Tuesday, December 30, 2008

early dinns on a monday afternoon...

~ and so I haled Millman out of his urban burrow just about teatime, and we took off on the E is for Ethnic Eats train to the gustatory otherwhere of Jackson Heights...

—our destination was a Thai establishment on Roosevelt Boulevard called Zabb, which Bob had  suggested—himself having been there once with Josh Raynolds, my once-upon-a-time successor in the Schildknecht Department of the Washington DC wine world...

~ this being the borough of Queens, we came armed with the following:
1. a bottle of Pierre Peters Brut which came out of Geri Tashjean's bathtub on West 26th street.
2. a bottle of Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 2001 that I’d had dwelling in my basement for a number of years—
3. a bottle of Josef Högl Ried Schön GV Federspiel 06—I never go noplace without at least one screwcap anymore...
4. oldfashioned INAO glasses, which I still love.

~ and Zabb Queens proved downright zizzling...

1. we started with Tom Kha Kai—which was as beautifully balanced as I’ve ever had this soup, both very succulent and a bit on the spicy side, with the flavours flowing seamlessly into one another.

2. then followed a noodle dish with bits of pork and crab, finished with nuts and lime, harmless and pleasant. By this time we were enjoying the champagne more than somewhat.

3. third in the batting order came grilled squids with green chillies served over iceberg lettuce. It’s very gratifying to note how well the fresh crunch of iceberg fits into the Thai concept of flavour and texture. And, Yummm! This dish was as hot as ever I might’ve liked it to be, and afforded me the opportunity to illustrate to Bob that the only sure cure for a nearly terminal party inside your mouth is salt. Ask for the salt-shaker, throw a pinch of it in your trap, and be amazed at how steadily the discomfort recedes.

4. next on the list was duck Panang. With very crisp haricot-vert-ish greenbeans atop, just the right tinge of basil, and not too much heat. The duck skin retained its identity rather crisply amid the bath of sauce, with just a slight bit of fat underneath. Said sauce was wonderfully rich, possessed a presence on the palate which had nothing to do with weight, and everything with balance.

This dish was the point where we turned the corner from Champagne into the Kamptal, and were rudely awakened by the realisation that although some grüne veltliners go well with some spicy dishes, the younger ones are much better suited, providing refreshment-value as well as complementary flavours. Which dictated a detour in the direction of the Wachau... As insurance against the ever-present threat of a corker I had brought a younger screwcapped GV—a Federspiel 06 from Josef Högl in Spitz, a really vivid and frisky potation which I had sold loads of to Cookshop where it got poured by the glass until they just ran out of it—which showed significantly better than the older and grander Bründlmayer in this culinary context.

5. then came the crispy fish in the house sauce, which was more sweet and sour than it was anything else, with some fresh veg on top, nicely balanced and beautifully textured.

~ and very interesting to note the progression orchestrated from tingling to total fire receding to the calmer sweet panang to the sweeter and sour fish... my training in Ethnomusicology would lead me to describe it as a melodic arch-form...

6. an innocuous pumpkin custard concoction rounded it all out... or rather, preceded presentation of the modest bill, its approval and payment.

Dessert was indeed sort of an afterthought, but alltogether it gets me after thinking that the wonderful thing about Thai cookery is that it manages to be very aggressive and very delicate at the same time—like a mid-seventies reviewer once described The Who: chamber-music in the middle of a commando-raid...

the Bründlmayer GV Old Vines showed rather elegant and stately after it got rescued from the fiery chapters of the Thai spicebook which made it seem old and tired, and taken home to a more suburban setting. Lovely middle gold—and it's always interesting the way old grüne veltliners don’t show secondaries anything like the rieslings do. This is a wine that even young is not dominated by the trademark “Pfefferl” snap, so that the reminiscences of mature white burgundy weren't too far off base. Hazelnut and fig on parity with pear, and a bit of alcohol... The minerality shone on through to the better end, and the bottle held up well on the second day.

~ but the highlight of the show was the Pierre Peters NV Mesnil Grand Cru, disgorgement date 01 2007—rich and succulent, approaching a generosity of texture that usually either means pinot noir or residual sugar, but this wine was innocent of one and not guilty of the other: brioche and blossom, hay and honey... so much fruit that you had to chomp down to get the chalk... and both of us were please to note that it was capable of assimilating a rather extravagant number of Scoville units relatively unscathed.

Champagne has been a prominent food-wine on my table dating at the very least back to 1990, but it still presents me with new possibilities on a regular basis.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

~ an interesting remark made by the old fantastical duke of the dark corners...

was just reading Stan Gébler Davies’s 1975 biography of James Joyce...

he quotes psychologist Carl Jung’s following observation about Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the conclusion of Ulysses:

“The 40 pages of non-stop run in the end is a string of veritable psychological peaches. I suppose the devil’s grandmother knows so much about the real psychology of a woman. I didn’t.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

~ Riesling Roundup ~

... so I headed off yesterday afternoon into town to an event bearing the enticing name “Riesling Fellowship”... which came off rather nicely up in the lovely and expensive ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. There was a little bit of navigation necessary to find one’s way through the pleasing array of complementary and contrasting flavours, but this posed no great inconvenience...

?¿? do you know the old song, “I went to the animal fair, the birds and the beasts were there...”

such was in fact the case, and not only did I find riesling’s two best American friends Sanderson and Schildkecht in attendance, but there were a number of top German growers on display: Johannes Selbach, Armin Diel, Fritz Hasselbach and Nik Weis. Between the two of them, Diel and Hasselbach have lost about thirtyfive kilos, and both are looking very good indeed. The idiomatic German word for losing weight means “de-bacon-ing”...

Almost all of the retail crowd were where they belonged in a touchy December—in their stores and not at this event—and many restaurant buyers were also not to be seen. My colleagues Evan Spingarn, Steve Miller, Victor Schwartz and Frank Johnson attended, tasted, and likely found inspiration in much the same manner as did I.

as usual, I lost myself among the various German bottlings, and just barely rescued myself from that reverie in time to taste through a very rewarding retrospective of Zöbinger rieslings being poured by the single courageous Austrian grower in the presentation, Johannes Hirsch, who showed multiple vintages of Gaisberg and Heiligenstein reaching back to 1999.

I enjoyed the usual collegial disagreement with Bob Millman, who didn’t like the Schloss Johannisberg 06er QbA as much as I did, and liked the Loosen collection less than I did—we regularly encounter such interesting points for discussion.

my favourite wines were, in no hierarchical order:

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Kabinett 01
Schloss Johannisberg QbA 06
Schlossgut Diel “Dorsheim Pittermänchen” Spätlese 07
Ökonomierat Rebholz “Im Sonnenschein” Grosses Gewächs 07
St. Urbans-Hof “Leiwener Laurentiuslay” Spätlese Erste Lage 07
Gunderloch “Nackenheim Rothenberg” Trocken 07

perhaps my one top pick was the Rebholz, which showed a glorious combination of sap and sizzle—and then the Nackenheimer. I asked Hasselbach about his resistance to calling this wine “Grosses Gewächs” and Fritz replied that next year it would in fact be so; that his next generation at the estate had been agitating in that direction.

and the $60.17 question: Where does one dine after this sort of tasting? This was easily answered by Mr. Millman and me, first with apéritifs of Latte and straight Black at a local coffee-establishment which needs no advertising help, followed by a trip to Carnegie Deli—where Bob and I just barely made it through a single serving of that mountain of corned beef- and pastrami-on-rye known as “The Woody Allen”, with sides of potato pancakes and coleslaw, a Dr Brown’s for Bob and more black coffee for me. Carnegie’s pickles were a little on the aggressive and salty side this evening, but, davon abgesehen ist alles in Ordnung gewesen...

I was very pleased to learn that Millman had just seen and enjoyed my favourite movie, Ingmar Bergmann’s “Smiles of a Summer Night”, a rather Mozartean romantic comedy from 1955—

— hell, I’m a romantic comedy from 1955: maybe that’s why I like the damn thing so much ~