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Guest Blog: Mas (Farmhouse)

1 Feb

I work in a field where I get to meet a lot of really great people. It isn’t rare that I find someone who loves food as much as I do, but to find a kindred spirit who thinks about it night and day and loves nothing more than talking about it is unique.  When I sat down next to Alexis at a lunch, we were excitedly chatting about her recent meal at Mas (Farmhouse) almost immediately, with her showing me pictures on her phone.  Kindred spirit… check!

It has come to my attention that, disappointingly, I cannot visit every great restaurant in the world, let alone in NYC on my own.  So I am thrilled that Alexis agreed to guest blog about her Mas (Farmhouse) dining experience.

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From Alexis:

I recently started working closer with Sara and when we recently dined together at Millesime, we quickly realized we shared two major passions in life; food and Words with Friends.  I actually mentioned to my husband that these are the only two things I needed in life, he was a bit taken back that I didn’t include him in my list, but hey, I thought that was a given.  My passion for food has transpired over the last few years and I am known to be eating lunch while reading menus for dinner, tomorrow’s dinner, next week’s dinner, you get the point!  I have a self proclaimed eating disorder, where I go to sleep dreaming of food and wake up the same way.  Harnessing this issue has been a problem, so when I was given the opportunity to guest blog, I realized that this may be the perfect outlet for my infatuation. Here goes it…

Mas (Farmhouse)

This past weekend my husband and I went for dinner with another couple.  Of course I read the menu in advance, but I must say the menu doesn’t read as well as the food looks and tastes. Also, despite the waiter’s best effort to showcase the culinary offerings as “custom”, we were a bit overwhelmed by the variations in which you can order; 4 course tasting; 7 course tasting; create your own tasting; a la carte.  We decided to order a la carte but collaborated and shared so we could taste more dishes.  This is always the way I (try to) order despite some people not always in agreement. There’s always that stinker who “doesn’t like to share”… Hate those kinds of people….

Diving right into it…. We were greeted with an amuse-bouche – I didn’t get the exact description, my first blogging error, but don’t hold it against me! – Goat cheese tartlet with caramelized onion and some kind of gelee and micro greens?!

It was truly fantastic and a perfect bite to get our palates going.  I could have easily eaten at least three more of these little tastes of heaven …

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For our Appetizer course, I rallied up the troops to each get something different… I love duck, especially confit style, so I was excited about my selection: Duck Confit Tart with Espresso Gastrique; Apple Butter, Sliced Pears & Mâche Lettuce. The portion size was really nice for one, and actually just enough to give everyone at the table a taste, albeit a small taste as I realized quickly how delicious this sucker was after my first bite ;). The blend of flavors and ingredients in this dish were incredible, and again I would’ve loved to supersize it into an entrée!

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My husband ordered the Yellowfin Tuna l’Occidental; Flashed with Beurre Noisette & Crispy Shallots. Despite him not knowing what half of the ingredients were or knowing what the “flashed” methodology of cooking is, he’s a sure thing when it comes to Tuna with any semblance of tartare-y style. The crispy shallots were a really nice addition, adding texture to the dish and breaking up the typical tuna tartare flavors you usually see.  Very refreshing dish…

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My girlfriend ordered the Shrimp Crusted with Spaghetti Squash; Salad of Frisée & Marcona Almonds with a Horseradish Dressing which was actually on the special tasting menu, but they were flexible to allow her to order it as her app. Although it was certainly a unique presentation, I felt the frisée salad overwhelmed the plate and drowned out the beautiful look of a dish as unique as this one.  Despite the amass of greens, this was another superb dish with unique flavors and texture. I would have gone in for seconds if I wasn’t so wrapped up in hoarding my Duck confit.

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Lastly, my friend’s husband ordered the Brussels Sprouts Roasted with House- Cured Lamb Bacon; Deviled Quail Egg, Butternut Squash Confit & Shaved Pecorino. This is the only dish I did not try. Brussels Sprouts aren’t really my thing, but the rest of the table seemed to enjoy it.

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New blogger mistake #2  = missing a photo-op of our pseudo third course.  The Ricotta- Lemon Tortellini; Wild Mushroom Stew, Sunchoke Purée & Parmesan Foam was actually an entrée, but we concurrently decided that we all would like to try it and share it as a table.  This pasta was amazing.  I would have licked the plate and scarfed this dish down if it was just mine, but I tried my hardest to be polite and somewhat refined. This stacks up with the Duck Confit as my favorite dishes of the night. Also, I am a self proclaimed pasta addict, so I may be a tad biased.  I also love mushrooms, ricotta, and I mean you can’t go wrong with parmesan foam, can you? I wish I had a picture to share of this dish… sorry!

For my entrée, I actually sprang for the chicken. For me, I almost never order chicken in a restaurant, but since I tend to put more emphasis on the ingredients and preparation than I do on the actual protein – I just had to try this.  The chicken was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed.  I found myself forking under the chicken for the escargot and the butternut squash risotto, which were two major elements that elevated this dish.

Chicken Breast Roasted with a Black Trumpet Mousse; Hen of the Woods Stewed with Escargots, Butternut Squash Risotto & Fennel

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I also found myself wishing I ordered my husband’s entrée – Butter Poached Lobster with Hon Shimeji Mushrooms; Huitlacoche Purée & Ricotta Spaetzle with Baby Arugula- The ricotta spatezle were so interesting and different, they tasted like a mini ricotta gnocchi and were super light and airy. These morsels mixed with lobster and a mushroom like puree created for literally the perfect bite….

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We were too full for dessert, but the restaurant provided us with Lemon Marshmallow’s that hit the spot.

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Overall, I would rate mas (Farmhouse) very high – a solid 9.  I definitely recommend this place to anyone that is looking for a unique meal with a French flair. This spot is pretty pricy so it may be best suited for a special occasion, dinner with rents or if you have the luxury of a business expense account, snag some foodie client’s and enjoy!

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GUEST BLOG: Recession Busters – Wallet Friendly Sparkling Wine

23 Dec

Jonas, from Excellent Everyday Wines, has provided a holiday themed post just in time for your holiday and New years celebrations.  Enjoy!

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As we move towards the end of the year holidays, sparkling wine sales pick up quite a bit of steam. In fact, a large majority of producer’s sparkling wine sales – by some estimates almost half – come in the month of December. And while true Champagne (which only comes from the Champagne region of France) is still the king, great value sparkling wines are available from many different countries.

For this tasting, we opened three sparklers from three different countries, all designated a “brut” or dry style with 12 or less grams of residual sugar per liter and all costing under $15. Two of them, The French sparkler from Varichon and Clerc and the Spanish Cava “Sonim”, are made in the champagne method which involves inducing a secondary fermentation in the bottle by adding yeast and sugar. The carbon dioxide produced is the source of the bubbles. The Italian Prosecco from Zardetto is produced in closed stainless steel tanks where the same process is induced in a larger volume.

The first wine in our tasting was the Varichon and Clerc, a French bubbly produced via the Champagne method from three grapes, Ugni Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Colombard. It retails at my local store for just $9.99.

Here we have fine, small bubbles with aromas dominated by nutty/yeasty tones. It was also very nutty in the mouth at first but with airing
began to show some apple and pear elements. The nose also opened a bit more and showed some melon and vanilla. It’s delicate, steely and finishes quite dry with good length. It’s a great value at this price point.

Next up at $12.99 was the Spanish Cava Sonim. This sparkler, produced from 40% Parellada, 30% Macabeu and 30% Xarel-lo, three indigenous Spanish grapes, had a much more pronounced leesy/nutty nose with vanilla and herbal tones. In the mouth, the Sonim leans much more to citrusy fruit tones, especially lime zest. It finishes dry and tangy with good persistence. It’s imported by Aviva Vino.

Lastly we tried the $12.99 Italian Prosecco from Zardetto. With this sparkler we found a much more fruit driven nose featuring apricot and melon with the nutty nuance clearly taking a back seat. This may have had something to do with the secondary fermentation occurring in tank as opposed to in the bottle. In the mouth, there was clearly more sweet fruit, again dominated by apricot and white fruits. It finishes long, yet still dry and though it’s not quite as delicate as the Varichon and Clerc, If you like a fruitier style, this one’s for you.

Imported by topnotch importer Winebow, this sparkler is a sure crowd pleaser. If I had to rank them in order of my preference, I’d go with the Zardetto as number one, followed by the Varichon and Clerc and then the Sonim. Still, they are all good values and present excellent examples of sparkling wines that won’t bust your budget. They’ll make great aperitifs to a special holiday meal.

Happy Holidays and as always, cheers!

GUEST BLOG: Rosé Season

24 Jun

It seems Rosé Season is upon us.  I have been hearing that a lot this year, and sure enough, each time I go out to a restaurant these last few weeks, I see a lot of pink in people’s wine glasses.  I have to say I am quite a rosé novice, so I was thrilled when Jonas, of Excellent Everyday Wines, decided to make rosé the theme of his next guest post.

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My favorite summer wines hands down are rosés. So lonely and so misunderstood are these delicious and diverse wines. People see pink and they say, “oh I don’t like sweet wines”,  because they are undoubtedly thinking of that entry level sweet stuff called white zinfandel. No…these are different. Sometimes delicate, sometimes bold and fruity, but always dry and refreshing (serve chilled). They are very diverse in their uses and go with whatever you want to throw on the grill – from the burgers to the ribs to the chicken to the shrimp to the salmon to the tuna. I’ve even had them with sushi, and when I have a summer party and I want to serve one wine, I go with a rosé. They’re like reds you drink cold. Recently, we tried three different examples from three different countries.

First on the list was a 2010 Pierrevert rosé (pronounced PAIRvair) from Domaine La Blaque. Pierrevert is a tiny French appelation in the foothills of the Provencal alps. This was our favorite of the trio. It’s color is a very light copper pink but it’s aromas are bold with strawberries, flowers and spices. In the mouth it is much bigger than the color would lead you to believe with bright red berry flavors, bright acidity and a smooth, creamy finish. The Pierrevert is a blend of 40% cinsault, 40% grenache, 10% syrah and 10% vermentino – a white grape common to Italy that clearly contributes to the aromatics. It retails for $10.99 or so.

Next up was the 2010 Olivares rosé from the Jumilla DO of Spain. A blend comprised of 70% monastrell and 30% syrah from pre-Phylloxera ungrafted vines (see the pic below) grown at an altitude of 800 meters, the Olivares is a sure crowd pleaser.

Much darker in color than the Domaine La Blaque, it reveals big bold aromas of strawberry, watermelon and a subtle floral note. It’s berry flavors are also large and mouth-filling and it finishes with a note of honey. While perhaps not as complex as the Pierrevert, it is a touch bigger and just as satisfying. It retails for approximately $9.99.

Last and sadly not as good was an Italian 2009 “Vin Ruspo” Carmignano rosé from Fattoria Ambra. Carmignano is a Tuscan DOCG where the wines are made mostly from sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo permitted in the blend. I decided to include a 2009 because there are still some sitting on retailers shelves and I wanted to see how this one was holding up. I’ve had this wine many times in the past and it was always lovely with similar aromas and flavors as the Domaine La Blaque and the Olivares. Rosés can be somewhat fragile and the Ambra, while showing reduced red berry aromas and flavors, is clearly fading. It’s not really bad yet, just somewhat dull. Most 09’s that are on the shelf, especially the French ones, should still be good as they usually have the acidity necessary to keep them stable. It was after all a great vintage. And I certainly would try the 2010 vintage of the Fattoria Ambra. It retails for around $9.99. The Domaine La Blaque Pierrevert is imported by The MaximumWine Co., the Olvares is imported by The Rare Wine Co. and the Fattoria Ambra is imported by Michael Skurnick – three small and very high quality importers. Seek out their wines. Cheers.

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For my Guest Blog of the month, head on over to Excellent Everyday Wines to check out my post about my love affair with The High Line.

GUEST BLOG: Everyday Italian White Wines: Beyond Pinot Grigio

9 May

Hi there NYC Nom Nom readers.  I am very excited to announce that I have partnered with Jonas, from Excellent Everyday Wines, to guest blog monthly for NYC Nom Nom about WINE.  Jonas has spent a portion of his career in the wine industry and I have very much enjoyed reading his posts that suggest great wines at everyday prices.  His first guest post is about life beyond Pinot Grigio.  Enjoy!

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Greetings. Let me first say that I am very excited to be guest blogging with NYCNomNom about my favorite beverage. While filling in on the floor of a friend’s wine shop over Easter weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of people asking for an Italian white wine asked for pinot grigio. Now don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few great pinot grigios in the 10 to 15 dollar range. But there are also many other Italian whites that are readily available and are great values. I did a mini-tasting of 3 of them recently for NYCnomnom.

My wife and I tasted a Gavi “La Luciana” from Araldica,  A Soave from Allegrini and a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from Fattoria Laila. All are fine bargains at $9.99 each for the Gavi and Soave and $10.99 for the Verdicchio. Gavi is made form the cortese grape, an early ripening varietal that does well in the cooler climate of Piedmont in Northern Italy. It was the lightest of the 3 and really opened up after warming a bit. It had beautiful white peach and flowers on the nose along with a touch of apricot. It is light-bodied and delicate with ample fruit and wonderful balancing acidity. It really has a crisp, refreshing feel.

As for the Soave, this is not your parents Bolla Soave. Soave is made from the garganega grape and this version has 20% chardonnay in the blend. Allegrini usually produces great wines and their Soave features slowly opening aromas of pear, flowers and roasted nuts. It has a little more body than the Gavi with pear and green apple fruit in the mouth and a smooth finish. This wine also has good acidity and goes well with shellfish. As soon as the peas come up in the garden, Janet makes us some tagliatelle with mussels and peas and a good Soave goes great with that dish.

As for the Verdicchio from Fattoria Laila, this wine was my favorite of the trio. It comes from the Marches on the east coast of Italy where it grows in sandy soil with a layer of chalk rich in fossilized marine animals. This soil gives it a distinct mineral spine to go along with it’s aromas of pear and mint. It had the biggest mid-palate of the 3 but it was also the most complex, and it has great balancing acidity.

All 3 of these wines are vinified in stainless steel tanks and see no oak whatsoever. They are imported by 3 of my favorite importers of Italian wine. The Gavi is imported by Vias, the Soave by Leonardo LoCasio via Winebow, and the Verdicchio is imported by Montecastelli. Look for other wines from these great portfolios. Cheers!