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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pushing the Culinary Envelope

There are a number of adjectives I could use to describe Peter Loria, chef/owner of Café Matisse in Rutherford, N.J.  Simple, however would not be one of them.  Creative, inspired, innovative and passionate are a few that quickly come to mind.  To apply these adjectives to his food would be an understatement.  To say his food is straightforward and simple would be grossly inaccurate.    To say he pushes the culinary envelope with each dish with a combination of ingredients that few would ever consider would be an understatement.  To say he succeeds where most others have failed in this regard would be an understatement as well.  To say his food is absolutely delicious would also be an understatement.  While the menu description of each dish is a paragraph of ingredients as opposed to a few words, the combination of flavors and textures he creates becomes a celebration in your mouth.  To say his food is amazing would simply not capture this man’s ability in the kitchen.  It is for these reasons that one does not just eat at Café Matisse, one partakes of a unique and often extraordinary dinning experience. Simply put, Peter is among the very best chefs I have ever encountered and Cafe Maisse is amongst the finest restaurants in the country in my humble opinion..  I am also extremely proud to be able to call him my friend.

The service here, under the direction of Maitre’d Larry and his staff, is as spectacular as the food that is served. A BYOB restaurant, the wine service outdistances most restaurants with wine lists. Wine is decanted with a smile and there are always appropriate glasses to match the wine. (Café Matisse also owns a small wine shop that is located at the front entrance where you may also purchase wine to enjoy with your meal).

I have many extraordinary meals here over the years, but this one seemed to soar to new heights. While any or all of the adjectives delicious, amazing, incredible, etc. could be used to describe these dishes; they in fact could not fully communicate the level of this dinning experience.  We each had two savory and one sweet course from the unique "grazing menu" Peter has created.

Fresh Mozzarella wrapped in Spec Ham, rolled in Panko and Lightly Toasted Dollop of Robiola Cheese with Truffled Tomato Jam, Heirloom Tomatoes, Olive Salsa and Spanish Red Peppers Topped with Fried Zuccini Batons, Drizzled with creamy Basil Garlic Yogurt Sauce, Dusted with Basil Crystals.

Hot And Spicy Panko Crusted Crabcake Over Spicy Grilled Corn Pepper Relish, Dollop of Spicy Crab Relish with Guacamole Fritter and Tabasco Cheddar Glazed Shrimp, Drizzled with Chipotle Vinegar and Hickory Barbeque Demi-Glace. (Hands down the best Crab Cake I have ever had).

Carol had a marvelous Swordfish that was a special of the evening and I neglected to record the ingredients.  Suffice it to say that she enjoyed every bit.

Hoison Glazed Beef Short Ribs with Spiced Orange Glazed Shrimp, Soba Noodles with Lobster, Smashed White Bean, Green Onion Rolled in a Soy Butter Topped with Crispy Shiitake Mushrooms and Tempura Green Beans with Peanut Jus.  An utterly sublime meeting of Eastern & Western cuisine.

Ginger Lemon Spiked Shortcake Biscuit with Fresh Strawberries, Almond Vanilla Strawberry Crème, Dollop of Wild Blueberry Candied Ginger Jam with Banana Brown Sugar Marshmallow Jus, Topped with Candied Almonds

Banana Crème Pie With Almond Graham Cracker Crust, Caramelized Bananas and White Chocolate Mousse Topped with Cherry Ginger Jam and Cherry Marshmallow Crème

Red Burgundy wines pair very well with food here so I brought along a bottle of 1999 Hubert Lignier Morey St. Denis La Riotte 1er Cru.  Lignier is very much a traditional wine maker and his wines always possess purity, balance and elegance. This was my first bottle in 4 years.  The wine had a lovely earthy bouquet, sparkling translucent red hue and soft velvety palate, but finished a bit short.  In my opinion the wine is leaving its peak-drinking window and it would be best to drink it up in the next couple of years.


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