About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hail Ceasar!

The Ceasar of whom I speak is César Ramirez, chef/owner of the 3 star Michelin rated Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in Brookly, NY. I recently attended a wine tasting dinner there that was hosted by Chris Cree (owner) and Joe Bembry (wine director) of 56º Wine in Bernardsvile, NJ. It was perhaps the most amazing dining experience of my life.

The Chef’s Table is a comfortable 18-seat restaurant that is attached to the gourmet grocery, Brooklyn Fare in Brooklyn, NY. The seats are around a stainless steel counter that is in the kitchen. Pristinely clean and intimate it is the setting for an amazing prix-fixed extravaganza that is compromised of approximately 25 courses (plates), the last of which is meat. Reservation information can be found on their website.

Mexican by birth, Mr. Ramirez’s family moved to the United States when he was four years old. In lieu of going to cooking schools, he learned his trade by working in some of the country’s top restaurants including David Bouley’s Danube in NYC. He learned his trade very well. He believes in using only the freshest and finest ingredients available, no matter where he must obtain them from. I would characterize his food as European influenced in which the simplicity of Japanese preparation technique plays a big role. The resulting dishes are absolutely stunning. Trying to explain them is like trying to explain to a child why the sky is blue. So I will refrain from trying and simply list what we enjoyed with minimal comments. Special thanks to Jack and Pete who’s detailed notes on each course made this post possible.

Let us begin with the meal, which was comprised of fifteen one-bite appetizers, 6 small entrées and 3 desserts, each of which was an explosion of flavors, textures and temperatures on the palate.

Butternut Squash soup flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon and topped with yogurt foam. A perfect choice to prepare the palate for what was to follow.

Fluke with pickled Daikon. Sashami grade, impeccably fresh & delicious. I could have eaten 6 of these.

Amadai (a red snapper from Japan) with scales. The scales were crunchy and created a fabulous texture contrast. Oh yea, could have eaten 6 or more of these easily.

Kumimoto Oyster w/Granny Smith Apple topped with a disc of apple gelée. This was a textural tour de force.

Tasmanian trout with Trout Roe served atop celery root and apple remoulade. According to Cesar this fish is only available for 6 weeks each year and only available from Seattle, WA. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

Hiramatsu with Golden Trout Roe. Spectacular!

Wild Japanese Sea Bass with dried domestic caviar. Spectacular again!!

Striped Horse Mackerel with Ginger dressing. Whatever the superlative above spectacular is, it fits this dish.

San Diego Sea Urchin and black truffle on brioche. According to Jack, the best course so far. I offer no opposition to his testimony as it was fabulous.

Whipped Tofu with soy and wasabi. Interesting, tasty, but not what you will come back for.

Porifera Sardine with sage and potato. Don’t know where this comes from, but if I find out I may go there. Delicious!

Octopus with hearts of palm served with a chipotle Japanese Mayo (Kewpie Mayo). It is simply not fair how food can taste this good. I love octopus, but this was ridiculous. The texture and flavor combination of this dish were symphonic. Best octopus dish I have ever had, bar none.

Tempura Langostine with Saffron infused Kewpie mayo. Crunchy, briny and decadent. I want to sit down to a meal of just this.

Caviar (American sturgeon) with cod and potato gently smoked at tableside. I am not a caviar fan, but more plates like this one and I will be.

Fois gras & Sea Urchin Custard with egg crab and Abalone, finished with a truffle Dashi. Jack’s comment on this dish was that it is his last meal request. Need I say more?

These were only the appetizers, for entrées we enjoyed:

Pan seared scallop with pork belly, foam and micro greens and served with a celery root purée. Incredible combination.

Black Bass with Blue Foot Mushrooms in a smoked chanterelle sauce with snow pea leaves. Wow!

Chestnut filled Angnoletti in a buerre monte sauce with shaved white truffles. I wish there had been a dozen of these spectacular pasta pillows.

Red Mullet with saffron sauce and served with a Japanese rice that was treated like a risotto. Magnificent.

Dover Sole and Foie Gras wrapped in cabbage & served with a parley purée. Two of my favorite foods performing together to thunderous applause.

Duck served with baby turnip, and crosnes with a caramelized sunchoke puree. I am not a duck fan, so I gave mine away to the joy of one of my duck loving friends.

On to the desserts.

Reblochon Cheese with honeycomb

Greek Yogurt Sorbet with huckleberry sauce & elderflower fluid gel

Calvados & Caramel ice cream with apple granola cake.

All of these were very good. My favorite was the Calvados ice cream.

With this amazing meal we enjoyed seven amazing white wines from Domain Leflaive and one exceptional red from Domaine Pascal Maillard. All the Leflaive wines were from the 2007 vintage, a fantastic year for white Burgundy.

Domaine Leflaive is considered one of Burgundy’s greatest white wine (Chardonnay) domaines. The wines see very little new oak (12%) and are consistently elegant of the palate. There is great harmony between acid, minerality and fruit in all their wines. The wines on this night were no exception. The Domaine owns parcels in three of the four Montrachet grand crus and four of the best premier crus, for a total of 23 hectares in all.

While we waited for dinner to begin we sipped a 2007 Domaine Leflaive Macon Verze. Mâcon is a small commune in central France, in the region of Bourgogne, and the capital of the Mâconnais district. This is a stunning Villages white that has good balance and vibrancy and is drinking very well now and should continue to do for the next 3-5 years. I always keep a case or two in my cellar as it never disappoints and at $30 a bottle is a remarkable value.

Next in our glasses was a 2007 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc. The straw hue sparkled in the glass and was subtlety elegant on the palate. A declassified Villages that is drinking very well and will continue for the next 5+ years. Another great value at $45.

Next we enjoyed a 2007 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montracet Villages. Wonderfully fresh and vibrant with a nice finish. For a Villages level white this is very good, although the $78 price tag is, in my opinion, a bit high. For the price I would stick with the Verze and Bourgogne at this level.

The first Premier Cru to make an appearance was the 2007 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montracet Clavoillons 1er Cru. Pure, fresh and expressive on the palate with a lengthy finish. This will set you back about $115, but is reasonable for a premier cru of this quality. Drinking well now, but will benefit from additional cellar time.

The next Premier Cru was a 2007 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montracet Les Folatieres 1er Cru. An absolutely lovely wine. Rich and complex on the palate with a monster finish. $169

The final Premier Cru was a 2007 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er Cru. Terrific minerality and complexity in this wine. This should drink well for a long time. $184

The final white was a 2007 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montracet Grand Cru. The elegant bouquet of this wine soared from the glass. A rich, complex wine that tantalized the palate and finished with great length. While it was a delight to drink this needs five or more years of cellar time before it reaches its potential. Not cheap at $325. The wine of the evening in my humble opinion.

With the duck course we had the only red wine of the evening a 1993 Domaine Pascal Maillard Aloxe Corton Les Grandes Lollieres 1er Cru. A spectacular example of a great Burgundy. Fabulous purity of fruit on the palate with a lengthy and elegant finish. A great wine at a reasonable price. $125

These wines were a fantastic compliment to the meal and are available from 56º Wine in Bearnardsville, NJ.

Well there you have it. This was truly a dinning experience and one that I plan on repeating many times next year. I believe the prix-fixe meal on most nights is $185 per person, which is an absolute bargain when you consider other highly rated NYC restaurants are about three times the price. At the moment Chef’s Table does not have a liquor license so it is BYOB. However a liquor license is pending. I do not know if, when procured, this will eliminate the BYOB part.

Hail Ceasar, Chris and Joe for staging an incredible evening of food and wine.

Until next time,