Chefs & (Barons de Rothschild) Champagne (Galore!) at the 26th Annual James Beard Foundation East End Event

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Top left: Wolffer Estate hosted the 26th annual Chefs & Champagne event; Top right: Barons de Rothschild Champagne flowed freely all night long; Bottom left: Chef Chad Brauze adds a finishing touch to our dish; Bottom right: 2016 honoree John Besh is introduced by the James Beard Foundation’s Susan Ungaro

The elegant Barons de Rothschild Champagne flowed non-stop yesterday at the James Beard Foundation‘s 2016 CHEFS & CHAMPAGNE event held on the East End of Long Island, which offered us a welcome afternoon and evening’s diversion from working on our book-in-progress KITCHEN CREATIVITY (Little, Brown; 2017).

After creating 10 books, we’ve learned that sometimes the most productive thing you can possibly do is to actually step away from the computers to give all the ideas that are flowing through your mind time to incubate — and refresh your inspiration through tastes of the work of chefs who are clearly dedicated to their craft.

Held at Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, the 26th annual gathering brought together hundreds of revelers under a huge white tent for tastes of dozens of leading chefs’ [see yellow box] dishes and both Brut and Rosé Brut Barons de Rothschild Champagne.

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Top left: Chef Anita Lo of Annisa, whom we’d recently had the pleasure of interviewing for KITCHEN CREATIVITY; Top right: Chefs Jaime Young (l.) of the forthcoming Sunday in Williamsburg, Will Horowitz (c.) of Ducks Eatery, and friend; Bottom left: Chef Kerry Heffernan; Bottom right: Chefs tending the grill

With this year’s theme of “From the Big Easy to the Big Apple,” James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro introduced the event’s honoree, New Orleans chef-restaurateur John Besh, who made his first-ever visit to the Hamptons for the festivities.  After being inspired by his hometown hero the late Paul Prudhomme (the first chef to appear on the cover of Time magazine, he took interest in Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole cuisines to a global scale), Besh himself grew up to celebrate the flavors of New Orleans, preserving and promoting the region’s ingredients, techniques, and heritage. His four cookbooks include My New Orleans (2009), My Family Table (2011), Cooking From The Heart (2013), and Besh Big Easy (2015).  He has also been the host of two national public television cooking shows:  “Chef John Besh’s New Orleans and “Chef John Besh’s Family Table.”  In 2011, Besh created his own foundation, which works to protect and preserve the culinary heritage and foodways of southern Louisiana via initiatives such as “Chefs Move!,” which provides scholarships to culinary students, and “Milk Money,” which provides no-interest microloans to local farmers.

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Top right: The James Beard Foundation’s Alison Tozzi Liu and husband chef Tony Liu (featured in THE FLAVOR BIBLE) with their two adorable sons; Bottom left: Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, as photographed by the Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave; Bottom right: Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave with Pasternak Wine’s Susan-Anne Cosgrove

2016 James Beard Foundation Chefs & Champagne Chefs:

Baker Alex Bois, Pastry Chef Sam Kincaid, and Jon Nodler, High Street on Hudson, NYC; Chad Brauze, The Back Room, Park Hyatt, NYC; Andrea Bucciarelli, Sant Ambroeus, Southampton and NYC; Brian Cheewing, Wölffer Kitchen, Sag Harbor, NY; Christopher Cipollone, Piora, NYC; Tim Cushman*, O Ya, Boston and NYC; Ben Del Coro, Fossil Farms, Boonton, NJ; Jay Ducote, Baton Rouge, LA Aaron Fitterman, Aretsky’s Patroon, NYC; Jeremy Ford, Matador Room, Miami Beach, FL; Tom Fraker, Melissa’s Produce; Eric Gabrynowicz, Restaurant North, Armonk, NY; Kerry Heffernan, Grand Banks, NYC; Will Horowitz, Ducks Eatery and Harry & Ida’s, NYC; Michael Jenkins, Butter Restaurant, NYC; Paul Kahan*, One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago; Matthew Kenney, 00+Co, NYC, and Plant Food + Wine, Miami and Venice, CA; Pastry Chef Jiho Kim, The Modern, NYC; Paul Kim and Kendrick Lo, Ice & Vice, NYC; Anthony Lamas, Seviche, A Latin Restaurant, Louisville, KY; Matt Lambert, The Musket Room, NYC; Karl Ljung, Hillenberg, Stockholm, Sweden; Anita Lo, Annisa, NYC; Angie Mar, Beatrice Inn, NYC; Pastry Chef Alina Martell, Ai Fiori and Vaucluse, NYC; Lucero Martinez, Pampano, NYCDean James Max, DJM Restaurants, Multiple Cities, USA, and Cayman Islands, BWI, and Harbor Island, Bahamas; Julian Medina, Tacuba and Toloache, NYC; Jonah Miller, Huertas, NYC; Marco Moreira and Sushi Chef Noriyuki Takahashi, 15 East, NYC; Damian O’Donnell, Harbor Bistro, East Hampton, NY; Pichet Ong, NYC; Ralph Perrazzo, BBD’s – Beers, Burgers, Desserts, Rocky Point, NY; Guy Reuge, Mirabelle, Stony Brook, NY, and Sandbar, Cold Spring Harbor, NY; Roxanne Spruance, Kingsley, NYC; Cédric Vongerichten, PerrySt, NYC; Pastry Chef Sherry Yard*, iPic Entertainment; Marco Zapien, Melissa’s Produce and Salsa Grill, Pico Rivera, CA

*James Beard Award winners

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Top left: The Musket Room’s Matt Lambert; Top right: Last night’s honorees and scholarship winners; Bottom left: Karen Page, Tess Wilson, and Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave enjoying the Barons de Rothschild Champagne; Bottom right: The Park Hyatt kitchen team of executive chef Sebastien Archambault, pastry chef Scott Cioe, and chef de cuisine Chad Brauze

Having had our heads down on book deadline in recent months, it was especially enjoyable to spend time during this festive event with old and new friends and colleagues — including New York Post editor Steve Cuozzo and his wife Jane Cuozzo; our fellow wine writer Sheri de Borchgrave, who writes the wine column for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens; New American Kitchen’s Gary Duff and his team, who’d interviewed us at the Citymeals Chefs’ Tribute event last month at Rockefeller Center; Rotisserie Georgette’s ever-fashionable owner Georgette Farkas (whom we find the single best-dressed woman at most gatherings; last night she sported a custom-made white dress from Morocco accessorized by an opalescent bag from Vietnam) and Ted Farris; S&P investment officer and MSNBC financial analyst Erin Gibbs; Morandi chef Tony Liu and his wife Alison Tozzi Liu of the James Beard Foundation, and their two adorable sons; Karen’s fellow member of Les Dames d’Escoffier  Shelley Menaged; and the James Beard Foundations’ Yvon Ros and her multi-talented teenage son Remy Ros, who’s trained in dance with Alvin Ailey Dance Company and the event’s official goodie-bag stuffer; real estate developer Ian Shapolsky of the Anita Shapolsky Art Gallery; and Le Parker Meridien’s Tess Wilson.

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Top left: Pastry chef Alina Martell of Ai Fiori and Vaucluse made our favorite dessert of the night: strawberry profiteroles; New American Kitchen team, including Gary Duff in white; Top right: The chefs take a seat for their annual group photo; Bottom left: Rotisserie Georgette owner Georgette Farkas, Karen Page, and Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave; Bottom right: Fig tart with goat cheese

“I love Chefs & Champagne: beautiful setting, beautiful food, and beautiful crowd.  Shelly Menaged, Susan Ungaro, and their team all do a fantastic job setting up.  C&C is my favorite event of the year because we see and hear from so many of our regular customers there, and being at the table I get to interact with them directly.  I didn’t get to try much during the event, but I did have a few nice glasses of Champagne and a bite of Ben del Coro‘s awesome rotisserie boar sandwich — and I told him to watch out, because next year I am bringing my own rotisserie to play with!”
Chad Brauze of The Back Room at Manhattan’s Park Hyatt

And as we count speaking with chefs and sipping Champagne among our favorite things on earth, we enjoyed roaming through the event with glasses of Barons de Rothschild Champagne in hand while catching up with featured chefs such as Chad Brauze, whose cuisine we’ve loved since his days helming the kitchen at one of our favorite Manhattan restaurants, Rotisserie Georgette, and who introduced us to his new colleagues at the Park Hyatt’s Back Room, executive chef Sebastien Archambault and pastry chef Scott Cioe; Will Horowitz of Ducks Eatery and Harry & Ida’s, who introduced us to Jaime Young, who’s served as Atera’s chef de cuisine and told us he’s due to open his own place named Sunday in Williamsburg in September; Matt Lambert of the Michelin-starred Musket Room, which we had the great pleasure of visiting for the first time earlier this week; and Anita Lo of Annisa, whom we interviewed for our next KITCHEN CREATIVITY and who just returned from a trip to Hong Kong in time to create our favorite savory dish of the night:  Potatoes with Celtuce and Buttermilk Dressing.  Special thanks to pastry chef Alina Martell of Ai Fiori and Vaucluse for our favorite dessert of the night:  her irresistible strawberry profiteroles!

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James Beard Foundation is at jamesbeard.org.

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Barons de Rothschild Chamapagne is at champagne-bdr.com.

Craggy Range Winery: You’ll Want to Remember This New Zealand Winery’s Name

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“I am fortunate to lead an extraordinary group of people who want to be part of creating something truly magnificent that successive generations can admire and enjoy for years to come.  I love our great estates and feel a strong connection to their complexities and subtleties.”
Matt Stafford, chief winemaker, Craggy Range Winery

Craggy Range Winery provides the singular experience of tasting New Zealand terroir with every sip.  By selecting and sourcing the finest vineyards in New Zealand and planting them with only those vines perfectly suited to the specific parcels of earth, Craggy Range crafts wines that truly speak of where they come from.”
Steve Smith, MW, director of wine and viticulture, Craggy Range Winery

The better part of a decade ago, we attended an unforgettable wine tasting lunch in Manhattan led by Craggy Range Winery‘s Steve Smith, MW — the only winemaker in the world to have earned the elite designation of Master of Wine — that turned out to be one of the most powerful demonstrations of wine and food pairing we’ve ever witnessed.

With a number of fellow wine writers, we blind-tasted a half-dozen 2006 vintage New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and rated our favorites.  Scores were tallied, and Smith’s own Craggy Range entries came in dead last at fifth and sixth.

Then we blind-tasted the wines again with food, rating them again.  This time, the results were reversed, with the 2006 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Andrew’s overall favorite) and the 2006 Craggy Range Old Renwick Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Karen’s overall favorite) coming out on top as first and second, respectively.

Having tasted thousands of wines since then, for these wines to have made such a lasting impression is quite a feat.

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New Zealand-based Craggy Range Winery’s chief winemaker Matt Stafford, in the backyard garden of The Musket Room in New York City

Despite being on deadline with KITCHEN CREATIVITY, there’s no way we wanted to miss sharing lunch in Manhattan yesterday with Craggy Range’s chief winemaker Matt Stafford, who was visiting from New Zealand.  So, we headed downtown for our first-ever visit to the Michelin-starred New Zealand-inspired restaurant The Musket Room, where we were happy to be greeted by the crisp, elegant 2015 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, whose fresh notes of grapefruit and minerality perked up our spirits immediately.

Then we settled in to taste through five Craggy Range Pinot Noirs, including the appealingly smoky-noted 2014 Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir (both of our favorites of the two we tasted from this vineyard, and an impressive value at $45), and the 2011 Aroha Pinot Noir (Andrew’s favorite, which evoked a “Wow!” from him) and 2014 Aroha Pinot Noir (Karen’s favorite, of the three we tasted from this vineyard).  Craggy Range Winery manages to celebrate the beauty of Pinot Noir and the uniqueness of New Zealand’s terroir through its expertly-crafted single-vineyard wines.

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Again, the wines came alive even more when accompanied by The Musket Room’s beautifully presented and delicious dishes — so much so that we’d already agreed to return for dinner one night soon to explore its menu further.  Then we discovered the reason:  Musket Room chef-owner Matt Lambert, a New Zealand native whose food we’d loved in his days in the kitchen with gifted chefs Brad Farmerie (whom we interviewed for THE FLAVOR BIBLE) and/or Chris Rendell at Public, The Monday Room and/or Double Crown, which have all been among our favorites over the years.  His wife Barbara Lambert graciously oversees the dining room, including making occasional introductions to the pair’s adorable kids Pierce and relative newborn Elvis.

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Wine writer Wanda Mann, The Musket Room’s chef-owner Matt Lambert and his wife and co-owner Barbara Lambert (holding baby Elvis), and Karen Page, in front of the restaurant on Elizabeth Street

Compared to Old World countries that measure the time they’ve been making wine in centuries, New Zealand is indeed a relatively new player on the global wine scene, having first started making a serious effort to get into the game in the 1970s and having finally started to gain attention for its efforts in the 1990s.  Craggy Range Winery continues to distinguish itself as a name in the New Zealand wine world well worth remembering.

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“We believe we produce some of the new World’s most inspiring fine wines, wines that are true reflection of the place and the people. We also believe these wines represent some of the best value fine wines in the world.”
–Terry Peabody, founder, Craggy Range Winery

Craggy Range Winery is the New Zealand-based winery founded in 1997 through the partnership of Australian businessman Terry Peabody and winemaker Steve Smith, MW, at craggyrange.com.

The Musket Room is the New Zealand-inspired restaurant run by the husband-and-wife team of Chef Matt Lambert and his wife Barbara Lambert at 265 Elizabeth Street in New York City, and at musketroom.com.

Winner of the Inaugural 2016 Basque Culinary World Prize (€100,000): Venezuela’s María Fernanda Di Giacobbe

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Venezuela’s María Fernanda Di Giacobbe

“Today’s recipient of the Basque Culinary World Prize reflects how gastronomy can take a leap from craft to consciousness. Maria Fernanda uses Cacao as a gastronomic symbol that has a positive impact on the entire food chain.  This is an inspiring project that exemplifies the great reach of gastronomy. Chefs can make a difference.
–Joan Roca, Chair of the Prize Jury

María Fernanda Di Giacobbe from Venezuela has been named the winner of the inaugural 2016 Basque Culinary World Prize, a new annual global award which seeks to recognize chefs around the world whose projects have improved society through gastronomy.

She will now receive  €100,000 toward “a project or institution of her choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.”

Di Giacobbe was chosen for her work with Venezuelan chocolate through social projects such as Kakao and Cacao de Origen. Through these, she has built an ecosystem of education, entrepreneurship, research and development around the Criollo cacao bean, making it a source of identity, culture and economic wealth.  Amid the complex political situation in Venezuela, María Fernanda Di Giacobbe has provided opportunities for women in economically vulnerable conditions.

Di Giacobbe said: “From now our work will take on a new dimension. We will bring the transforming power of trade to many more women ‘chocolate entrepreneurs.’  This award is a reflection of hundreds of entrepreneurs, producers and chocolatiers and their learning, enthusiasm and hard work.   It allows us to set new goals and open up new ways to connect with the world.  We in Venezuela are tremendously grateful that the Basque Culinary Prize has placed this trust in us.”

María Fernanda Di Giacobbe

María Fernanda Di Giacobbe built a whole chain of education, training, entrepreneurship, research and economic development in farming communities around Venezuelan cacao. With Kakao and Cacao de Origen, she supports local producers with the resources they need to improve their product including in production processes, fermentation and marketing in order to export to master chocolatiers around world aligned with the Bean to Bar movement (some 60 producers in 18 communities are currently taking part).  Maria also helps women to become chocolate entrepreneurs themselves, with a training program that focuses on gender equality, competitiveness and fairtrade practices. In collaboration with Simón Bolivar University, Maria has also founded a Cacao Industry Management programme that has already had 1,500 have already graduated 94 percent of whom are women.

More than 200 nominations from around the world led to 110 candidates from 50 countries, and on May 26th, 20 finalists were announced.

The Prize Jury included some of the world’s most influential chefs, among them Ferran Adria (Spain), Dan Barber (USA), Heston Blumenthal (UK), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Michel Bras (France), Dominique Crenn (USA), and Rene Redzepi (Denmark), as well as others such as authors Laura Esquivel and Harold McGee.

The Basque Culinary Prize is organized and promoted by the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), an  academic institution specializing in gastronomy headed by Joxe Mari Aizega, PhD, and the Basque Government under the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy, which released the joint statement: “A generation of international chefs have now expanded their role in society and redefined their profession by integrating new skills, creativity, innovation and social concerns into their approach. The Basque Culinary World Prize celebrates this evolution.”

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The Basque Culinary World Prize website is basqueculinaryworldprize.com.

The Basque Culinary Center (BCC) website is bculinary.com.

Happy Fourth of July 2016!

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It can be easy to spot when a book deadline nears.  Witness telltale under-eye circles — or simply the lack of recent blog posts.

We’re especially grateful to our friends who invited us to take a break from our respective computers last night to enjoy a home-cooked meal at their place.  On the way home, we even caught the top of the Empire State Building in its full red-white-and-blue glory.

We’ve been at it since 5 am, but we’re taking a break tonight for our recent annual tradition of pizza in Harlem followed by an extraordinary view of the fireworks from the East River and Hudson River.

Happy Fourth of July!

Rising Star Champagne Grower Jerome Dehours Flies High During His First-Ever Visit To New York City

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Domaine Dehours winemaker and proprietor Jerome Dehours, during his first visit to New York City this week, at today’s tasting in the private room of the New York Times three-star restaurant Gabriel Kreuther. Top left: Andrew Dornenburg, Jerome Dehours, and Karen Page

“For me, Meunier is the identity of the domaine.”
Jerome Dehours, proprietor and winemaker, Domaine Dehours

Pinot Meunier always comes last.  Well, almost always.  Well, until today.

When naming the grapes of the Champagne region, virtually everyone names Chardonnay first, then Pinot Noir – except, perhaps, those Blanc de Noirs lovers who will mention Pinot Noir before Chardonnay.  But Pinot Meunier is usually the after-thought, the also-ran, the Rodney Dangerfield of Champagne grapes.

To discover a Champagne house that celebrates its elegantly rich and complex Pinot Meunier-driven Champagnes….Well, that doesn’t happen every day.  We didn’t want to miss a chance to taste them, even though we accept only a fraction of the wine tasting invitations we receive, and an even tinier fraction of them when we’re on book deadline, as we are currently with KITCHEN CREATIVITY (Little, Brown; 2017).

Besides, we were sorry to see we already had another commitment during the time of the sit-down tasting scheduled for this morning at one of our very favorite restaurants Gabriel Kreuther — which celebrates its one-year anniversary this week — with third-generation Champagne maker Jerome Dehours on his first-ever visit to New York City.  Could we come a bit later?, we asked.  Of course we’d be welcome then, was the gracious response.

And it definitely turned out to be a case of better late than never.

We loved the Domaine Dehours Champagnes we were able to experience during our belated private tasting, beginning with its three Solera-based blends:  Grand Reserve Brut NV ($60, and 60% Pinot Meunier), Andrew’s favorite Les Vignes de la Vallee Brut NV ($73, and 75% Pinot Meunier), and Karen’s favorite Trio “S” Extra Brut NV ($110), each reflecting increasing levels of richness and extraordinary complexity, not to mention increasingly (to the point of extraordinarily) long finishes on the palate.

And speaking of good timing, Dehours has turned the concept of time into the not-so-secret ingredient behind its nuanced and intriguing Champagnes via its complicated Solera system, which can be as hard to follow as a time-travel trilogy, yet with clear synergies arising through the sum of the parts.  Aging “sur lie” is a major flavor component of these wines, adding to their alluring complexity.

We were also happy to taste a few of the offerings from Dehours’ site-specific collection, including the 2005 “Brisefer” Millesime, and the 2007 “Brisefer” Millesime; and the 2005 “La Cote en Bosses” Millesime, and the 2007 “La Cote en Bosses” Millesime.  We both especially loved the 2005 “Brisefer” [pronounced BREEZE-fair] Millesime from our very first whiffs of its unique and amazingly inviting aroma, which struck us as the best imaginable combination of candied apple with a note of Roquefort funk and perhaps an infinitesimal hint of salty sea breeze.

Jerome’s grandfather Ludovic had founded the Dehours estate in 1930, establishing the house as one of the region’s first independent growers.  After Jerome’s father’s untimely passing during Jerome’s childhood, the business was run by a group of financial partners.  In 1996, Jerome assumed his leadership of the family business.

And he’s been expressing his own voice ever since, renewing the house’s focus on sustainability and emphasizing the expression of individual terroirs through his winemaking approach.

Jerome turns out to not be a big fan of flying (and neither is Andrew, for that matter).  So this was only his third visit to the United States (as he’d previously visited northern and southern California), and his very first to New York City.  With four kids at home (the youngest of whom is just eight), he finds it hard to get away.  So he found himself making the most of his first visit to New York City, meeting with his sales team and visiting hot spots like Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, which he especially enjoyed.   You can find his Champagnes on the wine lists of Lincoln, Balthazar, and The NoMad in Manhattan, but they apparently tend to have a hard time keeping them in stock, as their production is so limited.

But it says everything about Jerome’s adventurous spirit that his first visit to the city this week also included a helicopter flight over Manhattan, to get up-close-and-personal with the city’s skyscrapers, rivers, and even the Statue of Liberty.  (Merci encore, France!)

For someone who hates to fly, Jerome Dehours was definitely flying high this week.  And so were his extraordinary Champagnes.  We count ourselves fortunate to have been able to be along for the ride.

Domaine Dehours

  • Region:  Champagne, Marne Valley, Cerseuil
  • Cultivated area:  14 ha
  • Topography:  rolling hills
  • Annual production:  80,000 bottles
  • The estate is planted 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Noir.
  • The sites are predominantly north-facing, which winemaker Jerome Dehours believes is optimal for Pinot Meunier.
  • The estate’s three traditional Coquard vertical presses allow Dehours to press each individual parcel separately.
  • The estate is registered as a negociant-manipulant — however, no grapes are purchased, and all of the wines are entirely estate-grown.

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Domaine Dehours is located in the Champagne region of France, with the estate comprised of 42 parcels in the villages of Cerseuil, Mareuil-le-Port, Troissy and Oeuilly and Port-a-Binson at the intersection of two valleys, the Marne and the Flagot.  Its website is champagne-dehours.fr.

Winemaker Joseph Carr Honors His Father (Josh) With Wines — And With A Dinner Prepared by Chef David Bouley

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Top left: Chef David Bouley; Top right: Chef David Bouley and winemaker Joseph Carr

“Be on time, respect people and respect yourself.”
Winemaker Joseph Carr, on the best advice his father ever gave him

Call us sentimental:  We’re touched when a winemaker pulls out old family photos a couple of weeks before Father’s Day, and tells us how his father inspired his latest collection of wines, which he subsequently named after him.

A week ago, we literally broke bread with sommelier-turned-winemaker Joseph Carr, who nine years ago created a second label (read: high quality / accessible prices) of his namesake Joseph Carr wines inspired by his father Josh, a U.S. Army veteran and former firefighter whom he saw as a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy.

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Top right: Photo of Josh Cellars’ namesake “Josh,” father of former sommelier Joseph Carr; Bottom right: Karen Page, Joseph Carr, and Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

Proving that his gently-priced wines (priced $13.99 to $15.99) accompanied food beautifully was more easily accomplished given that dinner was prepared by the chef of the hour David Bouley, about whom The New York Times had just posted an online version of the next day’s Food section cover story — letting the cat out of the bag that Bouley was planning to close the restaurant’s current location in order to relocate elsewhere.

Showcasing dishes as healthful as they were delicious, Bouley’s cooking that night made these wines shine — and for their part, these well-crafted wines returned the favor.

Just in time for June 19th, you can pick up a few bottles (or a case, if you’re feeling flush, along with a copy of WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT) of Josh Cellars wines as your own Father’s Day tribute.

Josh Cellars Wines:

2014 Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99):  Notes of citrus, lime and peach, this wine proved to be a refreshing aperitif before dinner.

2014 Josh Cellars Chardonnay ($13.99):  Notes of passion fruit, peach, and vanilla, this lush wine was paired with a Malibu Sea Urchin with Russian Ossetra Caviar course — but we enjoyed it with perhaps the best butter available in Manhattan.

2014 Josh Cellars Merlot ($15.99):  Notes of black cherries, black plums, and vanilla.  Paired beautifully with Bouley’s Organic Connecticut Farm Egg with Red Wine Sauce.

2014 Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.99):  Notes of baking spices, blackberries, black pepper, plums, and vanilla bean.

2014 Josh Cellars Legacy blend ($15.99; a blend of 44% Merlot, 44% Zinfandel, and 12% Petite Syrah):  With notes of cherries, chocolate, cinnamon, and plums, this dry yet fruit-forward wine could even stand up to pairing with chocolate — in this case, a “Frivolous of 70% Valrhona Chocolate Souffle.”

Bouley Botanical is at 281 Church Street in Manhattan, and at davidbouley.com.

Josh Cellars is at joshcellars.com.

5 Top Korean Chefs Collaborate On Gala Dinner at JUNGSIK in NYC, Before “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” Announcement

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Five of Korea’s top chefs (center, L to R): Mingoo Kang of Mingles; Jungsik Yim of Jungsik; Hyun-Seok Choi of Elbon The Table; Tony Yoo of 24 Seasons; and Jinmo Jang of A&ND Dining

Five of Korea’s best chefs are visiting New York City this week to attend the 2016 “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” announcement taking place Monday, June 13th, and collaborated on a gala dinner last night at Jungsik, the Michelin two-star Korean restaurant in Manhattan helmed by chef Jungsik Yim.  We were delighted to be able to attend, and to meet each of these talented and charming chefs, including:

– host chef Jungsik Yim (who, with namesake restaurants in Seoul and NYC, is seen as the leading force behind modern Korean gastronomy),
– Mingles chef Mingoo Kang (whose cuisine at Korea’s #1 ranked restaurant in 2015 is noted for its deft balance of Korean and Western influences),
– Elbon The Table chef Hyun-Seok Choi (whose daring style and TV presence is said to have been credited with enhancing the perception of chefs’ masculinity in Korea),
– 24 Seasons chef Tony Yoo (who is strongly influenced by traditional Korean temple cuisine), and
– A&ND Dining chef Jinmo Jang (who fuses Italian and Korean influences).

You can read more about each of them as well as the Seoul-based gourmet magazine La Main that sponsored last night’s dinner here.

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Center: Julia Lee with Jang Eun Sil, editor-in-chief of La Main magazine; Bottom left: Chef Jungsik Yim with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg; Bottom right: Karen Page with Jungsik sommelier Haksoo Kim; Five of Korea’s top chefs (center, L to R): Mingoo Kang of Mingles; Jungsik Yim of Jungsik; Hyun-Seok Choi of Elbon The Table; Tony Yoo of 24 Seasons; and Jinmo Jang of A&ND Dining

We’d long been looking forward to visiting Jungsik, since it opened a few years back in the Tribeca space formerly occupied by Karen and David Waltuck‘s renowned restaurant Chanterelle.  And we’d recently received an email from chef Mark Miller, alerting us both to last night’s dinner (to which he had no idea we’d already accepted an invitation) as well as to the extraordinary dinner he’d enjoyed at chef Mingoo Kang‘s restaurant Mingles in Seoul.  Mingles debuted on the 2016 Asia’s “50 Best Restaurants” list at #15, a remarkable accomplishment for so young a restaurant.

While the set menu for the multi-course dinner featured dishes that included crickets, sea urchin, and pork belly, the chefs didn’t miss a beat in accommodating our inquiry about vegetarian versions of the dishes.  We were fascinated by every one of them, and loved several of them — appreciating the well-chosen beverage pairings, which ranged from Billecart-Salmon Champagne to Sol Song Ju rice wine to Brooklyn Brewery “Sorachi Ace” beer to Omiberry Berry Sparkling.

The yuja dessert seemed as big a hit with everyone else as it was with us:  This gorgeously realistic-looking citrus fruit — known as yuzu in other parts of Asia — had a white chocolate shell that could be cracked to reveal its refreshingly tart and creamy insides, as delicious as the outside was beautiful.

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Bottom right: Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page with Chef Mingoo Kang of Mingles, the top-ranked restaurant in Korea

It was fun running into New York chefs David Burke and Michael Anthony (accompanied by his lovely wife Mindy Dubin), and Chicago TV host Steve Dolinsky (who may have won more James Beard Awards than anyone else in history) and meeting two of Karen’s fellow Northwestern alumni:  Jungsik sommelier Haksoo Kim, and Korea JoongAng Daily reporter Summer Lee.  And we were surprised when the chef of the top-ranked restaurant in Korea Mingles, Mingoo Kang, told us that he’d bought a copy of our book THE FLAVOR BIBLE on a prior trip to the United States right after it was published — and that it was trashed from being put to so much use.  (Never fear:  We ended up gifting him with a copy of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE.)

The 2016 list of The World’s “50 Best Restaurants” will be announced on Monday, June 13th, and will be live streamed starting at 8 pm ET here.  Whether or not the five chefs we had the pleasure of meeting last night hear their restaurants among those whose names are announced then, they should all be rightly proud of the excellent job they did showcasing modern Korean gastronomy that is leagues beyond the kimchi and bulgogi that is many Americans’ first exposure to Korean flavors.  They’ve definitely whet our appetites to experience and learn more.

Courtesy of La Main, Korea’s gastronomy magazine:

  • The chefs’ dishes not only stay true to traditional elements, such as jang culture, but also incorporate a modern, sophisticated touch…[reflecting] the variety and uniqueness of Korean food to the world.
  • According to an official report by the OECD last year, Korea sees the greatest vegetable consumption per capita of any country in the world.
  • Korean cuisine sees an abundance of ways to utilize vegetable fermentation, and thus Koreans enjoy vegetables with a variety of more complex and dynamic tastes than simply eating them cooked or raw.
  • The main types of vegetable fermentation in Korea can be divided into three categories:
    1) takju (unrefined Korean wine fermented by rice, reflected in 20% of last night’s dishes),
    2) soy fermented sauces including ganjang, doenjang and cheonggukjang (reflected in 60% of last night’s dishes); and lastly
    3) fermented vegetables such as kimchi and jangaji (reflected in 20% of last night’s dishes). 

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The World’s “50 Best Restaurants” list is at theworlds50best.com.

Jungsik has restaurant locations in New York City and Seoul, Korea.

Mingles restaurant is located in Seoul, Korea, and at restaurant-mingles.com.

Elbon The Table is located in Seoul, Korea, and at elbonthetable.com.

24 Seasons restaurant is located in Seoul, Korea, and at cheftonyyoo.com.

La Main is the Korean gastronomy magazine located at lamain.kr.