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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Spaghetti with Crab Sauce

One of my favorite pasta dishes is Spaghetti with fresh Crab Sauce.  When I was a kid I have fond memories of my grandmother making this with freshly caught crabs at the Jersey shore. She would cook the crabs in olive oil and garlic for about 30 minutes before she added the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  Then she would simmer the sauce for about 5 hours as I remember.  The sauce would absorb the fresh briny flavor of the crabs and when mixed with the Spaghetti, it was pure heaven.  We would dive in with lots of napkins at the ready to clean our hands as we pulled the crabs apart to suck out the little meat that they contained.

I have not had this dish in many, many years due to the fact that it is hard to find one that came remotely close to hers.  Fortunately my good friend Frank Di Giacomo, who shares my passion for the dish, orchestrated a Spaghetti with Crab Sauce dinner at Luce in Caldwell, NJ this past Wednesday evening.  Executive chef Michael Angelo, under the supervision of owner Joe Capasso, prepared a sauce my grandmother would have said “Bravo” to. The dish rekindled our memories for how good this dish can be when properly prepared.  The essence of the dish is the slow cooking process that allows for the briny crab flavors to permeate the sauce and eventually the Spaghetti.  It’s all about the sauce.  Eleven of us licked our fingers over and over as we dove into the dish with the gusto of someone who had not eaten in days.  Hats off to chef Michael and Joe for a spectacular job.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the terrific appetizers, served family style that preceded the dish.  Sorry, I did not take any photos here.

Eggplant Caponata; String Bean Salad; Seafood Salad and Italian Long Hot Peppers with Fried Potatoes preceded the Spaghetti.  Each dish was terrific, combining great flavors and textures.

An eclectic array of wines complemented the meal beautifully.

iL fauno di Arcanum Toscana 2007, a Super Tuscan blend (similar to a Bordeaux blend) of 57% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc.  The wine possessed an inky dark hue with a modern-styled toasty and oaky palate.  An hour or two of decanting would have helped the wine.  At about $25 a bottle, this is worth checking out, especially if you like Super Tuscan and Bordeaux blends.

Fisch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.  Like the il Fauno, this had a deep inky hue.  On the palate I founded in more refined than what I am accustomed to with California Cabs.  It was not the massive, over extracted fruit bomb that often typifies these wines.  This was softer and had a scent of elegance on the palate and finish.  The wine bears the name of the Fisch family, owners of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace with three NJ Locations.  $20

Marchesi di Barolo Barolo 2006.  This bottle really surprised me.  I stopped drinking this producer’s wines a number of years back as I found them very inconsistent.  Happily, this bottle was another story.  2006 was a very good vintage in Barolo, with the wines being compared favorably to the glorious 1999 Vintage.  Tonight’s bottle, the entry level Barolo from the estate, was a modern-styled wine with soft tannins, balance, focus and a fair amount of finesse. $53.

Gavi dei Gavi La Scolca 2010.  Another wine that I have not had in quite a while.  Crafted from 100% Cortese grapes, the Soldati estate is the first producer of quality Gavi and ranks among the most historic white wine producers in Italy. This dry white wine is produced in a restricted area of the Province of Alessandria, Piedmont, close to the Ligurian border. The wine was awarded DOC status in 1974 and was made DOCG in 1998.

Although Cortese had been planted in the region since the late 19th Century, the grape produced low-alcohol, thin and sour wines that quickly oxidized. Consequently, the production was mostly purchased by Cinzano and Martini & Rossi as a base for their sparkling wines. It was the Soldati family, who after the Second World War saved the fate of Cortese from oblivion by focusing entirely on the production of quality Cortese, in a region traditionally known for its reds. They pioneered modern, controlled vinification in stainless steel to preserve the subtle fruit of the Cortese grape, allowing for the creation of wines that retained crisp acidity and aromas and gained structure. 

Tonight’s bottle was as I remembered it, medium-bodied, crisp and clean palate with ample acidity to extended aging.   $46.

Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Mon Aieul 2007, from magnum.  2007 was a spectacular vintage for Chateauneuf du Pape, and this bottle confirmed that in spades. It had a great sense of place, impeccable balance and purity on the palate.  It finished with considerable length and elegance.  Made from 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, it is a wine built for aging and will last for at least another decade.  $400+

A great evening.  Thanks Frankie, Joe and Michael!


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