foster. We had a romantic dinner at Ana Mandera on Saturday night. I was a little concerned when I found out that the restaurant was opened by Don Johnson, but, fortunately, he sold it a couple years ago. The atmosphere was incredible -- the cozy bar upstairs had a jazz band and the spacious downstairs was reminiscent of colonial Vietnam, not that I've ever been there or am a fan of colonial-whatever. The food was solid -- my favorite item was my claypot fish, but nothing else is worth mentioning.

I'm signing off, but hope to hear from some of you soon!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Adventures on I-80

Rather than dine out on Valentine's, Aren and I had made Saturday reservations at Navio, the Ritz's dining room at Half Moon Bay. We, however, cancelled our reservations Friday night realizing that we'd rather have a meal at home where we could enjoy a 2002 Grgich Violetta dessert wine that we had been saving for a special occasion.

We spent much of Saturday day out and about in Berkeley, where our main destination was Kermit Lynch's wine store. We are planning a trip to Burgundy at the end of May and were hoping that the staff at the store could provide us with good recommendations on chateaus to visit. While we didn't get much in the way of winery recommendations, we were recommended a wine from the Burgundy region for dinner, a 2002 Les Pommards from Robert Denogent. We also picked up a 2001 "Selection Andre Dubourdieu" Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste bottle of Sauternes, which were urged to buy as an excellent five year investment.

As for winery recommendations, the staff at Lynch's store didn't give us any, but said that the Michelin Guide was the way to go. They suggested making reservations at some places and asking our concierges for help with others. They also said that my and my sister's half-Frenchness and ability to speak French will help us get into a lot of places. Score.

Dinner was nothing fancy. A couple appetizers, pizzas (a crispy thin crust for mine and a doughy one for Aren), a fresh salad, some cheeses, and Grand Marnier souffles for dessert. We lit about 20 candles and enjoyed each other's company in the kitchen and at the dining table. Oh, and the wines were a hit.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Hats Off to A16

We started off the weekend with a round of drinks with a friends at our place. Last weekend, we tracked down a bottle of Navarro Gewürztraminer grape juice, since the lovely lady element of the couple is pregnant. While she drank straight-up grape juice, the rest of us drank black magics (well, really white magics). A black magic is 2 oz red grape juice, 1/2 oz triple sec, and champagne. I liked the drink, but less than the pure grape juice and certainly less than chambord royales, my favorite champagne cocktail.

After drinks, we went to Chapeau!, my number one restaurant in the city. Chapeau!'s food is the best-exectued French bistro food I've ever had, and its atmosphere is noisy, but incredibly intimate. They have a great prix fixe menu, which is always preempted by some marvelous amuse-bouche (yes, the name for my blog was inspired by Chapeau!'s amuse-bouche custom). For my meal, I had chestnut soup with creme fraiche and croutons which I believe were infused with duck fat, mussles with fries and aioli, and creme brulee. Three of us split a bottle of a sancerre, the exact name of which escapes me. The meal was as good as usual, and we had a great time catching up with our friends, talking a lot about their child-to-be. They're both unusually good people, so I know they will be awesome parents!

On Saturday, we headed up to the hip Marina, after watching 24 Hours on Craigslist at an independent film festival -- I loved the characters I met through the film, finding many of them to be quite endearing! Our Marina destination was A16, which the Chronicle has named one of the top new restaurants of 2004. I concur. Having read reviews of the restaurant, I was prepared for the 30 minute wait past our reservation time -- it was worth it. After a glass each of Prosecco (a popular Italian aperitif), we described our wine tastes to the sommelier (fruity sauvignon blancs, sweet German rieslings, yadda-yadda). I typically don't like Italian wines, so I wanted to get a good recommendation. I think my dislike has a lot to do with Italian wines usually being the cheap wines served on most restaurant's menu (to clarify, not that the wines are cheap, but that restaurants don't try to pick winners). The sommelier picked a winer -- I need Aren to remind me of its name. For dinner, we shared their soppressata, which is cured on the premises, and fresh burrata cheese. I moved on to a pizza of tomato, oregano, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, olives, calabrian chiles, which I found light and delightful. My hope is to replicate it on Valentine's day (we're planning a romantic meal in that night). For dessert, I had a moist almond cake that came with lemon sorbet and creamy zabaglione. I'd recommend A16 to anyone who likes fresh, authentic Italian food over Spaghetti Factory-portioned Italian chow. I would also recommend it over Oliveto, another Italian spot we tried recently.

I'm off to cook some dinner now, so I'll talk to you next weekend!