My wife, Cheryle, & I recently went to New York to attend the International Chefs Congress put on by starchef.com. This certainly was quite the event.
While there we also has an opportunity to eat at a myriad of places for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here were 3 of our most memorable experiences.
We were really impressed with Babbo. Normally we have found restaurants with such high acclaim often turn out to be disappointing as it really hard to live up to the mystique. In this case however we loved this stylish eatery & its rustic Italian food done with a New York edge. The foods were tasty, a dynamic combination of interesting flavors and VERY wine friendly (which is a detail many restaurants do not think about). Some of the highlights included the Grilled Octopus with mushrooms & Chianti vinegar;
Rabbit with Spring scafata & Cinzano vinaigrette ;
One of the things I do NOT think Mario Batali & his restaurant group get enough credit for is their wine programs. In addition to a list of well selected Champagnes, the Babbo list has an amazing, comprehensive, well selected line-up of Italian wines. On this night, for example, we were thrilled to find the 2010 Kuen Hof Eisacktaler Sylvaner, a dry, airy, wonderfully minerally & perfumed, crisp & refreshing white wine from the Dolomites up in Sudtirol, Italy. Eventhough it was not the perfect pairing with all of the food, it was a wine that was tasty, delicious and kept the palate fresh & alive between bites.
Through the Chefs Congress, we also had the great pleasure to meet Michael Madrigale, the Wine Director of Boulud Sud who conducted a Tasting of Cote Rotie on the second day. His genuine passion for wine, especially Rhone Syrah, was truly inspiring, which actually convinced us to visit him at the restaurant. The menu was very Mediterranean inspired, done with a clean, fresh, refined touch. We loved starting with, for example, the Mediterranean Mezze, a tasty, colorful quartet of Herb Falafel, Red Lentil Hummus, Babaganoush & Lavash.
Since this was our third restaurant of the night we then ordered several appetizers to sample, the highlights including Octopus a La Plancha—Marcona almonds, arugula & Jerez vinegar and the Cured Spanish Anchovies with shaved fennel.
As expected the wine list was VERY well selected, so much so, if I lived in New York, I would go back just to sample through the various, unique wines listed. The centerpiece section was clearly rustic styled French red wines, which included an amazing selection of northern Rhone Valley Syrah ranging from the current vintage back to 1978. The highlights included a 1986 Clape Cornas and the 1992 Domaine Grange des Peres (Michael noted their first vintage) from the Herault.
Being our third stop of the night, however, we instead opted to sample several of the restaurant’s wines by the glass offerings, which we had a great time with. It is so refreshing to see a wine professional go out of their way to offer tasty and interesting wines by the glass which work magic with the foods! Kudos here. We started out with the Argyros Atlantis Santorini (Greece) & a glass of the Domaine de Bagnol Cassis (Provence, France) . We loved them both and were especially amazed how the Cassis went with so many of the foods. For red wine, the clear standout was the Abbatucci Ajaccio “Cuvee Faustine”, a wildly rustic , masculine though well textured & balanced red from the Isle of Corsica.
Our final stop of the trip was Ai Fiori, a Chef Michael White restaurant. Although we had originally planned to dine at 3 other restaurants on this night, based upon the oodles of recommendations from so many top wine professionals we met at the event, we felt we had to instead stop by and see star sommelier Emilie Perrier and taste the foods of Ai Fiori.
Thank goodness we did! The restaurant was very stylish, detailed and elegantly fashioned, One could say the same for their Mediterranean inspired foods. We started out for instance with two fish crudo, one of fluke with Siberian sturgeon caviar.
and the Spaghetti served with blue crab, shaved bottarga & scallion. Both were excellent!
In addition, sommelier Emilie Perrier was as good as advertised and more—charming and the consummate professional. Knowing we loved true Italian wines, she recommended the Il Monticello Vermentino Colli di Luna “Groppolo”, a very tasty, mesmerizing, lively white wine from the Liguria region of Italy. What a really good recommendation this proved to be! In addition, 2 other “wines by the glass” selections we also sampled were the 2006 Jean Louis Trapet Gevrey Chambertin and the 2007 Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino. Kudos to Emilie.