Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cuisine as Art

The MoMA is an institution in New York, and now, in my opinion so is the restauramt there The Modern. This has to be the first time I have been to the Museum without seeing a single exhibit (unless you count the sculptures in the garden) I didn’t even visit the terrific gift shop, so engrossed was I with the cusine. Modern by name and by style as you would expect.
The Modern defines its style as French American – which makes sense from the French chef, Gabriel Kreuther, in the heart of Manhattan, but this is no cliched French style that is seen in so many trendy French brasseries, it is a sophisticated take on the best of both worlds. The extremely charming and knowledgable staff look like they probably know as much about contemporary art as they do about the food an wine they were serving but without the prentention that could so easily be part of this less level of excellence. Not a cheap night at the Museum but worth every penny.

Art on a plate

Star Spangled dining in NYC

At the top of the Mandarin Oriental in New York with spectacular views over central park at the Asiate

However in this restaurant the stars are not just for the cuisine.
The floor to ceiling windows offer a view over the sparking New York sky line reflected in the beautifully lit wine cellar that surrounds the diners.

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The Mandarin Oriental hotel restaurants definitely have a way of making their wines part of the decor see a previous post from Geneva

High dining in Miami

The Miami Culinary Institute at Miami Dade College is a unique concept, as Miami’s first accredited public option in culinary education it offers a professional standard of education opportunities to a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds that would not normally gave access to such quality education at such affordable prices.

The new premises, opened in January in down-town Miami are spectacular. Bordeaux Blonde was there to presenting a range of Medoc wines from the Southern Wines and
Spirits range – major players in the state – during an educational seminar to the students and professional restaurant staff. The state of the art wine and cuisine theatre was the perfect venue with a fully functioning professional kitchen with screens overhead so one missed a sniff or a swirl!

But the affordable quality education is only part of it. As with many culinary schools students have change to practice their skills on the public in the school cafe open for breakfast and lunch but in the evenings this cafe will be transformed into a wine and tapas ‘ Root Cellar’ bar.

However the big news for local gourmets is the recruitment net of top Chef Norman Van Aken, known for his innovation in creating ‘Floridean’ cuisine, for the opening of a panoramic professional restaurant later this month. The intimate, 60 covers, restaurant over looks the Freedom tower and the Miami Heats arena as well the cruise ships sailing into port. The Tuyo restaurant will open Tuesday-Saturday evenings and it echoes the green ethos of the whole facility with its own urban herb garden.

Should you fancy something more hands on, classes from the top chefs at the institute are also open to the public, from Chef Sarah Izquierdo, master sommelier Charles Arturaola and of course Norman Van Aken himself as well as the neighboring celebrity hangout Canyon Ranch’s ‘Integrative Life Lessons’ series. Check out www.miamidadeculinary.com.

This community college is a wonderful opportunity for about 100 young people every year following a 2 year associate programme these students are hungry to learn. Hungry students should go to culinary school – right – a perfect match.

A new cellar at Le Pin

As mentioned in my previous post it certainly is the year of the cellar.
It’s all happening on the right bank, after the opening of the wonderful new cellars at Cheval Blanc, La Dominique, right next door is under renovation and Petrus is finishing its new underground cellar.
Smaller but perfectly formed the new cellar at le Pin has also been christened with the 2011 Harvest.
For many years, pilgrims to the tiny estate (2.48ha with the latest purchase) have struggled to find the rather insignificant looking building, home to Jacques Thienpont’s baby. Only the pine trees overshadowing the house on the Pomerol plateau, about 1 km from the family’s Vieux Château Certan, gave the game away.
Now however the striking modern building in white and slate is a lot easier to spot and the pine trees are still there. Started in 2010 and designed by the Belgium architect Paul Robbrecht (The Thienponts are Belgium wine negociants as well as Bordeaux Chateau owners) the whole cellar is designed as a wine makers dream as far as efficiency is concerned. Gravity feed is clearly illustrated as you climb the stairs up to the terrace, strangely reminiscent of a Californian roof-top pool, with fabulous views over towards Château Petit Village, another very modern addition to the skyline of Pomerol.
Le Pin has no second wine but if you’re lucky enough, try and get hold of Trilogie, a non vintage blend of declassified Le Pin with a dash of Cabernet Franc, unlike Le Pin which is 100% Merlot. The name Trilogie is a reference to the blend of 3 vintages. There’s not enough I imagine per vintage, seeing as the total production from the property is only about 5 000 bottles a year.

The view across Pomerol from the terrace of Le Pin’s new winery

2011 With tender loving care

The last days of the red 2011 harvest are finally here with the Cabernets coming into the cellars, this fabulous Indian summer we are experiencing with afternoon temperatures up to an unseasonal 30° has allowed winemakers to wait and wait for perfect ripeness on the cabs. A welcome respite after a rather chaotic year – as far as the climate is concerned.

The hot and dry spring resulted in an early flowering with right from the get go producers predicting a 2 or 3 week advance on the average and fears for a drought. However July was cooler and wetter, not great for tourists – but a lifesaver for the grapes as it slowed things down. The cooler nights in August helped with maintaining acidity and complexity.

However the weird climate did take its toll. Some vines were affected by the early spring drought, which held back development and created problems with ‘vascular connections’ that may not have reformed, preventing some the berries developing fully when the weather turned cooler and damper in July.

To add insult to injury there was periodic hail storms throughout the year, April hail hit Sauternes, Margaux was hit in June, especially on the Rauzan plateau and the hail hot again, dramatically, on the 1st September the around us here in the Entre deux Mers and violently in Saint Estephe causing considerable damage on the plateau around Cos d’Estournel

Consequently 2011 is turning out to be quite a challenging year for both vine growers the wine makers, especially after 08/09/10 trilogy where some (modest?) winemakers claimed the wine made itself!

Canopy management to control lack of water and then to allow air to circulate preventing botrytis as the more humid weather arrived was extremely important.

In recent years many properties have been introducing sophisticated machines to help the selection process and with a year like this where ripe, under ripe, dry and even hail bruised grapes can be seen on the same bunch they will really get their money’s worth.
Chateau Lagrange, the largest classified growth of Saint Julien has installed an Optical Scanner that can select grapes from the conveyor at a record speed of 72 kms per hour 2.5m/second! Which results in 9 tonnes per hour being sorted instead of 3 by hand – and a lot less fatigue. Mattieu Bordes, the technical director, has another new toy for this vintage too, an oscillating vertical destemmer to ensure only the grapes make it into the selector.

Selected grapes fall from the optical selector at Château Gruaud Larose

Mattieu Bordes admires the new vertical destemmer

Château Figeac, first growth in Saint Emilion, was also using an optical selector this year, after a test in 2010, but at a purchase price as around 150 000 euros new decided to test it out by renting first, director Eric d’Aramon concluded that it is still early days for these machines and renting ensures it comes with a technician in case there are teething problems. These machines are also highly electronic and storing them unused for eleven–and-a-half months of the year in a damp cellar is not a risk he is prepared to take.

The berries are photographed by the stemmer at Château Phelan Segur to allow selection

It’s not only the top classified growths that have invested, Château Phelan Segur, who welcomed guests at their harvest table during the picking, also use the same technology as do many others. Some however have chosen the ‘trie baie’ system (The Vignobles André Lurton properties for example) using must with different densities to select quality grapes, and yet others such as Château Grand Corbin Despagne an airflow system whereas others rely on a dedicated team in the field and in the cellars to separate the wheat from the chaff – rendezvous in April to taste the results of these different methods ‘en primeur’.

All that time saved allows for a longer lunch break – harvest lunch in front of the magnificent
Château Phelan Segur