Friday, August 26, 2016

Auberge de L'ill - A Dining Experience to Remember

I realized I never shared the third and final 3-star dinner celebrating my 3 decades.  While in Alsace back in April we dined at Auberge de L'ill, one of the oldest Michelin-starred restaurants.  3-stars for over 45 years, the restaurant is a true family affair, with several branches of the Haeberlin clan running the restaurant and adjacent hotel.  From the minute we walked in, I felt like I was in a dream.  The chorus of "bonsoir madam" rang out as we were ushered into the dining room just as the sun was setting outside behind the mountains and overlooking this gorgeous river that ran through the back of the restaurant.  Words and pictures can't even come close to capturing the setting.  

We settled in for an incredible evening.  From the choice in butter alone (salted Bordier vs. unsalted) I knew we were in for a treat!

We started with a glass of sparkling then moved on to a half bottle of 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet Grand Cru "Morgeot" from Gagnard Delagrange.  Again hitting my love for the half bottles!

For dinner, we decided on a 1980 Grand Cru Volnay-Santenots from Louis Jadot.  There were a few hair-raising moments as the somm and his assistant fought with the cork, but they prevailed and the wine was beyond expectations delicious!  

Just a little dust...

Now that the wine was squared away, we could focus on the food.  The dining experience was dramatically different than our experience at Maaemo and Meadowood; much more classic and old school, but wonderful nonetheless.  What remains consist across all restaurants was the outstanding service and attention to detail.  

Our Menu:
Foie Gras wrapped in seaweed
Filet de Bar with a parsley emulsion
Poached lobster with asparagus *my favorite of the night*
Pigeon with lentils and truffles

Following the main course, you can imagine my delight as our captain wheeled over this cheese cart to end all cheese carts.  

I couldn't even tell you what I sampled but it was all amazing.  

On to the pre-dessert, dessert.  A selection of petit fours, I loved the baby madeleines!

Then on to the actual dessert course:  we had one of their famous poached white peaches with sorbet as well as a rhubarb tart with Sauternes sabayon.

Just when I thought I couldn't finish another bite, they brought around a tray of chocolates to choose from.  I just had to sample them all.....

If you find yourself in this corner of France, Auberge de L'ill is not to be missed!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wine Wednesdays - Unti Vineyards NV Lacrima

I have the perfect late-summer, backyard bbq wine!  Unti Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery located in the Dry Creek Valley of California.  Instead of the standard Zinfandel in the region, Unti is specializing in Mediterranean varietals with "vineyard personality".  I recently had their Lacrima and was hooked.  

The nose had notes of blueberries and bbq'd, smokey meat.  The palate was silky, racy and fruity with soft tannins and a crazy hint of iron/blood undertone that totally works.  It was a delicious pairing with lamb burgers and grilled romaine. 

Can summer last forever?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wine Wednesdays - 2014 Lieb Cellars Reserve Pinot Blanc

I first discovered Lieb Cellars during a Northfork excursion over 3 years ago.  I'm pretty sure it was my first taste of Pinot Blanc as well.  I came across Lieb once again while dining out in the Northfork and knew it would be a sure bet for a group dinner at The Frisky Oyster

Pinot Blanc is genetic mutation of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (aka Pinot Grigio) and I've come to find that it can vary widely depending on region and producer.  It's certainly not a very widely planted grape in North America, but is one of the main grapes grown in Alsace (and grown well).   

The wine from Lieb is produced from some of the oldest vines in the Northfork (1983 is old for the Northfork!)  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel allowing the bright, crisp flavors shine through.  The nose has notes of lemon zest and lemongrass; with a pleasant taste of tart green apple and a hint of minerality and salinity on the finish.  It made for a great pairing with the signature "Oysters Friskafella" - The Frisky Oyster's take on oysters Rockefeller.   

Wine:  2014 Lieb Cellars Reserve Pinot Blanc
Purchased:  The Frisky Oyster
Price:  $22 Retail

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wine Wednesdays - 2015 Transmission Rosé

I had a bit of an internal conflict regarding this weeks' Wine Wednesday, I wanted to share this wine with you all, but the producer is so small and relatively unknown, I'm not sure anyone will be able to find it!  I figured it's always better to share and maybe some of you located in or near the central coast of CA will seek this guy out!

Transmission Wines is a side project of owner/winemaker David, who's full-time gig is making wine for Giornata and Broadside wineries in Paso Robles, California.  I like his mantra:  using a simple, hands-off approach to winemaking, allowing the wine to "create as clear a transmission of place and grape variety as possible".    

The wine was light but not as fruit forward as some other expressions of rosé.  I found it a bit austere and slightly green on the finish, but I didn't mind it.  I think it would be a good match for food where other rosé might be overpowered by certain flavors.  I think this would also be a good "bridge" wine for a red wine drinker that wants something nice to sip on for summer.  

*I'm sorry I don't even know the price of this wine, looks like you need to email to order.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wine Wednesdays - 2014 Peter Zemmer Punggl Pinot Bianco

I keep a note in my phone with a run-on list of restaurants by neighborhood that I want to try.  It seems like every time I cross one off, another is added, there's a never-ending supply!  I recently made it to Gato, which has been on my list for quite some time now.  

Over dinner we enjoyed a bottle of the 2014 Punggl Pinot Bianco by Peter Zemmer.  Located in the Alto Adige region in Italy, the family has been producing wine since 1928.  This particular Pinot Bianco is harvested from some of the winery's best vineyards located on the valley floor of the region.  The wine is fermented in a mix of stainless steel and oak, but does not pick up that overly oaky or buttery flavor.  Instead, it remains extremely clean and bright, a result of the cooler growing climate and stony soil.  It drank very similar to a Chablis, one that balances tart green apple, fresh acidity and minerality, and a smooth medium-bodied finish.   

The menu wasn't what I had expected, I thought it was more tapas/small plates focused.  But it was overwhelmingly delicious!  We started with their version of tapas or a "bar sampler" where you can choose 3 small bites from the top section of the menu.  Fair warning, these are literally 1-2 bite morsels and would be hard to share with more than 1 other person.  In that sense, I would suggest skipping this section of the menu and focusing elsewhere to get more bang for your buck.
From front to back:  piquillo filled with raw tuna, beef crudo, and eleven layer potato.
Next we split the charred carrots and roasted octopus.  The carrots may have been my favorite dish of the night.

We ended with the kale a mushroom paella, not your typical paella, this was not a large-format dish but was fine for sharing with 1 other person.  After watching Bobby Flay recreate this dish on my favorite TV show The Chew I plan to try this one at home!

We skipped dessert in favor of a walk around the block to Morgenstern's Ice Cream, but I think I'll have to come back to try their famous cheesecake!

Wine:  2014 Peter Zemmer Punggl Pinot Bianco
Purchased:  Gato NYC
Price:  $17 retail

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wine Wednesdays - 2014 McCall Wines Marjorie's Rose

Is there anything better than drinking rose on a beautiful summer day?  Perhaps drinking rose on a beautiful summer day on a boat!  I was lucky enough to enjoy a rose from McCall Wines while cruising from the Northfork over to Sunset Beach on Shelter Island.  

I tend to shy away from darker roses, although in my head I know that color is no indication of whether a rose is "sweet" or not, I still somehow have that stigma that I just don't enjoy roses that aren't the perfect light shade of Provencal pink.  This wine definitely proved my preconceived stigma wrong.  

The 2014 Marjorie's Rose was made with predominately Merlot grapes.  The nose was rather earthy with a bit of spice vs. bold and fruity.  The mouth was a bit more red-fruit driven but that earthiness carried through all the way to the finish.  This was an easy afternoon-sipper but I think it would be a great rose to pair with a meal as it had a bit more weight to it that could stand up nicely to food.   

Wine:  2014 McCall Wines Marjorie's Rose
*2015 Vintage is currently available
Purchased:  Friend's Cellar
Price:  $18

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wine Wednesdays - Eating and Drinking Champagne in Champagne

One more post to round out my France travelogue!  I wanted to highlight some of the amazing food and wine we enjoyed in and around the Champagne region outside of our visits to Henri Giraud and Moet & Chandon.  

While I wouldn't necessarily go back to Champagne, I did enjoy the 24 hours we spent there.  I just felt that Epernay and Reims were lacking the small town charm of other wine villages in France, and they felt like more industrial, working cities.  That combined with an overall lack in hospitality and ease of wine tasting makes it rank a bit lower on my France favorite places list.  

That being said, we ate some fabulous wine and drank some delicious Champagne.  For dinner in Epernay we went to the top-rated Chez Max.  I'm pretty sure we ordered half the menu because we wanted to taste it all!  Highlights were the steak tartare made tableside (the owner makes over 1000 steak tartares per year), roasted duck breast, and a cheese plate with local cheeses.  They also have a great selection of wines by the half bottle, so we were able to course our meal with a self-selected wine pairing.  We started with the Cuvee du Cinquantenaire Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) from Veuve J. Lanaud.

Our other wine choices for the evening included the 2014 Sancerre Les Charmes from Domaine Andre Vatan and a Cabernet Franc from Les Echaillons in the Loire Valley.

In Reims, we had lunch at Le Jardin Brasserie at the Domaine Les Crayeres hotel.  This is the more casual restaurant associated with the 2-star Le Parc also on property.  The room was absolutely gorgeous.  We were a bit rushed to catch our train so we didn't take advantage of the price-fixed lunch, but we enjoyed a beautiful beet carpaccio with prosciutto and Parmesan as well as a grilled fish.  They also served some of the best bread of the trip!

After lunch before our train we quickly toured the Reims Cathedral.  This was worth coming to this town for.  Absolutely gorgeous with Chagall stained glass windows.


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