All I have to say is Fada. This little French bistro in Williamsburg (I put the link in the title of this post) on North 8th and Driggs is absolutely awesome! My wife and I were on our way to see a performance piece and wanted to have dinner in the area so we could just mosey on over afterwards. I was in the mood for some French food and especially some French wine. Actually wine is what helps me make all my decisions about where to eat. I think of the wine I am in the mood for and search out the appropriate cuisine. I wanted me some Rhone. I went onto citysearch and found two French style places in the area we were going to be in and this one just sounded right…and it was. We were greeted warmly by a server who sat us in a prime location at a table by the front of the restaurant that was wide-open letting in the day. As we looked over the menu and perused the wine list a basket of warm bread with a ramekin of black olive puree was brought to our table to help us along. The puree was very fresh and screamed for some wine to accompany it. The server came over and asked us just the right question; if we wanted some wine. I ordered the Rhone on the list and she suggested one of the wines on special for the evening. My suspicion kicked in as she pointed to the chalkboard. Sometimes the special wines can be mediocre depending on how serious the wine buyer for the establishment (usually the owner) is. But with one word my interest was peaked. She said Vacqueyras.
Vacqueyras is an appellation in the southern Rhone Valley that was established in 1990 so it is a fairly young appellation considering. The grapes grown here are Grenache, syrah, mouverde and cinsaut. I love this part of France and these are some of my favorite grapes. I ordered a carafe of it in a second and was ready to explore. I hadn’t had a wine from this region yet and could not wait. The Vacqueyras we had was a blend of Syrah mostly and grenache and surprisingly some gamay according to the owner. Upon my initial sip I could see why the Gamay was in there. It smoothed out the rough edges of the syrah and granache wonderfully. It was a great wine for the price and worthy of a specials board.
We started with a small plate of the house cheeses. They were great. From semi soft to hard-pressed they paired splendidly with the wine. For an entrée I had the steak tar tare and was in heaven. It was served on a wooden block with diced accoutrement in small amounts around it like a painter’s palate. There was diced cornichon, diced white onion, diced parsley and diced capers surrounded by three ramekins of ketchup, mustard mayonnaise -The ketchup and mayonnaise where for the small mini-me bucket of fresh homemade (at least they tasted homemade) – frites. To top it all off, literally, an egg yolk in a half shell was gently placed on top of the tar tare. This was going to be fun. I poured the runny yolk and dug in. My wife had the salmon encrusted in what looked like cayenne pepper and dusted with a paprika and perfect placed on a bed of mesclune with some vinaigrette.
As if this wasn’t enough, our server actually came over during our meal and asked us if the wine was ok. Wow. That doesn’t happen. I was so happy that she actually cared if we were enjoying everything or not. Of course we were. When we were finished we asked about dessert. I like to save a little wine in my glass for this because so often red wine and dessert go so well together. We had an amazing homemade caramel tort that just melted in our mouths while the wine decadently washed it down. I topped it all off with a nice espresso at a good grind and promised myself I would tell everyone about this amazing place. Please go. It is really, truly a French cuisine experience. And check out the wine specials list. You will not be disappointed.
When we were at Piada finally enjoying our Sunday I saw that the owner had business cards of a wine shop down the street called De-Vino. I had heard of this place and always wanted to go there but was never in the area. This was the perfect time. Sated and refreshed we walked down to the corner of Clinton and Stanton and there on the east side of the street was the place. We walked in and I was immediately in love. The selection of Italian wine was amazing. The shop is very small and so is the selection but the concentration of amazing producers is great. It’s like the VIP of Italian wine in one little 700 square foot space. I love Italian wine and have been heavily into it for a couple of years now. I always try to search out the smaller producers. I look for the people that maybe do less than the big guys but have more of the passion. It is all represented here. I had a nice chat with the owner and he told me that he had 90% Italian wine and 10% international. I was immediately interested in what the 10% consisted of.
If his Italian selection was this good I was ready to trust his international tastes. He showed me two racks towards the front of the store that contained some french some Spanish and South American as well as some United States wines from Cali and New York State. I was ready to try them all. I asked him which one was his favorite malbec and he pointed to the Altos Los Hormigas reserva 2004. I did not hesitate. Sold. I thanked him for his hard work ion developing such an impressive small selection (like he needed some to tell him that. I’m just an average Joe) and we were on our way. My wife and I worked our way back to the apartment for a bit of a rest before heading back out for an artistic performance in Williamsburg that night.
I will be trying the malbec this weekend and can’t wait to share my feelings on it. I am really excited to try this Argentinean wine. South American and Spanish wines are very affordable these days and it is possible to find some gems at low prices. These wines usually have great acidity and some wonderful flavors that pair well with food and company. Also I have put a link to the citysearch map in the heading of this post if you would like to check this little treasure trove of wine out.
Last night I got out the Kitchen aide mixer and the pasta maker attachment and went at it. What a great way to make gourmet on the cheap. Yes these mixers are expensive but once you have one everything becomes a chinch. It’s a great way to have budget meals that taste great. Some flour, some eggs and cheap canned tomatoes and some garlic and parm and your good. I made homemade fresh fettuccine and homemade focaccia for my wife and I. I made a cheap version of puntanesca sauce and we eating like the good life under $20.
The wine was From the Finger Lakes region of New York State. This area is hit or miss with wine but if your patient you can find some gems. My wife and I spent our one-year anniversary in April on Lake Seneca and hit some wineries while we were there. Some of them were closed until May but the ones we went to were mediocre save a couple. The one that really impressed us was Damiani Cellars. Down a dirt road to a gravel driveway and into a garage of a residence all the way in the back and there is the tasting room. Small time and lovely. Lou Damiani and Phil Davis are very passionate about wine. So much that they almost do it in their spare time. I put a link to an article about them in the title of this post. We had a great time talking with Phil and his wife and eventually did a barrel tasting of the upcoming vintage chardonnay. It’s going to be great. The reds are really good. The pinot reserve has good acidity and earthiness and the meritage holds up well with decent structure and flavor.
So we bought those and a 100% Cab. I opened the cab last night with the pasta. I kind of sipped it as I was making everything and experienced something interesting. Upon first tasting it there was a rush of salinity. This took me aback. Salinity is not what usually hits you first if at all with cabs. After a bit the tannins started saying hello and the salinity mellowed out a bit but let me know it was there. By the time I was drying the pasta and working on the sauce the fruit of the wine came out and with the good acidity held everything in place. I was impressed with this wine and it held up well with the food. When we were there hanging out with Phil, his wife and their dogs he said he had sent some samples to NYC and was waiting for a response. Damiani is a very small production producer and they are worried that they won’t be able to keep up with demand. But hey, if they just keep doing what they are doing high demand will only make the small yields that much more desirable. By the way while we tasted I saw in the corner next to the register a bottle of primitivo. Italian influence?
So… it’s still Sunday, still beautiful, stomachs still rumbling. Rumbling once for something unique now for anything at all. This is the point where “greasy spoons” look enticing and that is sad. We successfully walked passed those though and found ourselves approaching Houston. My wife in all here daring mentioned that because it was almost two in the afternoon that maybe Clinton Street Baking Company on Clinton Street below Houston would be not as crowded and she could finally try one of those bloody Mary’s I have been talking about for so long. Must ride on a tangent here. The Bloody Marys at this place are awesome, I mean one of the best I have had. Every ingredient is detectable when sipping (or gulping) the concoction. The food there is delectable as well and the brunch is home-style at it’s best which brings me back to the story at hand (nice segue). The problem is the wait for brunch is a ridiculous 30 to 45 minutes. Usually. Man, it is hard for me to justify waiting that long for brunch. We arrived at Clinton Street Baking Co. and sure enough there were people waiting outside and we had a bad feeling that again we would have to wait until my wife was on her summer break and we could hook up breakfast during the week. We did want to see what the wait was just for giggles in case we actually wanted to wait a short time despite our stomachs’ cries for help. As we were walking up to the entrance to scope it out the hostess came barreling out of the restaurant, clipboard and hand and animosity on her face. She proceeded to yell a name and party for two. This is the last call for a name and party of two. She then stopped yelling and gave a mean glance around the entrance and that was our opportunity. We asked her (politely) what the wait was. She took this opportunity to tell us if we could please hold on a second while she yelled for the name again. There was really no need for this. Outside the restaurant were two other couples and my wife and myself. I think she was getting the anger of the morning rush out by yelling a name of a couple that just didn’t want to wait. We tried again to ask the wait and she barked, 45 minutes to an hour. For brunch? No way man. She was just about done. Somebody got to her bad. I can understand in a way. I work in the restaurant industry and it can be hard dealing with some of these hipsters. Not wanting to get involved with whatever was going on there I set my gaze to across the street. Directly across form The Clinton Street Baking Company is this little take our/eat in place called Piada. I remember hearing about it. They sell something called a patina, which is sort of like an Italian tortilla with Italian ingredients. I have been meaning to visit this place but don’t get past Houston much. This was the time. This was the day. Piadina here we come. As we walked across the street my wife was asking me what a piadina was. I tried to explain then told her just wait till you see it. It’s really cool. We walked in and were greeted with a smile by the guys behind the counter. The menu has a list of traditional style piadine and then there is a list of piadine that customers or friends have come up with and they looked great. After that there are the dessert piadine. So we decided to try one of each. I had a traditional style piadina with proscuitto, arugula and stracchino cheese (it’s hard to find this mouth watering cheese in NYC). My wife had the Julia (from the “friends” list), which had Brie tomatoes and arugula. From the dessert list we ordered the Nutella piadina. We sat down and when the order was ready they brought the order to us. This place is small. We could’ve gotten up ourselves and just grabbed it but these guys were nice enough to bring it to us. Also they waited to make the dessert piadina until after we were done with the first two. They even asked us if we wanted something to drink. We had two San Pellagrinos while they cleared our table and brought the Nutella piadina. I asked for an espresso and they brought it to me. Now that is service. This is a take out placer but they serve you as if it were table service. How Italian. How human. How awesome. I felt all the stress of the past hour fade away with the wonderfully prepared espresso. My wife and I sat relaxed and reading a bit of the Sunday Times someone left behind. This was perfect. This is exactly how we wanted to spend our Sunday. We weren’t rushed out and when we did finally mosey on out the guys behind the counter asked us to have a good day. Stomachs happy and minds at ease we headed down the street……….
Sundays are my day with my wife. We both have the day off. We sleep late; stagger around in a lazy day haze until the coffee kicks in. Wake up a bit and off to brunch. The beauty of brunch in NYC is that it usually goes until 4:00 or 4:30 pm so you never miss it. Nice. The adventure lies in finding the right place with the right mood and the best seating for the weather. The food is usually all very similar with little nuances here and there to peak the interest just enough to ask for a “table for two please.” So off we went yesterday to find a nice brunch. One we have never been to. Maybe we could find a place that we must have missed. But as it happens – more often than not – hunger got the best of us and we started talking about the places we usually go. . We verbally went down the list discussing them, feeling them out and then out of nowhere she spoke the word that I swore I would never approach again. Mud (9th street btw 1st & 2nd Ave.). Not a fan. If you are not part of their inner circle ten you are treated like a homeless person coming into their establishment begging for change. The coffee isn’t even that good. It’s all hype. The problem is the food is really good. It’s well done and interesting but you end up pulling teeth to get your order taken, get a smile out of the tragically hip servers, get your coffee, get your food, get your check, and get change. The easiest part is leaving and that is exactly what happened yesterday. My wife said Mud. It had been a couple of months and I figured, why not? It has been awhile and maybe things have changed for the better. Well, no dice. Even as we approached the entrance I could feel the pomposity. It rushed through me so quickly I didn’t even want to enter but my wife being the calm water to my raging river ushered me inside. As we walked in the server behind the bar looked at us, almost scowled and looked away. Did I have a booger hanging out of my nose? I checked. All was fine. No booger. Ok. We made our way through the small space with typical NYC maneuvering when people do not want to budge to let you by. We kept on looking at the employees hoping one of them would say hi or least ask us if we were eating and would we like a table. Nothing. They were to busy changing songs on their ipod and talking about how cool their playlist was. Man they are so cool. Too cool to do their job that is. After about five minutes of marveling at this blatant neglect I wanted out. I told my wife that we needed to run very far from here and never return. But, her being much more patient than I am encouraged me to give it a chance. I sucked it up and watched as she attempted to ask for a table for two. The to-cool-for-anyone server grabbed two menus successfully with out look at us or the menus and began walking to a table that we assumed was for us. She laid the menus down and walked away. I guess this was our table. Amazing! The effort she took in making sure she did not even acknowledge our existence was commendable. Great job! I truly felt like a complete nobody. Congratulations! Well this did it. I looked at my wife and said I am sorry but I do not EVER want to come back here again. Not until they rearrange some management or something. At this point my wife had had enough as well and we got up and left. No body tried to stop us and ask what was wrong. No one cared that we were leaving. When I stepped out into the cool/warm Sunday air, I took a deep breath and sighed a sigh of genuine relief. Never again will I subject my self or my wife to such horrible people. We gave it a second chance and they failed miserably. Miserably. After the trauma wore off we headed down 2nd avenue hungrier than ever in search for something, anything better than what we just experienced…………….
One of the best cappuccino in the east village if not the whole lower part of Manhattan is at Taralucci e Vino on 1st Ave and 10th street. I am blown away every time i go. I guess I should say of all the places I have gone for cappuccino in the city and surrounding Burroughs this place is one of the best. The sweets they got in there are amazing and the gelato is real gelato. You can tell they are serious about what they do because the line can get long and that does not phase them. They take their time and don’t cut any corners. If you order a cappuccino you sit there and watch them create with flawless mastery. They could do it in their sleep. You can sit inside and rock out to whatever the girls are jammin or sit outside and people watch as you sip one of the best. One tip. If you are sitting outside you don’t have to wait in line just go on out to the table and a staff member will take care of you. Try the homemade tiramisu!
Ah, primitivo. Puglia’s light hearted friend. Especially in the area of Manduria. This wine is great for this time of year. Last night I had a primitivo di Manduria from The producer Koine. It was a 2004. This was a beautiful wine that was easily approachable with a nice mellow nose. The palate was medium bodied and very well balanced between the acidity and the tannins. It seemed that the mild acidity was actually holding everything together in a calm harmony. The palate was also pleasantly jammy and earthy with soft tannins and a subtle spice that bounced ethereally around in my mouth as it inter-mingled with my meal. My meal by the way was grilled rack of lamb in a light rosemary/red wine sauce with roasted potatoes and sauteed broccoli rabe (with a hint of garlic). This was the perfect match. The primitivo washed the meal down superbly. After my meal I continued to drink the bottle and noticed that the fruit became more pronounced and even though there acidity was still keeping everything tact the wine actually mellowed even more. This was a pleasant surprise and a great way to end a meal. Primitivo (the wine) comes from the region of puglia in southern Italy. It is said to be a long distant relative to zinfandel. The interesting thing about this is that primitivo is known more for its medium bodied characteristics but it can yield a very full bodied wine that might as well be zin. I personally love it in the true primitivo form. If I want a zin I will go get one. Also I believe (and I could be wrong) that primitivo (at least this one) goes-went-through something called carbonic maceration in which the juice ferments inside the grape skins. This wine does have the alcohol content of its relative. This smooth fruit forward beauty tops out at 14%. Mild spring night. Nice lamb dinner. Some Coltrane (”Love Supreme” in particular) in the background. Good conversation. This tops it off for me. Signing off for now. If any one happens upon this page and tries this one out let me know.
I just put AdSense on my blog. Does anyone know if this is a good or bad idea. I am new to this stuff and thought that maybe it would help my exposure.
My wife is a New York City Public school teacher and she got them crazy hours that happen to be opposite from mine. But in June man she is out for summer and her and I want to start touring the NYC wine bar scene. I will put some comments about them as we partake. The City is starting to warm up to this wine bar thing and it is a great way to experience awesome wine you may not have heard of. The challenge is to find the wine bars that have an informative staff. Not some jaded and disgruntled server willing to sell you any swill they think is easy to pour. I want to find the peeps that at least care about what the customer wants. Wine preferences are like our fingerprints, everyone is different. In general and according to mood and weather believe it or not. This sounds like it could be fun….Yeah….I think we are gonna hook it up soon. For now though I am going to try some great Italian wines. Italy has the longest list of varietals among all the wine producing regions of the world and can be the most daunting. I love me some Italian wine and I want to ramble about my favs. Coming soon is my take on Primitivo. Is it Zin? We’ll see.
And so it begins……. Hello I am an East Village Wine Geek and I want to talk about the wine that I love. I want to talk about life in the East Village and in New York City. I want to talk about music. I want to talk mostly about wine but when I need a break from that I want to just ramble. I have been reading blogs about all kinds of subjects for sometime now and really want to get into it. I am going to attempt to keep this thing going beacuse it sounds like fun. In the next couple of days I will start with random thoughts or a wine tasting. I am not sure yet. But whatever happens I hope that it is at least somewhat interesting to everyone out there.