Thursday, November 20, 2014

the magic is back

magic

a bottle of frank cornelissen's contadino 4 from the 2006 vintage opened in new orleans in 2012 was one of my first conversion wines: a bottle that changed my mind about what to drink and why to drink it. ashy, fizzing, the colour of rhubarb stems, the scent of ripe crushed raspberries and cider, the flavour of basalt and cinders. it was a magic bottle, and each case of contadino would have, if you were very fortunate, a single magic bottle. (often it would have no magic bottles but many undrinkably acetic ones.) nonetheless, i lavished hard-earned doubloons on more contadino from various later vintages hoping to replicate that first experience. no luck. with each successive vintage, contadino remained a crazy patchwork long-macerated blend of red and white grapes but slowly became more extracted and stable. reliably tasty; no longer a catalogue of wine flaws with the potential to be confusingly and improbably delicious.

but the magic is back with last night's bottle of cornelissen's susucaru 6 (vintage 2013)—one of a pair which traveled from etna to cambridge ma to london, to be opened on the spur of the moment at the remedy. the other bottle was undrinkable but i drank it anyway. vive la variance.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

a philosophy of practice

the bear pond espresso technique:
  1. Pure water must flow equally through the total espresso bean. 
  2. Like water, coffee beans are natural resources and must not be wasted. 
  3. Like the mind, equipment can be dimmed, so all equipment must be cleaned until like new.
[found at kauffman mercantile; also see no. 8 bear pond]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

grouse

grouse

faggots, with prunes, turnips, and turnip greens. a very small, crisp-crusted duck and orange pie with a fine tangle of pickled red cabbage. cauliflower and nutmeg croquettes. potato soup with small cubes of eel. buttermilk pudding with a dark gingersnap and poached quince.

while the prospect of winding over to bermondsey is grim on the one hand, on the other i leap at any opportunity to have a meeting at 40 maltby street, one of the early examples of a stream of london retail innovation whose kitchen—run by steve williams—turns out gentle, confident plates of nearly perfect restraint, proportion, and execution.

as you can see, this was not a grouse.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

sous les pavés, la vigne

the remains of the day

started in paris and now has sprouted an offshoot in lyon—which is like a smaller, much less crowded, prettier, cleaner paris, with more cream added. about 40 producers, which is just the right size to explore deeply over the course of two days. many were indifferent, some were good, but only a few were surprising. considering lyon's location, there was an inexplicable and regrettable absence of vignerons from the jura and savoie at this exposition.

sebastien poly's "damianu" (an unsulphured biodynamic old-vine sciaccarellu) was pure, bright, and lively with a hint of earth—it changed my mind about wine from corsica. and massimo coletti's "l'innominato" (an experimental undisgorged metodo classico made not from glera but a blend of manzoni rosso and manzoni bianco) was precise, crisp, and creamy—if more sparkling wine from the veneto tasted like this, i would like more sparkling wine from the veneto.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

techno-tea

samovar

at samovar's new bar on valencia street, tea is made in gleaming glass and milled steel. the lure of control through shiny techno-nerdery may finally nudge tea into the world of the technologically obsessive consumer. but the best tea will always be made by hand from leaves selected with discernment and with an attention to how each brew changes from moment to moment—an approach which did not help hayes valley's modern tea stay afloat and open.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

sébastien gaudard



at the shop on martyrs, the non-traditional croissants are different every day—which is not necessarily a good thing. they can be extremely flat or stand fairly tall, a bit underbaked or perfect. the inside is almost always moister than the norm, not overtly buttery, and a little sweeter than usual. they appear to have a very thin apricot glaze or, at any rate, something slightly sticky and sweet on top. when baked right, they are mysteriously delicious.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

canard à la presse

duck

as the GMO debacle demonstrates, pockets of resistance are essential when the crowd embraces novelty and turns on what is tested and true. otto's rigid adherence to tradition may seem at first a manifestation of luddite tendencies but in truth represents careful observation of what is enjoyable, satisfying, and good. burgundy* and an antique silver duck press from christofle in the style of the tour d'argent are not necessary for this preparation but sure are nice. on the other hand, properly souffléed potatoes are an entirely different story. the crunch of the carcass yielding under the turn of the screw—and the gurgle of the mingled marrow and blood streaming into the jug that awaits—may make this experience unsuitable for vegetarians.

* lamy, st aubin "derrière chez edouard" 2009; bachelet-monnot maranges "la fussière" 2010; buisson, st-romain "sous roche" 2009. all still tight and crunchy but nice regardless.

Monday, July 28, 2014

wine nerd pals

on the edgware road at the end

one for the books: a hot, dry, london afternoon spent hydrating assiduously with fellow wine nerds under the umbrellas in the back garden at kandoo on the edgware road. lunch can stretch effortlessly over seven hours when there are many things to eat and drink* and much to discuss.

* j. lassalle, blanc de blancs brut 2002; cedric flaction, païen 2010; immich-batterieberg, escheburg 2012; schloss neuweier, goldener loch GG 2012; clos de la marechale, NSG 2010 and 2011; ch. grand-puy-lacoste, pauillac 1988; casa pardet, tempranillo reserva 1995; julien frémont, pur pom 2009; cold-brewed assam tea.

Monday, July 7, 2014

fools are a dime a dozen

st john bread and wine

but a good fool is hard to find. the english demotic dessert tradition ("pudding"), which flourishes at st john bread and wine, is characterized by many things, not the least of which is a close attention to humble components with textures which must be finely judged in production: fools, jellies, junkets, trifles, possets, custards, creams, and such.

above, walnut cream with blueberries, cherry jelly with lemon sables (partly occluded), and strawberry trifle with toasted almond flakes. this is not french pastry, nor should it be.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

day and night

10 greek le mont 2009 a smear cialla bianco 2001 chamois du paradis 2010 savagnin 2001

at 10 greek street, we looked in luke's leatherbound book of monthly beverage specials to accompany several impeccably cooked plates of simple food. in such a situation, four hours passed quickly. also note the intelligent and fuss-free container for condiments, menus, and table settings. later that day—much, much later—some decisions were made by others which i approved of completely.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

a secret ingredient

4cheese

the bartender leaned over and said:
"el queso fresco en mi tarta de cuatro quesos es muy, muy secreto—pero te dire que: filadelfia."
this was one of the many attractions of hondarribia.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

etxebarri

wood
hacks
gambas

the core of the kitchen is a large woodpile (sheltered but open to the elements, and featuring an extensive chainsaw collection), a pair of furnaces for producing embers, and a bank of asadors on which nearly everything the kitchen produces is cooked. under the asadors, a collection of kitchen equipment not normally associated with the application of direct or indirect heat: fine mesh strainers that allow smoke-laden air and radiant heat to pass to the ingredients contained within, and a caviar grill hacked together from a cut-up pot and a spatter guard.

the gambas were peerless, and what a good idea it is to heat the custard for an ice cream gently at the mouth of a smoky furnace before spinning it.

asador etxebarri
plaza de san juan, 1
atxondo, spain