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April 25, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Re-imaging the last meal aboard the R.M.S. Titanic

Dine Titanic. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

About 10 weeks ago, Chef Rob McCue (Hell’s Kitchen, Fox) and Chef Adam C. Banks (Roble & Co., Bravo TV) summoned me to John Allan’s, a gentleman’s den nestled amidst the towering cathedrals of midtown Manhattan.

There was a pool table, a comfy leather couch and far too many amber elixirs (neat) to go around the room. I hadn’t seen Chef McCue since this collaboration from September 2011. McCue introduced me to Chef Banks and spoke of an epic culinary adventure, that could potentially use my creative stamp. The centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was to be April 14th of this very year, 2012. To commemorate the night, he and Baks were planning to serve the very same meal those fateful first-class diners enjoyed before the inevitable demise of her majesty Titanic.

Interesting, I thought. But, why? What would be the purpose of re-creating a meal where the dishes themselves are by today’s standards, mildly interesting? What would the great people of this upstanding nation think, or how would they respond to a group of rogue culinary masterminds plotting to dish up the Titanic’s last meal? (I heard the voice of Jeff Morgan, a good winemaker friend whom I’ve turned to for advice in recent months, ask, “Was it Kosher?”)

The answer came to me after those burning amber waves of grain slowed my mental process down to the tune of a noble cause: Yes. Yes, we can I thought! Yes, we can recreate the last meal served aboard the Titanic, if… if…if and only if we dedicated ourselves to a far greater cause: to re-imagine the last meal as if it might have been served “today.

Let us imagine that the R.M.S. Titanic had passed the iceberg and sailed into New York; if she were still out roaming the seas today, carting passengers to and from the coasts of the world. We would pay homage to the Titanic by focusing on the jubilant moments during that final meal, before the threat of danger was prevalent and when nothing by exuberance and ecstasy filled the hearts of the souls aboard the ship. To be aboard the Titanic, meant to be sailing upon a vessel the entire world was curious about – a veritable Ark, that sadly betrayed its passengers. However, by tapping into the energy and excitement that surely permeated her walls during these exultant moments, we would memorialize the passengers and crew in uplifting fashion.

The menu, it was decided, would be composed of the very ingredients and components from the original First Class menu (copies survived in pockets of a few who escaped). Our twenty-first century version would condense 11 courses to 7, and elevate the cuisine to modern standards of culinary deliverance. The next eight weeks would prove to be a Titanic undertaking, indeed.

In my mind, the beginning of this journey was marked by what I believed to be the most important questions to ask: What wines will we serve – and why? No record exists of the wines that were paired with the many meals served. There are accounts from The White Star Line’s distributors of what had been purchased and what was on board: mainly French, Italian, German and Portuguese wines. Enter: the Galloni’s. That’s right, Antonio Galloni.

On our behalf, they reached out to a distributor whose wines fit the bill of what we were hoping to accomplish with respect to pairings. I’m incredibly thankful to the Galloni’s for having made an important introduction, and from there we began to assemble our wines. To help complete that task, enter: Master of Wine, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan.

The stunning, lovely, brilliant, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine (and lover of cocktails).

Jennifer is truly Master of the House (I’m singing Les Mis in my head) and her enthusiasm and support turned an evening of impressive wine pairings into an evening of brilliantly planned and thought-out pairings. Her goal was to help source wines from brands that existed in 1912 or before. Trying to source actual wines from 1912, and enough to pair each course for 80+ diners, was well out of our budgetary means and frankly unrealistic (we were this close (   ) to landing that $250,000 sponsorship from NASA – alas, another time). Jennifer’s approach made sense, and all our combined efforts produced this fabulous list of wines/courses:

First Course
Oysters a la Russe
Local Long Island Oysters, Tomato, Vodka, Horseradish
2009 Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse (First Class)
2008 Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse Les Menetrieres. (VIPs)

Second Course
Consomme Olga
“Vesiga,” Celeriac Root, Vegetable Garni
2006 Alvear Fino (First & VIP Class)

Third Course
Butter Poached Wild Salmon
Cucumber, Mousseline Sauce, Salmon Skin
2010 Dopff & Irion (First & VIP Class)

Fourth Course
Filet Mignon Lili
Potatoes Anna, Artichoke, Foie Gras, Black Truffle
2007 Chateau Manon La Lagune. (First Class)
2005 Chateau Millon Saint Emilion Grand Cru (VIPs)

Fifth Course
Punch Romaine
Ginger Oil, Rum, Champagne, Frothed Egg White

Sixth Course
Squab & Watercress
Asparagus, Squab Reduction
2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune (First Class)
2009 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin (VIPs)

Dessert Course
Mock Waldorf Pudding, Suspended Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, Eclairs
Taylor Fladgate 10 year old tawny (First Class)
Taylor Fladgate 40 year old Tawny (VIPs)

***

Louis XIII de Remy Martin (VIP Class only)

Louis XIII de Remy Martin. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

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And what is stellar wine without a stellar wine-pouring team? I assembled a group of some of New York’s finest Somms and impresarios, who together bedazzled our guests with their wine-speak and exemplary service. They shall be named:

Morgan Harris, Sommelier Captain
Tanner Walle, Sommelier
Katarina Maloney, Sommelier
Leiti Hsu, Sommelier
Ramon Del Monte, Sommelier

Mayur Subbarao (Bittermens, EVOE)

Tanner Walle, Morgan Harris, Leiti Hsu. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Look at Katarina Maloney pour! Absolutely stunning! MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Ramon Del Monte (far right) pouring Laurent-Perrier. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Mayur Subbarao. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Without the support of these upstanding libationists, I would not have been able to focus on my most important and immediate task at hand: to prevent the Titanic from sinking.

In his book, From Time to Time, author Jack Finney reveals the story of a government agency dubbed, The Project, in which Einstein’s theories of time, space and travel are employed to transport members of The Project back in time. The Project’s process of transporting a person back in time is rooted in deep mediation practices, imagery and the presence of a “gateway,” a place that exists in the present and in the past. Some examples are the Statue of Liberty, The Dakota, certain areas of Central Park, etc. For one to be successful in traveling back to another time, one must be present in one of these gateways and in practice, settle into a state of mental deceleration. That is: to let the present move ahead and let the past catch up. Through self-hypnosis and meditation, one has the ability to latch onto “threads” of the past, according to Finney, and connect to and exist in another time.

The evening of April 14, 2012 – the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic – presented a gateway and the potential to change history in a serious way – I set out to do just that. To help in my righteous quest, to assist me in dreaming the impossible dream, was the Captain of the R.M.S. Titanic and the Jotta Girl, a character from Finney’s book:

Abe Danz, Captain RMS Titanic, Caitlin Bebb aka the Jotta Girl. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO. Effects by Time Travel.

Jonny warning the Jotta Girl not to interfere with his plans to warn the captain of the ice bergs. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO. Effects by Time Travel.

In the words of Neil Diamond, “I’ve got an emptiness deep inside and I tried: but it won’t let me go.” And so, to help me “let go,” came the generous support of one of my best, best friends in the world: an amber wave of grain, a mountainous glass of majesty, the color of a California sunset, a libation that has been in existence since the 1800s, well-sipped over the evening to help settle me in under the influence of a decelerated state of mind, ole faithful: Glenmorangie.

Can you feel that 1912 in the air?!?!?! I felt it. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

Finally, underscoring the evening – the journey that is – was perhaps the finest addition to the entire Dine Titanic fete: Chrome Canyon featuring  Icky Doom of Shad[]wb[]x (computer) and Megan Sears (cello). The account of the musicians playing as the ship sank is essentially common knowledge – and the moment is memorialized in James Cameron’s leviathan of a movie. Instead of a string trio or quartet, eerie sounds, ethereal sounds, sampled air, ocean and bits of “Nearer My God To Thee” were sampled into hypnotic, persistent, dark undercurrents of depth-inducing sounds. They looked like this:

wb[]x (computer) and Megan Sears (cello).  MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO”]

Chrome Canyon. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

And with that, good reader, good wino, good foodist, good friends, I leave you to a short documentary of my experience and a rhetorical question: what do you recall about the Titanic? Is it possible that some of you now have a memory of her docking in New York City in 1912?

For links to Press and more photos visit: DineTitanic.com

Wine Evangelist Jonathan Cristaldi (Jonny Cigar), Chef Rob McCue, Chef Adam C. Banks. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

March 30, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Sherry Podcast & Update on Sinatra Simulacra

Because I’m knee deep in memorizing Sinatra tunes and his every subtle nuance I failed miserably at uploading the podcast from our Sherry event. Really, a very thorough and engaging dialogue with Kerin Auth of Tinto Fino, Mayur Subbarao of EVOE, El Cobre, Cienfuegos, etc., and Christine Wells of the French Culinary Institute.

SHERRY INTROS (2:53)

KERIN AUTH of TINTO FINO (5:21)

MORE FROM KERIN (5:24)

KERIN, MAYUR, CHRISTINE (6:40)

***

DIARY: SINATRA SIMULACRA – 3/30.

So, 17 days into preparing for Sinatra Simulacra, I’ve not blogged once, as promised. So it goes. Better late than never, someone always says. Okay.

I’m growing concerned that my wildly attentive audience is confused about this particular event, and so I hope to set the record straight right now. This is not going to be some cheap, ho-hum imitation or impersonation of Frank Sinatra. I’ve got one of the bright starts of the composing and arranging business, Mr. Daniel Barnidge, working out new renditions to the following songs, which will be performed by yours truly with a magnificent group of seven very talented musicians:

  1. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
  2. Day In, Day Out
  3. I’ve Got a Crush On You
  4. Fly Me to the Moon
  5. You’re Nobody Until Somebody Loves You
  6. Luck Be a Lady
  7. That Lucky Old Sun
  8. One For My Baby
  9. That’s Life
  10. Angel Eyes

It’s no easy task, working to emulate, working to revive the energy and perfect performance of such a well-known artist. Frank Sinatra became a phenomenon that generations will have a hard time comprehending in the future because at the pace were going the future is going to be devoid of his kind of entertainer. A controversial figure, a contradicting figure, with enough rumors about his life, habits, run-ins, to fill billions of pages of books and still have room for more. The question I posit to myself is: How did one man achieve such a legacy? And my answer: Well, simply put, and as I believe Sinatra might suggest, there is no other explanation than to say that his celebrity occurred at such a unique time and place – historically and contextually – and he had a rare gift, which received the right attention at the right times and the right places.

There’s no question that The Voice, as he is often referred to, was brilliant in it’s own right: What Sinatra did, that not even Crosby was doing, was talking to his audience; speaking to them through the songs he sang. When you watch some of the marvelous videos that have surfaced on YouTube, if attention is paid to Frank’s expression and focus, not only is he very naturally acting out the scenarios in the songs he sings, but he embodies the character of the person singing – embodies the subject of what they are singing – and does it so well that it’s almost as if he isn’t singing at all, but simply speaking the lyrics. (And Sinatra grew up listening to Crosby who was the king of crooning at the time. Early in his career, Sinatra worked to emulate Crosby before Frank’s own status as a crooner and own voice began to evolve into the mature voice so well known from recordings like “New York, New York,” “My Way,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” etc).

This skill (speak-singing I’ll call it) was what separated him from every other performer, and still does to this day. He focused the sounds, vowels and consonants, right into the front of his face, through his nose, vibrating in his cheeks and jawbones, never singing in falsetto voice (save for a few recordings in his early, early days with Harry James) but maintaining his mid-range and singing songs as if his speaking voice was merely stretching the vowels and consonants, elongating them melodically and rhythmically. Reinforced with impeccable breath control, able to sing through many bars of music before taking a breath, and paying careful attention when to breath, his singing developed into a style so satisfying to listen to that all he had to do was stand up on stage and…sing. He didn’t need to do anything else. His show was his Voice.

And this is my challenge. As Jonny Cigar, I’m used to flailing about the stage, throwing myself down into the gutter, into the depths of my own despair and climbing out with one hell of an army of bells and whistles. I’ve got to channel all that now into subtle hand-gestures and let my body find the natural rhythm of the music, let it respond naturally to it as well. I’ve got to focus my gaze and I’ve got to speak-sing with an orchestra backing me up – I have to be tuned into the orchestra and so comfortable with everything happening that I can also be open to the spontaneity of a show with a crowd fueled by cocktails and ready to be impressed. I’m not going to try to “become” Sinatra, because for Christ’s sake that’s ridiculous, and Christ would agree. I’m going to put into practice the very elements that made him the artist he was, and in theory I ought to come out on top, if I can pull it off.

So, a rigorous voice-training has commenced. 30 minutes of vocalizing everyday followed by a couple hours of singing the songs and getting into the subtext of the lyrics. I’ve got to know what I’m saying in order to sing and convey the emotion. It’s no different than memorizing a monologue and performing it: an audience can tell if you’ve done your homework or not.

This seems like a good place to conclude for today… I hope that this attention to detail indicates that Sinatra Simulacra is going to be more than just another night out on the town, more than just another show. Without getting too hokey, the evening is intended to transport the audience back in time to an era devoid of instantaneous gratification and where entertainers relied on their talents to impress an audience. The style of performance that saw Sinatra’s hey-day is gone, replaced by the world’s 6.7 billion-person 15-minutes-of-fame-ridden atmosphere. For one night, I’m bringing it back and you’re gonna love it, like nobody’s loved it, come rain or come shine…

Like I’ve been saying, if you’d never seen Sinatra live, this’ll be your last chance. Grab a spot: http://eepurl.com/c6OJQ

October 31, 2010 3 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): The Michelin Guide Release Party (San Francisco)

Brian Quinn, Jonny Cigar, Jean-Luc Naret (Michelin). Photo by Brian Quinn’s camera.

“One more!” shouted Jean-Luc Naret, “One more!” Naret, the spokesperson for Michelin Guide, posed for pictures as the after-party for the San Francisco Michelin Guide release party got underway. Half the room ended up in several photographs, such as this one:

Left to right: Ben, Eric, Sammy Davis Jr (aka Jonny Cigar), Meghan (Brett of Evoe’s wife), Jean-Luc Naret (Sinatra), Tessa, Joey Bishop (aka Brian Quinn), Kelly. Spice Supper Club & The Rat Pack.    Photo by Brian Quinn’s camera.

Let’s backtrack: The Noble Rot was invited to curate a wine list for the Michelin Guide Release Parties in New York and San Francisco. The opportunity came about thanks to close friends at The Whisk & Ladle Supper Club, who invited us to find boutique wines, worthy of pouring at such a coveted event, for such an elite crowd.

We readily accepted the task and set out to deliver a well-rounded collection of memorable wines that mirrored the principles set forth in Michelin’s own rating system–culinary destinations worth a trip, worth a detour–the wines we selected are just that–worth seeking out, worth a detour, off the beaten path, and uber small production (most under 400 cases).

Our “Three-Michelin” Star Wine List included:

De Sante 2007 Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley (100% Sauvignon Blanc, 200 cases). Grapes are grown on 40 year-old vines in the Oakville District in Napa Valley. The wine is stirred on its lees. Producers Katharine and David DeSante are rocking it.

Herman J. Wiemer Dry Riesling – Magdelena Vineyard 2008 (100% Riesling, 130 cases). Easily, one of the best Riesling from upstate New York and worth a detour, for certain.

WesMar 2007 Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vineyard (100% Pinot Noir, 262 cases). A terroir-driven wine all sourced from the Hellenthal Vineyard in the Sonoma coast. The vineyard, at 1200 feet sits above the coastal fog and neighbors are Palmheyer, Turley’s Marcassin and Flowers. Denise Selyem and her husband Kirk began making wine at Williams-Selyem and roughly a decade ago they launched their own label, WesMar.

Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley Proprietary Red 2006 (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 392 cases). You ever been to Pritchard Hill in Napa? Well, you’re going there with this wine, at least with the Cab Sauv and Cab Franc. You ever been to the Blackbird Vineyard in the Oak Knoll district of Napa? Well, the Merlot will show you the way. Think of this wine as an homage to the artisans who grace Ma(i)sonry’s walls. Ma(i)sonry is right down the road from The French Laundry and absolutely worth a visit. Everything there is for sale. When you sit down for a tasting flight of their Artisan wines you could potentially purchase the chair, table, glasses, and of course, the wines.

Covenant 2007 and 2008 Red C Napa Valley Cabernet (100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 450 cases). Covenant RED C happens to be, according to Robert M. Parker Jr., the “best Kosher wine on planet Earth.”

Mueller Family Vineyard 2007 Diamond Mountain Cabernet (100% Cabernet Sauvignon,168 cases). The Muellers have been making wine since 1982, when I was roughly zero (0) years old. This is the first vintage of this wine, which is grown way up on Diamond Mountain in Calistoga, CA on 1.1 Acres of land. Elegant and complex, this wine tastes as good as the view of Napa, from a good mile up the mountain. The Mueller’s property is surrounded by fruit tress and vegetables gardens and flowers–they have quite the green thumb.

Mueller, Ma(i)sonry, WesMar, RED C – Photo by Michelin Guide

DeSante

Wiemer!

Left to right: Christopher Kostow (Meadowood Chef who received his third and highly coveted Michelin Star), Angie Mueller, Frank Mueller. Photo by Brian Quinn.

One last surprise: mere days before the event, we made a quick stop off at the Natural Process Alliance in Santa Rosa, CA. We ended up chatting with a chap named Hardy Wallace who has as much of a sense-of-humor with respect to wine as we do. And the NPA is crazy cool. Their wines come in Canteens. Unfiltered! Unfined! All natural yeast fermentation. Only 25 parts per Million of SO2, which apparently is just enough to get it delivered to your house and have the wine waiting for you to drink before it begins to spoil. When you’re done, NPA picks up the canteens and refills ’em for you. Think of them as the modern-day milk-man for wine. Check em out. We invited Hardy to pour his snake-oil with us at the event.

Hardy Wallace of NPA pouring for our friend Thys-Jan of Ma(i)sonry. We made Hardy dress up for the event since Brian and I always wear three-piece suits. We were impressed with his style.                        Photo by Brian Quinn.

Please enjoy these mouth-watering taninc photos below, and check back in this week for many more posts on our Napa Valley adventures. They include: a trip to Laird with Jeff Morgan, a visit to Elizabeth Spencer Wines, and a visit to Domain Charbay (where they make Whiskey way up on Spring Mountain).

July 15, 2010 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Storming of the Bastille

Noble Rot does Bastille Day (with Peter Sellers) at ORSAY Restaurant – photo by Brian Quinn

On this, the day after Bastille Day, I bring to you descriptions of an evening reminiscent of that fine day in French l’histoire whence the revolutionaries stormed the Bastille in 1789.

The Noble Rot has turned one! To celebrate we planned an event, reminiscent of our first event (The Best $10-Wines You $10-Bills Could Pay) but this time upped the ante to $20 bangers. Hence, we presented: French Vacation Wines.

It’s July and so all of France is vacationing in Saint Tropez, Le Mont Saint Michel, La Rochelle, Montpellier, Biarritz, Villefranche sur Mer and Cap Ferret. While the French are consuming billions of gallons of crude oil rosé and are baking basking in the sun, we wanted to join in the fun, albeit far from the French Rivieria. “French Vacation Wines,” presented an evening of wine and food delights (while Dr. Strangelove played silently on a projector with French Subtitles).

Annihilating the Noble Revolutionaries with words, words, words in French, French, French, like “Lingerie!” and “Baguette!” was the famed TRAV SD. Trav is an actor, author, journalist, impresario, and all-around wildly hilarious mad-man genius. His blog is here. And if you are a person interested in theater and the history of vaudeville, get his book: “No Applause: Just Throw Money.”

The elusive Trav SD in bowler hat flinging French words at the crowd – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

Musical guest, Les Chauds Lapins, presented French songs from the 20s – 40s, “an epoch when American jazz and swing was being absorbed into the witty, passionate, highly melodic tradition of French popular music” – quote from their site. They were: Kurt & Meg on the banjo-uke, Ian on Bass, and Karen on Viola.

Les Chauds Lapins – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

Mayur Subbarao, of EVOE! (also Mayhuel and Dram), a brilliant mixologist, begat our evening with a cocktail and ended the evening with a cocktail. He used bourbons and gins and Armagnac and Lillet – Mayur whipped up the Twentieth Century for guests as well as what he dubbed a “brandy crusta variant” with the Armagnac and Lillet named the “Paris-Midi.” It was: wow. Assisting Mayur was the talented food-photographer Nora Leah Sherman. We generously thank Nicole Cloutier for our Lillet and for the Armagnac, May Matta-Aliah.

Mayur Subbaroa of EVOE! and faithful Noble Rotter Paul Fawell – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

The wines:

  • Patrick Lesec Costierre de Nimes Vieilles Vignes – ($17 per bottle)

The Twentieth Century cocktail:

  • 1 1/4 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. Lillet Blonde
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. creme de cacao

Shake, strain, serve up with lemon twist.

The Paris-Midi cocktail:

  • 1 oz Laubade VSOP armagnac
  • 1 oz Lillet Rouge
  • 1 barspoon each lemon juice, orange curacao, maraschino

Stir, strain, serve up with one ice cube.

Les Vins – photo by Brian Quinn

Damian Gutierrez of Cabriniwines.com and Matt Franco of Rare Wines Limited (new store opening in the West Village soon) were on-hand to answer any real questions about French wine. My favorite was the Vignelaure. It smelled of first dates and the excitement of exchanging phone numbers with the woman you will eventually marry. Second in line was the Picpoul—this is a wine I have discovered recently and consider it my go-to summer drink. The Lesec was a brit, if you catch my drift (?). And the Jaillance was exactly that: Imperiale!

The event would not have been possible without the gracious staff at Orsay, and their food, which was exceptional! Passed foods for the evening included: Gougères (choux pastry with cheese specialty from the Burgundy region), Tuna Tartare on toast, Chicken pretzel (chicken breast), Croque monsieur (grilled ham and Swiss cheese mini sandwich), Vegetable roll, Pork Rillettes (preparation of pork similar to pâte spread on white bread from the Tours region). Many thanks to Jean-Pierre and Melanie at Orsay – they were the best of hosts, and I encourage you to visit Orsay for an enchanted evening of delectable French-cuisine that will honestly knock your french socks off. Orsay Restaurant is at 75th & Lexington Ave in Manhattan.

Finally, our good friends, Nick Gray, Sean O’Hagan, Jeremy Welch, and Zach “the shark” Bernstein made the evening possible by pouring wine and passing food, while wise-cracking the evening away. Please enjoy these delicious photos in no particular order, and hopefully dear wine-stewards, we will see you at a Noble Rot event soon.

Quinn Parisian and Nora Parisian – photo by Nora Leah Sherman’s camera

Orsay Vegetable Rolls – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

Cheese course! Courtesy Louis of Orsay – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

Lila reads about the Revolutionaries storming the Bastille! – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

Zach “the shark” Bernstien, Cigar, and guest expert Matt Franco (going to pour the hell out of those bottles!) – photo by Nora Leah Sherman

Happy Birthday Emilee! (No better place to be for your b-day than with The Noble Rot) – photo by Brian Quinn

Jonny Cigar, self appointed Master Sommelier with Les Chauds Lapins at The Copa 1967 Happy Birthday Emilee! (No better place to be for your b-day than with The Noble Rot) – photo by Brian Quinn

Cigar, Spain (Damian G), Quinn – photo by Brian Quinn

June 18, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Hills Like White Bostonians

Hills Like White Bostonians

Ribera Del Dueroa - Arzuaga

Ernest Hemingway loved to fish and see bull fights. This is not a story about fishing and bullfighting. This is a story about June 10-14, just about a week ago, when I sailed the Hudson north and then trekked across thick jungled accents only to find myself in Boston, a city that loves to sleep. If Boston could change it’s name it would surely want to be called “Sports Central.”

I was there with A Razor, A Shiny Knife supper club. I am the “wine-guy/entertainment” provider for ARASK’s evenings of culinary dry-walling. And they do a phenomenal job for sure. Matt Franco, an Old World lover of Old World wines who will soon open Rare Wines Limited in the West Village of NYC, offered several suggestions for wine pairings for our Hemingway-inspired dinner. You see, fair-natured wine friend, we modeled the dinner after “Hills Like White Elephants” because of the imagery conjured and not because of the actual subject matter. Though, Matt, brilliantly offered the idea that we give the guests a choice of wine at a crucial juncture in the evening. They would have to choose a “country” wine or a “city” wine. If yee hath not read H.L.W.E. I would suggest you do so right now and return to this flog. (It’s like 3.4 pages and the text can be found by guggling it).

Damian Gutierriez, a Spaniard in his own right of cabriniwines.com, and wino-friend, sat down with me before Boston and we battled about which wines to serve, taking into consideration Franco’s ideas. We settled on this roster of bingo bongo:

  • Codorniu Cava Pinot Noir Brut
  • Protocolo (Dominio de Eguren) Protocolo
  • Ca Sa Padrina Arrel Binissalem Mallorca
  • Bodegas Arzuaga Reserva-2005
  • Costers del Siurana Miserere Priorat

So let’s talk about the wines. But first let’s talk about the cocktails. Cocktail concoctions by Mayur Subbarao (Mayahuel, Dram) lit people on fire, literally. I was schooled in the art of cocktail mixing and demoing before heading to Boston, and had Mayur on standby during the event in case I needed to call and have him talk me through properly shaking a shaker or lighting the Absinthe on fire that I was to light on fire. In short, three cocktails, one with white rum, one with bourbon, and one with brandy, delighted and shocked and awed guests and if you’d really like to know what the cocktails were, send me an email (info@thenoblerot.com). Now, the wines…

I only want to discuss the Ribera Del Duero and the Mallorca (pronounced “my-orka”). The hit of the evening was the Del Duero (aka Bodegas Arzuaga Reserva). This was our “city” wine hailing from the northeast of Spain and rich with thickity deliciousness but tied down by an Old World mouthfeel. This wine makes you want to mount a horse and fight a war (a war of love). The Ribera is a fascinating region where Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) is grown on land where billions of years ago it was likely that monks from France came down from France and planted vines. The planting of vines leads us to Mallorca, a tiny island off of Spain considered “The Pearl of Mediterranean.” The grapes in this wine are called “Mantonegro” and “Callet,” which are indigenous to Mallorca and its 2,300 hotels and 2,000 restaurants – only 33 cellars. Fancy. The taste was unusual, like turducken, only instead, horsecowsen, if you catch my stuffing. From one Hemingway to another, I bid this posting adieu, and would urge you to search out: Ribera Del Duero wines as well as any little gems you can find from Mallorca – they will be worth your time and will impress your sommelier, self-appointed or otherwise.