Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another good dinner

I am blessed for many reasons, one of which is living in New York City. If I had to live anywhere outside of Paris, NYC would be my home. Well, as it happens, it is.
The quality of the food, wine and available cultures is just amazing, making this really the center of the world. Despite the fact that everything in the US tastes just slightly knocked down a notch from its European counterparts, life isn't so bad for a hungry boy like me.
Take last night.
We went to Degustation, a wine/tapas bar in the East Village, open for about a year now. We sat down right around our reserved time of 8:30pm, leaving at 11pm.
Pros= excellent presentation, interesting combinations. We ordered the chef's 5-course tasting menu ($50), and enjoyed almost all the dishes. Cost is quite low considering the quality we got. Chef Wesley was outgoing and very nice, and the staff made sure we weren't allergic to anything or had any dietary restrictions. The decor is sort of Joel Robuchon Light, where everyone sits at a bar while they cook in front of you. When we got there, we had to wait a few minutes, and the hostess brought us 2 glasses of Spanish white, which was a nice touch. Also, they comped us 2 glasses of Ordonez Muscat with dessert, which was very nice. Food was excellent in general, with only 1-2 weaknesses.
Cons= Desserts were weak, however, with a yogurt-based dish that seemed abnormally sour (bad yogurt?) and a chocolate/banana pudding thing that lacked flavor. Also, one part of one dish seemed slightly salty (the lentils matched to a squid stuffed with braised short ribs - absolutely fantastic and moist and tasty). Wine and water service were a bit slow, I had to ask to have both refilled more than once. The wine list is heavy in lower-cost Spanish wines, understandably. But I would have liked some Champagne, as I believe it would marry quite well with most of the dishes. The Reserve List was nice but climbed quickly into the 3-digits. We ordered a $40 Spanish white, a Naida Ruada.
But what really turned me off was the owner, Jack Lamb. Two guys right next to us were wine geeks who brought a 1964 Rioja and the owner kept coming over and hanging out with them, even blind tasting them on a 1994 Chapoutier Hermitage. Not once did he acknowledge us or even ask us how things were going. He glanced over a few times and, frankly, we could have been empty chairs for all he cared. We didn't even get a nod. Then again, no one else was looked at either.
For a place set-up as a communal eating experience, where interactions are encouraged, this was quite strange.
Conclusion= would I go back? Yes, for the chef, whose talents are evident and who is very nice and outgoing. He was a pleasure to speak with and his passion for his food is quite evident. Also, the cost is quite low for the quality of the dishes they offer. Except for the water/wine service, the staff was accomodating and quite pleasant as well.
Corkage is $30-35, hostess wasn't certain.
Aaah... another night in the Big City. Life is good.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hey, what about wines...?

Ah yes, wines. That is my sole purpose in life right now, and one of the reasons for this blog. Sorry...
I fell into wine around 1996, on a date with a beautiful young woman who worked at MTV. I don't remember her name or how we met, by I do remember what we drank, its nuances, its flavors, how it seemed to explode on the palate with waves and waves of texture and depth, and how even after letting it slip down my throat I could still taste it for what seemed like an eternity.
It was the 1992 Chateau St Jean Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay.
Then I quickly began reading all I could, devouring with my eyes what I couldn't taste. I even volunteered for a class at the International Wine Center, where I got to taste amazing wines and even take them home to see how they developped.
Well, that was the eye-opener I needed.
What the heck was I doing in the textile industry, something I hated with as much passion as I love the wine business? People in the textile business are mean-spirited, hate the industry, and will cut your throat for a tenth of a penny. Almost everyone I've met in wine loves what they're doing (come on, they're drunk most of the day, who wouldn't?), and at least you get to travel to some of the most beautiful areas of the world. From that point on, it's been a slippery, drunken slope, visiting wine regions and fine-tuning my palate, much to my wallet's dismay...
Now I love Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux and the Rhone, with a few side trips through Italy and even to CA. That said, I've sold my soul to Burgundy.
Burgundy's a temptress, a witch, an evil mocking harpy that rewards careful selection with soul-stirring, stupendously elegant and shiver-inducing wines, but that punishes carelessness with acidic, green-tasting swill that makes your mouth pucker and your head turn away.
More on this to come...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

OK, so I've been out of it for a while...

OK, I just got back from 6 weeks in France and I am a married man. But being back sucks.
Sucks big time, and not in the good and dirty way. I hate being back, everything just seems so dirty, the flavors of food muted and people loud and obnoxious. Granted, we're in NYC, but still, this city, the city I grew up in, the city which broke my heart on September 11, my city, used to be my love, my life, but now, after having the fresh air that was Paris, I find it harder and harder to remain here.
I really have no economic ties to the area now that I've shut down a company I was running in NJ and which was making my life miserable. More than miserable, I was in absolute despair in that industry (textiles) and in that state. In 4 years I put on 20 lbs, drank, ate and screwed around too much and pretty much led a very unhealthy lifestyle.
Of course, it doesn't help that the buildings of the company are still in the sale process thanks to the inept idiots and morons of the NJ DEP. I swear, and I do mean absolutely swear, that I will never, ever put money into NJ again. The people in state government are the biggest bunch of pig-headed obnoxious back-assward folks I have ever had the misfortune to meet. The sale should be concluded within the next couple of days and I will be free to do whatever I want.
Of course, this is a curse as well.
I realize I am free to do anything, anything at all, be it join the wine distributor, Noble House Wines ( that I helped start or do something else. It is quite sobering yet enlightening to realize that no one has a hold over my future but me.
That said, I have been wracking my brains for the past 3 weeks, trying to figure out a way to live part of the year here and part in Paris. I know, I know, that is the dream lifestyle, the one we all wish we could follow.
I mean, look at this, can you blame me?
Paris, for me, is the quintessential feast for the senses, to paraphrase Hemingway. Every street, every alley, every nook and cranny reveals another charming facet to this lovely city. Between the sights, the sounds and the smells, Paris is like a buffet that I just can't get enough of.
Heck, for my wedding I even wrote a guide to Paris in PDF. You can download it here. Careful, though, it's about 32 pages and I update it now and then, so don't say I didn't warn you...
The dream would be to own a pied-a-terre in Paris and be able to travel happily between there and here. I think I've figured it out, but I will need to see how it works out.
Do not despair, dear reader, I will keep you thoroughly updated as to my travels and my wine adventures.
OK, time for lunch.
Down with industrially-produced "food" and the complete disregard for the sources of our nutrition!