Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Last week I was looking for any excuse to get away from the mess that is the apartment. Still waiting for the oh-so-efficient folks over at the Department of Buildings to figure out when the kitchen renovation audit will be lifted, I accepted an invitation to join a few fellow bubbleheads in opening up some older Champagnes at Sugiyama in Midtown.

So we sat down in the private room and told Chef to make us dinner, we eat everything. And thus we did. Amazingly fresh fish began arriving, as did more intricate dishes, and our palates swooned. But we were thirsty so corks began popping...

We started with the 1982 and 1988 Salon, one of my favorite Champagne houses. The 1982 was good yet began dying quickly, but the 1988 was tight and coiled and like a hesitant flower, needing some time to open up and blossom. I put it aside, to go back to it as the night progressed, and was not disappointed. This wine just kept getting better and better, revealing a stunning depth and density as it breathed.

The 1986 Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill was sadly corked, such a shame. Luckily, the 1982 Bollinger RD (disgorged in 1996) and the 1985 Dom Perignon were stunning powerhouses, both of them fresh and vivacious, gorgeous examples of their house styles. The 1985 DP is one of my favorite bubblies and did not disappoint this night.

A NV Jacques Selosse Substance appeared and we drank it greedily, its slightly oxydized heft really dancing across the tongue and leaving a longing, haunting finish. The bubbles were barely detectable yet seemed to prick the palate every once in a while, teasing the tongue. This is not a mass appeal Champagne but I liked it.

We moved on to the Rosés, eagerly anticpating the 1975 Roederer Cristal Rosé and just as eargerly tasting it. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Who said Rosés don't age? This offered elegant, graceful and fragrant light red berries on a super precise frame that ended with a fruity finish. This too seemed to linger on the palate leaving a haunting impression of light red flowers.

There was a blind 1998, but its name is lost in the haze of bubbles that began accumulating in my head by this point of the evening. Still, it was an amazing night with fantastic food, great wines and wonderful folks.

What more can one ask for? Oh, right, more Champagne!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Goodbye Old Friend

Wilfred smiles in anticipation of the bottles...

Last week we sadly said goodbye to our dear friend, fellow wine-lover, bon vivant, and true gastronome, Wilfred Van Gorp. I have had the good fortune to be friends with Wilfred for several years now, often benefitting from his amazing generosity and grace. Our little wine group was enriched by his presence, and he will be sorely missed as he moves away from the Big Apple to the Windy City.

We decided to host a little wine dinner at Peking Duck House in Midtown, which is rapidly becoming a favorite due to its delicious ducks and friendly prices and open BYO policy. Happily, not much goes better with duck than Burgundy. Even more happily, one of the better food/wine matchings is Champagne with Asian food, so I was really looking forward to this. The wines were for the most part delicious, though there were a few clunkers. But the most important thing was enjoying Wilfred's company before he left us.

Josh pours the 1981 Lanson while Drew struggles with a bottle and Rob observes

We were also lucky enough to have a Champagne guru join us, Josh Raynolds, a wine critic who works with Steve Tanzer. Always generous and hilarious, he had us both loving the bottles he brought and laughing out loud.

Bill and Paul enjoy the duck

We started with a magnum of the 1981 Champagne Lanson, a steely and crisp bubbly that was more like drinking liquid bubbling steel. Perfect with the fatty duck and some of the oilier dishes. Next came a 1985 Charles Heidseick Champagne Charlie thanks to Josh, a truffly and thick-bodied bubbly that was fantastic. Sadly, this is no longer made, replaced by the Blanc des Millénaires in the past decade. Bill then insisted we open his white, a delicious 2001 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. This white Burgundy showed its class and pedigree right from the get-go. It smelled so good I didn't know whether I should snort it or drink it. Full of minerals and chalk and lemon on a dense and fat frame that somehow remained superbly delineated, I couldn't keep my hands off of it. Yum!

The famous duck arrives

Rob then presented us with a blind red: tons of strawberry and crisp cranberries met my nose, making me think of a cool-climate New World Pinot Noir. There was some oak hidden in there, and as it warmed up the wood began to show more and more, but it was still a lovely example of how New World Pinots should be, with a striking acidity at the back of the palate. It was the 2006 Rhys Alesia Falstaff Road Pinot Noir. Now if only more CA Pinots could take their cue from Kevin Harvey and his work...

Drew tries to restrain Rob from leaving

Now the main course was before us and the Burgs began popping. I have mentioned that I like Burgundy, right? We started with a Pommard, the 1996 Coste-Caumartin Pommard 1er Cru Les Boucherottes. Amazingly open for business, this just sang with an elegant yet powerful note, delineating its origins with surprising ease and grace, all dark Pinot fruit and minerals. The 1999 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin was a monster, young yet also deliciously open for business, with a surprising ripeness on the palate that seemed to blossom as it breathed. Next came the 1990 Faiveley Chambertin Clos de Bèze, which despite its age was also a youngster and should have been decanted: earthy minerals and fruits played hide and go seek, making me long for more time to enjoy it. Josh poured his bottle now, a 1988 Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin Estournelles St. Jacques, a wine that showed its age with grace and power at the same time, with spicy plums and lovely acidity. Drew proffered one of his bottles, a 1985 Domaine Chandon de Briailles Corton-Bressandes, which made me swoon at first with that funky old Burgundy smell but eventually began to fall apart. There was also a 1976 Camille Giroud Latricières Chambertin, but it was not to be: corked! Damn!

Wilfred with his going-away gift

As the dinner would down, Rob handed Wilfred his going-away gift, a bottle of 2007 Baron Herzog Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, something I am sure he'll enjoy cooking with...

We moved on to the dessert wines, starting with a 2000 Philippe Delesvaux Coteaux du Layon Clos de la Guiberderie redolent of lychees, honeyed apricots and mango on a deliciously sweet and fat frame. This was followed by a 2001 La Tour Blanche Sauternes, superbly balanced, with sweet lemons, hazelnuts and some flowery aspects, ending with a burst of refreshing acidity to balance out the sweetness. Still way too young but delicious nonetheless.

As the night wound down we said our goodbyes and wished Wilfred a Bon Voyage. The Big Apple's loss is the Windy City's gain, as Wilfred was a good friend and a wonderful person.

Goodbye old friend and thanks for all the memories.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I know I haven't written much lately, but there's a good reason: the Department of Boobs, er, Buildings, has decided to randomly audit our renovation and thus has forced a temporary cessation of work. WTF????

They want us to re-submit the application with our contractor's Home Improvement Contractor License as well as a sketch of the apartment showing where our smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are placed. Are you kidding me? They are at least 10 feet from the work area and are not being affected. And didn't we send them the HIC license when we applied for all the permits???? What happened to that little treasure? Lost in the maze of bureaucratic tangles that is the DoB?


Actually, this is the perfect time, as we're still waiting for the counter, the backsplash and the lighting to be delivered, most of which are still several days away. Assuming we can get this cleared up in a few days, there really won't be any effects. Of course, we all know what happens when you assume...

Luckily I've been drinking well, and I'll write soon enough about a lovely Burgundy dinner I attended a few days ago. Stay tuned...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Holy Cow!

After ten weekdays of hard work, the kitchen has been transformed from a narrow galley to an open plan with an airy feel. I can't believe this is happening, and happening so fast! I really should mention that every day there are 4-5 guys here working their butts off, however.

But what got me was yesterday, when I got home after the crew had left: the peninsula's base had been set down, the fridge was in its home, the dishwasher in place and the base cabinets next to them. I finally started realizing what this would look like, and it got me a bit emotional. This renovation is something I've been dreaming about for over 10 years, but couldn't afford for so long. I skrimped and saved and finally managed to get everything together to turn my cramped kitchen into a professional one.

Now I'm impatient and can't wait to start cooking and having friends and business associates over.

Another bottle of Champagne was popped to celebrate the progress, a lovely pairing with a sausage and mushroom pizza.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Birth Pangs of a Kitchen

Wednesday, the oven and some of the base cabinets were put in place, though not really installed. That panel in the picture above goes alongside the fridge, to make it look like it's a built-in. Things are advancing...

I have to say, I didn't realize how much I'd miss cooking. And paying for coffee, even at the small independent roasters (you couldn't pay me to step foot in a Charbucks), is killing me. $2.00 for an espresso, $3.25 for a latte???? I used to make those at home! Worse, I hate ordering in or going out every night, as someone who loves the kitchen it's almost like torture. All my wine glasses are covered in a layer of dust, and it's a pain in the neck not only cleaning them but reaching them. Yes, I am lazy...

Oh, man, apparently only about a week and a half left... I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Kitchen Renovation Continues...

Or more signs of progress...

Look at that! They've put down the floor! And what's this? My kitchen cabinets are on the kitchen floor, waiting to be installed. Yay!

By Friday night, they'd set up the walls of the dry bar and installed the small wine fridge that sits at the bottom of the closet. This gave me some hope that things were moving in the right direction, and Monday was another day of hope.

The ceiling has been patched over and the electrical boxes and plugs installed. Could the three weeks of displacement, dust, ordering in and eating out be worth it after all...? We'll see...