It took me a long time to put two and two together and realise that the restaurant ‘Barbooloo‘ that everyone kept going on about and Daniel Boulud could possibly be linked. I’d read his short book Letters to a Young Chef while at cook school and was suitably in awe of this veteran Frenchman-made-good-in-NYC.
Bar Boulud, the London outpost of his NYC bistro of the same name, is famous in foodie circles for one thing: the BB burger. Here’s how the website describes it:
beef patty, foie gras
red wine braised short ribs
truffle, frisée, horseradish mayonnaise
confit tomato, black onion seed bun
‘Nuff said, really.
Continue reading TigerBites: Bar Boulud, Knightsbridge »
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of some food blogs, this equation is a bit of a moot point, when the pictures are so blurry / orange / flash-exposed that you feel sorry for the chef, and the words are a listing of What-I-Ate peppered with adjectives in the vein of ‘delicious’, ‘tasty’, ‘yum’ and ‘nom-ilicious’.
Previously tiny sushi bar Sushi of Shiori has re-opened in a new incarnation, The Shiori, with at least double the seats and a rather elegant minimalist interior. The menu has been completely reworked, with just two evening kaiseki menus (for £65 or £105), and a choice of three lunch menus. We opted for the Mini Kaiseki Set (£50) for lunch.
Suffice to say, it looked absolutely beautiful and tasted just as good.
Highlights: soy sauce made by the chef himself, winter soup with monkfish in a delicate broth, lightly grilled oyster with red miso dengaku, top-notch sushi including melt-in-the-mouth scallops and home-made smoked tea (hojicha) ice-cream.
Give yourself plenty of time to linger over the meal’s delights – we were there for 2.5 hours – and don’t eat too big a breakfast.
The prices are definitely in the special-occasion bracket (for us outside the gilded 1%), but nicely exceed expectations. Can’t wait to return.
45 Moscow Road
London W2 4AH
020 7221 9790
I do like a good offer. And what could be better than a wine club, voted National Wine Merchant of the Year (2012 & 2011), which I’ve been meaning to join for ages, offering half-price lifetime membership if you join before 31st December 2012?
I hastened over to www.thewinesociety.com to buy my ‘share’ in this co-operative company whose aim is ‘to buy wines direct from growers to ensure their authenticity and quality and to offer them to members at fair prices’.
I joined up, and waited a few days for my welcome pack and £20 to be credited to my shiny new account.
The small print that’s not (as far as I could see) on the site:
- You have to use up your £20 in the first three months. No biggie.
- A nice surprise: you also get free delivery orders of 6 bottles or more for the first six months. (Usual free delivery conditions are 12 or more bottles or an order of £75+.)
I had to pick up my pack from the Post Office, as it was slightly too large to fit through my under-sized mail slot.
Given the 6 bottles delivery offer, I decided to delve into the cheaper (okay, near cheapest) end of the Society’s offerings, on the look-out for some solid ‘every day’-type wines — you know, the type you pop open with a bowl of pasta, or for a large group of self-professed non-wine-lovers (“I really can’t tell the difference, apart from red and white”) when you know you’ll still have to drink the stuff you brought along.
Here’s what I ended up with:
- The Society’s White Burgundy (£7.50) — I picked four wines from the Society’s ‘own’ range, which are chosen to be a ‘pleasure to drink, classic in style, reliable and, above all, good value for money’
- The Society’s Rioja Crianza (£6.95)
- The Society’s Vin D’Alsace (£7.95)
- The Society’s Ruppertsberg (£6.25) — 55% silvaner and 45% riesling.
- Bordeaux Rouge, Special Wine Society Bottling, 2010 (£7.25) — a 50/50 merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend, from the blockbuster 2010 vintage.
- Etna Rosso Fondo Filara 2009 Nicosia (£10.95) — the only sub-£15 bottle from the Trophy and Gold-medal winning wines from the recent Decanter World Wine Awards. Skates on next year, people.
That’s Christmas sorted.
Any recommendations from other members and/or thoughts on the Society’s Exhibition range?
Queue at 7.30pm
The one good thing about London restaurateurs’ current obsession with not taking reservations is that 5.30pm is now a perfectly acceptable time to meet for dinner. Whether your boss will think so or not, as you scoot out the revolving door at 5pm, is another matter entirely.
Thankfully, both my dining companion and I are our own respective bosses (at least on a Friday), so we dutifully turfed up outside Bone Daddies at 5.45pm, and prayed for our early-bird keeness to be rewarded. As we left, almost two hours later, our prayers were answered with a queue that snaked round the inside and out the door.
So is it worth the queue?
Continue reading TigerBites: Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, Soho »
The invitation plopped through the letter box in a shiny silver envelope.
An Evening of Luxury Shopping and Fine Wine Tasting
By invitation only
Meet some of the world’s most prestigious wine and Champagne makers hosted by the exclusive brands of Bond Street
In partnership with Decanter magazine
I thanked my lucky stars I’d just taken out a subscription and promptly dispatched a message to my wine-loving friend, K.
The day of the event, the list of winery participants was perused (and googled). I hadn’t heard of the majority, but the names I did know (Gaja, Nyetimber, Louis Roederer) were definite cause for excitement.
Come the evening, the Christmas lights on Bond Street were all a-glitter, and we gaily traipsed into our first stop, Prada, who were the Gaja host for the evening. The doorman checked our invite, a ridiculously handsome man proffered chocolates on a tray and we made a beeline for the second stunning man who held a tray of wine glasses. So what were we drinking tonight?
“A chardonnay and, um, a merlot, I think,” he replied.
Continue reading DragonDrinks: Vendanges on Bond 2012 »
For hungry tigers:
As Not Seen on TV — Restaurant Review: Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square (NY Times) — A ‘scathing’ review of Guy Fieri’s restaurant in Times Square which has apparently ‘gone viral on Twitter’, and is entirely written as a string of questions. There have been a ridiculous number of follow-up articles (here, here and oh my goodness it’s even been used as a educational tool here) but what’s incomprehensible is how the American press seem to think that the original review, which is essentially a droning list of complaints peppered with non-witty hyperbole, is ‘very funny’ and a ‘(Brilliantly) Negative Review’.
Scathing and very funny? I refer them to our own A. A. Gill.
The First Master Chef: Michel Roux on Escoffier (BBC iPlayer) — Interesting documentary on Escoffier and his impact on the professional kitchen and restaurant dining scene as we know it. Makes me want to make veal stock. (Available until Thurs 22 Nov 2012.)
The Hawksmoor service primer (Nick Lander) — Insight into why the service at Hawksmoor is just so damn good.
For thirsty dragons:
The Wine Writer is Dead (Andrew Jefford) — The speech Andrew Jefford gave at the recent EWBC. Illuminating to read about how he views himself as a journalist/writer and how making (or not) a living as a wine writer has changed over the years. He makes the point that traditional print articles make up less than 40% of his income, and is the ‘least remunerative’ he does, compared to ‘lecturing, consultancy of various sorts, wine tour guiding and wine judging’. What he doesn’t point out is that it’s rather probable that he wouldn’t get all those other gigs if he wasn’t a big-name wine writer, his reputation sealed by, surprise surprise, those same print publications.
Other than that, I did love this speech, especially as he wraps up: “I’m about to be quiet, but let me just mention those two sorts of wine writing for which I feel there are urgent vacancies. The first is humorous or witty or caustic writing about wine, and the second would be wine writing powered by gonzo irreverence.”
Chateau Chunder: When Australian Wine Changed The World (BBC iPlayer) — Fun well-made documentary on the rise (and fall, and rise?) of the Australian wine industry. Hearing people like Jancis Robinson and Oz Clarke talk about the wine culture in the UK decades ago makes me wonder what changes we might see in a few more decades…. (Available until Sat 24 Nov 2012.)
Walked into my local Waitrose to buy some yoghurt. Ended up finding (and buying) not one, but two, of my favourite splash-out-because-it’s-worth-it products on discount:
Belazu Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – 25% off – £9.74 (was £12.99)
I first heard of this balsamic on the Radio 4 Food Programme a few years ago. Belazu apparently age this product using the same barrel-method as the proper ‘tradizionale’ balsamic, except they use temperature-controlled rooms to replicate the changing of the seasons at a faster rate. Slightly sweet and definitely syrupy, this is my favourite balsamic by a mile, providing a very reasonable approximation to the ‘tradizionale’ at a tenth of the cost.
Steens Raw 10+ Manuka Honey - 20% off – £11 (was £13.95)
As silly as the acronym UMF is — it stands for ‘Unique Manuka Factor’, thanks for asking — it’s hard to argue that manuka honey is the real deal, taste-wise. I got my first taste of the Steens 15+ UMF when I was given a jar as a ‘thank you’ from some food mag work experience. Sadly, £20+ honey is out of my budget, so I had to downgrade to the 10+ version when I bought my own. For nearly half the price of the 15+, it’s definitely more honey-for-your-money (sorry) – especially when on offer.
Note: the 15+ version is also 20% off – £17.50 (was £21.95) – but was sold out at my branch.
Both deals available until 4/12/2012.
PS: No, Waitrose has not given me any food or money for this post, more’s the pity. I just like discounts and love these products, and hope you do too.
Is gris the new noir? Perhaps, at least in my wardrobe. But when it comes to Alsace, both pinots play a definite second fiddle to the virtuoso tune of racy Riesling. After all, when was the last time you ordered an Alsatian pinot in a restaurant?
Always a fan of the underdog, Thirsty Dragon headed to a recent Alsace Wines tasting to see if things are about to change…
After a quick flit around the tables, it became apparent there was some rough order to the forty-or-so samples of pinot gris. Residual sugar was the name of the game, and the wines ranged from bone dry to the high 20s (g/l). Also apparent was the lack of labelling to indicate this key factor. A few of the sweet styles carried the words ‘vendange tardive‘ (late harvest, where grapes are left on the vine to shrivel and therby concentrate the sugars) – a good indication, though not a guarantee, of sweetness on the palate.
(Geeky wine fact: the term vendange tardive is legally defined in Alsace and the wines must also pass a taste test to carry the designation.)
Zingy acidity and notes of biting lemon were the common thread in the better examples, while on the nose the wines ran the gamut from floral honeysuckle and ‘freshly churned butter’ (or so my scribbled notes tell me) to lemongrass and ripe apples.
Of the (very small) range of genuinely dry styles, the Léon Beyer Pinot Gris 2011 (2010 was previously available at the Wine Society, keep an eye out for 2011?) stood out with a burst of bitter lemon and decent length. Heading into the medium-dry/sweet territory, the Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2011 impressed, as expected from this highly regarded producer, while the Paul Blanck Pinot Gris 2010 was confusing yet enjoyable with a ‘floral nose with a hint of mild blue cheese’.
With high residual sugars and high acidities fighting it out, balance between the two wasn’t necessarily easy to find, but both the Domaine Bruno Sorg 2010 and Domaine Gresser ‘Brandhof’ 2010 pulled this off well in a medium-sweet style.
A handful of slightly older wines (209s, 2008s and a 2005 from various producers) gave an inkling of the aging potential of pinot gris, with savoury notes,and even a bit of plastic, emerging.
Even better proof was offered by the samples from the Vins d’Alsace ‘wine library’, where each year a wine is chosen be most representative example of the grape variety in that particular year. This is intended to be ‘normal’ (i.e. mid-range) wine, showcasing how not just the top wines can age and develop intriguingly over time.
For a ‘wine pup’ (as Matt Kramer would say) like me, this was a rather rare opportunity to sip at wines which predate my birth – some by a hell of a long way. The samples started in 1998, then jumped to ’92, ’90, ’85, ’79, ’71, ’67 and finally ’61.
(Geeky wine fact: Pinot gris in Alsace has been through many names changes, including Grauer Tokayer, Tokay Gris, Tokay d’Alsace and Tokay Pinot Gris. Eventually they had to drop the Tokay due to confusion with the sweet Hungarian Tokaji.)
Excluding the ’98 (more on that later), there was a huge leap to ‘savoury’ at ’92, followed by a quick descent into ‘bitter caramel’, ‘chicken’, ‘hmmm’ and ‘weird’. Judging by the mixed reaction of the press and trade crowd, I’ll write this one off as an acquired taste for now.
Moving swiftly on, the ‘library’ Alsace Grand Cru Hengst Pinot Gris 1998 was the highlight of the whole tasting. Served in both carafe and bottle, to showcase the transformative (indeed!) effect of decanting this golden wine, this pinot gris was all buttery pastry crust, honey and apricots; on the palate, bitter lemon provided a lovely contrast to the sweet, like a perfect lemon tart.
Touted as ‘one of the region’s most food-friendly wines’, I can see Alsatian pinot gris getting my vote as an alternative to riesling when it comes to finding a medium-dry/sweet white to go with mildly spicy South-East Asian dishes or as an aperitif.
Cost is an issue, though, as is current availability. Given the trade prices listed, you’d be unlikely to see any of the wines on offer in shops for under £10. More likely in the £15-30 bracket – if they’re to be found at all – and many I tasted would be hard-pressed to justify those prices.
I overheard one taster bemoaning the large number of sweeter wines (“Why do the French do this, it’s such a shame!”) and would beg to differ. The world (and its wine shop shelves) have enough light, dry whites to fill the Mediterranean. For diversity’s sake, if nothing else, let’s get more Alsatian pinot gris into our shops and restaurants. Plus, if we want to get our hands on the good stuff, we have to start buying it in the first place.