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.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lunch at Esca

I absolutely love Esca.  It is without question my most frequented NYC restaurant. Esca means “bait” in Italian, so as you might well surmise, Esca specializes in fish... very, very, very fresh fish. Part of the Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich empire, it is, in my opinion, their best restaurant. Chef/partner David Pasternack is one of a handful of chefs that really knows how to prepare and cook fish that has been known to bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.  Lunch there last week with good friends Emil and Tony did exactly that.  Words alone would not do justice to the food here.  I hope the following photos can give a sense of how good David's food is. Hopefully they will convey a sense of the magical marriage of ingredients and textures that await you should you venture there.  We began with the following appetizers:

Vongole; Local littleneck clams baked with Cesare's Soppressata, Sungold tomatoes and Basil.  I have no idea who Cesare is, but “Hail Cesare”.  David’s clams have no equal, anywhere, and I have had them everywhere.  Fresh, briny, and cooked to the right degree of doneness, I could eat a few dozen of these and be a very happy man.

Breaded & Grilled Fresh White Anchovies over cold smoked ricotta and topped with an olive tapenade.  It sounds like a crazy and unworkable combination, but in the hands of David Pasternack, it was a remarkable dish.

Crudo (raw) of Razor Clams ceviche with chilies, scallion and mint.  

During the summer months, David makes this incredible salad of roasted corn, chanterelles, walnuts and aged goat cheese, Insalata Di Granoturco.  It is simply magnificent!

Of course no meal at Esca would be complete without one or two of David’s spectacular pasta dishes.  Today there was homemade Scialatelli with Rock Shrimp, Spanish Broccoli, Pepperoncini, Garlic & Oil.  Simply a tour-de-force of flavors and perfectly al dente pasta…

…as well as Spaghetti with a one pound lobster, chilies and mint.  If there is finer version of this dish elsewhere, please let me know.

Our entrée was a stupendous Pan Roasted Trout “Almost Almondine” with pistachio nuts replacing the almonds.  Like all the fish here, it was cooked to a moist perfection.

Esca’s wine list is one of the best and most reasonably priced in the city.  We enjoyed 3 beauties from the list.

2012 Vietti Rorero Arneis.  Vietti is, in my opinion, one of the top producers in Piedmont, Italy, crafting sensational reds and whites at modest prices.  The Arneis was a delightfully crisp and delicious white made from the Arneis grape. Widely available at about $20.  Wine-Searcher.

2009 Nino Negri Sfursat.  From Valtellina Valley in the Lombardy region of Italy, this elegant DOCG wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes (called Chiavennasca here) that grow on vines from steep, nearly vertical vineyards of about 3,000 foot elevations.  The Negri estate is considered the premier wine producing estate in the Valtellina. The Sfursat, the estate’s top wine, is made from grapes harvested by trained pickers and dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo. Today’s bottle was a perfect example of both.  The wine danced and evolved on the palate with gorgeous fruit, great acidity, impeccable balance and finished with extended length and smoothness.  In the vinification process, the wine rests for a short while in steel and then part of the wine is put for 20 months into 80hl Slavonian oak casks, and part into 32 and 53hl French oak casks. It then ages for some months in glass before release.  Truly a wine with soul!  About $70  Wine-Searcher. 

2009 Nino Negri Inferno.  From the DOCG sub-zone, in the commune of Tresivio in the Valtellina, the wine is made from 90% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca), Pignola and Merlot.  The wine ages in stainless steel for two months before spending 18 months in Slovanian Oak casks.  It then ages for some months in glass.  While lighter than the Sfursat, the wine had a beautiful translucent red hue, with a medium-bodied and velvety palate.  It was round and delicious.  At around $20 a bottle, a stupendous value.  Wine-Searcher. 

Another fantastic meal at Esca!  Life is always good when you have the opportunity to share great food and wine with great friends.


No comments:

Post a Comment