August 29, 2011

Wines this Week

I thought I might get back to posting some quick wine reviews occasionally, as I did when I first started this blog just over two years ago. It's been bloody hot lately and I really haven't been opening too much wine. Something about 95 degree heat leads me to drinking beer or bourbon. Nonetheless, some thoughts on a few recent wines that I did manage to open.

2009 Borsao Garnacha- I've posted on this wine before.The Bodegas Barsao wines are widely available and they are consistently good buys. Prefect wines when you want to open a decent $10 bottle of wine at a party where no one really wants to think too much about the wine. It's a juicy blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Tempranillo. I got my bottles at Ansley Kroger for all of $10. 

R.H. Coutier Ambonnay Brut (NV)
R.H. Coutier is a domaine that has been located in the Ambonnay Grand Cru region in Champagne since the 17th century. This Brut, while not a cheap Champagne, is worth the $40 asking price for those occasions when you want a little more than supermarket Champagne. 

2008 Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands-- Domaine Faiveley has been cranking out world-class Burgundy for over seven decades. This bottle is an excellent value buy from Mercurey, an unheralded commune in the Cote Chalonnaise region of Burgundy. Not a lot of depth, but right tasty. A bit tight right now, may see some upside with age. Rather ripe and fleshy, but good and perfect for a non-pedantic dinner crowd. About $25 if you look around.

August 22, 2011

Had some friends over for dinner this weekend. I hadn't cooked a menu from the French Laundry cookbook in a while, so figured I'd fire one up. While one could argue that Thomas Keller's French Laundry is old hat now, I like cooking from the book as it presents challenges to the home cook and forces you to think about preparation (usually takes a couple days) and presentation. The full menu featured four courses including pickled oysters and cucumber capellini, tomato tartare and hericots verts, smoked salmon over potato gnocchi, and braised veal breast over creamy polenta.

I've made a couple of these dishes before, including the tomato tartare with hericots verts and frisee. This salad rocks and was, as usual, a crowd pleaser. The oven-dried tomatoes develop a meaty, umami essence that really plays off the fresh clean flavors of the fresh veggies in the dish.
(sorry for the crappy phone pic on the tomato salad)

I also made the potato gnocchi and smoked salmon with balsamic reduction, which is a rich and decadent dish. The smoked salmon and pillowy gnocchi are a nice mouthful. You could argue this is more of a fall/winter dish, but it was still tasty.
We also drank some nice wines including a bubbly from R.H. Coutier's Grand Cru Ambonnay bottling. This was a tasty match with gougeres and pickled oysters.
We also enjoyed the 2008 Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands. The Faiveley is an excellent value buy from Mercurey, an unheralded commune in the Cote Chalonnaise region of Burgundy. It was a good night of food and wine all around.

August 16, 2011

2001 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay

Drank a very nice California Chardonnay on Sunday night. Mount Eden Vineyards has a long history of producing top-notch, old-school styled Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay from their post in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Mount Eden Chardonnays are old-school styled Chards, they are often austere when young, but develop into ripe, but crisp Chardonnays over time. They lack the overt oak one often finds in California Chardonnay and tend to drink more like Chardonnays from  Burgundy. This is a good thing. The Chards also age very well, which is not often the case with California Chardonnay which most people drink up (rightly so) at a very young age. This 2001 was quite nice recently along side a shrimp and crab boil on another smoldering Atlanta afternoon. I wish I could say that you could find Mount Eden wines easily around town, but that's just not the case. You'll have to poke around a bit to find some, but it will most likely be worth it. 

August 8, 2011

Cakes & Ale Is Moving On...

I stopped in at my favorite Decatur eatery, Cakes & Ale, Friday night for one last dinner in the original space before this little piece of heaven goes big time on August 16. Perhaps they already are big time, but now that will be reflected in the physical size of the new location. If you haven't heard, Cakes & Ale is relocating to a bigger space on the square in Decatur. The new restaurant will allow Cakes & Ale to double their seating, as well as offer them the opportunity for a full service bakery on premises. The new spot opens August 16. There are details here.
Friday night the food was nothing short of brilliant again. From the tasty fig, peach, and mozzarella salad to the flatbread with eggplant puree (another revelation) and parmesan, and the smoked duck salad. I like the fact that every time I visit Cakes & Ale there is at least one element in one of our dishes that I've either never tasted, or encounter very infrequently. Last time, it was a silky smooth sunchoke puree, this Friday it was the ground cherries in my smoked duck dish.
Ground cherries are not what you might think from the name, they are more like tiny green tomatoes. They brought a slight crunch and a crisp acidity to the dish balancing the richness of the duck and the sweetness of the peaches. A great dish for duck lovers like me. Our table also had the tasty pork leg with cranberry beans and cucumber, and the whole trout for two, which is a winner dish for sharing.

So, that's it for the little Cakes & Ale on the corner and their handful of tables full of revelers night after night. I look forward to the new space and hope they don't lose that quaint neighborhood feel that made the original space so special. There are very few restaurants that seem to never miss with me, and Cakes and Ale is one of them. I look forward to their ongoing evolution.

August 2, 2011

Naked Wine: Alice Feiring's Manifesto on Natural Wine

I was recently provided with an advanced copy of Alice Feiring's forthcoming book, Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally. In case the name is unfamiliar to you, Ms. Feiring is an important fixture in the world of wine criticism, having written about wine, food, and travel for the New York Times, Time, Conde Naste Traveler and more.
In no small part, Naked Wine seems as if it could serve as Ms. Feiring's magnum opus. Long a proponent for natural wine, Feiring's work is a testament to those farmers, winemakers, domaines, and drinkers who have struggled to produce wine in a natural state Wine that is produced first and foremost by farmers, not technology-bearing consultants. Wine that is made by risk-takers willing to shun modernity in the production of wine that actually tastes like wine.  

Feriring's strength in this writing is that she has spent years advocating for natural wine. She's also ticked off a few people in the process, but I'm not going to rehash that argument here. Feiring's contacts in the wine production business on multiple continents allow her access to the producers who have been on the cutting edge (strange choice of words, perhaps, considering that the naturalists advocate for a type of winemaking that is thousands of years old) of the natural wine movement for years. A good part of the book is dedicated to several producers of the Beaujolais region who have for years stressed natural wine production. If you read this blog, you know I am a fan of Beaujolais, and reading Feiring's work only strengthens my commitment to supporting producers such as Lapierre, Foillard and Ducroux.

The book is perhaps not for the nascent wine enthusiast; it is chock full of hard core, pedantic information on biodynamics, farming, and wine production. However, Feiring also has a deft hand as a storyteller and the book is an engaging read for anyone interested in wine, organic farming, agribusiness, labor standards, and even philosophy. Feiring gets extra points from me for weaving one my favorite French philosophers, Guy Debord-a notorious heavy drinker, into her book.