Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wine Wednesdays - 2015 Bott "Csontos" Tokaji Furmint

Ever since our trip to Tokaj, I jump at the chance to try dry Furmints when I see them on restaurant menus as they are such great food wines; and February just so happens to be the national month of Furmint!  On a recent visit to Liholiho Yacht Club in SF (one of my best meals of 2018 so far) we spotted the 2015 Bott "Csontos" Tokaji Furmint and had to get it.  While in Austria, our friend Gunter recommended a visit to Bott Pince, but unfortunately we didn't have time and didn't even get to sample her wines while in Budapest.

The wine did not disappoint!  Furmint is known for being a grape that wonderfully showcases the "terroir" of the region in which is was grown, taking on nuances and complexities of the soils and such.  High acid is what makes it such a great food pairing wine.  Judit and her husband Jozsef hand tend the vines in 6 different plots of vines.  The "Csontos" vineyard is on a south facing slope, providing long days of consistent sunlight that allow for gentle ripening.  The wine is then aged in neutral oak with native yeasts.  The volcanic soil adds a mineral depth to the wine, the slow fermentation and aging creates a round finish, all with notes of stone fruit and honey.      

Now for the food, seriously amazing.  Literally everything we had was so delicious, but the beef tongue buns and curry mussels were unforgettable!  Our neighbors at the bar said the whole fried lobster was also not to be missed but we voted for more small dishes so we could try multiple things.  

The infamous "baked Hawaii" topped us off (although not a must order if I do admit).  

Service and vibe rounded out the experience, I seriously can't wait to go back!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Restaurant Round Up - January Eats

I was a little late to the dry January club, eating and drinking right up through one last indulgent weekend in SF in mid-January.  Below are some highlights before I had to cut myself off for a little breather!

After years of seeing posts on Instagram, I finally made it down to Marché Maman.  This smoked salmon bowl with crispy hashbrown waffles was filling and delicious!

Another first, I finally tried the famous hot chocolate from City Bakery, said to be the best in the world, and gives meaning to the phrase "drinking chocolate"!  Every year they have a Hot Chocolate Festival with a daily flavor.  Check out this year's flavors here!

Brunch at Jeffrey's Grocery is always a treat.  A new brunch item pairs their delicious latkes with smoked salmon, poached eggs and avocado.

Cocktail hour at sister restaurant Joseph Leonard is equally delightful.

An early and unexpected snow day had me craving comfort food, my man was nice enough to indulge me with homemade black truffle pasta with fresh mushrooms!

My dear friend Sydney tied the knot in the most gorgeous wedding at San Francisco City Hall, the food was unbelievable, hard to say that about most wedding food!

While in SF for the wedding, we had breakfast at Jane on Fillmore and lunch at RT Rotisserie.  

But the highlight of our quick food tour through SF was finally trying Liholiho Yacht Club.  While we almost lost an arm trying to grab bar seats for dinner, it was well worth it.  
The "baked Hawaii" is truly a thing of beauty!

And now for that cleanse.......

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wine Wednesdays - A Day in Tokaj

One of the highlights of our time in Hungary was a day trip to Tokaj.  We debated whether to embark on the 5 hour round trip train ride when we had such limited time in the country but I'm so glad we decided to do it.  Our amazing experience had everything to do with our guide, Greg, from Tokaj Today.

We took the 7:30am train from Budapest and settled in for the 2.5 hour ride.  Greg picked us up and off we went to our first winery, Barta.  Labeled as a "mid-sized hobbyist" the Barta family bought and replanted one of the oldest and most prestigious vineyard sites in the region, the "Old King" vineyard, in 2004.  The site had been long abandoned and overtaken by the surrounding forest as no one wanted to put in the time and effort of cultivating by hand due to the steep terraces (quantity over quality was the name of the game throughout the communist era).

After a quick tour of the historic winery building we settled in to the tasting room by a roaring fire where Greg walked us through their offering.  We tasted 10 wines ranging from dry to sweet.  The wines were mostly made from the Furmint grape, a high acid grape that beautifully shows off the terroir of Tokaj (read about my first experience with Furmint here).  Depending on the style it can range from fresh and light to honey'd with notes of apricot and fresh melon.  We also tasted the sweet wine Szamorodni which must be made from 1 of Tokaj's 6 authorized grapes, it can be made either sweet or dry in style.         

Greg pulled out a handful of those famous botrytised grapes, full of "Noble Rot" for us to taste!  Like the sweetest raisin you've ever had.

Next up, the wonderful world of István Szepsy, one of the more world-renowned Tokaj producers.  István rarely does tastings himself anymore, but we were lucky enough to actually meet him as he was dropping off some wine at Barta!

His daughter Kinga has created a restaurant and tour and tasting option that offers the full "world of Szepsy".  Greg instructed us to get in to our own Gator tractor and follow him out to the vineyards.  We stopped at 3 different vineyard sites and tasted the wine from that site, such an incredible experience!   

We tasted two dry wines (one younger, 2015 and one older, 2009) and one sweet to really get a sense of the range of these wines.

It was quite a thrill rolling through the hills of the vineyards!  All that tasting certainly worked up an appetite, we were ravished once we returned to Percze.  The meal was one of the best during our time in Hungary all paired with more delicious wines from Szepsy.

Duck leg with beet puree and mint sauce and panko crusted cabbage rolls! 

All paired with more delicious Furmint. It's amazing how these producers can take the same grape and create so many different wines with nuances you can taste!

Our last stop was a taste of "Young Tokaj" with winemaker Péter Rôbert, the owner of Ábrahám, a "garage winery" established in 2006.  Péter and his wife are former philosophy students who decided to return home and make wine from the family vineyards.  

We had a quick tour of the barrel room before settling in to the cozy tasting room.  

Rôbert makes sometimes 20 different wines in one year from one lot of Furmint, playing with fermentation and aging style to create the different bottlings.  The labels are all different as well offering a fun update to traditional wines of the region.

Greg raced us back to the train station and we settled in for a much needed cat nap!  We ended the day with a delicious dinner at the oldest ruin bar in Budapest, Mazel Tov.

Tokaj is certainly one of the lesser known and experienced wine regions of the world but I would highly recommend moving it up on your destination bucket-list!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Travelogue - Budapest, Hungary

We took an early morning train from Vienna and in 2.5 hours arrived in Budapest.  We stayed at the Kapital Inn which is #1 on Trip Advisor for a reason!  Owners Paul and Albert were so helpful from the minute we booked our stay, recommending restaurants, helping us with reservations and giving us the full rundown upon arrival (including carrying our bags with 14 bottles of wine up 4 flights of stairs!). 

The B&B is 2 blocks from the House of Terror museum so we made that our first stop.  What a fabulous museum, I seriously had no idea the history of Hungary and what they went through first with the Nazis and then with the Soviet Communists.  These two parties subjected hundreds of people to torture in the very building in which the museum is housed.  We supplemented the written explanations with Rick Steve's guided tour in his Budapest guidebook.  It's a heavy subject but absolutely fascinating.  

Our next stop was the Great Synagogue, the second largest Synagogue in the world (the first is in NYC!).  We lucked out and arrived just in time for the last tour of the day at 3pm (Synagogue closes at 4pm and is closed on Saturdays).  We had a really wonderful tour guide who also shared bits of history of the ghetto surrounding the synagogue during WWII.  

After two very deep cultural experiences, we were starved!  We headed to the Great Market Hall and browsed the stalls before deciding on two traditional Hungarian dishes:  a lángos (fried dough with toppings) and a cabbage roll.  

We then strolled back towards the main downtown, passed the Opera house and explored a few Christmas markets as well as a stop inside the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, a beautifully restored art nouveau building and historical landmark.

We made our way down to the river for a Danube cocktail cruise.  It was really fun to do at night to see all of the landmarks lit up.   Your ticket includes 2 drinks, some cheesy but interesting commentary and history and if you mention Rick Steve's there's a 15% discount! 

Upon docking we ventured to dinner at Innio, they have a casual bar side of the restaurant with a limited menu of snacks as well as a more formal restaurant side with the option of a tasting menu.  The food was all very creative and tasty and they had a nice selection of wines by the glass to pair back to the meal.  

Eggplant and mackerel to start.

Decomposed goulash.

Turbot and quail for our mains.  It was Thanksgiving back in the states so we laughed at the similarity in miniature size to a turkey!

I went to the bathroom when they brought us this last bite and Jared pretended he couldn't remember what it was.  I tried it and it was delicious but couldn't put my finger on what it was.....turns out it was foie gras mousse covered in chocolate and almonds!  

Day 2 we headed out to Tokaji for a full day of wine tasting, post coming soon!

Our last full day we spent hiking up the Buda side of town to the castle.  But first, we enjoyed Paul's delicious omelets and coffee for breakfast!  

It was so foggy we didn't have much of a view but the buildings were beautiful.  We circled back through Parliament, "antique row" and another Christmas market where we sampled some local delicacies.  

We hit the famous Széchenyi baths for a relaxing sauna and soak before dinner.  It was quite an experience!

For our last dinner we went to Fricska where a daily menu is written on a chalkboard and they have several Hungarian wines by the glass (although we weren't sure it was the 128 they claim to have!)

Our waiter claimed the goulash was "unforgettable" and he was absolutely right!

Such a unique and different city, full of culture, wine and food, the trifecta!

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